The year is 1999. I have somehow managed to secure a computer and Internet access, despite the fact that I am living in my parents’ house, which is a museum of antiquities ranging from cassette tape players to avocado-green kitchen appliances. I have a Hotmail account with an incredibly dorky handle.
I check my email and am overwhelmed with quizzes sent by my friends, demanding information about my likes and dislikes. What is your favorite animal? (Unicorn!) What is your favorite movie? (The Crow! Shut up, I was like, 17.) When was your first kiss? (LIE LIE LIE LIE) What is your favorite food?
Paralyzed with indecision, I stare at the blinking cursor. How do I choose? I must pick something, because if I don’t complete this quiz and send it to five of my friends, I will be cursed with bad luck. For seven years. Those are going to be my most formative years! College! Binge drinking – legally! Actually getting that first kiss! There is way too much riding on this quiz. I have to choose something.
I usually went with something pedestrian, like steak, or spaghetti. Thankfully, my palate has actually grown less refined over the years, and I don’t categorize food I like as “favorites.” These days, I recognize the foods I like as “shit I am powerless against.” For instance, if I see a sandwich on a restaurant’s menu that includes au jus, that is what I am ordering. If there’s a pasta that uses pesto as its sauce, put down the menu, I’m ready to order. Salsa con queso? Move out of the way, I’m holding a chip that has a date with cheesy destiny.
This same compulsion also applies to spinach and artichoke dip. If you are dining with me at an establishment that offers this dip as an appetizer, you can kiss your desire to share a plate of potato skins goodbye. We are getting that dip, and I will reach across the table and cut you if you put up one word of protest. I’ll buy it frozen, I’ll buy it jarred, I’ll pretend I’m pregnant and have an insane craving for T.G.I. Friday’s shitty food in order to get at it.
I have a problem.
So when I saw California Pizza Kitchen’s Limited Edition Crispy Thin Crust Spinach & Artichoke pizza in the frozen food aisle, it was a no-brainer. Okay, so it’s not a dip, but it’s still spinach and artichoke getting sexy together, and that’s enough to send me knocking Jazzies over in order to get to it. The front of the pizza box describes it as “crispy thin pizza topped with spinach, diced artichokes, garlic, crÃ¨me fraiche sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, asiago and romano cheeses.” So it really is just like they glopped some dip onto a thin pizza crust! My excitement is palpable. My excitement had to wait a little, as the oven had to pre-heat at 425 degrees, which actually takes longer than cooking the pizza, which only takes 10 â€“ 12 minutes, which is pretty standard for a frozen thin-crust pizza.
I liked what I saw when I took the pizza out of the oven. The distribution of toppings was even and plentiful, both which are things I look for in a frozen pizza. The aroma was distinctly garlic, with a hint of cheese and spinach. The crust was, indeed, crispy, and I love that the toppings go right up to the outer edge. I honestly couldn’t tell you that all of the cheeses described on the front of the box are present; I am not, unfortunately, a cheese aficionado. However, you can see the parmesan sprinkled on top, and whatever cheeses are mixed up in there form a delicious, gooey, satisfying taste. I also can’t distinctly say that I detected crÃ¨me fraiche as the sauce, but the sauce was perfect for a good white pizza. The garlic really made its presence known, but didn’t knock you over the head with it, which is what I’ve experienced previously with CPK’s Garlic Chicken pizza.
On this pizza, the garlic played really nice with all the other flavors. The spinach was flavorful and blended wonderfully with the cheese. My one complaint would be the artichokes â€“ while they were plentiful, I would have liked to have seen more chunks and less thin little slivers. Because of their thinness, or perhaps because of the freezing process, the artichoke flavor virtually disappeared. Every once in a while I’d bite into one of the bigger chunks and get a burst of juicy artichoke, but for the most part the slivers add nothing to the table.
Overall, I thought this was a very successful white pizza experience. All the cheeses and the crÃ¨me fraiche sauce gave it a much more sophisticated taste than your average frozen pizza, the spinach made its presence known, and the garlic tied all the flavors together nicely. The only thing missing was bigger, more flavorful artichoke pieces.
Will I give up spinach and artichoke dip forever and kneel at the alter of California Pizza Kitchen’s Limited Edition Crispy Thin Crust Spinach & Artichoke pizza? Of course not. First of all, while it’s a pretty good pizza, there’s no substitute for dipping a toasty wedge of buttered garlic bread into a warm tub of gooey goodness. Stealing the biggest piece of artichoke for yourself is the best part! Second, CPK frozen pizzas ain’t cheap â€“ at $7.69 a pop, I could probably grab two frozen T.G.I. Friday’s Spinach Cheese & Artichoke dips, and then I wouldn’t have to lie about being pregnant all the time! I think my husband is starting to catch on to me.
That said, if you’re a fan of thin-crust white pizzas and the convenience of frozen food, I would recommend you try this pizza at least once. After all, it won’t be around forever.
(Nutrition Facts â€“ 1/3 pizza â€“ 330 calories, 150 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 14 grams of protein, 15% vitamin A, 0% vitamin C, 25% calcium and 6% iron.)
Item: Limited Edition California Pizza Kitchen Spinach & Artichoke Pizza
Price: $5.49 (on sale; regular price $7.69)
Size: 1 pizza
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Flavors of toppings compliment each other well. Unicorns. Cheese blend tastes more sophisticated than on other frozen pizzas. Toppings were plentiful and evenly distributed. Finally getting that first kiss.
Cons: Not enough larger chunks of artichoke. Being a slave to certain foods. Expensive for a convenience food. Internet quizzes. T.G.I. Friday’s.