That’s The Jingle Bell Part II

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Although it’s been said many times, many ways, I adore Annapolis. 

How many times can you or I praise something before it loses it’s shine, and it starts to feel transparent?  Well when you give authentic love and energy to anything, I don’t think there can ever be enough praise.

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One year ago I was invited to the most charming of holiday parties, at the Red Red Wine Bar, which in time for the holidays transformed themselves as the Jingle Bell Bar.  I know, how awesome right?  Last year’s story can be found here.

The amazing decorations, displays, lights, tinsel, trees, and so much that I don’t remember it all was back.   The great customer service was back.  And most of all the event was helped to support the amazing organization, Anne Arundel County CASA.

I’ve mentioned CASA several times in the past in this blog, and it’s wonderful organization with wonder people behind this operation.  I know feel like I’m part of the family and consider several people involved dear friends, as well as family.  It’s a blessing to be a part of something so genuine and so loving.

And being a part of these most wonderful, organic, and fun loving events makes it all the more merrier.  And it’s magnified during the month of December.

Let’s face it, our schedules are loaded and bloated with events that we either feel obligated to, torn about or may look forward too.  Some might me too big for their own good, or might be thrown for the sake of it with no soul.

This event was loaded with soul.  It was a great time with great people, and while the bar was busy, you never had to fight to get a drink or have yourself heard.  CASA also had a guest bartender for a couple of hours that added another level of charm to the event.  And yes this was an event on the calendar I was looking forward too.

And yes, being in Annapolis (here’s my Annapolis history that keeps on growing) just wraps it up in a pretty bow and screams Merry Christmas.   It almost seems too good to be true, but it isn’t.  Sometimes towns are that picturesque that it deserves as much as love from its locals and from visitors like myself.

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Now onto the pizza.  Last year, I did two pies and I had to go back and make sure I would’t accidentally make a repeat.  So here goes.

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First was the Eastern Shore.  This is barbecue chicken, with red onions, mozzarella, and marinara sauce.  I’ve had bbq chicken on pies that have been absolute disasters.  It’s real easy to screw up if you’re not careful.  That’s why when a place does it right, it deserves a lot of credit.  And this was really good.  I don’t know if this was my favorite bbq chicken but there’s a lot going for it.

A lot can go wrong when barbecue sauce, cheese, and the pizza sauce clash.  And all of these principles can taste fine but may not mesh well when molded together.  This was a great effort.  But what really stands out is the crust and those onions.   I could eat these red onions for days.  And the way this pizza was heated was done perfectly.  The pictures tell more than I can.

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But the Gus is the pizza you want to get.  Oh my goodness this was something.  This may have been cooked better than the Eastern Shore.  This was per our bartenders’, Bethany (whom we met last year at the same event), recommendation, and it never had a chance.

I mean it really never had a chance.  I was lucky to have a slice.  This is the one everyone was drawn to.   The cheese and sauce complemented the trios of ham, sausage, and pepperoni to perfection.  This was exquisite.  I’m craving one right now.   That only means…

I will be back.  I promised that if I were afforded the opportunity and pleasure to come back to this same party one year later, that I would revisit some of their pizzas, and maybe their wine.    More on that wine later…

A huge thanks to Bethany and Abby for helping with the pizza and wine suggestions.

This was great, this was a wonderful occasion with equally wonderful people, that represent a great organization that is Anne Arundel County CASA.  And to partner up with the friendly folks at Red Red Wine Bar is a winning Christmas combination.

For more on Red Red Wine Bar, here is their menu, their hours and location, and their backstory.

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And for more on Anne Arundel County CASA, here is more about them, and how to get involved.

Annapolis has my heart, and so did everything about this event.

I will be back. Actually, I have been back a couple of times over the year in between events, but not to write about.  I waited for this.

If there’s to be a trilogy, I will patiently wait one more year.   But honestly, where did one year go?  I felt like I was admiring this holiday decor just the other day.

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And we’ll admire it again.

