Blaze of glory7/20/2016
Arthur Koestler’s “Act of Creation” suggests that all great inventions are part of a Hegelian dialectic in which an antithetic idea is applied to an existing one. Blaze Pizza is such an idea. Elise and Rick Wetzel had the brilliant idea to apply the “build your own” style assembly line of Subway or Chipotle to a pizza joint. They opened their first store in Pasadena, California, in 2011, with LeBron James as an original investor. They have added 133 others since, including a new outlet in the 300 MLK complex.
Besides offering a large selection of choices, they also provide an entire pie for about the price of a burrito at Chipotle. The most expensive pie on my visits was $8 and included unlimited toppings, sauces and finishes. A different employee helped with sauces, cheeses, meats, vegetables and finishes. The pies were cooked in 800-degree open flame ovens in just 3 minutes. One can get in and out in 10 minutes — less, if ordering by text. The pie will then be assembled and waiting to cook when you arrive.
These pies are sensational, particularly at their prices. Sauces included a classic red, spicy red, white cream and garlic pesto. Cheeses included fresh mozzarella, shredded mozzarella, gorgonzola, chevre, Parmesan, ricotta and vegan. Meats included applewood bacon, grilled chicken, beef or turkey meatballs, Italian sausage, pepperoni, smoked ham and salami. Vegetable choices included artichoke hearts, banana peppers, black olives, chopped garlic, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, mushrooms, Bell peppers in red or green, jalapenos, oregano, basil, pineapple, two kinds of onions, roasted garlic, spinach and zucchini. Finishes included BBQ sauce, arugula, pesto, olive oil and ranch dressing. Three different kinds of dough — including a gluten free variety — were available. All were house-made and fermented for 24 hours.
The oven produced a crispy texture that was also pliable enough to eat Brooklyn-style, folded in half, with charred spots adding flavor. The company’s slogan is “Intelligent Choices for Our Pizza, People & Planet.” Menus declared the caloric content of one’s choices. I learned that vegan cheese has two-and-a-half times as many calories as feta. Salads, smores and soft drinks were also available. The company is planning on having 500 stores by decade’s end. It will change the pizza business.
Pie Five is a similar chain out of Fort Worth. It has 42 outlets, including one south of DMACC in Ankeny. It offers four crusts, 28 toppings, seven finishers and seven sauces. Its pies cook in electric ovens at under 400 degrees, yet were also done in less than 5 minutes. I thought mine were really good, but that was before I visited Blaze. Good, fresh mozzarella, sundried tomato puree and crispy thin crusts stood out. I was disappointed that my Margherita pie was made with sliced tomatoes instead of red sauce and without basil. Apparently, they just ran out. Drink selections were more various than Blaze’s, and its parking lot was much easier to negotiate. All pies were $8 here, too.
Side Dishes: Cody Trostel, formerly of Des Moines, won the Snug Harbor Shark Fishing competition with a 343-pound thresher shark. He told us he spent 4.5 hours on the rod and was dragged eight miles. “Set the hook and it jumped 10 feet in the air — horizontal — all out of the water,” he said. “I literally fought the last hour with my eyes closed. It was the ultimate rush, living on the edge of adventure and the unknown.” CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.
300 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway
Sunday – Wednesday, 11 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.;
Thursday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
1315 Oralabor Drive, Ankeny, 289-0480
Daily, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.