Every Peace Is Important

DonatosHotChicken4

You know after last week, I thought my time in Vienna, Virginia was going to be short lived and an eventual return to Baltimore was inevitable.  The universe had other plans for me.  And that can only mean more pizza from out of the way.  And I’m so grateful for another place to discuss, which I otherwise wouldn’t have.

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Until last week, I had never heard of Donatos. I wasn’t aware of this growing pizzeria chain, and why it sometimes takes so long to find something so beautiful, or for it to find you, is just one of those things.  I wasn’t meant to discover this until now.   Who knows what else is out there, but what I do know is this a magical discovery that is another great reminder of how life, and as we approach the holidays, can be so awesome if you let nature and a belief that good things till come, take its course.

Of course I’m talking about pizza, but you can apply this to everything.

What I first loved when first walking in was the decor and the colors of the interior.  It had a soothing feeling that can only be described as pizza.  I know, this is the expert analysis you come to look for in this blog.  Thank you so much and have a blessed day.

All kidding aside, I just had a good feeling about this place before I even walked in.   I love the fact that they use provolone cheese as their base.   I mean, who doesn’t love mozzarela, it’s the perfect pizza for cheese.  It was the cheese that was meant to be married to pizza dough and sauce.  But provolone has a distinct taste all its own.  And it showed on my two pizza choices.

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First, I went with the pepperoni.  Maybe it was the sign that enticed me?  Wouldn’t it do the same to you? No? Well ok, it did to me… But if I’m going to get cheese, I might as well get a simple topping so I can get several tastes in one.  That’s what makes pizza and blends of foods so fun.  You never now what you might discover.

DonatosPepperoni

But as the sign said, they throw a multitude of pepperoni that you won’t know what to do with yourself.  Well you can eat it for one.  Not sure what else you can do, except have a little fun with this.

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This was a fun pizza.  I got this and the second pizza to come, in personal size (at only $6) to sample and to save for later.  I like the basic crust and the charming pieces it was cut in.  I like their style a lot.  It’s a style all their own.

DonatosHotChicken

Speaking of all their own,  the Hot Chicken was a first for me.  This showed ambition and while it was aggressive, it succeeded.  I didn’t even realize they threw pepper jack cheese on it.  I figured it was more of the provolone.  But little did I know.  The hot chicken pieces were the highlight.  And as I’ve been stating since the beginning of this journey, I always have fun picking off the toppings and eating them by its lonesome. The same goes for the aforementioned pepperoni.  It would be a crime not to do this.

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The jalapeno peppers and pickles that complement the pie, may be a challenge to eat for some (it was a little for me), it’s a different take on pizza.  Essentially a chicken sandwich was put on top of a pie.  Some ranch drizzle thrown on top and you think you’re somewhere else.

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I’ve grown to like pickles again, or otherwise this might have been more of a chore than a feast.  But with all that being said, this was a fun adventure, and I love when pizzerias get creative with how they present their takes on favorites, and then throw in their own select pies to stand out.  This one stands out alright.   And if their menu tells us anything, they have quite a few stand out pizzas that I would love to try sometime.

But what’s most important is when we approach this time of year, you’ll start seeing more requests for donations to causes near and dear to each and every organization and establishment we come across.  I like the gesture.  It makes me feel warm. It makes me want to do more.  And while I think I can only do so much.  A little donation here, a helping hand there is what life is all about.

DonatosDonate

It wasn’t a forced request.  It’s there waiting for your support, and it’s up to us to decide if it’s a cause we believe in, or not.  And even if isn’t, it’s always the symbolic gesture that always means the most.

I like that the word Donatos sounds so similar to donate.   I don’t think I’m reading too much into that.  And I don’t think it’s by accident.

For more on Donatos, here is their menu, their locations, and more about their company.

DonatosBox

I found my brief visit quite peaceful yet so substantial and spiritually healing.   I’m grateful to have been granted the opportunity to discuss and share with you.

We’re less than a week away from Thanksgiving and I could feel the peace and spirit of the holidays at Donatos.  I can’t wait to see where I head to next.   But for now…

…Peace be with you.