Happy Holidays and Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Love This Weekend

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Sometimes life works out, the planets and stars align, and the universe does look out for you.  It looks out for us in more ways than we realize.  We might not always see it.  I know I don’t always see it.   And even with all the good that is about to transpire this weekend,  I may not fully grasp how beautiful the next few days are going to be, until way after its over.  I know I’ll love it while it’s happening, but I’ll look back fondly on it even more as time goes by.  This is more than nostalgia or reminiscing.  Some thing just hit you.  You wish time would stand still, you could do this all day, you could do this forever, and you could be around these people forever.

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What I’m referring to is the annual CASAblanca Gala presented by Anne Arundel County CASA, this Saturday, November 4th.

I mentioned Anne Arundel County, which is synonymous with Annapolis.  I’ve said plenty of good about our state capitol in the past, yet I can never say enough.

My dear friend Rebecca is the Executive Director of Anne Arundel County CASA, and it’s an amazing time to share with friends and to support a wonderful cause.  This their 20th year holding the event, which takes place at the beautiful Westin Hotel in Annapolis.   It’s my third year attending, and the third time is a charm to finally write about…

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Carpaccio Tuscan Kitchen is literally footsteps from the Westin, and has been as convenient and a go-to for me as any.  Well why do I say convenient and go to?  Isn’t this a sit-down restaurant with fine dining, a place to relax, and appreciate the food and surroundings?  Well yes, but I’ve actually never eaten here.   What I’m actually referring to is Carpaccio 2go which is adjacent to the restaurant, and I mean this with all sincerity, looks like something I’ve never seen.   I almost feel like it’s too good to be true in a way.  I don’t know how to explain it but the location is perfect, and I can’t exactly put my finger on why.

Maybe because many pizza places with slices to go don’t look as beautiful as this.  But if you look around the vicinity, the tiny of white colors of the building, the hotel, and the residential units across the way, all match.  While the area looks pricey, and of course it is, it almost feels supernatural in a way.  Again, it’s all open to your interpretation, but there’s an architectural and metaphysical force that worked in concert with each other to create all this.  In some ways, it”s almost too beautiful.  But I should appreciate all the beauty for what it is.

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I’ve been to the carry out side many times and because of the location and the aura I was feeling, I had immensely high expectations.  Now, not every time is going to be mentioned or will every slice be featured.  I will reserve it to two visits for now, which means a total of four slices.

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The first visit I will discuss was back in late Summer.  Now it’s hot and pizza is hot, so what am I trying to say?  I really don’t know haha, but my slices on this day were the Sausage and Peppers, and then Chicken Pollo. Now I know what I was trying to say.  I think some slices work better in different climates, similar to how we drink wine, and how we eat other foods during certain times and certain seasons.

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While I’ve had mainly good experiences here, I know the best was still to come.  The sausage and peppers with onions was really good, and went great with your standard mozzarella cheese slice.  I will say without sounding like a broken record, the crusts on all these slices were heated tremendously.  You can see the colors across the board.  There was a lot of time and care put into the making of the dough and the heating.  You don’t need to be an expert.   You can just tell those things.

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Now I had high aspirations for the pesto.  I’ve ranted and raved about my love for pesto throughout my journey, and I wanted to love this one so much.  It was good but I know the best was still to come.  The pesto aioli was fantastic.  Maybe for me the white pizza with chicken, tomatoes, and those yummy mushrooms (more on the mushrooms shortly), caused a little bit of the flavors to be lost.   But still a good slice I would definitely have again.

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Now moving on to earlier this week, this is where expectations were matched and succeeded.

It almost seemed like the pizzas on display looked shinier and brighter, and I could do no wrong no matter what I ordered.  I was spot on and then some.

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The Margherita looks like art and tastes like art.  The marinara sauce is heavenly.  The photo doesn’t say it all but it says a lot.  Oh my goodness.  This is up there with one of the better slices I’ve had. The basil, garlic, mozzarella, and olive oil just makes this simple pizza one of the best I’ve had not just here but anywhere.  And the crust was even better today.

