Back To Studio…

PizzaStudioTruffledMushroom

Some time ago, a few people asked me my thoughts on the Pizza Studio (here is their menu, locationscontact info, and their story), and I wasn’t sure what to say.   I was grateful friends already assumed I had tried them out, and that my list of places to review are abundant.  They’re correct on both counts.

While I had not been so quick to embrace the over-the-counter and rapid fire pizza making type places, they all have their well, place.

In visits to stores like this one, I’ve touched on that fact, but at some point, which is now, it doesn’t matter what I or truly anyone thinks about how food preparation and presentation has evolved, or otherwise if you feel that way.  If people enjoy it, and appreciate it for what it is, then I see nothing wrong with it.  Only right.

I hadn’t been to their Charles Village location (right in the heart of Johns Hopkins University country) in a while.  It could have been months, or maybe a couple of years, and while time is flying, it doesn’t take a lot of time to get a pie from here.

Life just keeps going faster, whether we choose to acknowledge it or otherwise.  While it’s always been constant, we just keep going and keep trying to keep up.  When it comes to food, in many other parts of the world, there is a time to rest, a time to embrace what’s in front of us, and a time to say hello and appreciate one another’s company, at least for a reasonable amount of time.

With what we do here, there’s such a rush.  I know I always feel like I’m in a rush, and I see it constantly in the eyes and feet of so many people around me.

This may sound like a dig at food places (or many other entities) like this, that are assembly line style, and yet you may just feel like a number or a statistic, or you may not feel anything.   And neither may not be mutually exclusive of the other.

But I still can find a way to appreciate the work put into adding the toppings and heating the crust, even if it was only two to five minutes in its entirety.   They promote hot and fresh in two minutes.  To a pizza purist that may feel like blasphemy.  I’ve had friends tell me this isn’t pizza and it’s a slap in the face to restaurants and pizzerias all over the world.  I understand that.  But these places are here and they’re not going anywhere.

I ordered the Truffled Mushroom on rosemary herb crub, and for a second pie, the Buffalo Chicken on traditional crust. I chose to refrain from creating my own selections this time, as I wanted to present to you their signature pies for more of a unbiased opinion if you will.  I’ve created my own before, and to my own success or detriment, the results have been mixed.

PizzaStudioTruffledMushroomSlice

I won’t go into detail of every topping, but I do like the extra thin crust on both of these bad boys.  It’s been hot and the lighter, the more necessary.   The respective crusts complement both pies solidly, especially the mushroom.  Now you can also get a whole grain & flax seed, firecracker crust with jalapenos, or a gluten free crust at additional cost.  Maybe next time.

Both are fun and both are no thrills, harmless, and enjoyable pizzas.  They aren’t going to change your life, and you won’t necessarily remember this a year from now, let alone a few days.  Yet, it must mean something to be a day later after my visit, as I write about it.

PizzaStudioBuffaloChicken3

The side blue cheese dressing for the latter pie is a charming touch.

At $8.50 a piece, it’s adequately priced, and you can get a few meals out of this.  Luckily, I was able to share this with pals, and still save some for seconds.   So in a way, there’s still time to embrace company, friends, and the simplistic nature of a pizza like this.

PizzaStudioBox

There could be another visit down the line, but for now, I’ll hold off on saying, back to studio…

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

Break The Contradictions

MaisysBuffaloChicken

Maisy’s is what Downtown Baltimore or what a downtown in general feels like.  I prefer the latter, because it reminds me of a part of any city, that truly feels like a city.  Baltimore has a lot of neighborhoods within it, yet it does have parts that seem like there’s lots of action.

This particular part of Charles Street, which bridges downtown to Mt. Vernon, is an area I used to frequent all the time.  While it gets busier things also seem to be a bit slower.  Time has stood still, and so does the traffic, so does everybody.

Maisys

Good friends of mine were regulars of Maisy’s when it first opened maybe 5-6 years ago, but for various reasons, life happens, and life goes on.  That didn’t mean to sound so dramatic.   But my friends did sell me on the place without having to sell it.  It’s a hidden gem, hiding in plain sight.  Near several other restaurants, bars, and other establishments it might be easy to overlook and take for granted.   I could see that.

MaisysBoard

The first time I ate here was literally five years ago.  And that might have been my only time.  This was before any blogs or pizza storytelling were on my radar.  Well it was slightly on my radar or we wouldn’t be here now.   I just recall the pizza being pleasantly awesome.

I had been tipped off (sounds so exciting) on the fact that their pizza is one of the more underrated in the city.  That’s a relative term.  What’s rated one way to you, is well, yeah..

