Harvest Makes Me Happy

HarvestThymeElBlanco2

The word ‘harvest’, evokes feelings of happiness, joy, tranquility, organic experiences, and well I honestly could go on and on.  It reminds me of what’s good in life, farmer’s markets, a sense of community, giving, and kindness.  Why does a harvest do this for me?

Maybe something happened in my past, and maybe a bunch of life experiences leading up to this story give me warm feeling of a harvest, and all that entails.  I’m smiling as I think about it, and write this out to you.

What I get the most is a feeling of togetherness and helping your fellow family member, friend, or whomever it may be out, and the feelings are reciprocal, but more importantly there’s a feeling of good from within.  I could go on all day…

That feeling of friendship, love, comradery, and all those other superlatives came together last week when my friends introduced me to a new restaurant that opened near them.   And what a most magnificent place this is.   I’m honored, thankful, and grateful to be sharing our experience at Harvest Thyme in Davidsonville, MD, which is comfortably nestled outside of Annapolis.

The location may feel a bit remote, but sometimes those are the best places.   My friends told me that there isn’t much in terms of food and drink in the immediate area, so this is a blessing to the community.   And we were witness to it, as the place was packed near the tale end of happy hour, leading into dinner.

HarvestThymeWines

The exterior has a welcoming aura and energy about it, as does the inside.  I didn’t take enough pictures, but I hope you get some idea of how elegant this place is.

HarvestThymeDiningRoom

We came in with the full intent of getting some pizza to go.  And if we had any second thoughts about dining in instead, those went out of the window immediately.  It was a sea of humanity, but a lot of good humanity.  People seemed jovial, upbeat, and realizing it’s the weekend, having a little worries or cares in the world, hopefully.

CigarWine

We did share a bottle of wine while we waited.  And you can read more about that here.

But my pals and I decided on two different pizzas.  And it’s quite the dichotomy.

HarvestThymeElBlanco

The El Blanco is there White Pizza and it’s great.  When it comes to certain restaurants, you might come to have expectations of how a pizza may be presented; the size, the crust, the amount of cheese, and all those other nuances.    What I’ve looked forward to when some or all of the components of a pie are made in house.

HarvestThymeElBlanco3

Their dough is made in house, and it’s terrific.  This is a good white pie, if you don’t want too much overbearing cheese and garlic, which has been known to plague similar pizzas I’ve written about it in the past.  This is a charmer, a grower, and has many endearing qualities.  Yes I’m still talking about the pizza.

However, even better is the Carnitas.

HarvestThymeCarnitas

The pulled pork, which is twice cooked (I love that), cheddar cheese, and spicy tomato sauce is a blend from beyond and on a whole other level.  My friend joked saying we wouldn’t like this.  Hoping to not have to share.  But you know what they say about sharing.   Right.

HarvestThyymeCarnitasSlice

This to me felt like a sneak preview, an appetizer, and almost a dress rehearsal if you will.  The restaurant has only been open a few months but it already looks like a hit.

HarvestThymeSlices

The dining room looks great, the bar area feels welcoming, and our waiting area felt like more than just that.  And we go to share a bottle of wine on a serendipitous night before we sat down and watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games.  Yes I’ve got to throw in all the references to the Olympics I can.

This place is great, that’s all I’ve got for you right now.  If you’re in the area, or plan on visiting Harvest Thyme, here is their food menu, their drink list, their story, and of course their contact information.

 

 

More to come from this wonderful ristorante.

Peace Be With You.

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

 

About Those Star Ratings

PieFiveStarPie

There’s an infatuation and obsession (wait, isn’t that the same thing), with this need to always achieve five stars, or as close to it as possible.  For those in the service industry, it’s five stars or bust.   Anything else is viewed as a failure.  And even if the folks doing the ratings think a four out of five is good, we often times misconstrue that as a failure.  We can let that ruin our days, and sometimes longer.

If you’re sensitive like me, it might take a little while to recover.  But recover I do, recover we do, and life goes on.  But we still want the highest ratings possible.  And as a someone who does reviewing, I don’t like to give less than five, unless the experience is truly catastrophic.  There’s that thing about the Golden Rule, which I agree with; and then there’s a little thing called seeing the good in everything.

Where am I going with all this?  Well my thing with the star ratings actually dates back 25 plus years (yes I’m a little older now), and for those that know me, they know I love professional wrestling.  And for those of us who like to be in the know, the star ratings for matches are a thing we can get carried away with, argue over, and be obsessed with. It’s to the point that we’re now ratings things six stars and above.  And it’s nice to be acknowledged for going above and beyond.  Many of us just want to give the proper respect and love that’s due, and we like to receive some of that ourselves.

