We’re Living in a Frozen Pizza Renaissance
Plus the amazing breakfast cooks of Las Vegas casinos.
In case you missed the news, I’m filling in at TASTE writing their Friday newsletter (A huge welcome to everyone who joined me from there!) . That’s why there hasn’t been a new Snack Cart in a few weeks. Subscribe to TASTE’s newsletter to get my writing Fridays, as well as great recipes and food interviews by the rest of the team Mondays and Wednesday. I’ve missed you all and TASTE hasn’t been as frequent as I expected (I’m doing every other Friday-ish), so you might see some more original Snack Carts soon.
In the meantime, my pals at TASTE have signed off on syndicating my TASTE writing in Snack Cart. You’ll see a newsletter here one week after it originally goes out via TASTE. The structure and content will be a bit different (matching what I do in TASTE), but I’ll be adding a few of the Snack Cart special sections you love alongside. If you subscribe to both, consider this a chance to catch anything you might have missed in the first issue. To make sure you get this hot and fresh, subscribe to TASTE!
While my food media roundup newsletter Snack Cart is mostly about restaurants, I cook a lot. Like many of us, I’ve been doing it even more over the course of the pandemic. I’ve read cookbooks, watched TV shows, and searched for recipes on TASTE. But even though I love spending time in the kitchen, getting food on the table every night can become a slog.
Early in the pandemic, I memorized simple recipes I could crank out quickly. But even that drags after a while. So I’ve followed in the footsteps of previous generations and rediscovered prepared foods. Sure, I can make Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce, but I can also just crack open a jar of Rao’s. Do I feel guilty about it? A bit, but I’ve also made a surprising discovery: prepared foods have gotten way, way better. Canned soups and sauces are vibrant and varied. The frozen foods aisle is crammed with great veggies and interesting premade dishes. The same goes for that workhorse of my childhood: frozen pizza.
I loved Emily Wilson’s article on our frozen pizza renaissance. Wilson looks at the rapid rise of frozen pizza sales, which have led to higher-quality pizzas from the big-name brands as well as a number of artisanal start-ups. Beyond that, there are huge numbers of pizzas catering to people with various food allergies, all of them pretty darn good. Definitely give this one a read, and consider making frozen pizza an every-other-week staple.
This thread on the history of eel pulling features a ton of fun historic photos—and may single-handedly redeem Twitter for another week.
Nico Vera explores the past, present, and future of the tamale. Vera explores the many varieties and forms stuffed masa takes in cultures in North and South America. In many ways, this essay makes the case for the tamale as the unifying dish of the Western Hemisphere.
Since I’m thinking about tricks to make dinner easier, I’m reminded of this great story from Cathy Erway about fish balls. Though they’re not quite beloved in America, Erway writes about their popularity in Asian and Nordic cultures. A bag of fish balls has become a freezer staple for me. Some instant ramen with a few thrown in feels a lot more like a real meal.
You either die a villain or live long enough to become a popular Ukrainian pastry.
Henry Winkler is a national treasure, and this story about him reflecting on life and acting while ordering like a PRO at Katz’s Deli is a delight.
I was enjoying and nodding along to this lovely ode to the nostalgic joy of Pizza Hut by Kim Windyka. About halfway through, I had a sudden start and realized that my treasured childhood fast-food pizza chain was Papa Gino’s. I think I gotta call my mom.
Speaking of my mom, she sent me this New Yorker article from 2005 that is absolutely outstanding. It’s a profile of the short-order cooks of Las Vegas hotels. These seem like they might be the best cooks on Earth.
Last fall, I visited some good friends who had moved out of New York to New Jersey. While marveling at their gorgeous new yard and multiple bathrooms, my friend kept telling me about this special New Jersey sandwich I had to try. I kind of thought he was making it up, but then I read Rebecca Firkser writing about the New Jersey sloppy joe and its unexpected connection to Cuba. Next time I’m in the Garden State, I’ll be giving it a try.
I married an “extremely early to the airport” person, but I DEEPLY want to follow Helen Rosner’s ritual of going to Apple Pan preflight the next time I am in Los Angeles. Rosner also highlights a few other pre-airport food tips for other cities. I can add that Boston’s Santarpio’s is not food you want to take on the plane, but you can get from the restaurant to the airport in like ten mins if you want a preflight bar pizza.
I appreciate that, somewhere in the Gawker archives, the style guide for “The Best Restaurant in New York” (the best food writing ever) still hangs around. At least, that's what I thought while reading this lovely Gawker essay on the Gilmore Girls cookbook.
