Sunday, August 30, 2015

PoPo's Pursuit of the Perfect Pizza

Other than family and friends, there are only a few things I miss about living in the New York Tri-State Area:  apple, strawberry, and blueberry picking; visiting New York City at Christmastime; dining quarterly at our all-time favorite restaurant, Benjamin’s Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan; and PIZZA!

Our hometown was only 10 square miles, and we had 9 pizza joints from which to choose!  If you had a hankering for a pizza, one was just a phone call away, anytime from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.!

And our hometown wasn’t much different from others within the NY/NJ/PA area.  Whether we were visiting Saugerties (New York Mid-Hudson Region), Lodi (North Jersey), Stroudsburg (Northeast Pennsylvania), we found terrific pizza parlors, all which ran “specials” where you could get a 16-18 inch hot, bubbling, delectable cheese pie with the perfect crust for 10 bucks or less!  It was a dream come true for a cheese-eating rat like me!

We have been here in the Black Hills for nearly four months, and since the day we arrived I have been in pursuit of a perfect pizza.

Our first stop was Lintz Bros. Pizza in Hermosa, which came highly recommended by several folks.  My first thought was what does someone with a German surname know about pizza?  But my pizza craving overtook my good senses.  We traversed in pouring rain and high winds to arrive at 5 p.m. on a Sunday evening, only to find the place packed!  Popular joint—a good sign that the pizza is good!  A review of the menu shows there are lots of decisions to make:  thick crust, thin crust; gluten-free; extra toppings; 12”, 14”, or 16”.  Then we reviewed the “specialty” pie list, which included:

  • Taco Pizza.  Lettuce, tomato, refried beans, salsa, and everything you put on a regular taco.  Looked like a salad on top of a Boboli when we glimpsed the order of the folks next to us!
  • Flaming German Samoan.  Canadian ham, sausage, pineapple, sauerkraut, and jalapenos.  WHAT!  Sounds like they needed to clean out their fridge and instead of throwing stuff away, threw it on a pizza!  And these “specialty” pies cost about $24 each!

We settled on a thin crust, 16” pie with just one topping, CHEESE.  It arrived hot, but oddly cut into “squares” rather than “slices”.  It was tasty, but couldn’t compare to what we have enjoyed in the past, not to mention we were still hungry after we left.   And it cost us $16 for this pizza!  I initially awarded this pizza just a 3-cheese rating.  However, after our next stop, Lintz Bros. Pizza moved up to a 4-cheese rating.

Pie for the People in Keystone boasts that its two owners hail from California and New York, so they know everything about good pizza.  WRONG!  WHAT A FIASCO!

We ordered the Margherita Specialty Pie.  We are pizza purists and have enjoyed this type of pie at numerous other places.  Everywhere we ordered this pizza previously, it contained Fresh Mozzarella, and most times it consisted of Buffalo Mozzarella, which has a completely different texture than regular mozzarella.  So being here in the Black Hills where buffalo are abundant, we were looking forward to getting the “real deal”.  The pizza arrived so dried out, you could use it as a frisbee, throw it at the wall, and it wouldn’t even crack!  Not only was it not buffalo mozzarella, it wasn’t even fresh mozzarella!  And for this we paid $23, $6 more than a regular cheese pie!  This place gets my Rotten Tomato Award—the absolute WORST pizza I have ever eaten in all my life!

When Aunt Laurie and Uncle Rob visited recently, they took me to Eno’s Pizza in Keystone for lunch.  They knew how frustrated I was and how much I was craving a good pizza.  Once again, very disappointing.  Not to mention we ordered a calzone and it didn’t even have ricotta cheese in it!  A travesty!

A pizza consists of only 3 parts:  crust, cheese, and tomato sauce.  How hard is it to get it right?   Apparently, it is no easy feat for the pizza establishments in the Black Hills.

Bottom Line:  If you want a decent-tasting, reasonably-priced pizza in the Black Hills area, stop in the frozen food section of Walmart and buy a DiGiorno’s !

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Visit from the Wicked Witch of the East

The roar of engines, the sea of bikes—all are now just a memory!  The 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is over, and the number of visitors at Crazy Horse is decreasing.  We are entering the season of “newly weds” and “nearly deads”.


