A Tale of Two Pizza’s

The choice is thick or thin. Families have been at stalemate for centuries with knife and fork in hand.

The thing to know about pizza is that there is no middle ground for thick or thin. As you read this, you already know your favorite style. Unless God forbid, you are a carb counting, card-carrying, cauliflower crust loving Karen! If that’s you, go ahead and stop reading now.


For the rest of us, we want flavor. We like cheese, especially for Americans; we want every topping, including the kitchen sink on our pizza. I mean, can you really be a Fun-guy without mushrooms?
For me, I’ve always favored thick crust, double mozzarella, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, and dare I say it… pineapple. Yep there it is. Perfection.


During a recent trip up North, I started daydreaming about pizza. I messaged friends who I know live or have lived in Chicago, asking for authentic deep-dish pizza location recommendations. They all messaged back with the name Lou Malnati’s. With an honorable mention, they named Giordanos as their second choice.
From where I was in Michigan, I charted my course to the Windy City. It was three states and two hours away. With a full tank of gas and an address plugged into my GPS, I was on my way.

Peroni Italian Beer


Chicago signage has a sense of nostalgia. Maybe it reminded me of the way Hollywood portrays the strong economic era before the 2nd World War. Strong, confident, and welcoming. The sign to Malnati’s is no different. It beckoned me from across the street as soon as I saw it.


I was that guy. I was the hungry guy who followed my nose through the front door. My timing was perfect. It was that sweet spot between lunch and dinner. Lucky me, they had a table at their rollup glass garage door. On a 1-10 level of food excitement, I was a 10. So excited that I ordered two pizzas. I wanted to experience all of it.

Two authentic Chicago Deep Dish pizzas


The uniqueness of Lou’s is the Butter Crust. It coats your fingers and prepares your tastebuds for the boldness of the pie. I chose “The Malnati.” The sausage had a little kick that made my nose run before I finished my first slice; thats a good thing. Along with the vine tomato sauce and extra cheese, it would be hard to beat. My second pizza choice was “The Lou,” named after the founder. In my opinion, this is an excellent complement to the first pie. The three kinds of cheese bridged the void from the plate to my mouth. Add the flavor of spinach, garlic, basil, onion, mushrooms, and sliced tomatoes!!! Yes, please.
I washed everything down with an Italian beer and took in the moment. I was sitting in Chicago and happy in a food coma on deep-dish pizza.

Your turn, what and where is your favorite pizza?

Food Pirates

The Food Pirates stole my journal. Time for a fresh start on our culinary journey.

Last month my travel journal fell into the hands of food pirates. Wait, you have never heard of them? Seriously, they are real. You may not realize it yet, but I bet you have been a victim of them at some point.

Think about it. Have you ever looked at your dinner plate and said, “there is no way I ate all that.” Or maybe your best friend had already ordered her third margarita when you didn’t see her pound the second one. And let’s not forget about the late nights you are standing in front of an open refrigerator, staring at the old cheese beside a half-empty White Claw. Yep, it’s all because of those sneaky Food Pirate bastards stealing things off our plates and tables, robbing us of the things we love most. Maybe a better term would be “Pie Rats”.

You may have seen glimpses of my travel journal on older Facebook posts. During my travels, I’d jot down notes of things I was seeing, hearing, smelling. Lots of times, I would even try to draw out the moments. They are great memories. I guess it was time to retire that book.

The best things in the world happen at a dinner table, and I believe every meal has a story. Here’s a toast to the next year full of recipes and new friends. Let’s start.

Page 1, CHICAGO-

Pura Vida

Guest writer Captain Chris writes about his honeymoon with best friend Holly to Costa Rica. The culinary experience and fishing adventure is a dream destination.

