Golden Star

MarcosWhiteCheezy

When I was a kid, and even still as an adult at times, when I saw a new place or an unfamiliar place, I might be hesitant to try it out.   And there’s no basis for any of this.  Maybe sometime in my childhood the unfamiliar just didn’t appeal to me, for whatever reason.  But when you’re a kid, the new is what’s exciting.  Same goes for now.  Because everything that we know, like, find comfort in, and enjoy now was once well, strange and unfamiliar.

That comfort level may be too far for some as we settle in our routines, and may choose the path of least resistance.  Again that path of least resistance was once… Yep…

I love food and many of us do.  It’s a simple pleasure.  It bring us joy, brings us together, and brings us satisfaction.   Pizza in this case can never be strange.  I’m all for trying new foods, new pizzas, and new anything.  If there is some reservations in life, those should dissipate.  It’s too short, even though it feels long at times.  And for all the pizzerias in the world, there’s room for another, and there’s room for everybody.

What am I saying here?  Sometimes I don’t know.  Sometimes I should relax and take it easy with the questions.  Sometimes I should just relax and hang out. Ha.

MarcosPizza

A while back driving through Essex, MD (right outside Baltimore) I saw a sign for Marco’s Pizza (more about their story, their menu, and locations) and like with most discoveries pizza I welcome a new place, and can add it to the ongoing story that will hopefully go on forever…

I saw from the outside looking in their logo and the shopping center it was located in just a buzz and aura about it.  Sometimes it’s the energy we create and sometimes there’s just something there that feels right and tells you when you should come in, and when you should wait.  Both have that same feeling.

So after a few weeks of writing about and trying other foods, the time was right.  A new place to write about, in a town or city I’ve technically haven’t written about, is always refreshing.

I must have been in the mood for tomatoes because the new menu items that stood out to me were the White Cheezy and the Chicken Florentine.  And in this instance I didn’t even look at the ingredients or toppings.  I felt for some reason I didn’t need to.  It’s similar for when going to the movies, I don’t always read up on the plot.  It’s more exciting that way to me.

How funny is it that these two pizzas are so similar, yet just different enough. It’s all relative.

What else is relative is how great they are.  Look at that golden crust?  There’s an art to this.  And a certain amount of minutes, timing, and done with the right energy and spirit is going to make an entree that much better.  You could be in a bad mood and make the pizza the same exact way, and it won’t turn out like this.  This was magical.

MarcosWhiteCheezy2

I love how they pile on the cheese with this.  It’s cheese on top of cheese, and with that crust, I nearly took the toppings for granted.

The White Cheezy with the three cheese blend, feta cheese, and garlic parmesan sauce can compete with all the great pizzas.  And as a stand alone pie needs no toppings.  But to throw in bacon, onions, and the perfectly cooked tomatoes is a winner.  The irony is the bacon is what stood out the least to me.

MarcosChickenFlorentine

With the Grilled Chicken Florentine (which may be an exclusive to their Essex location) you’re essentially substituting the bacon for grilled chicken and spinach.  And those piece of chicken taste fresh, taste real, and just taste good.  Another recurring theme is that garlic parmesan sauce.  Maybe I was in the mood for the tomatoes without the sauce.  Maybe it doesn’t matter.  It was all great.

The folks behind the counter were busy but never looked panicked.  They were friendly and that is symbolic of how the pies turned out.  These pizzas are on the higher end of what you might pay.  My two small pizzas came out to just under $30.  But to pay a little extra for quality never hurt anyone.  And it’s a few extra dollars well spent.

I like this place a lot and I think we’re going to be hearing a lot more about them in the near future.  Based out of Toledo, OH, they’re expanding all over the nation.  For our pals in Baltimore, there’s locations in Essex and Pasadena, and a few in Northern Virginia.  So while it may be a little bit of a drive, it’s worth your time and a great change of pace.

This was wonderful, and I can’t wait to try their pizzas again.  Something unfamiliar is now a friend, and I’m grateful Marco’s Pizza is now a part of my pizza experience.  I found them, but in many ways it found me.

MarcosPizzaBox

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

Around the Globe, Around The Corner…

TraderJoesSpinachRicottaPizzaReady2

Across different universes (here and here), and this one, I’ve sung the praises of Trader Joe’s and for good reason.

I don’t recall many places that have resonated with me for so many reasons over these many years, but they have. and maybe you have a place or two that has given you those feelings, those butterflies, and everything else with the warm and fuzzies.

