About Those Star Ratings

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There’s an infatuation and obsession (wait, isn’t that the same thing), with this need to always achieve five stars, or as close to it as possible.  For those in the service industry, it’s five stars or bust.   Anything else is viewed as a failure.  And even if the folks doing the ratings think a four out of five is good, we often times misconstrue that as a failure.  We can let that ruin our days, and sometimes longer.

If you’re sensitive like me, it might take a little while to recover.  But recover I do, recover we do, and life goes on.  But we still want the highest ratings possible.  And as a someone who does reviewing, I don’t like to give less than five, unless the experience is truly catastrophic.  There’s that thing about the Golden Rule, which I agree with; and then there’s a little thing called seeing the good in everything.

Where am I going with all this?  Well my thing with the star ratings actually dates back 25 plus years (yes I’m a little older now), and for those that know me, they know I love professional wrestling.  And for those of us who like to be in the know, the star ratings for matches are a thing we can get carried away with, argue over, and be obsessed with. It’s to the point that we’re now ratings things six stars and above.  And it’s nice to be acknowledged for going above and beyond.  Many of us just want to give the proper respect and love that’s due, and we like to receive some of that ourselves.

We don’t ask for much in life, except to give good and to receive good.

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With that being said, I find it charming that a couple of visits to Pie Five, that one of their pizzas is called the Five Star. This is their supreme pizza, which like all of their pies, is now the wave of the present.  They prepare everything in front of you, and make it real quick.  That’s all there is to it.

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Now some find this the antithesis of pizza, and defeats the art of making a pie from start to finish.  Those concerns are more than warranted.   And this has become the new and ever growing pizza chain concept; quick, easy, get in and get out.

For most people, who are on a time crunch, this will be just fine, and for others they can’t ever be won over.  But before I completely lose track, how was the Five Star?  I had it on a traditional crust, and while it’s not memorable, it’s just fine.  I didn’t expect this to be this mesmerizing pizza.  That’s not what I was looking for, nor should anybody, but that’s all up to you.  This is a solid pie, solid toppings, and with a simple crust.  If you’re expecting world class and that artisanal business, this is not it.  If you want a decent pie, at $8, and a satisfactory meal, that’s what you’re going to get.

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This is more than a pizza, that’s ‘just there’, it has value to so many, and that’s all that matters, or else there wouldn’t be an assembly line of people, especially during the lunch hours.

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Another visit means another order, and this most recent time I went with the Pesto Chicken Alfredo on their thin crust.   The Basil Drizzle was a nice touch, to an otherwise satisfactory pie, which is what I expected. The pesto lover in me set the bar and expectations a little lower, so I wasn’t pleasantly surprised nor disappointed.  This crust is thin alright and noticeably smaller than their traditional, so that’s a plus.

I noticed recently they’ve now introduced the cauliflower crust.  I haven’t had the opportunity to have their pizzas with said crust, but personally I’ve tried it and loved it, so I look forward to either having that crust here, or somewhere else.  Like the quick and easy pizzas, the cauliflower crust is another growing phenomenon.   I know….

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I’m not opposed to doing chains, and because I focus so heavily on Maryland, DC, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, this blog may not resonate with everyone at all times.  So I’m happy and grateful to expand to do a growing chain that seems to mean well.

Their signage  (and there’s more than just the two above) shows that good intention and sense of humor.

For more on Pie Five, here is their menu, a location nearest you, and more about them.

Thanks so much, peace be with you, and keep being your five star self.

Ideen

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Is Energy

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This one of those stories that reminds us why this life is an amazing ride.  It’s a roller coaster alright. There’s lots of twists, turns, and all those other events that remind me us that everything is right with the world, and it can a magical place, if you let it.  If you let yourself go and let things come to you. you will attract certain people, events, and situations in your life, and it will become second nature.

I want to believe this is what happened here.

After what seemed like any other day of hanging out in the Fells Point neighborhood (my Fells Point pizza history can be found here) of Baltimore, a dear friend noticed new signage, for a new business that literally opened up a few days ago.   If I hadn’t seen this, I would have walked by and not thought anything of it. Not yet at least.  In time I would have gotten to Pie in the Sky, but timing is everything.