But look what the wind blew in!  None other than my Mom’s sister Laurie!  We haven’t seen her for 8 months!  I call her the Wicked Witch of the East ‘cause she was a bit mean to me when I was just a tyke.  She once hung me in the closet to hide me from Mom when they had an argument!


Anyway, she and Uncle Rob had a great time visiting the Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments.  We escorted them through Custer State Park--they were thrilled with the prolific wildlife, seeing everything from buffalo to prairie dogs, not to mention the wild donkeys!
Buffalo Mother and Child

How Many Jackasses Do You See in This Pic?  (Only kidding Uncle Rob!)
We toured the Badlands with them.  It was interesting to see the prairie grasses and wildflowers in full bloom—much different from when we visited in late April.    And no visit to South Dakota is complete without stopping at the iconic Wall Drug, home of Rex the Dinosaur, Singing Sam, the coin operated piano-playing gorilla, and the giant jackalope, whose back has had to endure the fat butts of literally millions of folks through the decades!

Rex - A Wall Drug Attraction

Singing Sam - Can You Believe I Spent 50 Cents to Hear Him?

I Don't Care What Dad Says - Jackalopes DO Exist!

Aunt Laurie, Uncle Rob, and Yours Truly!


Thanks to recommendations from Mom’s co-workers, we enjoyed some outstanding meals, too!  Sylvan Lake Lodge and Botticelli’s both earned a Rambling RV Rat 4-cheese rating, the first restaurants during our tenure in South Dakota to achieve such high distinction! 



Aunt Laurie and Uncle Rob spent their final day in Deadwood, satisfying Aunt Laurie’s attraction to gambling (she’s a Ruby Level VIP at the casino near her home.  I think she should call 1-800-GAM-PROB)!    Unfortunately, she dropped $160 buckaroos in Deadwood—her “donation” to the Deadwood Historic Building Restoration Project.

That evening we shared more good times in Deadwood —a car show and music festival, topped off with a delicious steak dinner at Gem Palace.  Best of all, the sisters spent 5 days together without a feud!  Now that is truly monumental!


Talk to you soon!



Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Bikes Are Roaring--75th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Everywhere we go, everything we see, everybody we meet—seemingly all revolve around the 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally!


It has been completely crazy at Crazy Horse with the uptick in attendance!  Daddy has worked several 10 hour days baking in the hot sun parking the massive volume of motorcycles.  And we think Mom has set a new record for number of entrance tickets ripped per second! 
Dad had great fun taking pics of the wide variety of bikes, each one unique and personalized.  And many with four-legged traveling companions with them!


The towns of Custer, Keystone, and Hill City have events, vendors, and special parking for motorcycles, despite being at least an hour from the Sturgis Rally point.  Roads are congested and like the “locals”, we try to minimize our travels to avoid traffic jams.  But we did a run to Rapid City to visit the massive Black Hills Harley-Davidson Dealership, which had all sorts of activities as well.

We did venture out to visit Sturgis, but we went in several days before the Rally actually started!  Despite this well thought out plan to avoid the crowds, the place was hopping, vendors busy selling, and the saloons bustling!
We stocked up on our 75th Anniversary souvenirs, purchased a new helmet for Mommy, enjoyed the “Knuckle Sandwich” at the Knuckle Saloon, and visited the renowned Sturgis Motorcycle Museum. 
It surely is a unique experience when folks from all walks of life and areas of the world converge and merge, sharing the common hobby of motorcycling.  Some guys have the “ZZ Top” beards.  Some of the women are scantily clad, with leather corsets and “Daisy Duke” shorts that are more sized to cover their face cheeks than butt cheeks.   Both men and women have tattoos on every inch of skin, and some have piercings in places that I hurt just thinking about!  But mostly they are just regular folks.  Like Clark Kent transforms to Superman, they take on a new persona for Sturgis week:   from “everyday” guys or gals to tough, hardcore leather-clad bikers.  But once you speak to them, they are all friendly, polite, and good-hearted folks!  I fit right in with them! 
Forget About Where Waldo Is!
Can You Spot Me?
Can’t imagine how South Dakota’s economy would survive without the Sturgis Rally!