First Thyme For Everything

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I’m just going to go with it.  The best plans and situations, are the ones that are anything but well, planned.

How I ended up in historic Ellicott City yesterday is just one of those things that needs no explanation.  But I’ll explain a little something…

To trust in the universe is something I often take for granted or don’t think about.  Tha’s essentially the same thing.  But if you get in your car and start moving forward, you have to trust that where you end up, is where you’re supposed to be going.  Everything in between is that awesome unknown.   Well sometimes you know where you’re going, I just want to be melodramatic here.

Sometimes plans alter, directions change, and you end up in a charming town like Historic Ellicott City.  And you’re not getting any complaints from me.

I was in the mood for well, what that is I don’t know.   Coffee, tea, breakfast, lunch, and everything in between, and in, out, and through the source, was on my mind.   But I sensed something different today.   The sun was finally out, and my mood was up.  All you need is a little daylight to inspire you, and get that spring (ha) in your step.

From where I parked on Main Street was a sign for a cafe that I swear I never noticed before.  But truthfully, this might have been my first time this calendar year back in one of my favorite places.   When I see a sign for tea, coffee, and other fun things I’m immediately drawn.

SyrianaFront

So with that I present to you Syriana Cafe & Gallery.

While the website is still on its way, here’s one of their pages for information.

I had no idea what to expect.  I honestly thought I was going to get some coffee to go and be on my merry way.  Instead, I noticed an endearing selection of teas (more on that in that here), and a menu that truly stood out.

Breakfast Thyme Pizza was the first thing that popped out, of course, why wouldn’t it?   I got that along with my tea, and from that point I walked around the multi level cafe and gallery while my food was being prepped.

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And all I saw was art.  It was splendid, captivating, and made feel like life is going to be ok.   And that’s not all that was ok…

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This is my first time ever writing about a breakfast pizza, and it was terrific.  I’m grateful this is the first.  And you can tell it was made with a soul and spirit that you’re only going to find at a local business.   But this had a little something else going for it.  What that is I can’t explain.  Again, sometimes it’s bigger than any of us and no words can do it the proper justice.  I’m just doing my best here.

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Heated on a magnificent naan bread and topped with thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, and who knows what other amazing spices, this is not your ordinary pizza.  And why would it be?

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My pizza and along with much of the menu is inspired by food and drink from the owner’s native Syria.  As a bonus I got to meet Majd, and had the most spirited conversation that I’ve had in quite some time.   It could have gone on all day, but that will resume at another time.

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But I can’t recommend this place enough.  It’s been open since December, and the timing of all this is so fascinating.  I made my first ever visit yesterday.  They’re grand opening is this Saturday, April 14th (information can be found here), and there’s much to look forward to.

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Syriana Cafe is a tremendous addition to a neighborhood going through lot of changes, while still maintaining the integrity of supporting local business with hopefully the same sense of community that created such a picturesque town to begin with.

This also leads in to SpringFest on April 21st.

BreakfastThymePizzaTea

I’ll have more to say on Tuesday.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

One Step Up and Two Steps…

FranksAberdeenStuffedCheesesteak

It’s good that I can take appreciate what’s a little bit closer to home to me.  There’s plenty of places that serve pizza anywhere, in one shape or another.  In one form or another form, pizza pies can and will be found.   And while the flavors, topping, and ingredients remain constant, everyone has their take, their soul, and sometimes just different types of pies are going to be prepared and served to you.

FranksAberdeen

Frank’s Pizza in Aberdeen, MD (all menu and no website makes this a bit easier), is not far away from home, and the nearby streets surrounding it have a small town feel, but then it kind of doesn’t.  I don’t mean to sound do obscure, but I’m really not.  Every town has its historic part with their post office, cafes, small shoppes, a few businesses that add to commerce, and a few randoms.  I love the randoms too.   And yet there’s always another constant, pizza.

Frank’s is as no thrills as it gets.  It’s got a simple counter, a massive space, and old school seating that makes it easier to write about, so the artisanal and sometimes pretentious aspect is out the window.   It’s refreshing to write mainly about the pizza itself and nothing else.  Well the staff was busy yet courteous.

