How I Mastered Pizza Making In One Afternoon
An Ooni pizza oven and a virtual workshop by The Tasting Club started me off on my pizza journey!
Premium gustatory experiences with like-minded folk is the premise behind The Tasting Club (TTC). In 2000, Kevin and Adrienne Charuel found themselves in New York and realized that perhaps hosting an eating club would be a good way to meet new friends with a shared passion for good food and good wine.
“We did a tasting about once a month in our apartment in New York. We started with an introduction to wine... We did some tequila, some mescal tasting, we also did some sparkling wine…We have a couple of whiskey tasting sessions and cocktails. We do a little bit of everything,” said Adrienne.
The couple found themselves in Manila and the Tasting Club pivoted to virtual sessions in the same spirit of reveling in delicious food and drink, and above all--good fun.
“The setup of our virtual events is usually very similar instead that the guests receive the food already cooked. Sometimes they just need to warm it up… For our in-person tasting events, the set up can be very friendly and casual with everyone sitting together around the same table (what we used to do before the pandemic) or more intimate with a fine dining set up,” explained Kevin.
But they do mix it up a little. One such event was the Virtual Pizza Workshop class where they partnered up with Oven Depot (distributor of Ooni ovens), Happy Living, The Philippine Italian Association, Esclusivo, and Amare La Cucina to give attendees an authentic Neapolitan Pizza experience at home.
“We teamed up with Oven Depot as the official distributor of Ooni ovens because these ovens offer a great experience to make Neapolitan style pizza. These ovens are efficient and convenient to use and then perfect for the experience we wanted to offer. We hope you appreciated your experience with it as well,” said Kevin.
The TTC experience starts by filling up a quick and efficient sign-up sheet from their social media pages. For our pizza making night, there were easy to follow questions, options, and packages for what was on offer. Got a pizza stone? Just order the pizza kit with ingredients (including pre-made pizza dough and cheeses). Want to finally have that pizza oven and don’t know what you need? There’s a package that includes your pizza kit and pizza making paraphernalia from the Ooni oven to paddles and the works. Want wine to go with that? There were wine recommendations for each pizza. Press submit, and you get a confirmation and delivery details--easy peasy!
While the class I joined took a bit more effort (mostly from my husband and me setting up the oven and cooking the pizzas), I was pleasantly surprised with the level of detail that the Tasting Club spent in getting its attendees to appreciate the art of Neapolitan Pizza-making with a discussion on the historical roots of dish and its most famous flavors courtesy of the VP of Culture of the Philippine Italian Wine Association, James Freney.
“As you probably all know, because pizza was born in Italy, even though it had its roots, of course, or Napoli,” said Freney.
Mr. Freney talked about the history of the dish, especially the origins of the Pizza Margerita and even shared the traditional recipes. We were regaled with stories about restaurants in Napoli that serve only two pizzas flavors and even some “rules” in making traditional Italian Pizza.
Having impressed that upon us, it was time to make our pizzas!
This part was led by Chef Edmark Bustos of Amare La Cucina. We watched a step-by-step video to create our pizzas. It was straightforward and relatively painless putting the pizza together as the dough had been made and the portions were already pre-measured and prepared (even the cheese had been grated), all we needed to do was go wash the herbs and do our best not to tear our dough as we stretched it for our pizza. We fired up our Ooni ovens to get them to temperature (700-1,000 deg F) which took about less than 15 minutes, and gingerly prayed to the pizza gods to make our pizza slide in smoothly into the oven.
I started with the La Pizza Bianca—a white pizza with traditional yogurt as the “sauce” joined by mozzarella and gorgonzola from Esclusivo, fresh oregano, and pancetta. I’ve done this before in a bigger oven in culinary school, but it seems I’m rusty and I ended up making quite a mess (I should have floured my pizza paddle more to get it to slide in better). Thankfully, my white pizza still made it to the oven and I turned it every few seconds like a pro with my handy pizza turner from Ooni. It took about a minute for it to cook and it had these beautiful charred and puffy edges (Mr. Freney discussed that the airy ends are because the high heat causes the air to rush out.. hence the puffy edges). I drizzled with some olive oil and Amare’s crazy spicy honey, and my first pizza, while looking less than stellar—was a success!
Armed with experience and lessons from our first pizza oven mishaps, our next pizza was the La Pizza Parma Grande. This ‘red’ pizza had a sweet Italian tomato sauce topped with parmesan and mozzarella. I slid it in successfully with a big celebratory whoop, turned it every few seconds, and it came out picture perfect! Finished with a drizzle of olive oil and a generous topping of prosciutto, arugula and parmesan.
After our pizza making endeavors, we enjoyed our slices with glasses of wine from Happy Living after a virtual wine tasting class of sorts with Ricardo Andujar of Cantine Settesoli in Sicily introducing the wines.
The La Pizza Bianca paried well with the white wine—a Mandarossa Viognier, Le Senie 2018 , it’s fruity and citrusy notes paired well with the sweet and tangy creaminess of the gorgonzola and the yogurt in the pizza. For the La Pizza Parma Grande, we paired it with a red wine, Mandarossa Frappato, Costadune 2018 – its fruity vibrancy and having some hints of spice/pepper made it a great match to the sweetness of the tomato sauce and the savory bite of prosciutto.
“To keep it simple, The Tasting Club (TTC) gathers a group of hedonists who can be foodies and/or enthusiasts & connoisseurs of fine wine, spirits, craft beers, sakes and craft cocktails. The purpose of TTC is to share knowledge with food pairings to elevate the tasting experience of our guests in a social and friendly atmosphere. We make sure to remain accessible to all guest profiles (beginners, enthusiasts and connoisseurs) and also do our best to develop new themes to offer new tasting experiences. TTC's public events are always open to anyone. Our purpose is to remain inclusive to share our passion for what makes us happy,” said Kevin
And indeed, it was a fine night with food loving people, great pizzas, new skills and excellent vino!