When a woman is described as Rubenesque, it means that she’s zaftig, curvaceous, pleasingly plump, like the mature females in the paintings of Peter Paul Rubens. But when a new pizza creation is dubbed the Reubenesque, that means that it’s topped with an imaginative combo of pastrami, gooey Swiss cheese, smoky sauerkraut, mustard aioli and a crunchy sprinkle of panko crumbs mixed with all the stuff that goes on the outside of an “everything bagel.”
It would also be not unreasonable to deduce that said creation was dreamed up by Doug Vincent and Alan Siegel. It is being served on a certain special Sunday at Twin Star Orchards in New Paltz.
Since opening its outdoor pavilion, equipped with a blue-tile-covered, beehive-shaped brick pizza oven imported from Italy, to the public earlier this year, Twin Star’s proprietor Peter Yi has been offering freshly made gourmet pizzas in the traditional Napolitano style each weekend. Visitors can wash down their hot slices with cold hard cider produced on-site as part of Yi’s Brooklyn Cider House operation. But one Sunday each month, from May through October, Vincent and Siegel are using the Twin Star site as the launching pad for their new business venture and the testing ground for recipes that take pizza where no pizza has gone before.
To give some mouthwateringly oddball examples, the partners’ May test-run menu consisted of chorizo pizza, French onion soup pizza and Peking duck meatball pizza. A Moroccan pizza featuring lamb sausage, olives, mashed chick peas and Middle Eastern spices was last month’s big hit: “The flavors were almost magical,” says Siegel.
If you show up at their next visit to Twin Star Orchards on August 21, you’ll be faced with a daunting choice among an Indian-spiced pizza, another inspired by New England clam chowder and a third featuring Brazilian ingredients in honor of the Rio Olympics. At least, that’s the plan as of this week, but, according to Siegel, “It’s not written in stone yet.”
The two, who met in the 1990s while both working at the Midtown Manhattan supper club Le Bar Bat, are always experimenting with new concepts for what can be done using “pizza as a format” for presenting the tastes of many cultures, in Siegel’s words. While they are great respecters of the classic Margherita pizza that Yi serves at Twin Star when they’re not on hand, Vincent and Siegel are committed to giving it, as Vincent says, “our own unique twist.” That means making the pizza crust the edible plate that underlies creative combinations of fresh ingredients reflecting the diversity of ethnic cuisine.
According to the draft “core-values” statement for Vincent and Siegel’s as-yet-unnamed startup business, “the most important ingredients which we try to infuse into everything we do are respect and appreciation for cultural differences and the elevation of our common humanity.” They’re not just out to feed you, folks. They’re on a culinary peace mission.
A Culinary Institute of America graduate, Doug Vincent is a Hillsdale native who now lives in northern New Jersey. He has been an executive chef for more than 20 years. Originally trained as a visual artist, Alan Siegel worked in restaurant management for 15 years before moving to New Paltz and switching back to an art career in order to spend more time with his family. But brainwaves for new ways to expand the parameters of pizza kept nagging at his brain. The two former restaurant colleagues crossed paths at a friend’s party in Saugerties about a year ago, and soon were teaming up once more to test recipes and concoct a business plan.
What Vincent and Siegel are after is a “replicable” model for “fast, casual” dining that, says Vincent, offers “more assertive flavor profiles” and a “wow factor” – again, not denigrating “ordinary” pizza, but wanting to take it to the next level. He visualizes a potential for opening a chain of “ten restaurants in five years,” each sharing the same adventurous menu, authentic ethnic ingredients and Vincent’s specially developed recipes and homebrewed condiments.
As for where they will move the operation once Twin Star’s outdoor café season ends, says Siegel, “Where it’s going to be, we have absolutely no idea.”
Meanwhile, the pair are working on new topping formulations and ideas for side salads, in order to be able to offer meals that are nutritionally balanced as well as innovative and tasteful. “We also have a multigrain dough in development,” Siegel adds, with the aim being “a crust you want to finish all the way to the end.”
To sample what they’re up to lately, visit Twin Star Orchards at 155 North Ohioville Road just east of the Thruway on Sunday, August 21, September 25 or October 23. Three new recipes will be unveiled each time, and the only predictable thing about them is that they will surprise and perhaps delight you. “We’re not going to make pizzas out of a corporate boardroom,” says Vincent. “We’re committed to creating the real story.”
For info about upcoming events at Twin Star Orchards, visit www.facebook.com/twinstarorchards.