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To Find Excellent Pizza, Accept Pizza.

“Good luck is nothing but preparedness and opportunity coming together” -Deepak Chopra

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Navigating through life and finding a new favorite pizza place can share the same anxieties, lessons and triumphs.  I uncovered this several years ago after I relocated to Madison, Wisconsin for work and found myself equal parts excited and overwhelmed. I had the stress of a new job, new living arrangements and the biggest challenge of all; discovering which pizza place would become “my new pizza place”?

Pizza compels me.

I should start out by explaining that I absolutely love pizza, more than most things. Everyone knows I have a serious passion for pizza, my friends tease me about it, my co-workers regularly inquire about it, my wife’s embarrassed by it, and my parents seem confused over it.  I crave it all the time and every week build anticipation for my next pizza adventure. So, this whole idea may seam trivial, but pizza, in my opinion is one of life’s finest pleasures.

Gus’ Pizza in Whitewater, Wisconsin is my all-time favorite pizza.  It’s very thin, cut in squares and really cheesy.  In my opinion close to the perfect pizza composition.

Off to my new home.

As I set off for Madison I had nerves about adapting to a new home, it was my first time moving away from the small town I grew up in.  I had traveled a bit and I knew I would adjust and probably come to love it, but at the end of the day I also wanted a good piece of pizza.

Though I had many things on the table, I would commonly find myself asking “How was anything around here going to compete with Gus’ pizza?”  “Who’s going to have a little hand pinched crust like them?” “What place would deliver that borderline excessive amount of cheese?”

Gus’ and their cracker thin crust had transformed into the security of back home, it was a warm a quilt of high quality mozzarella snuggling me in, delicate hints of basil assuring me I’d be ok.  Worse than that, Gus’ had become the metric by which I was judging all other pizza.

I had put Gus’ pizza on a pedestal.

What I was really asking is “How can a new pizza restaurant compete with the idea of Gus’ pizza” I’ve created in my mind?”

In my first few weeks in Madison, what do you know?  I tried too hard to replicate that cheesy cracker thin-crust I missed from Gus’ back home.  Often, I would force a solution: I would order thin-crust pizza from a notorious deep-dish pizza place, then walk away in disappointment because it didn’t live up to expectations.  I would order chain pizza with extra cheese to mimic the “hole in the wall” pizza I craved so much.  I was forcing outcomes into square “tavern style party cuts”.

Then I learned to let go.

I’m an avid reader, especially into mindfulness, behavioral psychology, personal development, leadership etc.  Through my extra curricular learning, I found how to enjoy myself and enjoy pizza even more.

I discovered how to take delight in an experience and let it soak in, the new pizza along the way was a perk. I started reaching out of my comfort zone and trying new varieties of pizza and savoring every bit of the uniqueness they brought.   Along the way I found new favorites and created fond memories.  And of course I found new favorite spots.

What pizza taught me:

When I attached to a specific result in my pizza quests I set myself up for disappointment.  The pictures I created in my mind of how I wanted situations to play out, created unrealistic expectations and often left me feeling like things didn’t go my way.  By opening up my mind to alternative options and to the infinite ways life can go, I felt the real joy of living.  I was free to ebb and flow with the world and let opportunities present themselves.

We should all invite change and different experiences and enjoy them for what they are. I have to force myself to do this everyday, but the results are worth it.  You will be able to seize unforeseen opportunities because you won’t be set on one specific outcome. Know what you want, detach from the result, enjoy the moment and just be; you will find what you’re looking for.

  • What I’m eating: Rosati’s, Madison West, super thin crust (yes, that’s an option) extra cheese, pepperoni.
  • What I’m reading: “The Happiness Hypothesis”-Jonathan Haidt

Helping Hands

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another” Charles Dickens

I’ll never forget that sunny Saturday afternoon in May outside my mailbox.  I inattentively thumbed the weekly ads and routinely strolled to the dumpster to toss them, when I caught a glimpse of a page of coupons that glistened. Amidst the circulars shone a pizza I’d daydreamed of for years; I dashed inside to share the amazing news with Tess.