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Not to be outdone is the Wild Mushroom.  I love mushrooms and can have them with just about anything.  But when you throw gorgonzola, you’ve got to be kidding me, this is a gem.  Cremini and portobello mushrooms really make this pie but the combination of two contrasting cheese in mozzarella and gorgonzola also make this an absolute masterpiece.

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Recall how I said you look back on things with even more love and romanticism as time goes by?  This is how I felt about this visit.  I’ve been here many times and something about this one was just a cut above the rest.  I sensed it and maybe the universe did too.  This won’t be the last time I  talk about them.  The next time will be from the actual restaurant itself, which is gorgeous inside and in the patio area as well.  If you’ve visited then you know I’m talking about.   Yes I’ve never eaten there but was in awe of what I saw.

For more on Carpaccio, here is their menu (which serves many of the same pizzas as Carpaccio 2go, click here to make a reservation, their story, and contact information.

It’s going to be a beautiful weekend in the Annapolis area.  Not only is the CASAblanca Gala going to be amazing, but I’ll also be at the First Sunday Arts Festival footsteps away on West Street the following day.  It will be their holiday edition, yes it’s that time of year already. In addition is the Bay Bridge 10k this Sunday, the Eastport vs. Annapolis Tug Of War on Saturday, and the City of Annapolis General Elections are this Tuesday.  

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What an exciting time to be in the area.  If Annapolis wasn’t great enough, all these events just make this place all the more magical.

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It all begins with CASAblanca and I so greatly look forward to it.

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For more on Anne Arundel County CASA, here is more about them, volunteer, and donation information.

Thanks so much and I look forward to an incredible weekend!

Peace be with you and happy beginning to the holiday season…

Ideen

 

 

Friend(s) of CASA

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This is a different post than the usual.  I’m going to get to the pizza right away, then focus on something of greater magnitude and importance.

This week brings me to the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore.  In the heart of everything are all the bars and restaurants on Cross Street.  And within that is the highly popular, Social Pub & Pie.

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I’ve patronized this establishment quite a few times over the past few years, but never actually got to try their pizza.  It’s just how things work out I suppose.  The everything happens for a reason, and how things will work out, also applies here.  More on that after the reviews.

In anticipation of wonderful event coming up this Sunday, October 1st, I thought it was only right to discuss pizzas briefly, and then we’ll focus on something more significant.

I had every intention of making two separate visits, which would mean two pies.  I’m pretty good at math right?  Well, fortunately for me, and a great gesture by Social, they do half and half pies.  Which means I’m going to review for for you today.  And this fact can’t be discounted.  I’m grateful I got to expand my horizons a little bit.

And I broke down both visits by first doing a tomato based pies, and then the second would be the whites.

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First up, the Margherita and the Sausage and Peppers, better known as the Angelo.

SocialPubAngelo&Marghertia

That looks pretty doesn’t it?  I will say that the thin crust was a pleasant surprise.  I was expecting something mega.  But then when I figured out these were wood fired pies, I was looking forward to a lighter and flakier crust.  And that’s exactly what we got.  The Angelo was really good.  With the latter having some fantastic sweet sausage that really makes this pie stand out.  I was in the mood for a little something different and this fits the bill.  The onions and peppers tasted fresh.  The Margherita is exactly what you would expect.  I wouldn’t say it was anything out of the ordinary, but it was solid.

 

I love the presentation and it makes for a great visual.

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But the whites is where things really went to another level.  For visit two, I went with the Spinach and the Onion Crumbled Bleu.   The caramelized onions on both were tremendous.  I have fondness for them in general and this did not disappoint.   The veggies on the spinach were good, but it was the Onion Crumbled Bleu that really stood out.  And I give all credit to the addition of Rosemary.  Yes there’s bleu cheese crumbles and provolone, and while they add something, the rosemary takes this to another place that I didn’t know existed.  If I’ve had rosemary on a pie before I don’t remember.  Either that, or just this just blew everything out of the water.  I can see where these cheeses, the olive oil, and that powerful rosemary taste can backfire.  Not here.  This was incredible.

