Out of the Archives: "Green Mountain Pizza: In Search of Transcendental Pizza Along Vermont's Hippie Trail" (2011)

 
fig. a: green, Green Mountains

fig. a: green, Green Mountains

This article first appeared in the Montreal Gazette in September 2011. It was syndicated by PostMedia News not long afterwards, and although you can no longer find the article on the Gazette’s website, you can still find it on the Ottawa Citizen’s site.

At the time, I considered this article to be my modest contribution to the project of determining each and every one of America’s vast number of regional pizza styles initiated by Slice NY, Serious Eats, and others in the 2000s.

All three of the pizza/flatbread restaurants featured in this article are still thriving, and I stand by all of them. Since then, however, Vermont’s Hippie Pizza scene has continued to grow at an impressive rate. Many more recent establishments could be added to this list. It’s quite possible that a follow-up article is in order. But that will have to be for another time.

In the meantime, without any further ado…

For at least a decade now, North America has been swept up in a full-blown pizza revolution, one characterized by a cult of Neapolitan pizza and an almost fanatical concern with authenticity and Verace Pizza Napoletana accreditation, not to mention a considerable amount of boasting and posturing.

Meanwhile, pizza enthusiasts in Vermont have been quietly going about their business, developing a similarly passionate and characteristically unorthodox approach to the venerable pizza pie.

This is a state that has made "Keep Vermont Weird" a mantra, after all. These are people who pride themselves on marching to the beat of a different drummer.

One might call it Vermont's very own Quiet Revolution.

In spite of a vibrant movement that dates back at least 25 years, Vermont continues to fly under the radar of most pizza authorities. The explanation for this is simple. It has to do with the relative lack of concern Vermont's pizzaiolos have shown for Neapolitan articles of faith like tipo 00 flour, D.O.C. San Marzano tomatoes, and imported Italian ovens. It has to do with the fact that pizza in Vermont is not rigidly bound by a type of oven, a type of crust, or a shape.

Instead, Vermont's pizza pioneers have put their focus on sourcing top-calibre local ingredients - from farm and chef partnerships like the impressive Vermont Fresh Network, which unites farmers, artisanal producers and chefs in a common cause, and mills like Norwich, Vermont's, highly esteemed King Arthur Flour - and on using these ingredients in an ingenious manner.

They've also placed an emphasis on community. At its best, pizza in Vermont is less a style than a way of life. One that's guided by an innate belief in the power of transcendental pizza to bring people together, even in the most rural of locations.

In fact, this is one of the signature features of Green Mountain pizza. While the history of pizza has been very closely bound to the urban experience, many of Vermont's most outstanding pizza establishments are well off the beaten path.

In other words, not only are there great pies to be found in Vermont, but many of the best are found in the most bucolic of settings. For those with a taste for pizza and the great outdoors, this is road food at its finest.

There were surely precursors, but the modern Green Mountain pizza movement began in 1985, when George Schenk built his first woodburning oven out of field stones from his property and founded American Flatbread.

fig. b: clay oven, Murray Bay, QC, 1898

fig. b: clay oven, Murray Bay, QC, 1898

Bigger ovens followed, including a domed, earthen oven built in the style of the traditional bread ovens of Quebec, which has become American Flatbread's signature model. And by 1990, Schenk & company had established their flagship location on the historic Lareau Farm in Waitsfield, near Montpelier, Stowe and Sugarbush.

It was there, at this idyllic farmhouse setting in the Mad River Valley, that my partner and I had our first extraordinary experience of pizza in Vermont. I remember it vividly, for as we turned off Route 100 and entered Lareau Farm [which doubles as a comfortable inn], we found a veritable Midsummer Night's Dream before us. Tables were set up al fresco next to the farmhouse. Kids were running freely across the meadow. A fire was burning in the fire pit. And those who were waiting for a table were spread out across the vast deck, sipping wines and drinking craft beers, and taking in a perfect summer evening. As the sun began to set, fireflies came out. It took us a while to get a table (2½ hours!), but we didn't mind - we couldn't have been happier, or more relaxed.