After years of relentless tinkering, chain behemoth Pizza Hut has finally yielded an ingenious payoff. They took two of their greatest inventions pan pizza and stuffed crust and converged them into a hybrid dubbed the Double Cheesy Crust Pan Pizza.

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What’s better than pizza on a Friday night? 

Friends over for pizza on a Friday night who bring you the new Double Cheese crust Pan Pizza (Thank you, Handy and Anna!).

One of the many perks of being a new parent is the incredible support provided by those closest to us (especially our mothers, Happy Mothers Day!).  From Grandma’s helping with the night shift to friends providing meals and grocery shopping; the level of support we have received is outstanding and so greatly appreciated.

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Pizza Hut please take my money.

For years Tess and I had talked about the possibility of Pizza Hut’s pan pizza conjoining with their stuffed crust.  After years of Pizza Hut tiptoeing around the idea with dozens of pizza concoctions finally, the stars have aligned and they have brought our two favorites together.

The stuffed crust portion of Pizza Hut’s “stuffed crust” is legit, but let’s face it the pizza portion leaves something to be desired.  Meanwhile, pan pizza is just all around righteous with it’s crispy, buttery crust.  With the Double Cheesy Crust Pan pizza, we get the best of both worlds.unnamed-8

The majority of the Double Cheesy Crust Pan pizza is like classic pan style pizza with the exception of a seasoning blend dusted across it and some parmesan baked on the crust.  The crust is not stuffed with cheese as I pictured it.  The cheese forms more of a moat that weaves its way around the outside of the traditional pan crust.

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Cheese moat

Slice support.

Pizza Hut is a Friday night staple for many, just as our family and friends are a constant for us in big life-changing circumstances; like having a baby. Pizza Hut’s new offering came at a perfect time for Tess and I as we work to find our groove in the new rhythm of parenting.

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Ellis and Uncle Andy after some pizza.

 

 

What pizza taught me:

We should nurture our circle of friends and family because just like our favorite pizza they are there for us when we need them.  Tess and I are truly blessed with an amazing network.  Thanks to my ultimate support Tess, happy first Mothers Day!

What I’m eating: Pizza Hut: Double Cheesy Crust Pizza

What I’m listening to: Beach House Pay No Mind

What I’m reading: Emotional Intelligence 2.0

 

 

Patience Has Its Rewards

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet” -Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Last week in the dark lit delivery room of my first child, I came face-to-face with my oldest adversary.  My foe hijacked the clock, stalled it and taunted me with threats of making it go even slower. It was 36 hours since Tess’s labor induction began and my threshold for waiting wavered.  Could I prevail against my biggest weakness impatience?

I used to think waiting for the oven preheat to 425° was a true test of my self-restraint. Now, with a baby plopped on my lap, I realize I have absolutely no patience at all (especially if pizza is involved), but I have a feeling, if harnessed, patience may become one of my strongest allies.

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Celebratory Salvatore’s Tomato Pies.

I was blessed with my son Ellis at 2:28am Wednesday morning after an excruciatingly long labor process that started Monday night! By Wednesday evening all of our well-exerted effort (Tess is the true hero of the story) was rewarded; we celebrated in true Luther fashion with a pizza party in our hospital birth suite.  My brother Jeff and Jaime had the brilliant idea of welcoming Ellis into this world with Salvatore’s Tomato Pies, the notorious Madison area pizza joint.

With locations in Sun Prairie and Downtown Madison, Sal’s pride themselves on using all locally sourced fresh ingredients and have a reputation for being the best artisan pizza in the area. The website describes their rise to fame in Sun Prairie “They quickly built a reputation for crafting pizza like no other…  Using old world techniques of slow fermenting dough from locally derived wheat, locally made cheeses and Wisconsin-raised meats.”

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The tomato pies have a distinct structure that is a family legacy and according to the website has been passed down many generations.  The pizza is basically built in reverse.  It starts with whole milk mozzarella, olive oil, romano and is then drizzled with tomato “red sauce” and sprinkled with basil.

The crust has an excellent char on the bottom and with the sauce on top, its vibrancy really shines through.  The pepperoni is thicker-cut and when baked up turns into crispy little cups that hold a little grease at the bottom. The tomato pies are equal parts simple, elegant and rustic.