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The time is now.  The moment is now.  These windows of opportunity come and go, without us even realizing it most of the time.  But when you see it, it’s time to seize it.

I promise I will get to the actual pizza itself shortly.

From the outside looking in, the business itself didn’t actually look open.  I saw a gentleman on his laptop and another person hanging around the kitchen it seemed.  Now you see soft openings, friends and family openings, and in other instances you just see people preparing and setting up for when a place actually is ready to open to the public, for everyone’s enjoyment.

So yes, I almost didn’t walk in.  I’ve made so many hesitations in my life, so many times where I could have done this or that; the could’ve, would’ve, and should’ve scenarios that go on in a person’s life.  And there’s been so many instances where I didn’t walk in somewhere or take a chance because a place, or door, or opportunity seemed closed.  It’s all perception and it’s all what’s going on in my head, not with the outside world.  The outside world exists yes, but it’s not my world or your world.

See what I’m saying?  We can carve our own realities and imprints in this lifetime.  We can create memories, situations, and alter the course of our lives, with just a few simple decisions, changes, and maybe branching out of our comfort zones.

While it might just be a pizzeria or restaurant, to me this was something bigger than me, bigger than ourselves, and bigger than anything I can quantify.

So I walked in…

Something hit me, I felt compelled to explain what it is that I do.  So yes, the place was open, and all those unwarranted fears subsided.

I met Murat, the owner and he could have not been more gracious and helpful in coming up with what to write about for this blog.    It was so gratifying.

He let me take a tour of the kitchen and the ovens, where he simply explained that he makes all the sauces and pizza dough himself.  The olive oil is genuine, the toppings are the real deal, and so is the entire energy of this place.

I was flattered that Murat would give me the opportunity to explore this beauty of a restaurant and give me some insight into what he wants to do, plans to do, and where he’s been in the past.

This is where things get crazy, but in a good way.

He told me that he also runs a pizza place further up in Northern Baltimore, and while this is going on, I’m starting to sense where this is going.  That weird feeling of anticipation about what he’s about to say.  And when he mentioned Toss, I just had this freaking out moment (once again in the best way possible), because I’ve told people that Toss (review is here, and man where did three years go, and my writing style has evolved…) is one of the best pizza places in Baltimore, and one of the best pizza places in Baltimore that many don’t even know about.

It’s one of those things where Toss is a secret to many, but a secret that’s meant to be shared and shared with the universe.

And now it’s time to share how amazing Pie in the Sky truly is.

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Based on our conversation, and what I ate at Toss (the pies are similar and that’s an absolutely beautiful thing), Murat made me a half chicken pesto and half portabella mushroom pie, that is one for the ages and one for the books, or those top lists people like to make sometimes, haha.

When the vibe is going well, the pizza (or anything) is going to taste, feel, and hit you that much better.  This is what happened here.

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And I’m honored and grateful that Murat would make a half-and-half for me of this magnitude and with this precision, love, and care.   It makes me feel good writing about this and sharing this with you.

This pizza is incredible.

But it’s not just because of the organic ingredients, the dough, the crust, the sauce, the toppings, (gluten free and vegan options are also available), and everything other little detail.  It became from a place of soul, of kindness, and of heart.  And that’s just as, if not more important to the actual food or substance itself.  There’s a different kind of character, soul, and substance that can’t be measured nor should it be.

This was an experience I’ll remember forever, and one that almost didn’t happen.  Thinking about that gives me chills, goose bumps, and a feeling of relief.  I’m so happy and grateful this happened.

If you’re in the Fells Point area, I strongly recommend a visit to Pie in The Sky.  If it’s great this early, I can only imagine the incredible heights this place is headed to.

I’m grateful to Murat for his hospitality, grateful to the universe, and grateful to my dear friend for suggesting I write about it, and take the plunge.

Pie in the Sky is going to be massive.  It’s a secret and gem, that I’m honored to share with you.  And I’m honored to say, there at the beginning…

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

 

…Are The Best People

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I’m not sure what to make of this.   I took the title off of the window display of this weeks recap, Piazza 27.  Until three days ago I hadn’t heard a thing about it.  But you know how thing are, you hear about an entity once, you constantly hear about it as it gains momentum in your head, in your life, and within the universe and atmosphere around you.

