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

 

 

 

Now Open For Business

AngelinasPizza1

The joy of this thing comes in finding the pizzerias outside of major cities.   And the joy also comes in when I’m not looking too hard for it, or not looking at all.

This brings me to Odenton, MD, which is a town not everyone in Maryland (or outside Maryland) has ever heard of or let alone visited.  Until a few years ago I was one of those folks.

But that’s the fun of it, different town, different experiences, and that means finding a hidden gem, pizza or otherwise.

It made me so happy as I was driving towards a nearby neighborhood in the area when I saw decorative signs for something.  I had to look closer and even closer, and to my pleasure it was for the newest pizza place in town, Angelina’s.

AngelinasSign

Just the thought out of that alone made me so happy.  I have a log of things to write about, and I’m glad to keep certain places on the back burner for now.  They didn’t fit write just yet.   While a place that has been barely opened a month certainly fits perfectly.

The space is massive.  I have no idea what was in this space (if there was another restaurant) and in this instance it doesn’t truly matter.  What matters is what was going on at the time.

But back to the space.  There’s plenty of picture frames on the wall from all walks of life. There was Italian music playing as soon as I walked in.  I think I heard an Andrea Bocelli song once or twice.  No complaints there.

And the dining room with their beautiful chandeliers on one end was gorgeous.  It’s a great setting for a dinner party with pals.

There were plenty of slices to choose from.  All averaging around $3-$4.

Because I’m hardly ever in the area, and the newness of the place, I wanted to recap more than just my standard two slices.  This time we have four.  And as I write you’ll understand that I didn’t finish everything all at once, or at a later time.

AngelinasPizza3

I loved how the white and the caprese looked so bright and so inviting.  I just had to try these two first.  But neither one translated into quality slices.  The crust was fine but had a flatter kind of crunch than what I would prefer.  And the cheese seemed to be missing something.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the quality of the cheese, the crust, and the toppings on both just missed that wow factor.  It wasn’t close to that.  I would call it decent but not much else.   After picking at both slices, I didn’t finish half of either.

AngelinasCaprese

AngelinasWhite

That’s because I was saving for a couple more to go.

AngelinasPizza5

For the road, I went with the cheese and buffalo chicken.  And while my expectations were lowered I didn’t discount how good either of these could be.  I love the look of breaded buffalo chicken on a pizza, or anywhere.  But unfortunately the chicken tasted dry and flat.  The celery and sauce were fine but the chicken took away from the rest of the pie.  The crust was once again decent, but it felt under cooked as the previous two slices.

AngelinasBuff

But we know the truth.  You have to judge a place by the cheese, and the cheese alone.   So after feeling a bit dismayed at my previous endeavors, the cheese was tremendous.

AngelinasCheese2

Even at first glimpse it seems a little more care was put into this pie versus the others. The sauce was better, the crust was eons better than the others, but the cheese reminded me of the great slices I’ve had in a while. This isn’t the greatest cheese I’ve ever had but I’ll be thinking about this for a while.  I’m thinking about it now.

AngelinasCheese

If I’m back I will try some more.  If you’re in the area I would suggest giving them a try and finding out for yourself.   Local and family business is always the best.  And I have to say it again, their cheese was fantastic.

Here is their menu and their contact information.

AngelinasPoster

Man that was cheese was good.

Ideen

 

A Slice Special

SonsSlices

We took this show on the road all the way up to quaint and charming Shrewsbury, PA.

I don’t imagine many people reading this would consider this town the mecca of action, move making, let alone pizza.   This is now why my friend and I drove through necessarily.  It’s good to go on adventure, go with the flow, and discover places, gems, and inspiration on the way.

And that’s exactly what happened.

SonsFront

My buddy and I did some advanced research on pizza places in the vicinity and Sons of Sicily was on the list, and one that got a decent amount of praise.

With that the strip mall itself looked like something out of the past, which is always refreshing and welcome.

SonsRoom2

The interior was also simple, no thrills, and may feel uneventful and lacking enthusiasm to some, but I found it once again, refreshing.

When slices are not in display there may be the moment of concern that wait times to get a personal, medium, or larger sized pie may be longer, and then you’re stuck with all this pizza that you may or may not want later.  But who are we kidding, there’s always time for more pizza.  Seconds and thirds have never been an issue to me and I can’t imagine and issue to many.