It feels like one of the places we’ve all gotten MUCH closer with over the past few years is our local wine shop. PUNCH rounds up some of the best wine stores across America.
Read how one of the holders of Olive Garden’s Never-Ending Pasta Pass used a complicated series of spreadsheets to get his coworkers $5,000 worth of soup, salad, and breadsticks.
The Los Angeles Times sends critic Bill Addison to Las Vegas, where he says the best place to eat is the city’s growing Chinatown. The sprawling collection of strip malls rivals the San Gabriel Valley for a density of outstanding Asian and Southeast Asian foods. Each place Addison mentions sounds better than the last.
Hope’s Wine Meme of the Week
Always, always set a timer on your phone if you put a bottle of wine in the freezer to chill.
Josh’s note: I did NOT do this the other night and HOO BOY.
TASTE has a couple of great recipes for no-bake tropical pies. The TASTE editors frame them as a great way to add some escapism to your life, but something else jumped out at me: these are elegant and fancy desserts that don’t require turning on your oven. I’ll need that in the coming months.
This recipe for Totino’s pizza lasagna is either cursed or the greatest thing in the world. *Extreme New York Times Cooking commenter voice*: “When I make this recipe, I use Ellio’s, and it comes out much better.”
It’s summer, and that means it’s time to eat a LOT of hot dogs. I don’t know that you need any suggestions for a hot dog recipe, but Consumer Reports chimes in with the best hot dogs you can buy at the store. See where your fave ranks.
Speaking of hot dogs, Nick Kindelsperger at the Chicago Tribune rounds up some of the worst hot dog recipes the paper has ever published. This is an absolute hoot to read, and if you are feeling brave, give “Meade’s Supper Salad Bowl” a try. The 1943 recipe contains hot dogs with French dressing, green pepper, cottage cheese, grated raw turnip, raw carrot, mayonnaise, lettuce, and coleslaw.
Mahira Rivers is an outstanding writer, but there’s no way in hell I’m trying to make a Bloomin’ Onion at home.
Cookbook fans! Available for a sliding-scale price that starts at $1, the “Cook Like a Pro” bundle supports Freedom of the Press Foundation and features 27 digital cookbooks from leading food magazines like Delish, Good Housekeeping, and Prevention.
Watch, Stream, Listen
This week on the TASTE Podcast, we have the pleasure of getting to know cookbook author and food TV icon Alton Brown. Brown is behind popular and pioneering food television shows like Good Eats and Iron Chef America, which has returned with a new season on Netflix. And if you aren’t subscribing to the TASTE Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Amazon, get on it!
I don’t know if it’s just me, but Instagram has become an endless scroll of terrible food videos. It seems like it’s all grainy recipes and weirdly promotional boomerangs. I don’t think I fully realized this was happening until I listened to last week’s Content Mines, an essential podcast about media and internet culture. Hosts Ryan and Luke talk about how Facebook is leaning hard into Instagram Reels—and how that may not save them. I actually wonder if that platform shift/drift is what’s driving a general decline in Instagram’s utility. Eater NY ran an entire story on this that lays the blame on TikTok, which doesn’t seem quite right. The problem is Instagram itself and the inevitable decay of platforms (though a food critic going out to dinner with a TikTok influencer is a very funny concept).
Callie Crossley at Boston’s WGBH explores the world of fictional cookbooks. This is a great listen for the interview with Nyanyika Banda, Malawian-American author of Marvel’s Black Panther: The Official Wakanda Cookbook.
I can’t remember who recommended it to me (maybe TASTE editor Matt Rodbard), but I’ve been really enjoying the new podcast Everything Cookbooks. Hosts Andrea Nguyen, Kate Leahy, Molly Stevens, and Kristin Donnelly walk through the practical realities of being cookbook authors. This is basically a free class in writing a cookbook (complete with handouts!). If you aren’t sure about starting another podcast, Matt interviews hosts Molly Stevens and Andrea Nguyen on the TASTE podcast (which, of course, you already subscribe to).
Eater profiles a TikTok star who has gotten famous by cooking his way through Depression-era cookbooks. This profile is interesting, and the videos are great!
Out of Context J. Gold of the Week
But one of the advantages of living in Los Angeles is the constant possibility of reinventing yourself. People here do it all the time: from honors student to gangsta rapper, from toilet-paper saleswoman to studio chief, from carpenter to movie star. And finally, Milliken and Fenigar reinvented themselves in the most Los Angeles way imaginable: they become the chef-queens of all media, the Keith and Mick of Mexican food. - Link