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But the things I’ve been hearing about Piazza 27 are on the level of life changing, astounding, and out of body, even more so out of this world.

Locals in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore (this is still one of my favorites) have been clamoring for a pizza place with simple New York Style slices to either eat in or carry out.  It’s one of those things that I’m proclaiming based on observation and based on the word-of-mouth momentum I alluded to in the previous paragraph.   I understand that.

Mt. Vernon is a neighborhood full of character, amazing architecture, great shops, bars, and restaurants of all nationalities and styles, but sometimes you just a simple slice of pizza with little wait time.   And this is what Piazza 27 is providing to locals, and students from nearby universities and institutions.

For that and among many other reasons is why I think people love this place so much.  It’s a hidden them that’s going to explode, whether it’s because of this blog or not, is another thing.  But I’m going to show my support because local business with a good energy, a good aura, and friendly people behind the counter (and they were friendly for sure) is always worthy of attention and admiration.  We don’t give enough of it.  We can never give enough.  It’s just the way it is.

But with that being said, how was the pizza?

I honestly felt influenced by the incredible reviews of this place on their Facebook page and other sites (they don’t have a website yet, which I actually find awesome) that is may have been hard to be practical in my own critiques.

I’ve been guilty in the past of buying into the dogma of a place, and going against my own genuine opinion, because so many other people have lauded the place to the point of annoyance.  And the counter to that would be I would find a place less than stellar in comparison to the reviews, because it was either out of spite or because I was sick of hearing about it.

The fact that I’ve already said all this would lend you to believe that my opinion might still not be own but headed towards a confirmation bias one way or another.

Well I’m going to do my best to say how I truly feel, but with the suggestion that you should try this place yourself if you live in and around Baltimore, Mt. Vernon, or plan on visiting.

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I purchased 4 slices with the total being only about $13.   If you do the math, this is a deal, a bargain, and this will get you two lunches worth at least.  Yes I made this into multiple meals.  I can’t eat this all at once, that would be crazy,  or would it?  Hmmm…

The friendly face behind the counter was just that.  She could not have been more kind in explaining every slice to me.   That’s the stuff that’ll make people keep coming back, and they’ve been coming back alright, or so I heard.

For this final pizza post of 2017, the four slices I purchased were cheese, white with veggie, chicken bacon ranch, and chicken bacon pesto.  That last one, I know I know.. It’s different alright.

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I want to be honest here.  All the slices were really good to great.  I completely understand why people are raving about this.  The crust, the dough, the sauce, and the way it was heated were great on some slices, and better on the others.

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But I also want to understand where folks are coming from.  I think if the pizza quality was a tad lower, I sense a lot of people would still be thinking highly of this place. It’s just a thought.  There was a lack and this place filled it, but it filled it and then some.  The pizza is terrific.

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Yet some are calling it the best pizza in Baltimore, the best New York pizza they’ve ever had outside of New York, and some have said it’s the best pizza every.   This isn’t hyperbole, reviews are here & here saying similar things.  There’s local community sites sharing that same sentiment.

Piazza27ChickenPesto

I can’t say it’s the best pizza,  but that’s not a fair thing to say anyways.  It’s great pizza.  The cheese and chicken bacon pesto were the two favorites of mine.  And you know you can tell what’s a good pizza place if their cheese slice is good, then it’s going to be the gateway to other tremendous pizzas.

I’ve always loved pesto but this is up there with the best of the best pesto.  And how it doesn’t clash with the the bacon is a pleasant surprise.

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That’s not to say that the other two slices weren’t great.  They were delicious.  The white is one of the better whites I’ve had, and the veggies didn’t get in the way like some places might.  It complemented the white slice so well you could easily taste the ricotta, garlic, and olive oil.

I got a kick out of walking out of the place with this big to-go box in my hand.  Based on how I was feeling and the location, it only seemed fitting.

