Friday, February 20, 2015

PathMark's Pizza Is Pretty Good, Actually...

I know, I've probably said it before, but it bears repeating. Via Roma, the premium brand of Italian pasta and sauce products distributed by A&P and it's subsidiary supermarkets (PathMark, Waldbaums, etc.) is pretty doggone good for store pizza. Store pizza, you say? Aren't I a certified snob when it comes to pizza? Yes, and that's why you have to trust me on this one. Sometimes you're in an area where you just can't get great pizza, so you either do without or diminish your expectations to what you consider an acceptable level and make do. I happened to try this pizza on a whim a few years ago and found it to be beyond acceptable, so I've been singing it's praises ever since for people faced with limited options:

Do you like Domino's or Papa Johns or Pizza Hut or (ugh) Lil Caesar's? Well if you try Via Roma's, can you accept the fact you will hate those other brands forever? 

Just try it and let me know what you think.  I don't know why the topic of pizza has been trending with me lately; my friend Imir recently pegged me on a post of his on Facebook in which he proudly indicated my snobbery with pizza from back when we first met in 1990.  Another friend, Chris, with whom I attended school from elementary-onward, traced my snobbery to the fact that I was graced with the efforts of fine pizza making from the Italians of the Hudson Valley. My sister and quite a few others have recounted the many establishments we inhabited or encountered that made good pizza as we were growing up.  When I went to college in DC, I was suddenly at a loss to find what I deemed good pizza; it was either Sbarros, frozen pizza or take your chances with the local establishments (and chances were very slim).  Needless to say, I further developed my own cooking skills after exhausting my options with the school cafeteria (a major disappointment for a heralded Black university), local take out (I despised McDonald's for a long time after DC) and dorm-style cooking (my specialties where potato-chips and cheese on radiator-toasted bread and what I referred to as "Arroz con Pollo" which was more gumbo than anything else).  I even invented a pizza-stick like substance that contained mozzarella cheese, breaded chicken patties and bits of toast microwaved in Tupperware and sliced into strips or Sicilian pizza-style squares.  What you have to do to get by.  There was also Chinese take-out, which I've always had a thing for and was actually pretty good down there, but you'll never believe what I found at Chinese take-out joint on 14th Street NW near the place I last lived in DC: pizza.  Good pizza, in fact.

Nobody would believe that a Chinese food place could possibly make good pizza, no matter what part of the country you were from, but I stumbled upon it and after a few weeks of skepticism while ordering my usual pork fried rice-and-ribs, I tried out the pizza.  Wowzers, I I was taken aback by how decent it was.  Great, no, but better than Dominos? Hell yeah! After some considerable and similar skepticism, my housemates also tried the pizza and came to the same conclusion.  It was a surprise hit. Now, I don't know if the place still exists (not likely), but I would bet that it was more or less hormones and deprivation that drove me to like that pizza back then.  Not so with Via Roma.

The best thing I can say about it is that it's better than the chain store pizzas we see nowadays.  If that's not saying much, then let me also say it does give some local parlors a run for their money, which is considerable when you factor in the price of ingredients, the labor and other miscellaneous overhead, not to mention delivery and tip if you go that route; with Via Roma you're getting a fairly similar pie for more than half the price.  It's fresh, not frozen (big difference!) and they claim to use premium quality ingredients, so the taste is better than what you would expect from the store.  

Trust me, I'm not trying to shill for them (I'm getting nothing for endorsing this brand), but I present it as a viable alternative to the Dominos and Papa Johns and Pizza Huts and Lil Caesars of the world that continue to rip you off with suspect pizza and pasta products.  Save your money; you can get two pizzas for what those places charge and have a better experience.  I say all this because I was just at PathMark and paying for my items; the cashier saw the pizza and asked me if it was any good.  I looked her in the eye and asked her, "Do you like Dominos?" When she said yes, I said, "If you tried this pizza, could you live with hating Dominos for the rest of your life?"

That's a pizza snob for you >;)

Post Edit: I looked on Google Maps to see if I could trace my old address and the stores I went to; the address is there, but renovated and new buildings have gone up on more than half of the block.  In fact, 14th Street looks brand new; none of the empty lots from the riots of the 60s stand empty; in place are tall apartment/loft buildings.  I welcome the revitalization of the area, as long as the people who have long lived here also benefited from the cleanup (but we know how gentrification goes).  Needless to say, the take-out place is also gone.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Charles Barkley Should Be The Next Joker (Because He's Gotta Be Kidding)

