Pretiolas

The soft pretzel is wonderful thing.  Warm, soft, and chewy.  The pretzel comes in many forms.  Soft and bread-like, hard and crunchy, even covered in chocolate and other items to make it more pastry-like.  It’s hard to pinpoint the origin of the pretzel.  The most obvious people would be the Germans.  They are often associated with the delicious soft pretzel and mustard paired with it.  What would Oktoberfest be without beer, brats, and soft pretzels?  Not as much fun, I assure you.  Even the word for pretzel in German is ‘Bretzel’.  C’mon, that can’t even be a coincidence.   However, there are stories that push back a bit further to about 610 AD, in Italy.  A monk in Italy may have invented the pretzels as a treat for his young students as reward for memorizing their prayers.  ‘Pretiola’, or “little rewards” is what they were called and they were twisted into the shape, similar to modern pretzels, to represent folded arms.  Although this is a cute story there is no corroborating evidence to support this story.  There are others that have been deemed the birthplace of the pretzel, Greece, France, so on and so forth.  Nothing definitive.   My best guess goes to Germany on this one, but it doesn’t matter, I love a good soft pretzel.  At Brickstone we pride ourselves on our pretzel slider buns.  When we started out we sought out a local bakery that we chefs had dealt with before and knew they have excellent breads.  This wasn’t a product they normally carried but they obliged us and worked out a recipe.  These were some excellent slider buns.  After awhile I decided to try my hand at making some pretzel buns.  Granted, I am not a baker by any stretch of the imagination but I can work my way around some flour, water and yeast.  This took a bit to work a recipe we were happy with and Brickstone has been producing hand-made fresh, in-house pretzel slider buns ever since.  Barbecued beef, chicken, pork, and turkey are some of the delicious options we have to compliment these soft slider buns.  I believe there is very little on this planet that tops our pulled pork, signature BBQ sauce, and apple slaw on one of these tasty little guys.  I suppose I’m biased, but you should try for yourself.  Thank you for spending a few minutes with me and we hope to see you in the dining room very soon!

-T.A. Neumann

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You say “Tomato”, I say “More, please”

The delightful fruit that Italian cuisine was built on.  To me, a fresh ripe tomato embodies the essence of, not only Italian cuisine, but Summer itself.  Mexico, or Mesoamerica, is the actual birthplace of the tomato, estimated to have been discovered around 500 BC. Fascinating since Mexican cuisine doesn’t seem to do this gorgeous gem the justice it deserves.  Yes, they make salsas and incorporate tomatoes into most dishes, but the tomato seems (to me, at least) to take a backseat to corn.  I like corn too, but I’ll take the tomato every day of the week and twice on Sunday, over an ear of corn.  Tomatoes were introduced to the rest of the world by the Spanish conquistadors somewhere around the fourteen or fifteen hundreds.  No one knows.  Both Columbus and Cortes have been noted as discovering the tomato and sharing it with Europe.  My guess is Columbus since they both worked for the Royalty of Spain, but Columbus was Italian.  Why would Cortes give some sketchy red plants to Italy?  Sketchy?  Yes.  The Italians didn’t actually start consuming the tomato until around the 1700’s.  The illustrious red fruit is part of the Nightshade family of plants which are notoriously poisonous, so the brilliant red color of the tomato relegated it to being nothing more that a decorative table plant for more than a hundred years in the country of Italy. Finally some brave soul stood forth and took a bite of the beautiful horror that proclaimed imminent death…and nothing terrible happened…and it was delicious! “Holy Cats!” exclaimed Big John.  …And the rest, as they say, is history.  The fine denizens of the great Mediterranean peninsula seized the opportunity and made the tomato their own.  The first thing I think of when it comes to Italian cuisine is tomato.  Chicken Parmesan, pasta with marinara, Caprese salad, the pizzaiola, the list goes on.  The Italians have showcased  the tomato like no other culture.  We at Brickstone love the tomato just as much! From the fresh heirloom cherry tomatoes in our Panzanella salad to the Granddaddy of them all, the heirloom San Marzano tomato in our pizza sauce and Tomato Bisque.  We use over a dozen different varieties of tomatoes in our recipes!  Roma Tomatoes, roasted with fresh garlic, basil and oregano , give our Mount Etna Burger a special twist.  We took everything you love about a Caprese salad:  ripe tomato, fresh mozzarella, beautiful aromatic basil, and added delicious eggplant caponata with a balsamic drizzle on soft ciabatta bread!  Are you hungry yet? I am!  If you’re looking for a great meal that puts the spotlight on this amazing delicacy that was misunderstood for so many years, look no further.  We have you covered.  I assure you, there is little that compares to a San Marzano tomato sauce cooked to perfection on the tender, chewy crust of one of our wood-fired pizzas.  We hope to see you all in the dining room very soon!

