Golden Star

MarcosWhiteCheezy

When I was a kid, and even still as an adult at times, when I saw a new place or an unfamiliar place, I might be hesitant to try it out.   And there’s no basis for any of this.  Maybe sometime in my childhood the unfamiliar just didn’t appeal to me, for whatever reason.  But when you’re a kid, the new is what’s exciting.  Same goes for now.  Because everything that we know, like, find comfort in, and enjoy now was once well, strange and unfamiliar.

That comfort level may be too far for some as we settle in our routines, and may choose the path of least resistance.  Again that path of least resistance was once… Yep…

I love food and many of us do.  It’s a simple pleasure.  It bring us joy, brings us together, and brings us satisfaction.   Pizza in this case can never be strange.  I’m all for trying new foods, new pizzas, and new anything.  If there is some reservations in life, those should dissipate.  It’s too short, even though it feels long at times.  And for all the pizzerias in the world, there’s room for another, and there’s room for everybody.

What am I saying here?  Sometimes I don’t know.  Sometimes I should relax and take it easy with the questions.  Sometimes I should just relax and hang out. Ha.

MarcosPizza

A while back driving through Essex, MD (right outside Baltimore) I saw a sign for Marco’s Pizza (more about their story, their menu, and locations) and like with most discoveries pizza I welcome a new place, and can add it to the ongoing story that will hopefully go on forever…

I saw from the outside looking in their logo and the shopping center it was located in just a buzz and aura about it.  Sometimes it’s the energy we create and sometimes there’s just something there that feels right and tells you when you should come in, and when you should wait.  Both have that same feeling.

So after a few weeks of writing about and trying other foods, the time was right.  A new place to write about, in a town or city I’ve technically haven’t written about, is always refreshing.

I must have been in the mood for tomatoes because the new menu items that stood out to me were the White Cheezy and the Chicken Florentine.  And in this instance I didn’t even look at the ingredients or toppings.  I felt for some reason I didn’t need to.  It’s similar for when going to the movies, I don’t always read up on the plot.  It’s more exciting that way to me.

How funny is it that these two pizzas are so similar, yet just different enough. It’s all relative.

What else is relative is how great they are.  Look at that golden crust?  There’s an art to this.  And a certain amount of minutes, timing, and done with the right energy and spirit is going to make an entree that much better.  You could be in a bad mood and make the pizza the same exact way, and it won’t turn out like this.  This was magical.

MarcosWhiteCheezy2

I love how they pile on the cheese with this.  It’s cheese on top of cheese, and with that crust, I nearly took the toppings for granted.

The White Cheezy with the three cheese blend, feta cheese, and garlic parmesan sauce can compete with all the great pizzas.  And as a stand alone pie needs no toppings.  But to throw in bacon, onions, and the perfectly cooked tomatoes is a winner.  The irony is the bacon is what stood out the least to me.

MarcosChickenFlorentine

With the Grilled Chicken Florentine (which may be an exclusive to their Essex location) you’re essentially substituting the bacon for grilled chicken and spinach.  And those piece of chicken taste fresh, taste real, and just taste good.  Another recurring theme is that garlic parmesan sauce.  Maybe I was in the mood for the tomatoes without the sauce.  Maybe it doesn’t matter.  It was all great.

The folks behind the counter were busy but never looked panicked.  They were friendly and that is symbolic of how the pies turned out.  These pizzas are on the higher end of what you might pay.  My two small pizzas came out to just under $30.  But to pay a little extra for quality never hurt anyone.  And it’s a few extra dollars well spent.

I like this place a lot and I think we’re going to be hearing a lot more about them in the near future.  Based out of Toledo, OH, they’re expanding all over the nation.  For our pals in Baltimore, there’s locations in Essex and Pasadena, and a few in Northern Virginia.  So while it may be a little bit of a drive, it’s worth your time and a great change of pace.

This was wonderful, and I can’t wait to try their pizzas again.  Something unfamiliar is now a friend, and I’m grateful Marco’s Pizza is now a part of my pizza experience.  I found them, but in many ways it found me.

MarcosPizzaBox

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

Circle of Trust

CulinaryCircleGarlicChickenAlfredoHeated

This one is by request…

A random person had asked me to do a little digging, a little research, and to go on an adventure to write about a couple of pizzas from Culinary Circle.

