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

 

 

More Pizza With My Poppa

GiuseppisSlices2

After last week, I’m feeling even more compelled to get nostalgic about pizza memories and the town of Rockville, MD, where my dad has built a great reputation for himself as a small business owner, and has cultivated and nourished relationships for over 35 years

Time flies…

As time goes on, towns change and they tend to start looking like every other.  That can be good but in many instances sentimental folks such as myself miss how towns looked 20+ years ago, and in some instances still look like today, but are on the verge of changing.  With that situation I almost feel that the historic parts of a town, or the signs on the road are there in spite of, or in spite of everything else around it.   See what I’m saying?

The more things change, some things to remain the same.  My dad’s business has changed locations ever so slightly.  Literally from one suite many years ago to its current location.  But the heart and soul has remained the same throughout its entirety.

GiuseppisFront

I want to believe the same goes for Giuseppe’s Pizza Plus. Here is their menu.

Many years ago it was located in an old looking and aging strip mall (many years ago you would’t call it that), but it was home to many visits by me and my friends after high school or after classes at the local community college.  And sometimes I would grab a slice or pie with my dad.   It was walking distance, so it was convenient, but in a way we took it for granted, because it was so close.

We didn’t eat here enough but when we did we acknowledged that it’s good pizza that fills you up, makes you feel good, and made life easy when cooking or sitting at a restaurant isn’t an option.   And the affordability was a plus too.

GiuseppisSign

The tremendous deal I remember still exists.  Even with inflation, two slices and a soda is only $5.50.  Beautiful.

And now it sits in its current home next to a movie theater.   You can call it movie theater pizza, you can all it anything you want.  But it’s pizza that you can appreciate for what it is.  It’s the history I have with the place that brings me back.  No it’s not the best pizza you or I will ever have.  But does it really matter in this or most circumstances?  Five dollars and change is the best.

GiuseppisSlices1

For my father I got a cheese and random toppings on the other.  He just likes pizza with toppings on them, that don’t always make sense.  But for me I find that endearing.  And I got a somewhat supreme slice with just the pepperoni, onions, and peppers.

Everything was fresh and everything was fine.  It’s going be to be fine…

Thinking back to how the interior and exterior used to be versus now, it’s a tremendous upgrade.  The same goes for its other location in Gaithersburg.  And here is more about this great family business.

I was thinking about this earlier today before writing.  My dad once lived within walking distance of the Gaithersburg location and didn’t go often.  Again, maybe because it’s always gong to be there.

I say lets not take things for granted.  There will always be reasons to go or not go somewhere, to try or avoid something new, and throw all the excuses or ignoring signs to do this or that.  But it’s important to appreciate what’s around you along with going outside of where you reside or work.   But it’s also important to appreciate what’s right in front of you.  This isn’t just abut a restaurant, store, or entity near you.  It’s about everything.  It’s ok to walk past something to revisit it later.  But if something is there, waiting to be embraced, then that’s exactly what you and I should do.

I write this projecting a lot, because life is about seizing the moment and grabbing things while you still can, and while you’re still here on this Earth.

This is only a pizza blog, but it’s the spiritual aspects that I wanted to hone in on.  And I don’t just mean this week, but preceding posts and for the duration.  I will as much as I can.

But for now, I’m sending good vibrations to you, my father, my family, my friends, and the rest of the universe.

There may be one more post down the line incorporating pizza, my dad, and my family. And after that, I hope the next time will be a meal which actually involves my loving family sitting together, and embracing all the love we have or one another.

I look forward to this happening soon.

