The Red Panda express is on the road!
As most of you know the Cooking School team travels mostly by our trusty vans from show to show. However, we occasionally utilize other methods of transport. With my wild west tour underway (three shows in Montana and one in Oregon), I flew into big sky country last week and picked up my new wheels…what I affectionately dubbed the “Red Panda Express.” This is one serious piece of UHaul tech with a ten foot cargo container piggy backing on a gmc truck frame. With a $100.00 plus investment every-time I fill up and a whopping 13 mpg on the highway this wild road trip is not for the fiscally frigid!
After feasting on deliciously decadent montana beef for the first leg of my tour I pulled into Portland, Oregon to start my day with a serious sugar fix at “Voodoo Doughnuts”, followed by a light latino lunch at “Por Que No? Taqueria” while I bided my time until “Apizza Scholls” opened up to get a Portland pie to sustain me as I continue on with my tour.
Voodoo Doughnuts offers a dizzying variety of classic doughnuts festooned with not so classic topping like crushed oreo cookies, fruity pebbles cereal and my fav – bacon! as bizarre as it might sound the combinations work and they are delicious.
Por Que No? Taqueria is a vibrant bohemian taco shop that could easily be picked up and dropped on any mexican beach without missing a beat. The food was authentic and richly flavored from my ceviche of shrimp and scallops drenched in lime and punctuated with chiles to the slow cooked pork and beef tacos wrapped in warm fresh corn tortillas.
I’ve had a few culinary epiphanies in my life and sadly they are few and far between in our increasingly homogenized culinary culture. That all being said I think I just had another – Apizza Scholls makes some seriously good pizza pie. The crust I had was nothing short of mind blowing. The 18 inch pie was big – bigger than I expected for an upscale pie. The corniche was blistered from the intense heat of the gas deck oven as was the bottom, small black freckles that you might think would give it an off taste but in reality just added to the overall smokey perfume of this stellar pizza. I decided on a half and half, one side the “apizza margherita” was topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella (whole milk & fresh), pecorino romano/grana padano, fresh garlic, extra virgin olive oil & fresh basil with the addition of scalia anchovies. The other side their “tartufo bianco” had mozzarella (whole milk & fresh), pecorino romano/grana padano seasoned with white truffle oil and sea salt.
It was rich and opulent, the heady perfume of the almost lusty truffle oil redolent with garlic overtones mixed with the briny salty anchovies, sweet tomatoes and capped with the herbaceous basil. The first whiff of that combination hit me like a ton of bricks and will stay in my memories for years to come.
So how do they do it? Well, attention to detail, sourcing the best ingredients is one obvious factor but that crust – that unbelievably crisp yet delicate crust, how?!?!?
I can’t say for sure but one major technique that stands out above all others is that its handmade. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but hear me – handmade. Hands, no machines, just hands. Apizza Scholls makes their pizza dough only using their hands – no mixers – no electricity – just hands! Who does that?!?!
Is that what it is? I can’t say for sure but with their attention to detail and their commitment to a true pizza experience this is one great pizza. Keep in mind any restaurant or meal is a snapshot in time – it might never happen again. It could be worse or it could be better but for that one moment, for that one snapshot when it works – it’s a memory that you can carry with you for life.
The journey searching out great foods and meals is something I have always loved doing so now I must continue that journey by firing up the Red Panda Express in search of another culinary epiphany.