Author Topic: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee  (Read 5546 times)

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Offline waltertore

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2014, 09:22:13 PM »
Walter,

I am not sure if the pans are right because I don't think they are steel.  I think they are aluminum that have just been used many times.  I will see what I can do with trying to make an attempt.  I do have a steel round Blackbuster pan at market but I hate to cut it up at all because it was fairly expensive.

My dough in a pan gets fairly puffy so I will see if I can try a different formulation.

Thanks for the tips.  ;)



Norma


Norma: Roll it out real thin when the dough is proofed right, put it in the pan and sauce/top it and immediately put in the oven.  They roll aggresively but not as much pressure as a dough roller puts on the dough.  That leaves a bit of air still in the dough but not much.  I think the aluminum will be ok if you pull it out as soon as the pie stiffens up and finish on the stone.  Roll your dough real thin, thinner than your normal pie thickness.  Walter


I checked youtube for videos of star making pizza and found none.  That is amazing considering the line is out the door most days/night.  It must be that old Essex County NJ pizza vibe where you will get your arms busted off if you spy on us.  they are more mellow in south jersey :)
« Last Edit: January 21, 2014, 09:24:53 PM by waltertore »


Online norma427

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #21 on: January 21, 2014, 09:51:57 PM »

Norma: Roll it out real thin when the dough is proofed right, put it in the pan and sauce/top it and immediately put in the oven.  They roll aggresively but not as much pressure as a dough roller puts on the dough.  That leaves a bit of air still in the dough but not much.  I think the aluminum will be ok if you pull it out as soon as the pie stiffens up and finish on the stone.  Roll your dough real thin, thinner than your normal pie thickness.  Walter


I checked youtube for videos of star making pizza and found none.  That is amazing considering the line is out the door most days/night.  It must be that old Essex County NJ pizza vibe where you will get your arms busted off if you spy on us.  they are more mellow in south jersey :)

I will follow your advice Walter.  I think Adam said the pizzas are about 1/8” thick.  I don't know what that translates to in TF.

I saw two videos of Star Tavern on youtube but they don't show much of anything.

Norma
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Offline waltertore

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #22 on: January 22, 2014, 07:34:29 AM »
Norma: I think they are between that and a 1/4".  I would just roll it out real thin.  With the rolling pin you get a totally uniform thickness and because you top it all the to the edge the dough doesn't puff up like a normal pizza does.  Roll out one of your doughs and trim it to fit the pan.  Then you will know how much each dough ball should weigh.  They go average on sauce and cheese amounts.   I look forward to seeing your results.  Walter


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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #24 on: January 22, 2014, 08:17:42 AM »
Norma: I think they are between that and a 1/4".  I would just roll it out real thin.  With the rolling pin you get a totally uniform thickness and because you top it all the to the edge the dough doesn't puff up like a normal pizza does.  Roll out one of your doughs and trim it to fit the pan.  Then you will know how much each dough ball should weigh.  They go average on sauce and cheese amounts.   I look forward to seeing your results.  Walter

Water,

From doing experiments on cracker style and then the Delorenzo's crusts I found it matters how much dough is used.  That is where the TF comes into place.  When my TF's were off so was the whole texture of the bottom crusts.  Did you find when trying your dough for a Star Tavern clone that same thing happened?   I asked Adam, but I want to ask you to how you would describe a real slice of Star Tavern when eating it.  Does the slice fold or is it rigid?  I also wanted to ask you if you remember what kind of ovens Star Tavern uses.

Thanks for the tips about the sauce and cheese.

Norma
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Offline waltertore

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #25 on: January 22, 2014, 08:34:34 AM »
Water,

From doing experiments on cracker style and then the Delorenzo's crusts I found it matters how much dough is used.  That is where the TF comes into place.  When my TF's were off so was the whole texture of the bottom crusts.  Did you find when trying your dough for a Star Tavern clone that same thing happened?   I asked Adam, but I want to ask you to how you would describe a real slice of Star Tavern when eating it.  Does the slice fold or is it rigid?  I also wanted to ask you if you remember what kind of ovens Star Tavern uses.

