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Burnt Pizza

DSC_0027 The line was long and they didn't take reservations. They said the wait would only be around forty-five minutes, so we decided to stick it out as we'd heard it could be much longer than that. It was with great anticipation that I went to Portland's renowned Apizza Shoals, for what is certainly one of the city's most revered pizzas. The long lines and great press promised a real treat.

After the expected wait, we sat down, ordered and the much anticipated pizza finally arrived. My first bite surprised me. My second confirmed the first. The pizza tasted burned to me. A quick look at the bottom revealed a heavily charred crust. I ventured a complaint to the waiter, who fetched a manager, who informed us, "that's the way we do it." A quick look around the dining room confirmed that this was the case as every table was snarfing down their equally charred pizzas with great pleasure.

Before you think this is a bad restaurant review, it's not. The people at Apizza Shoals are passionately dedicated to making great pizza. Their's is style inspired by great pizzerias in New York and New Jersey and the heavily charred crust is part of the character of their pizza. They go out of their way to use the freshest, high-quality ingredients they can find. For example, they can make only so much fresh dough by hand a day and when it runs out it's closing time. The extra effort they put into their food is reflected by the long lines and packed tables.

What I like best about Apizza Shoals is that they have a distinct vision and passion for the food they create. What I don't like is the pizza and that's my problem, not theirs.

Great chefs and winemakers must make something they believe in, not something designed to try to please everyone. In fact, having a distinct vision means by definition you will be crafting something that some people will love and some will hate. Taking such a position is a badge of courage and personality is a characteristic to be treasured in all things culinary.

This is my problem with wine reviews based on points as it imply's some sort of absolute. That rating a wine 90 points is some kind of quantifiable statistic that effectively communicates the overall quality of a wine is clearly preposterous. In this case my "score" for Apizza Shoals pizza would be irrelevant as it simply is not to my taste. This does not make it bad pizza, as proven by its many admirers. The use of points as a marketing crutch by producers, importers. restaurants and retailers has fueled the boring standardization of so much of today's wine, which more-often-than-not is made using a recipe for scoring success than with passion or vision.

Even though Apizza Shoals was not my favorite, I would rather eat their distinctive style of pizza than the bland pies put out by places trying to please everyone. Needless to say, I feel the same way about wine.

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