We don’t ask for much in life, except to give good and to receive good.

PieFiveFront

With that being said, I find it charming that a couple of visits to Pie Five, that one of their pizzas is called the Five Star. This is their supreme pizza, which like all of their pies, is now the wave of the present.  They prepare everything in front of you, and make it real quick.  That’s all there is to it.

PieFiveStarPie2

Now some find this the antithesis of pizza, and defeats the art of making a pie from start to finish.  Those concerns are more than warranted.   And this has become the new and ever growing pizza chain concept; quick, easy, get in and get out.

For most people, who are on a time crunch, this will be just fine, and for others they can’t ever be won over.  But before I completely lose track, how was the Five Star?  I had it on a traditional crust, and while it’s not memorable, it’s just fine.  I didn’t expect this to be this mesmerizing pizza.  That’s not what I was looking for, nor should anybody, but that’s all up to you.  This is a solid pie, solid toppings, and with a simple crust.  If you’re expecting world class and that artisanal business, this is not it.  If you want a decent pie, at $8, and a satisfactory meal, that’s what you’re going to get.

PieFiveStarSlice

This is more than a pizza, that’s ‘just there’, it has value to so many, and that’s all that matters, or else there wouldn’t be an assembly line of people, especially during the lunch hours.

PieFivePestoChickenPie

Another visit means another order, and this most recent time I went with the Pesto Chicken Alfredo on their thin crust.   The Basil Drizzle was a nice touch, to an otherwise satisfactory pie, which is what I expected. The pesto lover in me set the bar and expectations a little lower, so I wasn’t pleasantly surprised nor disappointed.  This crust is thin alright and noticeably smaller than their traditional, so that’s a plus.

I noticed recently they’ve now introduced the cauliflower crust.  I haven’t had the opportunity to have their pizzas with said crust, but personally I’ve tried it and loved it, so I look forward to either having that crust here, or somewhere else.  Like the quick and easy pizzas, the cauliflower crust is another growing phenomenon.   I know….

PieFiveToGoBox

I’m not opposed to doing chains, and because I focus so heavily on Maryland, DC, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, this blog may not resonate with everyone at all times.  So I’m happy and grateful to expand to do a growing chain that seems to mean well.

Their signage  (and there’s more than just the two above) shows that good intention and sense of humor.

For more on Pie Five, here is their menu, a location nearest you, and more about them.

Thanks so much, peace be with you, and keep being your five star self.

Ideen

 

 

 

 

 

Well This Was Different

RibaldisDisplay

Ribaldi’s of the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore. has generated a lot of buzz and goodwill that it was only a matter of time I would get to writing about them.  This recap comes from a request via a few people, so thank you so much for the suggestion.

Ribaldis

While I raved about a place nearby (that can be found here), I was told that Ribaldi’s is that much better.  I was told it was run by a real Sicilian, and that their pizza was off the charts compared to its counterpart.

If the location seems familiar, you will recall this is where Angelo’s sat for years.  Home of the jumbo slice seemed like it would last forever.  I never lover their pizza but it was good enough.  And sometimes good enough is just enough.   Their was a temporary occupant that left much to be desired, and no here we are with Ribaldi’s.

I met Siro the manager, and he is straight up the real deal.  The staff read me like a book, and not the fact that I’m a blogger (Not sure they’ll see this), but that it was my first visit.  My energy field was in a weird place, and when no matter how your energy level is, you’re going to attract a similar wavelength.  Whether that’s good or bad is up to interpretation.

This was unique.

The guy behind the counter was strange, peculiar, but never made me feel uncomfortable.  But the fact that I’m even implying the latter means something was off.  He was cracking some jokes that were funny at first, but then went off in directions that I won’t even begin to explain.  Words won’t do it justice and there’s no puns here whatsoever.

It did make the impression of this, the food I ordered, the food I ate, and the aftermath long lasting.  And yes it’s been altered.

RibaldisSicilian

I forgot they do slices, so it made my decision that much easier.   I literally ordered everything in plain view, which includes a Sicilian Cheese, Sicilian Pepperoni, a small calzone, and then Siro just broke out a New York Style cheese pie right out of their gas oven.

RibaldisCheese

They called the calzone the Ribaldi and that’s the same guy (who may or may not have been Siro’s second) cracking jokes and maybe losing the plot a little.

