You Say Tomatoes

HotTomtoesSlices

Two years ago, when leading up to The Fell’s Point Fun Festival, I did a series of posts featuring pizza from restaurants, pizzerias, and the like from the neighborhood.   I didn’t do them all, I didn’t avoid any on purpose, but I wanted to discuss some that may be off the radar or not within anyone’s crosshairs on a regular basis.

HotTomatoes

Then there’s Hot Tomatoes.  It’s one of those things where if you live or hang out in the area, you know what you’re getting.  I was thinking myself that it was too obvious and almost unnecessary to write about this establishment.  This is not a knock on them or their food.   It’s just that it’s always been there and it’s not going anywhere.  And imagine any late night, especially on the weekends, where slices are coming and going at a rapid-fire place.  The place isn’t going anywhere as long as people had a good night (or even a bad night) out and need something to finish the night off and feed their bellies.

But with the Festival starting this weekend, I felt like if I’m not going to write about Hot Tomatoes now, I may never.

For me, I don’t know if I have any sentimental attachment to Hot Tomatoes.   I’ve been and many of us have been too many times to count.  But after a while we look for other sources for greasy food to keep us satisfied.   And while a couple of places have closed nearby (Little Italy Pizzeria and Italian Graffiti come to mind), this neighborhood staple has stood the test of time.  Having a prominent location on Broadway helps.   Location….

HotTomatoesCheese

So how’s the pizza?  Its’s pizza.  It’s food.  There’s some folks prepping the pies, putting sauce, putting cheese, toppings, and throwing it in the oven.  Then when it’s ready they’ll slice it up and put it in a box or you to go.  See where I’m going with this?  It’s pizza that looks rough, is not going to win any world title belts, but it serves its purpose.  And that’s just the way they want it.  And it’s just pizza.  Many of us at later hours don’t care about artisanal quality and world renowned craftsmanship.

HotTomatoesGreek2

But something happened recently.  They’ve changed their slices up quite a bit.  I had a Greek slice with olives, onions, feta, and a whole slew of awesomeness.  It was a white based and it was surprisingly good.  I mean that with all sincerity.  Because of Hot Tomatoes presents itself, you expect what you expect.  But when they throw a good slice that is, your taste buds are feeling good and it’s a welcome change from the standard cheese and pepperoni.   If this slice is on display this weekend I’ll gladly get another.

 

Their slices are in the $4-$5 range but their big, and prices at the late night hour are really not what folks are worrying about.

What is their true stand out if their deep fried cheese steak.  They don’t always make it, but when it’s there, jump on it.  It’s the most unhealthy and glorious of all guilty pleasures.  I’ve always had to split mine with a pal.  It’s incredibly bad for you, yet incredibly delish all at once.

And now their other venture, at the same location, Diablo Doughnuts is really wowing people. I had my first opportunity to try their sweet treats and a wedding last weekend.  I believe I had one with fruity pebbles.  So good.

UPDATE :

This has been updated with my actual first purchase of donuts from said Diablo, during the festival, which was rather mellow on Sunday.

I grabbed an iced coffee, along with a Samoa (yes the Girl Scout kind), and a Blackberry Lime.  I thought they were both fine, but in what ways do I compare this to other doughnuts?  I like the creativity of flavors, but not sure if this is anything amazing in my eyes.  They were tasty though.  That’ all that matters.

I’m assuming they will still have a stand outside of their shoppe.  Per neighborhood and logistical changes the festival will be condensed this year, to try to make it even a heavier focus on local business and give it a more cozy and welcoming feel.  I’ve always felt was it inviting and approachable to people from all walks of life.  I’m hoping this change is a good one.  We shall see.

BroadwaySquare

Broadway Square, with the exception of the pretzel dog and lemonade stand, has opened back up in time for this weekend.  All signs pointing to a positive experience and a great time.