These slices also tasted like brand new a day later.  And that’s the best judge of a place.  I think these could last a few days and still taste great. Easy to say about any decent leftover pizza, but there is an aura about this place and these slices.

I’d say definitely go here.  There’s something going on alright.  Best pizza ever?  Not to me, but I’m just one opinion.  It’s great pizza at a great price, at what seems to be the ideal location.  A few businesses have been unsuccessful since I’ve been in the area, but I think that’s over now.  I know that’s over now.   We have liftoff.

We have a winner here in Piazza 27, and once they gain even more momentum, all bets are off.

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They’ve only been open a month (menu can be found here) but the cat’s been long out of the bag.

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I’m going to have to come back here and do a sequel.  Something magical is going on here, and I’m even getting a better energy and feeling as I write about it.

Happy New Year, Peace Be With You, and I’ve got to come back here.  And soon.

Ideen

 

 

 

I Love This Weekend

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Sometimes life works out, the planets and stars align, and the universe does look out for you.  It looks out for us in more ways than we realize.  We might not always see it.  I know I don’t always see it.   And even with all the good that is about to transpire this weekend,  I may not fully grasp how beautiful the next few days are going to be, until way after its over.  I know I’ll love it while it’s happening, but I’ll look back fondly on it even more as time goes by.  This is more than nostalgia or reminiscing.  Some thing just hit you.  You wish time would stand still, you could do this all day, you could do this forever, and you could be around these people forever.

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What I’m referring to is the annual CASAblanca Gala presented by Anne Arundel County CASA, this Saturday, November 4th.

I mentioned Anne Arundel County, which is synonymous with Annapolis.  I’ve said plenty of good about our state capitol in the past, yet I can never say enough.

My dear friend Rebecca is the Executive Director of Anne Arundel County CASA, and it’s an amazing time to share with friends and to support a wonderful cause.  This their 20th year holding the event, which takes place at the beautiful Westin Hotel in Annapolis.   It’s my third year attending, and the third time is a charm to finally write about…

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Carpaccio Tuscan Kitchen is literally footsteps from the Westin, and has been as convenient and a go-to for me as any.  Well why do I say convenient and go to?  Isn’t this a sit-down restaurant with fine dining, a place to relax, and appreciate the food and surroundings?  Well yes, but I’ve actually never eaten here.   What I’m actually referring to is Carpaccio 2go which is adjacent to the restaurant, and I mean this with all sincerity, looks like something I’ve never seen.   I almost feel like it’s too good to be true in a way.  I don’t know how to explain it but the location is perfect, and I can’t exactly put my finger on why.

Maybe because many pizza places with slices to go don’t look as beautiful as this.  But if you look around the vicinity, the tiny of white colors of the building, the hotel, and the residential units across the way, all match.  While the area looks pricey, and of course it is, it almost feels supernatural in a way.  Again, it’s all open to your interpretation, but there’s an architectural and metaphysical force that worked in concert with each other to create all this.  In some ways, it”s almost too beautiful.  But I should appreciate all the beauty for what it is.

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I’ve been to the carry out side many times and because of the location and the aura I was feeling, I had immensely high expectations.  Now, not every time is going to be mentioned or will every slice be featured.  I will reserve it to two visits for now, which means a total of four slices.

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The first visit I will discuss was back in late Summer.  Now it’s hot and pizza is hot, so what am I trying to say?  I really don’t know haha, but my slices on this day were the Sausage and Peppers, and then Chicken Pollo. Now I know what I was trying to say.  I think some slices work better in different climates, similar to how we drink wine, and how we eat other foods during certain times and certain seasons.

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While I’ve had mainly good experiences here, I know the best was still to come.  The sausage and peppers with onions was really good, and went great with your standard mozzarella cheese slice.  I will say without sounding like a broken record, the crusts on all these slices were heated tremendously.  You can see the colors across the board.  There was a lot of time and care put into the making of the dough and the heating.  You don’t need to be an expert.   You can just tell those things.