I have to admit that this started off as a rant to one of my email buddies about the internet condemnation of the kids of Jackie Robinson West who were caught in the middle of a grownups game of gerrymandering to organize a winning team that took them to the USA Little League Championship and appearing in the Little League World Series (won by South Korea). I had posted an interesting takeaway think piece (the latest often-pejorative term for thoughtful and sensitive journalism or blogging that few people will actually read, but in this case I really like it) of the resulting scandal from Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen that several people sympathized with, and this particular blog friend had made a comment about Rahm Emanuel's urban policies contributing to the problems the article focused on. I had read recently that Emanuel had decided to present the players with rings to celebrate their on-field accomplishments in spite of Little League taking away their championship, which of course garnered more backlash from social media (which is trying desperately to displace the often cockeyed, but admittedly legal and ultimate authority on legal interpretation, US Supreme Court) and then, realizing that it was becoming too epic to share with one person alone because I started another rant about privileged athletes and entertainers who think they qualify to chastise the Black community because of their media-appointed authority in all things Black, I shifted the entirety of that rant to this forum.  You can agree or disagree if you like, but from what I've observed and experienced I think I hit the head on he nail without having to indulge in relentless political and social theories that ultimately spell roadblock and spinning tires.  That helps no one but supporters of the status quo.

 "Interestingly enough, Rahm Emanuel plans to give the players rings in lieu of the title that was taken away from Little League officials. I don't know if that solves any problem any more than it exacerbates it; if anything I would do like McCutchen says and see to it that somebody sees how well individual players actually played and offer to support them in a continued effort to develop their talents. I think most of the people screaming at the kids claiming they knew exactly what they were doing, outside of being biased or prejudiced, are completely missing the point of youth baseball and that is WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING (or maybe it is as long as you fit a certain criteria acceptable to the mainstream masses).

Only the league officials who made the decision seemed to have any regard for these kids as they said they should not be held in scorn for the decisions adults made in putting that team together. Instead, the outraged masses are practically spitting on the kids and calling them cheaters (I guess to relieve their frustrations in part for not being able to do anything against Tom Brady and the Patriots, who a lot of those same people will defend in the same exact breath) and shouting down anyone who defends these kids as naive. The lazy, seemingly inconsequential breeding of asinine thoughts and pseudo-anonymity the internet fosters has continually perpetuated the paradox of disavowing innocence of anyone accused of a crime while also desensitizing people from criminal acts in the first place. 

I also want to decry the sudden focus on athletes who are blaring the trumpet for the false dilemma of "get off your ass and stop blaming the white man for your own problems" championed and trumpeted by former NBA greats Charles Barkley and Karl Malone and virtually any rich and famous athlete or entertainer who is still loved by the mainstream masses because they haven't found anything scandalous on them yet.  For one thing, I don't seem to recall the entirety of the black middle class or even lower class working people who have blamed their problems squarely on the white man. We seem to understand that working and investing intelligently will get us a lot further than welfare and lottery tickets, but the broad and ironically anti-intellectual statements Yassuh Charles and Malone seem to make about the black community in general paint us as shiftless, lazy, naive and irresponsible sub-humans hanging off the nuts of wealthy and responsible individuals like himself and Mitt Romney.  But there is a saying that most folks anywhere know; be wary of a leader and others who claim that person to be your leader when you didn't elect them in the first place.  Barkley seems to have elected himself the spokesperson for "sane, rational African Americans" with the backing of ESPN and other large mainstream media conglomerates, while on the ground level he's getting more than an earful from the same people he supposedly leads. He obviously doesn't give a damn about what's happened to Bill Cosby, the last leader indoctrinated with the power to chastise his own roots (if you don't know anything about history, you're doomed to repeat it, I guess)... 

For another thing, athletes and star entertainers live in a different economic stratosphere than the average individual. Their experiences and quality of life are not relative any way, shape or form. The choices that one has to make are far different then the other, and therefore the opportunities and options that a wealthy athlete or entertainer has is far more expansive than what a median-or below salaried or per hour worker has. Yet, far more often than not, it was not education that led them to such wealth, but physical talent and opportunity to impress people with lots of money.   The exceptions, it would seem, have a lot more to do with engaging with the communities they leave behind in order to help them make their own advances rather than set up coin-operated charities for publicity and tax write-off purposes.  I don't know when 's the last time Barkley or Karl Malone went into a lower middle-class neighborhood and witnessed and/or reported the fact that increasing numbers of public schools are closing or failing miserably or that higher media-wage jobs are disappearing fast and cost of living is rising faster and few people have the means to adapt to these swift changes; especially middle-aged workers with families to support? How about the skyrocketing cost of college educations, selling degrees with less and less value as labor markets and technology change faster than college programs can adapt to those changes?

But being able to average nearly a triple-double your entire career and making millions for it and nothing else (outside of athletic endorsements or senseless political attacks on disadvantaged people or groups with philosophies you diametrically oppose on your bully pulpit) entitles you to tell people to get up off their ass and stop blaming everything on "the white man"? Maybe, just maybe if you stopped worrying about which side of your bread is buttered and start teaching people how to make their own bread then you wouldn't have to be annoyed by the straw men of your apparently nightmarish past." ...and maybe I should not be so worried about what a person I cannot relate to except by a distantly shared heritage has to say when he perpetuates the belief that by not being as "successful" as he is, we are failures, enemies of the state and the obstacles to "progress" by definition. Or am I just being a jerk? Nah...