FellsPointFestival

I’ve been attending this festival every year, except for 2003, since 2000.  It’s become a part of me, a part of many of us, and it’s that first weekend in October that many of us look forward too.  For me, it hasn’t always been the most amazing of times, mainly because I think the festival got carried away with trying to be too big and getting carried away with outside food, drink, and traveling carnival like vendors.

But the last few years have been fantastic, with being able to drink on the streets, and keep it more local, has been a welcome addition.  And an addition by subtraction.

FellsPointFestivalSchedule

For those attending this weekend, here is the link to the maps and parking at the festival, the band list, purchasing drink packages (it’s $20 for 3 drinks versus $5 for just the cup in previous years), and contact information.

With so many many changes going on in the city and one of the great neighborhoods in the country, I’m hoping the integrity and heart will always be there.

We’ll be seeing ya this weekend.

Take good care,

Ideen

 

 

Always Bet On Red

RedStarBuffChicken

This post is 14 months in the making.   If you’re looking for a positive, uplifting, and energizing post, then you’re going to be delighted.  That’s my goal. It’s the holidays and it’s a myriad of emotions but I want to side with the joy, peace, and spirit of what it’s all about.

Yes, pizza makes everyone happy.  This is why I decided to do this after months of deliberating.   Dramatic much?    It’s all about enjoying yourself in whatever you can and whatever you’re doing.

I’ve always adored Red Star.    I sometimes feel smitten.  It’s a place off to the side of the commotion on Thames Street in Fells Point and I suspect that’s how many people like it.

For me it’s always been the starting point or official meeting point before or during a festival of special event.   Two of the big ones being Fells Point Fun Festival and the Old Thyme Christmas which took place this past weekend.

I exhausted the Fells Point posts when the fun festival was rescheduled. But I made reference here that there was one more place I hoped to get to. This is what I was alluding to and a few friends had known that.  It’s a bit exciting and a tad melodramatic to speculate on what is coming and how I would frame it, but I’m loving every second of this one.

Back in October of 2014 during a previous incarnation of the fun festival, we ate upstairs and I saw pizza on the menu.  First, I never knew there was a dining area on the second level and I never knew they had pies.  If they’ve had then for a while I’m sorry it took so long guys.

If I remember correctly, the pizza may have been squared shaped but I stand corrected if that wasn’t the case.

When some pals said they would be able to join in the holiday festivities, I knew this was the week to write about it.  Call it a prophecy, clairvoyance, and or maybe just some holiday cheer.   This is one of the places that inspired this blog.

RedStarMenu

This will be a recap of their entire pizza menu.  Very exciting I know!  It’s the completist in me that showed up for this one.  That’s five pies and I will attempt to truncate the verbiage on each.

Pie #1 is from Fells Point Festival Day 1:

Per the friendly bartender’s suggestion I ordered the Prosciutto.  This was fantastic but you’ll see a recurring theme, I could barely finish half of this. It was so filling and full of sensational toppings.  The garlic makes this pie for me.  The arugula was delightful too.

As you see I picked off the toppings and enjoyed them in solitude. It jokingly became a white pizza. This wasn’t the intent, yet this was gorgeous.  I enjoyed my time solo before meeting up with friends.

A nice glass of vino will be accompanying some of these works of art.   I shared my leftovers of day 1 with friends, and the reaction was universally positive.

Pie #2 is from Fells Point Festival Day 2:

I went with the mushroom.  I’ve always had an affinity for them however they’re prepared.  I enjoy them raw. I also enjoyed them on this pie.   This is how a pie comes together with the right toppings and nothing gets misdirected or forgotten.  The caramelized onions taste perfectly and complement the balsamic drizzle.  The goat cheese does it for me.

Again, I couldn’t finish it but that’s more on me than the pizza itself.  I enjoyed the leftovers.

Pies #3 and #4 are from Old Thyme Christmas this past Saturday:

RedStarFries

But before that, we ordered a bowl of garlic and sweet potato fries mixed together.  Yes a bowl and not a plate.   This was stellar.

The buffalo chicken might have been my favorite.  It wasn’t too spicy and just felt so comforting. Maybe because we were about to drink a plethora of egg nog, that this was the right prep for it.   The celery does it for me.