Having no recollection of what exactly I had, I can say that the pizza and atmosphere was tremendous.  Maybe it’s having no expectations, going somewhere alone, and going somewhere for the first time.  I also recall that I was in between social engagements that day, so that time alone is always welcome.  Don’t take that for granted.  We all know how time alone is fewer and far between than it used to be.  If we let it.

That was a moment in time.  Nothing noteworthy, newsworthy, or life changing.  Sometimes those are the best.   The way the place was lit did leave a lasting impression, and there’s a quaintness, despite the large space, that is perfect for this or any neighborhood.  It works in a downtown setting.

Moving along a few years later, you can’t replicate the first time.  I was with a friend, and was craving pizza. Surprise surprise.  But this time something felt off.

By no means was I trying to relive something that doesn’t exist.  The restaurant looked exactly the same, which I like.  Well maybe it was different.   I don’t know.  It’s been a while.

MaisysMenu

We shared the Buffalo Chicken and The Mediterranean.

MaisysBuffaloChicken2

There isn’t much home to write about.  It was fine. It was food.  It was there.

MaisysMEDITERRANEAN

You’ll notice the charring on the crusts of both pies. They went a little overboard.  I love brick oven pizza.  I love any way a pizza is cooked, as long as the end result is that it tastes good.  Sometimes you want it greasy, crunch, and with little thoughts to the craftsmanship behind it.

There’s some effort put into these pizzas, but something was missing.  It just didn’t wow me.  The style in which it was cut is in line with what I remember, maybe.

The tastes on both were fine.  Once again, I don’t know what happened.  But it’s average pizza.  I wish I could say otherwise.   On the Mediterranean there’s too much going on, and many of the vegetables, feta cheese, and even the pesto got lost in the shuffle.  When the pesto doesn’t work, you know something is off.   The Buffalo Chicken looks amazing, and the pieces of chicken are great, but again something fell flat.  The sauce and cheese is fine but…

If we’re counting this exactly, we’re 1-1.   I supposed the third time is the time charm.  You’ll be the first to know when that is.

Thanks so much and peace be with you…

Ideen

 

First Thyme For Everything

BreakfastThymePizza1

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.

SyrianaInterior1

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…

BreakfastThymePizza2

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.

BreakfastThymePizza3

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?

BreakfastThymePizza

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.

SyrianaInterior2

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.

SyrianaInterior3

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

 

 

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.

GoodBurger&Pizza1

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.

GoodBurger&Pizza2

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

Down To The River To…

namastepie2

This is a Small Business Saturday special.   But for me, supporting small business, when it comes to pizza, or other ventures, is what I’m proud to support the most.   However, there are mom and pops, brick and mortar, or whatever you want to call it, that strike a nerve just a little more.

All of a sudden it’s December.  How did this happen?   Last Saturday felt like it was minutes ago.  But in the spirit of that, I take it to a town that has meant so much to so many of us, Ellicott City, MD.

riverhouse2

I was going to write about River House Pizza Co last summer, but things didn’t work out that way.  I stumbled upon their courtyard right smack dab in the heart of Old EC, where I had been many times before.  But this one felt special.  The weather was glorious, the live band (yes there was a band) was rocking, the crowd was enjoying themselves, and eating some great pizza to boot.  I say great, but am I getting ahead of myself?   The wait times were upwards of 20 minutes for a pie, and I didn’t have time to wait.  At least that’s how I try to rationalize it.

But the planets aligned and this was meant to be a special for the holidays.  And how special are these pies?   In a chestnut shell, these pizzas taste like perfection for this time of year.  They taste like Christmas, or they taste like anything you might celebrate.  It’s one of the most comforting and endearing pizzas you’re ever going to have.

To mark the importance of this, there will be two pizzas reviewed over two visits.  How cool is that?  Yes the pizza is hot and cool, at the same time.  That’s enough of the cheesy puns.  Wait I’m not even sure if that’s a pun.

riverhousedisplay

The first stop was a fortunate visit to the local library’s farmers’ market.  And what do you do know, this would be their last day here, for a while.   Funny how that works out.

riverhousemarketpie3

In the tradition of my play on words and then my love of pesto, I went with the Market Special.   This pizza is so simple yet so extraordinary.  That dough is so chewy and gooey and as I alluded to, tastes like the holidays.  It’s on the level of that cheesy bread you may find at your national chain pizza.  But this blows it all away.  I can’t rave enough about how amazing this soft dough is.  And the balsamic glaze really shines through.  It may be the highlight in a sea of highlights.  The chicken tasted fresh, the pesto homemade, and that cheese is a pure delight.  At only $12 this pie is a bargain.

riverhousemarketslice

I saved half of this for lunch the next day, and tasted equally as good.   I’m salivating at the thought of having one right now.  It’s inspiring.

