Hagerstown Is Happytown

NorthsideBoth

It’s been years since I drove into Hagerstown.  I haven’t avoided the town for any reason in particular.  It just hasn’t given me a reason to visit.  Maybe nothing has been presented to me.  And I grew up not far from there so I shouldn’t take where I come from for granted. But I’m not exactly from there, so I should’t be so dramatic.

Well a reason was presented to me, and sometimes it’s a chance encounter or a reunion with someone you haven’t seen in a long time.  Well it was neither of those things.   Sometimes the drive just leads you through small towns and random locales that don’t need any further explanation.  The views are usually awesome.

A lot has changed since I was here last.  The sad truth is many of these places are losing its charm, its community feel, and turning into everywhere else, with box stores, chain restaurants, and cookie-cutter entities we sadly cross paths with all too often.

The historic parts remain because either people fight to keep them, or they’re just too beautiful and authentic to replace.  We need that charm or the soul is eradicated.

I’ve pontificated far too long and no mention of pizza.

NorthsideFront

This brings me to Northside Pizzeria, which actually isn’t in the historic part.  But it’s in a shopping center (something about the term ‘strip mall’ feels generic as well, per my points earlier) that has that communal feel.  Yet we’re a few minutes away from the historic downtown.   At least I want to believe that.  Hey I’m in a new town, I’m gonna try some new pies.

When I read that it was family owned and operated, that was music to my ears.  I imagine the same goes for many of you.

Being at a pizzeria during lunch hour is a different beast than dinner time.  For me, the menu goes out the window.  I want slices or else there’s no meaning to this.   Ha, I can’t believe I just said that.

The interior has simple seating and a simple counter top for ordering.  It felt like old times or maybe it just felt genuine.  I can’t articulate this exactly the way I want it but the vibe felt familiar, going back to when I was a kid.  It’s one of those things for me and the universe to figure out exactly.

NothsideBoth2

I went with the cheese and the Hawaiian in honor of Summer.

NorthsideCheese

These were standard pizza fare.  I finished both but honestly can’t say either was amazing. Now I did brick oven and was hoping for that taste.  It didn’t shine through. My plain slice looked pretty plain. I understand that it was busy, slices were going like hotcakes, and not all slices are meant to be glorious.  The Hawaiian had some tasty ham and pineapple chunks, so I picked off the pieces, and enjoyed them on their own.  Nothing about the crust stood out to me, good or bad.

NorthsideHawaiian

Partially because I romanticize that feels like a road trip or vacation.  I want memories that are sentimental as cheesy as that sounds.   Did someone say cheesy?  See what I did?

NorthsideThePies

If and when I’m back, (and I will be back), I will give this another go.  And who knows, it might be dinner time.  The choices on the board look fantastic.

If you’re in the area or plan on driving through, I would absolutely stop in.   The service was top notch and no thrills.  In this setting, it worked perfectly.  More to come.

Happy First Week of Summer!

Best,

Ideen

All I Can Eat

CantinaBothSlices2

I used to crave buffets.  I was a big boy once.  Just the sight or sign of an all-you-can eat buffet or smorgasbord would get my friends and I excited.   I lived for the moment, literally.  I had helpings and more helpings of the most unhealthy and unsightly food, but I didn’t care.  Life for a few minutes was good.  But with that comes severe repercussions.

I’d like to think I’ve grown up.  I’ll eat the occasional Indian or Middle Eastern buffet, but I must be very careful.  Our stomachs can only take so much.  My tummy is hurting at the thought of this.

CantinaBuffet

More on buffets shortly.  That pic looks kind of funny I know.

CantinaStoreFront

This brings me to Cantina Mamma Lucia of Hanover, MD.    This may not be the sexiest area, but I’ve been around the area enough times, it’s been long overdue to visit.  And just because the strip mall doesn’t look too appealing doesn’t mean this spot is unwelcoming. Nothing could be further from the truth.  There’s a pleasantly surprising energy in this place.   I can’t put my finger on it but the massive space may be a factor.  It’s large enough to fit a big group or party but still has that quaint and cozy feeling.