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Now I had high aspirations for the pesto.  I’ve ranted and raved about my love for pesto throughout my journey, and I wanted to love this one so much.  It was good but I know the best was still to come.  The pesto aioli was fantastic.  Maybe for me the white pizza with chicken, tomatoes, and those yummy mushrooms (more on the mushrooms shortly), caused a little bit of the flavors to be lost.   But still a good slice I would definitely have again.

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Now moving on to earlier this week, this is where expectations were matched and succeeded.

It almost seemed like the pizzas on display looked shinier and brighter, and I could do no wrong no matter what I ordered.  I was spot on and then some.

CarpaccioMargherita

The Margherita looks like art and tastes like art.  The marinara sauce is heavenly.  The photo doesn’t say it all but it says a lot.  Oh my goodness.  This is up there with one of the better slices I’ve had. The basil, garlic, mozzarella, and olive oil just makes this simple pizza one of the best I’ve had not just here but anywhere.  And the crust was even better today.

CarpaccioWildMushroom

Not to be outdone is the Wild Mushroom.  I love mushrooms and can have them with just about anything.  But when you throw gorgonzola, you’ve got to be kidding me, this is a gem.  Cremini and portobello mushrooms really make this pie but the combination of two contrasting cheese in mozzarella and gorgonzola also make this an absolute masterpiece.

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Recall how I said you look back on things with even more love and romanticism as time goes by?  This is how I felt about this visit.  I’ve been here many times and something about this one was just a cut above the rest.  I sensed it and maybe the universe did too.  This won’t be the last time I  talk about them.  The next time will be from the actual restaurant itself, which is gorgeous inside and in the patio area as well.  If you’ve visited then you know I’m talking about.   Yes I’ve never eaten there but was in awe of what I saw.

For more on Carpaccio, here is their menu (which serves many of the same pizzas as Carpaccio 2go, click here to make a reservation, their story, and contact information.

It’s going to be a beautiful weekend in the Annapolis area.  Not only is the CASAblanca Gala going to be amazing, but I’ll also be at the First Sunday Arts Festival footsteps away on West Street the following day.  It will be their holiday edition, yes it’s that time of year already. In addition is the Bay Bridge 10k this Sunday, the Eastport vs. Annapolis Tug Of War on Saturday, and the City of Annapolis General Elections are this Tuesday.  

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What an exciting time to be in the area.  If Annapolis wasn’t great enough, all these events just make this place all the more magical.

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It all begins with CASAblanca and I so greatly look forward to it.

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For more on Anne Arundel County CASA, here is more about them, volunteer, and donation information.

Thanks so much and I look forward to an incredible weekend!

Peace be with you and happy beginning to the holiday season…

Ideen

 

 

Made By Hand (And With Love)

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When I told a dear friend yesterday that I would be writing about Amy’s Kitchen Pizza this week, she was so excited and so happy.  She sounded happy for me too.  It’s because her and her husband were the ones who introduced me to their pizzas a few years ago.

I must thank them so much.  Even though Amy’s is now all over the place, and gluten and vegan pizza and food alternatives are all over the place.  They still get credit for opening my eyes and expanding my food horizons.

Personally for me, I can’t keep eating all this pizza at this rate.  I can’t speak for anyone else.   My stomach has gotten some ill affects over the past couple of years with all this exposure to cheese, bread, and sauce.   I’d say the first two have really done a number on me.   Thankfully, I have pizza to share with friends, share with family, give it to those in need, or save it for later.   Sometimes I feel I have no choice but to let it go to waste.  But I try to limit that if at all possible.

I had every intent of doing a couple of frozen pies this week.  The weather has been gloomy, rainy, and starting to feel more like fall, here in Maryland.  This leads to days where you don’t want to cook, don’t want to leave the house, and don’t want to do anything.

Instead of grabbing some standard pies (here is my frozen za history), I felt inspired to go the gluten free route.  Simple eating doesn’t have to be unhealthy, yet can still be timely.

So when I went my local supermarket yesterday, I perused the gluten free pizza aisle and was reminded of Amy’s.  I’ve had other brands thanks to my friends, but Amy’s was the first.  And you’ve got to give love to what got you here and what resonates the most.

I deliberately went with rice crust based pies for both.  I love the way it tastes and just wanted a reminder of how it compares to your standard wheat crusts.  It’s a more than viable alternative to those with gluten allergies.

