Around the Globe, Around The Corner…

TraderJoesSpinachRicottaPizzaReady2

Across different universes (here and here), and this one, I’ve sung the praises of Trader Joe’s and for good reason.

I don’t recall many places that have resonated with me for so many reasons over these many years, but they have. and maybe you have a place or two that has given you those feelings, those butterflies, and everything else with the warm and fuzzies.

In the grand scheme of things, it still is just a store (to find a store near you go here), but it’s always had a a good energy.   Sometime it’s had the energy.  I can’t tell you how many locations I’ve been to, but with maybe one or two rare exceptions, I’ve always felt at peace, spiritually whole, and sometimes rejuvenated after a visit.

There’s no need to belabor this point.  Maybe I’m always in that place of abundance right before I walk in, and it manifests itself in ways that words won’t or can’t do justice.

After all this time, how I never got around to writing about their pizzas is one of those universal things.  Micro vs. macro, or what have you. It’s not that serious, let’s get to the pies.

For the summer, I hopefully found two of the better pizzas to discuss, and I’m proud to say that the Spinach Ricotta, and the Sicilian Style Red Pepper. Provolone, & Pearl Mozzarella were absolute works of art.

Maybe it was a moment of inspiration, but of all the pizzas (and they got too many, that another post is meant to happen, and soon), I grabbed these two, and they turned out perfectly.

The suggested heating time and temperature is shown to you, but I altered it a bit and placed both in the oven simultaneously.   That hasn’t always worked, but this go around just felt right.  I just knew it was going to be special before I even walked in the door, and then before I walked in the door.

Thin crust is ideal for warm weather, it’s ideal for any time, yet in July, in the heart of Summer, it’s ideal for right now.  Perfection.  And this crust, my goodness, everything about this is right.  It’s not quite comfort food, which can wait. This is a pizza to enjoy alone, or share with friends, and to appreciate with every bite.

Honestly, I did have one I liked a little more, but that’s besides the point.  They’re both tremendous.  The spinach and ricotta on top of a regular pie base had a charm and appeal that I didn’t realize until after it came out of the even.

The Sicilian Style would be fine with our without the peppers, but I wanted a cheese pizza, with just a little more.  The provolone and mozzarella definitely has a distinct taste.  Yet, within all this splendor, there was a packet of olive oil to drizzle on top.  I was only going to put on a little, but I went crazy. Looks good doesn’t it?  It’s the little things, but going crazy over olive oil is what makes me happy right now.  This pizza made me happy.

No I don’t have a favorite after all, it’s a two way tie and both are outstanding.  Did I already say that? Well let me reiterate, Trader Joe’s knows how to do pizza.  It’s more than just frozen food, it’s an experience.

And I’m grateful to have had this experience, and to share it with you.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

Lotsa To Love

lotsabianca

If I had only said only ‘Lotsa To Like’ that would imply that I really enjoyed it, but there was that little extra missing.  So I said I love it.  And indeed I do.  No embellishment of the truth is necessary.

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Lotsa (which now has several locations and growing) of Towson, MD is simple, effective, and to the point pizza.  It’s stone fried and even though it’s the equivalent of fast food, it tastes anything but.  This tastes like a real pizza.  Nothing about this is done halfway, even though the heating times ranges from three to five minutes.  And in those few minutes is where magic and wonder happens.

I know many folks are purists.  They wouldn’t even consider going into a pizza shoppe like this one.  I’m passionate about pizza but at the same time I like to give new places a chance.  And even though this is an expanding chain, it’s still the first time for me, and I’ve wanted to eat here since the Summer.

And to me pizza is pizza.  If it’s good than it’s good, no matter how it was created.  I respect the original forms but can appreciate what’s going on today.   I’m a traditionalist myself , but I would like to think there’s room for everyone.

Yes, I only heard about Lotsa going back to June, when it was on the verge of opening.  I had promised myself I would eat here before the year would be over.  I was cutting it close but I’m a man of my word.

I did no research on this place beforehand.  I wanted to go in with as little knowledge or biases as possible.  It’s good to know a few things ahead of time, such as the menu, and whether it’s casual or higher end dining, but unless absolutely necessary I’d like to have an unexpected and organic experience.   Calling it one or the other would be an understatement.

lotsastone

I had avoided as much as I could to have any preconceived notions.  But the way friends talked about this place made it seem like it was a fancier dining establishment.   To my pleasant surprise, it wasn’t.   Everything I mentioned earlier, about how it was quick and seamless I only found out about upon walking in.  I find that so cool.  Expect the unexpected, and don’t expect anything at all  For me at least, it’s more enjoyable that way.

