Category Archives: pizza

When it rains, time for a pour

Fishing north of Courtenay

Salmon fishing in the Pacific, north of Courtenay, B.C.

“Periods of rain.”

Perhaps the three most devastating words ahead of an impending backpack. Other than the single, four-letter epithet: “Rain.”

What to do? You can forge blithely ahead, hoping the forecast is wrong or exaggerated. But extensive experience has shown me that simply “rubbing one’s nose in it” leads more often to misery than delighted surprise. A misery exacerbated when the trip involves a long drive or an expensive flight to get there.

Thus the importance of having a Plan B, especially if you’ve already arrived on the trip’s doorstep. Rather than simply return home, take the opportunity to explore a new area. It might even buy you enough time, if you’ve got some flexibility, to wait out the bad weather, perhaps camped out on a forgiving friend’s or relative’s floor.

This strategy paid off beautifully recently on a backpack along Vancouver Island’s west coast. Where waiting three days resulted in a lovely, largely dry hike, with the bonus of some fine day trips around the north-central part of the island near Courtenay. Of course, there was also the chance to investigate some great places to eat and drink.

More about that in subsequent posts. In the meantime, here are some photos of lovely diversions.

Fishing north of Courtenay (1)

I’d rather be fishing

Nootka Trail 85

Beachcombing on Hornby Island

Nootka Trail 79

Ocean front hiking in Helliwell Provincial Park, Hornby Island

Nootka Trail 83

Tucking into pizza at Hornby Island’s funky Ringside Market

Nootka Trail 72

Great Hornby Island Roasting coffee at Lix in Ringside Market

Nootka Trail 14

From the suspension bridge at Elk Falls Provincial Park, Campbell River

 

Nootka Trail 112

A great rainy day diversion: Campbell River Museum

Nootka Trail 115

Fabulous, fresh fare at Dick’s Fish & Chips in Campbell River

Nootka Trail 61

Spring hiking at Mount Washington ski hill near Courtenay. Okay, the boardwalk is a little buried in snow here

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Great Thin-Crust Pizza With an Extra Topping of Friendliness

Nicely blistered pie at Centro Woodfired Pizza in Cedar City, Utah

Nicely blistered pie at Centro Woodfired Pizza in Cedar City, Utah

I’m not sure if there’s something in the rarified air of Cedar City, Utah (elevation 5,846 feet), but the folks at Centro Woodfired Pizzeria are just so darned friendly. The staff all smile broadly each time they walk by my table.

They welcome a group of youth volunteers on a fundraiser; no surprise, these beaming teenagers are soon helping bus tables. The server even apologizes when my pizza takes all of 10 minutes to reach the table.

The nice thing about Centro’s pizzas is they don’t gild the lily. My $12 pie has but three ingredients: roasted crimini mushrooms, creme fraiche and thyme, atop a thin, blistered crust. Good stuff.

Pizza isn't the only bread product pulled from the wood-fired oven

Pizza isn’t the only bread product pulled from the wood-fired oven

And if that’s a bit charred for my liking, they’ll happily undercook it a bit. Enough!

P.S. The woman in charge of the youth volunteers says she used to oversee similar volunteer projects in Southern California. These often involved helping the homeless or picking up litter. In Cedar City, she says with some astonishment, “they don’t have either.”

Centro Woodfired Pizzeria
50 West University Boulevard (Center Street), Cedar City, Utah
Monday to Saturday 11 am-10 pm. Closed Sunday, of course (it’s Utah!)

Cutting the Calories (and Carbs) at Restaurants

Doesn't this salad bowl, at Canmore's Communitea, just scream healthy and delicious?

Doesn’t this salad bowl, at Canmore’s Communitea, just scream healthy and delicious?

It’s early January, so most New Years’ resolutions have yet to be abandoned. Among the most enduring of these early-season pledges are to a) lose weight and b) eat more healthy foods.

But how do you manage this on a road trip, when cafes and diners are seducing you with groaning plates of pizza, burgers, fries, pancakes and pints? Comfort foods, they certainly are. Slimming, definitely not.

