[Preamble: This entry is really long. Like. It has enough photos to fill five entries. If you want to skip to the section where I talk about Pizzeria Bianco, I don't blame you. But some of the stuff before then is kind of amusing. I mean, in my opinion. So. It's up to you. You can skip 60% of this entry if you want. Yeah. Yeeaaah.]
"Hey Robyn, do you want to make sweet potato pancakes?" Kimberly asked me last Thursday morning. Hell, who wouldn't? You know what making pancakes leads to? EATING PANCAKES! What a grand conclusion I have come to.
She pureed some canned sweet potato while I gathered other ingredients for pancake making. The stage was set for creating flat rounds of mildly sweet dough primarily eaten in the morning hours.
A test pancake nugget soaked up its weight in butter as it cooked/partially fried. This nugget gained our hearty approval, giving us the go-ahead to make real, non-nugget pancakes.
So we did.
But then we decided the circular form was a little boring. We needed a challenge. A challenge with nubs.
So we made a Poofy pancake.
Since Poofy's arm/nub was kinda fat, pancake lipo was performed.
Just like the other pancakes, Poofy had to be flipped.
Unlike the other pancakes, Poofy had a face.
And at Lee Anne's insistence, a butt (okay, a tail) of butter.
But then things went a little awry...
The murdering of Poofy was a little soul-crushing.
But it had to be done. So that we could absorb his Poofy essence.
He was tasty. Especially when smothered with maple syrup.
And then we went to Sedona
After the pancake slaughtering, Lee Anne, Kimberly and I hopped into a car to head up to Sedona. Mrs. Shaffer generously offered to make the 2.5 hour drive so that we could catch a glimpse of the famous red rocks. During the trip I mainly slept, ate spicy lime-flavored Cheetos (they're good once you get past the burning), made stuff out of Sculpey and stared out the window to see the landscape go from flat and barren to flat and infested by saguaro cacti (which look pretty awesome, especially the ones that have eight arms sticking out of them because that means they're roughly 800 years old) to flat and covered with fat, dry little bushes to less flat and strewn with short tress which turned into taller trees. We took a break when we saw a sign on the road declaring that a scenic area was in our midst.
We pulled into a small paved area off the road to see a vast valley of trees and trees backed by flat plateaus. The brown dryness of Phoenix was gone, as were 99% of the cacti. It doesn't look like much when you're whizzing by it at 40 miles per hour, but step out of the car and step on the grass and...hey, it's pretty breathtaking. Breathtaking because there's just so much nature and because if you lose your footing the scattered chunks of rock will become embedded in the fragile skull of your rolling body until the patch of cacti at the bottom of the hill breaks your fall.
As I didn't feel physically deft enough to make my way to the bottom without accidentally doing something that would require a hospital visit, I cowardly stayed at the top. Lee Anne and Kimberly happily took my camera to record my unadventurousness in the form of my tiny body against the slightly Photoshop-enhanced sky.
Kimberly climbed up the hill to get in on my "Let's be tiny!" fun!
We jumped separately.
We jumped arm in arm.
And even though we are currently on opposite sides of the country, we still jump together. With our souuuls. (I just totally creeped her out with that line. She's probably poking her chest bone thinking, "Is that the tingly feeling I keep getting?" That might be our souls. Or heart problems.)
We hobbled back in the car and continued our way to Sedona. It was easy to tell when we got there because the dirt went from "normal dirt color" to "patchy with red dirt" to "totally red."
That's an example of "totally red."
Actually, this is a better example. Not long before this photo was taken we took a bathroom break at an outlet mall and browsed the GAP where I found a nice pair of flip flops. Now that my feet semi-matched Lee Anne's and Kimberly's, I felt a little more Arizonian.
Honestly though, you can only stare at red rocks for so long before it gets a little old. Don't get me wrong—they're beautiful and kind of mind boggling—but we had to mix things up a bit. Shaffer style.
Jumping photos. Oh yes. I don't know if happiness can be better captured than by being temporarily suspended in air, as though gravity can be defied by propelling one's body with joy. Lee Anne is a pro at taking jumping photos, so I can't claim any photographic artistry behind these shots besides being responsible for cleaning them up in Photoshop.
Lee Anne and I are so eerily in tune that we unintentionally semi-synchronized our jumps. Oh dear.
