Recap: Margot’s Pizza Pop-up No. 7

No. 7 went well. I was surprised that we had no repeat guests this time. We have some Margot’s fans who are SO FAST with the buttons that they seem to always get tickets, but today meant that we had a completely new cycle of people to win over as loyal customers. I hope we did. Um… Let’s see… I don’t know who at EMILY made the sign this time, but it’s cute.

OK. Maybe I lied a little? Johnny W. has actually been in before — but in one of the very early private test runs with friends and family. I’ve known John first through Slice and then as my trainer/supervisor/pizza shit-shooter in the Paulie Gee’s prep kitchen, where he trained me on ingredient and dough prep. Anyway, get this… he got this FREE Margot-rita via the folks at EMILY. In what may become a new tradition, EMILY co-owner and chef Matt Hyland has been giving out two free Margot-rita pizzas to @pizzalovesemily followers:

I give Matt & Emily a couple pizzas to treat friends and family and EMILY regulars — it’s the least I can do for the generosity they’ve shown me in hosting Margot’s Pizza in their space. The last couple of weeks they’ve done the giveaways. So… I guess long story short, there’s sort of a secret backdoor way to get a taste of our bar pizzas. And now it’s not so secret…

Anyway, back to the lecture at hand. Above is a rare “undercarriage” shot of the bottom crust of Johnny’s Margot-rita. I say rare, because only a hardened pizza geek would do this! I used to shoot pics like this all the time for Slice (RIP). They give the viewer an idea of how well the crust is cooked. This one is about what I like to see. Some browning, but not really charrning or burned bits. This one could maybe use a little more browning — I may need to adjust my dough fermentation procedures. Here, you can kinda see where the dough started to rise and form bubbles in the pan. The concave pale spots rose away from the pan while the dough sat there proofing. I think the jury is out on whether this is a bug or a feature. If you scroll back up to the top-side photo, you can see at least one risen bubble and one collapsed bubble. I think the jury is out on whether this is a bug or a feature. I happen to like when this happens, because it gives a different range of textures. And where some pizzerias pop their pizza bubbles during cooking, I tend to leave ours. Anyway. Again, because it’s rare, here’s Johnny with a cross-section shot:

Our pizzas are pretty thin. And while they’re crisp, they’re not crackery. I think it’s pretty important to make that distinction here. I tried to incorporate the best elements of the different pizza styles I love, and the thing I like about NYC-style is its crisp-yet-flexible crust. Like a good New York–style pizza, ours allows a fold while still maintaining crispness. The thinness and some of the topping combos are a nod to the Midwestern thin-crust pizzas I grew up eating with my dad. I’m happy that our pizza takes some folks back to that:

Above is the Hot Supreme with vegan sausage subbed in, which makes this pizza vegetarian safe. That’s Mackenzi Farquer‘s picture above. It was great to see a fellow Astorian in the house!

Please open a pizza place in Astoria, @akuban! 👏

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In the caption on that photo, Mackenzi says, “Please open a pizza place in Astoria, @akuban!” I would LOVE to open in Astoria, honestly, and it’s been a crackpot idea in my head for as long as I’ve lived there. But the area is so pizza-saturated that I’m afraid there’d be no room for a Margot’s Pizza there. But who knows. Maybe. I’m not opposed to it. I’d love to offer Hot Supreme pies to fellow Astorians on a regular basis.

Speaking of which, the Hot Supreme is a relatively new addition to the menu and is a close riff on the Love Supreme:

I was pretty stoked to have Portland Pizza Royalty in the house in the form of Ken Forkish of Ken’s Artisan Bread, Ken’s Artisan Pizza, and his new Trifecta Tavern & Bakery. I had lunch with Ken earlier in the week at Adrienne’s Pizza Bar (FANTASTIC GRANDMA PIES!) and invited him to drop by Margot’s Pizza since he was in town. His book, Flour Water Salt Yeast, was incredibly helpful not only in informing my bread-baking endeavors but also my pizza-making. He talks about pushing the limits of what a recipe can do in order to see where the breaking point is and to learn how much latitude you have with whatever aspect, whether it’s time, temperature, ingredient amount, etc. I took that to heart while developing my recipe, going to extremes and then eventually dialing things in.

