At first, I’ll admit to skepticism. Pasta used as a pizza topping? I don’t think so. In general, I pride myself on being a pretty rigid, stringent fellow; I don’t care for mixing foodstuffs. There are distinct moments in which I pine for macaroni & cheese: usually after I’ve been game hunting, and crave something warm and comforting, taking solace in its vaguely regurgitated texture. And occasionally I’ll desire pizza; it’s not a proud dish, but it has its place (children’s birthday parties between the ages of 6 and 11, church picnics celebrating lower-level holy days, etc.). My initial inclination was that only a communist or a madman would try to combine the two disparate culinary genres into a single ungodly concoction.
But I wa s asked to complete a review article, and if there’s one thing that supersedes my rigidity, it’s my willingness to completely and unreflectively yield to authority. It’s no small wonder that a review was requested; – St. Olaf College is positively abuzz with talk of the amalgamated aliment. It is quite literally the only thing anyone has been discussing as of late. You might accuse me of hyperbole, but surely I, as a restaurant critic, am anything but a hyperbolist. Wandering through the Pause dance on Friday night, I would catch snippets of conversation:
“Have you tried the new specialty pizza?”
“I heard they only use Kraft…”
The importance of my project was clear. I would dedicate my work to the children.
My partner and I arrived at the Pause Kitchen, a little hole-in-the-wall frequented by students in the bowels of Buntrock Commons in the mid-afternoon. The design of the locale was simple, understated. Menu items were scrawled on a blackboard behind the register and preparation areas. Metal bar stools provided a vaguely “industrial-chic” vibe to the dining room, but any potential air of hipster pretension was decidedly combated by the clunky commercial soda coolers near the doors. This was a college venue. The aesthetic eclecticism provided a simple reminder: most college students are not interior designers. It was a functional, utilitarian space. Nothing less, and certainly nothing more.
Our order at the register: one mint M&M shake, one chocolate chip cookie and two slices of the lauded macaroni and cheese pizza. We received our slices and the cookie, and waited precisely two minutes twenty-nine seconds for the shake. Then we found seats at the bar stools and began the labor of analytic mastication.
The shake was delicious, a confectionary treat with a perfect chocolate-to-mint ratio. Likewise, the cookie was phenomenal: warm and saccharine, an interior baked viscosity held together by an external firmness. But even after the impressive desserts, my pessimism regarding the pizza remained. Now was the time for judgment.
Any hint of prior skepticism evaporated with the first bite, as did my composure. The synthesis of flavors was nothing short of miraculous. The carbohydrate-laden noodles collided jubilantly with the carbohydrate-laden dough on my palette. The lactose-rich cheese sauce perfectly complimented the lactose-rich pizza cheese. The tomato sauce cut through the bombasticism with a pointed fruity sweetness, a much-appreciated respite from the umami overload. It was as if my taste buds were sparkling. I feel no shame in confessing that I began to weep uncontrollably in front of my partner, the workers and the smattering of students scattered around the dining room.
My final verdict: the macaroni and cheese pizza is comestible perfection. Synthesis can be beautiful. Maybe I should rethink my stance on communism.
Location: Pause Kitchen
Dish: Macaroni & Cheese Pizza
Rating: Five golden crowns