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

Family Time…

MammaLuciaSlices

The title might give it away?  Well, it’s about mamma, but it’s also about papa, family, and all the simple things in life you should appreciate as much as possible.   Don’t take the good stuff in life for granted.   Easy said, easy done,  but I know myself, and sometimes I forget to stop and smell the roses, or the pizza.

Almost two years ago today, I wrote about Mamma Lucia, and their Rockville Pike location.

I want to get the pizza part out of the way first.

I’ll just say that the plain White Pizza from today was one of the best slice I’ve had in some time.    The rest were solid but nothing to write home about.  The cheese and the sauce on the meat lovers, and the one veggie itself were missing something.  But today it didn’t matter.   I just wanted to get a little pizza review in before I completely went off the rails here.  The New York Style crusts were all good to great on there.  But that White Pizza, oh my goodness.  Something was in the air today.

MammaLucia

Something today (as of this writing) has brought me back many times over this week and over the past several months, that I was due to stop into their Fallsgrove location.   But first, let me get all the particulars out of the way…. For more on Mamma Lucia, here is their menu, their list of locations, and contact information.

MammaLuciaMenu

Now that’s out of the way, I want to talk about sentimentality.   Family is everything.  That meaning your mom, dad, brother, sister, cousins, etc.. etc…  But family is also dear friends who started out as acquaintances but evolved into people you would do anything for, and they would do anything for you, without hesitation.  That’s a special bond,  that’s spiritual beings, kindred spirits, and anything else that seems fitting, which is also family.

MammaLuciaArt

Family can also be the places you go, whether it be a restaurant, a bar, a social club, or the comfort of your own home.  My cat is family, I’m lucky to have many good friends, and a few that I consider family.

Yet you’re also born into family.  That’s your blood, and that’s the family that’s your meant to have initially.  The universe presented that to you, for you, and with you.  Where I’m going with all this is, I recall fondly the many meals I’ve shared with family over the years, many being at this Mamma Lucia location. This goes back nearly 20 years.   I know, time flies.

I’m grateful to have grown up near where I did.  As much as it’s cold at times, congested, and much more populated then 30 years ago, I look forward to going home and seeing family.

It’s not always about the food, but the company.   And that company, is your friends, but growing up, it was always family too.

The pizza here just brings back instances of when I was younger.  It’s not one or two specific incidents or events, but an accumulation of so many things.   Why this place stands out, I can’t tell you.  But driving around the area today really hit a nerve with me.  I’m not as young as I once was.   That’s part of it.  But it’s one of those things, where the more things change, the more they will continue to change.  Some remains constant, but something has evolved, for better or worse.  As have I, as have all of us.  My family dynamic has changed.  And it will continue too, for all of us.

So when I walked in today to other some slices like I always did, I just had this moment of clarity.  Not so much a new lease on life, because that time is coming (if I’m not already going through it), but something else.  It’s something I can’t put into words just yet.

Today it’s not about the pizza. It’s about everything else.

Their might be a follow-up in some way, shape, or form.   This is one of those existential moments that will resolve itself, because that’s how the universe works, for all of us.  It’s looking out for us.   It’ll be ok.   I have to tell myself that.  But…

It’ll be ok.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

Back Where I Come From

CSNYSicilianPepperoniPizza

I grew up around the Rockville, MD area, and each time I come home, I get these feelings of uneasiness.  It still feels like the place I remember when I was a kid, but all that is waning.

Here are my past posts from this historic town.

My peers and I are older now.  Many of the places we used to frequent are no more.  I supposed many people say that, because things end.  Nothing lasts forever.  But that doesn’t mean that when something ends, that something worse takes it place.  That does happen, but with a congested suburb of the Washington, DC area, I still attempt to see the glass half full.

There’s restaurants, stores, hidden gems, and just those things you can’t put into words that are no more.   I still keep in touch with family and friends, because that’s important to me, and they’re also the constant.  As we grow up the reasons we became close still exist and sometimes new ones formed.

And sometimes you discover a place that is one of the new gems, the new parts of a town that easily could fit in with the past.

CSNY

CSNY Pizza (an offshoot of Pizza CS, which I will get to in time) resides in a location on Rockville Pike that has seen many tenants, and many local businesses come and go.   This understated pizza place is not going anywhere.