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pepperoni grease cups.

Waiting.

The birth of Ellis was one of the most magical experiences of my life, but there was a ton of waiting around and much of that time was extremely boring.  Although I was restless in the hospital, I realized I should be embracing those seemingly boring moments and appreciating them. I will surely look back on these days as being some of the best times of my life.  Dirty diapers, Doctors appointments and long sleepless nights are on the way, why not try to enjoy them?

There will always be times in our lives when we have to “kill time”; if we handle these moments with a constructive mindset they won’t feel like such a waste. Waiting isn’t so bad if we use our time wisely.

Conquering impatience:

  1. Keep busy.  Read a book, take a walk, write a blog about pizza.  At one point I was meditating in the birth suite bathroom and practicing Spanish via Duolingo as I paced the halls.
  2. Make it fun.  We can make a game out of whatever boring situation we’re in.  We can bring some humor and even make some pleasant lasting memories.
  3. Get Stoic and view it as an opportunity for growth.  We can look at a dull moment as a training of our will, something that will strengthen our resolve for the future.

What pizza taught me:

Patience is most definitely a virtue and is not always so easy to access.  By embracing and overcoming the restlessness and agitation that comes with impatience we’ll prevail. All my downtime at the hospital last week was well worth the wait as I ended up the best reward of all; pizza and a healthy son.

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What I’m eating: Salvatore’s Tomato Pies, pepperoni and half cheese, half veggie

What I’m reading: Learned Optimism -Martin Seligman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extra Cheese: The Antidote for an Anxious Dad-To-Be

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” -Franklin D. Roosevelt

With my wife, Tess 39 weeks pregnant my pizza is about to get an undeniable upgrade to family size.  I’m excited about a new addition to the pizza-party, but the anticipation of his arrival and the coming obliteration of my care-free lifestyle has me a little on edge. I know a new little pizza buddy will be the greatest thing that ever happened to me, but it will also be the greatest amount of responsibility I’ve ever taken on and my nerves are getting twisted up like garlic knots.

As I mentally prepare to split my pizza three ways I selfishly ruminate over all the ways life will change.   Will I have the patience?  Will I get enough sleep?  Will my routines be disrupted? Will there be enough time for the things I enjoy?  Will the baby even like pizza?

Fortunately for me, I’ve got one fantastic support system of family, friends, and co-workers who have done wonders over the last several weeks to help calm my nerves. Just last weekend I ventured to Sun Prairie to the home of my brother Jeff where Tess and I were guests of honor for a “Huggies for Chuggies” party.

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There is nothing like the stretch of cheese between friends. 

The “Huggies for Chuggies” party is sort of like a bachelor party for parents, where the host supplies food and libations in exchange for diapers from the guests (aka an excuse to hang out with friends before life changes forever).

For the occasion, Jeff provided pizzas from one of Sun Prairie’s oldest and finest establishments Anna’s Pizzeria.   Anna’s is one of my brothers’ favorite spots in Sun Prairie and it’s easy to see why.  Anna’s is insanely cheesy, I’m talking like at least a quarter inch of melted cheese across the whole pie.  Grabbing a slice of Anna’s is half the fun because you get the most epic, food-porn worthy cheese stretches.

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Epic Stretch

The sauce is sweeter than most but is balanced out by the saltiness of the excessive cheese.  The pepperoni and sausage pizza was even better because of this salt to sweet combination created by the sauce and toppings.  Anna’s menu is extremely old school and basic; pizzas with classic topping options, garlic bread, and soda, that’s it. If you want to get some Anna’s plan accordingly because they are only open 4-10pm six days a week and only accept cash.

Old friends and sage advice over Anna’s pizza.

Surrounded by my best friends and the cheesy pizza of Anna’s I found solace and my anxieties about the future began to lift.  Beyond the pizza, I received encouragement that really meant a lot, things like “you’ll be a great Dad” and “you have nothing to worry about”. I also got some guidance about the day-to-day life of parenting which gave me more perspective.  Soaking up some advice from some new fathers also alleviated a lot of the tension I had built up, I even learned how to change a diaper (thanks Aaron, Sarah, and Alex!).

