I Love This Weekend

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Sometimes life works out, the planets and stars align, and the universe does look out for you.  It looks out for us in more ways than we realize.  We might not always see it.  I know I don’t always see it.   And even with all the good that is about to transpire this weekend,  I may not fully grasp how beautiful the next few days are going to be, until way after its over.  I know I’ll love it while it’s happening, but I’ll look back fondly on it even more as time goes by.  This is more than nostalgia or reminiscing.  Some thing just hit you.  You wish time would stand still, you could do this all day, you could do this forever, and you could be around these people forever.

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What I’m referring to is the annual CASAblanca Gala presented by Anne Arundel County CASA, this Saturday, November 4th.

I mentioned Anne Arundel County, which is synonymous with Annapolis.  I’ve said plenty of good about our state capitol in the past, yet I can never say enough.

My dear friend Rebecca is the Executive Director of Anne Arundel County CASA, and it’s an amazing time to share with friends and to support a wonderful cause.  This their 20th year holding the event, which takes place at the beautiful Westin Hotel in Annapolis.   It’s my third year attending, and the third time is a charm to finally write about…

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Carpaccio Tuscan Kitchen is literally footsteps from the Westin, and has been as convenient and a go-to for me as any.  Well why do I say convenient and go to?  Isn’t this a sit-down restaurant with fine dining, a place to relax, and appreciate the food and surroundings?  Well yes, but I’ve actually never eaten here.   What I’m actually referring to is Carpaccio 2go which is adjacent to the restaurant, and I mean this with all sincerity, looks like something I’ve never seen.   I almost feel like it’s too good to be true in a way.  I don’t know how to explain it but the location is perfect, and I can’t exactly put my finger on why.

Maybe because many pizza places with slices to go don’t look as beautiful as this.  But if you look around the vicinity, the tiny of white colors of the building, the hotel, and the residential units across the way, all match.  While the area looks pricey, and of course it is, it almost feels supernatural in a way.  Again, it’s all open to your interpretation, but there’s an architectural and metaphysical force that worked in concert with each other to create all this.  In some ways, it”s almost too beautiful.  But I should appreciate all the beauty for what it is.

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I’ve been to the carry out side many times and because of the location and the aura I was feeling, I had immensely high expectations.  Now, not every time is going to be mentioned or will every slice be featured.  I will reserve it to two visits for now, which means a total of four slices.

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The first visit I will discuss was back in late Summer.  Now it’s hot and pizza is hot, so what am I trying to say?  I really don’t know haha, but my slices on this day were the Sausage and Peppers, and then Chicken Pollo. Now I know what I was trying to say.  I think some slices work better in different climates, similar to how we drink wine, and how we eat other foods during certain times and certain seasons.

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While I’ve had mainly good experiences here, I know the best was still to come.  The sausage and peppers with onions was really good, and went great with your standard mozzarella cheese slice.  I will say without sounding like a broken record, the crusts on all these slices were heated tremendously.  You can see the colors across the board.  There was a lot of time and care put into the making of the dough and the heating.  You don’t need to be an expert.   You can just tell those things.

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Now I had high aspirations for the pesto.  I’ve ranted and raved about my love for pesto throughout my journey, and I wanted to love this one so much.  It was good but I know the best was still to come.  The pesto aioli was fantastic.  Maybe for me the white pizza with chicken, tomatoes, and those yummy mushrooms (more on the mushrooms shortly), caused a little bit of the flavors to be lost.   But still a good slice I would definitely have again.

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Now moving on to earlier this week, this is where expectations were matched and succeeded.

It almost seemed like the pizzas on display looked shinier and brighter, and I could do no wrong no matter what I ordered.  I was spot on and then some.

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The Margherita looks like art and tastes like art.  The marinara sauce is heavenly.  The photo doesn’t say it all but it says a lot.  Oh my goodness.  This is up there with one of the better slices I’ve had. The basil, garlic, mozzarella, and olive oil just makes this simple pizza one of the best I’ve had not just here but anywhere.  And the crust was even better today.

