Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Some Unconventional Pies

Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery

Obed & Isaac's Fig Pizza

By Jeremy Zumwalt (Guest SPP Blogger)

What a nice menu.  I just want to put that out there, many old favorites and a lot of twists on old and new(er) favorites.  It was nice to go to an establishment in the Springfield area and not see a horseshoe on the menu, but this is a pizza review so I will try to stay on topic.
I had come to Obed and Isaac’s with the usual unusual cast of characters that make an evening like this worth the nightmare of social interaction (I kid…kinda’).  From all accounts the locally brewed beer, which they call a micro brew, though I swear I saw the distillery equipment in the building next door no microscope required, was more than palatable and the selection of brew in general was well vetted and approved of by the attendant crew I dined and drank with.
In the communal way we often operate, a large and varied selection of food was ordered off the menu to be shared amongst us.  Included were three varieties of their flat bread pizza: Margherita Chicken, Bacon and Bleu Cheese, and Fig Pizza.  The crusts of each pie were exemplary, being   thin, crisp, delicate, yet strong enough to support the toppings without fear of wearing your leftovers home (and really, have you ever tried to hang a shirt in the fridge?  It is totally not worth the effort, just pick the food off and wash the shirt).
Of the three, the Bacon and Blue was the least satisfying, perhaps because I had the greatest expectations.  I failed to detect the herbed olive oil sauce indicated as being present; this pie was quite dry.  The caramelized onions did not add enough onion or sweetness to stand out, and I detected few roasted peppers.  The predominate flavor was of dry bleu cheese and dry bacon.  I supplemented this pizza with a bit of the hot wing sauce from the absolutely wonderful smoked chicken legs, and this improved the offering from a moisture perspective, but overall the flavors were not well sorted and the pie was muddled and middling.
The Margherita Chicken was a definitive step forward from the prior offering.  Strong  flavor of fresh basil complemented the more subtle flavoring of the garlic and tomato.  The marinated chicken failed to stand out, but was in no way a negative and the same could be said for the Italian cheese blend.  I would have preferred a bit more of the spicy tomato sauce to give greater balance to this pizza, yet overall I would recommend this pie with little reservation.
The final pie was the most surprising, a fig pizza.  Not being a fig connoisseur outside the realm of Newtonian physics cookies (and to the dinner colleague who trumpeted Strawberry Newtons I say again, “no one cares!”) I can say I was hesitant.  As the square of pie was raised nearer my mouth I was definitely off put by the scent; fig and gorgonzola is definitely a know your date well combination in romantic settings for those in the singles scene.  Once I actually bit into this slice of pie my trepidations sauntered off to contemplate more important and pressing matters and I was left blissfully chewing a quitter unique and tasty pizza combination I had never entertained as plausible.  Ladies, gentleman, and various people I would not normally address, I attest to you this is one fine pie.  The pungent aroma and creamy texture of the gorgonzola played beautifully with the subtle sweetness of fig as well as the caramelized sweetness of the onion.  Of the Crème Fraise I can say little because, and as alluded to in my prior evaluations, the sauce was nearly a non-factor in the festivities.  For what was present, I still hold fond memories.
Obed and Isaac’s was a pleasant surprise.  For fault, I can advise you that the building is a bit cramped, the bar area far too small, and the wait times borderline indignant.  So, that is the bad part; cry about it somewhere else.  The building is also charming, the bar well stocked and agreeable, and the food well worth the wait.  I will be returning to this establishment and encouraging friends and any of you strangers I can stand that you do the same.  It is always worthy in this area to find an establishment that offers more than cheese sauce and cheap domestic buckets as a calling card. 

Overall Pie Rating:  6.75.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Trying out Monical's Pizza in Prairie Crossing

Monical's Sausage Green Pepper, Onion, Olives and Tomatoes
By Linda Winters

One pizza place that’s probably overlooked in the midst of all the other pizza places in Springfield is Monical’s.  As my boyfriend and I were coming off the interstate, we passed by Prairie Crossing and he claimed that he had always wanted to try Monical’s but it was off the beaten path for him.  I told him I was game if he was and so we pulled in since we hadn’t eaten dinner.

