Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Miracle of Breadless Pizza

Place: Fuddruckers
Lunch: 1/2 lb Original burger, chili, chocolate shake

Several years ago, I heard the news guy on a morning radio show tell the feel-good story of an elderly man who had walked out of a restaurant without his briefcase, which contained his six-figure life savings. He apparently didn't believe in banks. His server noticed and returned every penny to him. The guy hosting the morning show commented..."If he wanted to lose all his money in a restaurant, he should have just dropped his family off at Fuddruckers."

Fuddruckers is a pricey hamburger joint that looks much better on paper than in execution. You order from a menu board, choosing from 1/3-to-1 pound hamburgers and other sandwiches that include buffalo and ostrich burgers and chicken sandwiches. They give you a pager, you come back when it goes off, get your sandwich, go to the topping bar, and top it yourself. They hype fresh ingredients both on the topping bar and otherwise. They bake all their buns on site.

This is my first time at one. Beef was plain, dry, and hardly seasoned. The liquid cheddar cheese on the topping bar wasn't very good. The chili was...okay. The fresh-baked garlic bread piece that came with it wasn't. The milkshake was pretty good, but not great. It was all pretty plain. $12 for the whole thing won't exactly bankrupt anybody, but I can do a whole lot better at Steak n Shake for that or less.

I might come back and try the chili dog.

The host of a completely different morning radio show has been hyping an invention of his all week. It's a pizza with a crust entirely made of cheese.

No bread. Cheese.
He has big ambitions of marketing this.

Admit it...You're as curious as I am.

They debuted today in "ready-made for home baking" format at a single supermarket. There was a small crowd looking at them and discussing the idea of a pizza with "no crust" (which is wrong...there IS a crust, it's just not made out of bread), but nobody seemed courageous enough to actually buy one. Screw that. I'm getting one. I grabbed a Pepperoni and headed for the checkout.

Checkout Girl with a name tag called Sarah beckoned me over because nobody's at her line and she's cool like that. I gave her the $7.99 pizza and a twenty dollar bill. She said "This is all anybody's buying and everybody's been giving me twenties" with a smirk. She had to open a batch of fives wrapped in plastic. "I'll have to give you fives, and you'll have to wait while I get these open." She finally got them open. "Cool! These are brand new!"

She gave me my change, and I said "Thank you, Sarah." And she said "Thank you, Brown Shirt Guy."

The pizza itself looks like an ordinary pizza with a crust that might have been partly pre-baked....maybe closely toasted from the top. The crust has a sort-of breadlike quality to it, but there's no flour listed in the ingredients. It's topped like any other pizza...sauce, cheese, and toppings. The top listed ingredient: Pizza cheese. As such, expect it to be fatty. The nutrition facts list states a single serving contains 14g saturated fat, 70 percent of your daily recommended limit. A full pizza equals "6 servings". HA HA HA HA! You KNOW I'm eating the whole thing. Tragically, it's topped in the same sub-par grocery store pizza toppings the store uses on all their in-store made pizzas. The proprietary part apparently only applies to the crust. Actually, I question whether or not the crust ingredients were part of the list at all.

The thing doesn't take long to bake....five to eight minutes. You have to put it on the high rack in your oven ("at least eight inches from the heat element" say the instructions) and you have to let it sit for five minutes after it cooks. Then cut it and serve like any other pizza.

It was a little weird pulling out the first piece, because the bottom side suddenly FELT like cheese. But the piece slid out onto a plate okay and could be held in your hand. The pieces are droopy. The texture would best be described as "greasy pizza". It's soggy, but it holds together. The only crunch is the outer crust edge, so if you like a crisp, crunchy pizza, stay away. You can fold pieces if you wish with fine results.

I suppose the key to pulling this off was finding the right cheese. I'm tempted to mess around with the concept and figure it out for myself, but I'm a pretty big fan of my existing crust recipe anyway.