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The party was a great send off into parenthood.  My friends helped me take a rational step back and realize the anticipation of becoming a Dad can be far more overwhelming than actually taking on the daily duties of fatherhood.

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Me and Brother Jeff (the host that can boast the most roast)

95% of things we stress about will not happen.

Often the anticipation of an event can deal out more anxiety than the actual outcome.   My apprehensions about becoming a Dad are really just fear of the unknown. In the book, Radical Acceptance author Tara Brach makes the point that “the fear of pain is often the most unpleasant part of a painful experience”.

All the things that I’ve worried about will most likely work out just fine and worrying about them will do nothing but make them worse.

Dealing with the worries of becoming a Dad:

  1. Seek advice from someone who been through it before.  Talking through a scenario can bring a lot of relief as we familiarize our selves with the issues at hand.  We can learn and come up with a plan to guide us through.
  2. Try to remain in the moment. Try to accept things as they are, and to do that start out with some deep breaths.  Focus on the feeling of your body, fingers, and toes.  By focusing on our physical sensations, we are brought into the present, where the anxiety of the future is more easily released.
  3. Trust your instincts.  Everyone keeps telling me that once I have the little guy, it will all come naturally.  So, I will trust their advice and just take each situation as it comes, one day at a time.

What pizza taught me:

Becoming a Dad will surely be an adjustment, but as with anything new in life, we’ll figure it out. When anticipation of the future starts wreaking havoc on our emotions the support and guidance of loved ones can melt our anxieties away.  Some extra cheesy pizza doesn’t hurt either.

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What I’m eating:  Anna’s cheese pizza and Anna’s half sausage, half pepperoni pizza (we didn’t even ask for extra cheese, that’s just how it comes!)

What I’m reading:  Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha –Tara Brach

 

Finding a New “Spot”

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change” -Stephen Hawking

After 6 years of searching high and low in Madison for my ideal pizza, I’ve finally come across a place that has earned the coveted title as my “spot”.  The “spot” could be defined as your go-to pizza joint, the neighborhood pizzeria where everybody knows your name, the place you celebrate the good times and find comfort in the bad. Once you’ve had a reliable “spot” it’s hard to move on and find a new one.

After moving to Madison I’ve often struggled to let go of the pizza places of my past.  When selecting a new spot there are so many factors to take into consideration; What type of pizza are you after? Do they deliver? Do you get pleasant and timely service? Do the surroundings feel natural and welcoming?  The biggest factor for me is my “type” and in an effort to adapt to the reality of my new pizza landscape I recently struck gold.

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“spot” worthy

My new spot. 

On Friday night I usually opt for delivery, I want to get home, relax and eat some pizza.  But, I’ve found a place that’s worth a trek after a week at the office. Tucked away inside a golf course club house on the outskirts of Verona, WI resides Dahmen’s.  Dahmen’s is a bustling sports bar with righteous fish fry, famed smoked wings and surprisingly excellent pizza.

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Just my kind of pizza as a matter of fact.  Dahmen’s serves up pies that are reminiscent of my favorite hole-in-the-wall joints that have that thin, cut in squares, loaded with cheese pizza. Every bite actually had me reliving the pizza glory days of my youth (especially Rosa’s Pizza in Whitewater).

 

The crust is moderately thin, has a char on the bottom and gets nice and crispy around the edges (the edge pieces were my favorite).  You can tell they use good quality cheese and they have an awesome hand-pinched sausage.  Overall they have a really balanced pie.

A good indicator of a place being spot worthy is if the locals are loyal to it and this is the case with Dahmen’s.  The place is always busy and with its sports bar type feel would be a great place to catch a game. Dahmen’s is perched over the Hawks Landing golf course so the view from the restaurant is exceptional, they even have a sunset gallery on their website to showcase the epic sunsets.

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Epic sunset

Adapting to change.

Though it took me a couple years to find my new spot in Madison, at Dahmen’s I found a perfect transitional pie, bridging the gap between what I’ve always loved in pizza and my new location. It was hard to adjust at first, but now I’m happier than ever.

