OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Creative pizza, celery soda and thinner Gov. Chris Christie in AC

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-05-05T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Creative pizza, celery soda and thinner Gov. Chris Christie in ACBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

It's great to be back after some weekend travels in Atlantic City.

Even though Chicago offers die-hard pizza preferences, Atlantic City's Michael Hauke is a pizza enthusiast-turned-entrepreneur behind the tiny-but-mighty Tony Boloney's Indigenous Atlantic City Pizza, Subs & Grub. It has become THE place to tempt tastebuds with unique pizza flavor combinations.

Hauke, a favorite of Food Network, not only makes his own pizza crust, he's such a purist in his pizzeria profession that he also makes his own mozzarella cheese from hand-formed curds, and his own homemade yeast from decaying apricots and potatoes as a key customized crust ingredient.

Among some of the pizza slices I sampled, a stand-out favorite is the Tikka, featuring homemade tikka masala coconut with paneer cheese and fresh cilantro.

Last year, it was Hauke's Cheesesteak Ole sandwich that won him national attention (and $20,000) for a contest hosted by Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan on their "LIVE with Kelly and Michael" show. It features a 10-spice sirloin steak, fried onions, Jack cheese and homemade buttermilk-Chipolte ranch sauce on a fresh roll from A.C.'s Rando's Bakery.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is a big fan of Hauke's kitchen wizardry and often uses him to cater his private events. FYI: tonyboloneys.com or (609) 344-8669

A big deal

Christie, 51, is still turning heads from what continues to be a dramatic weight loss. Though he won't discuss his shedding of pounds, it's reportedly from him having had a surgical procedure last year. His original weight was said to have tipped the scales at 340 pounds, which was a hurdle to his hopes of a 2016 Republican Party U.S. presidential bid.

A sure cel

Even though it's been around since the 1800s, it took me this long to finally be introduced to celery-flavored soda (which sounds healthy enough to be allowed on Gov. Christie's diet ... .)

Cel-Ray is a celery-flavored soft drink from the Dr. Brown's line and,  while fairly easy to find in New York City and in South Florida, it's considered rather obscure elsewhere, with the exception of Jewish delicatessens and specialty grocers. The flavor is derived from celery seed extract, making the taste reminiscent of ginger ale, but with a more pronounced celery flavor. Dr. Brown's Celery Tonic was, according to the company, first produced in 1868 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

It was served in New York delicatessens starting in 1869 and sold as a bottled soda starting in 1886. The Food and Drug Administration objected to it being called a "tonic" and, in the 1900s, the name was changed to Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray (soda). It has earned the nickname "Jewish Champagne" and has been mentioned in pop culture references on television on "Seinfeld" and "Gilmore Girls."

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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