Kyle Ihn is a professional goalkeeper, formally of University-Wisconsin Green Bay and Reno 1868, and is currently with Lansing Ignite. After years of traveling the country and surveying the landscape of both professional goalkeeping and various pizza chains, Kyle reviews an unconventional pizza. You can find Kyle online at @KyleIhn to inform him of how correct or incorrect his opinions on pizza are. Cover photo belongs to Minnesota United FC.
Soccer has allowed me to travel to many corners of the country, exploring all of the cultures and traditions that have culminated in this great melting pot of a country. Along with experiencing the cultures, I have also been blessed to partake in many of the culinary adventures that have been created. One of my favorite foods can come as diverse as this great nation of ours: pizza.
Pizza has a long standing history in American culture. The food itself can be so many different things, so it is truly the perfect representation of the culture we live in. From toppings, sauces, cheeses, even physical form, the pizza can be anything we want it to be. There is the traditional pepperoni pizza for the die hard New Yorkers. The margherita pizza, where you can pretend to be healthy while still eating a pizza. The dessert pizza for when you are done eating your other pizza. The calzone for when you are out to eat pizza with friends, but you are the only one who wants red sauce with sausage and pepperoni, but your friends won't stop arguing about why the pesto sauce with arugula is the best combination. There is the deep dish pizza, for when you want to use a fork and knife, but still tell people you got pizza. Finally, we get to one of the most controversial foods on the planet, the Hawaiian pizza. This pizza has broken friendships, divided households, and ruined game nights across the country. Personally, I am a firm believer that pineapple has a rightful place on top of that magnificent pie, but I also consider myself open minded. I am willing to basically try anything once, so when I received the recommendation of pepperoni and banana peppers, you could say I was all about it.
When I went to order my first pepperoni and banana pepper pizza, I decided to go with a little bit of a more upscale chain. I didn’t want my first experience to be tainted by a pool of grease resting on top, and I knew the quality of the ingredients was key. I also stuck with a measly 11 inch pizza, mainly because I’m a loser that doesn't have friends, but I also thought that the 11 incher would be a perfect personal pizza for my person. When the long awaited pizza finally reached my door, the anticipation had been killing me, or the hunger, I wasn’t sure. I ripped the top off and was surprised by the topping proportions. It was a good amount of both pepperoni and peppers, however, the organization left something to be lacking. I spent a good 3 minutes rearranging the topping to make sure no one slice was left out of the party that was about to take place in my mouth. This is pretty typical with most pizzas though. I must admit I am a pizza socialist if you want to call it that. If I order a pizza with specific toppings, the composition is key and all slices must be fairly equal. But once the toppings were to my liking, my eyes had judged, and it was my taste bud’s turn.
I must say, I generally try to stick away from strictly pepperoni pizzas. They typically are very salty for my taste, but I have a very strong trust in the person that gave me this recommendation, and I knew that he wouldn’t lead me astray. When I first bit into my pie, my taste buds were hit with the salt almost immediately, but that is when the banana peppers came in. The tang of the peppers took my mind away from the salt, and I was able to enjoy the other taste elements from the sauce, and the pepperoni. The peppers were acting as my pizza sherpa if you will. The mountain that is the pizza was trying to overpower my undertrained palate, and just when I thought it was the end of my journey and I would never be able to summit this specific peak of pepperoni, the banana peppers showed me the way and I was able to see everything this pizza could truly be. The combination of the saltiness with the sweet and the tang of peppers was game changing in my pizza profile. I knew that I liked banana peppers before, but I was never quite sure how the taste profiles would work together, or if they would fight for the real estate that is my tongue and palate. I would not say that this is my all time favorite pizza go to now. I am a sucker for a traditional sausage and green pepper pie myself, but this new flavor combination is definitely getting added into the line up.
Professional Goalkeeper and Amateur Foodie*,
*I have zero culinary experience besides eating a lot. Please don’t take my word for anything more than suggestion.