Ideen

Local, Simple, Superb…

ArostoBrisket

There’s that old cliche that if you stop looking for things, they come to you.  I’m not articulating it as properly as I could, but I think you know what I’m saying.  Watching too many cheesy (ha) Christmas movies a little earlier than maybe one should will get one overly sentimental.  Oh my…

Well where am I going with all this?

I’m so blessed to live in an area that is close enough to many busy cities and towns (Baltimore, Annapolis, DC, Philadelphia, and many places in, between, and around the area) that I get more of a pick of pizzas places and for that matter, places to go in general then if I were living in somewhere more remote.  I should not take that for granted.  It’s significant now and it’s going to mean something that much bigger later.  Oh here I go being sentimental and dopey again…

Where did I end up earlier this week, that has gotten feeling so emotional?   I mean it’s only pizza right?  But how can become so invested in something if I don’t have passion for it?

This week my travels brought me to Vienna, Virginia, which is right outside Washington, DC.

First of all, I technically have not written about a pizzeria in Vienna, so any new location is easily going to get me excited.  Second, while there’s still historic, more authentic, and older parts of Vienna that are easily accessible, it’s becoming like many other towns, and many other cities across the country, lots of chains, lots of town centers that portray themselves as something they’re not, and lots of transient people.

So when I find a local place, that’s where I’m going first.  And remember, I wasn’t looking…

ArostoSign

This brings me to Arosto Pizza in Dunn Loring.  Which is now more than a metro station, it’s a conglomerate of things that I may or may not have ever been to.  There’s chains, a grocery store, and a bunch of things that all look the same, but within all that Arosto brings a much needed local face that we can never have enough of.

ArostoOven

The stone hearth pizza oven which heats up these gems is just that, a gem.  Some people may frown upon this kind of rapid fire pizza making, and I might have been one of those people, but I got over it.  The crusts on both of my orders tasted differently in a good way.  My taste buds got a doughy, buttery, and most importantly comforting feeling at times.  And as we approach the holidays, this is the kind of pizza and food you want.

Man this was fantastic.

I’m singing the praises before I even tell you what I ordered.  Yeah it was that fun.

I was going to go with the cheese, but since I’m only here every once in a while, I went with two distinctively different pies, the District White and, the Smoked Beef Brisket.  The latter seems to be appropriate for the time of year.

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The Brisket looks like art.  The presentation is immaculate.  Upon first reading, I thought the slaw would be infused into the pie, which would be quite ambitious.  And when re-reading the menu, it would be easy to make that determination.  But they pile it on high on top of this already gorgeous array of brisket, cheddar cheese, onions, and scallions.  If I had one gripe is maybe a little more brisket would have been preferred.  There was just enough (which means not too much for me) barbecue sauce that everything is easily accessible, easy to be tasted, and nothing gets lost in the shuffle.

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And like I said, that crust is tremendous.  I like saying that word a lot, ‘tremendous’.  It’s tremendous, stellar, awesome, and anything else awesome you want to add. Ha…

But even with that being said, the simplicity of the District White was my favorite of the two.

ArostoDistrictWhite

The combination of spinach ricotta sauce (I know right, yum!), mozzarella, romano, and fontina cheeses is already a winner.  And I’ve frowned upon some of the whites I’ve had in the past for being overdone, but this was creative, yet simple, and that’s all anyone can ask for.  It’s done just right without doing too much.  I think there’s an analogy in there somewhere.

ArostoDistrictWhiteSlice

I would be happy with that, but they drizzled on some fresh basil that puts this pie over the top after it was already over.  And believe me it’s all over after this.  The pizza never had a chance.  And the visual of the spinach ricotta by itself is visually mesmerizing.

I’m craving some right now.   Thankfully I have leftovers.

The prices are listed with the menu, and while there isn’t a lot of places to compare it too, I find them reasonable for their medium vs. large pies.  But again, no need to compare it to anyone or anything.   These are charming pies that avoid all the pretentiousness that you find in the DC and Northern Virginia areas.

They heat everything in front of you.  I was in and out in 10 minutes.  But there was no rush.  I relaxed a little bit in the small park right outside of one of my new favorite pizza places.

And maybe it’ll be one of yours.

ArostoMenu

Here’s their menu, their gallery, and contact/location info.

