New this & that for TJ’s Woodfire Pizza—excellently good this & that

After too long a respite, it was great to revisit TJ’s Woodfire Pizza at last Sunday’s Great Park Farmers Market. Owners Tim and Tina Gonzales, subjects of a Snapshot feature in the current issue of Orange Coast—with a gorgeous photo, plus a little copy from me—were cheerfully slamming out a steady stream of pizzas. 

While eating our Margherita and the day’s special all-veg (molto bene), we were reminded again of the lovely community aspect of the food-truck phenomenon when we saw Tim delivering a fresh pizza to the front window of a neighboring truck. Nice! We tried TJ’s salad, in just its second week on the menu—so good—if, like my husband and me, you really like Gorgonzola, a bold flavor in the deliciously piquant dressing. Also striking: Dry, crispy, cold lettuce, and RIPE, flavorful, halved cherry tomatoes. Floppy, wet lettuce is a major bugaboo and depressingly common in many restaurants. And who doesn’t consider pale, plasticky, unspearable-by-a-fork cherry tomatoes anything but garnish and not worth the time?

The pizza dough, which is always very good, was especially wheaty and crunchy and chewy on Sunday, taking on a fabulous overall char. When I said so, Tim replied that it had a little more age, just the way he likes it. (Neapolitan pizza dough rises very slowly, under refrigeration, for a day or two—sometimes more.) At next Sunday’s market (June 12), TJ’s special topping will be the New Mexico green chili Tim foreshadowed in my February ToOC post about their first day on the Great Park tarmac. I’m looking forward to it.

A new development for Tim and Tina is their switch to Carmelina Brands tomatoes. Carmelina has been my canned tomato of choice since discovering it a couple of years ago, gladly (and immediately) ending my long search for canned tomatoes with NO JUNK. Most domestic brands, and even expensive, imported San Marzanos, have citric acid or calcium chloride or both. These chemicals are legally acceptable under the “all natural” rubric, but, aside from my why-use-additives-if-you-don’t-have-to credo, I think they adversely affect flavor.

On top of all that, Carmelina just happens to be headquartered in Orange County. I’ll have more on the company, and its products, in an upcoming ToOC.

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