Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Specially Selected Sweet Mustard, Kale and Bacon Frozen Pizza (Aldi)

 

Don't be put off by the ingredients...this is a tasty little pizza.

My mind sometimes works in odd ways. For example, I think most people who would see a pizza in a store's advertisement consisting of sweet mustard, bacon, potatoes, kale, and mozzarella would probably sour their nose at the idea, maybe make a gagging noise out loud, vow never to try it, and move on. I pretty much did all of those things, but with one big difference: I wanted to try it.

It honestly sounded gross to me too, but I guess I'm more of an...”optimist” (at least as far as food is concerned): Unless the combination is completely disgusting (like all of those shitty “tastes like Thanksgiving dinner” novelty items, like “turkey and stuffing” potato chips, or “mashed potatoes and gravy” soda pop), I like to approach it more from a “I don't see how this could work...but let's see if it does” kind of angle. (I guess that's not really that optimistic after all, because I'm not completely ruling out the idea it could be an abject failure, but I guess my point is I'm usually willing to at least try it.)

Coloring my opinions of this one was the “sweet mustard” leadoff: I actually had a pizza from a local pizza place (that has since closed down; RIP Bono Pizza) that had (sour) mustard instead of pizza sauce, along with capers, green and white onions, tomatoes, herbs, and for the “meat”, tuna. (It was supposedly inspired by “authentic” pizzas in the Nice region of Italy, although I can neither confirm nor deny that given my lack of geographical knowledge of anything beyond a ten-mile radius of my house). I would never have tried that at a normal place, but since we had tried several of their other eighteen specialty pizzas and had yet to be disappointed, I decided to trust them...and was blown away. It was a combination of flavors that, on paper, had no chance to succeed, and yet it was not only completely edible, but good.

Obviously, a wood-fired pizza made from obviously fresh and locally sourced ingredients is completely different from a frozen pizza mass-produced in a factory setting, but the point was, from experience I knew mustard could actually be a viable pizza “sauce”. And that helped to allay my fears, at least somewhat, as I found myself actually starting to look forward to eating this one.

Well, after three weeks of waiting (couldn't do it on a night my wife was home, because she wouldn't go near it due to the bacon), I finally got that chance. Initial impressions: It looks pretty good, with loads of toppings scattered across the top; if you didn't know any better, you'd think it was just a “normal” pizza. The crust takes up about 25% of the whole thing, which seems to be par for the course with their flatbread-style pizzas, but is kind of disappointing to see nonetheless. It looks inviting overall, and despite the extra crust, I was eager to dig in.

Wow...this pizza is absolutely bursting with flavor. The mustard, which actually comes in the form of crème fraiche, tastes like a honey mustard, and goes well with the deliciously light, crunchy crust. It's very sweet—almost shockingly so—but in the context of all the other savory toppings works better than it should. It's almost addicting, begging you to take the next bite so you can re-experience the explosion of honey mustard-ish notes that dance upon the tongue; I don't usually care for mustard all that much, something makes it even more impressive.

My only complaint is that the mustard is so flavorful on its own, that virtually everything else just kind of gets lost in the shuffle. The entire pizza works overall, but I had to specifically pick out pieces of the toppings and eat them individually to see what exactly they were bringing to the table, because there was no way to really taste them given the strength of the sweet mustard. And, in all honesty, I don't even think most of the accompanying ingredients are really all that necessary: the bacon, for example, is pretty bland on its own, serving up a slight bit of smoky flavor that I didn't really detect in a typical bite; ditto that for the potatoes which, like all unseasoned potatoes, are dry and boring when taken out of context. (I will make a case for them, however, because they do add a nice bit of softness to the overall texture.)

Another (somewhat minor) gripe I have with this flatbread-style pizza line in general, is something I alluded to earlier: the crust. Don't get me wrong, it's actually light and crispy—almost like a cracker—and has a nice, buttery flavor that doesn't need accouterments (like ranch, my pizza go-to) to be edible. However, look at the borders in this poorly-lit and underdeveloped picture: there's a good three or so inches of just crust. And as good as it is, I think I'm in the majority when I say, I want pizza. No one buys pizza for the crust—I wish they would spread the toppings out a little further to make you at least feel like you're getting more. 

Too much crust.

When all is said and done, though, this is one of the better pizzas I've had from Aldi recently, and is one that I'm virtually guaranteed to get again, at some point. It's not a flavor that most people would want all the time, but it's a nice counterpoint to the standard “pepperoni” and “cheese” pizzas of the world, and a good example of mostly non-traditional ingredients (at least for us American folk) coming together to create an unexpected symphony of flavor. It's one of the more unique-tasting ways you can spend $4 at an Aldi, that's for sure.

Overall: 8/10. Don't let the weird combination of ingredients fool you: this is one tasty, one rich pizza. The sweet mustard crème fraiche lives up to its name, with a very sweet initial blend of flavor and creamy texture that immediately lets you know what you're in for. And while I don't think all the other ingredients are necessary (all the other tastes seem to get lost in the mustard's wake), they at least help to give the pizza an inviting appearance and texture. Another minor gripe is the crust: while it's actually really crispy and better than most frozen crusts, there's simply too much of it; I'd like to see the toppings spread at least a little farther to the edges. Minor issues aside, though, this is a highly recommended pizza that I'd recommend to just about anyone looking for something different.

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