Whether this person ever reads this post, or that it finds them well will be left to the universe.  I’ve always wanted to say that.  Nevertheless, I hope this finds all of you well…

Before I continue, here is more about them, their list of products, and where you can find Culinary Circle’s foods near you.

How do I analyze frozen pizzas?  I really don’t.  I just tell stories. This tends to go across the board with a lot of what I write and talk about.  Of course there’s opinions, critiques at times, and overall quality.  But I don’t always find fun in that.  I find fun in all the elements of the universe that brought this whole thing together.

There’s a reason I was directed by a force to find this.  I still don’t exactly know why.  Maybe it was for the fact that the crusts are thinner, and in hotter temperatures this would be ideal.  Maybe someone is telling me that lighter might be better, for right now at least.

Maybe someone is telling me to take it easy…

I would say it’s all above, and so much more that I don’t even know about.  I don’t need to just yet, it’ll be shown to me.

Am I even talking about the pizza anymore.  Ha.

The Garlic Chicken Alfredo and then the Margherita tells a tale of two different pies, yet crafted with lots of love, soul, spirit, and all the other good things.

We’ve all enjoyed so many pizzas at home, at restaurants, at pizzerias, and everywhere in the middle.  These culinary gems are just another in a long line of good food made by good hands.   It makes me feel good to eat good and then to feel good again.

A thin crust certainly helps.  Pictured above is how they look frozen.

CulinaryCircleGarlicChickenAlfredoHeated2

The former has so much flavor and rich that you could make a few meals of this, and of course share with friends.  Sharing is the best.

CulinaryCircleMargheritaHeated

And the latter, while so simple, brings the taste you’ve known to grow and love with a margherita pizza.  No it’s not the best I’ve ever had but that doesn’t matter.

Both are enjoyable and perfect for summer gatherings, lunch, dinner, heck even breakfast.  It doesn’t matter.  If you feel good, it’ll make you feel good, and that’s what’s most important.

Until yesterday I had never seen nor heard about Culinary Circle.

I’m glad it was then. I’m glad it was now.  First time for everything.   And I look forward to many more first, second, and many times.  This was fun.

Peace Be With You.

Love,

Ideen

Annapolis’ Best Kept Secret?

GiolittisSpecialPizzaPie2

It just might be, because when I mention Giolitti Fine Italian Market & Delicatessen (here is their lunch menu, their dinner menu, more about them, and contact information)  to friends who live, work, or spend time in the area, either they haven’t heard of it, or didn’t realize they make pizza.  I was one of them.

I found this place by accident.  But I don’t believe in accidents, or any of that.  No such thing.

The charm of most Italian markets is at least from my experience, they were built way before what we have today.  They were both chains, box stores, and all these corporate entities we see today.

For over 25 years Giolitti’s has been serving the Annapolis community, and has sustained a loyal following (for those who know about it, and plenty do for the others that don’t…), that these chains would envy.

I discovered this place actually heading to one of these more well known stores, but knowing how important it is to support local, and at worst window shop and browse, I wanted to see this for myself.  And how beautiful it is…

Along with a plethora of great wines for purchase, a charming ambiance, friendly staff, and an overall good energy, is just some of the many reasons why this place is thriving, and boy it is it thriving.   On this particular day, the place was packed.

On a recent search for pizza in the area, I was getting the sense that I was running out of new options (My love for Annapolis all around can be found here.) but the universe and a little  searching has its benefits.  The truth is, I will never run out of places to talk about.  And in the chance that I do, I can always revisit, as more than enough time has passed on some of my favorite pizzerias and places in general.  I will revisit several in time, but first things first.

How about the pies?

I’ll admit that I’ve been spoiled by Italian delis and markets food and pizza in general. My standards and bar has been raised.  I have expectations now.  I want the best.  But good and great is well, sometimes good and great enough.

I adore Neopolitan style pizza, and I’ve had it probably more times than I realized.  One of many things not to take for granted.

GiolittisPizzaPie

I went with their simple cheese and made it half pepperoni, and then the Giolitti’s Special which is Prosciutto, Arugula, and Gorgonzola.  On the latter the substituted spinach since they were out of arugula, and I’ll have more to say on that in mere moments.

