Pretzel Pals

PretzelPizzaOlympicPizza2

Pretzel and Pizza Creations of Downtown Frederick, MD is a refreshing change for so many reasons.  First, the location just makes me feel so warm inside.  I adore any town that has a historic and neighborly looking part.   It feels even more cozy when the temperatures start to drop a little bit and those leaves start changing color.  The symbols and images are open to your interpretation.  I interpret as feelings of community, love, and looking out for one another.

PretzelPizzaStore

With all that being said, Prezel and Pizza definitely has a feel of a small town shoppe with all kinds of treats and goodies ready at your disposal.   Not every town or community has a store like this.  You got your community bank, your bar, wine shop, bookstore, and your various food places.  This might sound like something out of program or cinema, but it’s also real life.  Mom and pop shoppes are still number one in my eyes, and always will be.

I’m grateful to have made two visits to Frederick in as many months, and my inquisitive nature made me research a place for pizza.  And a bonus was this charming place.

My first time I was mesmerized by the menu.  If you’ve never gone to a restaurant or any food place, you may find yourself perusing the menu a lot longer than wherever you might be a regular.  But that’s the fun of it.  Every place you’ve been to, there was a first time.  I like the sound of that.

PretzelPizzaOlympicPizzaPie

Back near the end of the Summer was that first time and I ordered the Olympic Games as my first pizza.  Now for those who know me personally know why I went with that.

PretzelPizzaOlympicPizza

I had no idea what to expect with how the pretzel would taste along with the mozzarella cheese, spinach, olives, and feta.  I just realized that my pie had two cheeses.  I did take notes and that taste resonated with me.

PretzelPizzaOlympicSlice2

The Bavarian Style soft pretzel crust is divine, it’s heavenly, and it’s comfort food at its finest.  As the weather gets colder, this is the kind of doughy goodness you’re going to be seeking.

PretzelPizzaOlympicSlice

As a collective I think the clash of cheeses might have been an issue for me.  I didn’t love this pizza, or pretzel if you will.  I didn’t love the flavor of the dough on this first go around.  But that was until…

Fast forward to earlier this week,  I kept it simple and then I got into the spirit of the season.

PretzelPizzaCheese

The simple cheese is just what I needed and the flavors of their mozzarella and homemade sauce worked perfectly with this crust.   And while the pictures of both look appetizing, the cheese is truly a winner.  Sometimes keeping it simple is the way to go.  Just like the simple town setup is some all anyone needs.   A standard and reliable cheese is usually going to raise your spirits and make you feel good.   This made me feel really good.

PretzelPizzaPumpkinMenu

Just when it couldn’t get any better, a nice bonus menu of pumpkin pretzels was their just glistening and waiting to be ordered.   I went for the big one and that means the stuffed pretzel with pumpkin chips, cream cheese, and loads of pumpkin spice sugar. We might be getting carried with all this pumpkin stuff, but I love it.  Tis the season, wait not that season just yet.  It’s full on pumpkin season and this pretzel is a treasure to behold.

And what a great way to celebrate National Pumpkin Day.  Yes that’s a holiday!

PretzelPizzaPumpkin

Their menu is loaded with exciting foodies, aside from the pizza and pretzels, that will be sure to please anyone visiting, and all the locals.   For a moment I felt like a local.  The staff was personable and welcoming upon each visit.

PretzelPizzaMenu

Until just now, I had no idea they had a second location in Hagerstown.

To find out more about Pretzel and Pizza Creations, here is their story, their menu, the food, and contact information.

This was so fun. I’m so fortunate and grateful to have discovered this gem in a different part of Maryland, that I don’t visit nearly enough.  If you live or are ever around the Frederick or Hagerstown areas, I would definitely pay a visit here if you haven’t already.

ILoveDowntownFrederick

I welcome the next time I’m in town and will make it a point to visit again.

Thanks so much and peace be with you.

Ideen

 

Grotto Pizza – The Revival

GrottoSlices

A dear friend of mine had asked me I had written about Grotto Pizza, and specifically about the Columbia, MD location.  I never asked him why that one specifically?  I could envision him saying, ‘well why not?’  That’s exactly right.  And this is in celebration of National Pizza Month.

