We just got back from a relaxing week in a fabulous vacation rental house with a private beach on the Calvert Cliffs area of the Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. We dubbed the house the "Glass House" because of the wide panorama of water views afforded by its sheer walls of glass facing the Bay. It was a wonderful, relaxing vacation spent in the hot tub, combing the beach for 25 million year old shark teeth fossils, and kayaking with my boy Lucas. Lisa finally got away from her stressing workload in her corporate world, and I enjoyed taking pictures and checking out the ospreys, bald eagles and the feeding cownose rays and dolphins in the water below our deck.
But there was one frustrating development. When we are on vacation, I like to sample and compare local pizzas. I mean, good pizza-making is everywhere in the States. There are Philadelphia tomato pies, Manhattan "slices", small town thin crusts, California style toppings, and various types of deep dish. I expected either a simple, tasty pizza around our Solomons Island home base or something radical like crab cake pizzas. No such luck.
My first taste of pizza was at a place called Ruddy Duck that got great reviews. Yes, duck is a specialty on their menu. When I saw that they had a Peking Duck pizza, I thought I'd try it for adventure's sake. I hadn't had Peking Duck in years since a Chinese photographer friend of mine introduced me to it in New York at one of the best restaurants in China Town. It was delicious.
Well, short story. It wasn't. In fact, while the so-called "Peking Duck" topping just tasted like their BBQ sauce doctored up with some bottled sweet and sour sauce, the pizza under it was even worse! The crust wasn't cooked. It was gummy and yeasty under the overburdened toppings. I sent it back... they tried again... and failed a second time.
Ok, fast forward to a couple of nights later when we all were getting a craving for pizza. So I called up Google Maps on my Kindle and typed in "pizza". Up popped our only options in the area: Papa John's, Dominoes, Pizza Hut, Little Caesar's, Ledo's (a regional chain) and one other called Nicoletti's that didn't deliver and was a 40 minute drive away. Little Ceasar's is the only fast food pizza that my son and I will partake in when we are out on our excursions, because at least their dough is made fresh each day at each of their locations, but we were in the mood for a simple Mom and Pop style pizza.
Ok... solve the problem Babbo.
Which I did. I took out the small sack of King Arthur's bread flour, a jar of 4-C "All Natural" grated parmesan cheese and single packet of yeast I brought along for such a pizza emergency. Without my pizza steel, my temperature-tested ovens, my peel, my stand mixer... I went to work. I grabbed the only large dark pan they had in our rental kitchen, a wooden spoon, a large plastic bowl and within a hour I was putting our emergency pizza into the oven... topped with black olives and mozzarella.
Crisis averted. The thick, focaccia crust was wonderful and the silence of Lisa and Lucas as they enjoyed their first slice while they watched the views of the Bay was my applause.
There is a huge Navy Air base across the Paxtuxent River from Solomons Island that could use some real pizza. Poor guys and gals. All they have is fast food pizza? After all they sacrifice for us?