Sunday, July 19, 2009

Writing Community events...

Last weekend, the Austin writing community had the pleasure of Chris Barton's launch party of The Day Glo Brothers at Book People. Some pictures:

The box demonstrating the effects of black light on Day Glo ink:

Chris Barton's Day Glo fist of power:

Mugging for the camera (Carmen, Mark Mitchell, April Lurie, Jenny Ziegler, Emily):

The Day Glo couple:

And a sighting of Geektastic (check out an article on the cover here):

Then, Saturday, was the SCBWI monthly meeting, in which Jim Seippel spoke on various computer-related issues.

Tim Crow and Jim:

Betty Davis and Jerry Wermund:

Jessica Lee Anderson and P.J. Hoover:

Emma Virjan:

Brian Anderson:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Grand Finale: The Ultimate Pizza

Or, well, something like that. Tonight, I ventured forth into the world of deep-dish pizza making, a venue I haven't visited in a number of years. I took the recipe from THE GREAT CHICAGO STYLE PIZZA COOKBOOK and adapted it to the current situation (namely, the fact that I only had a 12 inch pan, whereas the recipe called for 14).

Proceeding courageously, I encountered my first difficulty, when I discovered that I had apparently misplaced the dough hook for my KitchenAid mixer. Undaunted, I decided to make the crust by hand.

My first effort was something of a failure, as I lost count of the number of cups of flour and so ended up with a very strange pile of doughy pebbles that, nevertheless, proceeded to grow on their own, as fungi are wont to do...

I swiftly corrected this problem (i.e., I went to the grocery store and bought another triptych of yeast) and the dough mixture turned out well this time, although it seemed a bit more dry than the recipe seemed to be expecting. After a certain amount of kneading and letting sit, the fough ball grew to impressive size.

After flattening the dough into the pan, I laid down the mozzarella, the crushed roma tomatoes, and arranged the toppings: green and red bell pepper; sausage; mushroom; and red onion.

The result, I must say, was rather magnificent. It wasn't quite pizza as I recollect from Chicago, but it was an excellent pizza (deep dish!) nonetheless (for one thing, the pan was too new to give the crust that particular texture...).

The crust was fairly light, but rich, although not quite the almost-pastry crust of Gino's East, and the toppings gave it an almost Uno's flavor. The topping, of course, being hand chosen, were fresh and flavorful, and the pizza s a whole seemed lighter than many I had tried this past week (even the thin ones).

I think next time, maybe more tomatoes and a bit less dough...but there will definitely be a next time!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


THE MORGUE AND ME, by John C. Ford (Viking 2009). The summer after high school graduation, Christopher lands a job in the morgue of his small town in Michigan. But when he discovers the coroner apparently took money to cover up a murder, he takes action, and his efforts to uncover the murderer lead to a web of deceit and intrigue that reaches the town's highest levels of political power, as well as closer to home than he'd like.

Full of suspense and a pile of fascinating and sometimes hilarious characters, THE MORGUE AND ME is a winner of a debut novel.
Altogether, THE MORGUE AND ME is an intriguing tale of death, lies, blackmail, corruption, and the evils of golf.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Whole Foods

Day 7 of the Pizza-a-Day Plan! And the petit finale! (But, why? you ask). Because the grand finale occurs on Saturday when I make my own deep dish and I don't want to be utterly sick of the things when that occurs :-).

Whole Foods flagship store and corporate headquarters (525 N. Lamar). For those not familiar with the place, it's really big and has all these little walk-up "shops," where they prepare food on the spot. Among these is a small pizza area, complete with brick oven. A bit too fancy, but I decided to try the pizza anyway...

I ordered a small (7 inch) sausage and mushroom pizza. As they said it would take twelve minutes to cook, I did a bit of grocery shopping and returned at the appointed time. Alas, I was not there to see the pizza boxed. As you can see below, the crust turned out a bit, well, carbonized, which I didn't discover until I got back home.

As can be appreciated, the crust was a bit crispier than I generally like. Nevertheless, on the whole, the pizza wasn't bad: the seasonings were excellent and the toppings fresh and plentiful. And really, it only cost half a sawbuck. And I will try them again.

Bon appetit! (At least until Saturday).


THE CHOSEN ONE, by Carol Lynch Williams (St. Martin's Press 2009). Thirteen year old Kyra has twenty brothers and sisters, three mothers, and one father. She lives with her loving family in the remote compound of a reclusive polygamous religious sect called "The Chosen."

