Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pizza you can eat while you drive,
from Dunkin' Donuts

I'm probably the only regular customer of Dunkin' Donuts who has never tasted their coffee. Actually I've never tasted anybody's coffee. I was once accidentally served coffee ice cream and I hated it, and that was close enough. My mother has never tasted coffee either. Her mother drank about 14 gallons each day, so maybe mom was rebelling against grandma. My wife tasted coffee once and hated it and never tasted it again. Maybe she married me because she knew she knew she'd never have to make coffee for me.

I've heard that Dunk makes great coffee and there's a Dunk conveniently next door to my office. The coffee smells good, but I've never been tempted to try it. On the other hand, Dunk does make the world's best hot chocolate, which I drink every morning in cold weather.

It's infinitely better than the too-sweet, too-thin crap they serve at Starbucks. I was in an airport yesterday at breakfast time and Starbucks hot chocolate was my only warm beverage option. I hated having to to say grande instead of medium. If English was good enough for Moses and Jesus, it's good enough for me. Grande is Starbucks-Italian for medium. In Italian-Italian, however, grande means large and medio means medium. Dunk lets you order in good old American English.

Anyway, back in February, Dunkin' Donuts, which calls itself "the world's largest coffee and baked goods chain," officially launched its all-day Oven-Toasted menu. The new program is an effort to get people to spend money at the chain after breakfast, and includes easy-to-hold-and-eat Flatbread Sandwiches, Hash Browns, and Personal Pizzas.

Having grown up in New Haven, the spiritual heartland (or maybe the bellyland) of American pizza culture, I have very high standards for pizza. I regard white pizza as heresy, and what most Americans consider to be good pizza -- whether it comes from neighborhood independents or national chains like Domino's or Sbarro -- I think is barely above the level of cardboard with ketchup and American cheese.

Pizza Hut is in a special category. Fellow pizza maven Cynical Cousin Dave and I are willing to eat it and simply don't compare it to the genuine article. We've put PH in it's own classification. As we say, "It's not pizza, it's pizza Hut."

The new Dunkin' Donuts Personal Pizzas are five inches in diameter, a tad bugger than a CD or a DVD. They're basically clones of the Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizza. You can select three varieties: Supreme (sausage, pepperoni plus green and red peppers); Pepperoni (with mozzarella); and Cheese (four varieties blended.)

The first time I got one, I was surprised at its DVD size and assumed I would want a second; but found it both filling and satisfying. Although I hate green peppers, I ordered the Supreme, and didn't bother picking out the peppers. They didn't kill me. I've had about six more since then. That's a good sign.

Yesterday, after my plane landed, I drove to a Dunk near the airport and picked up a pizza to eat as I drove. When I got near my office, I got in line at the Dunk drive-up window, put the empty pizza box in their trash can, and bought a hot chocolate. Maybe I should buy some stock as well as food.

As with PH pizza, a Dunk pizza is not "real" pizza. But it's cooked much faster, available much closer, costs much less, is tasty, and can be carried, opened and eaten with one hand, and it's NEAT.

There's no way I could drive a car while eating a slice from Sally's, Pepe's or Papa's. The sauce, mootz, oil and clams would be all over the upholstery, dashboard and carpet.

Just as Mickey Dee's Egg McMuffin turned out to be the perfect one-handed mobile breakfast, Dunkin' Donuts has devised the perfect one-handed mobile pizza. It might even provide some McMuffin competition, because you can get it in the morning, or any time.

Bravo! Dunkin' Donuts. Bravo! When can I get a pizza grande?

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