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If you could only get one pie here, I’d go with the Onion Crumbled Bleu. And that’s without me trying so many fun looking pies on the menu.  Well I can always come back.

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Their website is easy to navigate, so pretty much all the information you need is all found on the main page.

But onto something of greater consequence and importance, my dear friend Rebecca is the Executive Director of Anne Arundel County CASA, Inc.  And her organization will be hosting an event, the Ultimate Tailgate Party at Social Pub & Pie this Sunday (10/1/17) from 9a-12p, where ALL food and liquor sales will be donated to CASA.  How awesome is that?  How often do you hear of all proceeds going anywhere?

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A small percentage is always amazing, but to go above and beyond like this speaks volumes of the management of Social Pub, but also speaks volumes of the people at CASA.

Me and many of our friends have been supporters of CASA, for a number of years, so we know how amazing organizers, the volunteers, the events, and most importantly, the cause is.

I like to think of myself as a friend of CASA.  They even gave me a name tag with my name on it that read, ‘Friend of CASA’, on it, so it must be true.

But regardless, with all the events going on this weekend, this one I would highly suggest attending.  This will be in the private room on the second floor, so you can enjoy a good time with your friends in a more intimate setting, while still getting excited for any football game you’ll either be attending or watching

A gathering of good friends while supporting a more-than-worthwhile cause is what life is all about.  And I’m honored to be a supporter, and honored to be able to write about it here.

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Here are your links to know more about Anne Arundel County, CASA, how to volunteer, how to get involved, or to make donation.

Here are my previous CASA related posts for your reading pleasure (here, there, and, everywhere)

Sunday is going to be fun.  If you’re in the area, bring your friends, your pals, and anyone else that wants to take part in something beautiful.

We’ll see you then.  Peace be with you.

Ideen

 

The Best Stories Come From…

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I often equate a pizza or pizzeria as something bigger than just that.  If there’s a personal attachment or immediately nostalgia, the posts will be easier to right.  Otherwise, it’s an even more intent of focus on the actual pizza itself, and nothing else.  It makes the story all to simplistic and lacking much character.   I do my best not to do that but some experiences can’t be helped.  Not everything is going to be a winner.  And even if the pie is good, that might be all a place or myself had to offer.

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I’m grateful to say that my experience at Bella Italia of Arnold, MD was one I’ll remember, for the simplest of things.

I was the only one in there.

Well that’s the short story.  After I get to the slices I’ll resume why this truly stands out.

And it’s not like the slices don’t stand out.  In fact they do, and it’s because of the mood and the place I was in.

Summer is winding down and I always have mixed feelings about it.  The weather is still stellar but there’s days where the warmth is not as profound.  And we notice the the shortening the days with the sun setting a minute earlier (give or take) each day.  The hints of fall tend to make me embrace the more folksy and community places.   In actuality, I want local all the time, and during any season. I can’t articulate why.  It’s what I’m drawn to.  Local is my heart, and I would safely assume many would feel the same.

Over the past several days I found myself in the Annapolis area, which includes Edgewater, Pasadena, and Arnold, among many other charming towns.   And while I had a list of pizzas and places I could talk about, nothing felt right for this week.  The universe was giving me another sign.  And like a magnet I was drawn to Bella.

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Nestled and snuggled in a the cozy Arnold Station Shopping Center, that has a more authentic and old time feeling area than the newness of a lot of these strip malls, Bella Italia sits in the corner, unassuming, approachable, and inviting.

Ok so about these slices.

I got the cheese, white with spinach and mushroom, and the Mariposa which is a white pizza with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, and the freshest of mozzarella.  And it tasted fresh alright.