In the grand scheme of things, it still is just a store (to find a store near you go here), but it’s always had a a good energy.   Sometime it’s had the energy.  I can’t tell you how many locations I’ve been to, but with maybe one or two rare exceptions, I’ve always felt at peace, spiritually whole, and sometimes rejuvenated after a visit.

There’s no need to belabor this point.  Maybe I’m always in that place of abundance right before I walk in, and it manifests itself in ways that words won’t or can’t do justice.

After all this time, how I never got around to writing about their pizzas is one of those universal things.  Micro vs. macro, or what have you. It’s not that serious, let’s get to the pies.

For the summer, I hopefully found two of the better pizzas to discuss, and I’m proud to say that the Spinach Ricotta, and the Sicilian Style Red Pepper. Provolone, & Pearl Mozzarella were absolute works of art.

Maybe it was a moment of inspiration, but of all the pizzas (and they got too many, that another post is meant to happen, and soon), I grabbed these two, and they turned out perfectly.

The suggested heating time and temperature is shown to you, but I altered it a bit and placed both in the oven simultaneously.   That hasn’t always worked, but this go around just felt right.  I just knew it was going to be special before I even walked in the door, and then before I walked in the door.

Thin crust is ideal for warm weather, it’s ideal for any time, yet in July, in the heart of Summer, it’s ideal for right now.  Perfection.  And this crust, my goodness, everything about this is right.  It’s not quite comfort food, which can wait. This is a pizza to enjoy alone, or share with friends, and to appreciate with every bite.

Honestly, I did have one I liked a little more, but that’s besides the point.  They’re both tremendous.  The spinach and ricotta on top of a regular pie base had a charm and appeal that I didn’t realize until after it came out of the even.

The Sicilian Style would be fine with our without the peppers, but I wanted a cheese pizza, with just a little more.  The provolone and mozzarella definitely has a distinct taste.  Yet, within all this splendor, there was a packet of olive oil to drizzle on top.  I was only going to put on a little, but I went crazy. Looks good doesn’t it?  It’s the little things, but going crazy over olive oil is what makes me happy right now.  This pizza made me happy.

No I don’t have a favorite after all, it’s a two way tie and both are outstanding.  Did I already say that? Well let me reiterate, Trader Joe’s knows how to do pizza.  It’s more than just frozen food, it’s an experience.

And I’m grateful to have had this experience, and to share it with you.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

Support Local

PomodoroPizzaSlices

Which is what I always like to do.  And it’s safe to say that many of you feel the same.

We continue to see strip malls add more chains (or lose them), and along with local businesses fledgling, struggling, or choosing to close up.  We’re also seeing more national companies downsizing or closing their doors to the shock and sadness of some.  It’s an evolution and a changing of not just the guard, but of a lot of things.

This is no longer your mom and pops, mom and pop shoppe era.  Yes they do exist but you know what I mean.

However, people still need to eat and will always need to unless someone decides to change that.  I don’t see that happening anytime soon.  So people just don’t want to eat from the same places, the same chains, the same fast food chains, and sometimes we just don’t want to follow the herd.

I don’t like following the herd.

When I was in Northern Virginia last December, doing some adventurous holiday shopping, I ended up in one of these typical looking shopping centers.  Too much looked to familiar and lacked any authenticity or welcoming vibe.

PomodoroPizzeria

But in a sea of the sameness, was a magical place off in the distance.  Pomodoro Pizza of Sterling, VA.

It just stood out in a way that says everything is ok.  Places like this still do and will always exist.  Just the exterior of the place told me I was going to walk into something special.

PomodoroRestaurant

The interior had all he beautiful designs of what an Italian restaurant looks like.   And the energy in the place only felt good.  I felt like I was on vacation, even though I was a little over an hour from home.

When I venture out of the familiar confines at home, and discover a pizza place that I ordinarily wouldn’t visit, or even know existed.  But everything happens for a reason.

And then everything happens for a reason.   That was me repeating from dramatic build up, but that’s honestly where it stops.  The reason might be shown to me later, but the pizza itself was no quite as great as I hoped.

PomodoroPizzaSlices2

I ordered a cheese slice and a meat lovers, mainly because at the time most of their other slices were long gone, or there was a wait for new pizzas to come out.  Maybe I should have waited.  But I once again look at certain situations presented to me, and it felt like these were the slices I was meant to get.  Again, I honestly don’t know why, but that’s where I was.

PomodoroCheeseSlice

It’s not that the slices were bad.  It’s just that it lacked anything to be called amazing.  I can safely say the pizzas were average.  And my high expectations may have set myself up for disappointment.    I just know this place is capable of more.

