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.

We did share a bottle of wine while we waited.  The wine will be updated here sometime next week, so be on the lookout for that.

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

A Flair For The Gold

FranksTrios

I’m writing this as I watch the unofficial first day of coverage of the Winter Olympics, so please bare with me, I’m a bit excited.

I wanted on the eve (or day of depending on where you are and when you read this) of National Pizza Day, for this story to be inspiring, remarkable, heartwarming, and all those other superlatives and blessings.

FranksPizza

When talking about Frank’s Pizza & Pasta in the Northeast Baltimore neighborhood of Hamilton, or is it Overlea?  Well it’s Baltimore and it’s an institution that’s been around for over 30 years.   That to me is worthy of a medal itself.

I had actually intended on doing a story nearly two years ago but something told me the timing wasn’t right.  If I’m recalling correctly, my pictures looked underwhelming, or maybe some universal force told me it wasn’t time.   Some things can’t be explained nor need an explanation.

All roads brought me here this week.   Actually that’s exactly what happened.  Yesterday I drove passed Frank’s later in the evening, with the thinking that I need to get back here.  And while I was on my way home, if the situation presented itself, I know I’d be back again soon.  Literally, less than 24 hours later… And the rest is well…

My expectations had been raised after hearing about their pizza, from a couple peoples’ opinions that I respect immensely.  And it’s all about your own opinion, your own beliefs, experience, and all that good stuff.  But I can’t help but admit that I had high hopes.

If we’re using Olympic terms, the technical scores may be a bit low, or the qualification times may be enough to make the next round but I don’t know.  There are some deductions and maybe some penalties.   There may need to be a redo.

What does this all mean?  I’ll get to the point.  I wanted to love it but I can’t say that.  I want to love every pizza and every experience, but it’s not always going be that way.  While it’s easy to find positives (and there are), the faults do stand out.

I got three slices, and how perfect was this selection.  I might have stopped by right after the lunch rush since a lot of slices were bunched together, and the pickings were minimal. No problem at all, I still got a cheese slice, a meat lover’s, and the Mediterranean, which looked like it just came out of the oven.

FranksMeatLovers

I’ll get my critiques out of the way first.  The cheese, and meat lover’s looked much better displayed on trays beforehand than how they looked after they were heated.  Maybe my eyes were deceiving me but the plain cheese looked like it shrank.

FranksCheese

You can also see that they reheated these slices a little too long.  You can see the burnt parts, especially in the meat lover’s, that the crust actually fell apart where it was charred.  Now there’s good charring and then there’s this.   It wouldn’t have mattered though, as neither slice did much for me.  The cheese felt flat and something just didn’t taste right.  Maybe there wasn’t enough?  Maybe it was out there too long.  I don’t know.

FranksMeatLovers2

The meat lover’s is not one I would ordinary try anyways, but I figured why not.  This one I could only take one or two bites of before I had enough.  It was burnt and it was a little too hearty for me, but that’s more of a personal opinion as well.   I like more of a….

FranksMediterranean2

And this brings me to the Mediterranean.  This was the gem, or the crown jewel if you will, of the slices.  Maybe the fact that it just came out hot and fresh had a lot to do with it.  The toppings were exquisite and the pesto was tremendous.  I think I got some magnificent olive oil too.  All the toppings complemented each other perfectly.  It’ll make me want come back.    All this on top of a white pizza, is masterful.

And I will.  I think this place is capable of so much.  It wouldn’t be around so long if it hadn’t, even with changing times and tastes.

FranksMediterranean

That’s the most in depth I’ve been about pizza in some time.  I usually look for all the positives and situations related to everything outside of the food itself, as well.   And I still did here.  The staff is great, it’s very old school and very authentic in terms of service and appealing to a loyal clientele that serves a part of Baltimore you don’t always hear about, or think to go to.

All I know is that it won’t be another few years until I’m back.  If time allows, we shall do this again soon.  I know I say that a lot, but we shall do this again soon.

For more on Frank’s, here is their menu, and their storied history.