Peace Be With You,

Ideen

The Best View

wholefoodsshrimp

I honestly don’t know what to say.   Columbia, MD has always been an intriguing topic of discussion with my friends.  Actually I tend to be the one that brings it up.  I’m softy for the area.  Some of my friends don’t care for it for the same reasons I adore it.  It’s been deemed to safe, too happy, and too transparent.  Well it may be all of those things to some and some (or many) may be fine with that.    I see the good but understand why others see the negatives.

wholefoodsfront

As we approach the town’s 50th birthday (which I didn’t know about until doing research), I thought it would be cool to do another write-up (here’s my original) about one of the the best places to live in the states.  And based on this intro, it almost makes complete sense to write about the local Whole Foods.

wholefoodsview2

Yes they have pizza, something which not every store has.  They also have one of the most incredible views you’ll ever see from a grocery store, like the one you see above.  But how was the pizza?  In short, I’ve had much better.  I’m also looking at this from a standpoint of this being a supermarket.   That doesn’t mean I’m lowering my standards.  It means I still expect it to be on par with the better pizzas we’ll have at a restaurant or at home.  It should still taste good.

wholefoodsprices

There was a lot of confusion with what their pizza is.  Is it Artisanal, Neapolitan, Wood Fired, Brick Oven, or all of the above?  That first word, artisanal, is used so much and by everybody, I’m not sure how much value it has anymore.  This has nothing to do with Whole Foods, but everywhere.

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I went with the Grilled Shrimp Pizza (which was the weekly special) and the White. Neither blew me away nor was either one terrible.

wholefoodsshrimp5

The shrimp looked mightily impressive but something just didn’t add up.  I think as whole these ingredients didn’t work well together.    I love feta, shrimp, tomatoes, and red onions.  And I imagine if this was prepared in a different fashion or with a different energy (but with the exact ingredients and dough) that this would work to near perfection.   Maybe feta on top of mozzarella is a clash of two cheeses.  It may not work.

However, even when I picked off the shrimp, it didn’t taste like I had hoped.  The sauce may have tarnished the shrimp and everything else.  These ingredients don’t work with their tomato sauce.  The crust wasn’t anything special either.  This pizza was ok but this was an opportunity lost.

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The white was a little better but not anything special.  It was kind of just there.  And I’m honestly surprised.  I thought this would be simple yet delicious, and I wasn’t wowed by it. Both slices were ok to eat but not out-of-this-world.  And I didn’t finish either.

I can’t complain on the prices though.  For a place that charges a lot of for their groceries, salad bar, and hot bar, etc., getting two slices for $6 is a bargain anywhere.

I just wished what I ate would have been one to write home about, as opposed to expressing my disappointment.   This won’t deter me from trying some more in the future.   As you can see, they have an assortment of slices and I’m certain there’s a few that will be praised in a post here down the line.

But these views from the outside dining area are worth coming back for alone.  This is one of the newer additions in town, and one of the more visually pleasing parts of town.  That storefront is quite welcoming.  It draws me in more time than not when I’m visiting.  I haven’t done many repeats, yet I’ve teased doing some down the line.  This has been added to that list.

So as I’ve said before, this is just the beginning…

Ideen

 

Dogs = Love

petespizzaupclose

You know what makes most people happy besides pizza?

The comfort and companionship of our animal friends is invaluable.  There is no price the love and friendship that comes from a dog, a cat, or any of our other pals with paws brings. So when I find a place, not just a pizza place, but a place that supports helping and protecting our friends, I’m all aboard and then some.   More on this near the end.

I had been to Lost Dog Cafe one time but I didn’t order anything. My time was limited and was only looking for slices on that particular day.  The wait time was 15-20 minutes for food that I decided that day was not meant to be.   Why force the issue on some deliciousness when you know that there will be a place for this in time.

There’ll be a day where I can appreciate a pie where a little more time and craftsmanship than usual.  Man I’m setting myself up for a disappointment aren’t I?   Well when it comes to an individual sized pie (which is the smallest they have) I’m hoping for something that feels a little more, well personal.

lostdogssign

That day was yesterday.  Call it fate, call it destiny, call it I happened to be in Arlington, and a Lost Dog Cafe was mere minutes from me.   Here we go.

lostdogsfront

South Arlington was the setting and upon walking up, I felt like I was on a set of a movie and everyone was on break.  It seemed eerily quiet.  It was lunch hour so I wonder where all the people went. But I should also appreciate the quiet time that has been presented to me, as I know it’ll be temporary.