So here are seven road-food strategies for keeping the calories, carbs and love handles at bay.

  1. Think outside the bun

After a gnarly hike or eight-hour drive, there’s nothing more rewarding than a juicy burger and fries, jolting your system with upwards of 1,000 calories. Diminish that stomach punch by asking for the burger without a bun and replacing the fries with a salad or some steamed/sautéed veggies. You can still load up the patty with fixings like caramelized onions, mushrooms, avocado, bacon and, okay, a slice of cheese. Hey, fat ain’t the culprit here.

You could chop maybe 1,000 calories here by foregoing the bun and fries

You could chop hundreds calories here by ditching the bun and fries

  1. Beware the breakfast bomb

There’s nothing like starting the day with a meal designed to put you in a coma. How about a stack of hubcap-sized pancakes or three thick slices of French toast drowned in syrupy toppings? Or a plate of eggs with the requisite double-starch dose of hash browns and toast? Please, just give me a two-egg omelette—with sautéed veggies and maybe some bacon and cheese. Nothing else, except a lethally strong cup of coffee.

Horror story 1: There's another monster lurking under this platter-sized pancake

Horror story 1: There’s another monster lurking under this platter-sized pancake

Horror story 2: The typical double-carb dose of toast and hash browns

Horror story 2: The typical double-carb dose of toast and hash browns

How about a delightful a la carte omelette instead?

How about a delightful a la carte omelette instead?

  1. Minimize the Mexican

Whenever I go Mexican, I steer well clear of the ubiquitous all-inclusive platters, two-thirds of which are mounded with starchy rice and gluey, refried beans. These “fillers” are generally ghastly, gas inducing and guaranteed to provoke a midnight run to the bathroom. Much better to order a la carte items like tacos or a burrito smothered only in house-made salsa or green chile sauce.

  1. Sacrifice the sandwich

I must admit, the sandwich is my go-to lunch choice while on the road. All those layers of meats, cheeses and sauces make a delectable medley, especially when squeezed between two slabs of house-made focaccia bread. But if counting calories is paramount, I’ll ask to hold the bread and place those proteins atop a bed of greens.

  1. Go bowling

Salads are generally healthy, especially if you can avoid caloric-heavy dressings. But they are often a boring presentation of wilted greens adorned with sliced carrots and insipid tomato slices, finished off with an astringent vinaigrette. So I embrace the rising trend of bowls, filled with interesting, healthy, tasty things like warm brown rice, grated beets, toasted nuts and radish sprouts, all tossed with, say, a sesame-ginger dressing.

      1. Ditch the dessert

Cloyingly sweet. Excessive calories. Over priced. What’s to like? Declining dessert brings a bonus benefit: You won’t head into the night with a blood-sugar rush.

Why not finish things off with a six-inch-high slab of flapper pie?

Why not finish things off with a six-inch-high slab of flapper pie?

              1. Stick with spirits

Did you know a shot of whiskey contains zero carbs? A glass of wine maybe four grams? A pint of flavourful craft beer, on the other hand, might well top 20 grams of carbs and 200 or 300 calories… You know what? Screw it. No need to go overboard on these resolutions.

Pizza and Beer Joint a Fine End to Yellowstone Adventure

Backpacking through the sulphurous mists of Yellowstone National Park

Backpacking through the sulphurous mists of Yellowstone National Park

When you’re located on the doorstep of the world’s oldest national park, it kind of makes sense that you’ve been making pizza here since the primordial days of 1953.

Such is the case with K-Bar Pizza, an unvarnished bar and restaurant on a dusty street in equally unpretentious Gardiner, Montana, at the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

After a full day of hiking or geyser touring, it’s nice to appease your appetite and slake your thirst with a pie and pint. K-Bar offers some nice salads and an impressive selection of beers on tap from Montana microbrewers such as Bozeman Brewing, Bitter Root Brewery and Neptune’s Brewery (I go for the latter’s charged-up latte stout).

