You Say Tomatoes

HotTomtoesSlices

Two years ago, when leading up to The Fell’s Point Fun Festival, I did a series of posts featuring pizza from restaurants, pizzerias, and the like from the neighborhood.   I didn’t do them all, I didn’t avoid any on purpose, but I wanted to discuss some that may be off the radar or not within anyone’s crosshairs on a regular basis.

HotTomatoes

Then there’s Hot Tomatoes.  It’s one of those things where if you live or hang out in the area, you know what you’re getting.  I was thinking myself that it was too obvious and almost unnecessary to write about this establishment.  This is not a knock on them or their food.   It’s just that it’s always been there and it’s not going anywhere.  And imagine any late night, especially on the weekends, where slices are coming and going at a rapid-fire place.  The place isn’t going anywhere as long as people had a good night (or even a bad night) out and need something to finish the night off and feed their bellies.

But with the Festival starting this weekend, I felt like if I’m not going to write about Hot Tomatoes now, I may never.

For me, I don’t know if I have any sentimental attachment to Hot Tomatoes.   I’ve been and many of us have been too many times to count.  But after a while we look for other sources for greasy food to keep us satisfied.   And while a couple of places have closed nearby (Little Italy Pizzeria and Italian Graffiti come to mind), this neighborhood staple has stood the test of time.  Having a prominent location on Broadway helps.   Location….

HotTomatoesCheese

So how’s the pizza?  Its’s pizza.  It’s food.  There’s some folks prepping the pies, putting sauce, putting cheese, toppings, and throwing it in the oven.  Then when it’s ready they’ll slice it up and put it in a box or you to go.  See where I’m going with this?  It’s pizza that looks rough, is not going to win any world title belts, but it serves its purpose.  And that’s just the way they want it.  And it’s just pizza.  Many of us at later hours don’t care about artisanal quality and world renowned craftsmanship.

HotTomatoesGreek2

But something happened recently.  They’ve changed their slices up quite a bit.  I had a Greek slice with olives, onions, feta, and a whole slew of awesomeness.  It was a white based and it was surprisingly good.  I mean that with all sincerity.  Because of Hot Tomatoes presents itself, you expect what you expect.  But when they throw a good slice that is, your taste buds are feeling good and it’s a welcome change from the standard cheese and pepperoni.   If this slice is on display this weekend I’ll gladly get another.

 

Their slices are in the $4-$5 range but their big, and prices at the late night hour are really not what folks are worrying about.

What is their true stand out if their deep fried cheese steak.  They don’t always make it, but when it’s there, jump on it.  It’s the most unhealthy and glorious of all guilty pleasures.  I’ve always had to split mine with a pal.  It’s incredibly bad for you, yet incredibly delish all at once.

And now their other venture, at the same location, Diablo Doughnuts is really wowing people. I had my first opportunity to try their sweet treats and a wedding last weekend.  I believe I had one with fruity pebbles.  So good.

UPDATE :

This has been updated with my actual first purchase of donuts from said Diablo, during the festival, which was rather mellow on Sunday.

I grabbed an iced coffee, along with a Samoa (yes the Girl Scout kind), and a Blackberry Lime.  I thought they were both fine, but in what ways do I compare this to other doughnuts?  I like the creativity of flavors, but not sure if this is anything amazing in my eyes.  They were tasty though.  That’ all that matters.

I’m assuming they will still have a stand outside of their shoppe.  Per neighborhood and logistical changes the festival will be condensed this year, to try to make it even a heavier focus on local business and give it a more cozy and welcoming feel.  I’ve always felt was it inviting and approachable to people from all walks of life.  I’m hoping this change is a good one.  We shall see.

BroadwaySquare

Broadway Square, with the exception of the pretzel dog and lemonade stand, has opened back up in time for this weekend.  All signs pointing to a positive experience and a great time.

FellsPointFestival

I’ve been attending this festival every year, except for 2003, since 2000.  It’s become a part of me, a part of many of us, and it’s that first weekend in October that many of us look forward too.  For me, it hasn’t always been the most amazing of times, mainly because I think the festival got carried away with trying to be too big and getting carried away with outside food, drink, and traveling carnival like vendors.

But the last few years have been fantastic, with being able to drink on the streets, and keep it more local, has been a welcome addition.  And an addition by subtraction.

FellsPointFestivalSchedule

For those attending this weekend, here is the link to the maps and parking at the festival, the band list, purchasing drink packages (it’s $20 for 3 drinks versus $5 for just the cup in previous years), and contact information.

With so many many changes going on in the city and one of the great neighborhoods in the country, I’m hoping the integrity and heart will always be there.

We’ll be seeing ya this weekend.

Take good care,

Ideen

 

 

South River Situations

BellaSeraSlices

A dear friend, who has helped me with this blog over the past couple of years, always suggests to change up the city or town of pizzerias and pizza parlors, whenever I can.  If I end up in a place I’ve never written about, you know for sure I’ll be looking and hoping I discover something of a gem.