First up is the Cheese.  It’s exactly what you want from a cheese pizza, with the different crust.   I was in a good mood throughout the pizza prepping process (I know, so challenging, heat and serve haha), so I just had this feeling these pies would turn out great.

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The way the cheese melted into the crust was gorgeous.  I don’t know if pictures will do this thing justice.   I cut them up into slices, and while I enjoyed this, I will definitely be saving some for seconds.  That rice crust is fantastic.  I want more of this in my life. And that house-made tomato sauce, tastes just like home.

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Speaking of wanting more,  I had to do two of these.

The Gluten Free and Dairy Free Pesto warmed my heart.  The way this thing melted from pre heat to afterwards was such a joy.   I almost forgot this was dairy free.  As much as I loved the cheese, this was one was just that masterful.    I would be lying if I didn’t say it was the house-made pesto (my love for pesto can be found here) that did it.  It’s tremendous, but so are these tomatoes.  I love the broccoli too, but those tomatoes sealed the deal for me.   I’m a bigger fan than ever.

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And yes I felt much better after having these pies than anything I’ve had recently.

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And at $8-10, you’re getting a deal for these pizzas.

Since they have so many pizza pies to try, I hope to do this again.   As the weather gets colder, there may be more opportunities to try some for frozen pizzas, which should not be discounted.  I’ve had pizzas from the frozen aisle that match or surpassed many pizzas I’ve had at pizzerias.

More importantly, I like what Amy’s is about.  Family owned, independent, community based, and autonomous are the best kinds of stories.

I don’t need to explain it, here is more on their food philosophy, their community efforts, their story, and course all their foods, and where to find all of their products near YOU.

You don’t have to find be gluten or dairy free to enjoy what Amy’s has to offer.  I’m all for trying different foods, with different ingredients and especially wholesome ones made from love.  There’s a soul behind this and if you’ve had any of their foods or pizzas, then you know what I’m talking about.

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Sometimes you just know when something comes from a place that’s bigger than us.

I look forward to the next opportunity to try something about from Amy’s, and maybe share it with you here.

In the meantime, stay healthy and peace be with you.

Ideen

 

Sentimental Sicilian Style

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For months I’ve wanted to go to Joe Benny’s. 

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Circumstances have presented themselves that it wasn’t supposed to happen just yet. Either because I came after hours (I find their schedule endearing and down-to-earth), or on days they weren’t open (they’re closed Mondays).

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It just wasn’t meant to be, for that time.  I have so badly wanted to try their foccacia pies.. And in the few years they’ve been open, I’ve heard almost nothing but glowing reviews, and how inviting and approachable their establishment is.

I concur.

A dear friend of mine had asked me where I wanted to go to dinner this past Saturday.  It was a welcome invitation that mirrors the theme of this post and experience thus far. And bear in mind, I had some idea of where I wanted to go.  I had a few days to think about it.   As the day approached and my friend reminded me of that fact, I came up with a few suggestions.  But Joe Benny’s was at the forefront of my mind.   It only made sense.

My original post about Little Italy can be found here.

We love Little Italy, we love Italian food, my friend is Italian, and it’s a place that had forever alluded me.

Funny that my friend had never heard of it.

What makes this even more charming is the place is self seating, a narrow space, with a few seats at the bar, and a sizable yet ample (cozy) amount of seats.   My friend got there before be and (at the time) grabbed the last one.   I love the restaurants of Little Italy because it’s in a universe all its own in Baltimore.  Many have great food, great wine lists, and many suggest reservations.

What makes Joe Benny’s stand out is their menu.  While many restaurants in Little Italy serve similar entrees, Joe Benny’s is not only the only Foccaceria in Little Italy, but it’s the first and only in all of Baltimore.  That right there is going to attract patrons of little Italy, old and new.

And it’s going to attract me back many times over.

This was perfection.

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We started with their seasonal sangria, that had a fall like taste to it.  I swear I tasted some cinnamon sticks, but I could be wrong.  It was enjoyable, and complemented our heavy meal that was yet to come.

