June 18, 2011

CF116 – The Catholic Foodie and the Pizza Capital of the World

CF116 – The Catholic Foodie and the Pizza Capital of the World

Show Notes for CF116

This is Jeff Young the Catholic Foodie at catholicfoodie.com and you’re listening to episode 116 of the Catholic Foodie: The Catholic Foodie and the Pizza Capital of the World….

Welcome, folks, to the Catholic Foodie, where food meets faith. I’m your host Jeff Young and today we are talking about my birthday week. Yes, we even stretch out birthday celebrations as long as we can! You know, it’s not unusual for folks to celebrate their birthdays with a meal, and that is definitely a big tradition in our family. Sometimes we celebrate by going out to eat, and sometime we celebrate by preparing a feast at home. Grace, our youngest, loves to request crawfish for her birthday meals. Me? I love going to my favorite pizza parlor… Pizza Man of Covington, also known as the pizza capital of the world. And boy do I have a story for you! So, stay tuned, right here, at the Catholic Foodie, where food meets faith!

DivineOffice.org

As we begin this episode I want to thank our sponsor, DivineOffice.org. You will find all things Liturgy of the Hours at DivineOffice.org. Of course, the Liturgy of the Hours is the official prayer of the Church, and it is prayed several times a day by priests, religious, and laity all around the world. It is a treasure-trove of grace, and a rich education in prayer. If you have never prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, I encourage you to give it a try. And DivineOffice.org makes it very easy to do so. You will find the Hours available there in text format, and also in audio. You can subscribe to the podcast version, or download the iPhone or iPad app. And now there are apps for your Android or Nokia. There’s even an app for your iMac or Macbook. But the most important thing you will find at DivineOffice.org is a living community of prayer. So, come join us in prayer. At DivineOffice.org.

I have some news to share with you about DivineOffice.org. The folks over there have made some recent exciting announcements, and I just have to share them with you. In addition to now having apps available for the Android and the Nokia, DivineOffice.org has now released a new Bible App. That’s right a Bible app for your Mac. It’s available in the Mac App Store. I will post links, of course, to all of these apps in the show notes over at CatholicFoodie.com. I have to tell you that I am very excited about this new Bible App. The Word of God is living and powerful. And the new Bible App makes it even more accessible to us. “It’s Bible software, the Mac way. It’s so easy to navigate, and you don’t have to be a bible scholar to use it! It’s the Bible reader for the rest of us. The beautiful, elegant user interface allows you to dive into the Sacred Scriptures without all the clutter of websites. This beautifully crafted, simple to use Bible App is the perfect companion for daily inspiration and spiritual nourishment. Use it to keyword search and compare specific verses from 20 editions in 6 languages.”

Here are some of the features of the app:

  • Access 20 English, Latin, and Greek versions from your Mac desktop
  • Read passages in 5 other languages (German, Italian, French, Spanish, and Croatian)
  • Compare multiple translations of the Bible by using the contextual menu and selecting “Open the same passage in another bible,” or immerse yourself completely in the Word of God by using the Full Screen mode.
  • Use the internal search engine to look inside all the versions. Drill down to bibles in a specific language. You can search for a specific keyword, and exact phrase, or a passage using a standard notation (like John 1: 1-18).
  • Highlight verses and access all selections from a convenient, dedicated screen where all your selections are organized by bible version and date.

As with the other apps developed by Surgeworks and the folks at DivineOffice.org, this is a sleek and elegant app that is designed to help you grow in your faith. If you haven’t seen it yet, please do go check out the Bible App in the Mac App Store. Or visit the show notes for this episode at CatholicFoodie.com where I will post a direct link to more information on the new Bible App. Incidentally, I think this (and the DivineOffice App too!) would make a great Father’s Day gift. Hint. Hint. That’s right, tomorrow is Father’s Day! So, Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there!

