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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Maybe I’ll try a special next time myself.

We’ll see you at Artscape.

Thanks so much.

Ideen

& A Lot More

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I had been greatly anticipating the opportunity to write about &pizza, but only if the circumstance and proper location presented itself.   I know not every week can nor should be an existential piece on why we love pizza, and why it brings such joy to our lives.  But it certainly makes for a fun discussion, and more importantly, what’s the point if there can’t be enjoyment.

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That’s why I find great satisfaction in finally finding the proper instance to talk about my experience with this charming and fascinating pizza paradise.

This is not my first rodeo with &pizza.  But previous visits didn’t feel right to elaborate on. I’m hoping that makes sense.  There should be a little story behind the neighborhood, the time of day it was, the mood,  the ambiance, and all those other quirks that can make the pizza experience all the more memorable, or in some instances forgettable but fun to make fun of.

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My visit to the historic Barracks Row location, checks off many of those boxes and brought a little something more to the table than I expected.  How I ended up here is just one of those meant to be scenarios.  But in my traditional curious sense, I needed to see what was nearby, in terms of shopping, food, and of course the za.

It’s funny because I used to spend a lot more time here in what feels like a lifetime ago, but I didn’t recognize it at first.  Some of the bars and restaurants look the same but other than that, like most major cities, more stuff and more stuff is has come and is coming. That means a few more chains but hopefully more local business as well.

&pizza is a local chain that is only going to continue to grow.  With stores in DC, Maryland, Virginia, Philadelphia, and soon to be in New York, you know it’s only going to get bigger.

But it originated in DC first (here is my history of DC area pizza), so that’s where I’m going to begin.

What I loved instantly about this location is the warm welcome from the two team members working the counter.  It was a little bit after lunch hours so maybe the chaos of people had subsided, and they could be a bit more personable, but this was from the heart. And I sensed these folks would be like this no matter how many customers were waiting and how high the stress level may be.

That kind of kindness is usually going to make your food taste better.  I truly believe that. There was a personable aura that is always appreciated.  And this is in Washington, DC, which isn’t the most welcoming and people tend to be in a rush around-the-clock.

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I wanted it simple, so I went with the Gnarlic.  Yes that’s exactly how it’s spelled.  I wanted a white pizza with some veggies and on whole grain bread.  Yes you have your choice of white or ancient grains.  I wanted to pretend I was eating healthier.  Maybe I was.

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This is over-the-counter style, so everything is made and heated in front of you, and ready to serve in five minutes.  Because I was one of the few people at the time, that wait time felt even shorter.  Maybe time just stood still.

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While I was waiting, I noticed the craft soda machine.  I guess I never noticed that before.  I usually never order a beverage in a quick place like this.  It’s usually water.  But for the sake of the experience and trying something new I went with the Pear + Fig Elixir.  This was something special.  I highly recommend this.  What’s funny is while I thought it tasted amazing, I had forgotten that it was pear and fig that it was tasting.  It was a fruit punch that was a punch to the heart and soul, but in a good way.

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So my pizza came out and boy does that look beautiful right?

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This was a thankfully light and crisp pizza.  Like I stated I’d been here before but never found it memorable, until now.   The garlic and onions were the stand outs.   It was just like eating a simple flat bread or pita bread like I’ve done many times before.  I wasn’t in the mood for thick and doughy crust this time.  And since the weather was nicer this encouraged a lighter fare.   What did surprise me is I didn’t taste much of the pesto that was drizzled on beautifully.   Maybe it was meant to taste light?  But that part wasn’t as memorable as I had hoped.

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The cheese also tasted lighter, which I definitely welcomed.  I just adored the shape of this pizza pie.  I adored so much of it.  And the charm and the ambiance of the place certainly helped.  As did seemingly having the whole place to myself for a bit.

The sun was shining, house music was playing inside, and I had a beautiful view of DC and a mix of locals and tourists strolling along enjoying the view.  Is this DC or another dimension?  How about a little bit of both.  And &pizza is a big a part of that.  There’s a feel good vibe that should be the norm but still might be the exception.

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This is only the beginning of my recaps of their pizzas.  They have a bunch of locations and a bunch of pizzas to try.  When I go them again will be up to the universe and some complete random series of events.  Or I just walk into a location, haha.  I feel like this set the bar very high and will be hard to match.  I welcome the challenge.

Their website is easy to navigate, for all your informational needs.   More scrolling and less clicking is m.o. here.

Stay gnarlic, oops I mean gnarley, or something.

 

Ideen

 

Happy Birthday Too loulou!

toolouloupie4I could have just said Happy Anniversary Tooloulou, but then I wouldn’t have such a witty (or nerdy depending on your take) title.