Change is inevitable in our lives and how we adapt is critical to our success or failure.    Even in something as simple and solid for us as pizza there will always be disruptions, like Dominos nixing breadsticks or Toppers scrapping Hidden Valley Ranch (booooo!), if we can pivot with these ebbs and flows we’ll come out on top.

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Here are a couple ways to cope when we’re faced with change. 

  1. Keep an open mind. When we keep an open mind during transitional periods and try not to hold on to the past we can accept our circumstances and find a solution faster.
  2. Prioritize. Figure out a way to keep intact what’s important to you.  Through times of change, we may have to compromise, but we shouldn’t have to let go of the things that are meaningful to us.
  3. Plan. Develop a strategy to deal with our new situation as it happens.  If we’re mentally prepared adapting to change can be a lot easier.

What pizza taught me:

There will always be points in life when we have to adapt to new circumstances. By successfully navigating transitions we can find a whole new level of fulfillment and if we’re lucky maybe even some spot worthy pizza.

What I’m eating: Dahmen’s at Hawks Landing sausage and pepperoni

What I’m reading: Originals –Adam Grant

 

 

 

 

There is More Than Enough Pie to Go Around

“Abundance is not something we acquire, it’s something we tune into” -Wayne Dyer

I checked a box off my 2018 pizza-goal list and tried Sammy’s pizza in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Sammy’s was recommended to me last summer as the contending hole-in-the-wall dynasty to the Cranky Pat’s Pizzeria locations in the Fox Valley area. At Sammy’s I not only found the undeniable champion, but also the closest comparison I’ve ever had to my beloved Gus’ Pizza Palace in Whitewater.

I also came to the realization that there is no limit to the amount of great pizza to be discovered in this world.  If there was another place as good as Gus’, there could be 5 or 10 or 100’s out there to be uncovered.  The endless amount of amazing pizza yet to be found has me inspired.

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The Grease Factor of Gus’ pizza in Green Bay.  

Right down the way from the legendary Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI. sits a pizza establishment that has earned my allegiance almost as much as the Pack-Attack.  Sammy’s thin crust excellence deserves to reside by such a renown institution.  When it comes to midwestern tavern cut, Sammy’s may be the very best I’ve had besides Gus’, and for me that is a bold statement.

Sammy’s delivers the Gus’ grease factor.  Actually they share many similarities; from the delightful pools of grease, to a hand-pinched crust and a thin square cut, Gus’ and Sammy’s seem like long lost brothers that were stripped away at birth.  They uniquely share many of the same simple components that for me make the perfect pizza.

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Embrace the grease.

Our waiter at Sammy’s revealed that the trick behind their consistent greasy awesomeness is in using sliced mozzarella cheese instead of shredded.  Gus’ uses the same technique and what transpires from the melting of the sliced cheese in a super hot deck pizza oven is decadent pools of scrumptious grease that form on the surface of the cheese.unnamed-1

There is something magical about a greasy, cheesy bite, when the sauce and grease mix into a perfect concoction and meld together as you take a bite.  Their hand pinched sausage is also dynamite.  The only downside to Sammy’s is that I can’t eat it more often.

There’s plenty of great pizzas out there.

Though it saddens me I can’t eat Sammy’s everyday, I realize how fortunate we are to live in a world that has such an abundant amount of pizza.  It’s fitting that another goal of mine in 2018 is to live with an abundance mindset.

An abundance mindset was defined by Stephen Covey as ”a concept in which a person believes there are enough resources and successes to share with others.”  By looking at the world as being filled with potential, we move from living in the fear of not having enough and open up to abundance.

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Adopting an abundance mindset. 

  1. Avoid a scarcity mindset. The opposite of an abundance mindset is a scarcity mindset and is rooted in the fear that there is not enough.  Covey explains “People with a scarcity mentality think there is only so much in the world to go around.  It’s as if they see life as a pie. When another gets a big piece, then they get less.”
  2. Imagine the possibilities. It’s said there are over 61,000 pizzerias in the United States alone.  Think of all those great pies just waiting to be tried!
  3. Live with appreciation. If we view each moment as a gift and give thanks we open up and invite all the good that surrounds us.  Covey says “When people are genuinely happy with the successes of others, the pie gets bigger.”

