derryX gets on the AOA Pizza Panel

Look familiar?

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve heard me mention my friends over at many times. For the past few years, they’ve been putting together an annual Capital Region Tournament of Pizza to highlight the better slices among the sea of pizzerias that exist in the immediate area.

I’ve offered my services to serve on the panel for a while now. I am happy to report that I was approached to do so this year, for their 2011 Tournament of Pizza. I am extremely excited!

I don’t really want to take away from anything that All Over Albany is going to say about the tournament and my participation, but I’d like to offer up some insight that justifies their choice to add me to their panel (not that I really have to, but it’s fun information).

  • Readers of know that I have a no-sugar-coating policy when it comes to my views on food or anything for that matter. I know what I like and dislike, and I’m going to say exactly what I think about it no matter what. I’ve seen good; I’ve seen great; I’ve seen horrendous.
  • Moving this thought to pizza, having lived in this area for over 15 years and coming from a childhood in Brooklyn, NY and adolescence working in an Italian Specialty store in Middletown, NY, a short distance from Brooklyn, I’ve eaten a wide range of qualities of pizza. I’ve had great and bad in NYC. I’ve had mediocre and bad in the Capital Region since moving here. In fact, this low range of quality has kept me loyal to the closest places to my domiciles. This leads into the next point.
  • I’ve never had pizza from most of the All Over Albany 2011 Tournament of Pizza contenders. So, even with the mandatory blind tasting, I wouldn’t be able to identify a pizza.
  • I’m familiar with 1/2 of the judging panel. Albany Jane and Daniel B. are two friends who also share a deep appreciation for food. I know from the start that we agree on many things. We also disagree on many things and are not afraid to voice our opinions with one another. They’ve both been on the judging panel in previous years.
  • I understand the food that I am judging. Look, it’s pizza. There’s nothing really magic about it. Crust, sauce, cheese, maybe toppings. Narrowed down further, most places get the same tomato product and spice it up their own way; some don’t even do that. There aren’t too many cheese brands out there. Crust is crust. There are little touches and different styles that can make a slice memorable. Some places add red pepper to the sauce. Some places sprinkle with romano cheese after the bake. Some places cook their pizzas on screens. All of these types of things add variety to the simple dish. I am usually good at picking these out and appreciating the work that goes into making the standard pie.
  • I know my science. Having experience with food and with science, I can offer insights that could help the panel understand exactly what’s going on with the food they’re eating. Perhaps the pepperoni from one place curls more than another. Or maybe the cheese has strange morphology. I am good at explaining things like this in real scientific terms, like the Zeroth law of thermodynamics, which, oddly enough, I didn’t make up.
  • I refuse to taste pizza without the perfect beverage. And I’ll go out of my way to make sure this beverage is with me.
  • I have fun.

That last one alone should have been enough.

So this should be an interesting relationship. I’m curious to see how I interpret the pizza that made it into the tournament.

Follow the All Over Albany Tournament of Pizza 2011 for more.

You won’t be sorry.


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