Thanks for the tips about the sauce and cheese.

Norma

My dough comes out much like stars by just rolling it thin and even.  The texture is foldable and the oil on the pan lets that happen.  The dough is chewy, denser than a ny style.  They ran blodgett 1000's and blodgettt 1048's from what I remember and it looks the same in the pictures I posted.  I am pretty sure the decks are steel in the  ovens.  I have eaten countless slices and the norm is not burned on the bottom.  When it gets charred too much it gets a bit crunchy.   Walter
« Last Edit: January 22, 2014, 08:37:52 AM by waltertore »

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #26 on: January 22, 2014, 08:48:00 AM »
My dough comes out much like stars by just rolling it thin and even.  The texture is foldable and the oil on the pan lets that happen.  The dough is chewy, denser than a ny style.  They ran blodgett 1000's and blodgettt 1048's from what I remember and it looks the same in the pictures I posted.  I am pretty sure the decks are steel in the  ovens.  I have eaten countless slices and the norm is not burned on the bottom.  When it gets charred too much it gets a bit crunchy.   Walter


Walter,

Thanks for telling me you dough come out much like Star's by just rolling it thin and even.  Thanks also for the texture. 

I see Peter took a stab at converting the Star Tavern dough recipe to baker's percent at Reply 3 http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,12769.msg123378.html#msg123378   If I attempt a Star Tavern pizza I will start there because it does give a dough ball weight and corresponding TF for a 14” pizza, but don't know if I can find semolina.  I think there is a debate over if semolina is added.

Norma
« Last Edit: January 22, 2014, 01:42:54 PM by norma427 »
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Offline akuban

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #27 on: January 22, 2014, 01:20:18 PM »
Oh, hey. I wish I were on here more often and would see this stuff AS IT CAME UP. GARGH. Anyway ... I haven't been looking to EXACTLY clone Star. It's just been one point of inspiration as I develop my bar pie recipe. The other big inspiration point has been Colony Grill. But, yeah, Star's crust is what I was originally shooting for when I started bar-pie-ing.

I'm sorry to self-link here, but at the bottom of this post is an embedded Google spreadsheet where I keep most of my notes from bar-pie testing: http://www.famousoriginala.com/bar-pizza-no-5/

Or, here, for ease of use: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AkBVGPxLbvzxdGI1WFNsSmdUZTJ5LWp3bUlZVmZnOXc&usp=sharing

(You'll see that I've tried various ratios of semolina-AP flour, from the RVAfoodie.com recipe's very high semolina percentage to 100% AP flour. IT's a bit confusing because I have 2 tabs on that spreadsheet. One is where it's just BAR PIES. The other is where I became inspired by the DKM Thin Crust recipe and then started a tab to record that. UNFORTUNATELY, I then went back to the RVAfoodie.com recipe variations abut kept recording them in the "Thin Crust" tab.)

ANYWAY ... For both the bar pies I love (Star and Colony), the thing they have in common is that they start in an oiled pan and are turned out onto the oven floor at some point. ChicagoBob mentions that 3 minutes in oiled pan is probably not enough to give it any kind of frying/burnishing effect, and he's right. In my Slice review, I think I've mistakenly mentioned that the crust gets sort of fried, but I no longer think that that is the case. The cheese near the rim does, but any greasiness of the crust must be from the cheese dripping down onto the serving pan.

I've only had Star on three occasions. On two, the pizzas we got were pretty crisp but could still be folded. The last time I went, it was pretty flaccid and not crisp at all and I was a bit disappointed. BUT, it's hard to base things on just three visits and 9 pies or so. Whatever Walter's saying about the nature is way more reliable intel, I'd think.

AT BEST in my home trials, I think the pizza I linked to here was the one that came out near the best. The one pictured on that post on Famous Original A (No. 5) was made on an ALUMINUM pan set on a 1/2" thick steel that was preheated for a good 45 minutes in 550°F oven. Aluminum has given me the cheese effect I like ("crispies" as I think ChicagoBob calls the browned cheese spots, and even the lattice effect as seen on Colony Grill pies). But I noticed that Colony seems to cook in stacking steel pans (per a video I found on YouTube), so I bought some of those to try and have been cooking in those since.

