It starts with a lot of prep work. I've spent most of the afternoon getting foods ready. First I roasted some red peppers, then went on to grilled zucchini. As the afternoon progresses I see Jeff's post that the numbers are going up--from his estimate of 50 or so to 60 plus. I start to think we may need more ingredients. I add some asparagus to the list. Then I see that they have Oregon line caught salmon at the market so I get a fillet and smoke it. I have cedar planks just for this purpose. I smoke the salmon with the left over french oak barrel staves that I have from several wood working projects. It is so fun to smell the aroma of the Pinot Noir as the smoke starts to rise. I leave the fish off the heat and let the smoke slowly cook it. I also have wilted chard to add to the list, along with pepperoni, pesto chicken, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil.
I arrive a bit later than I had anticipated (it was the salmon that put me over the top, time wise.) Jeff is getting the grill ready. He's used a lot of coals, and we are going to have one heck of a hot fire. We are trying an experiment. (I know, you'd think that we'd experiment with this new idea before we have to cook for 70, but that's not how we fly.) We are going to put pizza stones on the grill. In the past we've put the crusts directly onto the grill with no stone beneath. I've brought two small plastic table to set up for our prep area. Jeff suggests that we may only need one--he obviously has no idea how much food I've brought with me. We get set up with the dough, sauce and cheese on one side, and all of the other ingredients on the other. I bring out the red sauce that is waiting on the stove, Jeff shreds some cheese, and we start rolling out the crusts. We get into an easy rhythm. And the people start to arrive. And they just keep coming.
There is a strange bell curve of feeding people.
They seem to roll in slowly for a bit and then they come in a huge wave. The pizzas are coming off the grill quickly. Then, suddenly, the pizza production catches up with the demand and there are a couple of pies ready to be consumed with no line behind them.
Fairly soon into the baking my pizza stone cracks. I've purchased a new toy that can read temperatures with remotely, so I shine it on one of the stones. It reads "High". I guess the gauge only goes up to 750 degrees or so, and we are over that. My guess is we're well over. I love the time of creativity in making the pies. We know from experience that we'd better have some basic numbers out first, so we start with pepperoni and cheese. Then we spin out some wild ones--home made pesto, fresh motz and asparagus; olive oil, smoked salmon and wilted yellow chard. Jeff has prepared three different types of dough. There is a simple mix that is mostly white flour, a more complex whole wheat and herb dough, and, my favorite, the sun dried tomato.
A funny thing has happened to pizza night over the years. The wines have gotten better and more abundant. A new couple that I haven't met before arrive saying they've just come from Wednesday Wines! When I first started going to pizza night we had about a 50-50 mix of beer to wine. Now a six pack will last several months. When I go in to grab a glass there is a wonderful assortment--an A to Z '08 Pinot Noir has arrived (thank you Jeff and Julia!), along with two of my favorite reds from the shop, Friends Red, and Apothic Red. There are beautiful Pinot Gris and other whites. I was talking to my colleague, Courtney, who moved here from Corvallis one year ago this weekend (happy one year anniversary, Court!) She shared that she has noticed how much wine is a part of the culture here. People will show up to a gathering and carefully consider which of the wines they want to try, and then they'll look at the wine glasses and find the exact one they want. We're a bit strange here in McMinnville.
At the end of the service time Jeff and I take a breather and sit down for a bit. Jeff is simultaneously drinking coffee and scotch. I suggest that he just combine the two into one drink (which he seriously considers doing!) There is still quite a bit of pizza ready, so I start to clean up. Just as I've gotten about everything put away another dozen teenagers show up. They look hungry. Jeff pops up and grabs a few of the items that I've put away in the kitchen. As I drive away he is back into production. I get a text later saying that we fed a total of 81 people and 19 pizzas. But that is before he makes two more, so I think the real total was 21. Those are both records for pizza night. What a blessed, wonderful evening out under the trees enjoying good food, good wine and beautiful friendships. I've never seen anything like it before, and it is a blast to help put one together. Thanks Jeff and Judy