I still remember the first time I ate pizza, a thin crust pie with tangy tomato sauce and lots of melty mozzarella. It was the late 1960s, and while pizza was popular, it wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today.
In fact, pizza was a treat in our family for many years. most of the time, the pizza I enjoyed consisted of greasy squares on my school lunch tray.
But like so many things, pizza has evolved over time. The dish, which dates back hundreds of years, is now much more than a crust, sauce and cheese.
Although I am not a vegan, I sometimes like to eat meatless and look for delicious plates to please the palate. Found this more recently in the pizza offerings of Cogan’s Pizza Ghent.
EAT IT: BUILD THE PIZZA, VEGAN
Cogan’s Pizza Ghent is the original location of this cheeky pizzeria. There is a second location in Norfolk along North Colley Avenue.
It’s a feast for the eyes at first, with all sorts of antiques on the shelves and in the cupboards, and with vibrant artwork on the candy-red walls. Matching chairs pair with awkward wooden tables. Overlooking it all is a menacing gorilla, taken from a vintage circus poster. Maybe the gorilla is threatening because he wants pizza.
There are about two dozen specialty pies, and you can also make your own. We did this to make our vegan pizza.
There are five fake meats to choose from and about three dozen vegetable toppings, from arugula to zucchini. Daiya, a vegan cheese, is also an option. With the build-your-own pizza, all prices are a la carte.
We started with the spicy tomato sauce, one of my favorites. The tomato is rich and slightly sweet, and there’s a fair amount of heat from the peppers in the mix. It’s hot, but not too hot, and I think the peppers add a nice dimension to the pie.
Of the fake meats, we chose sausages, which had a good texture and all the same spices you’d find in pork sausages, which made the taste good, flavorful. Added vegetables were artichoke hearts, shiitake mushrooms and jalapeño. A blanket of vegan cheese coated the whole thing.
My partner, Douglas, and I loved the offer. I think the flavors were on point and it seemed less heavy than with traditional sausage and cheese. The crust was tender and a great platform. All the ingredients came together perfectly, and I’m sure no one who took a slice of it would know it was vegan.
For me, all food should be delicious. It’s good when you can get something healthier, but it’s not good when you have to compromise on flavor.
THE BEVERAGE: O’CONNOR BREWING CO. JUICY RIDE
Antony and Cleopatra. Fred and Ginger. Beer and pizza. There are things that go very well together.
An arch of mezza luna taps pour 33 brews on tap at Cogan’s Pizza Ghent, and frosted cups arrive filled to the brim to accompany any pie.
We chose the Juicy Ride from O’Connor Brewing Co., based in Norfolk. It’s similar to that beer once in a blue moon, only much better.
The rich, golden hue of this wheat beer whets the appetite for a fruity bomb of passion fruit, cara cara orange and pink guava. It’s full of flavor and very satisfying.
Cogan’s Pizza Ghent is located at 1901 Colonial Ave., Norfolk. Call 757-627-6428 or visit www.GhentEats.com.
GOOD WEATHER ROLLS AT THE BAYOU BON VIVANT
Every year I have lived in the area – 32 now – I have enjoyed the Bayou Bon Vivant: Cajun Food & Music Festival.
What’s not to enjoy? Norfolk Festevents throws a big New Orleans-inspired party at Town Point Park on the downtown Norfolk waterfront, offering all the tastes and traditions of Crescent City.
I love wandering around the various vendors sampling donuts, crayfish, etouffee, okra, jambalaya and more. The food is even better against the backdrop of wonderful jazz music.
This year’s event, the 32nd, will take place from May 20-22. Straddling the Elizabeth River, food vendors serve up delicious Cajun fare, along with artisans, crocodile and reptile exhibits, live music, and more.
For more information, visit www.Festevents.org.
A LA CARTE
Learn how to make an ever-popular treat at the Cake Pops class by AnnaBelle’s Cake Decorating School at Wine & Cake Hobbies. The workshop takes place from 3 to 5 p.m. on May 21.
In the hands-on class, people learn how to create cake pops in a number of shapes, designs, and flavor combinations while experimenting with dipping and decorating techniques. The cost is $49 per person.
Wine & Cake Hobbies is located at 6527 Tidewater Drive, Norfolk. Call 757-857-0245 or visit www.WineAndCake.com.
The Norfolk Forum hosts Ina’s Garden, the barefoot Contessa, at Chrysler Hall. The conversation evening provides an insider’s view of his life, food and friends, and takes place at 7:30 p.m. on May 24. Tickets are $75.
Chrysler Hall is at 201 E. Brambleton Ave., Norfolk. Call 757-664-6464 or visit http://chrysler.hall-tickets.org.
Patrick Evans-Hylton [email protected]