But before going inside I caught the sign for a buffet.  I didn’t expect that.   I had to think for a moment, do I want to focus on the pizza or say the heck with it and enjoy this on my own, no pictures, no blog posts.   I chose the former.  For only $2 more I could have ordered the buffet which included sausage, meatballs, pastas, cheese pizza slices, and to counterbalance the carbs, a leafy green salad area.   So….

CantinaFrontDisplay

I opted for two slices  in the front display area.  I went with the cheese and a vegetarian slice.  The weather was conducive to sitting outside.  Yet no one else echoed that sentiment.   Well that just means more room for me.

As it gets warmer eating carbohydrates may be more of a challenge.  Or maybe it’s just me? But I’m drawn to lighter fare such as salads, healthier proteins, and other nutritional friendly options.  At least that’s my intent.

With these two slices it was a struggle to eat.  I didn’t finish either and that had nothing to do with the quality.

CantinaCheeseSlice1

The cheese was magnificent.  The crust, sauce, and cheese were perfect together.  If the temperature was chillier and my mood called for more comfort food, I would decimate a whole pie.  Oh man maybe I should have gone with the err.. No…

CantinaVeggieSlice1

The veggie slice was ok.  They didn’t taste fresh and I think they were in the way of the cheese.  I really just wanted another cheese at this point.

Which brings me to another point.  As it gets hotter (and I’m not complaining, I love this weather), it’ll tempt me to find other alternatives in terms of crust.  If that means gluten free then I’ll see where that leads me.  I’ve had gluten free slices before with mixed results.

But for now I take solace in remembering how delicious that cheese slice was and forget about the rest.  I hope to come back again and see what else their menu has to offer.  If you’re in the area I would highly recommend that slice, and maybe the buffet.     Maybe…

 

Best,

Ideen

 

 

The Groovy Gourmet

PeaceAPizzaSlices

The amount of times I’ve driven by on or on the outskirts of Peace A Pizza without stopping in is too high to count.   I’m perplexed at myself.  But earlier this week I was in the vicinity and decided it was finally time.  Maybe the sun being out consistently has snapped me back into a bit of normalcy.

So when I stepped out of my car and saw a hippie and positive logo on the outside I was hoping I was in for a positive and vibrant experience.   And that’s exactly what I got.

PeaceAPizzaFront

First things first, Catonsville is the home of this location.  And even though I’ve spent a minuscule amount of time in the town, I felt at ease and at peace walking around.  Yes I gave myself a few minutes to soak in the area.  It may not look as historic as towns near you, but it still had a community feel to it that I welcome in my life.

Smack dab and nearly centrally located is this pizzeria.    I was there at an off time so I had the whole place to myself.  While that may sound lonely, it was fine by me.  I was able to snap some photographs I otherwise might not have been able to.

PeaceAPizzaSlices2

Without even realizing, the two slices I ordered were based on my favorite ingredients. And I savored both.  I went with the Buffalo Bleu Cheese and the Green Goat, with the latter containing pesto.  For those who’ve been following this blog, I’ve raved about this sauce from the get go.  More on that in a moment.

PeaceAPizzaBuff

The chicken on my buffalo slice tasted fresh and real.  That’s all you can ask for.  I could pieces of chicken on this slice all day.  I didn’t have all day though.  The bleu cheese was delectable but the funny kicker is that instead of sour cream, they used crème fraîche instead of our cream.  What’s the difference?  You can read more here.  The red peppers were a nice touch.  This was a wonderful gourmet slice.  And that’s what they tout.

PeaceAPizzaGreenGoat

The Green Goat is a funny one.  When I ordered the slice at the counter, I forgot to ask what it was.  I just liked how it looked and saw the green pesto sauce emanating from the slice.  So after looking my pictures over and perusing the menu, I can deduct that is what I ordered.  My excitement got the best of me.  At the time I could only officially identify my slice as, ‘what is this?’ or just ‘this’.  That’s the crack reporting you’re looking for I know.

