Riding High

HighToppsWhite

My choices of pizza places are intended to be in line with where I’ve been recently, the flavor I’m in the mood for, or the season.  And everything in between.  Sometimes it’s not always met with consistency.  More beach pizzerias and the like are coming.  But we’re officially into Summer and an outdoor bar or two seems right.

We ate at Hightopps Backstage Grille recently, and have to say we were pleasantly surprised by their pizza.   They make it hand tossed style as per the menu.   And a credit to them, it’s served for lunch, dinner, and late night. Late night is when this place can get nuts.  Especially when the weather gets glorious as it is now, it gets really crowded in the patio and deck areas, as well as the bars on the inside.

So what’s the appeal?  I really don’t know.  It’s in Baltimore County and it’s an outdoor bar.  People like myself tend to flock here for their happy hours and random nights out when the weather is nice.  The crowd isn’t always the best and the food hasn’t always been a positive. But we ordered the white pizza and it came out on a beautiful white service plate with spatula in tow.  I love how it was presented.  It’s the little things.

We were there on a Sunday afternoon, after a wine festival, so it wasn’t overly crowded as if we had been there the previous night.  The bartender was friendly and everything came out to us real fast. The white pizza was simple yet very good.  We had nothing added to it and didn’t order anything else.

A good friend of mine suggested that I focus more on how a restaurant’s cheese or white pizza is, as it’s a strong barometer for how the rest of their pies will most likely turn out. Well if that’s the case, I may have to try a Hightopps pizza again.  In all the times I’ve been there I’m surprised it was my first.  Or maybe I’ve had a few libations, and not recalled, or the pizza just never stood out for me.

In this instance, I really enjoyed it..  I wish I had snapped a picture of all the cheese stretching out from the spatula when we got our individual slices.  It was a thing of beauty.

HighToppsSlice

The crust had the right amount of soft crunch that I appreciated each bite immensely.  And if you look at the bottom of the pie or the slice, you can see just the right amount of burnt crust.   It might be through experience, but I love when it’s cooked just right.

I don’t know what else to say.   I’ve said enough.

HighTopps

See you sometime at Hightopps.

Best,

Ideen

South Street Style

Philadelphia is one of my favorite cities.  And whenever I get the opportunity visit, I savor it.   I don’t live that far away, so I will not take the proximity for granted.   So what better say to show love for this town, then to talk about their pizzas.

Of course  they’re known for their cheese steaks but I will be talking about slices and pies from the City of Brotherly Love, periodically.   And hey, maybe I’ll throw in a chicken or regular cheese steak pizza or two for good measure

Speaking of love.  Whenever I’m in this great city, I feel it.  There is a passion that resonates with their sports team, their culture, and their history. The energy and the commotion is there.  And it’s the good kind.   So how does it translate into offering number one?

LorenzoSign

Since I was there later in the evening.  Not much was open.  But thankfully I made my way to Lorenzo and Sons on beautiful South Street.

It had been quite a number of years since I visited. I was not aware until doing some research, that the joint closed down for a fire and re-opened.

LorenzoSlice

At the time I went they were only doing cheese slices. So I grabbed one and it was salty, greasy, and at the time of night it was, just right.

There is nothing sexy or over-the-top about this pizza. But I enjoyed it.  It’s not the best slice I’ve ever had, but I doubt that’s their intent. I would definitely feast on this during the day or in the late evening.

The cheese was saltier than other similar jumbo slice offerings or pizzas in general. However, that’s just more of an observation than a complaint.

The thin crust was heated appropriately  And for me, when it comes to super slices, I folded mine in half. I’ve always loved doing that And knowing this was about midnight, I wouldn’t be too upset if the crust was cooked too much or too little.  I was satisfied with my slice.

LorenzoInsideSign

The atmosphere and vibration of the crowd waiting in line was very positive.

There are of course bars and entertainment all around the neighborhood, which spills into late night grubbing.   My order was only $3.50 and that’s a reasonable price for what you get.   There are no chairs but there’s enough room to stand and eat if you’d like.  But pretty much everyone orders, gets the jumbo slice, and then goes about their business.

This was on a Tuesday and it was significantly busy.

It was dark or I would have grabbed a photo of the mural of the owner’s father that encompasses the building.  It’s a beautiful image.  I will have to go back during the day and update this post, with that image, when I can.  It’s superb.

I feel great about my first foray of this wonderful city and can’t wait to do it again.

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen

Bartenders Please

BartendersFrontBartendersSide2

I have wanted to write about Bartenders, since I began this blog.   This, among a select few other spots, were the inspiration for me to write about pizza.  And there’s so much fun that goes with pizza, besides eating some amazing pies.  It’s the joy of each others company, the drinks you have with your meal, and the memories that come with it.   If that’s a little too cheesy and overly sentimental for you, then good.

I first ate here nearly four years ago, through recommendations of regulars and good friends that have said their pies are the best in town.   And the atmosphere is one that is still incomparable.  Their are local bars and then there’s local bars.   I have found myself very comfortable eating and drinking a glass of wine their solo, on many an occasion.  The head bartenders (who are also the owners) are very personable and people I’m glad to call my friends.

Now I’ve dragged this as far as I can.   I love their pies.   I always have and always will.  The first time I ate there, I was taken for a ride on culinary excellence.  I don’t know where the dough, the cheese, the topping, and most of all the soul came from, but this is one of the best pizzas I’ve had period. And I would go here maybe once or twice a week from 2012-2013, and gained quite a bit of weight in the process.  I didn’t care.  I loved every second of it.