When I started out down this path, I was cooking the first 10 or so on aluminum pans. FOR THOSE, I would wait to transfer it to the steel just long enough that the pizza "set up" and could be flicked off — much like they do at Star. That usually took 3 or 4 minutes.

Now that I'm using steel pans (12" Allied Metal Spinning stacking steel Blackbuster pans), it takes 8 minutes or so before I can move the pizza from pan to steel because it has to set up much more in order to get a peel in there. If it's too soft, it just makes a big mess and you end up with scrambled pizza.

BUT, this is not altogether bad, because I've found that the pizza bottom can burn very quickly and easily once it's out on the steel. It would be interesting to watch them at Star and see what the pan-to-hearth ratio is. I'm thinking that might be ... if not a crucial factor, at least a big one. SOMEONE MUCH MORE KNOWLEDGEABLE tHAN ME should weigh in -- I always thought the turning out was less about actual cooking than it was about just giving it a last-minute bump in crispness.

RIGHT NOW AT HOME, I do about 8 minutes in pan (550°F on my 1/4" thick steel) before it's set enough to transfer. At that point, I put it on the steel for about 2 minutes more. Anything past that, and it burns.

ANYWAY. That's where I am for a STAR-LIKE pizza. Not an exact clone, but a Star-inspired pie.

A COUPLE MONTHS AGO,  I started thinking about some of the other pizza crusts I really enjoy, and that's what led me to the DKM Thin Crust thread here. I started playing with that in hopes of getting that great cracker crust effect. I'm still not 100% satisfied with my attempts at DKM Thin Crust, but I think I know what I'm doing wrong there (not thin enough) and just need to practice a little bit.

In the meantime, I attended Johnny W's pizza pop-in at Lo Duca and something he said there really resonated with me. And that was about the amount of olive oil used in the pans for pan pizzas. Namely, it sounded like he used a buttload of it. So I tried doing the same myself with a basic grandma sheet pizza a couple Sundays ago. I knew that John did a long proof in the pan, so I did similar. (This is something we do in the prep kitchen at Paulie Gee's—just take a couple old doughs, oil the crap out of a sheet pan, and throw the doughs in there and let them proof in a ton of oil.) When I cooked this pizza, it had a GREAT burnished bottom, crisp and chewy and fried. If I would have gottne this pizza at a pizzeria, I would have been very happy. And this was all by accident -- well, that and more oil than I normally would have used, thanks to Johhny's remark.

ANYWAY, so what I'm thinking of trying now is a very thin crust pizza (like cracker-crust TF) proofed in a pan with A LOT of oil. Just to see where that takes me. It probably won't work, but that's what one of my next experiments will be.

IN SUMMATION, I have no frickin' idea what I want!!! Well, I kind of do, in my imagination, but it may be that some of the qualities I want are mutually exclusive. 

Sorry for the long response. This is a lot of stuff I've had on my mind the last year or so. I really wish I had, like, 2 to 4 weeks of test-kitchen time.

Lastly, this is how my bar pies have evolved over the course of nearly a year (newest at top): http://www.flickr.com/photos/slice/sets/72157633300473291

BLAH BLAH BLAH. Sorry for the length!
« Last Edit: January 22, 2014, 01:24:45 PM by akuban »
¡Hasta la pizza!

Offline akuban

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #28 on: January 22, 2014, 01:21:54 PM »
Also, thank, Tommy, for linking to that Slice review. I was about to do that, because HEY! Those pics looked familiar! ;)
¡Hasta la pizza!

Offline Chicago Bob

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #29 on: January 22, 2014, 01:48:12 PM »
Adam, I have played around with adding semolina to the bar pie dough. Don't hold me to this...I just noticed you mention DKM...I think I was inspired by member BTB...(a progression from his semolina DD dough)you may want to look in his direction(sorry no links @ this time).

