Photo | crateandbarrel.com
Recently, in an undisclosed location, a small group of people who will remain nameless congregated safely for the celebration of a younger person’s birthday. It was a beautiful day with nary a cloud in the sky. The sun, however, was working overtime.
I believe that yellow fellow stayed up past his bedtime. The short walk from the car to the house soaked my shirt as the heat draped over me like a cape. I was also schlepping a bottle of wine, a couple packs of uncooked chicken and a bag of toppings for pizza-making.
In evening temperatures north of the 90-degree mark, we planned a party that had us hovering around a 750-degree oven in the backyard that was only five or so feet away from a barbecue grill full of chicken. I was still recovering from an exhaustive evening of music the night before, but was making headway through my hangover. Perhaps the sweat would do me some good.
This little pizza oven sat on a tabletop, a hose connected to a simple propane tank. It couldn’t have been more than a couple feet wide, dome-shaped like the top portion of a shiny, black R2 unit. There was an opening in the side just wide and tall enough for a skilled pizza perfectionist to deposit and retrieve a medium-sized pie. Inside was a burner that appeared to be under a stone with another stone on top of it. On the outside, you could see a thermometer I swear had a reading for “pizza-cooking zone.”
This extremely portable oven of sorts is as efficient as you can get. We were in the “zone” in a matter of minutes, and were shelling out pizzas faster than a microwave. Our host had prepared dough for somewhere between 20 to 100 pizzas. Every time we’d scoop a ball of it out of the bowl it would regenerate.
There was a little trial and error with the crust, but we got the hang of it (sort of). Almost all of the guests brought their own toppings to personalize their adventure. Arugula, red onion, Italian sausage, pepperoni, real mozzarella in ball form — these were all at our shared disposal. The MacDonalds brought pancetta and fresh basil straight off the plant.
The double stone in the oven helps to keep the heat even and avoid hot spots. The dome is perforated at the top to release any excess moisture. This little contraption cooked our pizzas so evenly and quickly the start to finish time was 5-7 minutes for our medium crust. A thinner crust would certainly be even quicker.
A pizza oven like this may run you a little over $300. Check out Pizzeria Pronto. There is also a stovetop version for those of you with a gas range, but it doesn’t seem to hold its value. The retail price of $179.95 for that indoor unit is undercut by plenty on eBay and other marketplaces where you can find it for less than $80.
KettlePizza Deluxe is a kit that converts your regular charcoal kettle grill into a pizza oven. This offers the chance for the chef to use real wood for true, wood-fired pizza like the pros use. Designed to fit 18 1/2-inch and 22 1/2-inch grills, the simple sleeve fits underneath the lid, giving you the window on the side and the even cooking by using the equipment you already have. The $199.95 price tag includes a stone and an aluminum pizza peel along with the stainless conversion kit.
Ceramic grills make great outdoor pizzas if you crank them up to that 700-degree range. Big Green Egg and Kamado Joe both have ceramic deflectors such as the BGE convEGGtor, which turns your grill into a convection oven for indirect heat. They range from $50-$80, but you’ll still need a stone.
Any of these options work fine. The pizzas were deliciously different each round, and we will definitely be doing this again in the future. By the future, I mean when it cools off.
Heroes offers new wings and new hours
I have a shortlist of my favorite wings, but Heroes has been on that list since the day they opened. Of course they have their spicy and mild versions of Buffalo, Clipper, Teriyaki and Dry-Rub Cajun, but David Rasp and company feel the customers need a little more heat than previously offered.
Two new flavors of wings are sure to sell a lot more beer. Feel the burn of the new Singapore Sting, a spicier Asian flavor, if you didn’t pick up on that. There is also my new favorite, The Nature Boy. This hotter buffalo flavor will make you shout, “WHOOO!” They’re so good you’ll suck the bones.
The new hours for Heroes are officially 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. It’s these steps toward normalcy I appreciate.
The Stadium opens on Airport
In the midst of hearing phrases such as “these uncertain times,” I love seeing new restaurants open. The Stadium Sports Bar and Grill hung their “Now Open” sign in front of their 3156 Airport Boulevard location. Old-school Mobilians will know this as the original Hooters spot. The soft opening was this past weekend. Let’s see what Mobile thinks of their first week!
I’d expect wings, burgers, fried starters and sandwiches, just like you’d prefer while watching a game.
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