DC is a local boy. When it comes to food, he likes things simple. He grew up eating chicken katsu, loco moco, spam musubi and saimin. Lots of saimin. And he drinks Heineken. So when I recommended one night that we try The Flatbread Company in Paia, he hesitated.
“What’s flatbread?” he asked, dubiously.
“It’s pizza,” I said. “But better.”
“Oh. But it’s in Paia—so is it a hippie joint?” he asked.
“There are places in Paia that aren’t hippie joints, you know,” I said.
And so we went.
I’ve driven by the Flatbread Company on many nights, and have seen the piles of people spilling out the doorway and onto the street. But on this particular occasion, the place was relatively quiet.
After walking in, we took a moment to appreciate the restaurant’s open, airy ambience, and the cozy warmth of its impressive primitive wood-fired oven. We took a seat at the bar and were given menus with colorful, charming covers—each uniquely drawn by kids. Appropriately, DC’s cover depicted a surfer in the barrel of big wave (he’s an ex-big wave surfer) while mine displayed a chef making a pizza (I like to eat pizza).
After seeing the words “organic,” “sulfate-free” and “free-range” in descriptions all over the menu, DC shut his menu and said I should do the ordering. I wondered if I should tell him that their dough is made fresh daily from 100 percent organically grown wheat that’s milled into white flour; that the wheat germ is restored; and that they use pure spring water, fresh cake yeast and kosher salt. Ultimately, I decided to let the food speak for itself.
Along with customized salads with gourmet ingredients, The Flatbread Company offers their pies in the 12-inch or 16-inch size that you can order with organic wood-fired cauldron tomato sauce or not.
Yes, The Flatbread Company is a restaurant with values and a purpose. Of course, they do use organic produce, free-range chicken and nitrate-free pepperoni and sausage. They support local farms and frequently hold benefit nights to share profits with a local charity group. And they hope to educate people about the connection between nature and food.
Owners Jay Gould, George Schenk and John Meehan began their “flatbread experience” in Massachusetts in 1998. And you can see evidence of their nature and food philosophy all over the restaurant. Even on the back of the menu, where Gould writes, “One spring, a long time ago, I asked my eighth grade math teacher what good is your math to me? I cannot count everything in nature with it… The nesting birds do not count the number of sticks to use in their nest. Yet they know what to do in the spring, how to build it and how to take advantage of this abundant season.”
Supposedly, Gould’s favorite flatbread is the Punctuated Equilibrium ($11.25, $19). It’s a no-sauce pizza with imported Kalamata olives, fresh organic rosemary, organic red onions, Surfing Goat Dairy goat cheese, fire-roasted sweet red peppers and premium whole milk mozzarella baked on organic bread dough with homemade organic garlic oil and secret blend of organic herbs.
But we went for a half-and-half combo. One half was Mopsy’s Kalua Pork, with kiawe-smoked free-range pork shoulder, homemade organic mango BBQ sauce, local pineapple and Surfing Goat cheese, among other organic things; the other was Pele Pesto—a homemade fresh organic basil, macadamia and garlic pesto pie with Surfing Goat cheese, fresh Roma tomatoes and Kalamata olives, though we also added mushrooms and homemade nitrate-free maple-fennel sausage.
And how was it?
“Mmm…” DC, the new flatbread connoisseur, said. “Great aroma, a lotta good flavor, well-balanced spices. Good after-taste. It’s delicious. This would be great with a nice, dry red wine.” MTW