Also, do you own a Black Stone(yet ;D)....I'm not so sure steel is going to take you to Happy Town on this style dealio here. I recently did a Vito & Nicks on the BS, low temp. I'll go back over my notes and post from that and get back info for you here if you would like, I believe I know how some oil could be added to it to "fry 'er up".  :chef:

Bob
« Last Edit: January 22, 2014, 01:50:26 PM by Chicago Bob »
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Offline akuban

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #30 on: January 22, 2014, 02:08:35 PM »
Bob: I've been thinking about getting a Black Stone. The only hitch — I live in an apartment with no patio/balcony (which can be surmounted — rooftop Blackstone, anyone?), but more crucial is the lack of space to store it. My wife would KILL ME if I were just like, "Hey, this thing is going to sit in the living room corner when not in use." BUT ... I do have a friend in the neighborhood who I MIGHT be able to "loan" it to ... heh heh.

Anyway, yeah. The thing that I suspect is holding me back is the lack of heat. I'm *guessing* that temperatures in the 600°F's would improve things. Is that the range you were running the Black Stone in. I'm guessing that's what you mean by "low temp" on a Black Stone. I might be able to get access to high-temp ovens (a pizzeria owner I know said I could try cooking in his on his closed-for-business day), but before I do that, I want to try the "fry 'er up" thing to see if that's a direction I'd want to go in. I want to get as close as possible to what I'd do in actual production (anticipating doing a pop-up) before I take advantage of testing in this guy's oven.
¡Hasta la pizza!

Offline Chicago Bob

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #31 on: January 22, 2014, 02:29:57 PM »
Yes, lower six hundies is what I have in mind to find the truth..... 8)
Did my VN around 620 and she got pretty fast on me...sure liked the way that heat whipped the sauce taste into a better realm.

I have a dough going for this fry your mother down technique, might let it go 24 more and then maybe I have a tip or two for you to carry to your friends hot shot set-up. I'm thinking of a combo deal with cutter pan and then final finish on stone....BS oven. Unorthodox, but maybe it will help/add another thought to obtaining the profile you are after and can then be adapted to whatever oven you eventually going to be working with...ya never know. I wonder what hydration Star works with...

Maybe I'll get a dough going with some semolina in it after I see how current one acts.  :chef:

Bob
« Last Edit: January 22, 2014, 03:29:07 PM by Chicago Bob »
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Offline waltertore

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #32 on: January 22, 2014, 03:15:10 PM »
Adam your photos in the home made file look great!   Are you going to be doing them in the WFO in Portland?  I think whatever pie you come up with will be a winner. 



You guys are way more on the Star makeup than me.  I wish I had more info to share but my brain doesn't analyze things.  It tastes and digests :)  My friend Joe that worked at star said they cooked at 550.  The best pies I have had there were real crispy/carmelized on the edges, not charred on the bottom and foldable.  I think it is great to take a pie that inpires you and mutate it to your own distinct taste.  I would be proud if someone ever did that to my pies!   I look forward to seeing results/pictures. 


IMO too many people box themselves into a rut in life with whatever they do. Our society pressures us into being able to reproduce the same things over and over.  To me that is boring as all heck.   I try to keep rules out of the equation and simply create.  I don't mean just throw stuff together randomly but let ingredients guide you.  The more skilled we become at anything the more intuitive things get and that is where the fun lies.  The problem is it takes years to get to that point and todays world is one of I want it all right now.   Personally I hope my pies never stagnate into it always being the same.  When one decides to hire others to make their product then this has to happen.  that is why I will always be a small time operator.  If people dig your stuff they will keep coming as it mutates this way and that. When people say to me- hey the pizza looks different today or it isn't perfectly round, I respond, if that is what you are seeking go to pizza hut because here things are always in transition on some or more levels.....   In music I saw world famous guys locked into such tight boxes.  they were defined by their hit songs/image and if they wanted to earn a living they had to keep repeating songs they did 30-50 years ago.  Many felt so trapped in stagnation they went to drugs to feel free.  Most have died or gone mental, from it.  I don't put any rules on my musical creativety, my food, or my life.  As soon as can and can't are set in stone life gets pretty boring.   We all will eventually develop our style so to speak and then it is just small little things that tweak it this way and that. Most people will never detect it but the creator does and that is all that matters.  I love letting my senses guide me with food.  It is wonderfully dreamy, not in stone, venture. Walter

PS:  I have learned alot on this forum from the many experiments you all have done.  Thanks and it is helping me incorporate the more scientific side into my cooking.  Balance is the key to life!

