It's a pizza lover's dream come true. A convention center full of every cheese imaginable along with pepperoni, sausage and hundreds of ovens manned by pizzaiolos in chefs' whites turning out pies with blistered crust. And there's craft beer to wash it all down.
More than 10,000 pizza enthusiasts, pizza buyers, pizza restaurant owners, pizza makers and more turned out this week for the 31st annual International Pizza Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Attendees sampled doughs, sauces, toppings, chicken wings and even new soft-drink machines. And if you needed a break from eating, you could watch one of the expo's many competitions, including dough tossing, dough stretching and pizza-box assembling.
With our stretchy pants on, we braved the venue. Here are some highlights:
Whiskey salami pizza topping: Creminelli Fine Meats in Salt Lake City is making a salami with High West Distillery's Son of Bourye whiskey. Cristiano Creminelli starts with coarsely chopped sirloin and belly cuts, then adds sea salt and Son of Bourye, lactic acid starter culture and sugar. The meat is stuffed into natural beef casing, hand-tied with organic hemp twine and aged for four to six weeks. The result is a salami with a soft, velvety texture and a smooth, honeyed flavor with a hint of chile. It would work well on a pizza made with Stilton blue cheese or maybe an aged cheddar. Or you could just slice it and eat it with some whiskey, neat. www.creminelli.com/.
Pizza Corvette: It's not edible, but the most popular photo opportunity at the expo was a pizza Corvette completely covered in pepperoni pizza decals. Its owner, Dan Collier of Ventura County restaurant chain PizzaMan Dan's, was also easy to spot. He was the guy wearing Chucks printed with a pepperoni pizza pattern. www.pizzamandans.com/.
Pizza cones: We eat ice cream in a cone, so why not pizza? A company called PCI Frozen Foods Inc. is making pizza dough in the shape of a cone. The cones are sold par-baked and meant to be filled with the toppings of your choice before going into the oven. The company sells special oven racks designed to keep the cones upright while baking. The cones also come in a mini size. www.pcifrozenfoods.com/.
Sriracha sausage: Burke, a meat purveyor in Iowa, has joined the Sriracha craze with its Sriracha sausage. It's a cooked pork sausage seasoned with vinegar powder, sugar, salt, garlic powder, paprika, honey and brown sugar. At the expo, pizza topped with the sausage tasted like a sausage-topped pizza with a couple of squirts of Sriracha. Serious chile heads will still want to douse their pie in hot sauce. www.meat.burkecorp.com/sriracha.
Pizza panko: Most of us think of panko as the Japanese bread crumbs used to make tempura and an ultra-crisp macaroni and cheese topping. In the pizza world, it's used to create a crisp crust. Newly Weds Foods has been making its pizza panko since 1977. The bread crumbs are designed to absorb moisture and help keep the dough from sticking, resulting in a crust with an added crunch on the bottom. www.newlywedsfoods.com.