The goat cheese and pesto are a winning combination.  I love how both slices look. I’m admiring them even more a few days after the fact.  The arugula and plum tomatoes also complement this slice accordingly.  Man I love this one too.

I noticed they didn’t heat up either slice entirely.  I’m actually glad they didn’t.  I’ve mentioned before, that sometimes heating it up too much will cover up for glaring holes and issues with the pie itself.  Lukewarm is a strong barometer of how the pizza truly tastes.What I ate is what I got.  Makes sense right?

The vibe inside is one of happiness, harmony, and hippies.  Did I just do some alliteration again?  Oh boy.  And I wanted to avoid using the word hippie if I could.  But it applies here. I’m all for uplifting vibes and feeling good.

PeaceAPizzaOutside

This is a chain that looks like it will blow up.   There’s only seven locations currently, but I suspect that number will grow.  If you’re near one I highly recommend a visit.

I had way too much fun here.  I will have to come back here sooner much rather than further down the line.  Whether it’s this particular location or elsewhere, I welcome trying some more unique and groovy slices.

PeaceAPizzaDeals

I’m feeling those good vibrations.

Peace and Love,

Ideen

 

All Fired Up

JZ'sDuo

A serendipitous moment took place at a wine festival I attended and volunteered at took place.  While sampling various vinos a little chow is not only going to be necessary, it’s going to be inevitable.

JZ'sTruck

From generic food stands to flavored nuts to seafood to pasta, and everything in between. I’m only glossing over what I saw or what I choose to see, but once I saw JZ’s Brick Oven Pizza, it only felt right and this was destined to be.

JZ'sSign

As you can see they had a limited menu for the festival which is only right.  You only need just a few slices to please everyone.  Luckily, they pleased me and it seems like most of the attendees would concur.

I went with the cheese and since I’ve seldom had it anywhere, the Greek.

What immediately stood out is how cheap all these slices were.   Everything, including the aforementioned slices, the pepperoni and buffalo chicken were only $3.00.  For any type party, festival, or facsimile that is a bargain.  And I may be understating that.  I’ve seen similar food trucks charge more than double what they’re asking for.  That’s automatic brownie (or cheesy, man I’m cheesy) points in my book.

JZ'sWoods

These slices would be worth double that.  I mean that sincerely.  These were highly enjoyable.  No it’s not going to win best pizza in the world nor that does scenario really apply here.   These tiny guys were delectable.  I really got the brick oven feel and taste that I haven’t always gotten from places that proclaim the same.  Maybe it’s the people and brains behind the operation, but the folks behind these slices seemed to be enjoying themselves.  And the charring looks artistic.

JZ'sCheese

In spite of the growing lines, my pizza came out swiftly and efficiently.  The cheese tasted exactly how I had hoped, nothing more, nothing less.  Maybe it was the festival vibe and atmosphere, but this was comfort food and it’s finest.  And this was a source of comfort.

JZ'sGreek

The Greek was the stand-out of the two.  I could have devoured a whole pie of these.  The garlic, feta, olives, spinach and tomatoes blended  together to make a champion.

Maybe the stroke of genius is these slimmer slices only left you wanting more.   I did notice familiar faces going back more seconds, and maybe thirds (even more?) and that’s the sign of a winner.

JZ'sOven

I do believe this would work in a multitude of settings.  The atmosphere of this event lent itself to foods and wines maybe tasting better than they normally would in a regular environment.   Most people aren’t too picky, they just want good food with a good vibe.  This was the best of both.

And I would love to have this again.

The website is easy to navigate.  The menu, contact information, and other particulars can be found all on the same page.   Everything about JZ’s would point to be being on the same page.

For more on the wine festival I added, you can go here or here.

I’d like to make mention that I had the good fortune of meeting someone, while volunteering, connected to this group but misplaced their contact information. She said her family is the ones behind this and have now opened up a new restaurant in the Towson, MD area.  I had promised to do an honest write-up and wanted to give them credit as well.  If you happen to read this I just wanted to make mention and say thanks so much.

Here’s to a great Summer and festival season,

Ideen