GrottoFront

I never explained to my pal that back in May of 2015, I was pretty harsh on the place.  But this was the Dewey Beach location. We’re talking Memorial Day Weekend, loads of people, lines for food and drinks everywhere, and a likely rush for the way anything is prepared.   I don’t often read my old posts but I can imagine I said something similar but still being really hard on their pizza.

I’m not usually one to be critical.  I discuss a place on how it presents or how I feel it tries to present itself.  It’s all in the intention.  If a place carries some weight and gives off the aura and energy that their pizza, their ambiance, their energy, and their everything is larger than life, then I’ll look at them in a different light than a more casual pizza place.  And if it thinks it’s a little too cool for school or a bit ostentatious, then I will factor that in.

Fortunately, Grotto carries itself in a quite laid back fashion.  Even as this chain grows into a full service bar and restaurant, with locations growing from the Maryland and Delaware beaches slowly into the DC area, it still maintains a welcoming and folksy vibe that I believe they’ve been presenting for the 57 years it’s been open. Yes since 1960!  Math is fun!

While I don’t do many repeats, I feel this was necessary.  And I love thoughtful requests and I love a good redux.

I will say that the Columbia location is among the many spots where there is new development, a new era in living (which is happening in many places), and a revival of sorts.  Whether that’s good or bad is all relative and all on how you think communities should look.

But in the end it’s still always about the pizza, and then some of those other details.

I came at a quieter time, before the lunch rush.  So I had the full and undivided of the kind folks behind the counter.  Yes they were so kind.

You have an easy to use to-go board for ordering, if you don’t feel like sitting at a bar or table.  Before I departed the tables were starting to fill, but I digress.

As an homage to my first recap, everything was to go, and of course I ordered a cheese and then a pepperoni slice.  As a bonus, and just to see how another pie tastes, I went with the Buffalo Chicken.

GrottoCheese

The cheese and pepperoni were much better this time.  I love that the pepperoni is buried under the cheese. And the way the cheese is layered on top, in a charming and well thought out pattern is always a joy to see.

GrottoPepperoni

No, these are not to be the best pizzas of all time.   They’re fun.  The crust is a standard thin crust.  These are good slices for on the go and they do the job.  At around $6-$7 for two slices and a soda, that’s a solid deal.

GrottoBuffaloChicken

I can’t quite say the same about the Buffalo Chicken.  My main issue is the price.  At $18 for a medium, which presents itself more like a small, it’s a little pricier than I feel it should.

The sauce, chicken, cheese, and crust were fine but nothing special.  It’s a solid pizza, but not at the price.

You can see by the menu, that they have a plethora of pies, that you see in many pizzerias, with a few of their own creative takes thrown in…

…this is why I think another visit before the year is over is necessary.  So I’m thinking by the holidays, and I have a specific location in mind.

GrottoSlicesMenu

If you’re a fan of Grotto, my opinion is not going to sway you one way or another. People love the tradition and history behind the place.  I love tradition.  I love sentimentality.  It’s a place many of our parents and grandparents took us during Summer outings to the beach.  And now that it’s in a neighborhood or town near you, new traditions, homages, and memories can be made.

I look forward to creating another memory later this year.

For more on Grotto, here is their menu, locationscontact info, and their history.

Thank you so much.  Happy National Pizza Month.  And peace be with you…

Ideen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Made By Hand (And With Love)

AmysPizzaPies

When I told a dear friend yesterday that I would be writing about Amy’s Kitchen Pizza this week, she was so excited and so happy.  She sounded happy for me too.  It’s because her and her husband were the ones who introduced me to their pizzas a few years ago.

I must thank them so much.  Even though Amy’s is now all over the place, and gluten and vegan pizza and food alternatives are all over the place.  They still get credit for opening my eyes and expanding my food horizons.