GiolittisPizzaSlice

The cheese and pepperoni is just good pizza.  No, it’s not the best I’ve ever had, but that crust, that dough, the way it was heated brought me such joy and comfort.  Joy and comfort is good.  The greasy style of cheese and pepperoni has that feeling of many pizzas shared with family when I was kid, in present times, and hopefully in the future.  This is a great slice and great pie, the more I think about it.

GiolittisSpecialPizzaPie1

The Giolitti’s Special is something I must have again.  I think the arugula would have made this so much better.  I have to be honest here.  I like spinach and it doesn’t take away from the pie, but I don’t know if it adds anything.  I actually found the pie with just the prosciutto and Gorgonzola to be just fine.  But it’s one of those, I can’t wait to try this again at full strength kind of things.

GiolittisSpecialPizzaSlice

But there’s no need to quibble and no need to complain.  This is a great place, was a great experience, and the pizza is definitely worth it.  And quite affordable too.

Local business always has a special place in my heart, and so does Annapolis.  That combination is why I will be back time and time again, to try many of their other foods, grab bottle of vino, and maybe have a pie or two again to share with friends.

This is a place to share with friends, family, and anyone that brings you joy.  This place brings me joy, Annapolis brings me joy, and I love this market and our state capital so much.

More next week? Hmmm..

Peace be with you.

Ideen

 

A Truly Amazing Club…

CheddarBurgerDeepDishPizza2

A group of kind souls got together and signed me up for a Pizza of the Month Club.

For more on this and other Amazing Clubs, click here.

It was unexpected, an incredible gesture, and something I will always remember.  It’s something that makes me warm inside, and makes me feel so much gratitude.  It’s a validation that not only what I do means something to someone.  But I also have people that care for me in general.

It’s a hard thing to grasp.  I’m not good with compliments, I’m not good with people doing kind things for me, or to me.  I’m not good with anyone doing anything for me with no expectations in return.   I don’t want anything in return either.  Well maybe kindness, because I don’t think that’s asking too much.  So maybe in a way, how I’ve been to people has been reciprocated.

And a lot of the best parts of our life are based on reciprocity, doing good things for one another, with nothing expected in return.  Anything that’s attracted to us is a bonus, but it’s to be cherished, embraced, and loved.

That’s that attitude of gratitude you might have head about.

So when this package arrived at my doorstep I was blown away.  I mean I was literally blown away.  This was beautiful.

This is so beautiful.

I opened up the package to see not one, but THREE Chicago-style pizzas in the most charming and welcoming of sizes.

I wish I had people to share this with, but maybe for this installment, I was meant to share these over time, and alone.

The three for this month are the Artichoke & Plum Tomato, the Cheddarburger, and the BBQ Chicken!  The themes may have to do with the season, the summer, and the upcoming holiday.  Whatever the reason I’m just so thankful for this, and it’s a change of pace for this blog as well.

As a friend who spearheaded said that they hope this inspires a few blog posts.  Well you know at least two more are coming.  But first things first…

I loved each pie so much, and for various reasons.

ArtichokeTomato

The Artichoke & Plum Tomato might have been my favorite.  Maybe because it’s the most season and light to me.   I’ve also grown to prefer vegetables and different types of veggies over your standard toppings.   That’s what makes pizza so great.  You can add just about anything to it, within reason, and even for no reason, and it could turn out to be YOUR masterpiece.

Tomato&ArtichokeDeepDishPizza

I love the quality of the ingredients, and the golden brown crust just works fabulously here.  This is a unique taste on a white pizza, is one way to look at it.  Yet I can also just say it’s awesome.  Awesome!

Just so you know, the cheese complements the pizzas on all of these in first-class fashion.  I don’t need to go over every ingredient, there prominently displayed in the one picture earlier on in this story.

Now the Cheddarburger would go great for the nearing holiday, or whenever you want.  This is simple yet creative.  Ground beef and cheddar cheese in that deep-dish crust, well… you might know the rest.

BBQChicken

In the past I’ve said how I feel BBQ Chicken is one of the harder pizzas to master.  This was well done though.  And if you notice, I have goofed heating this one in the oven. There’s the burnt marks on the pie and on the crust, but it turns out it worked in my favor.  I heated these all just a few minutes under the suggested amount, and they all turned out differently, yet so well.  Lesson learned.

