Archive for April 2011
We hope you’re not getting tired of us writing about food. We are a restaurant, after all, so it’s something we talk about amongst ourselves quite a bit (to the dismay of our friends and family, who might be getting the tiniest bit tired of it). I was all ready to write something entirely different for the blog too, but then Ian submitted another great letter for the website, so once again I am passing the blog buck. To be honest, my blog probably would’ve just been me whining about the lack of warm spring weather currently in Wisconsin, so you didn’t miss much. It’s just so cold!
Food is very important to us. This might seem like a strange statement for us to make, but considering the fast food driven culture we live in, I believe it’s important to tell you that we really care about what we serve. While we’ve been spending a lot of time recently explaining our employee practices and our environmental goals, this month I’d like to explain our beliefs on food.
Any discussion about food at Ian’s Pizza has to start with people. Our food doesn’t simply arrive in our kitchens or on your plate by itself. Good food starts with maintaining good relationships with all of the people who help to grow, process, and distribute our raw materials, so those relationships are one of our biggest priorities.
Whenever possible, we strive to purchase our food locally (within a 200 mile radius) and then regionally (within a 500 mile radius). By purchasing our food locally, we are supporting our environment, our health, and our economy. Recently, we were approached by one our distributors to try a new mozzarella cheese for our pizzas. After conducting several taste tests with all of our staff, we honestly could not determine whether our current cheese was better than the sample our distributor gave us. Some of our staff preferred the “new” cheese, some the “old” cheese and many couldn’t even tell the difference. The two differences that were clear were price and production. The “new” cheese was 20 cents cheaper per pound, a significant difference considering we purchase roughly 100,000 pounds of cheese per year. Additionally, the “new” cheese is manufactured in California, while our “old” cheese is produced 45 minutes away in tiny Brownsville, WI. Despite the large price incentive we decided to continue with the “old” cheese. We simply couldn’t find any justification for buying cheese from California.
While the push to incorporate locally sourced foods began in earnest in 2007, we still have a long way to go. We currently make trips twice per week to the farmer’s market and some of our vendors deliver food directly to our kitchens. Currently, 8% of all of our produce is purchased locally (mostly for our salad bar), while 90% of dairy products are from local and regional sources. All of our ham is purchased from a local farm but we still have not discovered a cost-effective source for local poultry or beef. We have always prided ourselves on not relying on freezer for our food, but considering our long winters, we are starting to re-think the idea of freezing local produce when it is season.
Our short term goals include incorporating locally-grown produce into our basic kitchen staples (onion, peppers, garlic, etc.) while our long term vision is to run our own farm, with the dream of growing salad greens all year round in our own greenhouse.
Over the past ten years we have served millions of slices of pizza. I would love to believe every single slice we’ve ever served was perfect. The truth is a different story. The execution of our food, beginning with the preparation of all of our ingredients and extending all the way to the re-heat of your slice, is a constant priority for us. As Ian’s Pizza has grown to multiple locations, creating standards for all of our kitchens has become increasingly important. Starting later this year, Ian’s Pizza will start a company-wide project to standardize the execution of our pizzas. If this sounds a bit like something out of a McDonald’s corporate memo, don’t worry; a cook, who has been expertly trained, will still be making each pizza by hand. As my grandmother, a professional pianist, says, even the best pianos in the world need to be tuned.
As always, we welcome your suggestions and feedback to help us to improve our food. After all, we work for you, and if you’re not happy, we want to know.
Ryan (aka Hats) works at the Ian’s Pizza on State. If you called that Ian’s in late February or early March, you may have spoken with him. Normally a FOH (that’s Front of House for those not in the know) counter staffer, he was one of the tireless voices on the phone during those days when our delivery prep room looked more like a makeshift telethon. He’s a student, a blogger, and an all-around great guy with a great collection of hats (hence the nickname).
He promised to write about his recent trip to France, because we made him feel bad for the rest of us that were not able to go. We didn’t tell him what to write about, just let him know that he was going to be our guest blogger. This is what we got:
I recently planned a trip to Europe. It’s the first time I’ve left the country for more than a few hours and I’m going solo. Right around the same time, Ian posts here about how fabulous Beurre Bordier is (and it is, it really is). So I think, ‘Hey, the bulk of my adventure is going to be spent in Paris. I’ll pick up some butter and earn some brownie points with the supreme overlord.’
Long and short, the trip was fantastic. I had more fun, met more people, and saw more places in two weeks that I could have imagined.
But my last day in Paris is full of stress…too much to do, so little time! My flight doesn’t leave until 8PM, so I figure I’m set. I’ll head over to the airport by 6, and everything’s kosher.
So I’m running around town (it isn’t like running around Madison… Paris is WAY bigger), trying to pick up souvenirs, send postcards, and doing one last sweep of all the places that sell this marvelous butter. (They were all closed; something about Mondays in France… ) Anyway, I’m finally all set to go.
And it’s only – WAIT! WHAT? It’s already 6!? I wanted to be at the airport already. So I cram everything in my bag, leave a quick note and some cash for my gracious hosts, and BOLT. So I’m running down Rue d’Alesia with a giant backpack.
I arrive at the airport, thirty-five minutes to plane departure, and with a very full bladder. Yikes.
There’s a line.
I gotta pee.
I answer nature’s call and I’m the last one to pass through the metal detectors; all is well. I shuffle down, throw my shoes, my coat, my hat back on.
But they’ve held my bag for extra checks. She asks me to open every pouch on my backpack, one by one, stuffs her hand in, and nods. Until, of course, we get to the big pouch. Immediately, she goes for the toiletries. So I pull out the shampoo and make a (hurried) show of tossing it.
‘So we’re done, right? I tossed out my shampoo, we’re good to go. I’m in a hurry! They’re holding the plane for me! What’s that? Oh… uh… butter.’ She opens the package.
“Ah, beurre,” she repeats.
‘Yes, lady, butter. Give it back!’ But she doesn’t. She squeezes a bar between two fingers, consults with her colleague, then sets it aside and tells me, “Sorry, this is disallowed. Only for checked luggage.”
I hadn’t really thought about that. There hadn’t been time to think! Now I really wish I had gotten here on time. So, without time to mourn for the fallen butter, I rush along to reach my plane.
Now we’re waiting. Someone on the flight crew makes an announcement. “We’re waiting for a time to take off. The reason for this is because the traffic in Europe is really congested right now.
What he means to say is, “Hats wanted some butter and was holding up the whole show.”
I wish I had done things differently. Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. But you know what? I’ve had 20/20 vision all my life, and hindsight sees WAY better than me.
Maybe I should have just waited. There was another flight tomorrow that would make it in time for my connection to Chicago. Or maybe I could have told the security lady, “Okay, check my bag for me. I’m going to Zurich,” and dashed off without a word. Or if I was a quicker thinker, maybe I could have told her it was soap. She would have said, “Oh, soap. You have a lot of soap,” and I would respond, “What can I say, I like to be clean.”
Maybe I could run back to the security screening and give them ten Euros to ship it to my hosts’ house, with a note asking them to ship it to me, complete with my address and plenty of money to cover the shipping. Or I could hop off right now and get the butter back from her while we sit here waiting at the gate. I could get someone to check my bag.
And the butter’s there. That’s what’s important.
Well, okay, it’s not like the butter was really that important. It cost maybe fifteen euros for half a dozen bricks of butter, and I had partly expected it to be taken by customs. It’s just a point of pride; I didn’t see this coming. All the events leading up to it could have happened ever so slightly differently and I would be lying on the couch in the Zurich airport with a whole bunch of Beurre Bordier in my bag.