Inside there’s nothing but pictures and murals of dogs in happy situations.  That makes me happy.  I took some but wanted to leave more to your imagination.  If you’ve been here, like many of my friends in Northern Virginia have, you know any of their locations have set ups like this.

If I lived here I’d be a regular of all five, in some way, shape, or form.  That form would be the love of pizza and pups.

So like I was saying, I’ve praised this place beyond the point of turning back.  Am I positioning myself for a letdown?  Absolutely not.

lostdogmenufront

Since this was officially my first time ordering, I did strain and agonize over what to get. The menu has more choices than a simple man knows what do to do with.  I mean this is life changing stuff.   This could make a break a persons day or life.  Wait did I just  say that? Priorities.

Then something hit me.  Breathe, relax, it’s not that serious.  It’s not.  I may always be this way but the pizza and ordering experience in general, but it’s supposed to be fun.  We have enough unnecessary stress, this should not be one of them.

petespizza

After that over-the-top dramatic build, I went with Pete’s Pie, which is one of their newer recipes.

I don’t know who Pete is but I want to say thank you.  Oh my and pizza party was this a pie. I was engrossed in this excitement I forgot the base of this was a white pie.  At $12, this was a deal and a steal.

petespizza2

That crust is comfort food to the max.  I can only describe it as something that is perfect to pair with a soup or any many meal.  It feels like this dough matches the change in the weather.  Of course this would be enjoyed year round, but I felt like as a introduction, this is how it was always supposed to be.

Pete’s hot sauce along with not just red onion, but green onion, might sound fiery, but anyone can handle this.   And that shredded chicken, you’ve got to be kidding me. Chicken whether it’s in strips, cubed, or dice, is all wonderful.  But something about shredded gives you more flavor and more of a savory taste when eating.

lostdogpizzabox

This pie never had a chance.  Well I did save some for later.  And it was just as awesome the second time around.

But what’s even more awesome is what they do for our animal friends.  For the past 15 years,  they’ve been helping displaced animals find homes.  Links are provided here and if you’re interested in reading more about them and donating, click here.

On that alone, I want to be a support of there’s for life.  Having phenomenal pizza is a bonus at this point.  It’s just a little gravy on a wonderful experience that brings positive energy to our pals with paws, and on that note, to our universe in general.

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I only wish I had  been here sooner, as in years ago.

Here’s their contact info, online ordering info, and their beer and wine list, which I haven’t even touched upon. Especially with the latter that just means I must come back. With the charisma this place exudes, this’ll be soon.  Hopefully their original location will be next.

I love it,

Ideen

 

 

 

Pearl Jam

PearlStreetPie2

When you think of Albany, NY, the first thing that comes to your mind is pizza.  I know. Same goes for me.

All jokes aside, the slices and pies from other parts of the state you might have heard of are coming.  But I was in Albany this past week and since I’m here so infrequently, a pizza recap is necessary.

I was with a buddy walking around down looking for a bite to eat.   There’s quite a few cozy bars and restaurants nearby, and for no discerning reason we walked into The Pearl Street Pub & Dirty Martini Lounge.   The second part of that, the martini lounge, I had no idea about until looking at it today.  Haha.  No martinis on this day.

I was yearning for pizza somewhere over this random road trip and stay, and didn’t expect it here.  But oh how the universe looks out.   I looked at the menu and like a little kid shouted, “they have pizza!”.  Well not quite that corny but some facsimile.  I did a fist bump and did a little dance around the crowded bar.  No that didn’t happen either.

The online menu differs from the restaurant one.  I see options for pies that weren’t presented to me in-house.

Our server informed me because they were redoing the menu, but that I could still do build-your-own pie.  That’s exactly what I did.  I was excited.