The quality of chicken and sauce on this is quite high end.  You just know.  And you just know there’s a soul and feeling behind this and the previously mentioned pies, that you’re a part of something special.

I’m grateful to be a part of something special. I’m grateful to my friends for being there in a rough patch of my life, maybe the roughest.  This means so much to me.  For future installments of this, I hope to share these pizzas with the folks directly involved in having them attracted into my life.

What an Amazing Club…

Peace Be With You…

Ideen

 

For Me…

FoxsDenElMatadorPizzaPie2

I had all these titles in mind, and nothing stood out.  It all seemed forced.  It all seems, well, suited for another time.   In a way I’m working backwards and forwards, and it’s a continuation of something I spoke of two weeks ago.

There’s going to be a point where my love for Annapolis (and my love affair can be found here) is going to sound repetitive, and all the phrases and connotations are going feel trite.  I’m hoping I’m nowhere close to that point.  Because this is a good one.

This was an interesting day, that takes me a few weeks ago, to where I was in a vulnerable and confused place.  I was in a state of shock and numbness that I had never felt before.  It was a sense of relief, peace, and forthcoming (still waiting…) rejuvenation.  Maybe.

When I’m feeling the blues or anything uncomfortable, the natural inclination is to hide under whatever I can for as long as I need to, as in a way to stamp out that feeling.  That works every once in a while.  That feeling is going to be there, so why not make the most of things.

So I got in the car and just went with a sense I would head to Naptown, literally to buy some tea and maybe get some fresh air.

That did happen, but who knew this would become a marathon like afternoon that turned into evening, that I will always remember with every emotion ever created.  Even if I never wrote about this particular day, it’s going to stick with me.

Some things age well and resonate with you because the memories are amazing.  This one tells a story that I’m torn on now, but it got better as I say I’m torn, and it’s becoming the night out of all nights out that I’ll look back so fondly on.

And it was all on my own.

I’ll leave a lot of the places out, because I’ll revisit those another day.  But I did a lot of wandering, and discovered some unfamiliar places that may be considered home sometime.   It’s good to go to places where you feel like you belong.  That’s what most of us are wanting. Yet, that belonging first comes from within.

Annapolis has that aura about it.  If you hang around long enough (and maybe not even that long) you’re going to know everyone and they’re going to know you.  That’s a powerful thing, can be a dangerous thing, but can be the most beautiful thing.

In the back of my mind, I’m aware that news travels fast, and that people talk…

It’s a place I always called home.  And I have several fond family memories of our state capital, going back to childhood.   More come to mind as I write this.

While I’ve made so many new ones with so many new amazing friends, and people I consider family.  This one is just for me.  And anyone who reads this.

FoxsDen

Fox’s Den is what I thought was a hidden gem in the heart of Main Street.  Well there’s a lot of hearts of Main, but that should go without saying.

FoxsDenPizzaWine

Back in January, I was all set to do a review of a wine and pizza experience here, but it was packed with state officials, and instead of faking it till we made it, we were shown the door.   A few days later, it was a typical crowded happy hour, but it didn’t feel right.  Not even close.

Four months later, it took a life changing experience, an unplanned (sort of) drive, and the universe rearranging itself to present me with a magnificent pizza, wine, and personal experience that is too good not to share, or too good to share.  Either one applies, but I’m happy to continue…

It was an early afternoon Thursday, before the long holiday weekend, so it was quiet.  And quiet is good.  Those steps that lead to this basement bar exciting.  I felt like I was on a runway and that fox at the top has all eyes on you and I.  No need to get over yourself, it’s looking…

FoxsDenMenu

I was told the pizza here is fabulous, and it absolutely is (here is their menu,their story, and contact information); it had the most comforting wood-fired crust, that remind me of many meals with family.  It had a familiarity that I’m sure many of us can relate to.

In reading what the owners and management had in mind, a family and locally oriented kind of vibe is always welcome, and you can never have enough of it

FoxsDenCheesePepperoni2

I ordered a half pepperoni & pepperoncini, and half cheese.   I figured basics was first, before I went any further.  Those piece of pepperoni are absolutely divine.  What else is there to say?  This is a pizza eaters pizza.

