For many American families, Friday night is synonymous with one special dish: PIZZA!!! I love and cherish this family tradition and can be found on most Friday nights feasting on pizza at the Gramercy. Baked in a small pan, a Gramercy pizza is only the size of a dinner plate and is unlike any pizza around.  It can be enjoyed as a meal but is most popular as an appetizer.

The original panned pie is delicious – the cheese melts and browns perfectly, the crust is actually crusty and never soft, and the sauce is the best the in area.  But the toppings are delicious too, and include your choice of peppers, roasted red peppers, onions, sausage, meatballs, hamburger, anchovies, and black olives.  One popular pizza, the fresh tomato pie, is made with Pittston tomatoes straight from my grandfather’s garden and is only available for a limited time.

Gramercy pizza has been a staple of my life.  As a little girl, my eyes and mouth would water in anticipation as I watched my late grandmother roll the dough and my grandfather make the sauce.  My grandmother would give me little samples of dough so I could make my own at home, but it never turned out the same and I usually just ended up ordering one straight from the Gramercy.  When I lived in New York, I would pack frozen Gramercy pizzas to eat in the dorms whenever I wanted a good slice (and whenever I felt homesick.) While my heart is with the original pizza, my signature pizza is usually the white pizza with roasted red peppers and black olives. (Sometimes, I even order anchovies.)  If I was going to the electric chair, this would be my last meal, hands down.  A piece of a Gramercy pizza is the perfect slice, the ultimate fairytale feast!  Here are some photos of my favorite pizzas!

The original slice: a plain Gramercy pizza.
Fresh tomato pie with black olives.

A plain fresh tomato pie slice.

Crumbled sweet sausage, gorzgonzola cheese, carmelized onion and rapinni pizza.

Mushroom pie.

A pizza with green peppers.

My favorite: a white pizza with roasted red peppers and black olives.

“Alan Jackson Dip”
The Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, TN

The Grand Ole Opry reopened its doors to Music City last week, five months after the Cumberland River overflowed its banks and wreaked havoc onto the city of Nashville.  The Grand Ole Opry suffered heavy damage from the floods and underwent a massive restoration as a result. 

For those who are unfamiliar with the Grand Ole Opry, it is the world’s longest running radio program which features American country music, blue grass, folk, and gospel.  It is a weekly country music stage concert that has aired live on the radio and now television since 1925.  It is a tremendous honor to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry and some of its’ elite members include Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Johnny and June Carter Cash.  Modern country music members include Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Reba McIntire, Alan Jackson, Carrie Underwood, Trace Atkins, Dierks Bentley, Josh Turner and Brad Paisley.  Blake Shelton will be inducted as its newest member this year.

Even though it was displaced as a result of the May flooding, the Grand Ole Opry broadcasts were not disrupted and instead found a temporary home in other venues. Click here to see Dierks Bentley give a backstage tour of the restored Opry House on Facebook.

Grand Piano at the Opry House before the May 2010 flood.
 As a proud member of the Opry Fan Club, I was devastated to hear of the damage to the Opry house and the city of Nashville and am very happy to hear of its grand reopening. One of the best southern feasts I have ever had was actually at annual Opry Fan Club brunch. Being from the Northeast, I had never seen brunch served this way before and was really intrigued by the combination of ingredients. (Think: fruit salad, but smothered in some kind of mayonnaise or yogurt sauce, corn bread, pulled pork, etc. Not diet friendly, but delicious and very Paula Deen-esq.)
The Grand Ole Opry Fan Club
Annual Southern Brunch.

There is even an Opry cookbook, Around the Opry Table by Kay West, which features the favorite personal recipes of many Opry members.  Here is a recipe that I adopted from the feature on Alan Jackson. This dip is one of my go to recipes because it’s easy and is absolutely delicious and ADDICTING.  I make it often and when I don’t make it, everyone complains. It’s the perfect snack to accompany your it’s 5 o’clock somewhere beverage.
Alan Jackson in concert at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes Barre, PA.
Alan Jackson Dip
2 bags of reduced fat 2% shredded cheddar cheese (I like Sargento Natural or Kraft. Don’t get the finely shredded cheese for this recipe. The thicker cut, the better.)
1 container of large stuffed pimiento olives, chopped 
1/2 cup of reduced fat mayo
salt and pepper
Optional: Franks hot sauce
Assorted crackers or pita chips to dip with!

Mix together the above ingredients in a large bowl and serve! If you want to give it a quick, add in some Frank’s hot sauce. Really, that’s it!

Jumbo stuffed pimiento Spanish olives.