Thank you for your time,

T.A. Neumann

“In A Pickle”

A phrase that still surfaces now and again, being “in a pickle”.  Peculiar.  William Shakespeare has been noted as coining this phrase from his work “The Tempest”.  Being in a pickle, in the modern sense, eludes to one being in a bind or (to turn another phrase) being caught “between a rock and a hard place”.  Shakespeare’s character meant “pickle” in the sense of being drunk, inebriated, or…pickled. Preserved.  Further back in time to the 1560s John Heywood wrote a poem, 51 years before the first performance of The Tempest, coining a phrase that is extremely English that refers to being in a pickle.  Extremely English  meaning, I’m not about to transcribe and discern the original scribe versus the modern meaning here.  Ye ole English makes my brain ache.  This sheds a little light on the origination of such a strange phrase, origins like this fascinate me.  I digress.  The Dutch word pekel is the root of what we are really striving for…pickle.  Pekel means brine in the Dutch language and that is much closer to the meaning we are looking for in the Brickstone kitchen.  “Pickle” somehow became a North American term referring to a cucumber preserved in a solution of water, salt, and vinegar, at it’s most basic sense.  In Britain they are known as Gherkins.  In reality, nearly any fruit or vegetable can be pickled.  A practice for preserving food that has been around since the dawn of civilization and is very rudimentary in the science.  Without refrigeration, pickling fruits, vegetables, and curing meats were born from necessity, the mother of invention.  This is all about introducing acid and fermenting perishable produce with a pH balance of less than 4.6, an anaerobic stasis that will prevent most organisms from growth.  Seasoning beyond salt and vinegar (fermented ethanol, e.i. wine beyond its lifespan) tends to enlist antimicrobial herbs and spices such as mustard seed, coriander, cinnamon, clove, etc.

Now that I’ve gotten way off topic, we are in a pickle.  The Brickstone team has been, since our inception, toiling over the famed cucumber.  We, just like you, enjoy a good pickle with our sandwich!  Be it dill, garlic, bread & butter, that palate cleansing nibble on the side of the plate brings the sandwich and fries complete.  A nice little zing to reset your tastebuds, yeah?  Bringing this long, diatribe full circle, our Culinary Team pushes on to create the perfect pickle spear.  Several times we thought we had it, but alas, there is more science to the pickle than meets the eye.  Don’t misunderstand me, Brickstone provides a great pickle, but we are working hard to offer you the BEST pickle!  A dozen or better recipes worked and re-worked in our plight to make the best pickle known to man.  A better pickle is what makes our already-great sandwiches POP!  Not to mention our awesome happy hour appetizer Pickles in Prosciutto. Have you ever made those cocktail party hors d’ vours  of a pickle spear wrapped in a slice of ham smeared with cream cheese?  No?  I know it might sound odd, my mom used to make them for New Years Eve.  When you break it down it hits all the taste centers in one amazing bite.  Salt from the ham and pickle (that’s what you want in a good snack, right?), Sweet from the honey baked ham, Bitter from the vinegar of the pickle, with the cream cheese to meld every bit of this together.  It’s one of those “don’t knock it til you try it” things.  Brickstone just took it a step further.  We have the great, ever-evolving, pickle. But that’s not enough, no sir or ma’am… Add that to sweet Thai chile (not spicy) cream cheese and crisp Parma prosciutto (Parma, Italy, not Ohio) and you have the perfect Happy Hour snack!  Wrapped up as a precious sweet, tangy gem that would make Shakespeare coin a phrase after them! We are truly excited about these and the rest of our Happy Hour menu at Brickstone, along with the rest of our Scratch Kitchen delicacies.  Thank you so much for your time and we hope to see you all in the dining room very soon!