ArostoBox

I’m so grateful I made this discovery.  I hope to be back again.

Thanks so much, happy holidays, and peace be with you.

Ideen

 

 

 

 

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.

CarpaccioMargherita

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.

CarpaccioWildMushroom

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

 

 

Pretzel Pals

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Pretzel and Pizza Creations of Downtown Frederick, MD is a refreshing change for so many reasons.  First, the location just makes me feel so warm inside.  I adore any town that has a historic and neighborly looking part.   It feels even more cozy when the temperatures start to drop a little bit and those leaves start changing color.  The symbols and images are open to your interpretation.  I interpret as feelings of community, love, and looking out for one another.

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With all that being said, Prezel and Pizza definitely has a feel of a small town shoppe with all kinds of treats and goodies ready at your disposal.   Not every town or community has a store like this.  You got your community bank, your bar, wine shop, bookstore, and your various food places.  This might sound like something out of program or cinema, but it’s also real life.  Mom and pop shoppes are still number one in my eyes, and always will be.

I’m grateful to have made two visits to Frederick in as many months, and my inquisitive nature made me research a place for pizza.  And a bonus was this charming place.

My first time I was mesmerized by the menu.  If you’ve never gone to a restaurant or any food place, you may find yourself perusing the menu a lot longer than wherever you might be a regular.  But that’s the fun of it.  Every place you’ve been to, there was a first time.  I like the sound of that.

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Back near the end of the Summer was that first time and I ordered the Olympic Games as my first pizza.  Now for those who know me personally know why I went with that.

PretzelPizzaOlympicPizza

I had no idea what to expect with how the pretzel would taste along with the mozzarella cheese, spinach, olives, and feta.  I just realized that my pie had two cheeses.  I did take notes and that taste resonated with me.

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The Bavarian Style soft pretzel crust is divine, it’s heavenly, and it’s comfort food at its finest.  As the weather gets colder, this is the kind of doughy goodness you’re going to be seeking.

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As a collective I think the clash of cheeses might have been an issue for me.  I didn’t love this pizza, or pretzel if you will.  I didn’t love the flavor of the dough on this first go around.  But that was until…

Fast forward to earlier this week,  I kept it simple and then I got into the spirit of the season.

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The simple cheese is just what I needed and the flavors of their mozzarella and homemade sauce worked perfectly with this crust.   And while the pictures of both look appetizing, the cheese is truly a winner.  Sometimes keeping it simple is the way to go.  Just like the simple town setup is some all anyone needs.   A standard and reliable cheese is usually going to raise your spirits and make you feel good.   This made me feel really good.

PretzelPizzaPumpkinMenu

Just when it couldn’t get any better, a nice bonus menu of pumpkin pretzels was their just glistening and waiting to be ordered.   I went for the big one and that means the stuffed pretzel with pumpkin chips, cream cheese, and loads of pumpkin spice sugar. We might be getting carried with all this pumpkin stuff, but I love it.  Tis the season, wait not that season just yet.  It’s full on pumpkin season and this pretzel is a treasure to behold.

And what a great way to celebrate National Pumpkin Day.  Yes that’s a holiday!

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Their menu is loaded with exciting foodies, aside from the pizza and pretzels, that will be sure to please anyone visiting, and all the locals.   For a moment I felt like a local.  The staff was personable and welcoming upon each visit.

PretzelPizzaMenu

Until just now, I had no idea they had a second location in Hagerstown.

To find out more about Pretzel and Pizza Creations, here is their story, their menu, the food, and contact information.

This was so fun. I’m so fortunate and grateful to have discovered this gem in a different part of Maryland, that I don’t visit nearly enough.  If you live or are ever around the Frederick or Hagerstown areas, I would definitely pay a visit here if you haven’t already.

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I welcome the next time I’m in town and will make it a point to visit again.

Thanks so much and peace be with you.

Ideen

 

Goody’s Is Exactly That

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I promised after last week, that I would venture across the street.  And I did just that.

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Goody’s Pizza in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington has a strange, eerie, and yet familiar feeling about it.  And when I say eerie, I only mean it in a good way.  There’s just something going on here that reminds me of another place, another time, and maybe a past life.

