Sorry to keep you in suspense for so long but things have been hectic around here lately. I will have to go back and catch up on all the posts I've missed.
I wasn't able to obtain as much intelligence from my MM visit as I had hoped, but I did gain perhaps some insight.
Let's see how to start....
First I guess I'll point out that I hoped to chat with one or more of the employees behind the counter assembling the pies. Unfortunately, I was not able to engage any of them. Similar to what Peter noted in his Jacksonville report, the prep area at this location was not really approachable. There was just enough distance between me and the kitchen that it was too far to really have a conversation. I was able to see a decent bit, however, and I'll report on that:
1. Oven: The MM that I visited was using a "Montague Hearth Bake" deck oven (or maybe it was 2 of them). I couldn't see the temperature as there was no digital thermostat. There was an upper deck and a lower deck, both quite wide, probably 6-8 feet.
2. Dough prep: I was a little confused at first because before I saw the oven doors opened, I noticed lots of pizza screens around, and skins being carried about on screens. Once I realized they were using a deck oven, I presumed that they must be pre-forming the skins on screens. I'm not sure this is correct. . .I have extremely limited knowledge of kitchen operation.
I definitely saw employees forming skins by hand, mostly stretching them with their fists. I did see some twirling and tossing, but mostly just stretching. The dough was extremely "tolerant". .. that is, they were stretching the tar out of that dough! I mean really working it over. It struck me at the time that the dough must be rather dry for this to be possible. The word "tough" kept coming to mind as I watched them pull the skins to the limits.
One of the more important things I noticed is that no one seemed to be forming rims on the skins. Immediately after stretching/twirling, the skins were laid down and dressed. I couldn't actually see the skins because of the counter, but I did not see any motions that resembled the forming of a rim. I thought this was very interesting, but see my comments below on the finished product.
3. Sauce: I noticed the sauce was kept in a heated pot thingy. This may be standard practice but it struck me as a little peculiar. I tried to look for "spoodle" usage but the only such implement that I saw was a regular ol' stainless steel ladle. I saw one person dress a skin using this ladle in the standard method.
4. Dough color: I was not able to get a very close look at the uncooked dough, but from what I could see, the color was very similar to my first 2 MM clone attempts. Of course, if they were side-by-side they might appear more dissimilar. I definitely was not close enough to look for germ flecks.
That's about all I could tell from loitering around the kitchen. I looked pretty silly just standing there staring! A couple folks asked if I needed anything. So at least they had attentive employees! On the other hand, the guys making the pizzas met my eyes a few times but just returned stony expressions - not particularly friendly fellows.
So we ordered 2 pies. Two 10'' pizzas - one "mega veggie" with no cheese and one half cheese-half hawaiian.
As we have already established, it's standard practice for them to butter and parm the crust, so in true vegan form we requested no butter or parm on our veggie pizza.
I also requested a cup of the pizza sauce for dipping, and so that I could bring it home for possible cloning.
At least 15 minutes later (though I didn't time it) the pies came out. Here are my observations of the pies:
1) Rim - I was very surprised that the rim was barely any more pronounced than my most recent MM attempt which I deemed a failure. I was expecting a big rim but this was definitely not a big rim. This is not what I remembered from my previous MM visits, but it has been a while.
I observed other customer's pizzas on their tables and none of them had what I consider to be a pronounced rim. For example, nothing like Norma's pie in the previous posts. I will say that the larger 14'' pies I saw seemed to almost inherently have a slightly bigger rim than our 10''s
2) Color - the crust and crumb was also not quite what I remembered. It was not as yellowy-golden as I recall. I did not see any germ in the crumb or otherwise.
3) Texture - I was also quite disappointed in the texture of the crust. The rim crust was fairly "done" on the outside. The crumb was pretty soft and somewhat squishy, but there was so little crumb to speak of that the overall texture of the rim crust was again not all that far off from my "overbaked and under-sprung" attempt from last week. This pie was definitely not as overbaked as mine, but it was nowhere near as chewy as I remember from the past.
The bottom of the pie was pretty crispy too. .see next point.