Costa Rica: You had Our hearts @ “Pura Vida” 

We awoke with pure excitement after only getting a few hours of sleep from enjoying the magnificent Central American inspired dinner the night before!  Juan Carlos, our personal Waiter, ensured we would have the most delightful time from making his custom guacamole that was only to embellish the encore of fresh perfectly blackened Tuna and Mahi served over some of the best rice I have ever experienced.  And for dessert, a flambe style bananas foster served tableside, a true dining experience that has only been surpassed once in our travels… but that was at a castle that I will detail in a future post!  With the illustration of such a meal leaves to question “what could be more exciting for the day ahead?”  Holly and my first Billfishing adventure!  An experience I have been waiting my whole life to enjoy and now that I was able to enjoy it with my newly married Best Friend, an epic day surly awaited us!

Chef Juan Carlos
Preparing Bananas Foster

I. Juan Carlos Preparing Bananas Foster! 

Now it was a new morning and we awoke to a breakfast served on a porch manufactured from the Guanacaste trees that are native to that area of Costa Rica of our secluded hut; fresh squeezed juices and some of the best coffee I have ever enjoyed had us prepared to meet the man who I had been conversing with for 2 months about this fishing trip, Captain Rick Bergstresser of Rhino Charger fishing charters.  Rick soon picked us up in front of our abode and we were off into the unknown adventure to be had.   We met our Mate for the day, Victor, and the diesels were sounded off, warmed up, and the with the smell of rigged Ballyhoo invading the air we watched Victor take control of his station and begin to check lines while setting the reel drags in preparation or deploying our baits.  

Within minutes the Captain had spotted a Whale cruising the Tamarindo Beach and after we were blessed with a couple of amazing breaches, we settled in for the ride to the fishing grounds.  With upmost excitement Holly hit me on the shoulder and exclaimed “LOOK!” as a school of a hundred or more Porpoises made their way jumping from wave to wave!  Suddenly the 34’ Island Hopper designed fishing machine was slowed and lines were set in hopes of a Tuna or Mahi that may have been running with the Porpoises.  Quick action on the fishing front like we had hoped for was not on the agenda for our mid-July day, but with fishing anyone who has partaken in the: hobby, sport, lifestyle…the Angler knows it is a true labor of patience. Holly and I settled into the enjoyment of where we were and the fact that we were there together and loving the fact we were living life; when the reel began to scream and within seconds Holly was in the fighting chair hooked into a massive Pacific Sailfish.  Line continued to peel off the reel as the Captain skillfully worked the boat into the perfect position for her to successfully bring the behemoth boat-side.  This was where the testament to Victor’s fervor came into play and he did not disappoint!  With his help we were able to not only bring Holly’s first Sailfish boatside but Victor made it possible to capture one of the most cherished photos we have to this day! 

Holly in the Fighting Chair
Holly, Captain Chris, and Victor with Holly’s first Sailfish!

II  Holly, Capt. Chris, and Victor with Holly’s first Sailfish!!

This day was already one of the best days of our lives, and as we sat there on the boat remembering the fight of the fish, laughing and preparing our story to illustrate the battle and the conquering of this awesome catch, Holly and I enjoyed a fresh cut chilled watermelon with the Captain and Mate.  The Imperial beers went down smooth in the hot Costa Rican sun as we were really starting to realize just how special this day was, how could it get any better?!  “DOUBLE!!!” that’s right! 2 reels had the drag screaming and line peeling off, Holly was back in the chair, throwing watermelon over the side as pure excitement overtook her.  I was handed the other rod and as I got into the stand-up fighting position my line went slack, this day the Wife was going to show the Husband how fish catching was done!   Holly got into her rhythm and really put on a show of true professional angling skills!   This battle went on a bit longer as this fish seemed to really want to give Holly the fight she was looking for!  30 minutes passed and then an hour, some action shots were photographed, and before we knew it, Victor had us in a perfect photo opportunity once again!  

Captain Chris, Holly, and Victor pose with Holly’s 2nd Sailfish!

III Victor, Holly, and Capt. Chris with Holly’s 2nd Sailfish

We simply could not believe how fortunate we had been: to find each other, to be blessed with the ability that we were able to be where we were, to be living out a dream to be boating the beautiful creatures!!!  As we brought the lines in and put up the tackle to make our way back to the shore we were graced once again by more of the playful Porpoises making their way from swell to swell; we discussed the fact of how could this Honeymoon get any more perfect –which we were soon to discover—as this was our second day of two weeks in this literally unbelievable country that we had found ourselves enamored with! 

