Superbowl Squares

Alternate titles..
size matters -or- it’s ok to be square

When the kids were little,
and I wasn’t paying attention to pizza as much as I am now (read OBSESSING),
and admittedly, the money was tight in our household,
if we were feeding a crowd we would order a giant SQUARE, 24-cut pie.
Kid’s birthday parties, cub/boy/girl scouting events, or larger family gatherings,
they all got a large SQUARE-cut, (or two).
We (my wife) determined we could feed a ton-o-little kids with one of those big square-cuts.
It was all about maximizing our pizza dollar.

Fortunately, my family has been blessed with multiple decent neighborhood pizzerias,
one of which does a pretty good, large square-cut pie. (Chris’ Pizzeria)
They offer a 12-cut square, and a 24-cut square.
That 24-cut was our “go-to” crowd pleaser.
Those 24-cut, pizza-behemoths are 18″x 24″, with each slice measuring about 3″x 6″,
and almost 3/4″ thick.

I don’t remember the value back in the day,
but now-a-days that 24-cuts runs about 19 bucks.
In comparison, a typical large, 18″ round, 8-cut in our neighborhood runs about $13.
That square’s about 80 cents a slice; allowing about 3 slices each, it’s only $2.40 per person.
(Your typical large round pie is about $1.60 a slice.)
So, if you’re feeding 8 people you’ll need 3 large round pies @ $39,
or one large 24-cut square @ $19.

To maximize your pizza dollar and feed the largest crowd for the lowest cost,
the big square-cut is the way to go..

Frugality aside, my Italian mom instilled in me a commitment to always serve more food than needed, especially for guests.
If you run out of food it’s because there wasn’t enough; that shame outweighs any pride in what you served.
Maybe order TWO large square-cuts.
They make some of the best left-overs ever.

Although our choice for the big square-cut was originally rooted in a financial analysis, it’s actually very good pie. Don’t feel too badly for my guests.

So with Superbowl Sunday approaching, I feel it’s appropriate to review this cost effective, crowd pleaser.
Do you get a large square-cut when you’re feeding a crowd?

If you don’t, you should consider it..
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Apples to Apples

the-apple-tree

…A (not so) hard look at hard cider.
The holidays are approaching here already.
It’s a perfect time for apple cider, even better, for HARD cider.
We’re upstate NY…We’re all about the apples..
Every table in NYS should have some cider and/or hard cider on Thursday.

If you don’t yet share my cidery-love
Here are some cider facts:

  • Hard Cider makes a great pairing to the typical gluttonous holiday meal.
    Unless your having a beefy prime rib..then I would stick with a full wine (or heavy beer).
  • Cider has a low alcohol content so you can have a few (without getting into a fight with Uncle George over his endorsement of a certain presidential candidate.)
  • Cider is also gluten free (but don’t trust me… read the labels if gluten intake is important to you).
  • Cider was on the pilgrim’s table. – temporarily ignoring the whole genocide thing

Not too long ago it would have been difficult to find ANY locally available hard cider.
But over the past few years the state, and local, hard cider industry has exploded.
Now, any place you can buy beer, you can buy a few decent ciders (and some really bad ones too)
This sudden growth may be related to trends in taste, or good marketing..
But it might very well be related to tax code and the repeal of prohibition.
Along with the repeal of prohibition, states were given the authority to define their own laws relating to alcohol.
These state laws put alcohols into categories associated with state tax rates. Hard cider tended to fall somewhere between a wine and beer.
This ambiguity may have hindered the industry..
But over the last 5-6 years states have been rectifying that situation.
NY in particular (thanks Andy) passed laws that significantly help the industry.
In 2013 the “Farm Cidery License” was created.
This legislature makes it much easier for small farmers and start-up crafters to turn out good product, and profits.
Locally we’ve all heard the stories of Nine Pin, our local hero of the cider industry.

In just a short period of time, Nine Pin has made a positive impact.
They’ve helped raise awareness of cider, the industry, and our local resources.
But I think even more importantly, they’ve spotlighted POSSIBILITIES. They’re a powerful, inspirational example of a how passion can become reality.
AND, they make some darn good cider.

A few years ago I wanted to bring some hard cider to my NJ-family for Thanksgiving.
I wanted to show my NY pride and showcase a local treat.
This was at the very start of the cider boom so the process was fairly easy.
The beer outlet only had a few choices, they were produced fairly local, and were bottled nicely to make a good impression.
I think I got a bottle of Nine Pin and a bottle of Doc’s Draft. Worked perfectly.

But now a trip to the beer outlet, or even your supermarket you’ll see upwards of 10-15 different choices of hard cider.
How do you choose?
I would hate for you to skip it altogether, or even worse bring a bottle of a crappy cider to your party.
People could be turned off of cider forever with that first glass.
Or, even better, you could be the hero, showing up with the perfect bottle.

cider-options
There is an overwhelming selection of ciders available.
Unfortunately much of it is crap.
If nothing else… ALWAYS buy cider that has been refrigerated.

Since “Hard Cider Sommeliers” are difficult to find, I thought it would be helpful to do some homework..

I bought some cider..

cider-001
The Line-Up

I limited my purchases to readily available products, and to products I could buy as individual bottles.
PriceChopper has a pretty good selection available in their “pick-your-own six” area.
The only one one I wanted to try but couldn’t find as singles was Stella Artois-Cidre’, but lets try and stay local anyway.

If a producer had a few varieties I tended to pick the most basic or “original” blend.
This was most evident with Nine Pin.
Nine Pin has a few interesting varieties but for this experiment I stayed with the original.

I didn’t get hung up with ingredients, or label analysis.. you don’t read the label on the cranberry jelly, or your beer do you?
This is about a special holiday treat, and perhaps sharing with, or impressing, your guests.

There are a few larger (22 oz) bottles available for less than $10, and a large number of 12 oz. six packs.
I tend to lean towards the larger bottles for the holidays as they have a better presence, like showing up with a special wine, as opposed to showing up with a “six-of-bud”.
But you may want smaller bottles, you may even want to “pound-a-few”, or give the non-beer drinkers something to keep in their fist so they fit in.

I was looking for something that I felt my guests would enjoy.
Something simple, clean, and refreshing.

I’m admittedly not a tasting expert.  I know what I like and I’ve used words that I think describe what I taste.

I think of this as Kitchen-Table-Science”.

I found two winners.
One in the big bottle, “First Impression” category, and one in the six-pack category.
I also found a few you should AVOID…
Take a look.
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