Pizza-maker rescues parade from proceeding ponderously

Despite the crowds lining Sherman Avenue with their rows of disposable nylon chairs and regrettable American flag Kmart fashions, we managed to find a killer vantage point for watching the annual Coeur d’Alene Fourth of July parade.

My homegirl and I were both equally cynical about the excitement value of the parade, but neither of us had bothered with it for as long as we could remember, so we decided the night before the big event to meet downtown the next morning at 10:30. We’d been hanging out on the corner of Sixth and Sherman for quite a while, looking at our watches impatiently and waiting for the first police car to signal the start of the extravaganza.

Happily, just as our feet and legs were beginning to throb from standing in one place for too long, we realized that we could trek right up the front stairs to the entryway of the Great Floors building behind us and enjoy not only a seat and an excellent view, but a private space where we could make catty fun of everything without getting dirty looks from the uptight citizens brigade.

Actually, despite a few dull patches and the less-than-ideal weather conditions, we ended up almost enjoying the thing. Highlights included the eternal and eclectic Perfection-Nots marching band, the ever-fashionable Mayor Sandi Bloem dabbling deep in motorcycle chic, and the Deer Park city float, which hosted three pageant queens in polyester disco outfits performing an impressively synchronized, Supremes-on-crack dance routine.

Our semi-bliss was completely harshed at one point by the Tea Party entry, surely the most ominous entry in the parade. It encompassed a gaggle of folks riding atop a massive, rumbling earth-moving machine, trite slogans megaphoned at full volume, the honking horns of hell and the blaring warble of distorted country music. It wiped out every other possible sound wave within a two-block radius and caused my poor friend to go wide-eyed with fright and whisper to me “hold me close.”

As soon as we recovered from the trauma, we realized how famished we were and fortunately we happened to be right across the street from the new-ish downtown Sunday farmers market. My friend jumped up suddenly: “I need a break anyway, be right back.”

I hadn’t a clue what kind of parade-worthy snack she’d bring back from the farmers market and was half expecting to nibble on a bundle of beets, so I was delighted when she reappeared with two paper plates piled with aromatic Neapolitan-style pizza.

I’d been intrigued by the sight of Seth Carey working his pizza peel in Veraci’s travelling wood-fire clay oven at the Wednesday downtown market a couple of times, but I’m usually a man on a mission (for another vendor’s amazing pesto-parmesan rolls) and hadn’t bothered to stop, so I was quite ready to give it a try.

Veraci’s single portions are actually an entire quarter pizza, so my parade pal had them split up two slices so we could both sample each variety. Authentic Neapolitan pizza is typically made with simply tomatoes and mozzarella cheese and a subtle amount of toppings. They cook in a flash, baked for a mere 60–90 seconds deep inside an 800-degree stone oven. Carey uses locally harvested apple wood to do the job and brings to the area an expansion of Seattle’s successful Veraci restaurant.

My friend’s first pick, Veraci’s Earth Pie, sprinkles sliced mushrooms, spinach, diced tomatoes, and feta cheese atop a sweet, chewy crust with a delicately crispy edge to rapturous effect. Our other slice was topped with asparagus spears, melted splotches of tangy goat cheese and thin slices of salty prosciutto.

Prosciutto is one of my favorite meat products, not only because of its rarity and rich flavor, but also due to Food Network hostess Giada De Laurentiis’ amusing tendency to wildly overpronounce the word.

Both massive slices were $4 each, quite a bargain considering the uniqueness and pure deliciousness of the pizza, not to mention the fact that the slices were larger than our heads.

Finishing the last bite, we leaned back on the Great Floors porch, so lost in food nirvana we were able to ride out the last stretch of the parade with a renewed positive outlook and a contentedly full belly.

Veraci may or may not appear on a regular basis at the Sunday market but can definitely be found at Kootenai County Farmers Market (Fifth Street and Sherman) on Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. and Liberty Lake Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Contact correspondent Patrick Jacobs by e-mail at orangetv@yahoo.com. Previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/columnists. For more restaurant and nightlife reviews, music commentary and random thoughts and photos, visit his blog at getoutnorthidaho.com.

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