Sunday, December 2, 2012

The new dark side of our Christmas pizza tradition

Bill Dowd photo
TROY -- It's late of a Sunday afternoon. The tree is decorated, the nutcracker collection disbursed around the house, various and sundry seasonal objet d'art are tucked here and there, the reigning tabby cat is reclining on the velvet skirt under the tree, and the Giants aren't scheduled to play until Monday night. So, what's left? Bring on the Christmas pizza.

Say what?

It's a Christmas tradition of sorts in our house -- at least since the kids grew up and left us to create our own post-nurturing customs -- to load up on cheesey, tomatoey, doughy, square-cut goodness with mushrooms and pepperoni from Jimmy's Pizzeria, the humble Lansingburgh restaurant that years ago rescued me from pizza exile after I had become disenchanted with the endless slices of gummy, blah-tasting pizza that for some reason are a part of the newspaper industry's newsroom eating culture.

In fact, Jimmy's superb offerings pulled me back from the abyss of pizza abstinence to such an extent I actually look forward to judging the annual Pizza Palooza competition in Troy.

This year, Constant Companion and I did something a little different. We had beers with our pizza.

Neither of us is a regular beer drinker, but we can enjoy a cold one every so often just as a beverage change of pace. When the mood strikes, it's always interesting to see what is in any of our several refrigerators since we rarely finish off a six-pack and most of our visitors prefer wines and spirits as their beverages.

We rummaged around and Constant Companion found a bottle of Guinness Extra Stout, that great icon of rich, creamy Irish beers. I found a recently-acquired bottle of Magic Hat Heart of Darkness, a stout brewed just over the state line in South Burlington, VT.

In a household used to doing comparative tastings of all manner of foods and beverages, a taste-off obviously was in order. So, we tasted, munched on pizza, paused briefly to floss, tasted some more, traded glasses, cleansed palates with more pizza, then shared our findings.

Magic Hat's stout is just about as good as the globally famous Guinness.

Both are an opaque dark chocolate brown color, with heads so creamy it was tempting to dip a dessert spoon into them. The rich beer has notes of coffee, chocolate and malt, with a clean finish that makes it very nice with food rather than fighting with what you're eating.

Way to go Vermont.

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