An Embarrassment of Manta Rays

French Polynesia, part 1

The loud thump came from the space I had just occupied on the island trail. Before I knew what was happening I heard an army of Coconut crabs running across the tropical floor to feast on the coconut pulled to earth by gravity.

Tahiti, Bora Bora

My travel buddy landed in Tahiti 45 minutes before I did. We would be staying in French Polynesia for just over two weeks and visiting five different islands.


As I walked from the flight line into the Faa’a International Airport in Papeete, Tahiti, I heard music from a band playing local music. I watched dancers swaying in what I, as an American, thought of as hula dancing. The line to customs and immigration curved back and forth through the night time tropic humidity. It seemed forever, and my anticipation to see my partner was making me excited.
Here I was, in French Polynesia, I could not believe I had been able to arrive in one of my dream locations. My travel partner at the time was my then French girlfriend, with her first language being French, it made for more accessible communication with the locals. We had pre-planned our destinations and bought our local island-hop flights from Air Tahiti in advance.
On day two, we flew to Bora Bora.

Bora Bora

Bora freaking Bora!!! The pearl of the Pacific. I was warned to skip this island because travelers told me it was too touristy. But on the contrary, it was terrific. The season was between “tourist seasons.”

The Mai Tai Hotel was what I expected. The property was right out of a travel magazine; two restaurants, two bars, bungalows on stilts out on the water, and rooms on the mountain with a view. The temperature was perfect, and it felt like we had the dream destination to ourselves. We ate, snorkeled, drank Mai Tai’s, and played topless on the beach. Note to self, always pack dark sunglasses to reduce the chance of blatantly getting caught looking at other naked beachgoers.
One night we made the opportunity to make reservations at the Bora Bora Yacht Club for dinner. We were seated at an outside table on the dock, and our timing was perfect. The sun was slowly setting as we had a few pre-dinner drinks and admired the catamarans on anchor.

The next night we ate at the famous Bloody Mary’s. The choices of freshly caught fish are as big as the list of famous people who have enjoyed dinner there at some point. I did not leave disappointed.
The time in Bora Bora set the mood for the rest of the adventure. After a few days, it was time to hop over to the next island on our list.

Maupiti

The flight to Maupiti seemed quick compared to the long trip from LA. Maupiti is the furthest island out in the French Society Islands. The daily flight to the island makes for a pleasant welcome. The landing strip located literally beside the ferry dock was where we were going to meet our boat.

Our quarters for the next few nights were at Le Kuriri, a small Eco-friendly property of four bungalows on the motu of Tiapa’a. Here we relaxed by taking walks on the beach and napping in hammocks. The owners and staff prepared the meals, which were served to guests in a common area, thatched-roof style. The owners joined us for dinner each night. Breakfast was even more casual and served in an elevated lookout with a view of the ocean to envy even the birds perched high in the trees. Everything about this motu was breathtaking, but one thing will always stand out.

One day after breakfast, the owner wanted to take us on a boat ride. We agreed and went to grab our gear. Once in the boat and motoring to a location between the motu and the main island, he stopped and told us of the Manta Rays that seasonally frequent this area. My girlfriend translated his conversation because his English was at the same level as my French. Sadly he said that it was the end of the season, and we probably would not see any manta’s. None the less we were eager to get in and see what was down there.
Moments after we were in the water, I hear him making a commotion from the boat and pointing just ahead of us, grabbing a breath I submerged to see the most majestic creature that I’ve ever seen. If her wingspan were less then 12 feet, I’d be surprised. I’m not sure if the manta was a she, but I’m calling it “she” for simplicity. For those moments dancing with a partner who was obviously aware that I’m a lousy dancer was one of the Top 10 things, I’ve ever done. The manta gracefully allowed me those moments before disappearing into the vast Pacific Ocean to catch up with her friends. Those moments are why I travel.

In Part 2, I’ll write about the other islands I visited were the vanilla grow, the pearls develope, and a shark who got a little too friendly.