The pizza trays are the first things you see when you walk in.  That’s a strategy that’s not rocket science, and I’m always been a fan of.

I’ve been here before, and the pizza is pizza.  It’s nothing life changing nor does every experience, food, or pizza need to be.   It does its job, does its job well, and you’ll likely to come back if you work, live, or are in the area.

This time I noticed a couple of stuffed pizzas on display, and for the sake of changing it up, this was necessary to purchase.   I did not eat all of this one sitting.   These four slices are the equivalent of four meals, at least.

FranksAberdeenCheese&BuffaloChicken

So along with getting your simple cheese, a buffalo chicken, a stuffed cheesesteak, and a stuffed romano (pepperoni, sausage, and mushroom… if I’m missing something, I’ll stand corrected).

The cheese and buffalo chicken are fine.  Nothing amazing, nothing that’s going to be questioned.  Unless you write about it.  The crust is fine, but nothing extraordinary.

The same can be said for the romano.   The golden brown color is always a nice sight to see, but again, it’s solid but not much more than that.

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I gloss over these three slices for a reason…

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Finally, the cheesesteak is a guilty pleasure.  And as you see with the romano, they pile on the toppings.  And I don’t care how authentic this cheesesteak and the steak itself (Frank’s is less than an hour outside of Philadelphia), it’s the height of comfort food.  But again, you could get multiple meals out of this.  This is not meant to be eaten all at once.

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I have all four slices, resting comfortably in my refrigerator, that may be sitting there for a while.  I don’t recommend all of this in one sitting, or even a couple.   Get a work out in before, and one sometime after.   This can’t be healthy, but this is not why you eat this stuff to be healthy.  This is not some conspiracy theory.

Sometimes you just want to eat and not worry about the consequences.   That’s what you’re going to get with Frank’s.

Maybe next week we’ll go artisanal and a little more classy?  Whatever that means.

Blessings to you…

Ideen

Seeing The Good…

GoodBurger&Pizza

This whole thing about neighborhoods, cities, and major metropolitan areas evolving is something that’s there.  It exists.  And we can look at it as, it is what it is and there’s nothing we can do about it; or it is what it is and we must adapt.  Can’t say either scenario is mutually exclusive if you see what I’m saying.

It is what…  Oh wait…

The Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore is going through those changes, whether it’s for the better or something else is all based on interpretation, how long one has lived or spent time there, and just making observations of what’s going on in the world.  It might be bittersweet, but hopefully can be embraced somewhat, and the historic parts can all preserved in spite of everything else.  Or in spite of, aha!

While I recently wrote about one amazing new pizza place in the area, I go in a similar, yet different direction with what I write about now.

GoodBurger&PizzaFront

Good Burger & Pizza has been around for a little while, and seems to inconspicuous in its presence and its aura.  Maybe that’s just my interpretation.   Here is their menu, and online ordering info.

If you recognize the location, then yes, it was the old Little Italy Pizzeria, which was a mainstay for so many years and a stop for folks in the neighborhood and visitors, to grab a slice, a pie, and many other standard carry out items, day or night.  Yes they stayed opened past last call.

While no longer staying that late, Good Burger & Pizza does stay open into midnight on the weekends.  It’s just one of those things that echoes a change in the neighborhood.  It may not be that big of a detail, but it’s something I sense.

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What I honestly didn’t sense is a pizza that would be so good and at such a reasonable price.

I was happy to see a large square pizza for only $11.  And what you get for that is the equivalent of 5-6 meals.  Seriously, it’s fantastic.  And I ordered a half cheese and half pepperoni to share with friends.

And shared with friends I did…

I brought this to a holiday gathering a few months ago, and it didn’t disappoint.   This is greasy goodness at its finest.   This is not going to win any championships or awards, but this is a grower and on the lines of pure comfort food.

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That crust is cooked perfectly and the amount of cheese and toppings placed from above is all most people want from a pizza.   When you’re not worried about details, or even if you are, this is a pie that’s going to sell you without having to sell anything.  It sells itself.

