Pizza Party!: A Contest and Ode to Optimism

pizzapartyYesterday, my boss said, “I declare today a pizza day,” and my mood instantly improved.

Even people who have fairly neutral feelings about pizza as a food item have to admit that there’s a mystical quality to the phrase “pizza party.” Think of the power those words held over you and your classmates in elementary school. In third grade, my teacher Mrs. Medwid made an announcement one day that my mom (My mom! The secrets that woman could keep…) was going to bring in pizza, and we were going to watch Return to Snowy River on videocassette for the rest of the afternoon instead of doing stupid math homework.  It was maybe one of the best things that had ever happened to me. I don’t think it was even a reward for anything in particular; I think Mrs. Medwid was just awesome and thought we deserved a pizza. I still think of that day sometimes when the world feels harsh.

Look, everybody, winter is tough. The days are short, and the cold winds blow, and a lot of people are feeling down. So let’s bring a little levity to the blog in the form of pizza party anecdotes. Send your best pizza party story to by next Friday, January 30. I will post my favorites here, and the winner will receive a pizza-related prize specially devised by me. Now go eat a slice.

The Future is Here…and It Has a Built-In Koozie

Great Scott!

Great Scott!

It’s recently been brought to my attention that Marty McFly’s future of the Back to the Future trilogy is now. Doc Brown and the crew time traveled to 2015. This troubles me manifold.

  1. This means I am quite old.
  2. This means I am quite old and still do not have a DeLorean.
  3. This means I am quite old and still do not have a DeLorean, NOR are there any hoodlums on futuristic hoverboards to run over in this beast.

And fourthly, I still think a DeLorean is futuristic. I’m pretty much behind the times in all forms of pop culture (those Hanson boys are cute, though). Unless you consider craft beer culture, “pop,” which many do. This is also troubling, because craft beer isn’t actually a fad; its development has, in fact, altered the course of drinking for forever.

As shocking as it is to discover you’re living in The Future, there is evidence to prove it. As the fastest growing segment of the beer industry, craft beer is inspiring innovation in the brewing practice itself as well as in the recipes and the way we drink the final product.

Beers in Space!

Beers in Space! The Hop Gun

Brewing: Many of you already know I’m something of a Hop Head, so it will come as no surprise that one of my favorite craft beer inventions made it possible to hop the bananas out of an IPA. A few years ago Sierra Nevada invented a contraption they call the Hop Torpedo. They fill this torpedo-shaped device with whole-cone hops and pump fermenting beer through it, adding some serious hop smack without the bitterness.

Tröegs Brewing has a similar device called the HopCyclone and yet another hopping device called the Hop Gun (do you think dudes named these things?). This contraption is filled with hop pellets and then beer is pumped through its double-helix-shaped interior. The pellets dissolve and the beer is infused with starshine and rainbows and magically spirited into bottles at a sparkly pink palace near you. Continue reading

Smoky Potato Chowder

smoky potato chowderGuess who got a new Crockpot for Christmas? Ba-zam! Yes, I know that this makes me approximately a thousand years old, but I’m pretty excited. It’s like magic. You put a bunch of ingredients in it, and approximately eighty-four hours later, you have a delicious soup.

Seriously, though, I made some pretty awesome Crockpot delicacies this weekend, including this soup that I sort of made up as I went along. I used a variety of potatoes, to make it a bit more interesting. It also features smoked paprika, which is Jason’s favorite SOTM (Spice of the Moment). Truly, he will go through a jar of it in the blink of an eye, but I managed to spirit some away from him to give the soup a little heat and a delicious bacon-y flavor. Eat it on a cold night with a salad and some bread, and you’ll have enough energy to go head-to-head with the Abominable Snowman. Or to teach him how to use a Crockpot.

Smoky Potato Chowder Continue reading

I Want to Be Alone with My Celery Loaf

I'll Have What She's HavingWas it just my imagination or was there a little bit of Hollywood at the launch of Rebecca Harrington’s “celebrity diet journalism” book I’ll Have What She’s Having? There were definitely some air kisses being thrown about. There was definitely more blonde hair dye than I typically see in Dumbo. And I’m not going to lie; there were definitely some people there who looked like they hadn’t had a decent sandwich in a while.