 

The irony is that the heaviest part of the meal might have been the Mimma’s Meatballs. The baked beef and pork mix was delightful enough but it was that tomato sauce that screams habit forming.  And the bread that came with it nearly made us full before we even got to our pies.   I can’t stress enough how amazing this sauce was.  Of course we dipped parts of pizzas into the sauce…

…And speaking of which…

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My friend went with the Angry Ginger.  I went with the Kimtucky.

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How perfect that this past Wednesday (9/20) was National Pepperoni Pizza Day.  And that we have a pie to discuss on this most important of all holidays.  Did you happen to take off work that day?  Ha.  Well you might think pizzas of this magnitude would do just that.

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But the bread was not as filling as you might think.  There was a refreshing amount of air and a light heartedness to the pizza that doesn’t bloat you or make you full to the point of being down for the count.  It was quite the opposite.

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The all around red components of this pie made this not only beautiful to eat, but beautiful to look at.    The melange of pepperoni, roasted red pepper, spicy red pepper (yes both), tomato sauce, and fresh mozzarella made this approachable looking pizza an absolute gem.   It was almost too pretty to eat, but well nah, enjoy.  It was tremendous.

JoeBennysKimtucky5

The Kimtucky continues my tradition of loving pesto.  I’ve emphasized this point many times and I’ll never get sick of it.   And the asiago cheese, roasted red peppers, along with that homemade pesto and fennel sausage made this another masterpiece.  Fennel is something I’m really enjoying on pizzas.

JoeBennysKimtucky7

And I’m glad we went with two contrasting pizzas to see how two different sauces, meats, cheeses, and veggies work on the focaccia.

I think they’re going to be alright.  This is one of the better experiences you’re going to have, not just with pizza, but dining in Baltimore.   The great company helps, the great atmosphere helps, but that food and drink made this all wrapped up in those pretty little bows we might make jokes about.  But this is no joke.  This was worthy of all the superlatives you want to throw at it.

We didn’t have room for dessert, we didn’t have room for much more.  We each took a little more than half our pies home.  Because while it wasn’t that filling, there’s always room for seconds.  And my kimtucky tasted just as amazing the next day, or maybe it was later that night.  Oops!  Yes, it was so good.

And we learned from our server, that the staff have their pies on the menu as well, sometimes as specials and sometimes as mainstays.  Judging from the looks of it, we will be back and will be back soon.

JoeBennysMenu2

You see the prices.  $15, give or take for these pies is well worth it.

I’m hooked, I’m a fan, and I always was before I even ever walked in the door. I can only hope the next time is coming soon.

Even their website is down-to-earth.

For more on Joe Benny’s, here is their menu, contact info, and their mission, which truly matches what we experienced.

 

Yes, their mission states it might take a few minutes longer than normal for the food.  But it’s so worth being patient.  Good things come to those…

I envision the same will happen for you.

Peace be with you.

Ideen

 

 

Joe To The Second

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There’s quite a few instances where I could have done a pizzeria more justice.  There’s times where I either know was too harsh on a place, not hard enough, or too kind.  But more importantly is the overall energy levels that surround said pizza place.  And that also applies to me.  I have to be in the best mood possible.  Yet I must go in unbiased and treat everything with equal importance, equal respect, and equal praise and criticisms.

Of course I have favorites.  Some I’ve written about, and some that are yet to come.   And believe me, more is coming…

JoeSquaredFront

And with that I present to you, an oldie but a goodie, but not quite an oldie, Joe Squared in the Station North neighborhood in Baltimore.  This is the Artscape special for this year,2017 edition, which is becoming a fun little tradition (here’s the last two years of posts related to this awesome festival) that I’ve grown to become fond of.   And Joe Squared will be right in the vicinity of all the activity this weekend.

They moved locations not too long ago.   Their original location footsteps away from their new locale had a charm to it.  It felt Baltimore, it felt old world, and it just didn’t feel like how many newish places are looking and feeling today.  It had an authenticity, which still exists in many places, but is slowly dissipating.