After careful deliberation (10 seconds), I ordered a pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, and peppers.  In essence this was a supreme.  I was forewarned that this was a massive pie that could feed 2-3 people.  She wasn’t kidding.

It was a lot more dough than I could handle.   The photos do not like.   It was soft, squishy, heavy, yet decent.  It’s not a pie that’s going to win any awards.   I don’t think that matters to them.

PearlStreetPie

I was starving so at the time anything is likely going to taste incredible.   The toppings were great.  The pepperoni and veggies tasted fresh and authentic.

The cheese may have been lost by a bit more tomato sauce than I was hoping for.   I barely ate a third of it at the restaurant.   Solely because it was so gargantuan.   The leftovers tasted just fine over the next couple of days.

Pearl was busy was for happy-hour and the folk visiting all seem to be in good spirits.  We were as well.   It helped with the experience as it always does.

For just my second visit to Albany, I’ve found myself becoming sentimental and partial to it.  We all have our reasons why we love coming to a new town or old one.   I’ll be back again.

Stay warm,

Ideen

 

A Very Special…

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I love today.  I’m also sad the holidays are winding down.  Christmas means so much to so many.  It’s about the friends, the family, and the love.

Oh and there’s all that food!

I wish there was a feeling of love all the time.   But as several wise folks have said, it all starts with me.   Maybe the holidays wouldn’t feel so special if it were to occur throughout the year.   So it’s up to me, you, or whoever to spread cheer and positivity as much as possible.  I adore the sentimentality.

And speaking of such joy…

wawalogo

Wawa is sentimentality at its height.   Ever since my first visit in 2000, I’ve been captivated ever since.

When I discover a new Wawa store driving on a highway or a random stretch of road I’m compelled to go in, even if all I get is a coffee or tea. It’s the energy of the store.  It’s an attachment to the good that it represents.  I can never have enough.

In here it always feels like Christmas.

So to my pleasure it was great to discover that they serve Focaccia Pizzas. This is a fairly new discovery.  I think they were introduced back in the fall of 2014.  That’s the first time I saw them.

wawapizzas

I’ve had all 5 pies listed, and they’re not going to be the best pizza you’ve ever had.  And you shouldn’t expect them to be.  But they’re enjoyable on the soft and squishy focaccia bread provided.

If you’re expecting world class pizza, you will be disappointed.   I do find the bread to be heavy and prefer to share the individual pie with someone else.  It’s ambitious to finish this on my own.

Over the course of recent history, I’ve had the buffalo chicken and the vegetable.   I found them both enjoyable within the expectations set forth by myself and within Wawa’s food quality.

The buffalo chicken sauce is really in-your-face and might be a bit arduous for some, but I took my time eating this.   The cream cheese was a bit dense and a substantial amount was thrown on there too.   The chicken and provolone were great.  They really made this pie.  It was the simple stuff that was the best.  I’ve seen this pattern before.

I dig the packaging too.  That can be seen above and below.

The vegetable one I had this week.  Doesn’t it look and feel like Christmas?  Ah those colors are magical. How are the flavors?   The spinach, tomatoes, and onions are magnificent.  I’ve enjoyed them on my subs and I enjoy them here.   This almost looks too pretty to eat. But I ate it.  And I picked the cheese and vegetables off at times when the bread was too much to eat.   But I will gladly get this one again.

A gentleman noted how amazing it looked when I grabbed my pie.   It tells me that he and many others may still not realize pizza is on the menu.

For folks who have been there, you know what you’re going to get. And it’s usually good.  This is not going to be the greatest pizza you’ll have and I doubt you would expect it to be.  But you will likely find joy, peace, and comfort here.  This isn’t just during the holidays but all year round.

For more on this fun store, you can go here and here.

I go to a store at least five times and will be headed there later today.  Yes they’re open on Christmas! Yes!