But a legitimate concern I’ve had is when a place doesn’t have slices on pizza trays, but will make slices and add any toppings you like.  That takes the fun out of it for me.  If I want a cheese and a cheese with a topping of two I’m either better off getting two cheese slice or two slices of something else and pull the toppings off to pretend that I got a cheese instead.  I’m going a bit off course but I’ve always felt asking to add toppings, while giving us a sense of control, also takes the fun out of it.

SonsSlices2

Luckily, the special for today and this week was a Barbecue Chicken.   My friend and I got one cheese, one bbq chicken, and a fountain drink.  For the two slices and a soda the total came out to under $6.  Yes $6 for a lot.

And by a lot I mean these slices are no joke.  As you see in these pictures they got some size to them.  The argument can be made that this is the legitimate equivalent of having 2.5 to 3 slices.

SonsCheese

The cheese was fine but nothing to write home amount.  I honestly thought it could have been heated just a little longer.  I’m not sure how much of a difference that would make as the cheese wasn’t anything memorable and the sauce was sweeter than what I’m used to.  Sometimes sweeter pizza sauce will enhance a pizza.  That didn’t work here.  If anything it took something away from it.

SonsBBQ1

However, the barbecue chicken had a little more soul and effort put behind it.   The cheese looked and felt more inspired.  The shredded pieces of chicken with the barbecue sauce glaze looks as good as it tastes.  I adore how they put on the drizzle.

SonsBBQ2

You can also see the difference in how long this pizza was in the oven.  This dough was cooked to near perfection.  This is a great slice and I’m so grateful this was the special today, or else I would have never gotten a chance to write about it.  I mean it because…

I don’t know the next time we’ll be back in the area.  Summer and life is for adventures, so the change in towns, locations, pizzerias, and fun things in general will hopefully be the norm and not the exception, not only this summer but throughout the year and throughout life.

So it’s possible a return will come sooner rather than later.   And I look to find some more hidden and not so hidden gems along the way.  Speaking of which the staff was extremely friendly and asked us how we felt about our choices.  One was particularly adamant about her love for the barbecue chicken.   We concur.  I concur.

SonsMenu

If you’re ever in the area and want to try a local, welcoming, and affordable pizzeria then Sons of Sicily may be just what you’re looking for.  Here is their menu and their contact information.

SonsSlices3

Here’s to a Summer of great adventures and hopefully equally great pizza.

Feeling great,

Ideen

 

My Favorite Mexican Restaurant

LaToltecaPizza2

That might be a bold statement but La Tolteca has always been so good to me, and to my friends who live(d) in the Bel Air, MD; Harford County; and now Baltimore County and City.

Warning – their website has music, so turn it down if you’re at the workplace or a library. The music is fun though.

LaToltecaFront

But my first was the Bel Air location and it will always be my favorite.  I’ve been to others but this has the look of what an original and authentic Mexican restaurant.  I sound like I’ve been to a bunch of restaurants or Mexico itself, but it’s just a feeling.  Bel Air will always be my favorite and home base restaurant.

LaToltecaPizza1

That’s why I chose home to finally write about their Mexican Pizza.  I meant to do this two years ago for Cinco de Mayo and then again last week but well, things happen, life happens, and the timing wasn’t right.

I figure a week a later isn’t going to hurt anything.

What you might find humorous is their Mexican Pizza is on their Children’s Menu.  So kids and kids of all ages are invited to try this.  I say this because at first I was afraid there was some protocol about a grown up ordering from the kids’ menu but no questions were asked.  I did feel a bit awkward for a second when ordering.  No I didn’t, because…

LaToltecaPizzaDisplay

It’s also on the grown up lunch.  In hindsight I wish I got both to do a comparison but as someone once said, six in one, half dozen of something.  Right.

Let me first say I love their food.  I’ve never been disappointed.   I’ve ordered burritos, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, salads, soups, and everything else under the sun.  I want to focus on the pizza but I also want to focus on the soup.

LaToltecaPizzaEaten

First, the pizza.  I honestly can say I didn’t love it.  It wasn’t good or bad.  It was good enough to eat but nothing I would go out of my way to order again.  I didn’t have grandiose expectations of eating something amazing or life changing.  Not at all.  But I was hoping for something with a bit more pizzazz.  Yes I know what I just typed and it was no accident.