When I saw the signs last year for this soon to be opened spot, I was excited, and then as time went by I forgot.  And not for any malicious reasons.  I don’t live here.  I haven’t lived in here in some time, and I don’t ever see myself coming back.   Never say never, but that’s not in the cards.

This was home.  It’s still has parts of my heart, but so much has changed.  And in the past year ever more has changed.   Some things are gone and are never going to come back.  I have to make peace with that.  As I’m writing this out, I’m still trying to make that peace.

I’m grateful family and friends are still around.  Like I said, that’s still the constant.

But onto the pizza…

The spot is simple and so is the menu.  Just how I like it.

I ordered three standard slices (cheese, sausage, and mushroom) which were all great.  But the Sicilian Pepperoni was even that much greater.

CSNYSicilianPepperoniPizzaSlice

If this is their version of New York Style, I want more.  I’m craving more right now.

I don’t often talk the sauce being the stand out on a pizza, but this is what happened here.  It has a a familiar taste that brings me back to my childhood.  There’s just something so divine about it.  I can’t place my finger on it and now is the not the time to. The sauce is an absolute masterpiece.

The cheese, the toppings, and that crust all complement each other so well.  So simple, so understated, yet so amazing.  This is CSNY Pizza and it’s incredible.

CSNYSicilianPepperoniPizza2

Yet that Sicilian Crust is that much more memorable.  The pepperonis are some of the best I’ve tasted, and even though I saved a lot of that crust for later, I enjoyed my few bites.  And that’s all that matters.

CSNYPizzaSlicesAll

I ordered four slices because it felt like the right thing to do, and I will get a few meals out of this, and who knows when I’ll be back.

Oh I’ll be back.

This was once home.  Somewhere in all this madness is still home.  I’m grateful the simple, yet oh so memorable, still exists.

This was world class.  This was beautiful.   This was….

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 Step Up and Two Steps…

FranksAberdeenStuffedCheesesteak

It’s good that I can take appreciate what’s a little bit closer to home to me.  There’s plenty of places that serve pizza anywhere, in one shape or another.  In one form or another form, pizza pies can and will be found.   And while the flavors, topping, and ingredients remain constant, everyone has their take, their soul, and sometimes just different types of pies are going to be prepared and served to you.

FranksAberdeen

Frank’s Pizza in Aberdeen, MD (all menu and no website makes this a bit easier), is not far away from home, and the nearby streets surrounding it have a small town feel, but then it kind of doesn’t.  I don’t mean to sound do obscure, but I’m really not.  Every town has its historic part with their post office, cafes, small shoppes, a few businesses that add to commerce, and a few randoms.  I love the randoms too.   And yet there’s always another constant, pizza.

Frank’s is as no thrills as it gets.  It’s got a simple counter, a massive space, and old school seating that makes it easier to write about, so the artisanal and sometimes pretentious aspect is out the window.   It’s refreshing to write mainly about the pizza itself and nothing else.  Well the staff was busy yet courteous.

The pizza trays are the first things you see when you walk in.  That’s a strategy that’s not rocket science, and I’m always been a fan of.

I’ve been here before, and the pizza is pizza.  It’s nothing life changing nor does every experience, food, or pizza need to be.   It does its job, does its job well, and you’ll likely to come back if you work, live, or are in the area.

This time I noticed a couple of stuffed pizzas on display, and for the sake of changing it up, this was necessary to purchase.   I did not eat all of this one sitting.   These four slices are the equivalent of four meals, at least.

FranksAberdeenCheese&BuffaloChicken

So along with getting your simple cheese, a buffalo chicken, a stuffed cheesesteak, and a stuffed romano (pepperoni, sausage, and mushroom… if I’m missing something, I’ll stand corrected).

The cheese and buffalo chicken are fine.  Nothing amazing, nothing that’s going to be questioned.  Unless you write about it.  The crust is fine, but nothing extraordinary.

The same can be said for the romano.   The golden brown color is always a nice sight to see, but again, it’s solid but not much more than that.