So this is a recap of two separate visits.

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With visit number one, it was lunchtime, but I went with their Breakfast Pizza.  In the two years plus of doing this blog, this would be my first breakfast pie, and what a way to start. I adore this thing.   I was afraid it was going to be too heavy with the sausage and bacon, but it was just right.  The cheddar jack is the perfect cheese for this type of pie.  The spices from everything all come together so nicely.

But the standout is this dough.  It’s that comfort food style crisp and chewy bread that fits perfectly with this time of year.   This is the kind of bread I want when it’s freezing cold and I want to indulge in some bread in the comfort of my own home, with friends of in solitude.  It represents winter weather perfectly.  That’s not to say you should only have it around this time of year.  But I can’t say enough good things about their dough.

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Second, is the Bianca.  And doesn’t this just look like Christmas?  Look at these colors.   And again that dough.  Oh my goodness this is so good.  It’s charred to masterpiece like levels.  And that stone fired oven is a thing of beauty.    This bread tasted as good, if not better for round two.  Additionally, the provolone cheese truly makes this pizza something special and one I would get again.

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Actually I would get either of these again.   The garlic, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and all the other cheese with the aforementioned provolone make this a hit.  And it serves an audience seeking something lighter than the breakfast pie.  Did I mention it looks so Christmasy?   Yay!  I love Christmas!

As I mentioned, there’s currently just a few locations.  Local to our friends in Maryland, would be Towson and Annapolis.  So if you’re in the area I highly recommend checking them out.  And at about $8 for a personal pie, you can’t go wrong.

Oh and they were playing nothing but 90’s pop music throughout both my visits.  If that doesn’t sell you than I don’t know what will.

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Here’s their menu and more about Lotsa itself.

And here’s my previous visits to Towson in the form of pizza.

There’s a lot of holidays left and I hope you’ve been enjoying them with the people you love and maybe eating some good za!

I love the holidays!

Ideen

 

 

Frenchman Street

DizzyPie

Did I fool anyone with that title? My mind is still somewhere else or maybe it’s over here.

Nevertheless, we had the most dynamite individual pie brought to us by my new friends at Dizzy Cow Pizzeria.

I say friends because I chatted with them and explained what I was doing.  They were very receptive as long I was being positive.  How do you turn that down?  When supporting local and anything with good intentions, finding the heart and the good is the way to go.  More on that shortly.

Speaking of heart, St. Francis Neighborhood Center does a lot of good for the city of Baltimore.  I’m grateful to know some of the folks behind the operation and helped them volunteer at their Resource Fair & Music Festival this past weekend.  Links can be found here.

When I heard there would be food trucks I got the sense there’d be pizza.  Now I’ve reviewed a few in the past (click here for  more , over here, and wait up I got one more!) so you’d think I’d run out.  This isn’t the case as food trucks are still a growing phenomenon. I figure there’s room for everybody as long as the food and service is quality.

I’m glad I got to try Dizzy Cow for the first time at this event.  My first sight of them was at the Downtown Monument Lighting way back in December of last year.   The event was a frenzy, and as I was about to order some pizza, and snap some photos, my phone died.  It wasn’t meant to be.  It was too hectic, so in hindsight this all worked out like it was supposed to.

DizzyCheese

A dear friend had ordered the cheese earlier, or as they charmingly title it, ‘Old faithful’, and it was a great starter.   My friend pointed out, you always start with cheese.  That’s a recurring sentiment.  I knew I was in or something special.

Josh, the owner and operator could not have been more friendly.   And his associate Matt, was just as helpful in suggesting the most amazing of pies on this most momentous of days.

DizzyMenu

I wanted something different from the menu.  I wasn’t in the mood for meats or standard vegetables. Matt said his go to, if he was in the same frame of mind, would be the Frenchman, their house speciality.  No hesitation on my part.  The idea of honey, figs, and brie on a pie sounded awe-inspiring on the surface.  And unique is always good.  There’s plenty of weeks for your traditional pies.