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There’s a lot of good to focus on.  The cheese was fantastic.  I often think how we can compare the plain slice, or any slice for that matter, against all the pizza joints in the world.  You can’t.  Our tastes are unique, and all over the place.   Some people may not care for this cheese.  But this had a distinct taste that I can’t put my finger on.  And for now, I don’t want to know.  This is great but not the best slice I’ve ever had.  And again, it’s all subjective.  It was wonderful and in the upper crust (hehe) of the great plain slices I’ve enjoyed.  The crust on all three of these was consistently awesome.

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The white with spinach and mushroom is a step above the white slices I’ve had recently. It’s been a struggle to find a great one lately, and this is closer to what I prefer.  It wasn’t as oily, greasy, or overly cheesy was other whites I’ve been down about.  I’d put it in the decent category.  It’s a little more than just there.

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Which leads me to the Mariposo.  This was a slice.  Now I’ve had eggplants on pizza before and it’s been a disaster.  This was great.   I definitely enjoyed my veggies individually as I plucked away, and noticed so much layered below.  The greens, the tomatoes, and the eggplants tasted just as fresh against other pizzerias that I’ve had something similar.   And after a while, I forgot it was just a white at its base.

But the difference was the greens and olive oil flavor really merged to make this white pizza that much better.  The lighter yet salad like taste made this a winner.  This place is a winner.

And the people behind it are what make it a winner.

When I got there the entire staff was relaxing against the wall like they didn’t have a care in the world.  It was after lunch and before dinner, so I felt like I was the only person on Earth (not true in the slightest but its fun to embellish) and the crew had some down time.  And after I got my slices, they went back to their place of peace.  The gentleman who served up my slices could not have been nicer.

I hope I don’t get anyone in trouble by giving that visual.

It’s this little detail that’s a big one.  It’ll make me want to come back, and not only say thank you.  But to try some other stand out pies.   I’m not sure when that’ll be but the universe will give me another sign.

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These are the places that make this blog worth doing.   I’ll get to more of the Baltimore, DC, and major city stuff.  But this felt a little more real and a little more necessary.

I look forward to more authentic, organic, and beautiful experiences such as this one.

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Oh and did you notice that some of the toppings from the Mariposo spilled onto the other two?  Just a cool little detail, that’s not so little.

Thanks so much.

Ideen

 

Fifty Shades of Great

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Actually it’s more than 50.  You can’t put a number on this but the Fifty Shades of Red from Vin 909 is a scrumptious and scintillating pie.   I could throw all the other superlatives that start with the letter ‘S’and any other letter, but this is one of those overall experiences that will resonate with me for a long time.

You know when you have those Grade A (not I won’t be using a bunch of happy words that start with ‘A’ unless it also happens organically) nights out with awesome food, drinks, company, conversation, and service that it tends to come up often in conversation?

Restaurants are more competitive than ever and many are attempting to stand out and differentiate themselves from the crowd.  Vin 909 has done it by the having a welcoming entrance, an approachable and folksy feeling front porch (which is used for outdoor dining when it’s a warmer climate), a cozy waiting area, and even more cozy bar and dining area on the inside.

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All this without any food being sampled.   One more thing, the many times I’ve driven by I’ve felt an energy emanating from the building and the surrounding area.  I equate the visual of the outside as somewhere we go could if we’re checking into Heaven.  There’s no religious connotation with what I just said.  It’s just meant an an expression, and as an experience.

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But I’ll tell you this Eastport Style Pizza was the equivalent of a religious or more I’d say a spiritual experience.

Now I don’t often seek out loads of meat on my pizza.  I like grilled chicken as my preferred protein and lots of vegetables.  Actually I really like to keep it simple.  I like cheese, I like white, I like spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, mushroom, and of course pesto.

However, I wasn’t alone for this meal, so a mutually enjoyable pie was needed for this occasion.  And I’m all for expanding my horizons and getting out of the comfort zone.  But as you can see the pizza menu is loaded with all kinds of creativity and excitement.

I wish I could tell you the best part of this pizza.  I truly don’t know.  But that crust was jaw droppingly magnificent.  Maybe that was the best part.  But these toppings are all fresh. No matter how I phrase it words will not do it any justice.