When I was told what pies to get, this was one of the stronger recommendations from dear friends who have visited, and from Ryan who was working behind the bar, who has a big help and could not be more hospitable.  Thanks so much.

FoxsDenPepperoniPizzaWine

The pie worked perfectly with the wine I chose.  I forgot the grape, but it doesn’t matter.  None of the details matter.

I did randomly meet some people at the bar, and throughout the day, people were just talking to me.  I wasn’t looking for it, I wasn’t looking for anything really, and that’s how it usually goes.  I was content and at peace with myself.

FoxsDenElMatadorPizzaPie

To go, Ryan suggested the El Matador, and it’s another gem.  The chorizo, feta, provolone, olives, and honey combination sounds like a lot, but the medley works beyond belief and beyond comprehension.   And that dough, my goodness.  This is one of the best heated pizzas I can ever remember.

FoxsDenElMatadorPizzaSlice

I almost write this in a way that takes away from the pizza.  This day was about a lot of things, and a lot of emotions.   I felt like I was carrying the weight of the universe, but the universe carried me and protected me from what I was feeling.

The amount of walking and thinking I did along this beautiful town, through the historic streets, the majestic buildings and colonial architecture hopefully burned off all this yummy food.  But it didn’t matter.  It’s a day that even as I write this, can’t be completely captured in words.

I’m glad I got this in before this coming Father’s Day.   I only realize this now, as I took a couple of weeks off to relax, find peace, and well keep trying to find peace.

This town, officially felt like my town, but that wasn’t the intent.  I was born in one place, that’s also home, but this to me made it official.   Annapolis has always had my heart, but this experience was beyond romantic.  It’s on that kindred spirit level.

I don’t know where we go from here…

I just don’t know, but I know someone out there, a spirit bigger than me, and bigger than us, is telling me everything is going to be ok.

It’s going to be ok…

Happy Early Father’s Day everyone…

Ideen

 

 

The ‘Shoulds’ In Life…

MellowMushroomHoly2

What am I attempting to say here?  There’s so many things in life we’re told to ‘should’ do, that we ‘must’ do, and that we have to do.  It’s programmed and wired into our brains pretty much the day we’re born.

It’s that which controls us, gives us wants and desires that may not always be reasonable, they may also be the path of least resistance, or in other words, following the herd.

We like our life simple, and with as few headaches as possible.  Experiences, challenges, and obstacles are going to come in our way.  We’ll experience heartache, joy, exhilaration, fatigue, and everything in between…

That’s the macro, or maybe the micro, or maybe I’m just being vague again.

Then there’s the ‘shoulds’ that are about the simple things.  We should have gone on this vacation, we should have accepted that job opportunity, we should have accepted when someone asked us out (or we should have mustered up the courage and asked them out, what’s the worse they can say?), or we should have…

This brings us to Mellow Mushroom, with a growing list of locations in the northeast, south, expanding westward, and many in Maryland, and a charming menu to boot.

The Rockville, MD location is footsteps to many things family.  A family business was once nearby, my family lives in the Rockville Town Square, where this and many businesses, commerce, and local entities reside, and where many of us have seen a transition from a historic town to well, looking like everywhere else.

No, that’s not a dig.  I’m just sentimental to how many towns used to look like, and many still do.   There’s another ‘should’.  I’m all for change as long as it helps everyone, yet we must also help ourselves.

Mellow Mushroom is among a list of many places I would suggest to pick up food from, or dine out at with my dad, when I would come visit him.   Yes a family business was footsteps away, so it was nice to come and spend time on a weekly basis.  Sometime more, sometimes less.  I loved every minute of it, more like every second.

But he has his favorite few places,  like many of us do.  And we get comfortable.  I get comfortable.  There’s another path of least…

Yet at some point something that is familiar and easy to us now, was once a stranger and foreign to us as well.  See what I’m saying?  Before I digress like I tend to do, let me talk about the pizza.

For the first time I finally walked into a Mellow Mushroom (just typing that out and saying that in my head makes me laugh, the name just sounds funny to me), without asking if he wanted any, because the ‘shoulds’ have done me in and done enough.