Some of the best photos were produced by the random tourist who wasn't quite sure when to press the shutter button for optimum jumping action. Which turned out a lot better than we thought it would; it's not every day you get photos of yourself looking like you're doing a dorky "I have to pee" dance or just looking plain dorky as a giant red protrusion of the earth looms behind you. But cute-dorky, perhaps.
We drove up a little more. Why, I don't know. But I'm hella glad that we did, for that was how we encountered the Giant Rooster.
But this was no ordinary Giant Rooster...
...it was a GIANT ROOSTER WHO DINES ON THE FLESH OF (wo)MEN.
We escaped unharmed. Because it turned out that the Man-Eating Giant Rooster was carved out of wood.
After spending our time most unconventionally in Sedona, we headed back to Phoenix, hearts full of excitement and bellies full of mild hunger. Hunger...for pizza.
And this is where I finally eat at Pizzeria Bianco
Pizzeria Bianco is known by some as the best pizzeria in the country. Or the world. Or the uuuniverse. While I read a few negative comments about the pizza, for the most part I assumed those people either didn't know what they were talking about or had somehow gotten bad pizza because all the people whose opinions I care about only had words of love and admiration and a faint sense of drool triggered by memories of deliciousness to give about the restaurant.
I was a little confused upon walking towards the restaurant and its empty tables in front. Where were all the people? Wasn't there supposed to be a mob of hungry pizza lovers waiting to get in?
The mystery was quickly solved; the future Pizzeria Bianco customers are herded into the house next door (because you sure ain't gonna roam around the area to kill time) to relax during what could be a 2+ hour wait. In this cozy home that must be a remnant of what used to exist in Phoenix before 95% of it was taken down and rebuilt you can grab a drink at Bar Bianco, munch on some appetizers, or sit and do neither of the above.
So we sat outside. I'm posting this photo despite Lee Anne's feelings of distaste towards it (admittedly, this photo only captured weird expressions) because LEE ANNE IS THE CUTE and it's the only photo I have of us sitting at the table.
The decor of the Bianco empire has a worn out, but not run-down feeling. The string of lights looked like it could've been really old...or made to look old. I guess it couldn't have been old or else the bulbs would've popped, but whatever. In conclusion, I liked them.
I guess the long communal table in between the pizzeria and the bar can also be used to wait at, but it was...quite empty. Untouched by humans. Aw. If you weren't aware, the sky is usually that clear and blue in Phoenix. It's nuts. Like the clear blue sky, which is what the sky in Phoenix looks like most of the time. Blindingly blue. "Sizzle your eyes" blue. I found that out when I stared DIRECTLY AT THE SUN.
We waited less than 30 minutes to get in since I made a reservations for my group of seven. And this is where I have to admit that I had a little bit of help from Ed to get in. To fill in those who don't know, Ed is the head honcho/boss at Serious Eats (aka the website that pays me to blog and stuff so that I can eat and stuff and fund trips to Arizona and stuff) and is well known for being a pizza aficionado. I suppose he became pretty good friends with Chris after calling his pizzeria the best in the world because Ed called up Chris to warn him that one of the Serious Eats members was a-coming (me) and gave me his cell phone number so that I could warn him again when I arrived.
So I did. I called during the golden period of time when Chris was neither making sandwiches nor pizza and after having a nice chat (because Chris is very nice...with a dash of funny wackiness) secured a table for 7PM that I wouldn't say I deserved any more than other pizza-hungry people, but...well, Ed and Chris made it happen (you can make reservations for groups of 6-10, but probably not the day before like I did...eh..um). So it happened! And my friends and I are very thankful for it.
Since I already reviewed Pizzeria Bianco on Slice, I'm not sure what to say here. I mean, I can't say what I said there any more succinctly on this page, but I could say it differently with more CAPS and BLOOAGHAGOGA and stuff if you want.
We started off with two plates of bread. Do you see the beautiful holes? Can't you feel that thin crispy crust poking the roof of your mouth? Can you taste the smooth, fruity olive oil? YES. Yes. And yes. It was awesome. Not more awesome than pizza, but definitely worth sharing with your table while you wait for your pizza.
Not ever having seen a Peugeot-made pepper grinder before, I had to take a photo of this. Did it, like, come with a car? It turns out that Peugeot makes loads of grinders, among other things. I'm not knowledgeable enough about cars to know if grinders are a natural side project for a car manufacturer, but they also make knives and power tools so they just like...making lots of stuff.