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I adore how the cheese melted all over this pie.  It gives it a true authenticity that you don’t always see.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that other pizzas are any worse.  This was just the good stuff.

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Even the way the prosciutto, pepperoni, and sopressata is layered on top is art.  That’s a lot of red meat.  And it may not be for the faint of heart or more of the discriminatory taste, but this was a gem.   That basil and paprika is the perfect counter balance with all that heavy meat.   I’m glad I got to share this pizza for I only had a few slices.

Did you see those slices?  Some were in the standard form and others were more square shaped.  I love how that worked out.   The presentation right before on the pizza stand makes this all come full circle and completes this mastery of a pie.  It’s not just the food and drinks, it’s everything leading up to it.  The anticipation, the build, and the payoff are all part of this enjoyable process.  And when it’s actually enjoyable, which this was, we’re talking a world class meal of epic proportions.

The wine (more on the wine pictured here) made the pizza that much better and the pizza did the same for the vino.   The tea helped settle the stomach, and helped with that full feeling I had when departing.

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How else can I say how great this was?  I can’t say enough.  I’m so partial to Vin 909 and my romance with the restaurant predate me ever setting foot inside.  All that’s left is to keep the love affair going.

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That means a return engagement when the weather breaks.  Actually my intention is to make many visits.  And not all will be for the blog.  Some memories are meant to be kept internal and some should be shared.  But I think this is a place that I want to appreciate without the pressure of writing and taking pictures.  Same goes for many others but Vin 909 will always hold a special place in my heart.  Oh and being in Annapolis helps!

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It’s been a pleasure reminiscing about a meal in three installments (Here is Part 1 and Part 2), and about a place a I was reminiscing about before I even walked into Heavens Gates. Yes I did just say that again.

One thing I forgot to mention is they don’t take reservations.  Seating is first come, first serve.  Wait times can go past an hour.  And you know a place has got some cache if patrons are waiting that long.  Trust me, it’s worth the wait.

How do I follow-up next week?   Well I’ll do my best.  But for now this is one to savor.

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If you’re in the area or visiting I highly recommend Vin 909.   Here is more about them, their philosophycontact info, and most of all one of my best friends’ organizations which they support, Anne Arundel County CASA.

I never got the chance to meet Alex Manfredonia, who is the owner and general manager. But in case he does read this, I just wanted to say thank you.

Ideen

 

 

That’s The Jingle Bell Bar

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That everything happens for a reason cliche is a legitimate thing.   I was all set to do a review of an experience at Red Red Wine Bar back in the spring.   As luck would have it, my phone died as I was getting pictures of our pizzas and vino, while enjoying a casual outdoor setting in Downtown Annapolis.  I took it as a couple things, 1) this is not the way this wine bar was meant to be portrayed, and 2) the universe had grander plans for me.  And is that an understatement if there ever was one.

No matter what goes on in life, one thing I know for sure, the holidays bring out the best in us.  We go through a million emotions all year, and all of a sudden it’s Thanksgiving, and then it’s December.  What the heck happened here?   That time to reflect, to appreciate, and spread love magically appears this time of year.   Wouldn’t be great it you felt that all of the time?

Downtown Annapolis always feels like Christmas to me.  It has the old world, small town, welcoming feel that radiates an aura of holiday spirit 365 days a year.  That might be an exaggeration, but it’s the feeling I get.  And that’s no accident.  Different neighborhoods bring different feelings.  It’s up to us to choose to embrace it or move along.    Well I’m embracing and moving forward.

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So we move along nearly eight months later, and this was meant to be.  However, this time, it wasn’t the Red Red Wine Bar.  They transformed themselves into a winter wonderland and holiday spectacle, happily titled, the Jingle Bell Bar.

This bar is something else.  The set-up with all the lavish decorations screams holiday cheer.  If this didn’t get you in the spirit than I’m not sure what else might.