This past life could be in this life, but it feels so homey, so approachable, and so inviting that it reminds me of places I used to go to in my childhood and I swear something beyond my existence on this planet.  I may be going on a limb but it felt like another dimension.

And once again, I say this all with love and the most sincerest of feelings.

And for all the times I’ve hung out in the neighborhood,  I never ate here. I’ve walked by how many number of times after a night or day out, and never set walked in.  Why?  I don’t know.  A place that looks so cozy from the outside is exactly what I want in my life.  I want more establishments, not just pizzerias, this genuine in my life.  They still exist.

I’m glad in this instance I didn’t have to look so hard.   Like I’ve said before, my first time was meant to be this time.   If not just for this blog, but for something I want to explain, but I can’t.  Maybe it will make sense later.

What does make sense is how tremendous these slices are.  I’m serious.  I’ve had New York Style in that said city, and even though we’re in Virginia, this is close to that.   I almost think they used the water from New York to make these pies.  It’s that great.  No these are not the best slices I’ve ever had nor did I expect them to be.   But just something hit me in a special place.

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The interior is so quaint  that I just wanted to sit there and appreciate the moment.  I did for a little bit.  And I did the same outside.

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My decision on what to order was made simple.  The slices on display were cheese and pepperoni.   I got one of each and was more than excited to try them.

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The amount of cheese on each may look like a lot to some, but it was just perfect. It was chewy, gooey, and everything else that makes a cheese slice magnificent and breathtaking.  Yes I said breathtaking.   The pepperoni’s made me feel like a kid again. Whether they were the freshest or most hearty pepperoni’s I don’t care.  Both slices made me so happy.

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But what made these pizzas so endearing was the dough.  It’s the epitome of comfort food.  And I got comfortable, full, and full of happiness.   That word artisanal gets thrown around too much to where it means nothing.  This to me is what you would call that overblown word I said two sentences ago.  If you had to call it something then you could also call it awesome.  The dough was soft in spots, crunch in others, and it made me so happy.

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This is my kind of style of pizza.  And sometimes it doesn’t need a city or a label to describe that style.  It’s just marvelous eating day or night.

I say day or night because they’re open for the late night crowd on the weekends as well. But I would put this pizza up against any of the greats in the area for a great daytime slice or pie.  I mean that.

It was so affordable too.   And for this area, affordable is always welcome.  I think I barely spent $6 on both.

Most important of all, the owners behind the counter could not have been nicer.  It wasn’t just what they said but it was how they carried themselves and how they said things.  They just seemed so sincere, so genuine, and so happy to be running a great business that looks like is doing well and is a bright spot in a sea of chain restaurants and bars that all start to look the same after a while.

Local business is what it’s always about and I’m honored to have supported this one.

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If you’re in the area I cannot talk about how great this place is.  Here is their menu,  here is more on the pizzeria itself, and contact information.

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Everything about this was beautiful.  I can’t wait to see where the pizza journey takes me next.

Thank you so much.

Ideen

 

 

Paradise By The…

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A lot of good pizza was had in 2016.  It seems to me that the focus has been on only finding the better slices, the better pies, and the better experiences.  If something is really horrific and worth talking about it will be talked about here.  But the emphasis will always be talking about quality za and giving you a valid reason for you to visit.  If not then this defeats the whole purpose.

Of course I’m just one person with an opinion.  Not everything I like will be agreed with and vice-versa.  And the pizzas I’m a little critical of might be one of your favorites.

For me it’s traditionally based on what I’m feeling at the time, not necessarily what I’m thinking.  It could be an idea about a place, or yes, a preconceived notion that may skew an opinion a little more towards one way or another than it otherwise wouldn’t.  This is why today’s pizza I discuss is so fascinating.

Before this past day after Christmas, my one and only ever visit to Pizzeria Paradiso was back in 2000.  Yes 16 years ago.  And this was at the Georgetown location.  Needless to say, being much younger the pizza was fine but I didn’t see what the big deal was.  I can get pizza anywhere I said.  Now whether this was my actual reaction is merely a reflection of my past self.  I can only speculate but it’s something similar to what I would have said.

It was a lifetime ago so I don’t know exactly what I ordered, but I remember the company I was with.  That’s one I’ll leave for myself.  But it wasn’t the best experience.  I remember paying a lot more for pizza than I may have ever had before.   Because of that I wonder if that’s the main reason of why I never went back.

Many times and many years over I’ve found myself walking past the Georgetown and Dupont Circle locations and not thinking much of it.  And that’s neither a good or bad statement.  There’s so many options to eat, let alone ones specific to pizza.

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But something about the Old Town Alexandria location seemed so much more welcoming and approachable.  There is a heavy bias here. I was born in this beautiful town, just minutes away from Old Town.  So I have loads of attachment and love for this place.

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Even still things would come up for the universe had other plans for me when I visited Alexandria.  I’ve been to many restaurants and many places along King Street and the surrounding areas, but never here.

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Well the wait and fate finally crossed paths.  All it took was a little Christmas Cheer and a peaceful drive to one of the great towns of America.

So how was the pizza this time?

It was busy.  Christmas was observed on a Monday this year and the town was buzzing. People had off and made the most of their post Christmas time.  Well that sounded like safe yet dramatic thing to say.  The restaurant was packed and the staff was busy. Did that affect the pizza in any way?  That I don’t know.

Even in a frenetic setting my pie turned out really good.  I ordered the Genovese which consisted of parmesan, pesto, and potato.  How about that combination?

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Now I wasn’t sure how this was going to look but I loved it.  These were real slices of potato.  If you’re thinking that I ordered this in light of a Christmas hangover and hoping for mashed potatoes, you might be right.

And that pesto tasted fresh, authentic, and from somewhere magnificent.  Where that is I don’t know.  But I like to think there was a lot of care and soul put into creating that pesto.

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That wood fired crust was tremendous as well.  I’ve heard friends say it’s the best pizza they’ve had in all of DC.  That’s a tough one to decide on.  It’s all relative.  I will say the crust was fantastic and I’m craving it now as I right about it.  It just had the perfect burnt and charred taste to it.  And that thin crust was shaped perfectly.  And a thinner crust was needed on this day.

The overall experience, ambiance, and service definitely made it even better.

For how busy the restaurant was, I was still able to get diner style seating and enjoy my meal in solitude.  I got to sample a couple of red wines before deciding on a favorite.  I was pleased with my decision.

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I was pleased with the pie.  I was only able to have half, which was fine by me.  I got to enjoy the rest later.  For a personal pizza this was a hearty sized meal.  You could easily get two meals out of this without question.  Or maybe my stomach has been feeling the effects of all the holiday eating that it was a reminder to slow down and take it easy.   And to enjoy the peace and spirit of the holidays.  They’re not technically over yet.

So I enjoyed my time in Old Town like I always do.  I took some pictures of the nearby historic streets and even one by Pizzeria Paradiso.  I hope you enjoy just like I enjoyed my pizza.

They’re one of the major players in the Washington, DC area when it comes to pizza.  And I’m glad to have ended the year with one of the more soothing and peaceful dining experiences I’ve had in a while.

I promise it won’t be another 16 years till the next visit.  How about I revisit this again in 2017.  That’s a promise.

Here is their story, their beer menu and online ordering info for those nearby.

oldtownroad

I look forward to what 2017 brings.  That feels weird just typing that.

Happy What’s Left of the Holidays,

Ideen

 

 

That’s The Jingle Bell Bar

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That everything happens for a reason cliche is a legitimate thing.   I was all set to do a review of an experience at Red Red Wine Bar back in the spring.   As luck would have it, my phone died as I was getting pictures of our pizzas and vino, while enjoying a casual outdoor setting in Downtown Annapolis.  I took it as a couple things, 1) this is not the way this wine bar was meant to be portrayed, and 2) the universe had grander plans for me.  And is that an understatement if there ever was one.

No matter what goes on in life, one thing I know for sure, the holidays bring out the best in us.  We go through a million emotions all year, and all of a sudden it’s Thanksgiving, and then it’s December.  What the heck happened here?   That time to reflect, to appreciate, and spread love magically appears this time of year.   Wouldn’t be great it you felt that all of the time?