As we walked in there was a nicely stationed counter with a friendly hostess asking how many were in our party.  There was a view of the kitchen where the cooks were diligently making up pizzas.  We were directed towards a booth which was very comfortable I might add…not like some that you sink into.  The place was tastefully decorated (no pun intended) and huge.  There was soft music playing in the background that wasn’t annoying (you may not even realize they were playing music) and you could easily make conversation.. Although the room we ate in was somewhat intimate with table and booth settings, they had another larger room where I guess you would hold parties.  The restaurant is somewhat family-oriented but groups of people of all ages were dining.  It was very homey and very clean I might add.

We were given our menus and I noticed there were lots of toppings to choose from as well as many other meals to eat.  We chose a medium (14-inch) pizza with sausage, green pepper, onion, olives and tomatoes.

When our pizza arrived a short time later, we devoured it.  It was so delicious.  We couldn’t stop eating. As you can see, I took a picture just in time before we ate too much. The crust was very crispy and I noticed the toppings were on top of the cheese (which was the good cheese, not the cheap cheese that some places use).  Also, the veggies were very fresh.  I could imagine the cooks chopping up the onions, green peppers and tomatoes.  The sausage was nicely sweet.  It even had seasonings on top.  It reminded me of a fresh pizza that you would make at home only tastier.  Also, get this…it wasn’t a bit greasy!!!  How do they do that??   The pizza wasn’t overly filling and we ate all but two pieces which I took home.  I might add that upon eating the leftovers, the pizza still tasted great and the veggies still tasted fresh!!!  This is very exciting to me as I love fresh produce.

Needless to say, we were impressed with this place and I’m rating it a 9.5.  We are definitely dining here again and I can’t wait!

Linda's SPP Rating 9.5

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tavern Pie Confidential: Westwoods Lodge

Not every good pizza comes from a pizzeria or Italian restaurant.  Occasionally you can find a tasty cheese and tomato sauce topped crust at your local drinking+food haunt.  This type of establishment has an inherent advantage over a place that doesn't serve beer because I believe absolutely that there is not a better compliment for good pizza than an ice cold brew.  On this night we chose one of my favorite spots on the west side, Westwoods Lodge.

Where They're Located:
2406 W. Jefferson
Springfield, IL

Call 'Em:
(217) 698-9256

The Pizza:  Bacon, Green Olive and Tomato

The Crust:  Thin

The Dish:
Westwoods Lodge is a one of a kind place in Springfield.  It reminds me of a Canadian hunting lodge with lots of unfinished wood, a long friendly bar and the hard work of a busy taxidermist all over the place.  Stuffed deer, a coyote, turkey, cougar and of course over the fireplace is a moose head.
It's a great place to get a cold drink just about anytime but the food is also well worth making the trip out to West Jefferson.  The menu is diverse and has everything from steaks and wings to horseshoes and of course pizza.  They really pack them in at Westwoods and almost everytime I eat there I run into someone I know.
On this visit I was accompanied by my in-laws, a niece and my trusty assistant.  I was the only one who opted for pizza  and I enjoyed a cold PBR and conversation with the wife's folks while we waited for our order.

How'd It Eat?
I felt like it took fairly long for the food to arrive but I think more than anything I was just really hungry and impatient.  The pizza was well prepared and cut into slices instead of squares.  The crust was brown on the edges and crispy and firm.  I noticed some saltiness in it but it wasn't overwhelming.  I enjoyed the mixture of  the bacon and fresh chopped tomato and the green olives added an interesting element to the flavor profile of this pie.  I wasn't overly impressed with the cheese and sauce but taste-wise they didn't do anything to make the pizza any worse.  I would have preferred just a bit less cheese but in the end I'd rather have a little too much than not enough.  There was plenty of cold PBR to wash this pie down and honestly Westwoods really hits the spot.
All in all, you're getting a solid pizza in a friendly, unique atmosphere and for me that's more than enough to keep me coming back.  Anytime you're down for cold beer and a hot pizza with plenty of other option on the menu taking your hunting party out to Westwoods and sample some quality tavern style pie.

SPP Ranking:  7.3