Actually, it was my dear friend’s event that brought us here tonight.   The Anne Arundel County, Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, for short, has done so much good for the community of Annapolis and nearby.  I’m proud to have volunteered and been associated with some wonderful and unique parties and events.  I’m grateful for that.  And I was grateful for this one.

They had a guest bartender on hand, and part of everyone’s check and tips went to CASA. It’s a win win for everyone.

I  could just sense going in that this was going to be an awesome time.  Sometimes you just know.  When you’re connected with a good community, it’s only going to bring about more of that community.  The folks in attendance were there for the same reason, to celebrate this fantastic organization and the holidays.   I felt so at home.  I think everyone else did too.

After all that, how was the pizza?  To make up for last time, I went with two pies, and was happy to share them with friends, old and new.

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I went with the two that I feel most represented this season, with their flavors, ingredients, and overall presentation.

First up, was the White Chicken on Roasted Garlic Flat Bread.   The look of this was fantastic.   For the simple fact that one of the toppings was garlic puree  is why I went with the garlic flat bread.  It did make me wonder how it would taste with the wheat.  That chicken tasted fresh and organic.   I love brussels sprouts, caramelized onions, and butternut squash.  Tell me another trio that spells out the holidays more than that?  This was a really good pie, but I almost felt like I didn’t get a taste of the squash or onions in every bite.  That could be me trying too hard to find them or some flavors overpowering the other.  Hence why I wonder how the wheat flat bread would turn out.  Nevertheless, my new friends and I finished this wonderful arrangement in mere minutes.  And I would definitely order this pizza again.

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But the quintessential pie of the holiday season might just be the Pear Prosciutto.  You’ve got to be kidding me.   I confirmed with one of the manager’s, Bethany (who was world class by the way), on which pizza to go with.  I’m glad we were on the same page.

Oh my and Christmas was this one of the best things I’ve eaten in sometime.  This is a must with wheat bread.   This is a throwback to my childhood.  And isn’t what Christmas and the holidays does to us sometimes?  The combination of honey, feta, and wheat on a piece of warm and toasty pita bread (usually wheat) alone is something I share with my family, especially my dad, and continue to this way.  So I felt warm inside before even noshing.  And when I finally noshed, everything was confirmed. This is one I’ll be thinking about for a long time.  The pears, prosciutto, and arugula are what you see immediately.  But to me, the heart is the honey, feta, olive oil, and minced garlic.  Again, that’s a family thing.   I’m getting emotional as I expound on this.  I’m getting goose bumps.  I’m not kidding you.

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And combining these pizzas with good people, good wine (click here to read more about the wines), a festive vibe, and a great cause, this is a win-win and then some.

I love this place.  Let me reiterate.  I LOVE this place.  Nestled in the heart of Downtown Annapolis automatically makes a place welcoming.  But there was something special about this night.

Once again, a huge thank you to Bethany for helping me with everything when it came to pizza and wine suggestions.

I’m ecstatic to have been a part of something so special.  I look forward to my next visit to Red Red Wine Bar.   And if you’re in the area I strongly recommend you do the same.

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Here is their story and their contact info.

For my Annapolis Pizza History, click here.

For more on Anne Arundel County CASA and all the good that they do, click here.

And for the last inspiring CASA experience, click here.

This was a holiday party for the books.  I’m so thankful and appreciative to have been a part of this.  All many of us want for the holidays, and out of life, is to feel good.  This event and this bar checks of all the boxes.

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To a safe and happy holiday season,

Ideen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Severna Park Style

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At times I’ve been told I’ve been guilty of being too idealistic.  I’m romanticize potential situations in my life and you know what, sometimes it goes exactly as predicted.  You have a visualization but don’t get overly attached to it, and voila, just as advertised in my mind.

Things don’t always work out that way. But we should aim for the best scenarios, best people, the best (fill-in-the-black), and when it comes to this, the best pizza.  Where on earth am I going with this?   Some of us just want a piece of pizza and be done with it.