The Great Tupper Lake Pizza Party of 2012

With that said, I have to go on a mini divergence here, though it does indeed tie in. This past week a longtime Slice community member died. His name was David M. Cavanagh (holding the pizza above), and I’m not going to lie, he could be a real pain in the ass. He was in the comments of Slice constantly, bustin’ my chops — and EVERYONE’s chops — about their crusts, their techniques, etc. But I always knew it was from a place of passion that DMC was commenting, and it was constructive, and he helped me out many times via PM with my dough issues. And he helped out a ton of people on Slice and in Serious Eat’s now-defunct Talk section. He was a big reason why Talk during a certain era was such a fun place to gather. He held Slice and SE to a high standard, and I often wrote posts with him in mind. I figured if I could answer all the things he was sure to ask about, I’d have a pretty informative post.

One of the big things I took away from David’s tutelage was the fact that I had to isolate the variables in my recipe-testing. See how this ties in with Ken’s notion of pushing limits above?

When I was not as serious about pizza-making, I would often switch up many variables in my New York–style pizza recipe. As a result, I never knew which change had yielded a given result. DMC took me to task over that in the comments of Slice, and when I got serious about developing a bar pizza recipe, I took his advice to heart. I wanted to make a specific pizza in David’s memory on Saturday, as a lot of my Serious Eats community compatriots pledged to do—and did—but I didn’t bring Cheez-its (it was a signature DMC move), and things got busier than I thought they would at the pop-up, so I didn’t get to make my usual experimental pizzas at the end. But in a way, EVERY pizza I make owes something to David, so I’m going to cop out and say that all the pizzas you see pictured here were dedicated to DMC. And, actually, they were. He was on my mind throughout the day as I made pizza. Rest easy, David. May the crust rise to meet you.

Anyway… things are getting heavy, so MORE PIZZA!

I gotta say, I’m always nervous when press folks come in. It’s weird now that the shoe is on the other foot. I was especially nervous about Arthur Bovino of the Daily Meal. I know from years of following his work and his Twitter that he does not pull punches. I also know that he’s had a buttload of pizza from all over the US and the world.

Since I don’t keep my phone on me during service (it does music playlist duty), I couldn’t see what he was tweeting in real time. But when Angela Moore Bovino (herself of and also a tough critic) dropped by the kitchen and said her husband was happily tweeting away, I was relieved.

Anyway, I am always happy to see people picking up on the patented Nick Solares twin pizza shot:

So nice to meet these two in person — I have known them only via Twitter and IG for a while now.

Sooo… Let’s talk some future direction here.

Settling into our meal at @akuban's pop up.

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For the next pop-up, we’re going to be switching up the format very slightly. The arugula salad is going away, and we’re going to offer only the kale salad. Why? EMILY no longer serves the arugula salad, and rather than make them special-order it and then have waste, I’m just going to remove it from the Margot’s menu. (Background, ICYMI: while the pizzas at the pop-up are all Margot’s Pizza, the salads are EMILY creations that can be found on their regular menu. This was a nice way, we thought, to give Margot’s patrons a little taste of what the host restaurant does. I was/am a particular fan of the kale salad, and it’s actually one of the most popular items on EMILY’s menu and sort of their signature salad. I liked the arugula salad too, but the kale is something special. This seems to be reflected in the Margot’s stats, as the kale consistently outsold the arugula.) ANYWAY…

Because I don’t like to take things away without offering something new, I’m adding … not necessarily another food item … but AN EXTRA SPACE in each of the seatings. Since there are six seatings, that means there are SIX ADDITIONAL TICKETS being added. It turns out that when we talked about streamlining the salad menu, we realized it would help with adding more tickets — because it means we can easily prep many of the same salad more quickly than we can two different salads.

And stay tuned, because there’s more news about these 5th slots. Oh, I’ll just say it here and now. They’re going to be offered for sale lottery style, so that at least a handful of tickets don’t require you to have lightning-fast videogame fingers to get tickets when they’re released.

That’s the news. Hasta la pizza and EXCELSIOR!