Friday, September 17, 2010

Pizza in Portland

This past week I worked my first 4 day trip in a very long time. I usually detest 4 day trips because I don't like being away from home that long and if I get stuck with a bad flight attendant it can make the work week miserable. This week, however, I had luck on my side as I was not only overnighting in various great cities but I was also working with nice, predictable crew members.

A few weeks ago I had seen a segment on the Food Network with Anthony Bourdain where he travels around and eats at various local restaurants. On this particular episode he was in Portland, Oregon eating at a pizza place called, Apizza Scholls. I sent my cousin in-law, Alia a message asking if she'd ever been to this place because it looked simply amazing. She hadn't so I suggested we needed to check it out if I were ever in the area. As it just so happened, this trip I had a Portland overnight on Wednesday and she has Wednesday's off. So I sent her a message and shortly after arriving to the airport she picked me up and we headed over to Apizza Scholls which is in the SE Hawthorne area. There are quite a few restaurants and shops lining the streets and it's an eclectic area of town perfect for hippy people watching.

I know what you may be thinking, pizza is pizza and what makes this place so special that Anthony Bourdain and I would want to visit? In a world of mass produced pizza this place stands out. They open at 5 every day and only stay open for as long as they have pizza and close at nine regardless. You see, what makes this place so special is they hand mix there dough. According to Anthony no one he knows, not even in New York (and he's a New yorker) does this. It's only made of 4 ingredients: water, yeast, flour and salt and takes 24 hours to ferment. They never freeze their dough so they can only make as many pizzas as they have dough for. When they run out they are out and customers lining up at the door are turned away. Whatever dough is left at the end of the day is used for their croutons.

Apizza Scholls has also earned the nick name, "Pizza nazi" (I'm assuming after the "soup nazi' on seinfield) because you can only have three toppings on your pizza with only two of those being meats. All of their ingredients are from local farms and also fresh, never frozen and the philosophy is that keeping the pizza simple allows you to taste each ingredient; that too many ingredients will not allow the pizza to cook at the high temperature of 650-900 degrees they cook them at.

All the pizza's are 18 inches and you can either build your own or choose from their specialty pie menu. Alia and I decided to have a half and half pizza so we could explore more than one flavor. We chose the "Apizza 'Margo'-rita" and the "Tartufo Bianco". The first was your basic margarita pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, romano, fresh garlic, olive oil and basil. The second however, was different than anything I've ever tasted. It was mozzarella, romano, sea salt and truffle oil. Truffle Oil is infused with truffle mushrooms that are highly prized in the food world.

Truffle hunting is big business during truffle season, which generally lasts from fall to spring. Each year, trufficulteurs use specially-trained dogs that find the buried treasures, usually at night. In the past, female pigs or sows were used to hunt for truffles, as the pungent odor that the truffles emit is similar to that of a male pig. The sows were difficult to hold back once the truffle was located, however, and would readily consume the expensive delicacy. For this reason most hunters now use truffle dogs.

The taste of a truffle is often compared to garlic blended with an earthiness or pungent, mushroomy flavor. They are most often served uncooked and shaved into foods like pasta, salads, or omelets. They are also served in light sauces, on fondue, or pizza.

Of the many varieties of truffles, some of the most famous are the Italian white truffle, the French black truffle, the summer black truffle, and the March truffle. The white truffle, often referred to as the white diamond, is considered the rarest type of truffle, demanding one of the highest prices. In general, truffles are among the most expensive natural foods the world, selling for hundreds or thousands of dollars per pound.

I hate mushrooms with a passion but the truffle has always intrigued me and being that truffles are harvested in Oregon I assumed that the oil used in this pizza had to be good. The pizza had such a unique flavor I can't even begin to describe it. It definitely had a garlic and almost oak/wood type smokey flavor. Alia and I agreed it was definitely one of the most interesting pizza's we had ever had.

The restaurant itself was unique as well. There were only about 5 tables and they seat you family style. It's not a very big place with a small waiting area of couches up front and a bar in the center so people can have some way to occupy their time while waiting for a spot. I was glad we got there about 5:30 because by the time we left an hour late the place was packed and there was a long wait I'm sure. We didn't want to take the risk of waiting or having them run out of dough so if you ever go eat here, getting their early is a must.

I feel so fortunate to have friends and family all over the country. While it isn't often I get to see some of these people it's so nice to have something to look forward too when I have an overnight in their city. I guess that's a great perk of my job that I am fortunate to be able to meet with friends at random intervals in time. While the pizza was amazing the company was even better and I definitely enjoyed my time in Portland and hope to return again sooner than later!

If you're ever in the area be sure to Check out Apizza Scholls:

4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd


open monday through saturday 5pm-9:30pm

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