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Some kind folks had mentioned Little Carmine’s of Severna Park to me.  They said I gotta try it.   They said I’m going to love it.  Some even said it’s the closest to New York Style they’ve had.  And these are coming from folks from the center of the universe, you know the city that doesn’t sleep and all that charming stuff.

When I hear that I start to get visions and inspirations.  But truth be told, I was the one asking.   I had small town sentiments before I even showed up.  I assumed the pizzeria would be folksy, welcoming, and full of charming neighbors from up the street.

How much of that was true?  Well that’s all up to the person.  For me, I had hoped to be blown away by this place.  I wanted at least part of everything I hoped for to be made reality.  Why am I being so dramatic?  Because despite my overly positive, yet sometimes cynical ways, I still intend to see the good in everything, even before it’s presented to me. And if not, I may express disappointment that wasn’t warranted.

I was not disappointed by the pizza nor was it the best pizza I’ve ever had.  Like the guys from New York, best is a subjective and loaded term.  What’s the best for you and what’s best for me are usually separate universes.  And why would we want in any other way?

I built this place up to be something spectacular.  And you know, I’ll keep doing it.  The aura around this part of town is very neighborly.  There’s a few housing developments within walking distance and the storefront has a truly authentic pizzeria vibe.  Things were looking up.

There’s the standard New York images and photos on the wall (which I sensed and heard from those aforementioned folks) in the restaurant.  And the music was all Frank Sinatra, all the time. I find it predictable, yet charming.  I’ve been to so many different restaurants (not just pizza) that will only play Frank Sinatra.   It’s relatable, safe, and endearing to many.   It’s added to some experiences and at other times it’s made no sense that I had to chuckle.  I envision many people have been in that spot too.

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Finally, let me talk about the pizza.  This is a review of two different visits.  It’s a total of five slices, and some I did save for later.   Is there such a thing as too much pizza? Never!

By the way, the restaurant was much smaller than a how it looks on the outside.  It seems that more than half the space was for the kitchen.  That’s not a complaint, just an observation.

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The smaller space means a smaller display.  That means an easier decision to make.  Let’s go to round 1…

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My first visit was for carry-out.  I went with cheese, white, and buffalo chicken.  I won’t review every slice, one-by-one but instead will talk about what stood out.

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The buffalo chicken was the true stand-out.  The chicken was fresh, the celery tasted like real celery, and that one-two punch of buffalo sauce and blue cheese was absolutely brilliant.  And it was heated to perfection.  That can be said for all the slices.

The white and the cheese were good but not amazing.  And they call can’t be amazing.   Again, it’s all perception.  The basil was great on the white but neither slice is resonating with me, even as I write this.

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Day 2 was an order-in.  There was more Sinatra. There were more friendly faces like the first visit.   I went with the mushroom, and then the meat lovers.   I’ve had a bias towards mushroom so my expectations were higher.  This was only ok.   Once again, the dough was great but not much else stood out.  With the meat lovers, it’s just not my thing.  This is more of a reflection on me than on the pizza itself.  The ground beef was great but it’s a bit too much for me.

There was a major highlight though.  Overheard on the loudspeakers was this Sinatra gem. How fitting with the events that would follow that evening.   Yes this visit was the same day this happened.   Maybe someone was a clairvoyant.  Maybe it was a sign.  Maybe it was a special moment I hadn’t planned for. That’s the point to all this.  Something as enjoyable as the pizza experience should happen organically and not always with plans or expectations.

But this is only the beginning.  My hunch tells me that their pizza in full pie form may be the iconic za I’m expecting and I’ve been told they’re capable of. This is a place where I’d want to be surrounded with good company and enjoy life.   I’ve exhausted the going at it alone part with this place.  Yes the staff was all friendly and hanging out.  But this needs another go with a friend or two.

This is a place for friends.  I’ve seen many of the staff enjoy themselves in the back (assuming they’re on break) acting like regular fellow in a New York Style restaurant.

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There’s a lot of good going on here.

More good to come.

Ideen