Personally for me, I can’t keep eating all this pizza at this rate.  I can’t speak for anyone else.   My stomach has gotten some ill affects over the past couple of years with all this exposure to cheese, bread, and sauce.   I’d say the first two have really done a number on me.   Thankfully, I have pizza to share with friends, share with family, give it to those in need, or save it for later.   Sometimes I feel I have no choice but to let it go to waste.  But I try to limit that if at all possible.

I had every intent of doing a couple of frozen pies this week.  The weather has been gloomy, rainy, and starting to feel more like fall, here in Maryland.  This leads to days where you don’t want to cook, don’t want to leave the house, and don’t want to do anything.

Instead of grabbing some standard pies (here is my frozen za history), I felt inspired to go the gluten free route.  Simple eating doesn’t have to be unhealthy, yet can still be timely.

So when I went my local supermarket yesterday, I perused the gluten free pizza aisle and was reminded of Amy’s.  I’ve had other brands thanks to my friends, but Amy’s was the first.  And you’ve got to give love to what got you here and what resonates the most.

I deliberately went with rice crust based pies for both.  I love the way it tastes and just wanted a reminder of how it compares to your standard wheat crusts.  It’s a more than viable alternative to those with gluten allergies.

First up is the Cheese.  It’s exactly what you want from a cheese pizza, with the different crust.   I was in a good mood throughout the pizza prepping process (I know, so challenging, heat and serve haha), so I just had this feeling these pies would turn out great.

AmysCheesePizza

The way the cheese melted into the crust was gorgeous.  I don’t know if pictures will do this thing justice.   I cut them up into slices, and while I enjoyed this, I will definitely be saving some for seconds.  That rice crust is fantastic.  I want more of this in my life. And that house-made tomato sauce, tastes just like home.

AmysCheesePizza2

Speaking of wanting more,  I had to do two of these.

The Gluten Free and Dairy Free Pesto warmed my heart.  The way this thing melted from pre heat to afterwards was such a joy.   I almost forgot this was dairy free.  As much as I loved the cheese, this was one was just that masterful.    I would be lying if I didn’t say it was the house-made pesto (my love for pesto can be found here) that did it.  It’s tremendous, but so are these tomatoes.  I love the broccoli too, but those tomatoes sealed the deal for me.   I’m a bigger fan than ever.

AmysPestoPizza

And yes I felt much better after having these pies than anything I’ve had recently.

AmysPestoPizza2

And at $8-10, you’re getting a deal for these pizzas.

Since they have so many pizza pies to try, I hope to do this again.   As the weather gets colder, there may be more opportunities to try some for frozen pizzas, which should not be discounted.  I’ve had pizzas from the frozen aisle that match or surpassed many pizzas I’ve had at pizzerias.

More importantly, I like what Amy’s is about.  Family owned, independent, community based, and autonomous are the best kinds of stories.

I don’t need to explain it, here is more on their food philosophy, their community efforts, their story, and course all their foods, and where to find all of their products near YOU.

You don’t have to find be gluten or dairy free to enjoy what Amy’s has to offer.  I’m all for trying different foods, with different ingredients and especially wholesome ones made from love.  There’s a soul behind this and if you’ve had any of their foods or pizzas, then you know what I’m talking about.

AmysPizzaSlices

Sometimes you just know when something comes from a place that’s bigger than us.

I look forward to the next opportunity to try something about from Amy’s, and maybe share it with you here.

In the meantime, stay healthy and peace be with you.

Ideen

 

You Say Tomatoes

HotTomtoesSlices

Two years ago, when leading up to The Fell’s Point Fun Festival, I did a series of posts featuring pizza from restaurants, pizzerias, and the like from the neighborhood.   I didn’t do them all, I didn’t avoid any on purpose, but I wanted to discuss some that may be off the radar or not within anyone’s crosshairs on a regular basis.

HotTomatoes

Then there’s Hot Tomatoes.  It’s one of those things where if you live or hang out in the area, you know what you’re getting.  I was thinking myself that it was too obvious and almost unnecessary to write about this establishment.  This is not a knock on them or their food.   It’s just that it’s always been there and it’s not going anywhere.  And imagine any late night, especially on the weekends, where slices are coming and going at a rapid-fire place.  The place isn’t going anywhere as long as people had a good night (or even a bad night) out and need something to finish the night off and feed their bellies.