namastepie

So that was two weeks ago.  We move along to that Saturday after Thanksgiving.  After that remarkable display of wood fired fierceness, how do we top this?  I’m not sure but the Namaste I got at their Courtyard is on par.  And if you look closely, both pizzas complement each other in the spirit of Christmas.  I love that so much.  I didn’t even plan for that.

namasteslice

I’ll admit, I ordered the Namaste for the name alone.  The spiritual connotation was enough for me.  And once again, that dough was insanely good.  You’ve got to be kidding me.    The marinara and red peppers add to the holiday visual.  And those caramelized onions, mmm mmm mmm I’m in love.  Was that even a sentence?  But mmm….This was tremendous.  And I continue to find that portabella mushrooms add to most meals and of course that means to most pizza pies.

Needless to say this pizza didn’t stand a chance.  I finished it in one sitting.  Yes, I was hungry but it was more than that.  This was spiritual experience at the courtyard.  I was alone, but I wasn’t.  There were a few other tables occupied but that wasn’t it.  It was just cold enough that being inside was feasible, but the warm energy around me was enough to let me know I was surrounded by spirits.

And with positive spirits comes positive vibrations.  And the vibes that radiated from all the shoppers in downtown Ellicott City made me feel so good.  I had no problem waiting a few extra minutes to find parking and appreciate all the people going over the crosswalks.

This is what the holidays are all about.  Well maybe not all about.  This is just a small sample size within one story.  We all have those stories that tug at our heartstrings and creative a memory that will resonate with us forever.  As time goes on, I’ll appreciate this experience even more.

At the end of this post I’ll share with you some of the images I took in downtown EC. Some were taken from my car, so they may look a bit awkward, but it almost seems fitting.

Pizzas like this only come ever-so-often.  And supporting local is the way to go.  For those in the area, their winter weekend hours are posted here.  Their intent to stay open the entire time.   Here is their courtyard menu.   Finally, if I haven’t sold you on their pizza yet, here is the chef’s bio.

As an added bonus, Midnight Madness is tonight! 

Here are my two previous visits to Ellicott City gift wrapped to you, in door #1 and door #2! 🙂

I want to review all their pizzas, so this may just be the beginning.  And I’m going to safely assume they will all bring joy and make great memories for you and your loved ones.  I hope this is just the beginning, and I would like to say I’ll be back soon.  This will be a cherished part of my holiday memories and I hope the same happens for you.

Namaste,

Ideen

Tugo, or not Tugo

Ocean City, MD has always brought me found memories, from when I was a kid.   A lot has changed but a lot has remained the same.

There’s a lot more to do as an adult, in terms of bars, clubs, and restaurants.  But, this resort town prides itself on being a family destination, first and foremost.

I remember eating Pizzas Tugos when I was a kid and thinking it was the greatest pizza on earth.  Actually every pizzeria I ate at felt like the greatest thing in the world!

Either my taste buds have expanded or I just grew up.  Because these two slices I got were anything but the greatest.

TugosSlices

How great and greasy does that appear?  Well it may look appealing to the late night delivery and pick-up crowd, but that still doesn’t make it any better.

I understand this is a small sample size, but it was still disappointing.   It was way too loaded with grease and fat.  Now or a night after the bars, that might be just fine.  But I can only imagine what you’d be feeling the next morning.

It was also very salty.  I do like how there was loads of cheese bleeding into the to go (tugo? hehe) box.   But the cheese was a big mound of salt and other problems.

The sauce tasted a bit funny too.   It just didn’t go with the cheese or the crust.  And the latter was a bit soggy.  I tried to eat what I could, but I had to give up.

TugosBanner

Some of the other problems included the service.  There was no line in front of me, and I waited a good 15 minutes for my order.   You would think with all that time passing, that my pizza would be either heated up just right or a bit lukewarm, or maybe a little of both.   No, this was scolding hot and not in a good way.   My tongue burned but fortunately I survived and didn’t need a fire extinguisher to save me.

In keeping up with trying to find positives, I do like that they have their own design paper for carry out, which you can see in the first picture above.  Other than that I don’t know.    Well, the pepperoni was ok.  I picked those off and ate those on its own.

Now when many of us are at the beach, or away on vacation, our goal is not necessarily to look for amazing, knock your socks off pizza.  But it should at least taste good.   This wasn’t the worst but I found it mediocre and boring.   I don’t see the point in coming back to visit anytime soon.

TugosInLightsTugoSign

This shouldn’t sway you from not wanting to try them out.  You may love it.  I know a few who do. Here’s their menu.

Summer is in full swing, so more OC and Eastern Shore reviews will be forthcoming.    For a prior review from Memorial Day Weekend, click here.

All The Best,

Ideen