Before the pizzas came I approached Chris to thank him for the seating and to give him a Slice NY shirt (the one I'm wearing in the previous photos). Yes, I had a purpose! TO DELIVER A T-SHIRT!!! So I didn't feel too useless. He stopped making pizzas for a while (I assume that's what he's usually doing, that and watching baseball on the little TV next to his pizza making station) to talk to Lee Anne and me about Rito's, his favorite Mexican spot. He said it looked way sketchy and didn't even have a sign, but their burritos were great and we should go if we want to have a burritogasm. (Not his exact words, but he was very enthusiastic, trust me.) The way he talked about Rito's or about ANY place (when I talked to him on the phone he recommended See Saw for ungodly good sushi as enthusiastically as he recommended Rito's, or vice versa) just made you wanna stop whatever you were doing (mowing the law, cooking, washing the baby), jump in a car and go there ASAP, except I stayed put because I wanted pizza.
Since there were seven of us, we ordered one of each pie. Easy, eh?
Oh, glorious margherita topped with sweet mozzarella and possibly the freshest basil I had ever tasted. Whyyyyyy. You know what I hate? When pizzerias skimp on the basil. Like they sprinkle three little baby leaves in the center and think those will impart enough basil flavor to the whole pizza. What in the...no. Most of the time the margheritas I get don't skimp that much, but they're always a leaf or two shy of having just the right amount. I think Chris used just the right amount. Not that I could quantify what the right amount is. It was just...right.
EVERY pizza was like that. Had the perfect amount of toppings, I mean. Just enough to go with the super thin crust, the thinness of which didn't mean it lacked in flavored or awesomeness. It was bother flavorful and awesome. Flavorful with...uh, crust. Don't ask me to describe it; I haven't gathered enough pizza-describing vocabulary do that yet. All I know is that it didn't disappoint.
The crust was full of wonderful smokiness. The essence of its birth from the wood burning oven. THE BURNING. It's tasty. The burning.
You may have noticed that I'm not even attempting to make complete sentences anymore. Sometimes. It's almost 2 AM. I should stop writing soon.
No bit of crust was spared. I initially ate the topped-part of the crust and left a pile of the puffy untopped part on my plate to ingest the cheese in its gooiest state, but later ate the rest of the crust sticks. Mmmhm. CRUST, IT IS GOOD.
I recommend that you try every pizza, but if you can't (yeah, you probably can't), here's a run down of my favorites to the less favorited:
- Biancoverde - It has three kinds of cheese. Three kinds. My god, I love me some white pie and any pie that has ricotta.
- Wiseguy - For the one who likes meat. And roasted onion. I am quite a fan of both.
- Margherita - Classic. And it has that delicious basil that could bring me to tears.
- Rosa - Rosemary and onion and pistachio, say WUH? Wuh. Awesome, and pretty.
- Sonny Boy - I'd like this more if I were a fan of salami. This pizza is probably the ONLY time I would say I liked salami. There's a lot of salami on this. Yeup.
- Marinara - There's nothing wrong with this pizza; it gets put at the end of the list because there isn't any cheese. So for the lactard in your life...this is for them!
Man, that was all kinds of awesome. Maybe you should order every pizza, get them to go (because you can do that!) and have a pizza party. And invite me.
Here I am (and Karen), destroying the pizza. Destroooooy.
I must thank the other women who gave their stomachs to our night of pizza feasting: Kimberly, Lee Anne, Natalie, Karen and Briana (and the unpictured Hannah). We all left very happy having eating the best pizza of our lives. I seriously spent half of the dinner thinking, "OMG THIS PIZZA IS AWESOME WHY SO AWESOME?" Besides that Chris uses the freshest ingredients and perfectly proportions the toppings to the crust, which is in turn perfectly thin and cooked and whatever else it is that you do to pizza, you can taste the love. Pizza love, food love, whatever. You don't just feel it in the pizza, but in the restaurant itself, the space around it, the people who work there. It's all happy and warm and fuzzy. I hope everyone has the same experience there that I had.
I wish I sounded more enthusiastic, but I am sleepy. Can you tell? It is bed time. Time for bed. Time for sleepies. Time to attach head to pillow and coddle manatee. DAY 6 + 7, COMING SOON.