“Hey Bob! Any interest in joining the media taste test of the new pizza truck today at 1 pm?”
That was Ben. Ha! Ha!
Ben Popik’s Truck Stop on Ambergris Caye has a new food truck, called Slice of Haven. Just opened on Wednesday.
That is no misspelling. This is New Haven-style pizza, a favorite of Casa Picasso and food truck impresarios Jackie and Adam Feldman, who created the Truck Stop’s other two restaurants, Rasa (Southeast Asian/Malaysian fusion) and Arepa (Central American fare). Their favorite Connecticut pizza joint was Pepe’s, where the crust was thin and slightly charred and the toppings were so fresh you want to slap them on the cheek.
Taste of Haven pops out 12-inch pies that would make Pepe’s proud.
“The crust is charred,” emphasized Jackie as we waited at the big spool table for our first sampling, “not burned.”
That is a distinctive characteristic of New Haven-style pizza — the char. Also, the crust is thin and slightly moist, not doughy and chewy. According to Hasni Ghazali, the brilliant chef who helped the Feldmans set up all three food trucks, the dough ferments for 24 to 48 hours before it becomes pizza.
Becoming pizza is the fascinating part.
Slice of Haven has a gas-fired hand-built Forno Bravo oven from California. It gets heated up to 650-675 degrees and it takes less than three minutes to bake a pizza in it.
“The difference between a delicious lightly chard New Haven style pizza and a badly burned pizza is 15 seconds,” Hasni said. And during this tiny window of opportunity, the pizzas must be rotated every 10 seconds. Hazni says his crew can cook two pizzas at once. A seasoned New Haven pro can manage six! Yikes.
Needless to say, the pizza crew has been in deep rehearsal for the past couple of weeks getting the art of perfect pizza down exactly right. This job requires extreme focus. (I benefited from the grueling training sessions during the past week, picking up the odd slice here and there and actually buying a whole pie for Wednesday’s movie night while watching while watching “Love Actually” on the lagoon-side screen.)
So today, Ben, Adam & Jackie and Hasni were ready to introduce their Taste of Haven publicly. That meant cranking out one of each kind of pies for the gathered media elite — OK, that was me, Mary from San Pedro Sun and Laurie from the Taco Girl blog.
Taste of Haven lead with what has got to be their flagship pie, the Conch & Garlic White Pizza. That was followed rapidly — two and a half minutes, remember? — by Pepperoni, Vegetarian, Mashed Potato & Bacon White Pie, Margherita with Basil and home-made Mozzarella.
Somewhere in the mix we got an off-the-list Anchovies & Habanero pie — maybe to make sure we were paying attention — that was something else all together. And to keep the flow going, a couple of baskets of chicken wings materialized, wet wings dripping in hot sauces, Buffalo wings.
If I had more time I would organize a pairings for you of Taste of Haven pizzas with appropriate ice creams from the Cool Cone shop across the courtyard. Maybe later, after I work off this afternoon’s insanely good over-indulgence.