What pizza taught me:

By embracing an abundance mindset we open ourselves to life’s plentiful opportunities as we’re not limited by the fear of scarcity.  I will live in peace knowing there is more than enough great pie to go around.

What I’m eating:  Sammy’s Pizzeria Green Bay, WI.  Cheese pizza and half sausage half green olive and pepperoni.

What I’m reading: Judgement Detox Gabrielle Bernstein

 

 

 

 

 

Work Hard, Eat Pizza Hard

“The brightest minds spend their time either pursuing their activity with ferocious intensity, or engaging in complete restoration and recovery.” -Brad Stulberg

In downtown Orlando surrounded by hotels and convention centers I stumbled upon some unexpectedly good pizza.  The tourist trap in which I was staying seemed like the last place I’d find a decent pie; but what I found was not only exceptional, it also provided a release from a rigorous day of working a trade-show floor. My long days in Florida and the delicious pizza I found have me appreciating the old saying “work hard, play hard”.

Just like a solid pizza needs to be balanced between crust, sauce and cheese; we too must find the equilibrium between work and play.  Pizza is the ultimate reward after a well exerted effort.

Lafayette’s Music Room

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As my colleagues and I explored for dinner we stumbled upon a little spot called Lafayette’s Music Room that specializes in Southern inspired entrees and live Blues, Jazz and Rock n’ Roll 7 nights a week.  The menu ranged from jalepeno hushpuppies to jambalaya to chicken and waffles; everything looked amazing, but after scoping the eclectic pizza section, I knew deep down it was pizza time.

After studying the unique pizza options it immediately became apparent that picking a winner would be a challenge, as everything looked awesome.   After several minutes of verbally fantasizing the possibilities with my two buddies; we opted for the genius idea of splitting three pizza’s three ways so we could truly experience what Lafayette’s had to offer.

The Trifecta.

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Cajun Crawfish Pizza.

The Cajun Crawfish pizza was everything you’d expect from a cajun infused pizza and better than I anticipated with its exciting flavors.  It was sprinkled with clumps of crawfish meat, hot chili peppers, a sprinkle of bacon and drizzled with remoulade sauce.  It was spicy and tangy and sweet and savory; a true flavor explosion.

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BBQ Pork Belly Pizza.

Slabs of slow roasted pork belly lay nicely across each slice of the BBQ Pork Belly pizza.  Beneath the succulent pork is a layer of chipotle BBQ sauce and a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses.  Pickled onion provide an acidic contrast against the sweet sauce and rich meat.

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Buffalo Chicken.

This was not your average buffalo chicken pizza because it had legit fried chicken that could stand on it own.  The amazing chicken was nestled into buffalo wing sauce and mozzarella that was speckled lightly with finely diced celery.  A ranch drizzle brought the whole pie together.  It was the best execution of a buffalo chicken pizza that I have come across.

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Pizza tastes better when you’ve earned it.

After the meal it was hard to pick a clear cut favorite out of the trifecta, but it was obvious that the pizzas had provided us a perfect release from the stresses of our work day.  

If we push ourselves too hard without a break we can exhaust and burn out.  Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness authors of Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success say that in any endeavor we pursue whether it be athletic, in business or creating art all sustainable performance comes from the formula “Stress + rest = growth”.  They quote chess master Josh Waitzkin “If you are interested in really improving as a performer, I would suggest incorporating the rhythm of stress and recovery into all aspects of your life.”

In essence work hard, give yourself a breather to avoid burnout and then get back at it recharged and better than before.  Work and play should also be in proportion to each other.  For example a massive work out will require more recovery time.  According to Stulberg and Magness “The best athletes in the world weren’t adhering to a “no pain, no gain” model”  “Rather they were systematically alternating between bouts of very intense work and periods of easy training and recovery”.

What pizza taught me:

Work and play are the complementary yin and yang of productivity.  To balance hard work and sustain peak performance there may be no better counterpart than pizza.

What I’m eating: Layafatte’s Music Room, Orlando.  Cajun Crawfish Pizza, BBQ Pork Belly Pizza, Buffalo Chicken pizza.

What I’m reading: Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success –Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

 

 

Transferring my Thoughts

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven” -John Milton

After a bout of the flu, the winter-blues have me caught within their frigid grip.  With February dragging on, the short dreary Wisconsin days allow my negative emotions to seep in. When the days are so dark and cold, it’s easy for doubts from the past and anxieties of the future to surface. As I almost succumb to the desire to curl up and hibernate, a series of simple texts from a great friend across the country reminded me to embrace the moment, get up and get out for some righteous pizza.

New pizza in a unique environment was the exact recipe I needed to snap me out of my funk and remember that the days are only getting longer.  I could think of no better way to jog myself out of my rut than spending a Saturday afternoon at a stylish little pizza joint in Milwaukee sampling pies.

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Time for Transfer Pizzeria Cafe.

I had several hours to kill for lunch in Milwaukee so I grabbed a table at Transfer Pizzeria Cafe. I was seated at a table near a window to people watch, put my phone down and intentionally tried to soak up the atmosphere.

Before long gentle whispers of indie singers and delayed guitars floated around me as I began to peruse the menu.  I was joined by The Shins, Bon Iver, then The Postal Service; the rapid fire of feel good classics, the aroma of fresh pizza and Transfers contemporary ambience caught up with me.  All of my distractions and worries in life suddenly began to fade as the glow of a warm pizza buzz snuggly wrapped itself around me.

Transfer Pizzeria Cafe was the suggestion of my dear friend Sean Williamson.  Sean is lucky enough to eat pizza in New York everyday, but Transfer was his #1 pick in his old stomping ground Milwaukee.  Sean and I have eaten pizza together for many years, so I take his opinion very seriously and he even encouraged me to order two pizzas; now that’s a true friend.

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Garlic Pies.

Transfer is renowned for their garlic pizzas, which all begin with base of a garlic cream sauce instead of red tomato sauce.  I started out the Garlic Special.  The Garlic Special came with large hand-pinched sausage and mushrooms that were smothered in high quality mozzarella. The crust is flaky, yet light and airy, so it provides a nice chew, but is still able to support ample toppings.  According to my waitress the dough is made in-house every day.

I took note of an older couple across the way from me sharing a more traditional looking deluxe pizza; pepperoni, onions, green peppers and mushrooms.  So, I opted to make that pizza course number two for me, though I was tempted to ask them for a slice.

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One of my favorite things about Transfer was that they put their toppings underneath the cheese.  I have a soft spot for joints that put the toppings under the cheese.  The cheese seems to melt at a different consistency and all the flavors seem to meld together better. Overall their pizza was rich, decedent and truly outstanding and I can understand how many claim it to be Milwaukee’s finest.  In addition to great pizza, they have an extensive wine and craft beer list and even have live music.

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At Transfer Pizzeria Cafe I was able to transform my negative emotions. 

Coming out of the winter-blues I realize I had started to let my worries take over.  I was starting to ruminate over things I would normally shrug off.  A reset was necessary and appreciating the subtleties of a new environment was key to getting me back on course.

The personal development classic How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie lent some timely advice:

  1.  Compartmentalize the past and future: Carnegie explains that we can eliminate worry by envisioning the past, present and future as different compartments, like the compartments of ship. We can lock off the regrets of the past and the fret of the future, leaving ourselves in the present.
  2. Plan: If something is stressing us out and we can change it, devise a plan to fix it. If the feared outcome is inevitable except it as it is, then move on.  By keeping busy making progress towards our goal our anxiety disintegrates.
  3. Put things in perspective:  Life is pretty dang good.  We live in a world where pizza is in abundance.  Carnegie quotes Abraham Lincoln “Most of us are just about as happy as we make up our minds to be”.

What pizza taught me:

Good ol’ Sean reminded me that when Wisconsin winter gloom rustles up regrets from the past and anxiety for the future, it’s more important than ever to live in present.  Incredible pizza from a modern Milwaukee pizza joint helped me gain perspective.

What I’m eating: Transfer Pizzeria Cafe– Garlic Special: sausage, mushroom, cheese on a garlic cream sauce.

What I’m reading: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living –Dale Carnegie