That’s Amore

Birthday meals. Goodness, those are so important! And we have a few birthday meal traditions in our family. For instance, Grace, our youngest, tends to request boiled crawfish for her birthday. Char’s favorite is sushi, so we tend to go out to a sushi bar to celebrate hers. Christopher’s favorite is sushi too. And Annabelle, well, she’s been known to follow in my footsteps. And where do my footsteps lead? To pizza, of course! My most favorite food in all the world is PIZZA! And my most favorite pizza place is Pizza Man of Covington. So, it should be no surprise that this is where we tend to end up every year for my birthday.

Now this has been quite a week. My birthday was really on Wednesday, the 15th. But the kids were at Vacation Bible School this week and Char was in charge of the whole program. In addition to that, the girls had gymnastics Wednesday night, so that would have made it hard to celebrate my birthday appropriately on that day. So, instead, I made a late lunch of fresh salsa and fish tacos.  And we planned to hit Pizza Man on Friday. We also asked a few friends to come along to help us celebrate.

You know, this year has been a weird one when it comes to my birthday. First of all, I just explained the scheduling issue for the week. But, another strange thing that happened was that I received a birthday present from my parents a full month before my birthday. I remember being so confused when my mom called me in mid-May to tell me that they were shipping my birthday present to me and that I should have it in a couple of days. I couldn’t understand why they would send me my present a month early. Did they know something I did not know? Well, once it arrived, I immediately understood. They had bought me a new crawfish pot! A 120 quart crawfish pot! And they bought it early because they wanted me to be able to use it while crawfish season was still going strong. And use it we did! I boiled 60 pounds at one time a couple of weeks ago. So, thank you very much, Mom & Dad! It’s funny. The reason that got that for me is because my old pot had a few holes in it. And every time I boiled crawfish I had to plug the holes with wood skewers. Not no more though!

I did receive a neat gift from a good friend of mine, Robert Simpson, on my actual birthday. A very appropriate gift too. He bought me a black baseball cap with this message embroidered in white across the top: “I’m having a no hair day” I love it! Thank you, Robert! And, on my actual birthday, I received those gifts that I most look forward to: the cards and crafts that the kids make me. And, this year, they also gave me a cool Greek cookbook. YUM-O!

Now, I am not trying to focus only on gifts that I received. That’s not it. I am leading up to something here. I received a huge surprise Friday night that really blew me away. And I want to convey to you why it was so awesome and why I loved it so much. And, to do that I have to tell you a few stories, you see?

Yes, pizza is indeed my favorite food. I dedicated two episodes to pizza way back in the beginning of the Catholic Foodie: Episodes 7a and 7b, entitled That’s Amore and That’s More Amore, respectively. I have also written about pizza and Pizza Man on the blog and talked about both on the show. You might remember that Grace, our youngest, dressed up as Pizza Man for Halloween last year too. That was too funny!

Pizza Man is a one-of-its-kind kind of place. And I love it. And it really does have a special meaning for us as a family.

There was an article about Pizza Man written by Stephen Faure for Inside Northside Magazine back in 2006. I’d like to share that with you now, because I think it really conveys what makes that restaurant so unique.

[READ THE ARTICLEhttp://www.insidenorthside.com/JanFeb06/art17.htm]

****Generations of wide-eyed customers have packed the house to witness the dough-tossing, pizza-pan-juggling, pie-making magic that is Paul Schrems and crew in action on a weekend night at the Pizza Man in Covington.

The pizza assembly and baking area is fronted with glass that the kids press up against to watch the spectacle. The walls are lined with pizza boxes decorated by local artist Suzanne King that are a witty and whimsical treasure. Each season is represented by a set of her creations. The holiday-themed boxes just came down. Before that, the back to school, football and hurricane season works were on display.

There are boxes providing visual representations of the songs on the restaurant’s old-style jukebox, which contains quite a blend of old standards, including big-band and folk tunes. All this action may keep the customers entertained, but it’s the quality of the Pizza Man’s award-winning pies that keeps them coming back year after year.