And I really think the square slices are a nice touch.  Yes I know that’s no an original concept, (this place may claim that title, read about it here), but it’s their take and they did a tremendous job.   I must admit, I didn’t have high expectations, and it’s not that they were low whatsoever, I went in with an open mind and I feel good about the results.

It feels like a carry out spot that belongs in the neighborhood and has the aura of a place that’s been around for a long time.  And that’s the good vibes you get from a local business.

So while many local businesses are closing its doors, changing hands, and just moving on; it’s good to see many others thriving.  This is so important to the integrity, backbone, and character of not just this neighborhood, but many.

Here is my ever growing pizza history of Fells Point.

I look forward to writing about many more small, independent, and local businesses to come.

Have a Happy Holiday Weekend!

Best,

Ideen

One Olympic Place

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You know how long I’ve been wanting to use that as a title?  All of about two hours…

This came to me earlier today.  It would have made sense to write about Cunningham’s of Towson during the events of last month, yet I find myself having a bit of a laugh as I write this out.

For folks that frequent this charming restaurant, the title of this post will make sense.  I’ll leave the rest of the punchline to the audience right here.  Don’t worry, it’s nowhere near as an obscure reference as I might be implying.  Just look at the bottom of the page.

We were out for a good friend’s birthday, and at the halfway point of that winter event that goes on every four years.

I’ll tell you, if I lived closer I would be here on a regular basis.  I chatted with some of the locals, and got a good sense of community from the place.  The vibe is fantastic, the bar set up is tremendous, and the location is ideal.  It’s kind of like a village, but not the village I might be alluding to.  But still pretty awesome.

This is not how I thought this post would go, but I’m just shooting from the hip now.

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I’ve been to their Cafe and Bakery directly below the restaurant before, and find their food outstanding.    And more about why their food is just that, can be found here.   The majority of their results come from their own farm just a few miles away.  How can you not love local and love food fresh from the farm?  Try saying that a few times over.

Which makes me surprised that their pizzas weren’t up to par.  I was pleasantly surprise to find pizza on the menu to begin with.  Like I said, this was my first time at the bar and restaurant, and loved everything so far.

We had some appetizers during happy hour, that were tremendous, but I think they were trying a little too hard with the pizza.

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The two we shared were the Cunningham Farm Ham & Goat Cheese,  and then the Carne Supremo.    A lot of meat and a lot of toppings going on with both.  That might be the culprit.

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With the Farm Ham & Goat Cheese, the mozzarella and goat cheese is a great combination, but it might have been too much, in terms of being in your face.   The arugula and tomatoes tasted fresh, but the ham didn’t work for me here.  I’ve said it before, it’s a case of the whole not equaling the sum of its parts. Quite the cliche, but it applies.   I think less would be more.   The crust on both of these is fantastic by the way.  It’s comfort food bread that I would enjoy all by itself.    The brick oven really work here, I just wish the toppings did the same.

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What was even more of a challenge was the Carne Supremo.   There’s too much going on.  Lots of meat (pepperoni, sauage, and soppressata) which is balanced by the veggies (onions and peppers), along with mozzarella and asiago.  You think this would be tremendous.  But it’s just once again, overwhelming.   It’s ok if the topping are falling all over the place, and at times can make the experience more fun.   I just didn’t love all this red meat here.  This is based on personal opinion.  A few of our party shared the same sentiment on both of these pies.

CarneSupremo

I think, or actually I know, that less is more here.  This crust is fantastic and would work better with a simple base of cheese, sauce, a few vegetables, and a lighter protein.  A simple chicken pizza would work perfectly here.

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This by no means is going to stop be from coming back.  I find an endearing spirit and energy in this restaurant.  If you want quite, peaceful, cozy, and maybe a little noise, this is the place for you.  It’s my kind of place for sure.

If the situation presents itself in time, I’ll definitely try another pie or two again.

In the meantime, for more on Cunningham’s, here is their storymenu, and online ordering information.

