1.03.2012

Cough Up Some Dough

Part of being a world-famous and renowned blogger (snort) is listening to the wants and needs of readers. Since I’m sure you know it’s all about you, I do what I can to oblige your requests, which this week translates into a review of D.P. Dough, a chain of calzone shops dotting the mid-Atlantic, with some outposts in the Great Lakes and Colorado. While I don’t usually cover chains in the BHS realm, several readers implored me to try D.P. The twist on this chain is that they typically open in college towns. New York, for instance, has D.P. Doughs in Cortland, Ithaca, Vestal, etc. This is a brilliant strategy, as the food at D.P. Dough, predominantly calzones, is ideal college kid food.

My local store is in Vestal, catering to the hoardes of hungries at Binghamton University. In fact, the Vestal shop has free delivery to campus, and I overheard the calzone man telling another patron that when school’s in session, they are jamming at night. With 47 predesigned calzone varieties, plus the option to build your own, all for $6.50 plus tax, this fits into the budget of your typical student as well. The menu also boasts salads, wings and chicken tenders, bread sticks, desserts and drinks, natch.

On my first visit to DPD, I tried the first item in the Italian section of the calzonathon: the Combat Zone. This beast has pepperoni, sausage, peppers, mushrooms and mozzarella in it. The crust is pretty decent. It is not made on-site, but brought in from a central location and sheeted and filled to order on-site. It’s not super flavorful, but also isn’t greasy, which I appreciated. It’s a solid foundation for fillings, to be sure. This zone had pretty good Italian sausage flavor, but little to no pepperoni flavor. The veggies were fresh and really tasty – uncooked until in the zone – and the cheese was of good enough quality that it had substantial flavor. The little cup of sauce that comes on the side is only OK – very fresh tasting, but needs to be heated to maximize its flavor. One of my pet peeves is cold marinara sauce.

Hand-to-mouth combat

I went back to DPD this week to sample more, in light of the fact that my readers told me the Falling Rock calzone is the one not to miss. Ever the appeaser, I ordered this offering, which comes equipped with potatoes, bacon, mozzarella and cheddar cheese. My feeling about this calzone was about on par with my last experience. It was fine. The first few bites, from the middle of the zone, were very bacony, but the meat petered out as I worked my way to the edges. The potatoes added absolutely nothing to the overall taste and seemed to have shown up to the party just to bring their texture along, which is kind of superfluous when you’re eating something wrapped in dough. The overall effect was very breakfast-y, which is not unpleasant, but also makes no sense in proximity to the little cup of red sauce that came along with it. This zone would be better off served with one of DPD’s other sauce offerings: ranch, sour cream or garlic butter, perhaps. But none of them were offered to me when I placed my order. When I did dip the Falling Rock into the marinara, it completely overpowered the flavor of the calzone, which is never a good thing.


Danger: Falling Rock

I also had to try the intriguing Cinna Stix for dessert. I’m such a sucker for cinnamon and breadsticks in any combination. These were sticks made of the calzone dough, coated in a generous dusting of cinnamon sugar and served with a little cup of what I’m guessing is cream cheese frosting. It is essential to heat up this frosting, as the stix cannot dip into it in the state in which it is served. Even with a gentle trip to the microwave, the frosting cooled and congealed quickly into an unappetizing and undippable sugar substance. The stix were fine, again: I ate them happily, but there was nothing to push them into goodness or greatness. A brush of butter before the cinnamon sugar might improve them, or deep frying the dough sticks? At the end of the day, these were just ordinary and kind of boring.


Cinna-snooze

I’m starting to think maybe I’m just out of the age range for appreciation of D.P. Dough, which makes me nervous. If I go to Geneseo, will my taste buds have outgrown Mama Mia’s? Has my recent crush on blue cheese diminished my lifelong love of Kraft dinner? I hope not. I think D.P. Dough is entirely acceptable and serviceable for what it is: a cheap, cheerful chain where a gaggle of college kids can obtain fast, filling and financially-conservative food. There’s a huge range of choices, which fits the bill, and everything is reasonably tasty, although nothing I would crave going forward. I’m assigning this quiz a BHS score of 4. I hope readers Big Hungry Ann and company don’t shoot me for being kind of blah on the whole experience! But the thing is, at least in the greater Binghamton area, there are much much better Italian offerings for similar prices. If you want a top-notch stromboli, try Original Italian Pizzeria in Owego. For killer meatball pizza, Consol’s is a delicious bargain. And many other small college towns in this state have comparable makeups: lots of little mom and pop Italian joints serving authentic calzones and Stromboli for low prices.

I am staring down the barrel of a few really exciting weeks, Big Hungries! This weekend, a bunch of us will be in Corning for the Miss Finger Lakes Pageant, prior to which we will be dining at Sorge’s Italian Restaurant. Next weekend, Melinda and I are venturing to the Capital region to judge Miss Empire Rose, followed by a night on the town in Saratoga Springs. The following weekend, I’m back in Watertown, and many dining options are on the list and targeted for review. Following that, I’m headed down to New Jersey for a girls’ weekend with Big Hungries Jill, Leslie and Meg, and I can’t even imagine the culinary shenanigans we’ll get up to in Lambertville and nearby New hope, PA. So stick with me, kid. I’m not just about bacon and cheese – I’ve got cupcakes and lasagna and lamb shanks up my sleeves (Ew! Messy), and I’m sharin’ ‘em! My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!

PS: I am making a concerted effort to improve my food photography. The second two pics in this post are examples of my trying to use more natural light, a la a brilliant book on food writing Melinda gave me for Christmas. Do we like?

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