Then we were seated at an outdoor table and our pizzas arrived, and the experience was taken to a whole other level. We'd never had a pizza named after an obscure evolutionary theory before, but when that beautifully blistered Punctuated Equilibrium arrived fully dressed with Kalamata olives, roasted sweet peppers, handmade Vermont goat's cheese, mozzarella, fresh rosemary, red onions and garlic, we were sold. The work of Stephen Jay Gould had never tasted so good. And our New Vermont Sausage Pie was an even bigger hit. Its combination of homemade maple-fennel sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and caramelized onions was positively lusty, and the maple syrup notes gave the pizza a real gout du terroir.

We left Lareau Farm in a state of bliss. We'd discovered Vermont hippie pizza at its finest and its effects were mind-expanding.

Glover is a Northeast Kingdom town best known for its associations with the Bread and Puppet Theater, a radical performance ensemble that developed a reputation for sharing bread with its audience in an act of communion. Just a couple of miles away, in West Glover, stands the Lake Parker Country Store, where, at the back of the store, past the displays of local organic produce, Vermont artisanal cheeses, locally sourced maple syrup and convenience store staples, you'll find the Parker Pie Company. There, another kind of communion has brought the local community together - one based on the twin pleasures of Vermont pizza and American craft beers.

Started five years ago by partners Ben Trevits and Cavan Meese, the Parker Pie Company was an instant sensation, a back-country treasure that locals guarded jealously. And with good reason. Parker Pie's pies are the product of a conventional electric pizza oven - not the imported wood-burning ovens preferred by pizza snobs - but they feature a crispy-chewy crust that borders on the sublime and contains a secret ingredient: maple syrup. (Meese's parents are maple syrup producers.)

fig. c: half & half: NEK Garden Style (l) + Green Mountain Special (r)

fig. c: half & half: NEK Garden Style (l) + Green Mountain Special (r)

No pizza captures the peculiar genius of the Parker Pie Company as powerfully as its Green Mountain Special, an inspired combination of wilted spinach, cheddar, red onion, crisp apple slices, and Vermont Smoke and Cure bacon. Here, you have it all: a perfect union of imagination and execution, an edible homage to the state that produced it, and a pizza that's so magical that it enters into your dream life.

Roughly 20 kilometres south of Burlington, in Charlotte, you'll suddenly find a painted roadside sign bearing an image of a pizza that looks suspiciously like a circular map of the world (with tomato sauce oceans and mozzarella continents) and bold lettering that reads "Pizza on Earth: Wood Oven Bakery." We slammed on the brakes and made a U-turn so that we could take a closer look.

The story of Jay Vogler, the founder of Pizza on Earth, contains so much of what makes the Vermont pizza scene so special. Trained first as a painter, then as a cook, he left New York 20 years ago and relocated his family to a farm in Charlotte, out of the conviction that farmers would be to the '90s what superstar chefs had been to the '80s. He and his wife ran their farm as a wholesale vegetable farm, then a CSA before the cooking bug and the chance purchase of a previously owned wood-burning oven got the better of him.

A decade later, you can gauge Vogler's success not only by the number of pizzas he sells on a typical Friday night (about 150), but also by the range of licence plates you find in his parking lot (Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, New York). And it's easy to understand why.

The combination of Vogler's specialty pizzas - like his Sausalito, with garlic sausage, chard, red onion, Parmesan, mozzarella and a dash of garlic oil; and his Spudnik, with bacon, sour cream and (you guessed it) thinly sliced potatoes - and the relaxed atmosphere of open-air, bring-yourown-bottle Champlain Valley dining is completely seductive.

Like Parker Pie and American Flatbread, Vogler insists on using Vermont flour (King Arthur) and locally sourced herbs and vegetables. And like the best of the Green Mountain pizzerias, Vogler creates some unusually creative and flavourful pizzas - pizzas that capture the spirit of Vermont, pizzas worth travelling for.

Coordinates:

American Flatbread

Lareau Farm, 46 Lareau Rd., Waitsfield, Vermont 1-802-496-8856 www.americanflatbread.com

Parker Pie Company

161 County Rd., West Glover, Vermont 1-802-525-3366 www.parkerpie.com

Pizza on Earth

1510 Hinesburg Rd., Charlotte, Vermont 1-802-425-2152 www.pizzaonearth.com

Where to stay:

Lareau Farm Inn, which is connected to the original American Flatbread in Waitsfield, is an absolute gem of an inn.
aj

Pizza, Bibles, and Blossoms

 

If Ken Forkish's The Elements of Pizza:  Unlocking the Secrets to World-Class Pies at Home (10 Speed Press, 2016) hasn't officially been anointed as the New Pizza Bible, that distinction seems imminent.  