The crispy tortilla which acted as the dough seemed a bit too crunchy for me.  And I know other people will love it.  It just work out for me.  The beef tasted life beef, the cheese, tomatoes, jalapeños (which had a kick to it), and onions all completed the pizza. It was fine but nothing memorable.

LaToltecaPizzaDisplay2

Honestly, that’s as class to a negative thing I’ve ever said about La Tolteca.  Now I want to shift to something magnificent.

LaToltecaSoup3

That Mexican Chicken Soup is worth going in for alone.  I don’t know all that is in it. Actually maybe I do but my mind is wandering and my mouth is watering at the thought of having this soup.  As I type this the restaurant is closed or I’d be having some right now to draw a little more inspiration as I write.

LaToltecaSoup

My love comes from the combination of the shredded chicken, random vegetables, and the tomatoes becoming a part of the soup.  Oh my goodness this soup is ecstasy.  I know this is a pizza blog but I had to make mention of this.

LaToltecaDisplay

And if you’ve been here before, you know habit forming the free tortilla chips, salsa, and that white sauce is.  Yeah that white sauce will get you.

I’m glad I waited a week (and two years) to get around to this.   But if you’ve never eaten here don’t wait any longer.   Don’t wait a year, two years, or another minute.  This place is fantastic.  If you live anywhere near a La Tolteca I highly recommend it.

Their website is as inviting and accessible as it gets, so you should have no problem finding a location near you and something inspiring of their inspirational menu.  Yes loads of inspiration.

And as inviting as their site is, you will see how more inviting the staff is when you walk in. I’ve usually ordered food to go.  But when I’ve sat down with friends we’ve always been treated like family.

I started writing this as a way to end up suggesting trying a Mexican Pizza at your local restaurant or making it at home but this went in a different direction entirely.

And I’m not only suggesting, but also encouraging going to La Tolteca if you’re in Maryland.

And I wish you all a Belated Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Ideen

 

 

 

 

I Was Scared At First

ScreaminHeated

Over the past few days I was thinking a little too hard about how to follow up last weeks’ incredible feast and experience.

I shouldn’t take this to or much of what I do too seriously.  It’s pizza.  It’s always going to be fun even when it isn’t.  As someone once said, even bad pizza is good.  No that’s not entirely true.

Perhaps because it’s a murky and rainy morning in May as I write this that my mood is thrown off kilter.   But every dark cloud has many cheesy linings.  And if you’re talking cheesy, I couldn’t think of a better pizza to talk about than the Screamin’ Sicilian.

ScreaminPackage

Here is the link to find their pizzas.  Alright until next week.  Ha…

I realize that today is a day of celebration and I may have missed a golden opportunity to talk about something unique.  I may get to that next week.

It’s pouring out there.  A frozen pizza is perfect comfort food in a time when comfort is not only necessary, but well, comforting.

ScreaminFrozen

Frozen pizzas always had always been a staple of my life when I was a kid.  I can safely assume that goes for many of us.  It’s an easy alternative to cooking and cheaper alternative to pizza delivery, dining out, or maybe even cooking general.  Many pies will go under $5.  The Screamin’ Sicilian went for $7-8 and is worth every cent and then some.

ScreaminNotes

Over the past few months I would their artwork on their boxes and I would immediately be scared, and somewhat put off.  I see an open mouth with frozen pieces of pepperoni and cheese, and I immediately walked (don’t run) to the nearest exit, or nearby aisle for a safe haven to hide and maybe just leave.

All jokes aside, one day I examined a little bit closer and saw the label was much more humorous than I expected.  It doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Maybe I should lighten up on that.  But fake moustaches on anyone make me scared.  It’s not my business.

But the point of all this is to try different things, even if it’s just frozen pizza.  Trying new anything adds to our memories and adds to things to talk about either with friends, or with ourselves.  And I don’t mean in a schizophrenic sense either.

Going through their pizza menu, I wanted to find one that gave me enough comfort but not to the point where I can’t leave the house.  Actually on days like this, staying in is perfect.  I went with the Mambo Italiano.  This pizza was perfect.

The description mentions something about taking this pizza to the mattress and some cliche terms that start with the letter ‘b’, but I’ll let that slide haha.

Upon opening the package I could just sense that something special was about to happen. This is why you never judge a book by its cover.  And by the way, because they got me thinking so much about their artwork, I bought a pie anyways.  So it worked on me.

20 minutes later after heating I was dazzled.  The cheese and sauce is great.  The pepperoni is good.  The crust was heated and toasted (thanks oven) perfectly. But it’s the meatballs.  I could smell them first and did they smell something awesome.  I picked off a few pieces for me and it was beautiful.

ScreaminHeated2

Some of the meatballs became baked into the golden brown crust that felt like it rose to the heavens.  This is more art.   And the generous amount of toppings shows the kind of soul and character behind this operation.

ScreaminSlice

I’ve only had a fifth of the pie.  It doesn’t take much to give me comfort.  And it also means I have meals covered for the next day or so.  Ah the little things.

I’m a fan and I think I would like to do this again.  I may or may not do another post about it.  But I’m thrilled to be a part of something so fun.

Here is their contact info, once again the store finder, and all their infos.  Yes they actually call it all their infos.  I’m loving this company more and more.  Their sense of humor if infectious.

I feel comforted.

Ideen

 

A Lovely Cheese Pizza Just For…

HarrisTeeterCheesePizza

…for anyone!   Harris Teeter is one of those friends you shouldn’t take for granted.  By me saying that I almost sound derogatory or patronizing.  Well I do like patronizing their stores.  I think you know what I mean.  Well I hope so.

HarrisTeeterStore

I only realized a few minutes ago that the first time I visited one of their stores was in North Carolina, which is where they’re originally based out of.   Now they’re everywhere. And if you live in a city or a suburb chances are there’s more than one store right up the street and walking distance from you.

This isn’t going to be a history lesson or discussion of their groceries and free samples. Even though the latter is readily available and always appreciated.   I knew in time I was going to be discussing their pizza.

I’ve saved a few pictures of slices over the past few months knowing I would be sharing my thoughts with the world.

The results were a mix bag.  The prices are fantastic and they always have some exciting specials going on.  Sometimes on a monthly basis.

I’m judging these pizzas on the premise that this a grocery store, and not a pizzeria.  This is not meant as a slight or insult to their store.  It’s more along the lines of how I rate pizza. I don’t ask for much. I just want it to taste good, be reasonable priced, and makes feel happy when its over.

HarrisTeeterPrices

Over 4 different stores (at least) I tried 4 different slices, and maybe a little more. Perhaps the title gave it away.  I’ll get to the slices first.

HarrisTeeterChickenPesto

First, the chicken pesto.  This is one I thought I would be in love with.  It was fine but within the context of good pizza and pesto this was only ok.  The crust was fine but noting special.  Fortunately with this slice, the crust didn’t dominate as you may see in another pizza shortly.   I didn’t taste much chicken, onion, or pesto.  I didn’t taste much of anything.  The toppings all seem to get lost in the shuffle.  And that’s never what you want.

Next, is two I’ll blend together.  The Steak and Cheese, and then the Deluxe actually both tasted the same to me.  And you can see with these two, the crust sort of envelops the actual pizza itself.   I know the sign says the pizza is made fresh every two hours but these slices felt like they were out longer than that.  And that’s fine.  If they’re reheated they should taste adequate enough.  Again, these were ok but I would’t go out of my way to try them over others.   And speaking of which…

HarrisTeeterGreek

The Greek was a pleasant surprise.   I love feta cheese, olives, onions, and tomatoes.  And they do it all here perfectly.    It looks like a lot and it is.  But that’s the fun of this.  The toppings seem to a bit more over-the-top than the previous three slices I mentioned.  You can tell such a difference in this slice versus the others.  And the visual is so different.  They throw on a lot and it pays dividends.  I absolutely adore this slice.  And the crust was fantastic as well.  This is a great slice.

HarrisTeeterCheesePizza2

But finally, the reason for this post, is the April Four Cheese pie special, at only $8.   You can always tell how good a place really is based on the cheese.  And the cheese was fabulous. This is along the lines of the Greek with loads of toppings but instead loads of cheese. And I mean loads of cheese.  You can see how high they stack this thing.

HarrisTeeterCheesePizza5

To be fair, this was fresh out of the oven, placed in a charming to go box, and it felt so good on my hands.   The difference in having it right out of the oven, after 15 minutes, going against slices being heated up is significant, but I didn’t know it would be this significant.