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Yes, Tooloulou, one of the staples of the Belvedere Square Market, in North Baltimore, just had a major milestone last week.  They celebrated their 5th Anniversary!  Congratulations.

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And that’s it for me, thank you everybody!

No, not quite.   I would be lying if I said Tooloulou was in my regular rotation of pizza places.  I wish it was.   But for the duration the intent from me is there.  But what has been a more-than-regular thing is a visit to Belvedere Square.

It’s history is also something I can’t pretend to say I’ve been a part of.  However, I was just finishing college in 2003, when it re-opened, so I have some sentimentality to the newer version.

My love for markets goes back forever.  It’s the local feel, the sense of community, the local businesses, and all around good energy that draws so many people in.  It’s one of those ‘just like the good old days’ feelings that shouldn’t just feel like the old days, but right now.   But it’s good to be sentimental.  When it comes to supporting local, you can never have enough of that love for local and can you really be that overly sentimental.  In my humble opinion, the answer is a resounding no.  Wait, resounding doesn’t sound so humble.  But I think you know what I’m trying to say.

Now back to Tooloulou.  They haven’t always been at the market.  A location change, brought this local creation to Belvedere Market.  And what a welcome and inspiring addition this has been.  Still in nearly three years market, why did my first visit only happen two weeks ago?   I have no explanation other than it hasn’t been meant to be until now.  Well I changed some history and went back for a second time.

So does that mean two pies?  You bet.  The first one was a dine-in experience and the second was carry-out.  Yes these are the riveting details I present to you.

Have I teased you enough?  I obviously love the pizza or I would be misleading you with the tidbits of it being a welcome addition, etc.   Ok onto the za!

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First up is the Tooloulou Pizza.  For my first ever visit, it only made sense to go with this one.  And this is where I sat down at their cozy booth and helped myself to this pizza pie.

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I loved it.  I was hesitant at first, since it seemed on the surface to be a bit too rich.  But all my man-made fears were alleviated after a few bites.  The combination of crab, Andouille sausage, and banana peppers is a trifecta of wonders.  Who came up with this?  It’s the perfect complement and complement to one another, and then the other.   The flavors came alive when I first thought something would get lost in the shuffle.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  And they put a lot of  crab meat and sausage.  No skimming I promise you.

Add to the fact that the base is white sauce with mozzarella makes this all the more extraordinary.  I think a less inspired effort elsewhere would be a disappointment.  But this was tremendous.  And a little old bay was thrown in for good measure.  You have a winner.  And that crust was cooked to perfection.  I’m salivating as I write this.  It was filling though as I got seconds and thirds out of this.  A 12″ pie at $14.50, with what you’re getting it a deal at this price.

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Not to be outdone was the Shrimp Pesto.  I couldn’t do a celebratory post without doing a second pie.  If I hadn’t found myself back in the area, then this part would never have come to fruition.  So I’m excited.

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In the two plus years of doing this blog, whenever I found pesto as the base, or as an ingredient, I mention how much it’s one of my favorite things period.  Pesto is something of a work of art to me.  If I could do a Pesto Pals blog I would.  Hmm..  But when I saw this on the menu, I knew I had to try this one.  I was actually debating between this and another.  If you look at the menu order, I am following it sequentially.  Whether that mean there’s more to come is quite possible.    Let me get back to this pie before I go on a complete tangent.

I’m not sure which I loved more.  I loved this one for different reasons.  And then reasons that surprised me.  That pesto was authentic.  It tasted homemade or market made, ha!  And not out of a can.  And those pieces of shrimp were pure a joy.   I took a few off the pizza and had myself a good old time.  I re dipped some in the pesto sauce just for kicks.

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But knowing me I would think those were my favorite parts.  No, this pizza was so good that the actual highlights for me were the sundried tomatoes and the mozzarella.  When I found pieces of tomato and shrimp covered in that mozzarella, I appreciated every bite. The taste is just too good to describe.  And this is saying something because the pesto was that good.   What have I done to myself?  I’m craving this pie too.  This was the same price as the previous pizza, and worth every bit of it and more.

This crust may have even been charred better than the first.  How is that even possible?

The bonus was the staff both times were overwhelmingly friendly.   The Shrimp Pesto was a recommendation over another pie, which shall remain nameless and be reviewed at a later date.

For our friends in the area or might be travelling to the area, here’s their location and hours.

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I know Tooloulou is also widely known for their po’ boys.  And if I get a chance again, the next time I come back, I may incorporate one of these sandwiches with another predicted awesome pizza.