« Last Edit: January 22, 2014, 04:30:37 PM by waltertore »

Offline akuban

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #33 on: January 23, 2014, 11:15:59 AM »
Walter: The bar pies I've been developing are a completely different thing. It's something I started working on a couple months before I talked to Paulie about the Portland location. I told myself that I was going to do a pop-up pizzeria in NYC with my bar pies, and I would like to accomplish that before I leave for PGPDX. In any case, IF I can do them in a WFO, I *might* do a bar pie night at PGPDX. But that's down the road. I'd want to get up and running first before I deviated too much from the PGee's playbook. (Paulie is fine with me doing a bar pie there, but I want to get on even ground before I'd add in another layer of complexity.) ANYWAY, that's even assuming that a WFO can handle bar pies. I'm sure it can, with some tweaking, but it's not an ideal cooking option for these pies. I'd want to use a high-heat deck oven -- something like what David Sheridan has at Wheated (Moretti Forni) or the folks at Williamsburg Pizza have (Veroforno) or a Cuppone.

I'm like you with the way you work. Or at least I HAD been for a long time. Just sort of go by feel, what works works, what does'nt doesn't, and the successful techniques stay. That was fine for me for a reasonably good New York–inspired home pie. But when I got my crazy vision of bar pizza, I started keeping notes and really observing my results and iterating on them. I've said it before, but THAT is when I really began to understand the mindset of the folks on Pizzamaking. Before then, I admit I had some tension with ... if not anyone in particular ... then the Pizzamaking.com mindset in general. But once I started questing for bar pizza, I TOTALLY GOT IT. I'm still somewhere in the middle between feel-it-out and CAREFUL ANALYSIS. I take notes, but I'm not always rigorous about it. I iterate on previous attempts, but sometimes I try two different new techniques at once when I really should change only ONE variable. So I'm still a little fly-by-pants-seat but am more analytical now. It has been a long journey in many ways.
¡Hasta la pizza!

Offline akuban

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #34 on: January 23, 2014, 11:49:20 AM »
This is the pizza I made last night. Crust is a laminated dough. 100% AP flour (it's what I could get at the corner store in the snow), minimal yeast, tiny bit of sugar, some oil, 3% salt. Once it bulk rose in fridge for a couple days, I rolled it out thin, oiled it, folded it over, and repeated for a total of 5 folds. That yielded a somewhat flakey, almost shortened and soft bite.

I then folded that into a small square and let it have a bench rest. It rested a couple hours in a container. The one wild variable is my rising/resting times. When you have an 18-month-old, some things are beyond your control ;)

Rolled out very thin for this one. 1/16" to 1/8" (I didn't measure. It was as thin as I could get it.) Used an 18" serving pan as a template to trim around for a 12" straight-sided steel pan (assuming the dough would pull back and shrink up once I cut out the circle—it did). I put it in the pan, but it was WAY too big. I ended up trimming a bit with a paring knife, but then THAT caused it to shrink even more. (Clearly I need to figure out a process for rolling and trimming so that it fits in the pan snugly.)

ANYWAY, the thinness and the oil gave me a crisp crust that was at once tender and a bit flaky. I got _some_ separation of layers the way a cracker crust would, but not as much as what you'll see in those DKM/thin-crust threads or the Aimless Ryan cracker crust thread. (By the way, Ryan if you're reading this: I read your method for laminating on your Shakey's/Tommi's thread, and it is MUCH better/easier-seeming than what I'm doing. I may try to incorporate it if I go down the laminated route.)

Baked this on a 1/4" baking steel for 10 minutes in pan. Tried to turn it out for a 1-minute cook directly on the steel. The crust wasn't rigid enough for this, and I ended up smushing the edges a bit. I was initially upset, thought that it was ruined, but I have to say, this is closest to my mirage bar pie as I've gotten.

