My Visit to a California Tomato Farm and Cannery

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Tomato season is short. In California’s Central Valley, canners have about seventy days to harvest and pack the entire season’s crop. Most people don’t realize that pizzerias all over the planet use canned tomatoes rather than fresh. Think about it; tomato season is short, so the “fresh” tomatoes you buy in March are far from what you’ll get coming off the vine in August. What’s wrong with off-season tomatoes? First of all, flavor is never the concern when breeding tomatoes. They’re grown to be tough enough to handle the rigors of the road. Secondly, they’re often grown in water (Canada) or in sand (Florida), so vital nutrients have to be added artificially. The industrial practices in the fresh tomato industry are also pretty bad, but you’ll have to read a book like Barry Estabrook’s Tomatoland for the full scoop on that.  

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The canned tomato doesn’t get its due, so I decided to take a quick trip out to Modesto, Ca for a first-hand look at how some of our favorite pizza tomatoes are grown, harvested and canned. I visited farms and facilities used by Stanislaus Food Products, one of the country’s leading tomato companies and certainly the most popular in the New York area. I personally love their products, which often take top honors at our annual tomato tastings (see here, here and here).   

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First we headed out to a farm that was in the midst of being harvested. Farmers in Modesto use amazing machines that harvest an entire vine in one shot. Check out this video for a better look at the machine. It has three sets of “eyes” that discard tomatoes that aren’t the correct color. The machines look for a bright red - you know TOMATO COLOR!

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PLY - Art Space / Pizzeria in Manchester, UK

A brand new art space is opening in Manchester next week and it’s going to be amazing! Why? Because when you’re exhausted from looking at amazing art, you can relax by the Stefano Ferrara oven and order yourself a pizza. 

Following Neapolitan tradition, the pizzas at PLY will bake in about 90 seconds! To celebrate their opening, PLY asked a bunch of people to submit 90 second films, each of which will play on loop at a pre-opening exhibition. I was honored to receive the invitation, so if you’re in Manchester and want some pizza with your art I strongly you suggest the masterpiece I shot in my living room in about 15 minutes. It’s a classic.It may or may not feature pizza boxes. 

PLY | 8 Stevenson Square | Manchester | M1 1FB
www.plymcr.co.uk

EVENING VIEW: Thursday, August 7, 6pm – 8pm
EXHIBITION: August 8-17, 6am – 11pm daily

I tasted a bunch of different frozen pizzas for BuzzFeed in an effort to answer one of the most common questions I get on pizza tours: WHAT’S THE BEST FROZEN PIZZA ON THE MARKET? 

Of course videos like this are made to be funny, but I want to clarify some technical questions that might pop into some of the more inquisitive pizza minds:

1. We baked each pizza according to the instructions on the box, so if a pie looks funky you can blame the pizza company. 

2. This does not represent every brand on the market, so don’t freak out because we didn’t try Tombstone or Freschetta or whatever your favorite frozen pizza may be. BuzzFeed brought 8 pies but one was microwave only (we only had an oven) and one got cut for time (Amy’s Organic, which I usually like but did not on this tasting). 

3. I grew up eating Ellio’s so I enjoyed it during this taste test even though I would never go out of my way to eat it.

4. I gave each pizza a rating out of 5 stars but none made it over 3.5 so they didn’t include them in the edit. 

5. Obviously frozen pizza should be judged on a different scale than fresh pies but since some these companies claim they deliver quality comparable to pizzeria products we really should hold them accountable. 

Brazilian Pizza Boxes will Blow Your Mind

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I recently spent a whopping 40 hours in São Paulo, Brazil and my brain almost exploded from excitement. São Paulo has had pizza for over 100 years and there are so many pizzerias in town that nobody really knows the exact count (it’s in the thousands). I ate some pizza, but my biggest takeaway had to do with the pizza boxes. They are insane. 

You can see in the photo above that Brazilian pizza boxes don’t look like normal pizza boxes. First of all, they’re not square. I get the question all the time “Why does a round pizza go into a square box?” Squares are easier to deal with in manufacturing and assembly. It takes much less time to assemble a standard American pizza box, but what’s the fun in a boring square box when you can get octagons like they have in Brazil!?!?

Once you recover from the shock of octagonal pizza boxes, take a closer look at the artwork. All three boxes in the above photo contain funny die-cut shapes on their lids. The one all the way to the left becomes a soccer field, complete with goal posts that pop into place and a two-piece soccer ball that snaps together for gameplay. But the other two boxes get even crazier.

Here’s what the box all the way to the right looks like when you snap out and assemble all the pieces:

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