However, I never had their pizza in the old spot.  I only grabbed a drink and maybe an appetizer from time to time.  I wasn’t there enough to consider myself a regular.  Not even close.  But I did feel at home and felt cozy when I was there.

Several year later, my first pizza eating experience at Joe’s was actually at their (at the time) second location at PowerPlant Live.

It’s where friends and I would prefer to eat before a concert.  We all love pizza, and as a bonus we loved their risotto, and indulged there on a number of occasions. 

I couldn’t tell you exactly what we ate.  But I know once we had this mushroom risotto that was existentially awesome.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  Actually I could but I think that’ll work.

I don’t remember the pizza we ate, but the square shapes and the simplicity of our cheese, our toppings, and the pizza crust, made it always enjoyable.  I never said it was the best pizza I ever had, but it surely belong in the conversations of the better pizzas in Baltimore.

And after all this time, I impulsively decided today to grab two personal pizzas to go.  Yes as I alluded to earlier, I wanted to keep the Artscape theme going, and I nearly dropped the ball. Since, I was short on time, instead of sitting down and dining it, I opted to get two pies to go, to have a little now, and maybe save some more for later.  And I saved quite a bit.   Don’t read into too much of that just yet.

The interior is nothing to be too mesmerized about.  It’s a basic set up with pictures, a spacious dining room, and a medium sized bar.  Because of this, no pictures are really necessary, outside of the food.  It also made the decision to get my za to go that much easier.

JoeSquaredMenu

I went with a simple one, The Flag, and then a more complex pie, The Cumin Braised Lamb.

In a nutshell, these are no the pizzas I remember.  Much time has passed, nor should they be. But the charm and the openness and welcoming vibration I got from these pizzas was not there. It’s been replaced with something not as enthusiastic, and not as down-to-earth.  At least not on this day.

The big positive is the coal-fired and thin sourdough crust.  That’s tremendous and a gave the pizzas a distinct taste, outside of the toppings.  Because…

I’ll go with the more adventurous pie first.  The lamb had a lot going on.  The lamb by itself was absolutely terrific.  You can’t help but pick pieces off yourself and enjoy.  I did bit of that. Because otherwise the eggplant didn’t work for me here.  It tended to dominate each bite I took. Now I love eggplant but this was a bit much.  The onions didn’t mesh well either.  As individual entities the ingredients were fresh.  But I don’t think this came together as capable as it should. I I can envision many people loving this because of the lamb.  I loved the lamb but I wanted to love everything, and I couldn’t.  It was merely ok.

JoeSquaredFlag

Now the usual standbys of The Flag, which is essentially three pies in one, a cheese, a variation of their white, and their pesto mozzarella.

JoeSquaredFlag2

This should be a safe bet correct?  Well not quite.

The cheese and white were missing something.  I tasted more of the crust (which is a good thing sometimes) than anything else.  The cheese was missing something. Maybe more  cheese?  And the white was too creamy and then not creamy enough.  I feel that depended on the bite.  Garlic cream is usually beautiful, but maybe it was trying too hard.

But the pesto will never let you down. I could eat this all day, but I wouldn’t because that would be unhealthy or something.  Yet that pesto taste so real, so magical, and just plain delicious.  I wish I got that as a pie by itself.  It’s fantastic.

What else I want to do is give this another go.  There’s so many pies to choose from, maybe I just found two of them that didn’t resonate with me.  They might with you though.   But a place that carries this much weight deserves to have more of their pizzas sampled.

Speaking of which, if you’re at Artscape this weekend, I would absolutely recommend Joe Squared as a dining destination, if seating is available.  I imagine on a weekend like this that seats might be at a premium.

Next time I’m back I will hopefully be with a friend or two, and absolutely try a couple more pizzas.  Again, one being rather simple, and one being out of the norm.  There’s plenty of that, and options for everyone.  They do offer vegan and gluten free options as well.  Always a good thing.

So this is just the beginning.  I’ve been saying that a lot but it’s the truth. I look forward to coming back and having another go at this.

For their menu click here, location and contact information, and their list of specials.

JoeSquaredSpecials

Maybe I’ll try a special next time myself.

We’ll see you at Artscape.

Thanks so much.

Ideen