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may / june 2007:

The great frozen pizza taste-off
Frozen pizza dinners don’t usually make you think of fancy cuisine. To challenge our food columnist, we force-fed her the four raunchiest kosher brands we could find. In between bouts of vomit, here’s what she had to say.

By Tina Barry

It’s funny, but in supermarkets that cater to Jewish communities in Brooklyn, I was able to find just four brands of kosher frozen pizzas. I was on a search for kosher pies to conduct the informal but official AJL frozen pizza taste-off of 2007.

I warmed four pizzas in my kitchen following the manufacturers’ instructions. I prefer a crisp crust, so they were baked directly on the oven rack as directed. I rated each sample for appearance, ratio of cheese to sauce, whether the topping had some “tang,” quality of the crust, and whether they came close to Di Fara’s, a renowned pizza joint in Brooklyn. Each slice was awarded a point of one to five, one being “eh” and five “slice of heaven.”

None compared to Di Fara’s. Frozen pizza, I found, is an entirely different animal than fresh from the oven, pizzeria pies. Freezing food rarely enhances its flavor, and that is especially true of pizza. Its stint in frigid temperatures hardens the dough and leeches out some of the pungency from the sauce and cheese. And, of course, a home oven never reaches the searing heat of a pizza oven, so you’ll never get that charred edge or bubbled crust one finds in pizzeria pies. Another issue: the cheese. Americans are wild for dairy products, especially cheese (note the chain restaurant commercials offering anything you can think of swimming in Alfredo sauce). To satisfy their obsession, pizza manufacturers are piling on too much bland cheese and not enough sauce.

And so, without further ado, the contenders:

Amy’s Cheese Pizza

Amy’s pizza is kosher? Who knew? It’s also the best of the lot of frozen pies I sampled. Amy’s was one of the closest in appearance to pizzeria pies with a thin, golden crust, some sauce peeking through the cheese, and a fair amount of oil on its surface. The sauce tasted of organic fresh tomatoes and the cheese, while slightly bland, retained some of its tartness. Not bad at all for a frozen pie.

Appearance: 4 | Cheese to Sauce: 70 to 30, 3 | Tang: 3 | Crust: 3 | Like Di Fara's: 3 | TOTAL: 16 out of 25

Eddie’s New York City Gourmet Pizza Slices

Eddie’s is the most expensive of the lot, but it’s worth it for the dough. Eight large slices stacked between pieces of waxed paper come packed in a reusable, resealable box. This pie’s crust remained pale but tasted fresh and crisp. The amount of cheese was overly generous but didn’t entirely obscure the sauce’s vibrancy.

Appearance: 4 | Cheese to Sauce: 85 to 15, 2 | Tang: 3 | Crust: 4 | Like Di Fara's: 2 | TOTAL: 15 out of 25

The Old City Café New York Style Fresh Mushroom Pizza

This “artisan made” pie yielded just five small slices, yet it was the most attractive. A generous topping of fresh mushroom slices enhanced Old City’s good looks. One can’t judge a pizza on appearance alone though, even one with such an appealing hand formed crust. Aside from the juicy mushroom pieces, the cheese and mere smear of sauce were unforgivably bland.

Appearance: 5 | Cheese to Sauce: 90 to 10, 1 | Tang: 1 | Crust: 1 | Like Di Fara's: 1 (I'm being generous.) | TOTAL: 9 out of 25

Betz Boys Kosher Cheese Pan Pizza

Betz Boys was the single pan pizza of the lot, meaning it’s formed into rectangular pieces. The problem with this pie is, well, everything. The crust was thin, stiff and without flavor. The cheese was utterly tasteless and smothered the sauce. At $4.99 it was the cheapest of the lot and still overpriced.

Appearance: 2 | Cheese to Sauce: 95 to 5, 1 | Tang: 1 | Crust: 1 | Like Di Fara's: 1 (I'm being generous again.) | TOTAL: 6 out of 25

Final Say: I admit I was disappointed with the results of my highly unscientific kosher pizza tasting. Out of the four pies, I had hoped that at least one would wow me. No such luck. While all the varieties, except the Betz Boys brand, would make a reasonable lunch, I just don’t foresee any of them taking the place of a fresh pizza shop pie. Expecting a frozen pizza to compare to one hot from the pizzeria may be unrealistic, but with the best score topping the scales at just 16 points out of a possible 25, it’s safe to say that frozen kosher pizza vendors have room for improvement.

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