As a bonus I got a can of soda and this guy gave me a dessert, which was a sweet croissant on the house.  This whole gag seemed to be lost on me, or maybe there was no gag.  It’s ridiculous to speculate and over-analyze what this visit meant.   It happened for a reason.  Maybe they saw something was up.  I was in a goofy frame of mind.  The whole visit was goofy.  But goofy doesn’t mean bad.

There’s not much to the interior.  There’s a few seats inside and outside, and that’s the way I like it sometimes.  There’s a a place for lavish, and today was not the time or place.

Most importantly of all, how was my food?  This wasn’t all for me, that would be crazy.  But I’m going to base this on my own opinion and nobody else’s.

I didn’t love this.  And I’m not going to base my opinion on anything other than my eating experience.  Something just didn’t stand out, and I really wanted it too.

RibaldisCheeseSlice

The cheese slice was lacking in some cheese and tomato sauce.  That’s the issue for me.  The crust is fine and that’s all I can really say about that.

RibaldisSicilian2

The Sicilian is a bit rough.  I know some people are going to love this and I wouldn’t dispute this, but this was nothing special.  Yet the pepperoni slices tasted great.

The calzone was fine and I’m glad it was a tinier piece, because you can only eat so much of this.  And this dessert?  Man I don’t know.

RibaldisDessert

I don’t know about any of this.  My mind is all over the map here.  I feel like this visit needed to happen.  I’m projecting a lot but something was really off center, and I put a lot of this on myself.  I attracted an experience that might make sense later.

But for now I’m trying to make sense of all this.

RibaldisMenu

Here’s their menu, and that’s all I got for you.  For some sense of closure, I’m going to have to come back.

Ideen

 

 

Pizza I Feel Good About

WegmansSouthwestStyleReady

I mean that with all sincerity.

Ever since I set foot into my first Wegmans many years ago (that feels weird to say), the love affair has remained and grown infinitely.   What’s not to love?

If you’ve ever visited one (a location hopefully near you can be found here) you know the possibilities of happiness are endless.  You know it’s more than just a grocery store.  It’s a source of joy, peace, harmony, and more food than you know what to do with.

Within each Wegmans is a pizza shop (which I wrote about once, you can find that here), a sub shop, hot bar, bakery, deli, and all the other good stuff you’d find at many a grocery store.  But like I said there’s something cosmic going on in a place like this.  When you walk in to a Wegmans, be prepared to walk out inspired.  I’m not kidding you.

And speaking of such inspiration, while I was at my local Wegmans recently, I felt like the time was right to try a couple of their frozen pizzas.

I’m not that highly critical of pizza.  It’s not that serious.  I like to have fun with this, and that’s truly the whole point of doing this, or hopefully most of what you and I do.  My criteria for grading frozen pizzas might be different than when I get a pie or slice from a slightly upscale or fine dining establishment.  But the constant is that as long as the pizza tastes good and comes from a place of soul and feeling, I know it was prepared with the best of intentions.

This is why I feel it’s ok to be critical when a pizza may not live up to mine or your expectations.  And that’s what we have here.  One pizza is tremendous, the other leaves much to be desired.

I’ll begin with the latter.

The Buffalo Chicken was disappointing.   For all how it appears on the box, it doesn’t translate to anything positive after the fact.

WegmansBuffaloChickenReady2

My first concern was how little chicken you actually see on the pizza itself.   But I’m not going to judge it on its cover or unwrapped before even heating.  But after the fact was really missing so much.

WegmansBuffaloChickenSlices

Whatever ranch and buffalo sauce I’m supposed to be tasting, I ain’t getting.  And while I secretly hoped some more pieces of chicken would appear, that was not the case.  The mix of mozzarella, white cheddar, and gorgonzola cheeses were non existent. It’s not that they weren’t there, it’s just that they didn’t seem to taste like any of the aforementioned cheeses.  It just seemed like mozzarella, bad sauce, and some poorly prepared white meat chicken.  The crust is really good, as is in the..

The Southwest Style is the pie you want to get.  This is the complete opposite of what I wrote above.   This mix of mozzarella and cheddar cheese is how you do it.   The pieces of chicken are light years ahead of the chicken in the previous pie.

WegmansSouthwestStyleReady2

The taco sauce layered on top of the pizza is distinct yet it’s not invasive to anything else on the pizza.  That’s an important detail when it comes to a pie like this.  The peppers and onions really add a nice charm to a pie that you might overlook or not even find to your liking.

WegmansSouthwestSlices

That’s what makes this pizza experience so fun.  If you asked me, I would’ve thought the Buffalo Chicken would be the pizza to look forward to going in.  My pleasant of all surprises is how great the Southwest Style is.  It’s fantastic.