But if there is a down side, it’s that you get so spoiled from eating amazing creations like theirs, that other pizzas start not to taste as good.  I’ve learned to be educated about that and realize that not all pies are created equal.  And I should only judge based on taste and the energy behind it.

Here is where it gets funny.  I knew full well I was going to write about this spot, lauding and touting it to kingdom come.   But the last few times I’ve been the pizza hasn’t been up to the level I’m used to. It’s been good but the excitement and thrill I would get wasn’t there.   At first, I thought it might have been me.  But it was on three separate occasions.  It was still really good but not on the inspirational level I’ve become accustomed too.

But luckily a dear friend had been cooking the za’s there, but we rarely crossed paths at said establishment itself.  So I mentioned to her that I don’t think they’ve been as good as I remember.  She suggested I come in during one of her final shifts, and she’d make it for me personally.

And I’m glad I did. She made a masterpiece.   I’ve had The Spence before, but not like this.  Our friends who have been here repeatedly know the pie and know the man behind it.

BartendersSpence

This is a work of art.  I think it’s worthy of multiple photos. So here’s another.

BartendersSpence2

The combination of the homemade sauce, cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella, and andouille sausage alone is enough to make this grown man act like a little kid at his first pizza parlor!  Oh my goodness this was made to perfection.  I’ve had it before but not like this.   The red peppers, onions, and fresh basil complete and complement this pie perfectly.  This is up there with some of the best ever.

Now I’ve had their cheese, white, and garden (vegetarian) as well, and loved those too. But this blows them all away. The crust, the way it was cooked, and the way everything melted and blended together is genius. And I mean this with all sincerity, this was one for the ages.  It was the perfect send off for her and the perfect early birthday present to myself.  I don’t think it could have been done any better.  And I’m glad I waited this long to write about this.  Faith has been rewarded.

I love that they give you paper plates with your meal. It’s a little detail that I don’t want to go unnoticed.  I prefer it versus a regular dish.

BartendersSpenceWithWine

But maybe my last few purchases of various pies such as the Barbecue Chicken, Peyton, and Tarlek just didn’t move me like the others.  It’s meant as a compliment.  The expectations of this place are extremely high and they will continue to be.

If you’re curious as to their menu and the selections I mentioned above, click here.

As my friend moves on to bigger and better, I will always remember Bartenders for their amazing pizza and good atmosphere.  I have many great memories but this might have been one of the best.  I look forward to more momentous occasions and many more delicious pies in the near future.

BartendersSide

Rock and Roll.

Best,

Ideen

We Take Care Of Our Own

PizzaPartyFriendsFirst

For a while now, we knew we wanted to make our own homemade pizzas, and were just looking for the right occasion to do it. Along with celebrating my birthday, a friends raise and their job, and the Summer, it’s always fun to cook at home.  And it’s always more fun with friends.

We each picked out the proper ingredients like cheese, sauce, oils, and toppings.   It can get exciting but can also be pressure packed to make a good pie.

As I was reminded, it’s always better to keep it simple.   It’s also good to be creative.  Most importantly, it’s about having fun and learning from mistakes and experience along the way.  As I learned here, less is always more.

ArchivistWithGlasses

We each made two pies a piece.  And they were all from delicious whole wheat dough.   Thanks to Wegmans for the majority of our ingredients.  For more on the wine pictured above, click here.

Here are the results of round one :

PizzaPartyMyFirst

Mine was a pesto base with cheese, mushrooms, olives, peppers, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes.   This was an adventure and maybe not the best one.   The ingredients were fine but the whole didn’t equal the sum of its parts.  The tomatoes didn’t need to be included and I picked those off the pie and ate them on their own.   I think a pesto base is great.  I adore pesto.  But just didn’t work here.  I was able to finish it, but it was a minor struggle.

My friends kept is simple for their first entries.

PizzaPartySimpleCheese

A basic cheese was made with pizza oil, and the results were better.  This was in the similar style to a white pizza.  You can see the cheese baked in the dough like a professional would make.   I got to try a piece and thought it was fantastic.

PizzaPartyAFriendsFirst

The final creation for the first go around was a tomato sauce base with cheese, peppers, onions, and chopped pepperoni. This turned out very well, as this was also kept simple.  The pepperoni pieces were a great add-on, as you’ll read about in our second set of masterpieces.

For round two, it was a combination of being creative and keeping it simple.   I chose the latter.

PizzaPartyMySecond

I learned quickly from my first undertaking to get back to basics.   This time I used tomato sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and fresh basil for my pie.   The basil was growing by the kitchen window, and was found upon instinctively while we were making our meals.  I was happy with how mine was looking, but the basil really put it over the top.  After mine came out of the oven, I was pleased.   The shape of both of my personal pizzas weren’t the best, but that will be learned with experience, patience, and repetition.  But overall I was heartened with mine.

PizzaPartyFreshBasil

One of my pizza pals had a similar pie for theirs except no pepperoni. And he put the cheese on first, then the sauce (and a lot of it), and basil.   He was happy with that one.

PizzaPartyStromboli

And finally, my other fellow pizza pal turned hers into a calzone.  How cool is that?   This is a perfect case of knowing to be creative, but to also keep it simple and yummy.  She was pleased with hers as well.

We will be doing this again, either to celebrate, or for no reason at all.  It’s good to change it up a bit, and see if our meals can measure up to the outside pizzerias.  I was happy with this and can’t wait to do it again!

Keeping it simple, fundamental, and then taking the right chances is the way to go.

PizzaPartyAerialView

Have a great day!

Best,

Ideen