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I gloss over these three slices for a reason…

FranksAberdeenStuffedCheesesteak

Finally, the cheesesteak is a guilty pleasure.  And as you see with the romano, they pile on the toppings.  And I don’t care how authentic this cheesesteak and the steak itself (Frank’s is less than an hour outside of Philadelphia), it’s the height of comfort food.  But again, you could get multiple meals out of this.  This is not meant to be eaten all at once.

FranksAberdeenStuffedCheesesteak2

I have all four slices, resting comfortably in my refrigerator, that may be sitting there for a while.  I don’t recommend all of this in one sitting, or even a couple.   Get a work out in before, and one sometime after.   This can’t be healthy, but this is not why you eat this stuff to be healthy.  This is not some conspiracy theory.

Sometimes you just want to eat and not worry about the consequences.   That’s what you’re going to get with Frank’s.

Maybe next week we’ll go artisanal and a little more classy?  Whatever that means.

Blessings to you…

Ideen

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

Harvest Makes Me Happy

HarvestThymeElBlanco2

The word ‘harvest’, evokes feelings of happiness, joy, tranquility, organic experiences, and well I honestly could go on and on.  It reminds me of what’s good in life, farmer’s markets, a sense of community, giving, and kindness.  Why does a harvest do this for me?

Maybe something happened in my past, and maybe a bunch of life experiences leading up to this story give me warm feeling of a harvest, and all that entails.  I’m smiling as I think about it, and write this out to you.

What I get the most is a feeling of togetherness and helping your fellow family member, friend, or whomever it may be out, and the feelings are reciprocal, but more importantly there’s a feeling of good from within.  I could go on all day…

That feeling of friendship, love, comradery, and all those other superlatives came together last week when my friends introduced me to a new restaurant that opened near them.   And what a most magnificent place this is.   I’m honored, thankful, and grateful to be sharing our experience at Harvest Thyme in Davidsonville, MD, which is comfortably nestled outside of Annapolis.

The location may feel a bit remote, but sometimes those are the best places.   My friends told me that there isn’t much in terms of food and drink in the immediate area, so this is a blessing to the community.   And we were witness to it, as the place was packed near the tale end of happy hour, leading into dinner.

HarvestThymeWines

The exterior has a welcoming aura and energy about it, as does the inside.  I didn’t take enough pictures, but I hope you get some idea of how elegant this place is.

HarvestThymeDiningRoom

We came in with the full intent of getting some pizza to go.  And if we had any second thoughts about dining in instead, those went out of the window immediately.  It was a sea of humanity, but a lot of good humanity.  People seemed jovial, upbeat, and realizing it’s the weekend, having a little worries or cares in the world, hopefully.

CigarWine

We did share a bottle of wine while we waited.  And you can read more about that here.

But my pals and I decided on two different pizzas.  And it’s quite the dichotomy.

HarvestThymeElBlanco

The El Blanco is there White Pizza and it’s great.  When it comes to certain restaurants, you might come to have expectations of how a pizza may be presented; the size, the crust, the amount of cheese, and all those other nuances.    What I’ve looked forward to when some or all of the components of a pie are made in house.

HarvestThymeElBlanco3

Their dough is made in house, and it’s terrific.  This is a good white pie, if you don’t want too much overbearing cheese and garlic, which has been known to plague similar pizzas I’ve written about it in the past.  This is a charmer, a grower, and has many endearing qualities.  Yes I’m still talking about the pizza.

However, even better is the Carnitas.

HarvestThymeCarnitas

The pulled pork, which is twice cooked (I love that), cheddar cheese, and spicy tomato sauce is a blend from beyond and on a whole other level.  My friend joked saying we wouldn’t like this.  Hoping to not have to share.  But you know what they say about sharing.   Right.

HarvestThyymeCarnitasSlice

This to me felt like a sneak preview, an appetizer, and almost a dress rehearsal if you will.  The restaurant has only been open a few months but it already looks like a hit.

HarvestThymeSlices

The dining room looks great, the bar area feels welcoming, and our waiting area felt like more than just that.  And we go to share a bottle of wine on a serendipitous night before we sat down and watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games.  Yes I’ve got to throw in all the references to the Olympics I can.

This place is great, that’s all I’ve got for you right now.  If you’re in the area, or plan on visiting Harvest Thyme, here is their food menu, their drink list, their story, and of course their contact information.

 

 

More to come from this wonderful ristorante.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen