…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

Say Hello To Everybody

SammysFourPizzaSlices2

That’s the feeling I got when I walked into Sammy’s Italian Pizza Kitchen, in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis.  I’ve talked at length (history can be found here), about my fondness for our state capital.

Here’s Sammy’s menus, contact info, and more on their story can be found at the bottom of their main page.

SammysItalianPizzaKitchen

I’ve been to Sammy’s many times before, initially out of curiosity, but then out of convenience.   The shopping center itself has a feel from decades ago, and once again takes me back to being a kid, and going out to lunch on a Sunday with my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and you get my drift.

It’s a feeling of comfort and familiarity that is a great reminder that restaurants don’t need to be fancy and over-the-top to produce quality food, service, a warm atmosphere, and a positive dose of energy.

Now in every town, you have your bakery, post office, general store (do those still exist?), local bank (one can only hope), florist, and many other mom-and-pops.  That does include plenty of good food, and of course pizza.

That’s the sense I got the first time I drove through this part of Eastport, and discovered this, among several other hidden gems.

What’s funny is there’s been many instances where I have not been enamored with their pizza.  I thought it was good, but nothing to necessarily write home (or write a blog/story) about.  I have an ongoing list of places I’ve been meaning to talk about, and Sammy’s among others was on that list, but I either never felt the time was right, or just wasn’t feeling it, good or bad.

You’ve got to feel it, positive or negative, or what’s the point?

But something about a recent visit felt different.  Maybe it was me, maybe it was the mood I was in, or maybe there’s just something else inexplicable, where I should just let it just be, and allow the best experience to come to me and find me.

That’s exactly what happened.

I love how you can’t see the inside of the restaurant from the outside.   There’s something mysteriously beautiful about this, that will draw many in, and I’m sure scare a few people off.  I promise you nothing about what I’m saying is to be feared or be made to feel afraid of.

The interior feels more authentic than how many more contemporary restaurants try to portray themselves as.  This just feels real.  And if and when you’re inside, I think you’ll get what I’m selling here.  Nor do I have to sell.  Everything about it sells itself.

SammysFourSlices

To go back to basics, I went with the four most simplest slices there is.   Cheese, pepperoni, white, and vegetable is about as genuine and to the core pizza as you’re going to find.  It’s as if the slices were there waiting for me.  Maybe they were.

The staff working the counter made me feel like home and made me feel good about my visit.  And to feel like a million bucks is not something you ask for or expect, but it’s great when it happens.  The next few groups of people that walked in got that same first class treatment.  It’s good to be feel important.  That feeling should come from within but it’s always gravy when it comes from external sources as well.

Before I go on any further of a tangent, this was the best pizza I’ve had by them in the multiple times I’ve been by.  And it’s not even close.  From what was once mediocre to decent, turned into fantastic.

What makes this all the more intriguing is I got these slices at dinner time.  I don’t know how long the pies were out.  Those are not the questions I should be asking, when the pizza turns out to be this good.  Maybe I answered my own question.

Maybe the reheating from the cold pies made it that much more tasty.  But good pizza is good pizza.  And these four slices really turned out well.

The pepperoni and the white were the true stand outs.   The crust and dough just had a taste about them that once again took me back to my younger days sharing pizza with family and dear friends.   That’s where a long synopsis is no longer necessary.

It’s a simple pizza, with a simple feel, from a creative source.

SammysFourPizzaSlices

What more can you ask for then what I just described?

That’s good pizza, nestled in a neighborhood in one of my favorite places.

If I could write about a place like this every week, I’d be happy.  But then it wouldn’t be so special.  Yet for now, this is to be savored, adored, and appreciated.

SammysItalianPizzaKitchen2

I look forward to my next visit to Annapolis, and a future visit to Sammy’s.

Peace Be With You.

 

 

One Olympic Place

CunninghamFarmsHam&GoatCheese3

You know how long I’ve been wanting to use that as a title?  All of about two hours…

This came to me earlier today.  It would have made sense to write about Cunningham’s of Towson during the events of last month, yet I find myself having a bit of a laugh as I write this out.

For folks that frequent this charming restaurant, the title of this post will make sense.  I’ll leave the rest of the punchline to the audience right here.  Don’t worry, it’s nowhere near as an obscure reference as I might be implying.  Just look at the bottom of the page.

We were out for a good friend’s birthday, and at the halfway point of that winter event that goes on every four years.

I’ll tell you, if I lived closer I would be here on a regular basis.  I chatted with some of the locals, and got a good sense of community from the place.  The vibe is fantastic, the bar set up is tremendous, and the location is ideal.  It’s kind of like a village, but not the village I might be alluding to.  But still pretty awesome.

This is not how I thought this post would go, but I’m just shooting from the hip now.

cunninghamsrestaurant

I’ve been to their Cafe and Bakery directly below the restaurant before, and find their food outstanding.    And more about why their food is just that, can be found here.   The majority of their results come from their own farm just a few miles away.  How can you not love local and love food fresh from the farm?  Try saying that a few times over.

Which makes me surprised that their pizzas weren’t up to par.  I was pleasantly surprise to find pizza on the menu to begin with.  Like I said, this was my first time at the bar and restaurant, and loved everything so far.

We had some appetizers during happy hour, that were tremendous, but I think they were trying a little too hard with the pizza.

CunninghamFarmsHam&GoatCheese

The two we shared were the Cunningham Farm Ham & Goat Cheese,  and then the Carne Supremo.    A lot of meat and a lot of toppings going on with both.  That might be the culprit.

CunninghamFarmsHam&GoatCheese4

With the Farm Ham & Goat Cheese, the mozzarella and goat cheese is a great combination, but it might have been too much, in terms of being in your face.   The arugula and tomatoes tasted fresh, but the ham didn’t work for me here.  I’ve said it before, it’s a case of the whole not equaling the sum of its parts. Quite the cliche, but it applies.   I think less would be more.   The crust on both of these is fantastic by the way.  It’s comfort food bread that I would enjoy all by itself.    The brick oven really work here, I just wish the toppings did the same.

CarneSupremoPie

What was even more of a challenge was the Carne Supremo.   There’s too much going on.  Lots of meat (pepperoni, sauage, and soppressata) which is balanced by the veggies (onions and peppers), along with mozzarella and asiago.  You think this would be tremendous.  But it’s just once again, overwhelming.   It’s ok if the topping are falling all over the place, and at times can make the experience more fun.   I just didn’t love all this red meat here.  This is based on personal opinion.  A few of our party shared the same sentiment on both of these pies.

CarneSupremo

I think, or actually I know, that less is more here.  This crust is fantastic and would work better with a simple base of cheese, sauce, a few vegetables, and a lighter protein.  A simple chicken pizza would work perfectly here.

CarneSupremo2

This by no means is going to stop be from coming back.  I find an endearing spirit and energy in this restaurant.  If you want quite, peaceful, cozy, and maybe a little noise, this is the place for you.  It’s my kind of place for sure.

If the situation presents itself in time, I’ll definitely try another pie or two again.

In the meantime, for more on Cunningham’s, here is their storymenu, and online ordering information.

Here is my history of pizza in this area.  It’s a town I will always be a bit partial too.

We’ll see you in 2020, oh wait, I mean next week!

Have a blessed one…

Ideen

A Little More Lighthearted

VegetablePizza

And a little easier.  A little more simple is what I was seeking this week.  Nah, that actually isn’t true.  I wasn’t seeking or searching for anything.

I’m fortunate enough to have friends who embrace me, embrace what I’m doing, and share the love of food, wine, and good company as much as me.  It’s something I hold near and dear to me.

I’m overly sentimental.  I’m big on good memories, I’m big on the little things, and the simplicity of the important things are life.  For those little things are often the most important.  How many times have you heard that before?  It rings true.

What I’ve always found fun about dinner gatherings is not knowing what’s going to be prepared until the day of, or with as little notice as possible.  It’s the anticipation of not knowing.   There’s good anticipatory anxiety and then there’s just the excitement of it all.

For me, I would like to have some idea, as to know what wine to buy.  Sometimes being the in the dark can lead to peculiar pairings, which makes it more fun.

If you’re reading this, then you figured out by now what pizza was served.

PepperoniPizzaSliceWine

At first thought, I initially was going to ask where the pizza would come from, and what kind of sauce, toppings, etc.  That would dictate the kind of wine I may consider, which you can read about here.

But as I write about this, I don’t need to drive myself crazy.

Dinner yesterday was tremendous.  That’s the short story.

I could leave it at that, but I will say that it was a tale of two pizzas, and two wines (well sort of), and two or more conversations.  Actually the conversations went all of the place, but that’s what makes this so awesome, and therefore enlightening.

PepperoniPizza

The first pizza was a pepperoni, and it was unanimously declared, just a pizza.

PepperoniSlices

It wasn’t good nor bad.  It was as some people like to say, just kind of there.  But I may like it just a little more in hindsight.  The dough, the pepperoni, the sauce, and cheese all melded together, and came together quite nicely.

PepperoniSlice

A discussion about how to see how well made a pizza is came up.  And quite simply, turn over the slice and see what stays on and see what ends up strewn all over the place.  In this case, everything remained intact.   That’s the sign of a lot of care and spirit behind the operation.  And considering who was hosting, I would 1000% agree.

But the feeling is maybe a little more sauce and cheese, and this would have been a better pie.  But we save the best for…

VegetablePizzaTwo

You can just tell the vegetable pizza just glows and illuminates beyond words.  It just looks brighter doesn’t it?  I’m one that loves a simple cheese pizza, but also can appreciate and adore fresh vegetables.  It’s a matter of preference and that’s what I’m preferring right now.

I also think we tend to get the kink out during a trial run, or the first try of anything.  When we get to round two, quarter two, the second period, or whatever analogy you want to use, we tend to find our stride.   It’s happened to me when I cook, and maybe you can relate.

But this was truly art.  And knowing the brains and heart behind the operation, these are as fresh as veggies as you’re going to find.

The one thought was maybe adding basil.  I think less is more but I think basil would definitely have made this even better.  Every topping served its purpose.

VeggieSlice

Just look at the kale, the peppers, the onions the spinach, and all the other goodness that nature has provided us.  I’m grateful to my friends for providing such a magnificent pizza.  Twas truly a blessing to be a part of, to be thought of, and to be shared with.

And yes, pretty much everything stayed in place…

This is what life is all about ladies and gentleman.   We don’t need much.  Good friends, good food, a little vino maybe, and a spiritual experience that will help us grow as individuals and as spirits.

I can’t wait for the next one.   I’ll be waiting anticipation…

What did I say about being a little more lighthearted?  Oops!

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

Time Splitters

TimesSquareKitchenPizzaSlices

This is another one of those by special request.  And I mean by request over the past couple of years.

When I get to or end up in Owings Mills, I’m not always thinking about pizza.  Then again, I’m not really thinking about anything.  I’m here, I drive, I do things, and then I keep going about my business.

It’s an area I would be sentimental to, as you see, it was where I had my first grown up job, out of college.  It lasted for a time, I left on good terms, and all the while I could see the writing on the wall.  The area was growing, new buildings were well, being built; and more land was turning into corporate and professional entities.  This is not a ran about progress or whatever you want to call it.  It’s just an observation.

TimesSquareKitchenFront

Many years later, here we are.  More is coming.  And that more of the past is Times Square Kitchen, in an area of Owings Mills where I don’t even recall what was there before, which makes believe there was lots of green, and lots of land to do what people choose to do with it.  It’s there.  I remember seeing it on the highway which feels like a different lifetime ago.

Nevertheless, there’s restaurants, a library, a branch of college, and a residential development up the street.  I’m sure I’m missing a few things.

Before I lose track, the question always is, how was the pizza?

I found it missing something.  Maybe it was the mood I was in, but it just didn’t wow me.  And I gave everything a chance.   I ordered a cheese, a white vegetable, and a buffalo chicken slice.  So I tried to cover all bases.

Here is their menu.

TimesSquareKitchenCheesePizzaSlice

The crust on all of these was again, fine.  It just tasted like decent pizza.  If you’re to rate a pizzeria by its cheese then it continues to the theme of an alright pie.  The cheese is again, decent.  It’s not that the cheese and sauce was bad (they make everything in house), it just lacked spark.  I wanted to like this.  I actually want to love everything I eat. If not, what’s the point of all this?

TimesSquareKitchenWhitePizzaSlice

The white veggie was a bit overloaded.  The crust wasn’t big enough to handle all this.  And it’s a sizeable crust, but the whole didn’t equal the sum of those things.   I’ve said it before, I think white is one of the more challenging slices to make.  I think you can rate a place based on their blanca, as much as their plain cheese.

TimesSquareKitchenBuffaloChickenPizzaSlice

The buffalo chicken was a bit of a saving grace.  I liked the shredded piece of chicken on top.  The buffalo sauce was good, and this was a slightly better piece of pizza then its predecessors, but again the feel good story wasn’t there.

TimesSquareKitchenPizzaSlices2

I haven’t been to New York in some time.  But I’ve had great slices there.  I’ve had great New York Style slices in various places, including Maryland.   This doesn’t quite reach that.

Even though I didn’t love it this time, you may think otherwise.  I’ve been told by several people that this is one of their favorites in the Baltimore area.   It’s important to agree to disagree.  We all shouldn’t like the same things.  We all shouldn’t love the same things.  That wouldn’t be fun.

TimesSquareKitchenILovePizza

There’s fun in respectfully disagreeing.  There’s fun in sharing the love of pizza (among so many other things) with the people you love as well.   It’s disappointing this one didn’t work out, but I’ll gladly give it another shot again down the line.

Many a time I’ve gone back a second or third time to many types of a restaurants (not just pizza) and was happier.   One iffy visit isn’t going to stop me from coming back, just like one amazing visit somewhere else should sometimes be met with caution, depending on the place or scenario.

That’s what makes this all so fun.    I shall revisit Times Square Kitchen down the line.  Local business will always have my heart.   I’m all about an encore.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

 

A Flair For The Gold

FranksTrios

I’m writing this as I watch the unofficial first day of coverage of the Winter Olympics, so please bare with me, I’m a bit excited.

I wanted on the eve (or day of depending on where you are and when you read this) of National Pizza Day, for this story to be inspiring, remarkable, heartwarming, and all those other superlatives and blessings.

FranksPizza

When talking about Frank’s Pizza & Pasta in the Northeast Baltimore neighborhood of Hamilton, or is it Overlea?  Well it’s Baltimore and it’s an institution that’s been around for over 30 years.   That to me is worthy of a medal itself.

I had actually intended on doing a story nearly two years ago but something told me the timing wasn’t right.  If I’m recalling correctly, my pictures looked underwhelming, or maybe some universal force told me it wasn’t time.   Some things can’t be explained nor need an explanation.

All roads brought me here this week.   Actually that’s exactly what happened.  Yesterday I drove passed Frank’s later in the evening, with the thinking that I need to get back here.  And while I was on my way home, if the situation presented itself, I know I’d be back again soon.  Literally, less than 24 hours later… And the rest is well…

My expectations had been raised after hearing about their pizza, from a couple peoples’ opinions that I respect immensely.  And it’s all about your own opinion, your own beliefs, experience, and all that good stuff.  But I can’t help but admit that I had high hopes.

If we’re using Olympic terms, the technical scores may be a bit low, or the qualification times may be enough to make the next round but I don’t know.  There are some deductions and maybe some penalties.   There may need to be a redo.

What does this all mean?  I’ll get to the point.  I wanted to love it but I can’t say that.  I want to love every pizza and every experience, but it’s not always going be that way.  While it’s easy to find positives (and there are), the faults do stand out.

I got three slices, and how perfect was this selection.  I might have stopped by right after the lunch rush since a lot of slices were bunched together, and the pickings were minimal. No problem at all, I still got a cheese slice, a meat lover’s, and the Mediterranean, which looked like it just came out of the oven.

FranksMeatLovers

I’ll get my critiques out of the way first.  The cheese, and meat lover’s looked much better displayed on trays beforehand than how they looked after they were heated.  Maybe my eyes were deceiving me but the plain cheese looked like it shrank.

FranksCheese

You can also see that they reheated these slices a little too long.  You can see the burnt parts, especially in the meat lover’s, that the crust actually fell apart where it was charred.  Now there’s good charring and then there’s this.   It wouldn’t have mattered though, as neither slice did much for me.  The cheese felt flat and something just didn’t taste right.  Maybe there wasn’t enough?  Maybe it was out there too long.  I don’t know.

FranksMeatLovers2

The meat lover’s is not one I would ordinary try anyways, but I figured why not.  This one I could only take one or two bites of before I had enough.  It was burnt and it was a little too hearty for me, but that’s more of a personal opinion as well.   I like more of a….

FranksMediterranean2

And this brings me to the Mediterranean.  This was the gem, or the crown jewel if you will, of the slices.  Maybe the fact that it just came out hot and fresh had a lot to do with it.  The toppings were exquisite and the pesto was tremendous.  I think I got some magnificent olive oil too.  All the toppings complemented each other perfectly.  It’ll make me want come back.    All this on top of a white pizza, is masterful.

And I will.  I think this place is capable of so much.  It wouldn’t be around so long if it hadn’t, even with changing times and tastes.

FranksMediterranean

That’s the most in depth I’ve been about pizza in some time.  I usually look for all the positives and situations related to everything outside of the food itself, as well.   And I still did here.  The staff is great, it’s very old school and very authentic in terms of service and appealing to a loyal clientele that serves a part of Baltimore you don’t always hear about, or think to go to.

All I know is that it won’t be another few years until I’m back.  If time allows, we shall do this again soon.  I know I say that a lot, but we shall do this again soon.

For more on Frank’s, here is their menu, and their storied history.

Enjoy the Olympics, the opening ceremonies, and all the good that comes from that.  I know I will.

And Peace Be With You.

Ideen

Pizza I Feel Good About

WegmansSouthwestStyleReady

I mean that with all sincerity.

Ever since I set foot into my first Wegmans many years ago (that feels weird to say), the love affair has remained and grown infinitely.   What’s not to love?

If you’ve ever visited one (a location hopefully near you can be found here) you know the possibilities of happiness are endless.  You know it’s more than just a grocery store.  It’s a source of joy, peace, harmony, and more food than you know what to do with.

Within each Wegmans is a pizza shop (which I wrote about once, you can find that here), a sub shop, hot bar, bakery, deli, and all the other good stuff you’d find at many a grocery store.  But like I said there’s something cosmic going on in a place like this.  When you walk in to a Wegmans, be prepared to walk out inspired.  I’m not kidding you.

And speaking of such inspiration, while I was at my local Wegmans recently, I felt like the time was right to try a couple of their frozen pizzas.

I’m not that highly critical of pizza.  It’s not that serious.  I like to have fun with this, and that’s truly the whole point of doing this, or hopefully most of what you and I do.  My criteria for grading frozen pizzas might be different than when I get a pie or slice from a slightly upscale or fine dining establishment.  But the constant is that as long as the pizza tastes good and comes from a place of soul and feeling, I know it was prepared with the best of intentions.

This is why I feel it’s ok to be critical when a pizza may not live up to mine or your expectations.  And that’s what we have here.  One pizza is tremendous, the other leaves much to be desired.

I’ll begin with the latter.

The Buffalo Chicken was disappointing.   For all how it appears on the box, it doesn’t translate to anything positive after the fact.

WegmansBuffaloChickenReady2

My first concern was how little chicken you actually see on the pizza itself.   But I’m not going to judge it on its cover or unwrapped before even heating.  But after the fact was really missing so much.

WegmansBuffaloChickenSlices

Whatever ranch and buffalo sauce I’m supposed to be tasting, I ain’t getting.  And while I secretly hoped some more pieces of chicken would appear, that was not the case.  The mix of mozzarella, white cheddar, and gorgonzola cheeses were non existent. It’s not that they weren’t there, it’s just that they didn’t seem to taste like any of the aforementioned cheeses.  It just seemed like mozzarella, bad sauce, and some poorly prepared white meat chicken.  The crust is really good, as is in the..

The Southwest Style is the pie you want to get.  This is the complete opposite of what I wrote above.   This mix of mozzarella and cheddar cheese is how you do it.   The pieces of chicken are light years ahead of the chicken in the previous pie.

WegmansSouthwestStyleReady2

The taco sauce layered on top of the pizza is distinct yet it’s not invasive to anything else on the pizza.  That’s an important detail when it comes to a pie like this.  The peppers and onions really add a nice charm to a pie that you might overlook or not even find to your liking.

WegmansSouthwestSlices

That’s what makes this pizza experience so fun.  If you asked me, I would’ve thought the Buffalo Chicken would be the pizza to look forward to going in.  My pleasant of all surprises is how great the Southwest Style is.  It’s fantastic.

With their frozen pies at $4 per pizza, it’s worth giving a look, and you can get a couple of meals out of it.  In a world where we’re always looking to save money, that’s a great deal.

Wegmans is always going to be a great deal, no matter how you look at it.  Not everything is going to be perfect but when it is, it makes everything that much better.

The amount of pizzas and appetizing entrees in general to try is unlimited and unpredictable.  This place makes me so happy and even if I’m not writing about it, I’m here multiple times a week.

If and when the opportunity presents itself, I’ll try a couple more pizzas.  This might call for a bonus post outside of a Friday, if I find the time.

And I will…

Happy New Year!

Ideen