And the presentation charmed the heck out of me.  They all look great but this one I find just a little more special. Why?  I don’t know.  Ask me tomorrow and I might say another one is my favorite.

The cheese was exactly what you want.  You can judge any place by how their plain is. And if they’re doing that right, then it’s concrete and unequivocal evidence that everything else will fall into place.

Finally, pie #5 was a carry-out order from yesterday.

Notice some Christmasesque colors?

This was the Mediterranean Veggie and this was the one I came closest to finishing it.  For OCD sake I wanted to get this to finish the five-pack.  I’ve said it ad-nauseum on here and with friends that pesto makes everything better and it does.

This felt like a thinner, flakier crust than the others but that could be all in my head.  And that’s not an insult.  The thinner crust across-the-board worked perfectly for all these pies.

The word count is a bit high so I will conclude this momentarily.  Go here. I love the atmosphere.  And over the years the staff has always been pleasant and attentive.  The dimly lit lights add character as well.

I’ve had all kinds of great food here and will look forward to doing so again.

This place is a labor of love and I look forward to showing more affection to well-deserving places again throughout the holidays and into the future.

Take good care and happy holidays!

Best,

Ideen

 

Mary Queen of Fells

AleMarysPieWine

After a delay and hopefully a lot of patience, the Fells Point Fun Festival commences this weekend.

My sincerest hope is that we get some good weather and that the original postponement won’t hinder folks from coming down in the usual masses that we are accustomed to.  And the hope is that local businesses and vendors get some great exposure and boost their bottom lines.  Many deserve it and many are fantastic people.

Speaking of fantastic, it’s my pleasure to write about what could be my last neighborhood pizza review for the calendar year.   A few extra weeks have been fun and I hope I’ve been able to capture some of the essence of this place of wonder and joy.

Ale Mary's

Ale Mary’s is the quintessential neighborhood bar.  It’s a haunt that I wish I frequented more often.  The set-up, ambiance, and dim lights are right up mine and many others’ alley.

The times I’ve eaten here have always been pleasant. It’s great bar food that doesn’t pretend to be anything overly pretentious or unapproachable.  And more times than not, that’s all we want. It’s just close enough to the commotion and heart of Fells Point, while also a safe house for many that want to avoid that.  It’s the perfect balance and especially for this weekend, the perfect pizza.

AleMarysPizzaMenu

I was in here over a month ago, and when examining the menu, I never realized they served pizza.  Even better, they tout it as personal Bowlin’ Alley Pizzas.   An instant light bulb and cheesy television theme music went off in my head.   I had to come back and try a pie!

The very likeable bartender suggested the Fresh Veggie with mushrooms added on.   How could I say no to that?

AleMarysPie

I had no idea that there’s parmesan already thrown on top of the pie.  And with all the vegetables piled on, it was a splendid addition that enhanced the flavor of my pizza and the vegetables.   This is a piece of information I was pleased to discover.

The crust was so crisp and so crunchy, that I had to slow myself down and appreciate what I was having. The melange of cheese, sauce, and the veggies makes this such a charmer.  This is a really fun pizza.

AleMarysSlice

I don’t remember what bowling alley pizza tastes like or is supposed to taste like.  I don’t recall the last time I’ve had pizza at a bowling alley, if ever.   I don’t have that to compare it too, but I do know that this was so enjoyable, I could have had another.  This pie was decimated in minutes.

AleMarysPieEaten

And as always, it paired well my vino.

AleMarysSliceWine

I’m grateful to have Ale Mary’s as my day of festival post and highly recommend checking them out if you’re in the neighborhood this weekend and looking to venture outside the chaos at Broadway and Thames.  The regulars, who always seem so friendly, don’t need to be sold. They’ve appreciated their visits time and time again.

This may be the penultimate post for the neighborhood this year or this might be it.  I do have one more place in mind that I really want to talk about.  I hope and aspire to get to it.