I didn't get the Colony Grill lattice/pockmarking that I've coveted, but ... I'm not sure if I need it. I was really happy with the texture/meltiness and flavor.

ANYWAY. Thanks for listening to me ramble. I have a lot of thoughts on this, since I have been toying around in the dark for almost a year, and it's nice to be among people who don't mind hearing it. (My wife is sick of hearing this stuff and frankly doesn't necessarily understand it.)
¡Hasta la pizza!

Offline waltertore

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #35 on: January 23, 2014, 02:23:41 PM »
Adam:  That is a pie that I have no idea how it would taste-never seen anything like it.  When I worked in bakeries we  had sheeters to do the crosaints with lots of butter in the dough.  I will have to taste that pie someday.  I think I will always be a tinker like guy but this forum has definetely got me measuring more accurately- I just bought a $47 Ohaus pocket scale to figure out what my measuring spoon amounts actually wiegh ;D  The old days of same day dough made things pretty easy on the brain.  This cold ferment process makes one have to adjust yeast amounts all the time for the amount of cold rise.  I enjoy the odessy.  Even when my dough is blown out it still tastes good.  It just has to be handled gently and not hand tossed.  I tell people when the dough is not right and all  have come back and said it tasted great.  I guess we all look at our pies much more critically than most customers do.  The cold ferment sure adds flavor and that is something I dig big time and will never go back to same day dough.  In my youth when I was around the pizza scene it was same day dough, 2x a day.   Walter   
« Last Edit: January 23, 2014, 02:27:20 PM by waltertore »

Offline startavern

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #36 on: January 23, 2014, 05:05:19 PM »
Walter, thanks for posting. If you could forward this to Joe that would be great. Gary says hey Joe. He has good memories of working with him, he was a hard worker and a great kid and hopes he is doing well... but if he keeps giving out secrets Gary is going to have to go out to Arizona looking for him! Jersey style ; )
« Last Edit: January 23, 2014, 05:15:47 PM by startavern »

Offline wahoo88

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #37 on: January 23, 2014, 05:19:25 PM »
What is the consensus as to the cause of the mottled cheese look on all these bar pies, minus Adam's latest attempt?  High-oil cheese? Conductive heat from the bottom not forming a skin on the cheese as radiation and convection from above would?

Adam, if Norma gets into the bar pie style, things will get crazy, fast.  She would certainly get you some hard data to mull over.

Dan

Offline waltertore

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #38 on: January 23, 2014, 05:22:35 PM »
Walter, if you could forward this to Joe that would be great. Gary says hey Joe. He has good memories of working with him, he was a hard worker and a great kid and hopes he is doing well... but if he keeps giving out secrets Gary is going to have to go out to Arizona looking for him! Jersey style ; )

Gary:  I will forward the message.  I watched Joe grow up with my youngest brother and taught them how to play music- he is 11 years younger than me.  They went on to put a band together and did quite well- got signed to MCA records.   Joe  is doing great and living in AZ.  His whole family moved out there after they sold Bunny's.  He has 3 boys(1 in college, 1 in dental school, and one graduating high school this year), wife, and his own finance company.  Fortunately he can't remember any serious secrets :)   I spent a lot of money at your place in the 70's-80's.   Your process always fascinated me and I watched many hours as you made your pies.  To me, you guys make the best pie in NJ.  When I go back home to visit, Star, town hall for a sloppy joe, and Cafe Sport are my first stops.   I always wanted to work at star but it never happened.  I ended up at Town Hall Deli.  Gary are you the owner of star?  I would love to say hi next time I am back home.   I wear your shirt and hat a lot and it gets many comments out here in OH(see hat in picture below).  I run a unique bakery/pizzeria that you can see at the link below.  My pie is nothing like yours.  I much rather eat yours than try to copy it!  You gotta love Jersey!  Walter
« Last Edit: January 23, 2014, 05:25:39 PM by waltertore »

Offline startavern

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Re: Star Tavern NJ memories from former employee
« Reply #39 on: January 23, 2014, 11:15:34 PM »
Walter, check your PM...