Sincerely,

T.A. Neumann

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Who doesn’t love a good chicken wing?  It’s amazing that some lady who owned the Anchor Bar in  Buffalo, New York back in the 1960s allegedly thought up this American delight on a whim.  So many stories surround the origin of the Buffalo wing.  Most of them surround a woman named Teressa Bellissimo and her son, most notably that the wings were in the kitchen to be used in the house tomato sauce.  Much like necks and backs are often used, for flavor, be it chicken, beef, pork, etc.  Supposedly on this particular night Teressa’s son arrived home from college, stopped into the Anchor Bar late on a snowy evening in Buffalo, NY and was famished, on his way somewhere else.  The kitchen was shut down for the evening and Teressa had a brilliant idea to fry the chicken wings she had in the cooler and cover them in some cayenne pepper sauce from the pantry.  Voila!  As Big John would say in our kitchen, “There’s the secret, now go make your millions.”  This is just one incantation of the lore surrounding the heralded wing.  Not being one to let details ruin a good story, I have no true idea how the Buffalo Wing as we know it, came to be.  Others from the famed city of Buffalo claim to be the “Godfather (or Mother) of Gameday Snackery”, yet Teressa seems to be the name that comes up most.  Sitting down to a pile of mini fried chicken has become as American as apple pie and hot dogs.  Most places you go offer you the standard:  Frank’s Red Hot.  Frank’s has become the standard for the wing, but you deserve better.  I have a bottle of Red Hot in my fridge too, it’s become a staple.  A comfort food if you will, to take me back to my childhood, now and again.  Barbecue sauce is the other obvious choice to slather on your chicken, but once again you might encounter something all too familiar, like KC Masterpiece or Sweet Baby Ray’s.  I love Sweet Baby Ray.  This guy makes the best commercial barbecue sauce I’ve seen in the grocery store, but I like our’s way better.  Pick a sports bar near you and order a plate of chicken wings.  What are the chances you get Frank’s Red Hot and Sweet Baby Ray?  I’d say pretty good, but Brickstone takes this show to a whole new level.  Hot sauce made from scratch in our kitchen with fresh chile peppers and other natural ingredients.  It has a nice heat that you don’t feel initially, but won’t send you running for water, and a flavor that is top notch.  Our House Barbecue sauce is also something quite different.  Made slow and low (flame) just like everything barbecue should be, has complex flavors both sweet and savory, and has garnered many compliments so early in the game.  These are just two of our signature sauces we have put many hours into perfecting, like our Chipotle Mango sauce and Sweet Mustard sauce.  We strive to not only create good food, but also create unique flavors.  I haven’t even started on the wing itself!  We use nothing but the best Jumbo chicken wings. These wings are huge!  Too many restaurants pass off small, soggy wings as some sort of treat.  Not us, we like giant chicken wings, with bold flavors.   Nice and crispy with some smokey tones.  We start with the best chicken wings, season them, and let them spend a little time in our smokehouse, not too much time, though.  We do this for two reasons: 1) we like smoked barbecue, 2) it renders the skin of the wing and makes the chicken delightfully crispy when we flash fry it.  Not only do you get a crisp chicken wing, it doesn’t get dried out and tough from over frying.  We have spent a lot of time and effort making the perfect chicken wing.  We understand the subjective nature of personal taste, but we think we’re well on the road to perfection.  All of us at Brickstone can’t wait to share our passion for a great chicken wing with you, and hope to see you all in the dining room very soon!

Thank you,

-T.A. Neumann

A Piece of the Pie

Dough ,sauce and cheese.  When you break it down, these are the main staples of a pizza, right?  I suppose in an extremely broad sense you are correct.  Some places, all you get is cardboard and ketchup.  Ugh.  Here at Brickstone we put so much more heart and soul into a pizza.  These are some of my greatest passions in the world.  I love tomatoes.  In any form; sauce, salsa, green, sun dried,  you name it, I’m there.  Cheese, don’t get me started.  I don’t know what it is about cheese in nearly every variety that gets me worked up, but it is surely a commodity I could not live a happy life without.  So much so, that I still consider starting my own artisan cheese outfit just to be around it all day long.  Delicious.  All that being said, there is a special way of delivering both tomato and cheese together, along with countless comrades in the crusade of culinary excellence…The Dough.  I don’t like to divulge all my sources and recipes, but I do understand that in this day and age of the internet and having all sorts of resources at hand, one can find just about anything one wants to.  Suffice it to say, Brickstone uses the greatest flour in the world for pizza.  We use nothing but the finest superfine, low gluten, highly praised pizza dough flour on this planet coming straight from the “land of pizza”, Campania, Italy.  I am not a baker, but I do dabble in breads.  I often use whole wheat flours at home for my wife and children, but these flours are higher in gluten.  Gluten is tough. It makes it hard to work with.  It makes a tougher, chewier, and heavier (both in your hand and in your stomach) crust.  This little gem, thanks to Mr. Serio’s insight, is not only a wonder to stretch, but eats like no other.  This isn’t the shoe leather coated in titanium you’re used to down on the corner.  Light years above and beyond.  In the past month I can’t count how many people have actually smashed an entire 12″ pizza, and then be shocked in the aftermath that they did, indeed, smash a full 12″ pizza themselves.  It’s that good.  I know…I’m one of those people.  Nearly twenty years cooking professionally I am delighted by Rick and his ability to spin this flour, water, and yeast into culinary gold.  It’s not rocket science, just knowing what to use and how to handle it.  Another reason why I love what I do, who I associate myself with, where I spend my days.  Brickstone is no ordinary pizza joint.  Scratch cooking with brains to support the effort is what it’s about.  Pride and excitement can be very hard to come by in this business of restaurants, but those are two things I truly feel when I come to work every day.  I hope to see you all in the dining room very soon, enjoying the best pizza I have ever had!

