Blackbird Pizzeria: A Fresh Perspective on Vegan Food

— by Ronit Treatman

How good can vegan pizza possibly be?  

Skeptical omnivore that I am, I was sure that I would leave Blackbird Pizzeria not feeling satisfied. I must admit that I was wrong.

I discovered the pizzeria’s kosher food last year, when I presented at Hazon’s Philadelphia Food Conference, where the restaurant’s offerings were featured at the lunch. My lunch was so good that it inspired me to visit the restaurant.

Full review after the jump.
The restaurant reminded me of the pizzerias I had gone to in Vermont. Everything is made from scratch, using only the finest ingredients.

The chefs are fanatical about the quality of the food they prepare. While conversing with them, I discovered that they are all vegans at home as well.

My pizza and salad were prepared to the highest standards. The chefs use the finest quality high-gluten flour for their pizza crusts, and fresh ingredients for their sauces.

The secret to their success is the Daiya vegan “cheese.” This product is kosher and free of all animal products. The “cheese” on my pizza melted like dairy mozzarella. It had great mouth feel, and I loved the flavor. Their specialty pizza menu is very creative, borrowing flavors from the Far East, Mexico, and Italy.

The restaurant also offers a wide array of vegetarian sandwiches. The bread is very fresh, and each sandwich is layered with crisp vegetables, daiya cheese, seitan, or tofu. It also offers seitan “chicken wings,” which have a wonderfully crunchy exterior, and are very spicy.

The salads at the restaurant are composed of mainly raw vegetables, which taste as though they were all sourced from a local farmer’s market.

I tried the beet salad. It was a beautiful combination of red and golden beets over arugula. Orange segments and smoked shallots added to the flavors, and pumpkin seeds were sprinkled over it for crunch. It came with a delicious shallot-thyme vinaigrette.  

The final surprise came when I tasted their brownie. Although it was baked without eggs or butter, it had a very dense, decadent chocolate flavor. I don’t know how they did it, but I will definitely come back for more!

Blackbird Pizzeria
507 South 6th Street
Philadelphia

Hours: Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Phone number: (215)625-6660
Website: blackbirdpizzeria.com

Hashgacha (supervision): International Kosher Council (IKC)

Faux Dough

— by Dakota Marine

Everyone has an opinion about the best type of pizza: Famous Ray’s pizza of New York City, sicilian, thin crust, crust with cheese… The list can go on and on. But before you start drooling as you picture a sizzling hot slice of pizza, with the gooey cheese dripping off the sides and a crispy crust that breaks apart in your hands, let me stop you there. I like alternative versions of pizza, i.e. pizza without the typical crust. Last Wednesday was no exception: I was going to make crusted cauliflower pizza.

Continued after the jump.
I could hardly contain my excitement when I arrived home after a long, hot and sticky day in the city of Philadelphia. I started the process by splitting a head of cauliflower in half and cutting out the stems, only keeping the florets (flower shaped pieces) from the top and placing them in a large bowl.

After microwaving the florets for about eight minutes, I took them out to cool and began whisking an egg in a separate small bowl. As the cauliflower was cooling, I added the egg into the bowl, a quarter teaspoon of crushed garlic and half a cup of shredded Mozzarella cheese.

Once the ingredients were stirred together, I poured the crust mixture into a pan and let it bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Then it was time for the toppings: a layer of tomato paste mixed with basil, three handfuls of sprinkled cheese, thin slices of a juicy red tomato, some chopped scallions and pieces of spinach.

The pie went back in the oven for six minutes, allowing the cheese to melt and the toppings to cook. It was hard to wait the short amount of six minutes as the aroma of the bubbling cheese and pungent garlic wafted through the house.

When the timer went off, I raced into the kitchen and pulled the pizza out of the oven, and could hardly contain my eyes and tastebuds. The cheese had melted into a white stringy bed as it peaked out through the luscious red color of the tomato, the bright kelly green scallions, and the dark forest green spinach.

Instead of a hard and heavy taste of breaded crust, the cauliflower was light and fluffy. The garlic flavor seeped through the vegetable toppings, the tomatos were soft, and the scallions added a bit of a crunch. I had one slice, then another, and then picked the toppings off the cheese. I could not stop myself — it was really good. I think it is safe to say that it was the best type of pizza I have ever eaten. You can eat the pizza with anything, but mine went well with a glass of Rosé.

Dakota Marine is the creator of Eat My Tailgate, where she takes us into her sorority’s kitchen.

Philadelphia Pizzeria Owner Takes Papa John to Task on ObamaCare

— by Jamie Mondics

Curator of the Nation’s Only Pizza Museum Tells Papa John’s Owner He’d Gladly Pay 20 Cents More Per Pie if it Meant Affordable Health Care for Americans

Philadelphia pizzeria owner takes Papa John’s owner to task on the business of pizza and Obamacare

Last week, John Schnatter, the founder and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza – a Mitt Romney supporter and fundraiser – announced that the Affordable Care Act will raise the cost of his pizza 11 to 14 cents each, or 15 to 20 cents per order.

But local pizza historian Brian Dwyer, creator and spokesperson for Pizza Brain, says “As a pizza consumer, I will gladly pay 20 cents more per pie if that meant that people and their families got health insurance.”

“The whole idea of a pizza shop is that it is a community hub, where strangers can meet each other and share a slice of pizza. Pizza is so inherently communal that to complain about 11 cents a slice is a good indicator that the owner of Papa Johns has lost touch with the heart of what pizza is really about; community.”

When Pizza Brain opens in September 2012, it will display Brian Dwyer’s collection of pizza memorabilia, the Guinness record holder for the biggest such collection in the world. It will also serve pizza.

Brian, a small business owner says he is excited about the prospect of providing his employees health insurance. “We want to provide health insurance for our employees. As small business owners we want to provide our employees with the best possible options. To be able to give back to the people that work for and with us is what Pizza Brain is all about.”

Luckily for Brian and the other owners of Pizza Brain, under the Affordable Care Act small businesses who provide health insurance to their employees qualify for a small business tax credit of up to 35% to offset the cost of insurance.

And beginning in 2014, small businesses with generally fewer than 100 employees can shop in an Affordable Insurance Exchange, which gives them the leveraging power similar to what a large business enjoys when purchasing health insurance.