I was already a fan of Forkish's earlier book Flour Water Salt Yeast (10 Speed Press, 2012), which is an excellent, and meticulously detailed general text on bread baking.  It also tells a great story:  how Forkish left a corporate career of almost 20 years in Silicon Valley to embark upon a new career as a bread baker; how he was inspired to do so by reading a profile of the legendary French baker Lionel Poilâne in the pages of Smithsonian that a friend had lent him (a profile that also left an impression on me way back in 1995); and how this eventually led to the founding of Ken's Artisan Bakery in 2001, a bakery that quickly became a mainstay of Portland's food scene, and one that has since built a national reputation.  

fig. b:   FWSY 's pizza margherita

fig. b:  FWSY's pizza margherita

One of the the things I loved about Flour Water Salt Yeast was its devotion to pizza:  roughly 60 pages out of a 260-page text.  The book's full title is Flour Water Salt Yeast:  The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza, after all.  And this section of the book was no mere afterthought--Forkish, like others before him, had gone from being a bread fanatic to being a pizza fanatic.  In fact, he followed up on the success of Ken's Artisan Bakery by opening Ken's Artisan Pizza in 2006.  His thoughts on pizza were based on 5+ years as a full-scale pizza professional, as well as years as a pizza lover before that. 

fig. c:  detail, back cover of  Flour Water Salt Yeast

fig. c:  detail, back cover of Flour Water Salt Yeast

Forkish's pizza section featured the same passion and attention to detail that characterized the rest of his book, and along with the teachings of people like Jim Lahey and Anthony Falco, it proved to be an important step in my pizza education.  But you've gotta hand it to the guy.  He could have gone back to the well and just expanded upon the lessons he'd already laid down in Flour Water Salt Yeast.  Add a little more detail.  Develop some funky new recipes.  That's it, that's all.  Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom.  Instead, he embarked upon a series of pizza pilgrimages.  He went back to the sources.  He interviewed the masters.  He observed closely.  He asked questions.  And doing so forced him to scrap much of the pizza wisdom he'd developed over the years.  It forced him to part ways with a number of the pizza truths that he'd believed to be self-evident, including one that had been a cardinal belief of his:  that the fundamentals of artisan bread baking and artisan pizza making were identical.  Hell, that was much of the premise of Flour Water Salt Yeast.  

What he learned was that from the perspective of an Italian master pizzaiolo this was categorically untrue:  bread was bread, and pizza was pizza.  There might be some overlap between the two, they might share a similar skill set, but bread and pizza were fundamentally different.  Pizza dough needed to be made differently, fermented differently, and handled differently.  And, of course, the baking of pizza was also altogether different.

fig. d:  hands of a master pizzaiolo:  Enzo Coccia

fig. d:  hands of a master pizzaiolo:  Enzo Coccia

The book that resulted, The Elements of Pizza, represents a major leap forward for Forkish and for the ever-growing body of pizza lit.  It is written with passion and conviction, and with a great deal of personality.  It is sufficiently comprehensive, beginning with the great traditions of Italy, Naples and Rome, where Forkish locates "the soul of pizza," but also encompassing a number of the most important American traditions:  New York, Trenton, NJ, New Haven, Detroit, and a whole host of new-school pizza enthusiasts (like Roberta's, Motorino, Emily, and, indeed, Ken's).  And it is meticulously detailed and filled with all the inspiration an aspiring pizzzaiolo could ever ask for.  Beginning with chapters on Ken's pizza pilgrimages and his breakdown of pizza styles, it follows this up with a number of very helpful chapters, such as:  8 keys to unlocking the secrets of top-notch pizza crusts; sourcing ingredients and acquiring necessary pieces of equipment; methods; and pizza dough recipes; before offering another 120 pages worth of actual pizza recipes.