Tom Fitzmorris, one of the New Orleans area’s top restaurant critics, sums the whole scene up nicely: “The pizza-box art is brilliant, the selection of music on the jukebox knows no equal for eclecticism and listenability, the attitude of the staff—especially Pizza Man Paul himself—makes you love them. And on top of that, they make a pizza that ranks with the best.”

Paul has been the Pizza Man of Covington going on 30 years now. He started the restaurant at a time when, he remembers, there was only one sign on the road to the city; it read “Deer Crossing.” Back then, the Pizza Man was located on Boston Street, but when parking on the street was eliminated about eighteen years ago, he relocated the restaurant to its present spot on Collins (Highway 190).

The business has always been about family: his family, his employees’ families and his customers’ families.

His wife, Evelyn, has handled the business end since the beginning. She came from a pizza family. Her father, Bob Scheon, opened Bob’s Pizza Palace in Houma, Louisiana almost fifty years ago. Recipes and techniques he developed live on at the Pizza Man, most notably the homemade Italian sausage. In homage to his father-in-law, one of Paul’s specialty pies is named the “Pizza Palace,” which is topped with homemade Italian sausage, pepperoni, blanched green peppers, meatballs and onions.

Evelyn and Paul’s sons, Aaron and Dustin, became involved as soon as they were big enough, although both have moved on to other pursuits—for now. Twenty-five-year-old Aaron is in international banking, and his younger brother Dustin is a U.S. Marine who recently returned to the United States from a tour of duty in Iraq.

“One of the biggest blessings in my life has been the opportunity to work with my boys,” says Paul. The boys grew up helping with every aspect of the operation, from sweeping floors to taking phone orders and making pizzas, and neither has ruled out returning to the Pizza Man in the future. It proved to be valuable experience for them. “Aaron told me he realized he had learned more about business and people at the restaurant than in college,” Paul recalls. Dustin taught himself juggling one year so that he and his father could juggle pans and pies in the window to delight the customers.

Hurricane Katrina provided the Schrems family a mixed blessing; the company Aaron works for granted him temporary leave from his posting abroad to return home and help get the family’s property cleaned up.

Paul’s other employees may as well be family, too. Some have been with him more than 25 years, and some of the younger staff follow in the footsteps of older brothers and sisters who have worked there through high school and college.

The Pizza Man’s pizzas have definitely made their mark on the northshore. Signature pies include innovative toppings of the highest quality, and an option not often found is to have your pizza made with garlic and olive oil instead of the typical red tomato sauce.

Paul will do anything to please the customer, and offers partially-baked pies for take-home customers to finish baking in the oven at home, allowing even Slidellians to enjoy fresh-baked Pizza Man pizza. He’ll cut a pie into nine slices for a party of three, and will make “road cuts,” small, square slices for eating in the car on the Causeway.

The biggest seller is “The Board,” topped with handfuls of fresh spinach, mushrooms, spicy cappacola ham, feta cheese, onions and garlic. Another specialty is the “WOW,” a white pizza with cheese and olive oil, crabmeat or crawfish, artichokes and asparagus.

The Board has legions of fans, and Tom Fitzmorris is a definite devotee. It tops his list of best spinach dishes in the New Orleans area, quite an honor, given that Antoine’s creamed spinach is number two. As a northshore resident, Tom keeps regular tabs on his number-one spinach dish. “I need my Board Special Pizza fix every few weeks lest I go mad,” he says, adding, in typical food-loving fashion, “Oh, wait—an Italian salad with anchovies, too, please!”

Another fan of the The Board is Parish National Bank president Gary Blossman, who Paul says prefers a customized chunky version of the pie that adds pesto, tomato and artichokes. Gary can appreciate why the Pizza Man has been a success year after year. “Paul has the talent of making every customer feel like his most important customer. He practices what we call ‘heads-up banking’ at Parish National Bank. Keep your head up so you can greet everyone as they come in to make them feel welcome.”

Gary is one of many customers who are a special delight to Paul—those he remembers coming in with their parents not so long ago who now are parents themselves bringing their children to eat at the Pizza Man. He gets a kick out of parents playing “Puff the Magic Dragon,” a jukebox favorite, telling their kids how they use to sing along, and then teaching them the song, too.