Enjoy the Olympics, the opening ceremonies, and all the good that comes from that.  I know I will.

And 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

 

Plenty of Christmas Spirit…

PizzaBlitzSlices

Nine years ago I discovered this magical place called Quarry Lake, and what looked to be in its infant stages.  Nestled in the affluent Pikesville suburb of Baltimore, this neighborhood always seems safe, approachable, and inviting enough that while it’s not going to be groundbreaking in any way, yet it’s a place of a peace and harmony.

QuarryLake

I think those many years ago I looked at things with wider eyes, a little more idealism, and the happiness in discovering something new, which always brings about rejuvenation, a rebirth, and an all around feeling good.

This was also right around the holidays, so I recall that day with such detail that I’m getting a bit emotional thinking about it.  And I have no particular reason to feel emotional.  Well maybe I do.  I did some impromptu shopping that day, and discovered some new stores that I otherwise wouldn’t have known, at least not for a while.  It may or may not have been my first visit to that great grocery store, Fresh Market, which I wrote about some time ago, that post can be found here.

FreshMarket

Where is this post going?  Aside from more over sentimentality about the holidays, and everything else feeling larger than life?

PizzaBlitz

This brings us to Pizza Blitz, which is across the way in this ever-growing strip of stores, office building, and houses galore.

Now I’ve been here too many times to count, so I obviously think the pizza is good enough to eat and keep coming back too.  Or maybe it’s something else?  Nah it’s not really much of anything other than convenient, and I just find myself at peace for some reason when I’m here.  I have no explanation why.

Sometimes things don’t need an explanation.

PizzaBlitzSlices2

But about the pizza, it’s quite affordable.  Most slices are $3 or less, and you can’t complain about that.  It’s bring your own beer and wine, which is another major plus.

Yet I don’t find anything spectacular about the pizza.  But this is how it goes sometimes.  I’ve always found the appearance of all those slices on those pizza trays so charming.  It’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this blog.   There’s always places with plenty of food on display ready to be ordered and heated and then served, but something about all those pizza slices on display warms my heart.

PizzaBlitzSlices3

And something about Pizza Blitz’ display is especially welcoming.  Maybe it’s the energy of the place, maybe it’s the friendly staff, or maybe it’s the fact that it’s a local business, and local makes me feel good.  It’s all of the above, and then it all depends on the mood and place I’m in, any customer is in, and all those other details that once again, can’t be explained.

I love making pizza or anything into an existential and metaphysical conversation.  It doesn’t have to be like that, and not every visit I make gives me that feeling.

Something about this place gives me that feeling.

And I don’t need to go into detail about the five slices you see in this post.  The pizza is good but I’ve had a lot of great pizza this year that I wouldn’t know where to even put this.  It wouldn’t be high on my list, and that’s just fine.  Not every pizza is going to be the best pizza I or you have ever had.

In reading reviews, many folks seems to think highly of this place, and I love that.   When it comes to the pizza, I will temper my reactions to a couple notches below great.  The crust is safe and easy to eat, and while this is their version of New York Style, I’ve had much better.

PizzaBlitzSlices5

The white slices in particular weren’t my favorite, but the plain cheese and buffalo chicken are solid.   And for many people that’s all they need.

There’s a strong local presence among the clientele, and I’ve seen it with every visit.  You have your families, your students, and business people.  People from all walks of life just looking to grab a slice, enjoy some food, and enjoy present company embodies Pizza Blitz, and I imagine many of the businesses nearby have similar scenarios and sentiments.

Or I could just be overreaching and this could all just be me a bit emotional during the holidays.  I’m fine with that.

And I’m fine with Pizza Blitz.  Again, this pizza isn’t anything great to me, but it’s great to so many others, and that’s what matters.  I’m one person with an opinion and it’s easy to find the positives here.  All in all, this place is loaded with Christmas Spirit.

For more on Pizza Blitz, here is their menu, their story, and contact info.

I likely have only one more post for the year, and I have no idea where it’ll be from.  I just hope to end the year on a high note.

I wish you and yours a happy holiday, and peace be with you.

Ideen