Registry Tampa Bay

This edition marks a couple of firsts:

• It’s the first FFF that involves some measure of home cooking. As a result, the FFF Lab + Photo Studio™ has been rechristened the FFF Lab + Photo Studio + Kitchen™.

• Even better, this is the first Food Fight that involves a blind taste test. Fun!

We grabbed three brands of frozen pizza and doctored them up with ingredients I like. Many thanks to wife Bonnie for handling the logistics and the cooking. We got recommendations from friends and colleagues, and did some online research to find three worthy contestants.

They are: Amy’s Cheese Pizza; Trader Joe’s Organic 3 Cheese Pizza; Newman’s Own Four Cheese Pizza. You see a trend here? Frozen pizzas trying to out-cheese each other. (Coming Soon! Cartone’s 23-Cheese Pizza!) How ’bout the sauce, man?

The toppings, also courtesy of Bonnie are: chicken sausage, white onions, green pepper, plus basil and oregano from her grow boxes.

I’ll rank the pizzas at the end.

PIZZA # 1

It was kind of messy on top. A good sign. I rarely eat frozen pizza, straight or doctored, so I don’t have much info to work with, but this pie looked alluring. Somewhat. It was small, though.

I appreciated the red sauce oozing from under the cheese.

First things first: the crust. It was a good medium thickness, although it had none of the give-way of my beloved New York pizza. I had to essentially tear off bites with my teeth.

The cheese was smooth and, thankfully, not slathered on to excess. The sauce didn’t give off much flavor. There was more of it near the end crust, but by that time it had congealed.

I’m the guy who leaves his pizza rinds on the plate — and gets ribbed for it. I certainly saw no reason to veer from that policy in this instance.

PIZZA #2

A thin ridge around the rim whispered, “I came out of a box.” It was thinner, and whiter — and bigger in circumference — than its predecessor. And it looked less appetizing.

The crust had a cracker-like texture that I’m not a fan of, but, all told, it wasn’t half-bad. The cheese was more plentiful and more prominent than Pizza #1, but however many cheeses were on there didn’t make much of an impression.

The red sauce was almost nonexistent. The pizza had a vague cardboard taste — not that I eat a lot of cardboard, but you get the idea.

All of this had the effect of shining a light on the toppings, which were top-notch.

PIZZA #3

Because we have a conventional home oven, Bonnie had to bake this one after the first two. A couple of charred spots gave it a wood-fired look. The outer crust was noticeably wide. (More to discard.)

Pizza #3’s crust was the driest of the three, and really took some teeth-tearing to pry bites loose. I wondered if I was actually eating the cardboard box instead of the crust.

The cheese was creamier than its counterparts, but, again, lacking character. I was also glad to taste some sauce — sauce that had a little bite. This pizza had a subtly artificial flavor throughout, but it wasn’t pronounced enough to matter much. At this point, I was used to it.

In fairness, Pizza #3 may have been a bit overcooked.

To the Reveal! … Here are the rankings:

Winner: Pizza #1 — Amy’s Cheese Pizza ($9.49)
Runner -Up: Pizza #3 — Trader Joe’s Organic 3 Cheese Pizza ($4.99)
Third Place (Or, if you prefer, Last): Newman’s Own Four Cheese Pizza ($8.79)*

Far and away the best parts of these pizzas were the add-ons — which makes sense, right? Real food.

When it comes to our pizza routine, Bonnie and I are old-school: Order by phone and pick it up — at select restaurants. We don’t do delivery. We don’t do frozen, and this exercise cemented that stance.

And a note to you lovers of pizza-crust end pieces — y’know, the ones who give me a hard time for leaving them on the plate because they’re a waste of stomach space: These from-the-box pies would really test you. You’d have to be awfully hungry, or an absolutist, to eat this stuff down to the end.

* The Newman’s Own box did say “Thin & Crispy Crust,” which would account for its thin and crispy texture … but not the cardboard taste.

A final note: I guess I’m a pizza elitist — or, if you, prefer, snob.

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One Response

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