If they’re lucky, in not-too-many years, those kids will be able to bring their own children to stand in front of the glass window and watch the Pizza Man magic.

The Pizza Man of Covington, located at 1248 Collins Blvd., opens for dinner only at 5 p.m., seven days a week. (985) 892-9874. ******

I hope that article conveys even just a bit of what makes Pizza Man such a special place for us.

You know, from time to time, I have posted pictures on Facebook and Twitter and the Catholic Foodie blog of the pizza boxes that adorn the walls of Pizza Man. They are always so fun and witty. And you never know which ones are going to be on the wall when you get there. After we order, I usually walk around the restaurant and check them all out.

Anyway, as Friday approached I was getting excited about going to Pizza Man because it’s been a while. Our good friends the Simpsons and Big D (also known as Duane Desroche) were to meet us there to celebrate. Big D showed up first, maybe about 10 minutes before us. He had already ordered a pitcher of Abita’s Restoration Ale. It was sitting on the table waiting for us.

Now, it took about 10 minutes before I noticed it. And even when I did notice it, I don’t think it quite registered at first. What am I talking about? Well, as Char and I were chatting with Big D… just catching up since the Greek Fest, I happened to look at the wall behind him. And there, amid all the other pizza boxes, there was one with a picture of me on it. Me and Pizza Man. Across the top it said, “There’s no foodie like the Catholic Foodie!” In one hand I am holding a slice of birthday pie (pizza pie with a candle!), and in the other I’m holding a microphone! And in my little my speech bubble are these words: “Today on the Catholic Foodie, we come to you live from the pizza capital of the world, Pizza Man!

I was just blown away. Blown away. It has the Catholic Foodie logo on it and everything. There’s even a crab that’s saying, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!” It was simply amazing, folks. I still have the giggles thinking about it…. and looking at it! It’s sitting right over here on the bed. I need to get it framed or something.

If you want to see this pizza box, I’m using it for the album art on this episode. You can also see it over at CatholicFoodie.com and on the Catholic Foodie Facebook page at Facebook.com/CatholicFoodie.

Amazing.

So thank you to all my family and friends (and to Big D for the big surprise last night!)! Without all of you, my life would be impoverished. But, as it stands, I’m the richest man in the world.

In the Kitchen

Well, folks we are going to step into the kitchen now. You know, I mentioned that on Wednesday I prepared a late lunch of fresh salsa and fish tacos. I posted pictures on the Catholic Foodie Facebook page, and some folks (including my friend Sonia McGarrity) asked for the recipe. So, I’m going give that to you right now.

Let’s start with the salsa. This is a fresh salsa from scratch. I use a Cuisinart Food Processor, but you could just as easily chop everything by hand, or use a blender. Just be careful with blenders as they tend to liquify food like this, instead of just nicely chopping.

Here are the ingredients for the salsa:

  • 4 fresh whole tomatoes (I like to use local Creole tomatoes for mine)
  • 4 fresh Jalapeno peppers, seeded (reserve some of the seeds in case you want extra heat)
  • 1/2 of a medium sweet onion (I like to use Vidalia onions)
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic
  • About 1/2 a bunch of Cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • A generous tablespoon of ground Cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • And a bit of honey

Here’s what I do:

I place the onion, garlic, and jalapeno peppers in the Cuisinart, and I process just long enough to chop and mix the ingredients.

I then quarter the tomatoes and add them to the food processor, along with the lime juice, Cilantro, Cumin and salt and honey. I process it again for a few seconds (until all is mixed up and the tomatoes are nicely chopped). Then I taste it. And I taste it again. I tweak it, if it needs it. Remember, all of this is “to taste.” Add more of whatever you want. This is a very simple and delicious salsa recipe. Definitely a hit in our family. And we like to serve this salsa with Blue Corn Chips. Yum! Buen Provecho!

