Fifty Shades of Great

vin909pizzapie3

Actually it’s more than 50.  You can’t put a number on this but the Fifty Shades of Red from Vin 909 is a scrumptious and scintillating pie.   I could throw all the other superlatives that start with the letter ‘S’and any other letter, but this is one of those overall experiences that will resonate with me for a long time.

You know when you have those Grade A (not I won’t be using a bunch of happy words that start with ‘A’ unless it also happens organically) nights out with awesome food, drinks, company, conversation, and service that it tends to come up often in conversation?

Restaurants are more competitive than ever and many are attempting to stand out and differentiate themselves from the crowd.  Vin 909 has done it by the having a welcoming entrance, an approachable and folksy feeling front porch (which is used for outdoor dining when it’s a warmer climate), a cozy waiting area, and even more cozy bar and dining area on the inside.

vin909pizzaeaten3

All this without any food being sampled.   One more thing, the many times I’ve driven by I’ve felt an energy emanating from the building and the surrounding area.  I equate the visual of the outside as somewhere we go could if we’re checking into Heaven.  There’s no religious connotation with what I just said.  It’s just meant an an expression, and as an experience.

vin909pizzaeaten2

But I’ll tell you this Eastport Style Pizza was the equivalent of a religious or more I’d say a spiritual experience.

Now I don’t often seek out loads of meat on my pizza.  I like grilled chicken as my preferred protein and lots of vegetables.  Actually I really like to keep it simple.  I like cheese, I like white, I like spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, mushroom, and of course pesto.

However, I wasn’t alone for this meal, so a mutually enjoyable pie was needed for this occasion.  And I’m all for expanding my horizons and getting out of the comfort zone.  But as you can see the pizza menu is loaded with all kinds of creativity and excitement.

I wish I could tell you the best part of this pizza.  I truly don’t know.  But that crust was jaw droppingly magnificent.  Maybe that was the best part.  But these toppings are all fresh. No matter how I phrase it words will not do it any justice.

vin909pizzapie

I adore how the cheese melted all over this pie.  It gives it a true authenticity that you don’t always see.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that other pizzas are any worse.  This was just the good stuff.

vin909pizzapie2

Even the way the prosciutto, pepperoni, and sopressata is layered on top is art.  That’s a lot of red meat.  And it may not be for the faint of heart or more of the discriminatory taste, but this was a gem.   That basil and paprika is the perfect counter balance with all that heavy meat.   I’m glad I got to share this pizza for I only had a few slices.

Did you see those slices?  Some were in the standard form and others were more square shaped.  I love how that worked out.   The presentation right before on the pizza stand makes this all come full circle and completes this mastery of a pie.  It’s not just the food and drinks, it’s everything leading up to it.  The anticipation, the build, and the payoff are all part of this enjoyable process.  And when it’s actually enjoyable, which this was, we’re talking a world class meal of epic proportions.

The wine (more on the wine pictured here) made the pizza that much better and the pizza did the same for the vino.   The tea helped settle the stomach, and helped with that full feeling I had when departing.

vin909pizzaslice3

How else can I say how great this was?  I can’t say enough.  I’m so partial to Vin 909 and my romance with the restaurant predate me ever setting foot inside.  All that’s left is to keep the love affair going.

vin909pizzaslice4

That means a return engagement when the weather breaks.  Actually my intention is to make many visits.  And not all will be for the blog.  Some memories are meant to be kept internal and some should be shared.  But I think this is a place that I want to appreciate without the pressure of writing and taking pictures.  Same goes for many others but Vin 909 will always hold a special place in my heart.  Oh and being in Annapolis helps!

vin909front

It’s been a pleasure reminiscing about a meal in three installments (Here is Part 1 and Part 2), and about a place a I was reminiscing about before I even walked into Heavens Gates. Yes I did just say that again.

One thing I forgot to mention is they don’t take reservations.  Seating is first come, first serve.  Wait times can go past an hour.  And you know a place has got some cache if patrons are waiting that long.  Trust me, it’s worth the wait.

How do I follow-up next week?   Well I’ll do my best.  But for now this is one to savor.

vin909sign

If you’re in the area or visiting I highly recommend Vin 909.   Here is more about them, their philosophycontact info, and most of all one of my best friends’ organizations which they support, Anne Arundel County CASA.

I never got the chance to meet Alex Manfredonia, who is the owner and general manager. But in case he does read this, I just wanted to say thank you.

Ideen

 

 

Slice 2.0

slicetowsonslices

Not quite two years ago I did a write-up about Slice Pizza in in Nottingham, MD.  I was critical and constructive in my thoughts.  That review can be found here.

I thought the pizza wasn’t up to par with what they were charging, and the creative slices.

One look at their full menu will tell you all you need to know about how dynamic and daring some of their signature pies are.  But daring doesn’t always translate to good. Some of us want our simple cheese slices that are affordable, ready to go, and harmless

There’s the flip side.  Do you want it too much on the unique and chaotic side, or will a simple plain do?

slicetowsonstorefront

Well why am I rambling on about a place I already wrote about?  Well I have a reason.  And along with that, they’ve since opened a second location not far away in downtown Towson, MD.  They don’t have a website but hopefully this will help.

slicetowsonsign

I found myself at their new locaotion, like I always do when it comes to where  I choose to eat, rather serendipitously (no such thing as coincidence) and just in time for lunch.

They had an even wider array of slices that I wouldn’t think to make.  However, this some of these slices bordered on chaotic.  And chaos, no matter how organized and clean, may intimidate some.  Not me.  I say bring on the mayhem.

And I was hoping for a major upgrade from my original visit.  Now onto the pies…

I don’t know what it is, but I just tend  to be in the mood for mushrooms from time to time.  So with further adieu how did my slices turn out?

chickenmarsala

First up was the the Chicken Marsala.  I’ll tell you what, the pieces of chicken on top of this slice were fantastic.  I couldn’t tell if they were marinated or chicken cutlets.  But either way it was a good start.   This is more about the pie than the makers themselves.  This was a little too rich for me on the inside. I’m assuming they used marsala wine to add to the sauce.  And it just didn’t work for me.  The crust was heated maybe just a little too golden brown and burnt on some ends that it did lose some of its flavor on top of the pie Not the best slice I’ve ever had nor the worst.

tomatomushroompestocado

Now we go to the Tomato Mushroom Pestocado.  Now if I said anything wrong about the title of this slice, please correct me.  This was good.  The fresh uncooked tomatoes on top added so much to this pizza.  The lukewarm mushrooms added a little something else.  Whether it was meant to be cooked more doesn’t matter.  I dug it.  And I’m assuming this was an avacado based pesto as part of the well, base of the pie.  I may be wrong on that too but the main thing I felt took away from this was there was too much ricotta cheese and it wasn’t very good.  That’s when I realized this was a white pizza with all kinds good goodness piled on top.   Take out the ricotta, this is a really good slice.  The crust was heated better on this one too.

The two staff members working the counter could not have been nicer.  They made the experience so much better.

slicetowsoncard

What I did find troubling is the $10 total I paid for both of my slices.  I know these are on the gourmet end but $10 did feel a tad steep.  Luckily the do have lunch specials where two cheese slices and one drink do only cost $6 and change.  We’re only talking a few dollars here but I’m looking at this from all areas.

Since there’s so many unique slices to choose from, this is only the beginning.  I almost feel I could run a supplementary blog for all their outside the box slices.  I love that and I love when folks break tradition and go their own way.

slicetowsonbox

Another visit is in order and soon.

slicetowsonpizza

Here’s my ever growing history of the pizza of Towson.

Happy New Year,

Ideen

 

 

Down To The River To…

namastepie2

This is a Small Business Saturday special.   But for me, supporting small business, when it comes to pizza, or other ventures, is what I’m proud to support the most.   However, there are mom and pops, brick and mortar, or whatever you want to call it, that strike a nerve just a little more.