DizzyPie2

It was so good that this had to be shared.  I believe three or four folks helped me finished it. When I say it like that you might think I didn’t want any more.  That wasn’t the case at all. This was tremendous.  Honey and fig are two of the essentials I need more of in my life. And that brie mixed in with the mozzarella, you’ve got to be kidding me.  Neither cheese got lost by the other.  But I could always use more brie.  Mozzarella isn’t going anywhere. I’m at the verge of drooling as I write this.  Where can I find some more?   And that soft yet slightly (done to perfection) crisp crust was perfect for this day.

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I didn’t miss the tomato sauce at all.

For my pizza pals in the Baltimore area, here is a list of where they’ll be on a weekly basis.

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And finally here is their catering and contact information.   A user friendly and simple website speaks volumes by the way.  Their amazing pies do all the talking it needs to.  I can’t wait to try them again, whether by chance or some other universal alignment.

I’m hungry now.

Take good care,

Ideen

All Fired Up

JZ'sDuo

A serendipitous moment took place at a wine festival I attended and volunteered at took place.  While sampling various vinos a little chow is not only going to be necessary, it’s going to be inevitable.

JZ'sTruck

From generic food stands to flavored nuts to seafood to pasta, and everything in between. I’m only glossing over what I saw or what I choose to see, but once I saw JZ’s Brick Oven Pizza, it only felt right and this was destined to be.

JZ'sSign

As you can see they had a limited menu for the festival which is only right.  You only need just a few slices to please everyone.  Luckily, they pleased me and it seems like most of the attendees would concur.

I went with the cheese and since I’ve seldom had it anywhere, the Greek.

What immediately stood out is how cheap all these slices were.   Everything, including the aforementioned slices, the pepperoni and buffalo chicken were only $3.00.  For any type party, festival, or facsimile that is a bargain.  And I may be understating that.  I’ve seen similar food trucks charge more than double what they’re asking for.  That’s automatic brownie (or cheesy, man I’m cheesy) points in my book.

JZ'sWoods

These slices would be worth double that.  I mean that sincerely.  These were highly enjoyable.  No it’s not going to win best pizza in the world nor that does scenario really apply here.   These tiny guys were delectable.  I really got the brick oven feel and taste that I haven’t always gotten from places that proclaim the same.  Maybe it’s the people and brains behind the operation, but the folks behind these slices seemed to be enjoying themselves.  And the charring looks artistic.

JZ'sCheese

In spite of the growing lines, my pizza came out swiftly and efficiently.  The cheese tasted exactly how I had hoped, nothing more, nothing less.  Maybe it was the festival vibe and atmosphere, but this was comfort food and it’s finest.  And this was a source of comfort.

JZ'sGreek

The Greek was the stand-out of the two.  I could have devoured a whole pie of these.  The garlic, feta, olives, spinach and tomatoes blended  together to make a champion.

Maybe the stroke of genius is these slimmer slices only left you wanting more.   I did notice familiar faces going back more seconds, and maybe thirds (even more?) and that’s the sign of a winner.

JZ'sOven

I do believe this would work in a multitude of settings.  The atmosphere of this event lent itself to foods and wines maybe tasting better than they normally would in a regular environment.   Most people aren’t too picky, they just want good food with a good vibe.  This was the best of both.

And I would love to have this again.

The website is easy to navigate.  The menu, contact information, and other particulars can be found all on the same page.   Everything about JZ’s would point to be being on the same page.

For more on the wine festival I added, you can go here or here.

I’d like to make mention that I had the good fortune of meeting someone, while volunteering, connected to this group but misplaced their contact information. She said her family is the ones behind this and have now opened up a new restaurant in the Towson, MD area.  I had promised to do an honest write-up and wanted to give them credit as well.  If you happen to read this I just wanted to make mention and say thanks so much.

Here’s to a great Summer and festival season,

Ideen

Neo Soul

NeoUpClose

Things do have a way of working out so serendipitously don’t they?

Shark Week starts this Sunday and I had no idea I would have the great joy in writing about a pizza relating to this massive event.

NeoFrontNeoSign

Per a recommendation from some good pals, I took the small trip to beautiful Annapolis, MD to one of the newest restaurants and pizza place in town, Neo.

Fortunately, I find myself in this mesmerizing town quite often, so I always welcome dining at any of their wonderful establishments.   My friends were recently dined here, during of the first weeks it was opened, and had nothing but stellar things to say about it. They said the pie, the vibe, the interior, and the location were awe-inspiring and were looking forward to returning soon.