With their frozen pies at $4 per pizza, it’s worth giving a look, and you can get a couple of meals out of it.  In a world where we’re always looking to save money, that’s a great deal.

Wegmans is always going to be a great deal, no matter how you look at it.  Not everything is going to be perfect but when it is, it makes everything that much better.

The amount of pizzas and appetizing entrees in general to try is unlimited and unpredictable.  This place makes me so happy and even if I’m not writing about it, I’m here multiple times a week.

If and when the opportunity presents itself, I’ll try a couple more pizzas.  This might call for a bonus post outside of a Friday, if I find the time.

And I will…

Happy New Year!

Ideen

 

Sense of Community

MichaelsSlices


That’s what I got from visiting Michael’s in Monkton, MD about a month ago.

For the whole time I’ve been doing this I would periodically get the suggestion to write about Michael’s when I got the chance.   The advice came from folks who have ties to Northern Baltimore County and the Hereford Zone, and they’ve been going for years that the swear by it.

MichaelsPizza

When I hear that I immediately assume that it’s not just about the pizza but the history of going to that place.  It’s been around for 23 years so maybe parents have brought their kids here and grown up with the place.  Maybe it’s a place friends went to after high school or any school, and became a staple of their life.   Maybe it evokes memories of something bigger than I can even imagine.

I can’t pretend I have any attachment to this place.  Well obviously I’ve made it clear I’ve never been here before.   But what I can do it get a feel for what brings folks here.  I’m going to presume that it’s more than about the food.  In many circumstances it usually is.

The area is charming, it’s quiet, it’s small town, and it’s folksy.  Well the last two might not be mutually exclusive but you get the gist of what I’m saying.   A random drive through the area right before Thanksgiving inspired me to locate the exact location of Michael’s and thankfully it was minutes from where I was.

I wasn’t sure when I was going to get to writing about Michael’s but the longer I waited the less of a chance it was going to happen.  And what a waste of a visit that would be.

The space is tiny.  For all the stories I heard it made it sound like there was room for some indoor dining if possible.  It was tinier than I imagined, not like that matters.  I got my slices to go and didn’t hesitate to think otherwise.

Now these were in those tinier display racks you might see at some other places.  Similar to where you might order a soft pretzel.  That sounds like a knock but it really isn’t.  It also made my decisions easier, as I went with a cheese, pepperoni, and sausage slice separately.   And with two slices and a soda for $6, you really can’t complain about what you’re getting.

Well you can complain, it just depends on who might be listening.  Remember, at the end of the day it’s only food.  Now some places may claim to be bigger than they are, larger-than-life, and influence you into having an out-of-body experience. Now free will is free will, and no one else should mess with that.  Sometimes you just want your pizza and not worry about any of the logistics, how artisanal (I’m over that word by the way) it is, where the ovens were imported from, and any of that other sometimes unapproachable nonsense.

MichaelsPlain

This was good greasy pizza. The pictures can tell you that without having me to say anything.  This is a fun time that doesn’t pretend to be anything other than it is.  If I want avante garde I’ll know where to go.  During this time of year, you might just want food that’ll give you comfort with no thrills and no questions asked.

MichaelsPepperoni

I don’t need to review every slice or give a breakdown of what I liked or didn’t like.  I will say that if there was no sausage and pepperoni I wouldn’t be missing it.  Not that they were bad, it’s just that the plain cheese on its own was good enough that it didn’t need any toppings, for me at least.   Can you see that grease?  Maybe the cheese is all you need.

MichaelsSausage

The crust was a simple crispy and sometimes soft and comforting dough.  Sounds good to me.  Oh wait…

I was there on a weekday so whatever energy I was supposed to feel or create myself, based on what others have told me, wasn’t there.  Maybe another time.  But I did feel some solid pizza run owned and operated locally.  And as long as there’s local business it’s something always worth supporting.

If you haven’t been to Michael’s, and are near the area, I would absolutely recommend giving it a go. Perhaps you’ll have a different or unique experience compared.  Sometimes that’ all that matters.  Sometimes you just want a slice without having to think too much about it.

This is as simple as it gets.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

That’s The Jingle Bell Part II

JingleBellGus1

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.

JingleBellFront

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.

JingleBellPizzas

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.

JingleBellEasternShore2

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.

JingleBellGus2

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.    To read more about the wine, click here.

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.

aacasa

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.

JingleBellElf

And we’ll admire it again.

Happy Holidays and Peace Be With You.

Ideen