I’ve really enjoyed visiting some new places, giving some old ones their just due (or justified critiques), and enhancing my love for one of the greatest places I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.

Hope to see you this weekend on the cobblestone streets of Fells!

Best,

Ideen

Called An Audible

The Fells Point Festival Version 2.0 is now only a week away.   And the pizza party has taken a detour and we are making some new moves!

This post is about what I ate last night.   Sounds like a normal thing to write about.  But this is what makes blogging so fun. The dining establishment I’m expounding on today was nowhere on my radar.  It was suggested by a couple of friends. And away we go.

Cockey’s was nowhere on my radar.  It was suggested to me by a couple of friends last night.  And in the context of where these posts are going, I feel like this was the perfect place to write about for today.   I took the inspirational several block walk from near the heart of the neighborhood to Upper Fells or Butchers Hill.   Since the website states Cockey’s Fells Point, I think I am ok.

I had only been here once before and really liked the atmosphere.  The interior is beautiful, the staff is friendly, there’s a nice outdoor dining area, and they have a good wine list.   The place has been open less than two years and a lot of the locals seems to enjoy it.

CockeysMenu

While going over the menu, I saw a lot of other meals I was interesting in getting.  But pizza is the name of the game, and I ordered the Ace Special.   I ordered this simply because the name stood out and I was in the mood for portabella mushrooms.

CockeysPie

When they brought the pizza out, I noticed it was cut awkwardly.  If the pizza tastes good, I wouldn’t think anything of that. But, I sensed the way it was uneven has to do with how hard the crust was to eat in certain places.  Some of it felt a bit overcooked and I had a hard time biting into my mini slices.  The tiny cuts are always a nice touch by the way.  It just felt rough on my teeth at times.

CockeysSlice

The toppings were very good.  I liked the cheese, sauce, diced chicken, mushrooms, and red peppers.  This is a simple yet tremendous mix of cheese, protein, and vegetables.  I just wish the crust was cooked a bit more evenly.   It was a distraction.   It didn’t detract entirely from the pie, but I was more perplexed than anything.   My wine was very good and complemented the pizza well.

CockeysSliceWithWine

Nevertheless, I will come back again  I will gladly get another pie or maybe something else that looks like it could be scrumptious.   Since it’s a fairly new restaurant and so much work seems to have been put into it, I want this place to flourish. There is a charming feel and energy surrounding the whole place.    This has the look and feel of what Fells Point is really all about; cozy, quaint, and approachable.

Cockeys

I look forward to coming back again.

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen

Little Lackluster

I had intended to do a Fells Point related pizza post in conjunction with and leading up to the Fells Point Fun Festival.  That was supposed to take place last weekend.   The universe had other plans and we’ll see you in two weeks.  But the neighborhood posts will keep on coming leading up to the event.

My post from last week was meant to be the revealed on the weekend of the event, but I have adjusted accordingly. I am prepared for the challenge of finding spots that are hopefully informative and do the area justice.

LittleItalyFront

This week brings me to Little Italy Pizzeria, which is right off the heart of Fells Point.  That picture I took makes the place seem very authentic right?

Well that’s where it ends.  This pizza parlor suffers from the same issues, in my opinion, as Brick Oven Pizza which I wrote about two weeks ago.   Up until five years ago I would’ve said this pizza tasted great during the day, at night, by the slice, or a grabbing a whole pie to go.  It wasn’t fine craftsmanship but it was guaranteed to be a good pie that would do its job.  And sometimes that’s all you’re looking for.

Now the last few times I’ve ordered from them the crust, dough, cheese, sauce, and toppings all seem so lifeless.  There’s no feeling behind it.  But it serves its purpose.   I used to always order a za from here day or night and feel like I’ve enjoyed something tasty. And my interest has waned to the point where this might be the last time I go for a while unless I’m desperate.

I will recap the two slices I got, on my most recent a little over a month ago.  I’ll try to find the positives.

You know how when you see pictures of pizza you get hungry and get excited?  Even bad pizza will do that to you.   However, when looking at these photos I am turned off by them.