But she remembers better days, when the Chosen were allowed to leave the compound and allowed to read works of fiction. Always wary of falling into the trap of sinfulness, she nevertheless periodically sneaks away to visit the local library bookmobile; arranges secret trysts with Joshua, the boy she thinks she's in love with; and wonders whether outside medical care would help with her mother's difficult pregnancy.

When The Prophet declares he has seen a vision she must become her uncle's (her father's sixty year old brother) seventh wife, her questioning begins in earnest and she realizes she will have to choose between a hateful marriage and leaving all that she loves behind.

THE CHOSEN ONE is a compelling, finely-wrought, exquisitely written tale of one girl's difficult journey and struggles with temptation, hypocrisy, and group thought control. Throughout, Kyra is fully realized and three-dimensional. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Frank and Angie's Pizzeria

Day 6 of the Pizza-a-Day Plan:

Frank and Angie's (508 West Avenue) is tucked off Sixth Street behind Hut's Hamburgers (and seems to be owned by the same people). I headed over after work to have a drink, grab some pizza, and get some writing done.

I had a house salad and ordereda ten-inch sausage, mushroom, green pepper, and onion pizza (of course). The pizza had a very nice, very thin, very light crust (although more than able to support the weight of a slice without significant bending); plentiful, fresh toppings; and nicely gooey cheese.

The pizza was of very high quality and seemed very light. My only complaint (and it really isn't a complaint) is that the sausage seemed to be inadequately affixed to the surface and kept bouncing off onto my manuscript, leaving small stains on the paper (in a manner vageuly reminiscent of John Cusack in The Sure Thing :-)). Still, another excellent Austin pizza!


SO PUNK ROCK (AND OTHER WAYS TO DISAPPOINT YOUR MOTHER), by Micol Ostow (art by David Ostow)(Flux 2009). Ari Abramson is on a mission during his junior of high school: avoid studying for the SAT, get out from under the thumbs of his academically-intense parents, and form an indie rock band so as to rise up the ranks of "coolness" at Gittleman Jewish Day School.

In this last enterprise, he enlists his best friend, the ultra-popular Jonas Fein; and the religiously conservative Yossi Gluck (and his sister Reena). Along the way, to their surprise, they become something of a hit. But as Ari comes to terms with his new-found popularity, he discovers there's more to his friends and him than he ever imagined.

With a fresh voice and terrific characters, SO PUNK ROCK is a hilarious look at high school, rock bands, and taking control of one's life. Highly recommended.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rounder's Pizzeria

Day 5 of the Pizza-a-Day Plan:

Rounders Pizzeria (1203 W. 6th Street), like Home Slice, bills itself as "New York style pizza," and despite that, is a pretty good pizza. :-). (I'm not quite sure what makes it a New York style, other than the fact that it's flat and the pieces are cut into large wedges that are meant to be folded in half lengthwise.).

Anyway, I ordered a salad and a small sausage, green pepper, onion, and mushroom pizza. Delivered hot after about forty-five minutes, the crust was crisp and crunchy but soft enough to be folded (and not gummy). Toppings were plentiful, with the sausage in large strips, which I would guess perform better under the above-described "fold" maneuver than would simple chunks. The cheese was also quite good, with just the right texture (meltedness?).

In sum, yet another excellent offering from Rounder's!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Austin's Pizza

Day 4 of the Pizza-a-day plan!

Austin's Pizza (various locations). Never tried their pizza before, but apparently they've been around since 1999. I ordered the "Downtown Special," i.e., a thin crust pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, and black olives (along with a side "Zilker Garden" salad -- the salad, incidentally was probably the best of the bunch so far.).

The pizza, too, was quite good, and was delivered hot in about half an hour. The crust had a great crispy, chewy texture and the sausage and pepperoni were flavorful enough to not overwhelm or be overwhelmed by the olives. The sausage was of that pea-gravel-sized kind that I always find a little weird, but allowed for even coverage over the entire surface of the pizza.

All in all, I was very favorably impressed: Both pizza and salad were excellent. Definitely will have to try them again sometime...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Home Slice Pizza

Day 3 of the Pizza-a-day Plan:

HOME SLICE PIZZA (1415 S. Congress) bills itself as "authentic New York style pizza," but I don't hold that against it. :-).

