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

 

 

Burnin’ In My Soul

FiresidePizzaWine3

I like to write about things.  Last year I wrote about a mobile pizza food truck at a wine festival.  Now I like wine too, but if I feel compelled to write about the tastings and various festivities at well, this festival, then I will get around to it.   If you sense my enthusiasm is lacking then you’re spot on.

FiresideTruck

But every cloud has a silver lining or something.  And this one goes by the name of Fireside Pizza of Hagerstown, MD.   This years’ pizza truck kept it simple but then it didn’t.

FiresideMenu

You could purchase two slices of cheese or pepperoni for $5.00 total.  Noticed I said cheese or pepperoni.  Their explanation was that they were cooking the pies separately and couldn’t give you one slice of each.  I understand the rationale.  Whether that’s the explanation given to everyone is not something to question.  Wait I think I just questioned.

But based on the grande scale of the event and the clientele being a bit demanding when it came to wine samples, food samples, and who knows what else, food trucks, food stands, stations of all kinds have to protect themselves.

I respect the $10 credit card minimum for that reason among others.

A whole cheese with one topping was $20.00.  I didn’t have enough people in my party of a big enough appetite to justify that a the time.  And the specialty pies at $22.00 may be a stretch for many people.

FiresideSlices

I sound like I’m being hard but I’m really not.  I didn’t see a lot of people ordering full pies, but this was earlier on the day.  As more people have had their samples, their sips, and then their bottles, they will get hungry.  And they’ll be willing to spend a little more to eat, and eat right away.

FiresidePizzaWine

Myself, I was one of the folks who ordered two slice of pepperoni but made one of them a cheese.  Simple I know.

FiresideCheese

This was good pizza.  And when I mean good, I mean good.  I bet at a more controlled and less raucous event the pizza would taste that much better and made under more ideal conditions.  I hope I’m making sense.

These were solid thin slices, that even though were on the small side had a great charred taste to them.  And the cheese and pepperoni did their job and did it well.  I think I enjoyed my pepperoni and my faux cheese slice equally.

If I was in a more laid back atmosphere I think the pizza would taste that much better.

Local business is one of the most beautiful things out there, so I hope they succeed, wish them all the best, and hope to catch them at another event down the line.  And maybe try one of their specialty pies.  I’m curious now.

FiresidePizzaWine3

For more on Fireside, here is their website and their other page with more information.

Summer means more outdoor events, more parties, and hopefully more chances to write about brick oven and wood fired pizza served outside, served with some soul, and served with the best of intentions.

I look forward to it.

Thanks so much.

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

BOP or Bust?

The Fells Point Fun Festival is the first weekend in October.  For at least the next four weeks, the posts will be dedicated to a pizza joint (or wherever I made eat a pie or slice) in this historic neighborhood.

BOPFront

I knew for a while that I was going to write about Brick Oven Pizza.  This is not going to be pretty.

I had been eating here since moving to the area in 2000.  And like many a tourist I either discovered it by walking around the neighborhood after a night of libations, or through word of mouth.  It’s been a while but for me I think it was the former. And then the latter after learning more about this amazing part of the city.

And if memory serves me correctly, I loved it the first time I ate it.  I loved it all the way up until about 2007 or 2008.   And I’m not quite sure what happened.  Either the quality of the food got cheaper, the way the pizza was prepared and heated changed, or my tastes went into a whole different trajectory.

BOPBuild

Lets be clear.  At one point this was my favorite place for pizza.  I craved getting pies of all flavors.  I loved the cheese, white, pepperoni, and many other toppings.  When I lived in Towson, during and after college, my friends and I would make special weekend trips to get a couple of boxes for carry-out.   I thought it was quality pizza.  And high quality at that.   Not anymore.

In the late 2000’s to now I have seen such a sharp decline that it’s alarming.   I’ve eaten here day and night and the quality has been lackluster regardless of the hour.   I wanted to think that the effort is not quite there after the bars close vs. during the day, but it’s bad all-around.

But yet I kept going back because I wanted to believe that the quality would resurface.  And it’s one of the first places I grabbed a slice when living in the area.   Then I started to go out of my way to avoid it.   What’s even worse now is when I’m in the area, I don’t even think to go unless it’s with friends or for the purpose of this blog.

BOP.Cheese.WhiteBOP.Pep.Pesto

And speaking of that, I will be reviewing four slices, albeit briefly, which took place over two different visits.  One was during the day and one was near closing time.  It doesn’t matter which took place when as they were all pretty disappointing.

BOPCheeseBOPWhiteBOP.PepBOP.Pesto

When I said I will be brief I was serious.  The order does not matter but I got a cheese, white, pepperoni, and that funny looking one.  That’s a cheese with pesto on top.  I had ordered a white slice with said pesto and they gave me that.  I wasn’t even in the mood to tell them they messed up, as the point is moot.

BOPOven

There is no soul to this pizza anymore.  The crust, the cheese, and the toppings had no flavor.  Sometimes I felt like I was eating soap.  It was a struggle to finish any of these.  They look so much better than they tasted.  The dough was cooked funny and I don’t see how a brick oven can make this.  It’s a tragedy.

BOPMenu

And for what they charge there is no justification.  These are not premium slices.

The staff working the front has also left a lot to be desired.  I get people have bad days but a lot of these folks seem to phoning it in.  And that energy reverberates to everything.

BOPCeleb

I think the celebrity testimonials are wonderful but I suspect many are from years ago, when the pizza was impressive.

I write all this because I care.  I miss the old B.O.P.   And I don’t it coming back.  In a way it’s heartbreaking but it’s also time to move on.  Every now and again if I’m desperate maybe I’ll grab a slice but there are food options elsewhere.

Many folks from the area will disagree and I understand.   Some of my friends are loyal to this place.  I was but my heart isn’t there anymore.   It’s time to move on.

BOPVan

I can only hope the Fells Point pizza will get better from here.

Best,

Ideen