But the emphasis is placed quite squarely on achieving Perfect Crust Forever, as it should be.  Top-shelf ingredients and creativity aren't worth a hoot if the pizza crust isn't sublime.  That utterly transcendent crust is what Forkish experienced on numerous occasions over the course of his pizza pilgrimages, and it's that utterly transcendent crust that is the ultimate goal of The Elements of Pizza.  One can get a sense of what Forkish is after, and just how elusive this goal might be, in his opening chapter, "The Soul of Pizza."  Here, Forkish describes a trip he paid to Pepe in Grani in Caiazzo, Italy, roughly 30 miles outside of Naples.  There, Franco Pepe, a third-generation pizzaiolo, has established a new pizzeria (Pepe in Grani just opened in 2012) that has quickly developed a reputation for being one of the world's very best, because of its utter respect for tradition (the dough is naturally leavened, it is hand-mixed, and Pepe uses no refrigeration in its preparation), on the one hand, combined with its willingness to push the envelope when it comes to toppings (fig jam with grated Conciato cheese, anyone?), on the other.  But it's Pepe's pizza crust that is the true star of the show, and to which Forkish directs most of his attention:  

These were flawless pizzas.  [Pepe's] reputation is well deserved.  The crust had a very thin layer of crisp on the outside and the bottom, and a feathery light crumb inside the rim.  It was almost weightless.  The inner base of the crust was very thin and perfectly leopard-spotted on its bottom...
...Franco's crust tasted of lactic fermentation--a flavor that's sometimes described as milky and fruity, and similar to what you get with a ripe liquid levain...  His is a very well-fermented dough, with a beautiful balance of flavors, and as they might say in Italy, it is highly digestible ("digestibility" is loosely defined, but widely regarded as beings a benefit of long-fermented, naturally leavened pizza and bread).  We put that to the supreme test by eating five more pizzas... [my emphasis]

"Flawless."  "Feathery."  "Weightless."  "Highly digestible."  These are not words used to describe your typical pizza pie.  Forkish is pursuing transcendence, and what makes his book so captivating is his conviction that one can reach similar heights at home, using a conventional oven.

One of the recipes that caught my fancy right off the bat was Forkish's Zucchini Blossom Pizza recipe.  I'd been kind of obsessed with the idea of zucchini blossom pizza ever since I received Saveur's 2010 issue devoted to Los Angeles, which featured a glorious photograph of Pizzeria Mozza's Squash Blossoms & Ricotta pizza on its front cover:

fig. e:  Pizzeria Mozza's zucchini blossom & ricotta pie

fig. e:  Pizzeria Mozza's zucchini blossom & ricotta pie

I made it out to L.A. not long after that issue came out, but I never made it to Pizzeria Mozza and I've never been lucky enough to find a squash blossom pizza anywhere else. With zucchini blossoms plentiful here in Montreal's farmers' markets right now, though, I knew I had to give Forkish's recipe a try.  But first I had to think about my pizza dough.

When it comes to using Forkish's book to unlock the secrets of pizza, there's no better place to start than with his simplest dough:  his "I Slept In But I Want Pizza Tonight" Dough.  It's a simple recipe (as long-fermentation pizza doughs go), and it's designed to be easily achievable within a day--within half a day, actually.  This is the recipe that most people are going to turn to first, for obvious reasons, so it's gotta be good.  I went ahead and gave it a spin.

"I Slept In But I Want Pizza Tonight" Dough

350 grams water

10 grams fine sea salt

0.5 grams (roughly 1/8 tsp) instant dried yeast

500 grams white flour, preferably Caputo 00 flour

olive oil

special equipment:

digital scale

dough tubs

instant-read thermometer

baking stone or baking steel

Use a digital scale to weigh 350 grams of 100º F (38º C) water into a 6-quart dough tub.  Measure 10 grams of fine sea salt, add it to the water, and swirl it around until dissolved.  Measure instant dried yeast and add it to the water, allowing it to rest there for a minute to hydrate, before swirling it around to fully dissolve it.  Add the flour to the water-salt-yeast mixture.

Mix the dough by hand, stirring it thoroughly to fully integrate the ingredients and create a single mass of dough.  Then use the pincer method [consult Forkish's books for details] to cut the dough up into sections, before folding it back together into a unified mass.  Continue for just 30 to 60 seconds.  The target dough temperature at the end is 82º F (28º C).

Let the dough rest for 20 minutes, then knead it on a work surface that's been lightly dusted with flour.  Knead for 30 to 60 seconds, until the skin of the dough is very smooth.  Place the dough ball seam side down in a lightly oiled (olive oil) dough tub.  Cover with a tight-fitting lid.  Let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours.  This is the first fermentation.