It felt like a different universe.  I can’t explain it.  But it felt like a place I’ve had recurring dreams about, and not in a bad way.  It’s just well…

MellowMushroomMenu

The pizzas themselves are reasonably priced.  I got two small pies to share at $13 a piece.  The House Special and The Holy Shiitake.

MellowMushroomHouseSpecial2

The former is decent.  And the latter is really good, maybe even great.

MellowMushroomHoly

The crust on both, especially the Shiitake really complemented the pie well.

MellowMushroomHouseSpecial

The House Special has a lot going on more for my taste.  The extra mozzarella added on top is a nice touch.  And I know some people love it, or are going to love it.  It was a bit too much for me.

MellowMushroomHoly2

But the Holy Shiitake has everything I want in a pizza, and in food in general.   Olive oil, garlic, shiitake, portobello, caramelized onions, aioli, and truffle oil is up there with the best combinations in pie, or in anything ever.  Yet something was missing…

What was missing was… I ended up eating this on my own.  I came to visit, yet I was only able to enjoy it by myself.  I left the rest for family, and hope at some point they get to enjoy some too.   I wish I had done this sooner.

MellowMushroomSlices

I had all the intentions of getting pizza here, a year ago, two years ago, maybe even longer, and that didn’t happen.

What I’m saying is, with anything, don’t wait till something happens to do something.  I have to tell myself this.  You should just do, just be, and not overthink things too much.  I’ve done a lot of that, and continue to so.

You never know when opportunities like this are going to run out, or ultimately….

I was told by a wise man once, don’t let something monumental happen or be forced to make changes in your life.

Have a blessed one…

Ideen

…And All Is Spinning Around

UdisGlutenFreePepperoniPizza

I was first introduced to Udi’s several years ago by a friend who was looking at transitioning into a Gluten Free and other health conscious lifestyle changes.   I hope that worked out for him and worked out for any of you who have felt it was time for something else, and a time to do something different.  The results can be fruitful and beautiful, if you let it.

That goes for all of us.

Additionally, we don’t have to switch to Gluten Free or anything free to try Udi’s or any similar brand.  Sampling different foods and different styles is what makes this world go round.

Their breads and bagels are just as on par in taste versus your regular style you will find anywhere.  In a blind taste test you could taste a difference, but it’s not that significant.  Good food is good food and eating healthy is a challenge, but only if we let it.  This is supposed to be fun.  Eating is one of the joys of life.

Honestly, I just dig the name Udi’s. Here is more about this young yet growing company, their product catalog, and where you can find them near you.

Before I completely digress, I had all the intentions of once again writing about a pie of the frozen kind.   Let’s make it two.

Udi’s does pizza right, and once again their is no sacrifice in taste.

It’s funny how different grocery stores frozen pizza aisles will be so different versus the competition.  Where you think you might find gluten free pizza, by anyone, might surprise you.

In the interest of keeping it simple, like they do, I went with a three cheese and then a pepperoni.  Both are fantastic in their own little way.  Yes the pizzas are little.  And you know Gluten Free items are a bit higher on the price side.  I believe these pizzas will run you for $7-$8 each.

The crust is perfectly thin and golden brown.  I had to show you a picture with my pizza turned over so you get the idea.  The way it cooked in the oven was so in sync with everything.  I can’t explain it exactly.   I mean it’s just putting a pie in the oven and voila, but there was something more diving going on here.  It was in there for the right amount of time, and yes I read the instructions…  But this felt so precise and in tune with the universe.

The olive oil, garlic, and basil just added so much in such a unpretentious fashion, that I had to savor every bite just a little more.

Oh and those pepperoni slices are divine, delicious, and delightful.  I did that on purpose by the way.  This is pizza, and even just food from another dimension.  I must really like the letter ‘D’ today for some reason.

UdisGlutenFreePepperoniPizza

This isn’t going to fill you up as fast as your typical frozen fare, but that’s the point.  It’s a lower calorie, lower fat, and welcomed alternative to what you might be used to.  The frozen pizza choices out there are in abundance that some may get lost in the shuffle.

Don’t let Udi’s be one of them.  This is world class and well done pizza.  Make it a point, make it a priority, make it whatever you need to, to find their pizza.  It’ll be worth whatever trip you need to take.

I will be taking this trip again.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen