Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sunday in Charlottesville: Crozet Pizza

This month’s Food Network Magazine featured 50 Pizzas from 50 States.  The pizzeria they selected fom Virginia was Crozet Pizza.  Since we were in Crozet visiting Starr Hill, it just made sense to stop by and see what the "Best Slice in Virginia" tastes like.  

The Food Network pizza of choice was the white mushroom, which combines shitake and portabella mushrooms and a sauce of herbs and olive oil.  I’m not always a fan of mushrooms, but wanted to see what the "best slice in Virginia" tasted like.  It was pretty fantastic.  There was earthiness and muskiness, but none of the weird mushroom texture.  Plus, a healthy sprinkling of thyme and oregano added extra earthiness, helping make the mushrooms simple and full. 

But best pizza for the state?  

After finishing, I found myself wondering how Food Network came up with their criteria.  I rechecked the write-up, and they highlighted the crust and combination of mushrooms.  Ellie and I both agreed that we really enjoyed the pizza, but neither of us felt that it was the best pizza we had ever had in Virginia. As mushroom pizzas go, this was the best mushroom I’ve had and probably will have, but the "best" for Virginia? 

I’ve never been comfortable with “best” designations.  Whether it be films, books, songs, or food, whenever anyone asks me “what is the best . . . ,” I usually blank.  I can’t think of any movie I’ve seen or restaurants that I’ve gone to or foods I've eaten.  I'm intrigued when someone else can use the term "best" with such proficiency because God knows I can't.  Don’t get me wrong, I really love watching shows like Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate . . .” series.  In fact, I actually had to stop watching them because I was irrationally starving after every episode and nothing I had in my house matched the 30-minutes of delicacies and dishes I been drooling over.    

I think the biggest fault I have with this superlative is that how can my criteria be your criteria, my tastes your tastes, my expectations your expectations?  When I come across “best” lists, I try nowadays to expect that it will good, maybe great, but how can a list know what is my preeminent slice when I, myself, usually have a hard time deciding what I think is tops.  I can usually say this is the best of a thing I’ve had to date, but I doubt it will go down as the best ever.  If at 29 I have the best slice of pizza of my life or best meal of my life, wouldn't that be sad?    

Do I have to even know what is the best?  Silly question and somewhat rhetorical, I know, but really, think about it.  As food writers and bloggers, it is very alluring to weigh down in authority on what you recommend, what you qualify, what you call the best.  Why?  Can’t we settle for, go try it and here's evidence as to why.  Or, recommend that if in getting pizza in Virginia, got to Crozet pizza because there is a mushroom pizza there that is worth trying.   Does it have to be the best in Virginia?  Can it be, universally for all, the "best?"  

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  1. I think the real point here is that this really has little to do with the "best" but rather has a much simpler explanation: advertising.

    This is something that I find annoying about the Food Network lately. It seems the shows are going away from actual cooking shows and more to shows that feature things you buy at a specific establishment. Now I don't know in all cases if the advertising is a direct arrangement - ie restaurant pays money they get praise - or if it is more a way to promote the industry as a whole. So some of these "best" lists may be straight-up ads, but some may be a legit outgrowth of reviewer/blogger interest and the place in question is willing to be featured (wouldn't anyone?). I guess people like this, but that's not what I like about the Food Network.

    When I write about food, I might well say things like it is the best I've had or my favourite, but - like you - what I always mean is "...up to this point". And I must admit that judgement is often influenced by the immediacy. When I have just tasted something excellent my thought is "wow, that's the best ever!" whether or not it's actually the case.


  2. @Evan
    The role immediacy plays does make a big difference. During one of my road trips, I went a far too long between lunch and dinner. While eating, both my boyfriend and I raved over the food. At some point I asked if the food was really as great as we thought, or if it was so great because we were so hungry. Taste is subjective and context and immediacy play into that.

    I also have mixed feelings about some Food Network shows. I love shows like "Unwrapped" and "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," but I do feel at times like I'm watching a long commercial. It peeks my curiosity as a foodie, but also troubles me as a foodie.

  3. nice post dear blogger


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