PomodorMeatLovers

I don’t need to review either slice separately because they’re similar in quality.   The crust was fine, as was the cheese.   I’ve said before that I don’t love pepperoni or various red meats on my pizza, but that’s now how I judge pizzas with those toppings.  If it tastes good then everything else will fall into place.  That didn’t happen here.   And I know this place is capable of so much more.   I know I’m repeating myself, but I can feel it.  I can sense it.

PomodoroRolls

There was something funny about this day.  I ordered a couple of rolls, and I ended up with the family size.  Maybe I misspoke but I found this humorous.  There’s no way I had these all on my own.  They were distributed.  I promise you.   The rolls were solid, but again…

PomodorPizzaSlicesRolls

However, the staff was friendly and just being away gave me a feeling of rejuvenation.

I would love to get back here and get the real deal.  They have better pizza then what was presented to me that day.

PomodoroMenu

For more on Pomodoro, here is their story, their menu,  more about their pizza, and contact information.

Have a great weekend and support local!

Ideen

All The Colors, See The Colors, Feel The Colors…

OCGodfather

I was all set, like I usually do, to link the website to the specific restaurant or pizzeria that I would be writing about this week.  I’m surprised that I can’t find anything for the OC Brewing Company.  I’ve linked a review page, among other links for your information.

Nevertheless,  I was invited by a friend to meet up here earlier this week, at their Abingdon, MD location (not far from where I live) just to catch up and have some foods, and drinks.  You know because that’s what goes on at a restaurant.  Even though I’ve found myself being indecisive and just sticking with water.  That has happened more than once.

Little did I know, this place serves pizzas, and flatbread kinds to boot.  That made me happy.  But even all the while, it still didn’t sink in that this is an easy thing to write about since it literally found me and fell in my lap.  Sometimes life works out that way and you don’t have to do much searching.

Now I do have a backlog of restaurants, pizzerias, and pizza parlors (mutually exclusive much? hmm..) that I will or may never get to.  But as the weather continues to be cold, and I prepare myself for more of the heavy hitters to come along the way, it’s nice to find a few gems and unexpected turns in the road.

OCMenu

I can’t link a menu, but thankfully I did get a snapshot of their pizza selections.

OCPizzas

My friend got the cheese, and after seconds of agonizing I ordered the Godfather.  I knew I wanted it but I had to be coerced into saying yes.  It’s just food.  Maybe I get kick out of being indecisive, maybe it’s the Gemini in me, or maybe I relaxed and let the pizza come to me.

And after a few minutes, our pizzas arrived.

Now if you like flatbreads, square & rectangular shaped pieces (which may remind you of this place), then you’re going to feel satisfied.

OCCheese

When thinking about how to review a pizza like this, I shouldn’t think so much.  I shouldn’t think so much on this to begin with.  But I will be less critical than I would be if the pizza carried a certain weight or aura about it.

OCCheese2

There’s lots to like.  The dough is simple, that means that the crust was heated and came out just right.  There’s a lot more cheese (per what my friend said) than you might expect, per the cheese pie.

OCGodfather3

For me, the Godfather was a solid choice.  Our server told us it’s one of the more popular ones.  I can understand that.  The name has a familiarity about it, though I have no idea from where.   Yes, that would be sarcasm.

But it’s essentially a supreme with a little more kick to it.    Some seasoning was needed to add even a little more flare to our pizzas.

OCGodfather2

So while this is not going to be award winning pizza, it’s going to make you happy, make you feel good, and bring joy into your life.  And that’s all you want from your pizza, and from all the simple pleasures we seek.

I’m grateful for the afternoon and time spend catching up, in a different yet close by setting, which I hope will happen again.  Which means another pizza story might be forthcoming.

OCBrewing

What’s also funny as I write this, is how often do we not go to places that are so close to us, because of the proximity, because it’s literally right there, and it’s easy to take for granted.   I don’t want to take things for granted.  I want to appreciate what is good and what is all around me, right in front of me, and right beside me, whatever that may be.

More to come…

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

Sentimental Sicilian Style

JoeBennysAngryGinger3

For months I’ve wanted to go to Joe Benny’s. 

JoeBennysFront

Circumstances have presented themselves that it wasn’t supposed to happen just yet. Either because I came after hours (I find their schedule endearing and down-to-earth), or on days they weren’t open (they’re closed Mondays).

JoeBennysBoard

It just wasn’t meant to be, for that time.  I have so badly wanted to try their foccacia pies.. And in the few years they’ve been open, I’ve heard almost nothing but glowing reviews, and how inviting and approachable their establishment is.