Here is my history of pizza in this area.  It’s a town I will always be a bit partial too.

We’ll see you in 2020, oh wait, I mean next week!

Have a blessed one…

Ideen

Time Splitters

TimesSquareKitchenPizzaSlices

This is another one of those by special request.  And I mean by request over the past couple of years.

When I get to or end up in Owings Mills, I’m not always thinking about pizza.  Then again, I’m not really thinking about anything.  I’m here, I drive, I do things, and then I keep going about my business.

It’s an area I would be sentimental to, as you see, it was where I had my first grown up job, out of college.  It lasted for a time, I left on good terms, and all the while I could see the writing on the wall.  The area was growing, new buildings were well, being built; and more land was turning into corporate and professional entities.  This is not a ran about progress or whatever you want to call it.  It’s just an observation.

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Many years later, here we are.  More is coming.  And that more of the past is Times Square Kitchen, in an area of Owings Mills where I don’t even recall what was there before, which makes believe there was lots of green, and lots of land to do what people choose to do with it.  It’s there.  I remember seeing it on the highway which feels like a different lifetime ago.

Nevertheless, there’s restaurants, a library, a branch of college, and a residential development up the street.  I’m sure I’m missing a few things.

Before I lose track, the question always is, how was the pizza?

I found it missing something.  Maybe it was the mood I was in, but it just didn’t wow me.  And I gave everything a chance.   I ordered a cheese, a white vegetable, and a buffalo chicken slice.  So I tried to cover all bases.

Here is their menu.

TimesSquareKitchenCheesePizzaSlice

The crust on all of these was again, fine.  It just tasted like decent pizza.  If you’re to rate a pizzeria by its cheese then it continues to the theme of an alright pie.  The cheese is again, decent.  It’s not that the cheese and sauce was bad (they make everything in house), it just lacked spark.  I wanted to like this.  I actually want to love everything I eat. If not, what’s the point of all this?

TimesSquareKitchenWhitePizzaSlice

The white veggie was a bit overloaded.  The crust wasn’t big enough to handle all this.  And it’s a sizeable crust, but the whole didn’t equal the sum of those things.   I’ve said it before, I think white is one of the more challenging slices to make.  I think you can rate a place based on their blanca, as much as their plain cheese.

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The buffalo chicken was a bit of a saving grace.  I liked the shredded piece of chicken on top.  The buffalo sauce was good, and this was a slightly better piece of pizza then its predecessors, but again the feel good story wasn’t there.

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I haven’t been to New York in some time.  But I’ve had great slices there.  I’ve had great New York Style slices in various places, including Maryland.   This doesn’t quite reach that.

Even though I didn’t love it this time, you may think otherwise.  I’ve been told by several people that this is one of their favorites in the Baltimore area.   It’s important to agree to disagree.  We all shouldn’t like the same things.  We all shouldn’t love the same things.  That wouldn’t be fun.

TimesSquareKitchenILovePizza

There’s fun in respectfully disagreeing.  There’s fun in sharing the love of pizza (among so many other things) with the people you love as well.   It’s disappointing this one didn’t work out, but I’ll gladly give it another shot again down the line.

Many a time I’ve gone back a second or third time to many types of a restaurants (not just pizza) and was happier.   One iffy visit isn’t going to stop me from coming back, just like one amazing visit somewhere else should sometimes be met with caution, depending on the place or scenario.

That’s what makes this all so fun.    I shall revisit Times Square Kitchen down the line.  Local business will always have my heart.   I’m all about an encore.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

 

A Flair For The Gold

FranksTrios

I’m writing this as I watch the unofficial first day of coverage of the Winter Olympics, so please bare with me, I’m a bit excited.

I wanted on the eve (or day of depending on where you are and when you read this) of National Pizza Day, for this story to be inspiring, remarkable, heartwarming, and all those other superlatives and blessings.

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When talking about Frank’s Pizza & Pasta in the Northeast Baltimore neighborhood of Hamilton, or is it Overlea?  Well it’s Baltimore and it’s an institution that’s been around for over 30 years.   That to me is worthy of a medal itself.

I had actually intended on doing a story nearly two years ago but something told me the timing wasn’t right.  If I’m recalling correctly, my pictures looked underwhelming, or maybe some universal force told me it wasn’t time.   Some things can’t be explained nor need an explanation.

All roads brought me here this week.   Actually that’s exactly what happened.  Yesterday I drove passed Frank’s later in the evening, with the thinking that I need to get back here.  And while I was on my way home, if the situation presented itself, I know I’d be back again soon.  Literally, less than 24 hours later… And the rest is well…

My expectations had been raised after hearing about their pizza, from a couple peoples’ opinions that I respect immensely.  And it’s all about your own opinion, your own beliefs, experience, and all that good stuff.  But I can’t help but admit that I had high hopes.

If we’re using Olympic terms, the technical scores may be a bit low, or the qualification times may be enough to make the next round but I don’t know.  There are some deductions and maybe some penalties.   There may need to be a redo.

What does this all mean?  I’ll get to the point.  I wanted to love it but I can’t say that.  I want to love every pizza and every experience, but it’s not always going be that way.  While it’s easy to find positives (and there are), the faults do stand out.

I got three slices, and how perfect was this selection.  I might have stopped by right after the lunch rush since a lot of slices were bunched together, and the pickings were minimal. No problem at all, I still got a cheese slice, a meat lover’s, and the Mediterranean, which looked like it just came out of the oven.

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I’ll get my critiques out of the way first.  The cheese, and meat lover’s looked much better displayed on trays beforehand than how they looked after they were heated.  Maybe my eyes were deceiving me but the plain cheese looked like it shrank.

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You can also see that they reheated these slices a little too long.  You can see the burnt parts, especially in the meat lover’s, that the crust actually fell apart where it was charred.  Now there’s good charring and then there’s this.   It wouldn’t have mattered though, as neither slice did much for me.  The cheese felt flat and something just didn’t taste right.  Maybe there wasn’t enough?  Maybe it was out there too long.  I don’t know.

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The meat lover’s is not one I would ordinary try anyways, but I figured why not.  This one I could only take one or two bites of before I had enough.  It was burnt and it was a little too hearty for me, but that’s more of a personal opinion as well.   I like more of a….

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And this brings me to the Mediterranean.  This was the gem, or the crown jewel if you will, of the slices.  Maybe the fact that it just came out hot and fresh had a lot to do with it.  The toppings were exquisite and the pesto was tremendous.  I think I got some magnificent olive oil too.  All the toppings complemented each other perfectly.  It’ll make me want come back.    All this on top of a white pizza, is masterful.

And I will.  I think this place is capable of so much.  It wouldn’t be around so long if it hadn’t, even with changing times and tastes.

FranksMediterranean

That’s the most in depth I’ve been about pizza in some time.  I usually look for all the positives and situations related to everything outside of the food itself, as well.   And I still did here.  The staff is great, it’s very old school and very authentic in terms of service and appealing to a loyal clientele that serves a part of Baltimore you don’t always hear about, or think to go to.

All I know is that it won’t be another few years until I’m back.  If time allows, we shall do this again soon.  I know I say that a lot, but we shall do this again soon.

For more on Frank’s, here is their menu, and their storied history.

Enjoy the Olympics, the opening ceremonies, and all the good that comes from that.  I know I will.

And Peace Be With You.

Ideen

Everything Is Energy

PieInTheSkyPizza

This one of those stories that reminds us why this life is an amazing ride.  It’s a roller coaster alright. There’s lots of twists, turns, and all those other events that remind me us that everything is right with the world, and it can a magical place, if you let it.  If you let yourself go and let things come to you. you will attract certain people, events, and situations in your life, and it will become second nature.

I want to believe this is what happened here.

After what seemed like any other day of hanging out in the Fells Point neighborhood (my Fells Point pizza history can be found here) of Baltimore, a dear friend noticed new signage, for a new business that literally opened up a few days ago.   If I hadn’t seen this, I would have walked by and not thought anything of it. Not yet at least.  In time I would have gotten to Pie in the Sky, but timing is everything.