But with the Festival starting this weekend, I felt like if I’m not going to write about Hot Tomatoes now, I may never.

For me, I don’t know if I have any sentimental attachment to Hot Tomatoes.   I’ve been and many of us have been too many times to count.  But after a while we look for other sources for greasy food to keep us satisfied.   And while a couple of places have closed nearby (Little Italy Pizzeria and Italian Graffiti come to mind), this neighborhood staple has stood the test of time.  Having a prominent location on Broadway helps.   Location….

HotTomatoesCheese

So how’s the pizza?  Its’s pizza.  It’s food.  There’s some folks prepping the pies, putting sauce, putting cheese, toppings, and throwing it in the oven.  Then when it’s ready they’ll slice it up and put it in a box or you to go.  See where I’m going with this?  It’s pizza that looks rough, is not going to win any world title belts, but it serves its purpose.  And that’s just the way they want it.  And it’s just pizza.  Many of us at later hours don’t care about artisanal quality and world renowned craftsmanship.

HotTomatoesGreek2

But something happened recently.  They’ve changed their slices up quite a bit.  I had a Greek slice with olives, onions, feta, and a whole slew of awesomeness.  It was a white based and it was surprisingly good.  I mean that with all sincerity.  Because of Hot Tomatoes presents itself, you expect what you expect.  But when they throw a good slice that is, your taste buds are feeling good and it’s a welcome change from the standard cheese and pepperoni.   If this slice is on display this weekend I’ll gladly get another.

 

Their slices are in the $4-$5 range but their big, and prices at the late night hour are really not what folks are worrying about.

What is their true stand out if their deep fried cheese steak.  They don’t always make it, but when it’s there, jump on it.  It’s the most unhealthy and glorious of all guilty pleasures.  I’ve always had to split mine with a pal.  It’s incredibly bad for you, yet incredibly delish all at once.

And now their other venture, at the same location, Diablo Doughnuts is really wowing people. I had my first opportunity to try their sweet treats and a wedding last weekend.  I believe I had one with fruity pebbles.  So good.

UPDATE :

This has been updated with my actual first purchase of donuts from said Diablo, during the festival, which was rather mellow on Sunday.

I grabbed an iced coffee, along with a Samoa (yes the Girl Scout kind), and a Blackberry Lime.  I thought they were both fine, but in what ways do I compare this to other doughnuts?  I like the creativity of flavors, but not sure if this is anything amazing in my eyes.  They were tasty though.  That’ all that matters.

I’m assuming they will still have a stand outside of their shoppe.  Per neighborhood and logistical changes the festival will be condensed this year, to try to make it even a heavier focus on local business and give it a more cozy and welcoming feel.  I’ve always felt was it inviting and approachable to people from all walks of life.  I’m hoping this change is a good one.  We shall see.

BroadwaySquare

Broadway Square, with the exception of the pretzel dog and lemonade stand, has opened back up in time for this weekend.  All signs pointing to a positive experience and a great time.

FellsPointFestival

I’ve been attending this festival every year, except for 2003, since 2000.  It’s become a part of me, a part of many of us, and it’s that first weekend in October that many of us look forward too.  For me, it hasn’t always been the most amazing of times, mainly because I think the festival got carried away with trying to be too big and getting carried away with outside food, drink, and traveling carnival like vendors.

But the last few years have been fantastic, with being able to drink on the streets, and keep it more local, has been a welcome addition.  And an addition by subtraction.

FellsPointFestivalSchedule

For those attending this weekend, here is the link to the maps and parking at the festival, the band list, purchasing drink packages (it’s $20 for 3 drinks versus $5 for just the cup in previous years), and contact information.

With so many many changes going on in the city and one of the great neighborhoods in the country, I’m hoping the integrity and heart will always be there.

We’ll be seeing ya this weekend.

Take good care,

Ideen