Downtown Annapolis always feels like Christmas to me.  It has the old world, small town, welcoming feel that radiates an aura of holiday spirit 365 days a year.  That might be an exaggeration, but it’s the feeling I get.  And that’s no accident.  Different neighborhoods bring different feelings.  It’s up to us to choose to embrace it or move along.    Well I’m embracing and moving forward.

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So we move along nearly eight months later, and this was meant to be.  However, this time, it wasn’t the Red Red Wine Bar.  They transformed themselves into a winter wonderland and holiday spectacle, happily titled, the Jingle Bell Bar.

This bar is something else.  The set-up with all the lavish decorations screams holiday cheer.  If this didn’t get you in the spirit than I’m not sure what else might.

Actually, it was my dear friend’s event that brought us here tonight.   The Anne Arundel County, Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, for short, has done so much good for the community of Annapolis and nearby.  I’m proud to have volunteered and been associated with some wonderful and unique parties and events.  I’m grateful for that.  And I was grateful for this one.

They had a guest bartender on hand, and part of everyone’s check and tips went to CASA. It’s a win win for everyone.

I  could just sense going in that this was going to be an awesome time.  Sometimes you just know.  When you’re connected with a good community, it’s only going to bring about more of that community.  The folks in attendance were there for the same reason, to celebrate this fantastic organization and the holidays.   I felt so at home.  I think everyone else did too.

After all that, how was the pizza?  To make up for last time, I went with two pies, and was happy to share them with friends, old and new.

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I went with the two that I feel most represented this season, with their flavors, ingredients, and overall presentation.

First up, was the White Chicken on Roasted Garlic Flat Bread.   The look of this was fantastic.   For the simple fact that one of the toppings was garlic puree  is why I went with the garlic flat bread.  It did make me wonder how it would taste with the wheat.  That chicken tasted fresh and organic.   I love brussels sprouts, caramelized onions, and butternut squash.  Tell me another trio that spells out the holidays more than that?  This was a really good pie, but I almost felt like I didn’t get a taste of the squash or onions in every bite.  That could be me trying too hard to find them or some flavors overpowering the other.  Hence why I wonder how the wheat flat bread would turn out.  Nevertheless, my new friends and I finished this wonderful arrangement in mere minutes.  And I would definitely order this pizza again.

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But the quintessential pie of the holiday season might just be the Pear Prosciutto.  You’ve got to be kidding me.   I confirmed with one of the manager’s, Bethany (who was world class by the way), on which pizza to go with.  I’m glad we were on the same page.

Oh my and Christmas was this one of the best things I’ve eaten in sometime.  This is a must with wheat bread.   This is a throwback to my childhood.  And isn’t what Christmas and the holidays does to us sometimes?  The combination of honey, feta, and wheat on a piece of warm and toasty pita bread (usually wheat) alone is something I share with my family, especially my dad, and continue to this way.  So I felt warm inside before even noshing.  And when I finally noshed, everything was confirmed. This is one I’ll be thinking about for a long time.  The pears, prosciutto, and arugula are what you see immediately.  But to me, the heart is the honey, feta, olive oil, and minced garlic.  Again, that’s a family thing.   I’m getting emotional as I expound on this.  I’m getting goose bumps.  I’m not kidding you.

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And combining these pizzas with good people, good wine (click here to read more about the wines), a festive vibe, and a great cause, this is a win-win and then some.

I love this place.  Let me reiterate.  I LOVE this place.  Nestled in the heart of Downtown Annapolis automatically makes a place welcoming.  But there was something special about this night.

Once again, a huge thank you to Bethany for helping me with everything when it came to pizza and wine suggestions.

I’m ecstatic to have been a part of something so special.  I look forward to my next visit to Red Red Wine Bar.   And if you’re in the area I strongly recommend you do the same.

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Here is their story and their contact info.

For my Annapolis Pizza History, click here.

For more on Anne Arundel County CASA and all the good that they do, click here.

And for the last inspiring CASA experience, click here.

This was a holiday party for the books.  I’m so thankful and appreciative to have been a part of this.  All many of us want for the holidays, and out of life, is to feel good.  This event and this bar checks of all the boxes.

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To a safe and happy holiday season,

Ideen