But lest we feel too out of place (for, it’s true, we don’t typically spend much time thinking about dieting here at Pitchknives), the charming Ms. Harrington immediately put us at ease by explaining why she embarked on the project of trying a bunch of weirdo celebrity diets. It was not because she wanted to look like Marilyn Monroe. It was because she was perusing a website about William Howard Taft’s possible sleep apnea (naturally enough), and she happened upon his diet regimen from 1905, which called for boiled fish for breakfast, mutton for lunch and a lamb chop for dinner. That, she thought, was too weird not to try.

Subsequently, she embraced all kinds of other curious culinary schemes of the rich and famous, like Karl Lagerfeld’s endless cans of Diet Coke and Elizabeth Taylor’s tuna salad recipe. (In case you want to tuna it up like Liz: “First you take a can of tuna. Then you take tomato paste. Then you take a grapefruit…” at which point, sorry, the entire audience was gagging too loud for me to hear the rest of the recipe.) Some items were not as bad as she anticipated, like Marilyn Monroe’s raw eggs in milk: “Not that bad. Just like bad eggnog.”  But particularly repulsive to Harrington was Greta Garbo’s celery loaf recipe (“Why? Just…why?”), and so free samples of this gem had been prepared for the audience. Continue reading

Quick ‘n Clean Ricotta Salata & Arugula Sandwich

Quick n Clean Ricotta Salata SandwichWho knows ricotta salata?  If not, you probably know ricotta.  It’s the spreadable white Italian cheese stuffed in pasta shells and ravioli and, when mixed with sugar, cannoli shells.  It’s mild enough to be put to a variety of uses.

Ricotta salata is its overworked, salty cousin who’s been around the block.  Ricotta is put under pressure, salted, and dried, and the result is an inexpensive, semi-hard cheese a bit firmer than feta and with a pleasant saltiness and maybe a hint of tang.  I think it’s great for snacking, but it’s also a fantastic ingredient in any kind of simple, clean-tasting dinner.  And thus the resulting recipe, a suuuuuper easy and uncluttered sandwich in which each ingredient stands out and is given room to breathe and be enjoyed on its own.

Quick ‘n Clean Ricotta Salata & Arugula Sandwich

  • Quality, crusty bread (this is key; weak-ass stuff from the Wonderbread aisle will sink anything)
  • Arugula
  • Capers
  • 1/4 of one lemon
  • ricotta salata
  • olive oil Continue reading

Top Ten Beers of 2014

Goddamn do I love me a good list! And since it is List Season, here are my top ten beers of 2014. Half of them are from Ohio (apologies non-Ohioans, you should wish you were here.) This is a list of beers that I found myself picking up again and again or beers that make me drool a little bit when I think of them.

Formerly Alchemy Hour, presently delicious

Formerly Alchemy Hour, presently delicious

10. Great Lakes’ Chillwave. This summer seasonal from Great Lakes Brewing actually made the list last year under the name Alchemy Hour. They changed the name after a copyright issue with another brewery, but the recipe for this strong but mellow double IPA remained the same. It is singularly responsible for me making it through every day in the summer, counting the minutes till I could sit on my porch with one of these.

9. Lagunitas’ Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale. Another beer I crave come 5:30, and also one I’m uncomfortable ordering at bars, for obvious reasons. This was my year-round go-to of 2014. It is pale-ish, but Lagunitas refrains from categorization, so it is what it is. Bright and smart and irresistible. If you ever wanted to make a Llalan trap, bait it with this.

Don't mess with Texas beers

Don’t mess with Texas beers

8. Southern Star’s Buried Hatchet Stout. I wouldn’t have guessed a stout this hearty would come out of Texas, being so warm and all. But everything is big in Texas and so is this beer. I recently ordered one during a meeting (what, your meetings don’t happen in bars?) and had to admit to everyone that it was more beer than I had signed up for; I sat there for quite a while after everyone else had left, collecting myself.

7. Thirsty Dog’s Siberian Night. Same bar, different beer. Thirsty Dog’s imperial stout kept me warm many a night last winter. One of my favorite parts of the season is sitting in the window of Martini’s on Main, sipping this black warmth, watching bundled people hurry by. Continue reading

A New Word Puzzler for the New Year


Poutine made it into Merriam-Webster this year! Well done, poutine.