HarrisTeeterCheeseSlices

This is cheese that makes you feel like a kid.  It reminds me of a cheese pie I shared with my family many times over, when I was a kid.  The pizza sauce is tangy, yet it works perfectly with this pie.  And the golden brown and slightly burnt ends of the crust makes this pizza worth going out of your way for.  Actually wait.  You don’t have to go out of your way for it.   Wow I’m cheesy.  Oops!

HarrisTeeterSpecials

And at only $7.99 for the rest of the month of April, it’s a bargain.  This is usually $12.   I got four meals out of this.  And it just kept tasting as awesome, if not better, every time. I’m craving some now as I write about this for you guys.

HarrisTeeterPizzaBox

This pizza isn’t going to win any awards and I don’t think Harris Teeter is looking for any. But they do cheese pizza right.   I will be back again.  Maybe I’ll review some more slices or another to-go special.   Any way you slice it, I look forward to sampling (not those free samples, but I love those too) more of their creative slices and pies in the near future.

To find the nearest Harris Teeter near you, click here.

There’s still a lot of April left so I highly recommend getting this pizza, at this price, while you can.

Thanks so much,

Ideen

Halal’s It Going?

UpperCrustPizza1

Happy April.  That got here quick didn’t it?  I felt like I was making the same statements for the same months last year or even this year.   Happy Spring to you too.

You can call this the Iranian New Year Special.

Columbia, MD is a town I’ve written about before and about this chain too, but it also does have its local businesses, and local is what I always strive to write about first.

UpperCrustSign

Upper Crust Pizzeria has been a staple of the town and nearby neighborhoods for a number of years.  In the vicinity there’s two other strip malls with all the chains you need (or don’t), for your convenience, that you could easily pass by this local pizza place and not even know it.

I’ve done the same the thing many times and I’ve also hesitated ever ordering from here to the point of grabbing food from a place next door or nearby.  That’s over and done with now.

The establishment is unassuming.  And you know the places with little decor, limited seating, and no website (that I know of), could turn our to be some of the better pizza and food experiences.  It’s the hidden gems, the hole-in-the-walls, and the off the beaten paths that are truly special.  At least for this go around, this was all that.

That sentiment doesn’t always ring true.  I’ve been to some mom and pops that have turned disastrous, but they usually come through and show why local is the way to go, as much as possible.

I was all set to order a standard or maybe a slightly unique pizza on this day.  But then after scanning the dry erase board (I love that) menu, at the very bottom I see the Halal Meat Pizza.   This would be a historic first for me.

UpperCrustPizza2

I had no idea what the pizza would entail.   I didn’t know if there would be a different crust, cheese, or sauces.   None of the above.

UpperCrustPizza3

It was a cheese pizza, with tomato sauce, and that crust.  Wow this crust.  Let me say some more about this.  I ordered a personal pie and I did the smaller triangle slices.  As the weather gets nicer this is the kind of consumption I’ll be looking for more.  It’s not necessarily a thin slice.  It’s their slice.  And that golden brown color is a sight for happy eyes.   This was beautiful.

UpperCrust6

Now let me get to the Halal meat.    What a pleasant surprise that is also included chicken and they didn’t half-heartedly throw on these toppings.    There’s a lot but not too much that the pizza takes a back seat.

UpperCrustPizza4

The beef was seasoned similar to gyro meat and it was magnificent. If it was gyro meat then I’m happy with that too.  The diced chicken was a nice touch.  And in my usual ways I pulled plenty of the toppings off and enjoyed them on my own.  But in this instance it’s not necessary.  Everything complements itself perfectly.

UpperCrustPizza5

I’m dreaming about this crust right now.

Now I’m really wondering how other Halal meat pizzas would fare.  It’s not a frequent occurrence on pizzeria menus.

There’s no website but this page can look to the menu and all other necessary information.

I don’t know when I’ll be back.  That sounded a bit too dramatic.  I’m in the Columbia area at least once a month.  And I’m always seeking out hidden gems of all kinds to write about.  So maybe I will try another one of their hopefully awesome pizzas.  I’m overstating this but the crust on this one was just so special.

And speaking of special I’ve contemplated going to ratings system for pizza and maybe the other universes I speak of, here and here.   It would likely be a 5 star system with half and quarter stars when necessary.    If I do institute this, I will go back and rate previous postings I’ve made.  It’s just a thought I’m contemplating and appreciate any feedback.

So far I’ve liked my reviews to speak for themselves.

 

Blessed,

Ideen