Monday, June 28, 2010

Wolfgang Puck

Okay, so I might lose a little credibility on this one, but hear me out alright?

After waking up at 4:52 A.M., throwing all my crap in a duffel bag, and sleepwalking through the security checkpoint at JFK, I found myself, well, starving. I had about an hour to kill before boarding my flight out to San Francisco, and was in need of some semblance of a breakfast. I eventually located a small food court featuring three options: Burger King, a shuttered Chinese restaurant, and...

I winced. Was I really about to do this? One quick glance at the wrapped "breakfast sandwiches" sitting under the heat lamp at BK confirmed where my breakfast was coming from. The first thing that I noticed was the oven at WPE (yes, I just abbreviated Wolfgang Puck Express. Please don't follow suit) was the oven- a Woodstone

Not too shabby. This is a gas-assisted brick oven that has been gaining in popularity amongst pizzeria owners. In fact, I've seen them at places like La Villa and Black Sheep, which means they can turn out some sick pizzas if they're made correctly.

Quick pizza history lesson: Wolfgang Puck opened Spago in 1982 after meeting Ed LaDou in San Francisco. At this point, Alice Waters had opened Chez Panisse 11 years earlier, arguably inventing "California-style pizza." Wolfgang recruited Ed after trying one of his pies and brought him down to Southern Cali, where Ed invented over 200 crazy pizzas using the fine ingredients at his disposal at Spago. Essentially LaDou is responsible for Puck's popularity and received no recognition for this.

I was told the guy in the middle here is one of Puck's right-hand chefs who was brought in to train the staff at this WPE. As ridiculous as this may sound, I have a smidgen of respect for a franchise that still has quality control and consistency on its radar, especially after a second glance at what the BK next to me was selling. My stomach couldn't wait any longer, so I ordered a four-cheese pizza. At 6:18 in the morning.

Now with all the goddamn pizza I eat, I've spoiled myself a bit. My first impression was, "hmm, could stand a little char on the crust." Then I realized I WAS ORDERING PIZZA AT AN AIRPORT. In all fairness, aside from being a bit overly oily, this was a decent pizza.

The ingredients all tasted fresh and the pie was cooked well. Even better, it wasn't sitting in a damn cardboard box under a hot light, waiting for me to order it. No, once I ordered the staff stretched the dough and made the pizza in front of me. "Made to order" and "airport food court" don't usually end up in the same sentence together, but this time they do.

Was this one of the better pizzas I've had? Of course not, but as far as airport food goes, I could have done a hell of a lot worse.

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