Tag Archives: wood fired oven

make-your-own veggie pizza

Houston Pizza Review: BLAZE

My mom and I visited my sister in Houston a few weeks ago and took a lunchtime trip to Blaze Pizza on Westheimer. Blaze is a fast-casual pizza chain, where you stand in line and either choose a standard personal pizza from their menu or do a create-your-own pizza from a smorgasbord of ingredients, Chipotle style. The staff assembles the pie and then rapidly cooks it in their huge wood-fired oven and calls your name when it’s ready to get at the counter.

There was a Blaze in Royal Oak when we were living in Michigan that I always wanted to try but never got around to it, so I was happy to go there in Texas!

I ordered the off-the-menu Red Vine pizza which is red sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil and tomatoes, and I also added shredded mozzarella to it.

red vine pizza with extra mozzarella
red vine pizza with extra mozzarella

My sister did a make-your-own with lots of veggies including mushrooms and arugula.

make-your-own veggie pizza
make-your-own veggie pizza

Both pizzas were delicious and we devoured them both. The ingredients were fresh and flavorful and the crust was pretty good – not dry or cardboard-like, which can often be the case.

The only issue I had (which is unfortunately pretty standard these days at this kind of restaurant) was that I was SUPER parched afterwards. Even after drinking lots of water, I could still feel the effects of the saltiness from the pizza. ¬†They were yummy going down though ūüôā

The staff was very friendly and knowledgeable about the ingredients and food prep. My mom has a lot of dietary restrictions, and they were incredibly helpful directing her in terms of what she could or couldn’t eat. For instance, they don’t use cornmeal on the bottom of the pizza to prevent sticking; they use semolina, which she can eat. They also swapped out her Italian salad dressing for oil and vinegar and made her salad fresh, instead of directing her to the case of pre-made salads, to ensure no cross-contamination with items she can’t digest. I thought the customer service was excellent, especially for a fast-casual establishment whose business model is based on volume, standardization and quick turnaround.

In terms of fast-casual chain pizza, I would definitely rank Blaze near the top.



Pizaro’s Pizza: Houston TX

A few weeks ago,¬†my mom, aunt and I went to visit my sister in Houston to work on some of her wedding to-dos (um, yes, cake tasting). ¬†Craving some pizza (obviously), I searched online for Houston’s best pizza, and while many came up, we chose Pizaro’s Pizza Napoletana (http://www.pizarospizza.com/), for the sheet fact that we would be driving out towards the burbs rather than into the city on a Saturday night.

It’s a wood-fired brick oven fast casual concept, where you stand in line to order, pay and take a number. And very quickly afterwards (the pizzas only take 90 seconds to cook in a 900 degree oven), your piping hot pizza arrives at the table! ¬†BYOB.

photo 1 The oven is that mosaic dome in the back. It was made in Naples and shipped to the US, according to their website. The guy up front is making dough.

photo 2The interior – not anything spesh, very crowded, very kid friendly.

photo 3

photo 1The dough rounds being prepped for pizza!

Okay, let’s start with the negatives. ¬†It was crowded (a given on a Saturday night in the city that is known for eating out). It was cold – since we couldn’t be picky about where we sat, we grabbed the only available table, which happened to be right underneath a very blowy AC unit. Brr. We scarfed that pizza down – it was cold by the last slice.

The good news: the pizza was really tasty!! Crust that wasn’t soggy and not burnt either – perfect chew, with a few good dough bubbles. (My sister claims I always wanted the slices with the bubbles growing up, but that was actually she.) Fresh ingredients, and the perfect size for a personal pizza. ¬†My sister and I split a classic cheese (always a good baseline) and an arugula and parmesan white pizza. ¬†Both were delish and we demolished most of them before my mom and aunt’s pizza even came out to the table.

photo 3 photo 2The cheese pizza was really more of a Margherita minus the basil.  I was a bit put off by seeing the chef squeeze oozy mozzarella out of what looked to be a giant pastry tube, but it did seem to be quite fresh and milky and tasted like homemade mozzarella. Definitely different than the dry pre-shredded part-skim bagged mozz I get at the store.

All in all, a good choice; I would do carry-out next time though to avoid the shiver.

First Pizza Review of 2014: Bigalora

Happy New Year! ¬†Time to start it off right with new pizza! ¬†The other night we tried Bigalora wood-fired pizza. ¬†Bigalora is the newly opened reincarnation of the existing Pizzeria Biga restaurant that I never had the opportunity to try. ¬†Bigalora in Ann Arbor (there are a few others in Southeast Michigan) is situated at the far corner of the upscale Arbor Hills strip mall (apparently “upscale strip mall” is not an oxymoron), which includes some new-to-Ann-Arbor stores such as lululemon, Brooks Brothers, J. Jill, Paper Source, Sur la table, North Face and Blue Mercury.

The restaurant interior was wide-open with a lofted second floor towards the back creating a two-story ceiling over the main dining room. ¬†Despite its exposed duct work and huge glass front wall, it was surprisingly cozy, anchored by a slate-colored wrap-around bar behind which was a towering wall of spirits. ¬†There’s a sliding ladder for the bartenders to climb to reach the upper shelves – love that this is reminding me of an English manor’s mahogany library only done in metals and glass! ¬†Those throw-back, exposed-bulb pendants generated an orangey glow over the bar and cream fabric-covered, doughnut chandeliers above the dining area created a soft, warm atmosphere. ¬†The culminating touch was a lounge area in the front of the restaurant that was both rustic and modern: circular,¬†hammered-copper coffee table, tree stump side tables, and then to throw some chic into the country-living vibe,¬†lucite ¬†(or just regular clear plastic?) high-backed arm chairs in the style that you might expect of a tufted leather reading chair (again perhaps in an English manor’s library), only much less comfortable. ¬†And everything sitting atop (or in the case of the chairs, floating atop) a large calf-skin rug. ¬†It was a welcoming arrangement that made me really want to take a seat and drink an Old Fashioned by candlelight. ¬†I would definitely return to dine in.

As it stood, we had ordered carry-out, and probably just as well because the place was packed. ¬†I got a simple margherita pizza; Mark got wood-fired chicken wings and a pepperoni pizza. ¬†Everything smelled delicious in the car ride home, and I was childishly excited about the red plastic pizza cutter they included with our order (which turned out to be necessary since they don’t pre-slice the pizzas…it was incredibly effective…maybe more so than the metal cutter I have from Target).


My margherita was light with dollops of fresh mozzarella and whole basil leaves. ¬†The sauce (maybe a bit oversauced in places?) was brightly acidic and slightly sweet but not overwhelmingly so. ¬†Everything meshed very well. ¬†The crust was super soft and chewy with a char around the edges. ¬†I’m not usually over-enthusiastic about an extra chewy crust, however this time it worked as it was quite airy, not dense, and acted as a counterbalance to the super-thin crust sitting underneath the toppings.

pizza 1

The wings were also a hit: wood-roasted, non-breaded, served with sweet roasted onions – different and delicious!

I didn’t try Mark’s pepperoni pizza (each pizza is definitely one-person-sized), but it looked good and it’s gone so that must say something.

I’m excited to go back to dine in and explore the menu more fully. ¬†Happy eating!