Welcome back everyone and thanks for returning. This is a special posting of Stuffed Crush Pizza Blog, since if you can’t tell from the title, we reviewed a pizza that we made on Saturday night, June 11th. That’s right, not only are we accomplished pizza eaters, we are also pizza chefs. Like all good ideas, the idea to make and then review our pizza was born from drinking. In this case, an early evening cocktail at one of Madison’s more unique bars, (and a favorite spot of ours) Old Sugar Distillery provided all the inspiration we needed.
While this is the time I would normally spend telling you about the restaurant, I’m pretty sure you don’t want me to talk about what our kitchen looks like. Instead I will tell you a little bit about Old Sugar Distillery. Old Sugar Distillery is a unique bar situated in downtown Madison, just sligthly of E Washington Ave on E Main St. At Old Sugar they handcraft 5 unique liquors; Whiskey, Rum, Honey Liquer, Ouzo and Brandy, with which they design their own unique cocktails. What makes Old Sugar such a unique location is that it is located in an old industrial warehouse and now the inside has a real hipster charm to it. On this trip to Old Sugar, Annette and I both got the same drink, with slight variations; one of Old Sugar’s summer specials, the Watermelon Cooler. This drink consisted of Watermelon, lime, rum and a touch of honey served over ice, with an option of jalapeño slices. I had the drink with jalapeño while Annette did not and they were both tasty and delicious beverages.
Now it’s on to the pizza. I recommend that you pour yourself a nice drink, then sit back and relax because this review is gonna be a doozy.
We made our own pizza. There was no way we were giving this thing anything other than 5 slices.
🍕🍕🍕🍕🍕🍕/5 on Presentation (5/5 on Presentation)
Making the sauce was the greatest challenge when it came to making the pizza. We weren’t going to buy pizza sauce as we already had a can of *store redacted* generic sauce. Annette had already used another can of to pair with pasta awhile back and had found the sauce to be very sweet and not overly to her liking. Making this sauce acceptable for pizza usage was going to be an epic struggle.
The solution for thickening the sauce was surprisingly simple. To thicken the sauce, we used tomato paste, a combination of Hunt’s tomato paste with Italian herbs and Hunt’s tomato paste with roasted garlic. While these paste’s thickened the sauce to a nice consistency, they did little to improve the overall flavor. This was the greater challenge. To achieve maximum deliciosity with our sauce, a proprietary blend of herbs and spices was used (I’m sure you are just dying to know what spices were used…. ok, I will reveal one secret ingredient…. are you ready? homemade tangy chili powder).
*SPECIAL COOKING TIP SECTION
Yes pizza fans, chili powder (homemade of course) can add great flavor to just about any food where you desire heat and addtional depth of flavor.
END SPEICAL COOKING TIP SECTION*
After all that work the sauce turned out absolutely amazing. It had both strong flavor as well as good flavor depth. When it came to the amount of sauce on the pizza, Annette believed there was “a perfect amount” of sauce and I have to concur with my better half. The sauce had a strong flavor but didn’t overpower the other flavors of the pizza nor was the flavor hidden by the toppings.
🍕🍕🍕🍕🍕🍕/5 on Sauce (5/5 on Sauce)
This was definitely the weakest part of the pizza. Normally I would be all up for making a crust, but we were hungry so we went with a store bought whole wheat crust from Festival Foods (which seriously might be my favorite store of any kind to shop in – if you haven’t been to one, drop what you are doing and go find one. Consider yourself warned about awesomeness) which was similar in thickness to traditional hand-tossed crust. Before putting any toppings on the pizza I gave it a generous coating of olive oil to enhance the flavor. After cooking the crust turned out nice and crispy, but still soft enough to not resemble eating cardboard. On its own merits the crust was merely average, but the rest of the pizza was so good that it just didn’t matter.
🍕🍕🍕/3 on Crust (3/5 on Crust)
For the cheese, which in my opinion can absolutely break the pizza if a weak blend is used, we went with a fine artisanal blend of Pecorino Romano, and an Asiago/Parmesan blend from my favorite Wisconsin cheese company, Crystal Farms. (Good tip to remember when buying/eating cheese: if it doesn’t come from a Wisconsin company, it’s definitely inferior).
When we first tasted the pizza, Annette’s reaction was that the cheese had “great flavor, but I’m not sure there is enough to counter the red pepper.” (This nutso pizza chef just loves his red pepper). After we were done with the pizza we visited Annette’s question, and the verdict was that while the cheese had amazing flavor, there wasn’t enough to reduce the heat from all the red pepper.
🍕🍕🍕🍕/5 on Cheese (4/5 on Cheese)
Finally, the most important part. The taste!!!! In addition to the cheese and sauce that you just red about, this pizza contained mild Italian sausage (from Festival Foods) and sautéed green peppers. The green pepper was lightly sautéed in olive oil and pepper, and the sautéing here was key. Annette would only consent to green pepper on the pizza if it was cooked. The sauteed peppers gave the pizza a nicely needed texture; they were soft, yet still had enough crunch to provide a nice contrast to the softer sausage and cheese toppings. Between the Italian sausage and a fair amount of red pepper sprinkled on before baking the pizza turned out with a nice spicy bite to it, which the mild green peppers and cheese helped to bring back down. Ultimately the level of heat kept growing in our mouths during consumption and we agreed that while the pizza had great flavors there was just a tad too much red pepper. Overall the flavor of the pizza could best be described as ROBUST!
🍕🍕🍕🍕.5/5 on Taste (4.5/5 on Taste)
Well, there you have it. Another pizza review in the books and another pizza in our stomachs. I hope you enjoy reading our reviews, our next restaurant is still scheduled to be Roman Candle on Williamson St and our goal is to eat there sometime before or around July 4th with a review following shortly after.
Until next time,
Thanks for reading,
Annette and Craig