I’m going to second that sentiment.    They’ve only been open since March, at the Annapolis Town Centre and all indications are that this place is going to rock the house.   I loved it.  I felt so at peace and spent nearly a good two hours there enjoying my pie, my wine, and the energy around me.

The timing of them opening in the Spring, with all the events and concerts nearby on the square could not have been any better.

So I’ve spoken about all the peripherals and details about everything other than the pie.  So how was my pie?

While perusing their menu I was indecisive in what to pull the trigger on.   So when it was suggested by one of the bartenders, who was very friendly may I add, to try the Great White, I was in. This was timed perfectly. I knew exactly what I would be writing about for today and got to try a new pizza in a new and clean restaurant.

NeoSharkWeekSpecial

The ingredients are listed above.  You can’t throw enough superlatives on this one.   We have a pie for the ages.  The crust was toasted to perfection.  It was just the right about of crispness to it, and still soft enough to enjoy.   The balance between thick and thin was in perfect alignment.

That’s a lot of adventurous items for a whole pie.  But nothing got lost in the shuffle.  Some flavors stood out more than others.   The cheeses all complemented one another for some savory bites.  I’ve always said that I love tomatoes on a pie, or on just about anything. And it added so much here.   And the olive oil added a little flair where you didn’t think it would need anymore.

NeoSlice

What can’t be discounted is the freshness of the basil and the arugula.  As you can see, especially the arugula, looks and tastes wondrous.   You’ve got be kidding me.  I was enjoying pulling a few pieces of basil and arugula and indulging in them on their own.

I just low how pizza has hit all new levels of creativity and continues to expand.   That’s where the sun-dried tomato aioli comes in.   What a way to top the whole thing off.  I wish I could post a million pictures of this pie. It’s one of the most inspired and exceptional meals I’ve had.

I had grilled chicken added to mine, as the person seated next to me as well as a few other folks in house, had done the same.   That was a great call.

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I learned from the bartender and the friendly chef that their oven was imported from Italy.  I love how they’re going all out on this.

NeoWithWine

Neo isn’t all about pizza.  As posted here and here, they have an expansive food and drink menu.  In traditional fashion, I reveled in my pie with a glass of red.   There was no rush in finishing this.   My sublime experience was two weeks ago. The staff didn’t know exactly when they would end the Shark Week promotion, but I’m going to assume that you have until at least next week to try this plate of joy

If you’re in the area I strongly recommend you do so.

NeoToGoBox

These are the places I really want to succeed.   I’m a staunch supporter of local restaurants and businesses, like many of us are.   I look forward to many visits in the future, and hopefully a couple more this Summer, to fully appreciate the warm weather and the towne center experience.

Thanks so much and Happy 4th!

Best,

Ideen

Iggie Pop

Iggies

The first time I visitied Iggies in Mt. Vernon, a few years ago, I didn’t fully appreciate my time there. I was just looking for a pie to go and to most likely eat in my car.   For a spot like this, it’s almost an insult to the establishment and to me.   Last night was a wonderful dining experience.

When I read the menu in advance, the immediate stand out was the Anatra Arrosta, which is the Roasted Duck.    I was looking for a different type of pie, and this was it.

Woof

I walked in and forgot how cool this place looked on the inside.  There were plenty of photos of Italian Greyhounds, that made this animal lover very happy.    I didn’t fully notice or appreciate the first time, if at all.    For this detail alone, this immediately becomes one of my favorite places.

menu

The menu options were abundant, which nearly led me to stray from my original choice.  But I’m glad I went with my first instinct.

pizza!

So how was the pizza?  Well it was amazing.  The whole ordering process at the counter, to when it was brought to me, took less than 10 minutes.

The simplistic recipe of mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, and shredded duck was absolute perfection.  The personal size I purchased filled me up, and I had about half my pie left.   One of my favorite things is seeing how the cheese is baked into the dough.  And how great does that look here?   The crust is thin and baked perfectly.  I enjoyed eating and savoring each bite.

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There’s so much additional charm here.  It’s a BYOB spot, so folks were bringing in bottles of wine and their favorite case of cold ones.   My pairing of choice was the complimentary water in a dixie cup!  This is stuff for the ages folks.

I wish I could say more to give this place justice.  They have a Pizza Of The Moment, which rotates periodically.

pizzabox

My favorite part of all is that they help support local charities, and any that help animals, I am always  a fan of.

The amount of creations I want to try here are plentiful.  Iggies could have a blog dedicated to them all its own.   I will be back.  And soon.

entrance

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen