The staff you see in this picture was my trusty walking staff for nearly 2 years (photo by craig bortmas). I found it in my back yard and cut it down myself. The stuff of fairy tales, I tell ya. I took it with me every time I went walking with my son, and spent a lot of time caring for it. It sent me on many crazy and interesting adventures, and started a whole new chapter of my life.
Sadly, this year at comfest, the staff was stolen from the art car tent on the last day.
Coincidentally, one of my art car friends, Bob Madrid, had recently started carving walking sticks out of wood he'd been drying out the last 5 years. He brought a small army of them to show off at the festival. He mentioned carving one for me in passing and I told him I had all the staff I needed, but appreciated the offer. That was until my staff was pilfered. Now without, he has agreed to carve me my very own staff. In exchange, I agreed to do a pizza event for his 25th wedding anniversary. That event was Sunday, July 28th.
This is a photo of bob drinking beer and setting up before the party. Notice behind him is his art car with a giant beer-can dragon in the back (click the photo to enlarge). Bob is an awesome and prolific artist! It is truly an honor to have him carving me a staff.
Also notice in this photo the nice new oven tools including a new pizza peel and oven brush leaned up against the oven that I was able to use for the first time. I got them from a guy named John I met on a pizza forum. John runs his own mobile wood fired pizza business and was very instrumental in helping me iron out some of the details when I was getting started. Originally, he was going to just ship them to me, but before that happened, we realized that we were going to be an hour from his house while on our first family (of three) vacation in New Jersey. He was kind enough to strap the 59" tools to his harley and drive them to us at no extra charge! What a guy! Super nice and all smiles. And let me tell you, having a good set of oven tools makes all the difference!
The party of the day was for 20 people. I got there at 4:00 and started setting up. I brought all kinds of wonderful things for the pizzas, some tried and true things and a few things new, like smoked oysters and hot pepper infused olive oil... mmmmm! I've been trying to use the heat of the oven for other things while I'm getting it to pizza cooking temperature, which takes about 2 or so hours. This time, I pan-fried some shiitakes (photo below) and roasted some red peppers while the oven was heating up. I also like caramelizing onions, though not this time.
The day was slow to begin. Bob and I were well into the beer before anyone even showed up, and the first pie was just for us, which was great. In a previous blog post, I talked about not getting enough to eat or drink on a hot and sunny day. I got a text from my wife that afternoon reminding me to eat. And eat I did. I tried about half of the pies I made. Normally it doesn't work out that way, but this was for a friend, so I was free to munch all evening!
This was a pepperoni and sausage pie with fresh mozzarella and hot pepper infused olive oil... so good, and beautiful to boot!
Bob's friends were awesome. I didn't know any of them save another art car friend before that night, but it was a lot of fun talking with all of them. It was a pleasure serving them and chatting about all things pizza. The one thing I'll never get over is how much people take ownership of the pizzas they help create. It's so much fun to see someone telling their friends what pizza they concocted and how it was amazing.
This was a roasted red pepper, red onion, olive oil, fresh mozzarella, goat cheese pizza with sunflower sprouts and a balsamic reduction added post-bake.
It was great to be doing a gig for a friend in such a casual environment. I got to chill out amongst good people and actually take a couple pictures for a change.
Above is a smoked oyster and pan-fried shiitake pizza with olive oil, fresh mozzarella and a little smoked sea salt cooking in the oven, which was ironic. Someone had brought over a can of smoked oysters to a pizza sunday at our house not too long ago. I'd never made a pizza with smoked oysters and forgot I even had them until I was packing everything up for this party. As I was chatting with one of the guests, I mentioned the topping and she instantly lit up. She and her grandfather used to eat smoked oysters on crackers as a kid, and she hadn't had them in 40 years! We made 2 pizzas with them and she was giddy as a school girl.
As with most every event I've done thus far, the guests were blown away by the concept. It creates such a centerpiece to any party, and people always have a ton of questions. I was having so much fun chatting it up and joining in the merriment that I didn't even realize that it was nearly midnight before the coals were spread and I hit the road. It was surprising that I made it that long, seeing as I was up until 3 a.m. the night before making dough after realizing that my first attempt didn't rise due to an error in my preparation. Home and sleep were screaming at me as I unloaded the car and took care of clean-up.
My part of the Art for Art exchange being completed, I await the beautiful walking stick with great anticipation. I got to see the beginnings of the carving, but it's still got a long way to go. So much detail! I'll be sure and post pictures when the walking stick is complete.
Happy Anniversary, Bob and Pam!
Nick Gore was a corporate peon by day who just made the leap to full time pizza geek. Follow his path to world class Pizzaiolo right here on the GoreMade Pizza blog. Also, check out the facebook page.