Pretty much everyone orders the thin-crust pizza; sorry, no burgers. This keeps the cook at the back busy tossing dough high in the air, loading it with typical toppings and then firing it into the oven. Our medium Crazy Woman—featuring alfredo sauce, sausage, garlic black pepper and red pepper flakes—is a generous amount for two.

The Crazy Woman—The PIZZA, not the eater!

The Crazy Woman—The PIZZA, not the eater!

Nothing fancy, but at the end of a week-long Yellowstone backpack fuelled by dehydrated fare, it hits the spot. It’s certainly better than any of the cafeteria offerings in the “villages” scattered through the park.

K-Bar Pizza
202 Main Street, Gardiner, Montana
Monday to Thursday 4 pm-9:30 pm, Friday 4 pm-10 pm, Saturday-Sunday 11 am-10 pm

Petra’s Combining Pizza and Shawarma in San Luis Obispo, California

Lovely, tree-lined Higuera Street in San Luis, Obispo, California

Lovely, tree-lined Higuera Street in San Luis, Obispo, California

Let’s face it. The U.S. and the Middle East have had their disagreements in recent years. So how about smoothing things over a little with a culinary compromise, a delectable detente?

It seems Petra, a friendly, family restaurant in beautiful San Luis Obispo, California has already beaten everyone to the punch, so to speak. Specifically, the Mediterranean-style eatery is combining an American classic, the pizza, with a Middle-Eastern staple, the shawarma.

Take the Gyro Pizza, which features marinated, spit-shaved meat and Petra’s signature garlic sauce. This creamy, mildly spiced sauce appears again in a pie with marinated chicken shawarma and artichoke hearts.

Petra's produces a succulent shawarma-style pizza

Petra’s produces a succulent shawarma-style pizza

It’s all lovely stuff, loaded onto a thin crust that could be dough or fresh pita; I’ll let the Italian authorities weigh in on this. Petra also caters to solo diners, witness a perfect-sized, eight-inch pizza for $10.

As if Petra is not doing enough for world peace, and happy bellies, a server wanders out into the parking lot and starts passing out free samples of the made-daily pita. Talk about diplomacy.

Petra
1210 Higuera Street, San Luis Obispo, California
Daily 10:30 am-10:30 pm
Petra Mediterranean Pizza and Grill on Urbanspoon

Cutting the Line for a Great Slice of Berkeley Pizza

Mass production of just one kind of pie a day keeps the line moving at Cheese Board Pizzeria in Berkeley, California

At around 8 pm, the lineup at Cheese Board Pizzeria extends well down the block. So why would I recommend road trippers hit this spot when dining in Berkeley, California? Timing, my friends, timing.

The next day, I jump out of my car and rush over to Cheese Board five minutes before their lunchtime closing of 3 pm. There’s only five folks ahead of me, and an employee is going up the line asking people how much pizza they intend to order, so they can figure out how many pies to toss in the oven before they shut down for the afternoon.

Obviously, I wasn’t in the long line the night before, but I’m guessing it moved pretty swiftly. Here’s why, which explains the brilliance of Cheese Board. They make only one type of pizza each day—zucchini, onion, mozza, feta and basil-pine nut pesto the day I’m there—and one type of salad, this day a roasted corn with aged goat gouda. You can order the pizza whole ($20), by the half ($10) or the generous slice ($2.50).

Here's the entire menu: one pizza, one salad

Here’s the entire menu: one pizza, one salad

Because they’re only making one kind of pizza, hot fresh pies keep emerging from the oven. Which means they’re fast, fresh and tasty, if you like a thin-crust, slightly greasy pizza. To me, it’s great value for a good, quick pizza… if you can avoid the lines.

A single slice often ends up being a couple

A single slice often ends up being a couple

Note: This being Berkeley, it’s no surprise this pizzeria is a worker-owned collective, which also operates a cheese store and bakery a few doors down.

Cheese Board Pizzeria
1512 Shattuck Avenue
Tuesday to Saturday 11:30 am-3 pm and 4:30 pm-8 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday
Cheese Board Pizza on Urbanspoon