JEFF TIEDEMAN: Slice of heavenHardly anything can beat the allure of a good pizza.
Can you name your favorite food? Most people probably would have to think about it for a bit. But without a doubt, pizza would rank near the top of my list.
And although my first slice from a pizzeria didn’t tickle my taste buds until my teens, I’ve more than made up for it since then.
Growing up in Crookston, we had only two places where you could buy pizza — Al’s and Johnny’s. Neither served pizza exclusively, although Al’s was also known as the “Pizza Plaza.”
To me, pizza is one of life’s simple pleasures and one of the foods that I indulge in occasionally. That’s why I once again jumped at the opportunity to be a judge at the annual Best Pizza in Grand Forks contest, sponsored by the Grand Forks Housing Authority, GF Homes Inc. and the Neighborhood Learning Centers.
On board for Monday’s showdown are Giuseppe’s Italian Ristorante, ’L Bistro, Mama Maria’s, Pizza Hut, Rhombus Guys, Sbarro and Space Aliens. Pizza will be judged in six categories — Best Kids’, Best Crust, Best Gourmet, Best Value, Most Creative and People’s Choice.
Last year, the field of contestants was thick with meaty concoctions. According to Herald staff writer Tu-Uyen Tran, “it was a like an arms race meant for the meat-loving masses.”
For the third year in a row, Rhombus Guys took home the People’s Choice award with its T-Rex pizza, a combination of pepperoni, sausage, beef, bacon — both regular and Canadian — marinara sauce and mozzarella.
The contest, open to the public, once again will be held in the Link, 300 Cherry St. The People’s Choice category, which is voted on by all attendees, kicks off judging at 5:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. (A suggested donation for those who can afford it is $3 for children and $5 for adults. All donations will help support self-sufficiency and technology-based learning opportunities at the four Neighborhood Networks Learning Centers.)
Emily Wright, executive administrator at the Housing Authority, said she’s very excited to have a few new participants for the fourth annual event. (Giuseppe’s, the Pizza Hut and Space Aliens are new to this year’s contest.)
“It’s great to have some new competition.”
Last year, Wright said more than 500 people attended the event, “and we look forward to expanding and increasing our support to the Neighborhood Networks Learning Centers.”
The popularity of the contest is not surprising. After all, pizza is a more than $30 billion per year industry. There are approximately 69,000 pizzerias in the United States, and about 3 billion pizzas are sold in the U.S. each year.
Here are a few more interesting facts:
n Each man, woman and child in America eats an average of 46 slices of pizza per year.
n A U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that in a three-day survey period, 42 percent of children ages 6 to 11 had eaten pizza.
n According to a recent Gallup Poll, kids from 3 to 11 prefer pizza over all other food groups for lunch and dinner.
I’m hoping for some inspiration from the contest. I’ve come across two recipes that include cherry or grape tomatoes, which are abundant in my garden, thanks to my neighbor, Duane Jeffrey, who gave me 11 plants this spring, half of which were of the these varieties. One also has a French touch — herbes de Provence — at delightful mixture that includes lavender, which we are growing in a pot.
The only thing that might hold me back is that I’ll eat too much pizza at the contest.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.