I look forward to it, but for now, I will appreciate these two fantastic pies.  And wish Tooloulou a Happy Fifth Anniversary!

And to many more!

Ideen

Paradise By The…

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A lot of good pizza was had in 2016.  It seems to me that the focus has been on only finding the better slices, the better pies, and the better experiences.  If something is really horrific and worth talking about it will be talked about here.  But the emphasis will always be talking about quality za and giving you a valid reason for you to visit.  If not then this defeats the whole purpose.

Of course I’m just one person with an opinion.  Not everything I like will be agreed with and vice-versa.  And the pizzas I’m a little critical of might be one of your favorites.

For me it’s traditionally based on what I’m feeling at the time, not necessarily what I’m thinking.  It could be an idea about a place, or yes, a preconceived notion that may skew an opinion a little more towards one way or another than it otherwise wouldn’t.  This is why today’s pizza I discuss is so fascinating.

Before this past day after Christmas, my one and only ever visit to Pizzeria Paradiso was back in 2000.  Yes 16 years ago.  And this was at the Georgetown location.  Needless to say, being much younger the pizza was fine but I didn’t see what the big deal was.  I can get pizza anywhere I said.  Now whether this was my actual reaction is merely a reflection of my past self.  I can only speculate but it’s something similar to what I would have said.

It was a lifetime ago so I don’t know exactly what I ordered, but I remember the company I was with.  That’s one I’ll leave for myself.  But it wasn’t the best experience.  I remember paying a lot more for pizza than I may have ever had before.   Because of that I wonder if that’s the main reason of why I never went back.

Many times and many years over I’ve found myself walking past the Georgetown and Dupont Circle locations and not thinking much of it.  And that’s neither a good or bad statement.  There’s so many options to eat, let alone ones specific to pizza.

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But something about the Old Town Alexandria location seemed so much more welcoming and approachable.  There is a heavy bias here. I was born in this beautiful town, just minutes away from Old Town.  So I have loads of attachment and love for this place.

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Even still things would come up for the universe had other plans for me when I visited Alexandria.  I’ve been to many restaurants and many places along King Street and the surrounding areas, but never here.

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Well the wait and fate finally crossed paths.  All it took was a little Christmas Cheer and a peaceful drive to one of the great towns of America.

So how was the pizza this time?

It was busy.  Christmas was observed on a Monday this year and the town was buzzing. People had off and made the most of their post Christmas time.  Well that sounded like safe yet dramatic thing to say.  The restaurant was packed and the staff was busy. Did that affect the pizza in any way?  That I don’t know.

Even in a frenetic setting my pie turned out really good.  I ordered the Genovese which consisted of parmesan, pesto, and potato.  How about that combination?

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Now I wasn’t sure how this was going to look but I loved it.  These were real slices of potato.  If you’re thinking that I ordered this in light of a Christmas hangover and hoping for mashed potatoes, you might be right.

And that pesto tasted fresh, authentic, and from somewhere magnificent.  Where that is I don’t know.  But I like to think there was a lot of care and soul put into creating that pesto.

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That wood fired crust was tremendous as well.  I’ve heard friends say it’s the best pizza they’ve had in all of DC.  That’s a tough one to decide on.  It’s all relative.  I will say the crust was fantastic and I’m craving it now as I right about it.  It just had the perfect burnt and charred taste to it.  And that thin crust was shaped perfectly.  And a thinner crust was needed on this day.

The overall experience, ambiance, and service definitely made it even better.

For how busy the restaurant was, I was still able to get diner style seating and enjoy my meal in solitude.  I got to sample a couple of red wines before deciding on a favorite.  I was pleased with my decision.

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I was pleased with the pie.  I was only able to have half, which was fine by me.  I got to enjoy the rest later.  For a personal pizza this was a hearty sized meal.  You could easily get two meals out of this without question.  Or maybe my stomach has been feeling the effects of all the holiday eating that it was a reminder to slow down and take it easy.   And to enjoy the peace and spirit of the holidays.  They’re not technically over yet.

So I enjoyed my time in Old Town like I always do.  I took some pictures of the nearby historic streets and even one by Pizzeria Paradiso.  I hope you enjoy just like I enjoyed my pizza.

They’re one of the major players in the Washington, DC area when it comes to pizza.  And I’m glad to have ended the year with one of the more soothing and peaceful dining experiences I’ve had in a while.

I promise it won’t be another 16 years till the next visit.  How about I revisit this again in 2017.  That’s a promise.

Here is their story, their beer menu and online ordering info for those nearby.

oldtownroad

I look forward to what 2017 brings.  That feels weird just typing that.

Happy What’s Left of the Holidays,

Ideen