Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Smoke and Mirrors

One of the most fascinating new food trends is the molecular gastronomy movement. Chefs have begun playing with science and chemicals to change our traditional ideas of food. It's a neat concept. That's how you get such unexpected flavor combinations as peanut butter vodka and fried mayonnaise. Basically, it's food magic.

Molecular gastronomy, as far as I know, has yet to rear its scientific head in the pizza world. I'd be the first sucker to try pizza ice cream or pizza soup. But fortunately for now, we have to stick to the traditional methods of cooking pizza.

But in those old-school ways, it's always nice to have some surprises. And there were moments during my visit to Nick's in Forest Hills that I felt like I was at the circus.

Nick's bright little storefront was packed (it was a Friday night) with families and couples. It really felt like a safe, comfortable suburban hangout. After a short wait, I was sat and a menu was placed in front of me. I was impressed by their interesting beer selection and the option of pizza toppings. They even offer a solution for the indecisive: you can do half white and half red pizza. I was intrigued and always interested in trying as much as possible, so I bit.

First off, I was mystified by the amount of steam rising from the dough. The effect looked more like a humidifier than a freshly baked pizza pie. I was also amazed at the half/half technique. The red sauce really did stay on its respective side allowing an impressive two pizza in one illusion. The visual reminded me of the fun I have when I shave my beard. I shave one side and leave the other side full in order to fool friends with my unique half man/half boy trick.

There wasn't quite as much magic in the eating of the pizza, but it was overall pretty tasty. The very crispy crust was buttery, firm, and delicious. The sauce was thick but slightly uneven. It was a little too acidic and tangy with just a touch of sweetness. The cheese was flavorful and well-portioned.

There was a generous helping of fresh basil, but I couldn't quite taste it with everything else, especially on the red side. It was a bit more noticeable on the white. It complemented the rich sweetness of the ricotta cheese.

The most impressive trick that Nick's attempts is preparing a coal oven style pizza in a gas oven. I don't think they fully succeed, but they come close. The ingredients are fresh enough and the pizza hot enough, but I think the crust was missing a certain char and smokiness. And the tomato sauce could have been moister.

Overall, Nick's was a fun experience and worth the ride in from Manhattan. The pizza is good and the atmosphere is enjoyable. Now if only they could have used their magic to make my check disappear.

Is Nick's the best pizza in NY? They definitely make good pizza and I think the whole family will have a fun, delicious experience. I give them a 7 out of 10.

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