PieInTheSkyFront

The time is now.  The moment is now.  These windows of opportunity come and go, without us even realizing it most of the time.  But when you see it, it’s time to seize it.

I promise I will get to the actual pizza itself shortly.

From the outside looking in, the business itself didn’t actually look open.  I saw a gentleman on his laptop and another person hanging around the kitchen it seemed.  Now you see soft openings, friends and family openings, and in other instances you just see people preparing and setting up for when a place actually is ready to open to the public, for everyone’s enjoyment.

So yes, I almost didn’t walk in.  I’ve made so many hesitations in my life, so many times where I could have done this or that; the could’ve, would’ve, and should’ve scenarios that go on in a person’s life.  And there’s been so many instances where I didn’t walk in somewhere or take a chance because a place, or door, or opportunity seemed closed.  It’s all perception and it’s all what’s going on in my head, not with the outside world.  The outside world exists yes, but it’s not my world or your world.

See what I’m saying?  We can carve our own realities and imprints in this lifetime.  We can create memories, situations, and alter the course of our lives, with just a few simple decisions, changes, and maybe branching out of our comfort zones.

While it might just be a pizzeria or restaurant, to me this was something bigger than me, bigger than ourselves, and bigger than anything I can quantify.

So I walked in…

Something hit me, I felt compelled to explain what it is that I do.  So yes, the place was open, and all those unwarranted fears subsided.

I met Murat, the owner and he could have not been more gracious and helpful in coming up with what to write about for this blog.    It was so gratifying.

He let me take a tour of the kitchen and the ovens, where he simply explained that he makes all the sauces and pizza dough himself.  The olive oil is genuine, the toppings are the real deal, and so is the entire energy of this place.

I was flattered that Murat would give me the opportunity to explore this beauty of a restaurant and give me some insight into what he wants to do, plans to do, and where he’s been in the past.

This is where things get crazy, but in a good way.

He told me that he also runs a pizza place further up in Northern Baltimore, and while this is going on, I’m starting to sense where this is going.  That weird feeling of anticipation about what he’s about to say.  And when he mentioned Toss, I just had this freaking out moment (once again in the best way possible), because I’ve told people that Toss (review is here, and man where did three years go, and my writing style has evolved…) is one of the best pizza places in Baltimore, and one of the best pizza places in Baltimore that many don’t even know about.

It’s one of those things where Toss is a secret to many, but a secret that’s meant to be shared and shared with the universe.

And now it’s time to share how amazing Pie in the Sky truly is.

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Based on our conversation, and what I ate at Toss (the pies are similar and that’s an absolutely beautiful thing), Murat made me a half chicken pesto and half portabella mushroom pie, that is one for the ages and one for the books, or those top lists people like to make sometimes, haha.

When the vibe is going well, the pizza (or anything) is going to taste, feel, and hit you that much better.  This is what happened here.

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And I’m honored and grateful that Murat would make a half-and-half for me of this magnitude and with this precision, love, and care.   It makes me feel good writing about this and sharing this with you.

This pizza is incredible.

But it’s not just because of the organic ingredients, the dough, the crust, the sauce, the toppings, (gluten free and vegan options are also available), and everything other little detail.  It became from a place of soul, of kindness, and of heart.  And that’s just as, if not more important to the actual food or substance itself.  There’s a different kind of character, soul, and substance that can’t be measured nor should it be.

This was an experience I’ll remember forever, and one that almost didn’t happen.  Thinking about that gives me chills, goose bumps, and a feeling of relief.  I’m so happy and grateful this happened.

If you’re in the Fells Point area, I strongly recommend a visit to Pie in The Sky.  If it’s great this early, I can only imagine the incredible heights this place is headed to.

I’m grateful to Murat for his hospitality, grateful to the universe, and grateful to my dear friend for suggesting I write about it, and take the plunge.

Pie in the Sky is going to be massive.  It’s a secret and gem, that I’m honored to share with you.  And I’m honored to say, there at the beginning…

Peace Be With You.

Ideen