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Not to be outdone is the Wild Mushroom.  I love mushrooms and can have them with just about anything.  But when you throw gorgonzola, you’ve got to be kidding me, this is a gem.  Cremini and portobello mushrooms really make this pie but the combination of two contrasting cheese in mozzarella and gorgonzola also make this an absolute masterpiece.

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Recall how I said you look back on things with even more love and romanticism as time goes by?  This is how I felt about this visit.  I’ve been here many times and something about this one was just a cut above the rest.  I sensed it and maybe the universe did too.  This won’t be the last time I  talk about them.  The next time will be from the actual restaurant itself, which is gorgeous inside and in the patio area as well.  If you’ve visited then you know I’m talking about.   Yes I’ve never eaten there but was in awe of what I saw.

For more on Carpaccio, here is their menu (which serves many of the same pizzas as Carpaccio 2go, click here to make a reservation, their story, and contact information.

It’s going to be a beautiful weekend in the Annapolis area.  Not only is the CASAblanca Gala going to be amazing, but I’ll also be at the First Sunday Arts Festival footsteps away on West Street the following day.  It will be their holiday edition, yes it’s that time of year already. In addition is the Bay Bridge 10k this Sunday, the Eastport vs. Annapolis Tug Of War on Saturday, and the City of Annapolis General Elections are this Tuesday.  

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What an exciting time to be in the area.  If Annapolis wasn’t great enough, all these events just make this place all the more magical.

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It all begins with CASAblanca and I so greatly look forward to it.

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For more on Anne Arundel County CASA, here is more about them, volunteer, and donation information.

Thanks so much and I look forward to an incredible weekend!

Peace be with you and happy beginning to the holiday season…

Ideen

 

 

Vesta Is Besta

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Sometimes the  cheesiest and dopiest of titles just come to me.  You can write this stuff ladies and gentleman.   But this pizza is up there with the best of ’em.    But don’t take my word for it.  Vesta Wood Fired Pizza & Bar out of East Rutherford (or is it in Carlstdat),  NJ was voted best pizza in the state by NJ.com.

If you look at the list, it’s written very simply, similar to my posts. I dig it. So what makes a pizza number 1? It’s really all so subjective and based on opinion.  Could be based on anything else?  Are we talking word-of-mouth, sphere of influence, or confirmation bias?  None of those three possibilities are necessarily mutually exclusive by the way.

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Nevertheless, I was in town recently for a concert and maybe some other sight seeing.  The latter never really came to fruition but I did have time for some good pizza.  Thank goodness because I almost didn’t walk in.  I drove by a couple of times before and thought the outside look a bit intimidating.  The nearby neighborhood of Carlstadt (or is it East Rutherford haha) looks more down-to-earth and has the feeling of a tight knit community.  Never judge a book by its over as Vesta for all it’s gloriousness outside, had the most endearing and approachable charm inside.

Before I go on a bizzare tangent, Vesta is snugged in between both towns, literally.  I took pictures of both since they were literally yards from each other.

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I went at a quieter time of day, which I tend to do, to get the most personable experience as possible.  Jennifer, who I promised to mention by name, was working behind the bar. She could not have been more helpful in suggesting the right pizza pie.

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I was leaning towards the Pear & Gorgonzola, when I had initially wanted a simple Margherita pie. What on earth was I originally thinking?  This is before I learned about Vesta’s high praise.  I went with the organic choice of the unique pie but not without a further suggestion.  She had recommended throwing some sausage onto my pizza to give it more of a breakfast feel.  If I had only listened to her.