Divide and shape the dough into 3 dough balls [consult Forkish's book for details].  Moderately flour a work surface about 2 feet wide.  With floured hands, gently ease the dough onto the work surface.  Dust the entire top of the dough with flour, then cut it into 3 pieces (or 5, depending on the style of pizza you're aiming for).  Shape each piece of dough into a medium-tight ball [following Forkish's instructions], working gently and being careful not to tear the dough.

Place the dough balls on a lightly floured baking sheet or dinner plate, leaving space between them to allow for expansion.  Lightly flour the tops, cover with airtight plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours.  This is the second fermentation.

After the second fermentation, you're ready to make pizza.  Refrigerate the dough balls if you need to delay making your pizza for a bit.  Just let them come to room temperature before making pizza.

[based very, very closely on Ken Forkish's recipe of the same name in The Elements of Pizza]

The verdict:  this was a fantastic recipe.  Everything worked like a charm, and the resultant pizza crust was everything one could hope for:  light and crispy, with a perfect amount of chew, a lovely cornicione, and loads of flavour for a relatively "quick" pizza.  This was not Franco Pepe's "flawless" naturally leavened pizza, but it was supremely good for a "I Slept In But I Want Pizza Tonight" dough.

Important caveat:  Forkish is adamant about letting his pizza doughs rise at room temperature, just like Fraco Pepe, both during the first fermentation and the second fermentation.  This is something that is common in the greatest pizzerias in Italy, but highly uncommon in North America.  I agree that letting the dough rise at room temperature during the first fermentation is a great idea.  However, after trying Forkish's room temperature method for the second fermentation on a couple of occasions and meeting with difficulties, I've gone back to refrigerating my doughs during this part of the process.  The primary reason is that my kitchen is rarely "room temperature."  We don't heat our kitchen a great deal in the winter, and we never use air conditioning in the warm-weather months.  Our windows are often open, and our kitchen is usually either warmer than room temperature or cooler than it, and our humidity is often fairly high in the spring and summer.  In other words, the conditions in our kitchen are much too volatile to allow for a 4- to 6-hour second fermentation without monitoring the process obsessively and risking failure every time.  What's been working for me is giving the dough balls a 5-6-hour (or more) second fermentation in the refrigerator, then allowing them to come to warm up at room temperature for about 60-90 minutes before forming, stretching, and baking them.  My dough balls haven't been over-proofed, and 60-90 minutes at room temperature has allowed them to relax to the point that they become very easy to handle.

fig. f:  zucchini blossom pizza 1

fig. f:  zucchini blossom pizza 1

Now, here are the instructions for making Forkish's ricotta-stuffed zucchini blossom pie, a version of which you see pictured above:

Zucchini Blossom Pizza

[Makes one 12-inch thin-crust pizza]

1 dough ball

1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese

1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1 egg yolk

zest of 1/4 lemon

sea salt

10 mint leaves, snipped or chopped

6 zucchini blossoms

fragrant extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup tomato sauce

In a medium-size bowl, mix the ricotta, Pecorino Romano, egg yolk, lemon zest, a pinch of salt, and half of the mint leaves with a fork until completely blended.  Cut off the zucchini blossom stems, gently open the blossom, remove the pistil, and stuff each blossom with some of the cheese mixture (roughly 1 tbsp per blossom).  Close the blossom back up and seal the petals with a twist.  Set aside on a plate, and gently rub with a thin film of olive oil to keep the petals from scorching in the oven.

When your pizza dough has been properly stretched and formed, apply the tomato sauce.  Place the blossoms on the tomato sauce with their tops pointing in, making sure to space them in such a way as to make a lovely radial pattern.  Drop any extra ricotta into the spaces between the blossoms.  Scatter the remaining mint leaves over top.  Bake your pizza following Forkish's instructions for roughly 5-7 minutes total.

[based on the essentials of Ken Forkish's recipe in The Elements of Pizza]

fig. g:  zucchini blossom pizza 2

fig. g:  zucchini blossom pizza 2

Not bad, huh?  And, again, this was made with the very same "I Slept In But I Want Pizza Tonight" Dough recipe featured above.  I hadn't actually slept in, but I definitely hadn't started any other long-fermentation dough recipes one or two days before, and I woke up with a hankering for pizza.  My dough balls were in the fridge by 9:00am.  By 6:00pm I was back at home, firing up my oven, and beginning to pull my dough balls from the refrigerator.  By 7:15pm or so, the pizzas coming out of the oven were divine.