They don't deliver to where I live, so accompanied by illustrator (and admiral in the Texas Navy) Mark G. Mitchell, I made my way south. After about a fifteen minute wait, we were seated at a comfortable booth that could probably have accommodated six.

We ordered the house salad and a medium (14 inch) sausage, mushroom, and green pepper pizza. Salad was delivered promptly and was significantly larger than I was expecting (it filled a standard dinner plate). Quite a good Italian dressing, as well.

The pizza arrived after about twenty-five minutes and was worth the wait. The crust was thin and crisp, but not so brittle that it would fall apart when bent. Ingredients were fresh and flavorful and abundant, completely covering the top of the pizza so that no bite didn't include all three toppings.

I have no basis for opining on whether the pizza was a genuine "New York style" one, but regardless, it was an excellent pizza-shaped object. :-).

Now if I could just get them to deliver...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Conans Pizza

Day 2 of the Pizza-a-day Plan!

Conans Pizza (603 W. 29th Street and other locations). I last went to Conans Pizza when I was in grad school and it was on Guadalupe where the Kerbey Lane now is. All I remember is that it wasn't bad, that the decor was a riot (a Conan the Barbarian motif, of course), and that it was my first experience with Shiner Bock. And, until recently, I'd thought they'd gone out of business.

But Conans has been around since 1976 and serves a deep dish pizza they say is "inspired by an old Chicago recipe" and bill themselves as having "The Best Deep Dish Pan Pizza in Texas" (although this may be damning with faint praise :-)).

I ordered The Savage (this has sausage, pepperoni, hamburger, mushrooms, black olives, onions, green peppers, with jalapenos and anchovies optional.). And a Conans salad to keep up the pretension of healthy eating.

The pizza arrived promptly after about forty-five minutes, still warm in its insulated delivery bag. It was slightly thinner than I was expecting, although still definitely deep dish. It was tasty but a little doughy -- I'm not sure about putting the cheese on top of the ingredients. Still, not terrible, and I did have a great feeling of nostalgia whilst eating it. :-).

Oh, and for the law geeks out there: yes, it's the same Conans from Conan Properties vs. Conan's Pizza, 752 F.2d 145 (5th Cir. 1985).

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Mangia Chicago Stuffed Pizza


Mangia Pizza (2400 Lake Austin Blvd., and other locations) was founded in 1988 (which is a good thing, because I started graduate school down here a year later) by a guy who quit government work and had fallen in love with stuffed pizza while doing training in Chicago.

Mangia is, of course, the home of the world-famous Mangiazilla. Unfortunately, Mangiazilla itself no longer graces the top of the delivery truck (apparently it kept getting knocked off), although I believe there is still a Mangiazilla atop the Guadalupe location.

Mangia consistently offers an excellent stuffed Chicago-style pizza (it being Austin, it's available with white or wheat crust). I ordered what's called the "Chicago Special," which is sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, and onions, on a white crust. (I also ordered a salad which, despite assurances from the staff that it was "really small," was more than adequate. And rather large, actually.).

Delivery took about forty-five minutes; the crust was firm, not soggy, and had an excellent, rich texture. The pizza was still hot and the ingredients were of good quality -- you could taste each of the toppings in every bite. All in all, an excellent pizza experience. (If you're not a carnivore, their spinach pizza is really good, too.).

Oh, to clarify for those who are not from Chicago: A "deep dish" pizza is a pizza that is made in a dish about two inches deep and has a single layer of crust (on the bottom). A "stuffed" pizza is a form of deep dish pizza, but it has two layers of crust and (for the most part) all the ingredients go in-between, although the tomato sauce (always) goes on top.


So here's the thing: Cyn's gone for the next twelve days at Vermont College, where she is teaching at the summer residency in the Master's program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. This means that, for the duration, (i) I do not have to cook and (ii) if I choose to cook, it can be things that Cyn does not eat.

Which means pizza. (Or, possibly, steak. But this post is about pizza).

Now, having grown up in Chicago, I'm somewhat spoiled by pizza: In addition to great neighborhood places like Golden Crust (on Kedzie - when I was growing up, they had the best thin crust ever), there are the more famous deep-dish and stuffed places, like Uno's (and, of course, Due), Lou Malnati's, Gino's East, and Giordano's.

Austin does not have such a grand pizza pedigree, although there are a number of more than passable places. So I'm going to try them all. In the course of the next ten days.

Oh. And I'll also be making my own (deep dish, of course)...

Stay tuned for details.
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