I will conclude with that.  I want to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and anything else you celebrate.  This is a special time of year that I wish was perpetual.   But once again, it’s up to me.  It’s up to you.  It’s up to all of us.

All the best,

Ideen

The Slice Is Right

The timing of this post is right.  I have some dear friends headed to New Orleans next week and I thought it was only right to go back into my archives for this week’s pizza extravaganza!

I love this city, I love the energy, the people, the outdoor festivals and parties, bars, restaurants, people watching, sight-seeing, and everything in between.  I know I just used a lot of similar narratives but so be it. I am getting emotional looking back and photos and writing today’s post.

SliceFrontSliceSign

After a quick ride from the airport and dropping my bags off my room, I was not about staying inside whatsoever.   I never had that much of a set plan while I was there except for maybe trying a few pizzerias.  It only seems right for changing the geography of this blog when I can.

I wrote about an incredible spot back in July and I’m grateful to be writing about Slice Pizzeria in the beautiful St. Charles neighborhood.

This was actually planned.  Sometimes they do come together. My room was just minutes away.  When I arrived here I got goose bumps.  I’m getting goose bump and chills now.

A few friends had suggested this place to me and I’m all for fun places to go along with wherever random and unexpected turns I make in my travels.

I knew I was in good for a great day and great visit. The inside is so laid-back and so charming.  There were a few regulars and enjoying their food and their cold ones.   It felt so right and a nice start before I did more of the touristy stuff.

Now onto the slices!

SliceCheeseUpClose

First up, in typical vacation fashion, I ordered a cheese slice.   The crust on all of these is perfectly cooked and a bit crunchy. That’s a good thing.   The slices were crisp and thin so I never got bloated.  And that’s good because I would be over-indulging for the majority of the trip shortly thereafter.

I think the cheese was solid but I wasn’t blown away by it.   It was enjoyable but nothing out-of-the-ordinary. However, at $2.75, it’s very reasonably priced.  That was a pleasant treat.

SliceMenu

After that slow start I got a bit more ambitious.  The menu had a nice breakdown of pies between Classic, Signature, and Native.  I think that’s a wonderful touch.

SliceUpClose

Next was the Sportman’s Paradise.  We had a lot of moving parts on this one.   The shrimp and sausage mixed together definitely gave it some power.  I had to pick some of the pieces off just to see how they tasted on their own.  And they were brilliant.

In my honest opinion, having the onions, peppers, and tomatoes might have been a bit much.  Don’t get me wrong, this was another good pizza but I think there may have been one or two toppings too many.   Sometimes less is more and that’s what I felt here. But how can you complain at $4.25 a slice.  This was worth that.  I just think this slice could be incredible as opposed to just really good.

SliceDuo!

So I ordered those two slices together and usually I’d be done at this point.  But I’m in a different universe. It’s time to get ambitious and inspired.  And this final slice I ordered is exactly that.

SliceSpecialty

SliceBBG

The B.B.G., which is short for Bacon, Basil, and Garlic is one of those slices I still think about.   Maybe that saving the best for last and the third time is a charm cliché applies here.  I can’t rave about this one enough.   This is how less is more and how every topping really means something here.

I wish I had ordered a pie of this.  This was heavenly, divine, cosmic, metaphysical, and out-of-this-world.   And at $3.50 I felt like I was stealing from them.  We all know how amazing white pizza is.  But these simple additions really make this something to behold.   The garlic, bacon, and that fresh basil thrown on top is pure eye-candy.  It was almost too beautiful to eat.  Thankfully I saved a photo.

SliceWine

And you know I’m going to enjoy some vino with my meal.

This is how I will always remember how I started my vacation.  And knowing who I am, this was perfect.  I am missing this amazing city as I write all this.  It’s only been four months but I’m feeling incredibly nostalgic and yearning to go back.

The bartender was very friendly and this made the experience all that much better.

SliceTees

There will be more NOLA posts to come.  When the timing feels right.  This feels right.

I miss it.

Best,

Ideen