But it was that zucchini blossom pizza that stole the show.  It was just so beautiful and the flavours were magical:  the blossoms, the ricotta, the mint, the crust.  Highly recommended!

An important note about baking in a conventional oven:  Place a baking stone or baking steel in your oven, and crank it as high as it will go.  I've been using a baking stone with good results for years.  Recently I switched to using a baking steel instead, and the results have been exceptional (and I'm not the only one who's experienced this).  If you can afford it, you might want to consider the combination baking steel/griddle--it's a truly ingenious contraption, it works remarkably well in both capacities, and it comes very highly rated.  Ten minutes before you're ready to bake your pizza, use your broiler on full blast.  When you throw in your pizza, switch it back to conventional baking mode for 2-3 minutes.  For the final 1-2 minutes of your bake, turn your broiler back on to achieve some lovely blistering on the top side.

That's it for now.  You'll find more on Forkish's The Elements of Pizza here in the pages of "...an endless banquet" as I work my way through its various styles.

Behold the New Pizza Bible!  My love of pizza blossoms anew.

aj

Apple Season, pt. 2: "apple pie"

 
fig. a:  papa's got a brand-new bag

fig. a:  papa's got a brand-new bag

If Vermont has an apple obsession--and it most certainly does--it's also a state that's seriously crazy about pizza, so it's perhaps no surprise that "apple pie" takes many forms here.  Sure, Vermonters love their traditional apple pies--with a top-crust and open-faced, with a slice of cheddar or without, deep-dish or otherwise--but they're also not averse to adding apples to their pizza.  In fact, one of Vermont's great pizzas, Parker Pie Company's Green Mountain Special, features apples prominently.

Inspired by the local scene, and in thrall to a pizza obsession of our very own--a home-baked one--we started making our own "apple pies" last year.  

I'd start by whipping up a batch of Jim Lahey's basic pizza dough from My Bread (2009) a day in advance.  

Jim Lahey's Basic Pizza Dough

500 grams bread flour

10 grams instant yeast

10 grams table salt

3/4 tsp + a pinch (roughly 3 grams) sugar

300 grams water

6 grams olive oil

In a large mixing bowl, combine flours and salt.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together 200 grams (about 1 cup) lukewarm tap water, the yeast and the olive oil, then pour it into flour mixture. Knead with your hands until well combined, approximately 3 minutes, then let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.

Knead rested dough for 3 minutes. Cut into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. Place on a heavily floured surface, cover with dampened cloth, and let rest and rise for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or for 8 to 24 hours in the refrigerator. (If you refrigerate the dough, remove it 30 to 45 minutes before you begin to shape it for pizza.)

To make pizza, place each dough ball on a heavily floured surface and use your fingers to stretch it, then your hands to shape it into squares. Top and bake.

YIELD:  2 rectangular pizzas

If you need pointers, you can watch this video of Jim Lahey working his no-knead pizza magic in the Serious Eats test kitchen.

When the dough had been allowed for a full 18 hours or so, I'd shape it on an oiled 13" x 9" baking sheet.  And then I'd apply my toppings.

apple slices (thin!), preferably using something that bakes well like a Crispin

sautéed North Country Smokehouse bacon

sautéed onions

Cabot Creamery Alpine Cheddar

chopped flat-leaf parsley

freshly ground black pepper

Bake in the hottest oven conditions you can create, making sure to heat the oven a good 60-90 minutes in advance so that it's truly piping hot.  

And voilà!

fig. b:  apple pie

fig. b:  apple pie

If you can't find Cabot Creamery's Alpine Cheddar, I pity you, but any quality cheddar or Gruyère will do, although personally I don't think I'd go too sharp with the cheddar.  If you can't find North Country Smokehouse bacon, again, I feel sorry for you, but try to use the tastiest bacon you can get your hands on.

This pizza is a dream come true--a Green Mountain dream.  And it's even dreamier when you make it with the freshest apples you can find, right in the midst of the apple harvest.  In other words, right about now.

aj