All of a sudden it’s December.  How did this happen?   Last Saturday felt like it was minutes ago.  But in the spirit of that, I take it to a town that has meant so much to so many of us, Ellicott City, MD.

riverhouse2

I was going to write about River House Pizza Co last summer, but things didn’t work out that way.  I stumbled upon their courtyard right smack dab in the heart of Old EC, where I had been many times before.  But this one felt special.  The weather was glorious, the live band (yes there was a band) was rocking, the crowd was enjoying themselves, and eating some great pizza to boot.  I say great, but am I getting ahead of myself?   The wait times were upwards of 20 minutes for a pie, and I didn’t have time to wait.  At least that’s how I try to rationalize it.

But the planets aligned and this was meant to be a special for the holidays.  And how special are these pies?   In a chestnut shell, these pizzas taste like perfection for this time of year.  They taste like Christmas, or they taste like anything you might celebrate.  It’s one of the most comforting and endearing pizzas you’re ever going to have.

To mark the importance of this, there will be two pizzas reviewed over two visits.  How cool is that?  Yes the pizza is hot and cool, at the same time.  That’s enough of the cheesy puns.  Wait I’m not even sure if that’s a pun.

riverhousedisplay

The first stop was a fortunate visit to the local library’s farmers’ market.  And what do you do know, this would be their last day here, for a while.   Funny how that works out.

riverhousemarketpie3

In the tradition of my play on words and then my love of pesto, I went with the Market Special.   This pizza is so simple yet so extraordinary.  That dough is so chewy and gooey and as I alluded to, tastes like the holidays.  It’s on the level of that cheesy bread you may find at your national chain pizza.  But this blows it all away.  I can’t rave enough about how amazing this soft dough is.  And the balsamic glaze really shines through.  It may be the highlight in a sea of highlights.  The chicken tasted fresh, the pesto homemade, and that cheese is a pure delight.  At only $12 this pie is a bargain.

riverhousemarketslice

I saved half of this for lunch the next day, and tasted equally as good.   I’m salivating at the thought of having one right now.  It’s inspiring.

namastepie

So that was two weeks ago.  We move along to that Saturday after Thanksgiving.  After that remarkable display of wood fired fierceness, how do we top this?  I’m not sure but the Namaste I got at their Courtyard is on par.  And if you look closely, both pizzas complement each other in the spirit of Christmas.  I love that so much.  I didn’t even plan for that.

namasteslice

I’ll admit, I ordered the Namaste for the name alone.  The spiritual connotation was enough for me.  And once again, that dough was insanely good.  You’ve got to be kidding me.    The marinara and red peppers add to the holiday visual.  And those caramelized onions, mmm mmm mmm I’m in love.  Was that even a sentence?  But mmm….This was tremendous.  And I continue to find that portabella mushrooms add to most meals and of course that means to most pizza pies.

Needless to say this pizza didn’t stand a chance.  I finished it in one sitting.  Yes, I was hungry but it was more than that.  This was spiritual experience at the courtyard.  I was alone, but I wasn’t.  There were a few other tables occupied but that wasn’t it.  It was just cold enough that being inside was feasible, but the warm energy around me was enough to let me know I was surrounded by spirits.

And with positive spirits comes positive vibrations.  And the vibes that radiated from all the shoppers in downtown Ellicott City made me feel so good.  I had no problem waiting a few extra minutes to find parking and appreciate all the people going over the crosswalks.

This is what the holidays are all about.  Well maybe not all about.  This is just a small sample size within one story.  We all have those stories that tug at our heartstrings and creative a memory that will resonate with us forever.  As time goes on, I’ll appreciate this experience even more.

At the end of this post I’ll share with you some of the images I took in downtown EC. Some were taken from my car, so they may look a bit awkward, but it almost seems fitting.

Pizzas like this only come ever-so-often.  And supporting local is the way to go.  For those in the area, their winter weekend hours are posted here.  Their intent to stay open the entire time.   Here is their courtyard menu.   Finally, if I haven’t sold you on their pizza yet, here is the chef’s bio.

As an added bonus, Midnight Madness is tonight! 

Here are my two previous visits to Ellicott City gift wrapped to you, in door #1 and door #2! 🙂

I want to review all their pizzas, so this may just be the beginning.  And I’m going to safely assume they will all bring joy and make great memories for you and your loved ones.  I hope this is just the beginning, and I would like to say I’ll be back soon.  This will be a cherished part of my holiday memories and I hope the same happens for you.

Namaste,

Ideen