4) Thickness - in the past we ALWAYS had to eat our MM pizzas with a fork because the crust was so thin. One thing to note is that in the past we also ALWAYS got the House Special, but anyway - our Veggie pie last nightseemed to me to be pretty thick. A fork was definitely not required to eat it.
5) Crust flavor - in general, again the flavor of the crust was not as striking and unique as I remembered. Aside from that, definitely the most noticeable feature was the sweetness. In fact, that's about all I could take from it. I felt like I could sense the molasses (which also by the way seemed inherently linked to the outer crunch of the crust). I'm not saying the germ did not contribute to the flavor profile, but I did not detect any particular "nuttiness" from the germ. Again, the main characteristic was the sweetness. Not to say that it was like eating a cinnamon roll, but definitely sweet.
As noted above, our veggie pizza was ordered without butter and parm. But the kids' pizza was prepared with the normal butter and parm. For the sake of science, I took one taste of the kids' crust.
I did not actually detect any Garlic, though it's been postulated that it's garlic butter used. The server just called it "butter" but not sure how much that's worth. I did not taste any garlic, unless it was so minute that I missed it.
6) Sauce - the first thing I tasted when the food came out was the sauce from the cup I requested. Initially I seemed to sense a fennel type of taste which is odd because there was no fennel. As I continued to taste the sauce, I came to hone in on just the simple, slightly tangy tomato-ness of it (as Peter had reported). It was not overly sweet. It had a fair amount of salt, I'd wager, but not "salty." I think there's a good deal of black pepper and I also think some olive oil, due to the heavy mouthfeel. I did seem to find a few specks of basil or oregano, but there was not a discernible herby flavor. Pretty good sauce.
Well, that's about it as far as the pizza itself. As you can probably tell, I was pretty disappointed. Overall it was not nearly the awesome pizza I remember from many previous (though none very recent) visits. I wonder if some of it was due to the 10'' size - maybe they don't make as many of these and we just got badly made pies.
1) Based on Peter's wish that he could learn the oil used in the MM dough, I decided to ask the waitress, who was very attentive. She gave me a very odd look but went to the kitchen to ask. She came back and reported that. . . lo and behold. . .. it's "Soybean Oil."
2) I attempted to purchase a dough ball but when I asked the server, she said they didn't sell them. I told her that I called the store a month or 2 ago (as recorded in an earlier post of mine in this thread) and was advised they DO sell the balls. So she went to ask. She came back and said they cannot sell them due to health code concerns. I figured I'd worn out my welcome at this point. We paid the bill and left.
UPON RETURNING HOME
We took one full piece of the veggie pie home, and it so happened that we also had a leftover piece from Sunday night's "failed" MM Clone attempt.
So I compared. Suprisingly the rims were very similar, as noted above. The crumb structure was nearly identical. The color of the crumb was also practically identical. The flavor, however, was not quite the same, but I believe there are at least a couple reasons. One is that my pie was definitely overbaked, no question. It had that overbaked taste to it, whereas the MM pie did not. Secondly, the MM slice was less than 24 hours old at the time of comparison, and my slice was about 72 hours old.
SUMMARY - KEY POINTS
I was not impressed with the pizza on this particular visit. They are using Soybean Oil, apparently. This location did not seem to be forming rims on the skins and it showed in the finished product. The predominant flavor characteristic of the crust is simply sweetness. The butter used on the rim did not seem to be garlic butter.
I really think our formulas are very close. In my case, I think if I can just improve my methods slightly, I will basically be there, with either my initial guesstimate formula or Peter's 24-hour formula. I think the use of Soybean Oil (I did not have any on hand in my 2 tests) will help. I'm eager to try my ground germ too. I'm not sure if I'll form a rim on the skin or not in my next attempt, but if I can get the bake time right, I think I for one will be satisfied.
I am posting a pic of the actual MM crust profile and of the bottom of the pie. The rim actually appears somewhat "high" in the picture but believe me, it wasn't. Sorry I didn't get better pics.
Talk to you tomorrow!