I recently happened upon this article from the Boston Globe about the new words added to several American dictionaries in 2014. This kind of a thing seems to be a staple of newspapers around this time of year, and every time it strikes me how many new words have to do with food. But then maybe it’s not so surprising—we’re a nation of eaters and eventually the names of our new favorites work their way into the very fabric of our language. I don’t think I’d ever heard of or tasted hummus until I was in high school, but it’s now hard to remember being hummus-less since it’s long been a staple of my refrigerator and my dictionary.

So here’s a little lexicographic puzzle for 2015: can you put the following list of twelve words in the order that they were added to the Oxford English Dictionary? Some of these words are far older in other languages, obviously, but keep in mind that words are only added to English-language dictionaries as many English speakers begin to use them.

  • al dente
  • foodie
  • melt-in-the-mouth
  • noshery
  • pad thai
  • gastropub
  • five second rule
  • mai tai
  • microbrew
  • brunch
  • chocoholic
  • appletini

Don’t scroll down or click continue until you’re ready to see the answers! Continue reading

Quick-n-Easy-Sticky-Sweety-Monkey-Bread Breakfast Huzzah!

IMG_1725Do you know monkey bread?

You need to know monkey bread.

Monkey bread is a Southern staple, super easy to make, and stupid delicious.  We used to have it on the regular after church on Sundays, but I rarely make it as an adult.  Perhaps because of this scarcity of monkey bread in my life, I’ve come to think of it as significantly a Christmas thing, an integral part of breakfast, served alongside some kind of spiced juice-tea concoction my mother has served in mugs shaped like Santa and Mrs. Claus’ heads, and after which consuming I will fall asleep on the floor under the tree in a bathrobe or perhaps sweats and a 26-year-old Def Leppard shirt as soft as The Baby Jesus’ fanny.

After making it at home this year for a solo Shannon-&-Jason Christmas, though, I think I’ll be making it on the regular again.  Perhaps Mom always brought it out on Christmas because it’s so damn easy.

And because it’s so sticky sweet gooey yummy blam!

To make monkey bread all you need is Continue reading

Christmas Beer in the Age of Aquarius

Family tradition: taking bad pics of Grandma lighting the tree

Family tradition: taking bad pics of Grandma lighting the tree

If yours is like my family and watches National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation every year, you know it’s socially acceptable to use alcohol to get you through the holidays. Poor Clark Griswold doesn’t recognize it at first; it takes asking his father how he survived every year. His dad answers, “I had a lot of help from Jack Daniels.”

This line always bothered me, because I didn’t want to admit that my family events are better when moderately lit. But then, I also was disappointed when my dad told me there was no Santa, and I got over it. (But then I asked, and the Easter Bunny? and he said don’t push it kid.)

Regardless, I think it’s safe to say that in most families, alcohol plays an important role in bringing everyone together. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when my dad hands me the second beer of Christmas Eve afternoon.

Traditionally the holiday kicks-off around 3pm when we open the first IPA of the day and put the soundtrack to the musical Hair on the turntable. Because, I mean, fuck Bing Crosby; nothing says Christmas like “Aquarius.” About half a beer in we start crooning along while wrapping my mother’s presents. Continue reading

Quick, Somebody Give Me a Christmas Cookie I Can Make in Twenty Minutes


Here are pictures of a lot of cookies I didn’t make.

I’d like you to know that I am not a total slouch at some aspects of Christmas. I like thinking up gift ideas, and I can wrap a mean present. My less-than-perfect pitch is balanced with caroling gusto. I’ve been planning dishes for Christmas Eve dinner for weeks now. But man, I’m bad at Christmas cookies.

Christmas cookies are one of those things, along with cards (and really, bless all those people who still send me Christmas cards, surely knowing that they are getting nothing in return), that I’m just bad at making myself do. My mom saved me a newspaper section that was completely comprised of cookie recipes. I have read it approximately twenty times without actually making any moves toward baking them myself. When my friend Mignon mailed me some whimsical sugar cookies (including one that, I’m pretty sure, was a teeny tiny albino dolphin), my first thought was, “Thank goodness. This buys me at least another two days.”

But let’s face it—it’s now or never. Help me out bakers: what’s your absolute easiest cookie recipe?