REVIEW: Limited Edition California Pizza Kitchen Spinach & Artichoke Pizza

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, crème 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 – 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 crème 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 – 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 crème 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 – 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 – 1/3 pizza – 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.

REVIEW: Limited Edition California Pizza Kitchen Cheeseburger Pizza

The cheeseburger pizza isn’t new to me.

It actually used to frighten me as a wee lad whenever I would see the words “cheeseburger pizza” scheduled on the elementary and intermediate school lunch calendar twice a month. For most kids my age, the word “pizza” equated to something that was a treat, but for me it was terror and confusion.

It didn’t look or taste like a pizza, nor did it look or taste like a cheeseburger. I would either pick at it like a bird, or trade it for some syrup-covered prunes. I later came to the conclusion that it was a way for the cafeteria workers to get rid of soon-to-expire ingredients, like ground beef and cheese.

Sure, when I was in seventh grade, some bonehead blasted me, shoulder first, into my chest while playing flag football, making it hard for me to breathe for five minutes; in sixth grade, I got kicked in the balls really hard while playing soccer; in fifth grade, I pooped in my pants before I made it to the restroom; in fourth grade, the prettiest girl in my grade told me I smelled really bad; in third grade, my classmate seated next to me threw up on me; in second grade, I pooped in my pants before I made it to the restroom; in first grade, I was called “nerd” for the very first time because I started wearing glasses; and in kindergarden, I cried so hard while I had my head down while being punished that my tears created a puddle on the table that ran off the edge and created a waterfall of tears, but none of these grade school memories haunt me more than those cafeteria cheeseburger pizzas.

Thankfully, California Pizza Kitchen changed my opinion of what a cheesburger pizza is when I had their much tastier version in one of their restaurants. And now I can continue to rehabilitate and rid myself of those grade school cheeseburger pizza memories at home with the frozen Limited Edition California Pizza Kitchen Cheeseburger Pizza.

The frozen pizza is made up of a crispy thin pizza crust topped with seasoned hamburger, a blend of cheeses, diced tomatoes, caramelized onions and CPK’s signature sauce. According to one of my Twitter followers, who works at CPK, it’s supposed to taste like an In-N-Out cheeseburger, but I think it tastes more like a Big Mac with a little mustard flavor.

The restaurant and frozen versions taste almost exactly alike. The only major differences are the layer of shredded lettuce that’s added on top of the restaurant’s version of the pizza and the use of a huge wood fire oven.

According to the box, there’s three servings, which is kind of irritating because I don’t like having to bust out the protractor I haven’t used since high school to figure out how big a slice should be and I’m an Asian who sucks at math. Of course, I can cut it into fourths, but doing so would force me to use more math as I try to figure out how much trans fat is in one slice.

But wait, if I cut it into sixths, then two pieces will equal a third.

Oh, I guess I am good at math. The stereotype still lives.

The Limited Edition California Pizza Kitchen Cheeseburger Pizza is one tasty frozen pizza and is my favorite CPK frozen pizza variety, so far. If you’ve ordered one in the restaurant and enjoyed it, this frozen version will help you remember it, while at home, for about half the price.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/3 pizza – 350 calories, 19 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 770 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, 13 grams of protein, 6% vitamin A, 20% calcium and 6% iron.)

Item: Limited Edition California Pizza Kitchen Cheeseburger Pizza
Price: $5.99 (on sale)
Size: 14.1 ounces
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like a Big Mac. Tastes like the version available at CPK restaurants. Crispy crust. No lines about I Can Haz Cheeseburger. Asians are good at math.
Cons: Contains trans fat. Limited edition. Good source of saturated fat and sodium. Trying to cut a pizza into even thirds. Cheeseburger pizza in grade school. Pooping in my pants in the fifth and second grades.

REVIEW: California Pizza Kitchen Carne Asada Flatbread Melts

The term “flatbread” is one I just don’t quite understand, like “badonkadonk,” “ridonkulous” and 75 percent of the words that come out of the mouths of those darn kids who won’t get off of my lawn. I don’t get it because aren’t the slices of bread we buy in loaves from the store, whether they be whole grain, wheat, white or Wonder, also flat? But we don’t call them flatbread.

Believe me, I know flat when I see it, because I have a photo shrine in my closet dedicated to Keira Knightley.

I may not understand flatbread, but I do enjoy its softness and durability, so I was eager to try the California Pizza Kitchen Carne Asada Flatbread Melt. Although, I wasn’t too eager because I’m sort of skeptical of how good a frozen CPK meal that’s not a pizza; not offered in their restaurants; and not served to me by someone in a white long-sleeve shirt, black pants and a necktie would be.

Carne asada means “roasted beef” in Spanish and in Taco Bell speak it means “the meat option we offer that’s not chicken or ground beef.” Along with the flatbread and beef, the melt also contains reduced fat mozzarella cheese, green and red bell peppers and onions in a cilantro pesto sauce. Heating the Flatbread Melt is easy. Just pull it out of the its plastic wrap, place it on top of the included cooking tray, heat it in the microwave for 2.5-3 minutes and then fold one side over the other.

The melt was a decent size, coming in at 7.5 inches long and 3.5 inches tall. Before I folded it, I thought there wasn’t going to be enough filling in the melt, but as you can see above, there is a good amount of ingredients in between the flatbread. However, maybe there’s too much filling because ingredients kept falling out of the melt as I tried to eat it.

The melt’s flavor was mostly dominated by the flatbread, which came out of the microwave with crispy edges and everywhere else nice and soft. The next flavor I could taste was the cilantro pesto, which gave the melt a weird citrus flavor that I wasn’t too much of a fan of. There were a lot of pieces of tender meat and bell peppers, but I don’t think they added much in terms of flavor, especially the peppers.

The California Pizza Kitchen Carne Asada Flatbread Melt wasn’t very ridonkulous and I’m not sure if I would buy it again. How sure I am is the same level of sureness I have in my use of the term “ridonkulous” properly in the previous sentence.

In other words, not very much.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 melt – 370 calories, 15 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 780 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 17 grams of protein, 10% vitamin A, 15% vitamin C, 15% calcium and 6% iron.)

(Note: Greg at Freezer Burns reviewed the Chicken Santa Fe version.)

Item: California Pizza Kitchen Carne Asada Flatbread Melts
Price: $4.00 (on sale)
Size: 5.9 ounces
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Flatbread had crispy edges and soft innards. Decent size. Tender meat. Good amount of filling ingredients. Quick to heat up. My Keira Knightley shrine.
Cons: Cilantro pesto gave it a weird citrus flavor. I could mostly taste the flatbread. The meat and veggie didn’t provide much flavor. High in sodium. My use of terms I don’t know the meanings of so that I can look cool.