OK. So what about the Fish Tacos? We love fish tacos. I used eat them from time to time when I was a seminarian in Tiajuana, Mexico. One of the places I would go for lunch whenever I crossed the border into San Diego was Rubio’s… and they specialize in fish tacos. And there’s a great Mexican restaurant in New Orleans (with a couple of locations) called Taqueria Corona. They have excellent fish tacos too.

Here’s what you will need for the fish:

  • A couple of pounds of firm fish filets, like Tilapia
  • 1/4 cup of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 a bunch of Cilantro, chopped

Tortillas (Because we are trying to eat only real food – nothing artificial or full of preservatives – we did something different this time. We used hard blue corn taco shells made my “Garden of Eating.” They worked beautifully!).

For “fixins” we use:

  • Red cabbage, chopped
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Green onions, thinly sliced

We also make a deliciously creamy sauce to top the tacos with. Here’s what you will need for it:

  • Organic Sour Cream
  • Mayonaise (I prefer Blue Plate)
  • Sriracha (a.k.a. Rooster Sauce)
  • Hot sauce (Crystal or Cholula)
  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Juice of a lime
  • Konriko or some other kind of Cajun seasoning mix

The first thing I did was prepare the marinade for the fish. In a mixing bowl I added 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 1/4 cup of of EVOO, the juice of one lime, one to two jalapenos (seeded and coarsely chopped), and about 1/2 a bunch of Cilantro, chopped. I whisked it all together, and then poured this over the fish filets in a large Ziploc plastic bag, and placed it in the refrigerator to marinate for at least half an hour.

In the meantime, I prepped the rest of the fixin’s, pre-heated the oven for the taco shells, and preheated the “grill,” which was in this case a cast iron griddle that spans two burners on my stove. I pre-heated to the griddle to medium-high heat.

Once everything was ready, I pulled the Ziploc baggie out of the fridge. I added a bit of olive oil and organic butter to the griddle, immediately adding two filets to the griddle too. I added a dash of salt to each filet, and allowed them to cook on the hot griddle for about 4 minutes before flipping them. Once flipped, I let them cook for only 30 to 45 seconds, before pulling them and adding them to a plate so they could rest. Then I repeated the process until all the filets were cooked. I think I had a total of 5 filets. Once they are all cooked, I let them rest for about 5 minutes, while I prep the plates. Then I took a fork and flaked the fish.

Then it was just assembling the tacos, saying grace, and enjoying an absolutely delicious meal. OPA! I mean…. Arriba! …. Or something like that.

If you decided to try these wonderfully delicious fish tacos yourself, please do let me know how they turn out. You can find the recipe over at CatholicFoodie.com. And, of course, you can always leave voice feedback for me by calling 985-635-4974. And you can reach me by email at jeff@catholicfoodie.com. And there’s always Facebook and Twitter. I’m catholicfoodie on Twitter and the Facebook page is at Facebook.com/catholicfoodie. I look forward to hearing from you!

Good Goodies 

It’s hard to believe that time is flying by so fast. But, the time for the 2011 CNMC is fast approaching. The Catholic New Media Conference is what I am referring to. And this year it will in Kansas City from September 30th to October 1. A good friend of mine, Sr. Anne Flanagan, is going to be presenting this year. So is Matt Warner and Jeff Geerling. And so is the head of Vatican Radio. You can find more information and register online at CNMC.sqpn.com. I certainly hope to be there. How about you?

Well, that wraps up another episode of the Catholic Foodie, folks. Thank you so much for spending time with me here. It’s been fun.

Don’t forget to visit my friends over at SimplicitiesofLife.com. They have excellent religious jewelry and heirloom-quality rosaries. Beautiful stuff.SimplicitiesofLife.com.

And, until next time… Bon appetit!

To leave feedback for the Catholic Foodie, call 985-635-4974 and leave a message. You can also leave feedback for me at jeff@catholicfoodie.com.

Download episode 116 here or listen to it below:

Simplicities of Life: Hand-made Rosaries, Chaplets, & Jewelry

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