Thank you,

T.A. Neumann

Why We Do This

The ability to turn seemingly ordinary objects into something worthwhile.  This is the reason any person worth their salt becomes a chef.  As the story has been told countless times, this is not a glamorous profession.  The television has painted the restaurant industry as the greatest sport since NASCAR. It’s not. This career takes a certain type of person.  Long hours. An intense sense of urgency.  Creativity. Problem-solving skills. Eye for detail. A touch of masochism.  The “normal” person doesn’t put themselves through the day-to-day rigors of running a restaurant or just a kitchen without second guess.  It’s the little things.  Being the first in the door to start the coffee maker with no other commotion than the fan whirring in the convection oven. The smell of garlic and shallot in a saute pan even before the coffee maker is done brewing.  Preparing a recipe that took years to develop in my home kitchen and being greeted with nothing but compliment.  These are a few reasons I have been earning a paycheck from the food service industry since I was 15 years old. Being granted the opportunity to work with Joe, Aaron, John, and everyone in our kitchen is amazing.  I am so fortunate to work among such talented and selfless chefs.  Ego is certainly not an issue in our kitchen, just pride. Pride in our work.  As a team we strive to produce high expectations from our cuisine for the people grabbing lunch on their break.  The guys and gals heading to the ball game.  For the couple enjoying a first date.  I can’t truly express how excited I am about Brickstone and all we have to offer.  Soon I will be talking more about the food on a  closer level, such as the imported flour we use for our pizzas, and the great group in the trenches like Jermaine, Kevin, and the rest of the Brickstone Army.   I look forward to spending time with you.  Can’t wait to see you in the dining room!

Thank you,

T.A. Neumann

Great things to come…

Hello,

Brickstone restaurant in Cleveland, OH has unofficially opened to the public and we are gearing up for our Grand Opening on Thursday, May 9th.  All of us here are very excited to invite you to stop in for some wonderful food, drinks, and live entertainment.  As we are located directly across the street from Progressive Field, you can stop in for a quick dinner on the way to the Indians game or make a night of it.  So much time and effort has been put into creating a warm and inviting atmosphere to all guests and we hope to see you all enjoying yourself in our dining room.  We here in the kitchen, or “Heart of the House”  have immersed ourselves in our work and can’t wait to share our menu with you.  The first thing you’ll see when you walk in the front door is the impressive wood-fired pizza oven.  This beautiful oven creates the best pizza you’ll ever eat.  There is a distinct difference between a pizza made in a gas oven like every place on the planet, and one that has the rustic complexity of a pizza from a hard wood oven.  Amazing.  The bar area is not your typical sports bar theme, we cleaned it up and made it shine!  Just in time for the baseball crowd.  In the main dining room we’re getting ready to break in the new stage with live music! Scratch cooking is what we do best and that is what we want to present to you.  Pizza doughs, smoked meats, cannolis, all made fresh in house.  Jumbo smoked chicken wings, fried nice and crispy, and tossed in our house sauces.  Barbecue, Hot sauce, Chipotle Mango, Garlic Romano, and Sweet Mustard, all made from scratch!  This blog is  way for our Chef Team to talk a bit about Brickstone, and the food we’re passionate about.  From Joe, Aaron, myself, and the rest of the team, we hope to see you all in the dining room very soon!

Thank you,

T.A. Neumann