I concur.

A dear friend of mine had asked me where I wanted to go to dinner this past Saturday.  It was a welcome invitation that mirrors the theme of this post and experience thus far. And bear in mind, I had some idea of where I wanted to go.  I had a few days to think about it.   As the day approached and my friend reminded me of that fact, I came up with a few suggestions.  But Joe Benny’s was at the forefront of my mind.   It only made sense.

My original post about Little Italy can be found here.

We love Little Italy, we love Italian food, my friend is Italian, and it’s a place that had forever alluded me.

Funny that my friend had never heard of it.

What makes this even more charming is the place is self seating, a narrow space, with a few seats at the bar, and a sizable yet ample (cozy) amount of seats.   My friend got there before be and (at the time) grabbed the last one.   I love the restaurants of Little Italy because it’s in a universe all its own in Baltimore.  Many have great food, great wine lists, and many suggest reservations.

What makes Joe Benny’s stand out is their menu.  While many restaurants in Little Italy serve similar entrees, Joe Benny’s is not only the only Foccaceria in Little Italy, but it’s the first and only in all of Baltimore.  That right there is going to attract patrons of little Italy, old and new.

And it’s going to attract me back many times over.

This was perfection.

JoeBennysMeatballs&Sangria

We started with their seasonal sangria, that had a fall like taste to it.  I swear I tasted some cinnamon sticks, but I could be wrong.  It was enjoyable, and complemented our heavy meal that was yet to come.

 

The irony is that the heaviest part of the meal might have been the Mimma’s Meatballs. The baked beef and pork mix was delightful enough but it was that tomato sauce that screams habit forming.  And the bread that came with it nearly made us full before we even got to our pies.   I can’t stress enough how amazing this sauce was.  Of course we dipped parts of pizzas into the sauce…

…And speaking of which…

JoeBennysThePizzaPies

My friend went with the Angry Ginger.  I went with the Kimtucky.

JoeBennysAngryGinger2

How perfect that this past Wednesday (9/20) was National Pepperoni Pizza Day.  And that we have a pie to discuss on this most important of all holidays.  Did you happen to take off work that day?  Ha.  Well you might think pizzas of this magnitude would do just that.

JoeBennysAngryGinger3

But the bread was not as filling as you might think.  There was a refreshing amount of air and a light heartedness to the pizza that doesn’t bloat you or make you full to the point of being down for the count.  It was quite the opposite.

JoeBennysAngryGinger

The all around red components of this pie made this not only beautiful to eat, but beautiful to look at.    The melange of pepperoni, roasted red pepper, spicy red pepper (yes both), tomato sauce, and fresh mozzarella made this approachable looking pizza an absolute gem.   It was almost too pretty to eat, but well nah, enjoy.  It was tremendous.

JoeBennysKimtucky5

The Kimtucky continues my tradition of loving pesto.  I’ve emphasized this point many times and I’ll never get sick of it.   And the asiago cheese, roasted red peppers, along with that homemade pesto and fennel sausage made this another masterpiece.  Fennel is something I’m really enjoying on pizzas.

JoeBennysKimtucky7

And I’m glad we went with two contrasting pizzas to see how two different sauces, meats, cheeses, and veggies work on the focaccia.

I think they’re going to be alright.  This is one of the better experiences you’re going to have, not just with pizza, but dining in Baltimore.   The great company helps, the great atmosphere helps, but that food and drink made this all wrapped up in those pretty little bows we might make jokes about.  But this is no joke.  This was worthy of all the superlatives you want to throw at it.

We didn’t have room for dessert, we didn’t have room for much more.  We each took a little more than half our pies home.  Because while it wasn’t that filling, there’s always room for seconds.  And my kimtucky tasted just as amazing the next day, or maybe it was later that night.  Oops!  Yes, it was so good.

And we learned from our server, that the staff have their pies on the menu as well, sometimes as specials and sometimes as mainstays.  Judging from the looks of it, we will be back and will be back soon.

JoeBennysMenu2

You see the prices.  $15, give or take for these pies is well worth it.

I’m hooked, I’m a fan, and I always was before I even ever walked in the door. I can only hope the next time is coming soon.

Even their website is down-to-earth.

For more on Joe Benny’s, here is their menu, contact info, and their mission, which truly matches what we experienced.

 

Yes, their mission states it might take a few minutes longer than normal for the food.  But it’s so worth being patient.  Good things come to those…

I envision the same will happen for you.

Peace be with you.

Ideen