LittleItalyCheese

There’s barely any cheese or sauce and that’s what I remember tasting. The crust tasted undercooked and a bit soft. Sometimes that’ll work but not here.   I do realize I was eating around 8 or 9 pm so the quality may not be as high.  But I’ve had the same slice during the afternoon and it was just as mediocre.

LittleItalyBacon

The bacon, chicken, and ranch didn’t taste fresh.  The toppings seemed boring and just thrown on there.   Even bad pizza could be good pizza but this doesn’t apply here.  Even bacon which is hard to screw up, either tasted like it was past its sell by date or it wasn’t real bacon.  I’d rate both of these below average.

LittleItalyDuo

My hunch is that the business is just going through the motions.  It can try to please everyone and change the quality of their pies at various times of the day, or just wing it throughout.  I suspect they’re doing the latter.  I can only assume why the caliber of their pizzas has dwindled.

I remember barely eating half of either and feeling bad I had to throw them in the trash.

The interior is narrow.  There’s only a few sets of tables and chairs which is what I do like about it.  It’s a grab-and-go kind of place.  I’d just use caution on the pizza.  Lowered expectations would work here.

More to come.

Best,

Ideen

Magic Rat

WharfCheesy

The Fells Point Fun Festival was supposed to take place this weekend.   The universe has decided to make other plans. Weather has become a factor.  In lieu of this, the event will likely be taking place the weekend of October 23rd-25th.   I said I would continue to write about Fells Point establishments and their pizza up until the festival.  I will continue to do just that.

My recap of The Wharf Rat was meant to be posted on the opening day of the event.  I feel this bar, more than most, symbolizes what a great neighborhood bar is all about.  After thinking about it, and with all their fun pizza still fresh in my mind, I thought what the heck.   I shouldn’t let weather dampen my spirits or schedule.  Pun not intended.

I’ve been hanging out here for many years and it’s always had a welcoming atmosphere.   I’ve been to many events and fundraisers that benefited the community, local charities, and the city of Baltimore.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I even knew they had pizza.  I think I’d just be here for a drink or two and some standard pub eats.   What have I been missing?

Now many folks have pointed out that it’s great drunk pizza.  Well you could say that about most pizza couldn’t you?  I’ve had it a couple of times after a few libations myself.  I’m here to say that it’s good pizza period.

There isn’t anything overly spectacular or glamorous about their pies.  It’s just damn good pizza.  And I think that’s what they intend.   I will say that it’s much better than quite a few of these artisanal joints that charge an arm and leg just to grab a table.  I’ll take this over those an time.

This is a pictures show over several visits.

WharfMenuWharfMenuOpenedWharfOven

I love that the bartender is also the cook.  It even says it on the menu!  How awesome is that!  So you get to see everything. They prepare the dough, put on the sauce, the cheese, and heat it in the oven.  I love how the kitchen is right there too. This is the pub experience my friends.

And the staff over time has always been so approachable.  I’ve never had an issue over anything, except other than myself being a tad under the influence.

WharfSpecials

I was there on a recent Wednesday and didn’t even realize that personal pies are half off with the purchase of a cold on.   I felt like it was my lucky day. The air seemed fresher, people seemed nicer, and I felt like I could change the world.  Well maybe not that last part just yet.   But their cheese is just a fun pizza. No thrills, no gimmicks, no shenanigans.

WharfCheeseWharfCheeseSliceWharfCheeseWine

One of the major stand-outs of their pizza is how crunch their crust it.  It’s part of the reason I go and will keep coming back. I don’t know if it’s the magic from the dough, the way it’s rolled, or their oven, but I so look forward to that crispness.  It feels so good with each bite.  I take my time with it.

WharfPepperoni

I joined a group late to share a half-pepperoni and half mushroom pie with pals.   The photos will show a bit more of an impromptu experience.  The toppings are always fresh too.  And the mushroom bits were very tasty. That’s one of my favorite items on a pie and this pub only further enhances that.