The pear is the stand out here.  These pieces of fruit were custom made for the Summer season.  But you can enjoy this year round.  The gorgonzola and walnuts added some pop to an already intriguing choice.   My minor complaints in hindight were that the walnuts were not as sweet as I hoped.  Maybe that’s where the pear comes in.  Otherwise I have no issue with the walnuts. It’s always fun to see your not-so-typical food items place on top of a pizza.  And that olive oil, mmm..  The ligher and thinner crust, was heated to near perfection.  The fact that it was thin made this all that much more appetizing. This is a pie I would definitely get again.  But only if…

…If I taken Jennifer’s recommendation to heart, and added sausage, I can only envision how much better this pizza would have been.  And I’m thinking earth shattering and off-the-charts levels.   It’s only pizza but when I’m a little bit away from my area, and looking to branch into unfamiliar directions, all advice should be taken under consideration.  I’ve been known to be indecisive when picking the right pizza, but that doesn’t mean I can’t land upon the right one.

She mentioned their #1 ranking to me, way before I did any research.  I wonder if this had any influence on my pizza.  The bad guy in me would make me be deliberately contrarian. But power of suggestion aside, this is a pizza I’ll think about often.

And nothing like some vino to go with my za.

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I took the rest of my pizza to go, and it tasted just as stellar the next day.  That’s another true test of a pizza, or most foods for that matter.  If they have a sustainable shelf life after original feasting, you may have a winner on your hands.  But man, I only wonder what could have been if I added the suggested protein.

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As I’ve said before when I visit a joyous place, it only means I will want to come back.  And for being a littler over two hours away, and just outside New York City, a return is not as far away as it sounds.   This was a fun way to cap off the Summer, even though it’ technically still going for a few more weeks.

There’s a lot of soul and passion behind their pizza and the whole operation.   If I lived nearby, they would absolutely see my business once or twice a week.  What a great addition to a community I know nothing about, but I sense there’s only good.

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Here’s a link to their lunch and dinner menus, along with contact information.

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Damn this pizza was good.  I can’t wait to do it again. If you’re in the area, or planning on visiting, definitely stop by.

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Until the next one.

Best,

Ideen

Isabella’s – Inspirational, Incredible, & Iconic

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It took me a while to get to Little Italy, didn’t it?   When I first thought of doing this blog, Isabella’s Brick Oven, was one of the catalysts.  I’ve eaten here a few times and have always had a positive experience. Simply put, their pizza is awesome.

And I adore Little Italy.  I don’t come here as often as I should.

Not all brick ovens are created equal.  I’ve had many a pie this way and some have tasted exquisite. Other have tasted atrocious.  This falls in the former category.

It’s been so long, I forgot what I’ve ordered here previously.   To make up for that and to support our awesome local establishments, I ordered three amazing pizza pies!

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First, was their Traditional Cheese.  This was a joy to eat.  Their homemade dough really shines through here.  The crust is heated to perfection.  And the way the mozzarella is baked into the bread is impressive. This is one of the best cheese pizzas in all of downtown Baltimore.

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My second order was the Pizza Bianca.   Their take on the white pizza included feta.  And what a fantastic addition this is. How beautiful does that look?   The ricotta, mozzarella, and feta really come together here.  My taste buds were blown away.  Again, the crust is dynamite.  And feta is one of my favorite cheeses.  This is the kind of white pizza one can only dream of.  But then it comes true.

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Last and nowhere close to least, is the Lombardi.  We wanted to change it up this time.  So we got a specialty pie.   And special is an understatement. Putting a pie like this together is a stroke of genius. We have pancetta, gorgonzola, and walnuts.  You’ve got to be kidding me.  This was a lesson in Pizza 101 and all other courses combined.  I really wanted to take my time eating this and appreciate every bite. My last helping of it came together perfectly.  It’s as if the cheese, meat, and walnuts all hit each other symmetrically and with unison.  That was one of the best bites I can recall in sometime.

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I can’t pick a favorite as I loved all three.  But Isabella’s is one of my favorites in all of the Baltimore area.  I can’t recommend this place enough.   They have many other pies I look forward to trying.  Their slices may seem smaller than what we’re used to. But I find it all the more charming.

The girl that was working yesterday was very kind and courteous. She seemed truly appreciative that I stopped in.  That always leaves a great impression.

And for being open less than 10 years, they’ve already made their mark in the neighborhood and the city.   I can’t wait to go back.

Take good care.

Best,

Ideen