BellaSeraFront

Bella Sera of Edgewater, MD is a not-so-hidden gem in a strip mall loaded with chain restaurants and box stores that so many towns are loaded with, and make an otherwise charming town look well, just like every other.

So you could look at it and say, thankfully there is a local pizzeria, restaurant, in a sea of chains, and think to yourself, that it’s good that local business is still there and still thriving.  The other school of thought is well, you have a local operation that’s there and allowed to exist, in spite of everything around it.  I hope that makes sense.  And I’m not talking about this restaurant in particular.  It’s more of how I’m observing things.

Last year I had passed through Edgewater several times and literally just kept on going.  I didn’t stop and appreciate what was around me.  These things and moments are important to me.  It’s not a big thing, but the little things lead to big things.  And they’re all significant.   I had seen Bella Sera in pizzeria searches and then driving through, but I kept moving along.  I can tell myself that it wasn’t meant to be.  But at the time, it wasn’t…

Now it’s over a year later, and I’m back again under the most unusual, yet entertaining of circumstances.  That’s more of inside joke to me, but that’s how the universe works.  The currents and the energies led me here and I finally need to make the most of it.

Snuggled (or nestled) in one of the more approachable looking shopping centers, this pizzeria looks like a castle from the outside.   I had high hopes and sometimes those hopes based on nothing but how the exterior looks can lead to unrealistic expectations.

It was right before dinner time, so it was just starting to get busy, but thankfully they still had a lavish display of pizza slices on the counter.  I’m grateful for this because many establishments will nix slices in favor of whole pies for dinner time.  It’s a concept I completely understand, yet I find it refreshing when slices are available open to close. It’s so beautiful.

The exchange when I ordered was awkward to say the least.  And I’ll put most of this on me.   For inspired reasons, I went from wanting to order two slices to four.   Realizing that I would actually be saving money if I ordered a whole pie, I still went with the slices. I didn’t get the sense that mentioning my blog would be rejected, but nor was I feeling like explaining myself.  I stand by that decision.

And now I figured out why I might have been better off ordering a pie… I’ll get to that in a few moments.

BellaSeraSlices3

I ordered (here is the menu) the cheese, buffalo chicken, the spring white, and the inspired call was the spaghetti slice.   I’ve reviewed a similar slice here, to great results.

First off, I did not eat all of this right away,  I saved a lot for later.  Eating too much of this would be crazy.  I got three meals out of this, and that’s me trying to make myself feel better about this.

BellaSeraCheese2

The cheese was the best.  It’s simple.  The thin crust was great, and the cheese and sauce are exactly what you would want from a plain slice.  How does it stack up again others I’ve had?  I can’t say.  They’re all similar yet unique in their own essence.  I know there’s a real soul and a real emotion behind the making of these particular slices, and that counts for a lot.

BellaSeraBuffaloChicken

The buffalo chicken, again had a great crust.  The crusts on all of these stood out in a good way.  I see that the buffalo chicken is homemade.  That’s always a plus.  This wasn’t my favorite.  Something about the blue cheese, and maybe the mozzarella cheese didn’t work this time. It was a style clash that may work more times than not. But this didn’t click for me.

BellaSeraChicken

The spring white looked gorgeous.  The grilled chicken strips were so great. I could’ve had a plate or bowl of those on their own.  So in my traditional fashion I had a few on their own.   Maybe my tastes for white pizzas have changed or I’m having higher expectations because this didn’t gel like I hoped either.  The tomatoes tasted fresh, as did the boat loads of spinach (which I appreciate), but the actual white pizza by itself felt like it was lacking something.  It didn’t wow me.  I really wanted it too.

The spaghetti slice was $7.  That’s why I was told an actual pie of anything else would be better.  This was not worth $7.  This will fill you up.  And while it was good, the reminder of what I paid for did bring this down some.   This is something you could get multiple meals out of if you wanted.   But I wasn’t loving it.

If you look at their menu, their prices are on the higher end of what you may see elsewhere.  But that comes with a local business, and being in proximity (20-30 minutes Southwest) the state capitol of Annapolis will do that.

With that understanding I can understand the prices.  The other slices were $3-$4 which is reasonable and justifiable.

I will absolutely come back.   I’ll put a lot of this on me.  Maybe I forced this experience and it didn’t feel as organic as I hoped.  That’s going to make any food taste a bit differently.   Our minds are funny like that.

But I’m all for local and always want these businesses to succeed.  So if I’m in the area (which happens more times than I realize), I will absolutely get some more pizza, and maybe try some of their other entrees once again.

BellaSeraDoor

Here is more of their story, their menu, their contact info and location, and online ordering for our pals that are local.

Thanks so much and have a blessed weekend.

Ideen