Friday, August 22, 2008

The Art Of Pizza

How I got my lunch picking privileges revoked.

I think I owe an apology to everyone that went to lunch with me at the Art of Pizza today.

Seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s a nice day out so we could walk over, have a slice or whatever, and get back to the office no problem. It’s not like the Art of Pizza is ever busy.

We sat down and ordered. I got a slice of pepperoni and a Pane Stuffata -- an Italian bread with baked-in herbs, and stuffed with salami, pepperoni, ham, fresh mozzarella and tomato. The menu advised that the Pane Stuffata takes about 15 minutes to make, but that didn’t strike me as a big deal since getting a couple of slices would probably take five to ten minutes anyway.

Moments after the waitress took my order, I heard “Heart of the Sunrise” by Yes come on. I was all, “Sweet!” Seeing as how that prog-rock epic clocks in at about 11 minutes, I figured it was a safe assumption that my lunch would arrive shortly thereafter.

So 40 minutes later, we got our food. Need I mention that the only people eating in consisted of our party of six? During that time, a few people stopped by to get slices to go, but it didn’t seem like they were getting their food particularly quick, either. Yes, more than one Pane Stuffata was ordered at our table -- if the 15 minute cooking time is cumulative, I would have appreciated a heads up.

Meanwhile, across the street Pizza Bella is doing gangbusters. Always packed. I do have some sympathy for the Art of Pizza -- it’s got to be a bummer to have Pizza Bella with it’s gourmet wood-fired pies and fancy decor open up about the same time you do. Having Pizza Bella right there probably even makes the Art of Pizza look more utilitarian than it truly is. That said, the Art of Pizza is still kind of dark and sketchy, and unfortunately not in that charming dive kind of way. For a restaurant that’s empty at lunch on a Friday, they sure didn’t seem all that excited to see six hungry guys walk through their door.

Bottom line, I think the food at the Art of Pizza is alright. It’s not a destination spot, but if you’re in the mood for a New York-style slice of pizza, taste-wise you could do worse. Was the Art of Pizza fast like an actual New York pizza joint, I’d probably add it to the list of Lunchtime Clutchtime options. It’s just not “Wait 40 Minutes” good.

While we were there, some lady came in and asked where Pizza Bella was. I bet they get that a lot.
_______________________________________Art of Pizza on Urbanspoon
1801 Baltimore Avenue | Kansas City, MO 64108

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hamburger Helper Stroganoff

Goes well with: avocado colored kitchens, wood paneling, key parties.

What with the summer TV shortage, Robert’s been watching way too much Swingtown -- that ‘70s-set show getting him all fired up to make a box of the era’s suburban kitchen staple, Hamburger Helper. Flavors we considered included Salisbury, Lasagna and Chili Mac, before we settled on Stroganoff. It seemed like the kind that people in the Me Decade would’ve most likely deemed classy.

To go with it beer-wise, we were thinking maybe Michelob, maybe LowenbraĆ¼. But at the liquor store I decided to get a couple of others. First, Molson Canadian Light, because what better way to say you’re a worldly man of the ‘70s than beer imported all the way from Canada?

Then, since Swingtown takes place specifically during America’s Bicentennial Year of 1976, to celebrate our own country's heritage I got Lemp St. Louis -- America’s First Lager Beer. By no means, however, can Lemp claim to be America’s Best Lager Beer. It’s terrible. I have a suspicion that Lemp hasn’t changed its recipe since it was first brewed, or at least since prohibition, back when any beer was good beer. The Lemp label does make reference to beer barons, though, which made me laugh and think of Homer Simpson vs. Rex Banner. I wonder if Lemp was ever smuggled in bowling balls.

Good thing we had plenty of beer handy -- while Hamburger Helper Stroganoff has a delicious creamy flavor, it is also heavily salted down. I don’t think you’ll ever find another more neutral-colored dish, either. Everything came out the same beige color. Even the meat. Much like a swinger’s party, you may enjoy Hamburger Helper when you’re in the moment, but after it’s all over, you’re left with nothing except a big old empty bowl of regret.

In honor of just about the only other thing besides Swingtown on TV right now -- the Olympics -- we’d planned to watch Gymkata tonight, too. Somehow neither one of us has ever seen this ‘80s classic. Tagline: “A new kind of martial arts combat! The skill of gymnastics. The kill of karate.” Due to a Netflix meltdown, however, we got rooked out of that. Next we tried to get Lost Boys: The Tribe, figuring Autumn Reeser plus an R rating has to have something going for it, but I couldn’t find a copy.

So I ended up getting Doomsday. It is to post-apocalyptic sci-fi movies what Lemp St. Louis is to lager beer. It really says something when you’re rooting for the cannibals and the end-of-what’s-left-of-civilization virus to win.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Pictured: Not the only Whataburger in America.

The Whatafarm is a burger topped with a breaded chicken patty, bacon, cheese and a fried egg. I first learned of it when Zach IM’ed me a link to the Seven Hamburgers of the Apocalypse. They say it’s “an entire farm in a burger.”

Talk about timing. In just a few days I’d be taking a road trip to Louisiana with the wife and kid -- and there was totally a Whataburger on our route. Score.

After a long day in the car, when we finally got there I was mad hungry. I walked up to the counter and ordered a Whatafarm, only for the lady at the register to look at me as if I was talking a brand new kind of malarkey -- which would be a feat considering Whataburger is open 24/7 so you know they get some crazies.

Tentatively attempting to make sense of my gibberish, she asked me, “The what...a...what?” I tried to explain that the Whatafarm is a menu item that I had seen on the Internet that apparently some other Whataburgers offered. She seemed to find the concept of multiple Whataburger locations to be equally daunting. “Other...Whataburgers?” Cutting my losses, I opted to just suck it up and order a double meat Whataburger.

Now, I’ve had Whataburger before, but my experience may or may not need an asterisk by it -- I was in Tulsa with the Pfannenstiel brothers after seeing a show at Cain’s, home of sixers of Bud for sale still in the rings. Not to mention I’m guessing the Iron Chefs of the Whataburger empire aren’t scheduled for 104 bla’glock in the morning (not a time or a measurement of time, per David Cross). So while the burgers served at that hour may be worthy of the average customer’s condition, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re up to Whataburger’s A-game.

I’m glad to report that my burger today was way tasty. Certainly the least greasy, freshest-tasting fast food burger I’ve had. Nicely toasted bun with two juicy patties, a couple of slices of melty cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and mustard. Better yet, orange and white mints for after you’re done!

Add the double meat Whataburger to the list of fast food I wish I could get in Kansas City. Straight-up delicious, no gimmicks -- I’m looking at you, Burger King’s Loaded Steakhouse Burger.

I still want the Whatafarm, though. To that end, I’ve confirmed the closest Whataburger is in fact four hours away in Tulsa, Okla.

I’m thinking about it. Hey, Jeff and Ryan -- when are we going back to Cain’s?

UPDATE 10/23/08: Shaw found scoop on what up with the Whatafarm. This changes nothing.
This location was somewhere in or near Shreveport, La.