Pét Nat & Pizza

Keith brought the pizza, Kaj brought the wine.

Keith brought the pizza, Kaj brought the wine.

Last week I walked into K&L for our Domestic staff tasting, and Keith declared it was Pét Nat & Pizza Day (which, actually, isn’t a thing, but really should be a thing). In true Keith fashion, this wasn’t just any pizza—this was homemade Detroit-style pizza, a labor-of-love take on Sicilian pizza whose beauty lies in the thick, open-crumb, cheesy crust. Apparently a chef friend of Keith’s has been devoted to crafting the perfect version of it, and his enthusiasm ignited similar in Keith, who is never one to shy away from a culinary project.

Check out that fluffy crumb.

Check out that fluffy crumb.

Detroit pizza takes the square format to a new level, letting the crust get crispy and cheesy by frying in a thin layer of oil that oozes down from the copious amounts of cheese. When you bite into it, however, you don’t get the thick grease bomb you might expect, but rather an ethereal crispy and light crust, with added depth from the baked-in cheese.

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And the cheese—in Detroit, it’s Brick cheese, a tangy style that is rarely seen outside the Midwest. You can buy it on Amazon, but in a pinch, a combo of Mozzarella and Jack will do. Legend has it that it was first made in a steel pan from a Detroit car factory, but these days a high-sided cake pan will suffice. Also deeply Midwestern is the layering—toppings really should be called middlings, as they go between the crust and the cheese instead of on top (though Keith threw some extra pepperoni on top for good measure).  

It was so good. 

Even better, we paired it with Pét Nat! You may have heard of Pét Nat, Champagne’s hipster cousin. It’s a much less fussy (read: labor intensive) process to achieve bubbles in wine. The winemaker will stop fermentation (usually by lowering the ambient temperature—effectively putting the yeasts to sleep) before bottling the wine, leaving some leftover sugars for the yeasts to eat later. When the temperature is raised and the yeasts wake up, the fermentation picks up again in bottle, releasing CO2 and thus creating bubbles. 

It may seem like an easier way to make a bubbly wine but it actually takes a deft hand to pull it off. It’s a bit of a gamble, but when it pays off, you get a fresh, lively, unpretentious drink—which is exactly what Andrew Jones has managed to do in his Blanc de Franc—Cabernet Franc, that is—from Paso Robles. Andrew Jones is the mastermind behind Field Recordings, a fun/funky/fantastic Central Coast winery that seems to like vinous experiment as much as Keith likes culinary. His wines are dependably gulpable, and the Blanc de Franc is no exception. It has a lively fizziness that is not quite as linear and intense as Champagne, but more open and friendly. Tart green apple and grapefruit notes make this super refreshing, the perfect counterpoint to an intense bite of pizza.

So, I guess the next step is to patent this Pét Nat & Pizza Day thing because it has all the makings of a classic pair: just like with Joanie/Chachi, Laverne/Shirley, Mork/Mindy—a little bit of friendly fizz matched with a little bit of Midwestern soul goes a long way.

- Kate Soto