WharfCrabPie

I was going to leave it at that but very recently I grabbed one of their signature pieces.   Here is their Lump Crab and Artichoke pie!  I got it to go but this was too good to not write about. You’ll notice it’s thinner than the other pizzas.  It was prepared differently.

The crab meat is the sauce and it was delicious.    The slices were thin and for this instance it worked perfectly.  It was like eating a crab dip pizza on a very thin crust.   Even though the crunchy dough experience was not as prevalent, I found it just as pleasurable to eat.

WharfCrabSlice

One thing I feel good about is I like this bar even more now.   Just me writing about this experience has made me appreciate it that much more.   There’s been times I drive by the Ann Street spot and take it for granted.  For many folks driving into the neighborhood it’s the first bar they see.   I’ll make more of an effort to walk in more and not just park myself in the art of all the action.  The fact that it’s just off the beaten path adds to their charm.  I’ll see ya there!

WharfSideWharfFrontWharfSailors

More Fells Fun is coming.

Best,

Ideen

Alexander’s the Great

The Fells Point Festival is just one week away.  I find that so exciting and freaked out that time is just flying.

And As promised, the pizza theme of this neighborhood continues.  This visit brings us to a much more favorable spot, as opposed to last week, Alexander’s Tavern.

A month-and-a-half ago a huge group of us were out in the neighborhood for a dear friends birthday. Several stops were made but none were better than this location.

Our group of about 50 or so had taken over the entire front bar area.  And there was such a powerful and magnetic energy in the room.  My words alone will not do it justice.   The day was phenomenal.

And speaking of that, I saw a few friends eating a few appetizers and other foods to soak up the libations that were being procured throughout the afternoon.

To my pleasant surprise, a couple pals were eating pizza.  So I just had to jump on this opportunity while I was there.

ThreeLittlePigs

Now I’ve noshed here a multitude of times before and always enjoyed myself.   I forgot they served pizza and shame on me for that fact!   After making several inquiries to the friendly bartenders and perusing the menu, the unanimous suggestion was to order the 3 Little Pigs!  Mama Mia!

Alexander'sMenu

I had this in early August but the taste still resonates with me.  The crust was thin and just perfect.   On just a visual level it was almost too beautiful to eat.   One thing about me, I’ve never seeked out red meat on my pizza.  It’s just never been near the top of the list for me.   It’s not that I don’t love it.  I just prefer chicken, vegetables, seasonings, yummy sauce, and of course lots of cheese.

ThreeLittlePigsSlice

But this is something else.  The trios of ham, pepperoni, and sausage taste so fresh and so real.   For a second, I thought all this meat could clash and some flavor might be lost.  How wrong I was!  I also do love some ham so this was a treat. Just looking at the toppings I can tell this is real quality and a lot of effort was put into preparing this.  I took a few pieces off my mini slices and ate them individually and it was glorious.

The sauce and cheese were easy to taste even with all that meat piled on top.   My mouth is watering at the though of having one right now.

ThreeLittlePigsWine2

The presentation was inspiring as well. I found the plate that it came on to be very charming.  Whether the color was intentional or not, I don’t know.  But I do believe they do serve red plates and I find this detail to be an added bonus.  And it went perfect with my wine!

ThreeLittlePigsWine

These are personal size pizzas and I would’ve devoured another one.  But I also found this too good not to share.  I passed around a few slices to the buds of our birthday crew, and the positive reviews were unanimous.  It was superlative city.   Being in a great mood also helps.   Everything just felt right about the day.  And the was pie is stupendous, sensational, and splendid.   It was so good that a little over-the-top alliteration was necessary.  And they’re only $6 on Thursdays!  That’s highway robbery!  This pizza is worth every penny and then some.

Alexander'sFrontAlexander's

If you’re in the neighborhood or going to be headed to the festival next week, I strongly recommend stopping by for a pizza or anything for that matter.  I’ve always had a great experience here.  And I cannot wait to try some more of their creations.

Thank you so much.

Best,

Ideen