Break The Contradictions

MaisysBuffaloChicken

Maisy’s is what Downtown Baltimore or what a downtown in general feels like.  I prefer the latter, because it reminds me of a part of any city, that truly feels like a city.  Baltimore has a lot of neighborhoods within it, yet it does have parts that seem like there’s lots of action.

This particular part of Charles Street, which bridges downtown to Mt. Vernon, is an area I used to frequent all the time.  While it gets busier things also seem to be a bit slower.  Time has stood still, and so does the traffic, so does everybody.

Maisys

Good friends of mine were regulars of Maisy’s when it first opened maybe 5-6 years ago, but for various reasons, life happens, and life goes on.  That didn’t mean to sound so dramatic.   But my friends did sell me on the place without having to sell it.  It’s a hidden gem, hiding in plain sight.  Near several other restaurants, bars, and other establishments it might be easy to overlook and take for granted.   I could see that.

MaisysBoard

The first time I ate here was literally five years ago.  And that might have been my only time.  This was before any blogs or pizza storytelling were on my radar.  Well it was slightly on my radar or we wouldn’t be here now.   I just recall the pizza being pleasantly awesome.

I had been tipped off (sounds so exciting) on the fact that their pizza is one of the more underrated in the city.  That’s a relative term.  What’s rated one way to you, is well, yeah..

Having no recollection of what exactly I had, I can say that the pizza and atmosphere was tremendous.  Maybe it’s having no expectations, going somewhere alone, and going somewhere for the first time.  I also recall that I was in between social engagements that day, so that time alone is always welcome.  Don’t take that for granted.  We all know how time alone is fewer and far between than it used to be.  If we let it.

That was a moment in time.  Nothing noteworthy, newsworthy, or life changing.  Sometimes those are the best.   The way the place was lit did leave a lasting impression, and there’s a quaintness, despite the large space, that is perfect for this or any neighborhood.  It works in a downtown setting.

Moving along a few years later, you can’t replicate the first time.  I was with a friend, and was craving pizza. Surprise surprise.  But this time something felt off.

By no means was I trying to relive something that doesn’t exist.  The restaurant looked exactly the same, which I like.  Well maybe it was different.   I don’t know.  It’s been a while.

MaisysMenu

We shared the Buffalo Chicken and The Mediterranean.

MaisysBuffaloChicken2

There isn’t much home to write about.  It was fine. It was food.  It was there.

MaisysMEDITERRANEAN

You’ll notice the charring on the crusts of both pies. They went a little overboard.  I love brick oven pizza.  I love any way a pizza is cooked, as long as the end result is that it tastes good.  Sometimes you want it greasy, crunch, and with little thoughts to the craftsmanship behind it.

There’s some effort put into these pizzas, but something was missing.  It just didn’t wow me.  The style in which it was cut is in line with what I remember, maybe.

The tastes on both were fine.  Once again, I don’t know what happened.  But it’s average pizza.  I wish I could say otherwise.   On the Mediterranean there’s too much going on, and many of the vegetables, feta cheese, and even the pesto got lost in the shuffle.  When the pesto doesn’t work, you know something is off.   The Buffalo Chicken looks amazing, and the pieces of chicken are great, but again something fell flat.  The sauce and cheese is fine but…

If we’re counting this exactly, we’re 1-1.   I supposed the third time is the time charm.  You’ll be the first to know when that is.

Thanks so much and peace be with you…

Ideen

 

For Me…

FoxsDenElMatadorPizzaPie2

I had all these titles in mind, and nothing stood out.  It all seemed forced.  It all seems, well, suited for another time.   In a way I’m working backwards and forwards, and it’s a continuation of something I spoke of two weeks ago.

There’s going to be a point where my love for Annapolis (and my love affair can be found here) is going to sound repetitive, and all the phrases and connotations are going feel trite.  I’m hoping I’m nowhere close to that point.  Because this is a good one.

This was an interesting day, that takes me a few weeks ago, to where I was in a vulnerable and confused place.  I was in a state of shock and numbness that I had never felt before.  It was a sense of relief, peace, and forthcoming (still waiting…) rejuvenation.  Maybe.

When I’m feeling the blues or anything uncomfortable, the natural inclination is to hide under whatever I can for as long as I need to, as in a way to stamp out that feeling.  That works every once in a while.  That feeling is going to be there, so why not make the most of things.

So I got in the car and just went with a sense I would head to Naptown, literally to buy some tea and maybe get some fresh air.

That did happen, but who knew this would become a marathon like afternoon that turned into evening, that I will always remember with every emotion ever created.  Even if I never wrote about this particular day, it’s going to stick with me.

Some things age well and resonate with you because the memories are amazing.  This one tells a story that I’m torn on now, but it got better as I say I’m torn, and it’s becoming the night out of all nights out that I’ll look back so fondly on.

And it was all on my own.

I’ll leave a lot of the places out, because I’ll revisit those another day.  But I did a lot of wandering, and discovered some unfamiliar places that may be considered home sometime.   It’s good to go to places where you feel like you belong.  That’s what most of us are wanting. Yet, that belonging first comes from within.

Annapolis has that aura about it.  If you hang around long enough (and maybe not even that long) you’re going to know everyone and they’re going to know you.  That’s a powerful thing, can be a dangerous thing, but can be the most beautiful thing.

In the back of my mind, I’m aware that news travels fast, and that people talk…

It’s a place I always called home.  And I have several fond family memories of our state capital, going back to childhood.   More come to mind as I write this.

While I’ve made so many new ones with so many new amazing friends, and people I consider family.  This one is just for me.  And anyone who reads this.

FoxsDen

Fox’s Den is what I thought was a hidden gem in the heart of Main Street.  Well there’s a lot of hearts of Main, but that should go without saying.

FoxsDenPizzaWine

Back in January, I was all set to do a review of a wine and pizza experience here, but it was packed with state officials, and instead of faking it till we made it, we were shown the door.   A few days later, it was a typical crowded happy hour, but it didn’t feel right.  Not even close.

Four months later, it took a life changing experience, an unplanned (sort of) drive, and the universe rearranging itself to present me with a magnificent pizza, wine, and personal experience that is too good not to share, or too good to share.  Either one applies, but I’m happy to continue…

It was an early afternoon Thursday, before the long holiday weekend, so it was quiet.  And quiet is good.  Those steps that lead to this basement bar exciting.  I felt like I was on a runway and that fox at the top has all eyes on you and I.  No need to get over yourself, it’s looking…

FoxsDenMenu

I was told the pizza here is fabulous, and it absolutely is (here is their menu,their story, and contact information); it had the most comforting wood-fired crust, that remind me of many meals with family.  It had a familiarity that I’m sure many of us can relate to.

In reading what the owners and management had in mind, a family and locally oriented kind of vibe is always welcome, and you can never have enough of it

FoxsDenCheesePepperoni2

I ordered a half pepperoni & pepperoncini, and half cheese.   I figured basics was first, before I went any further.  Those piece of pepperoni are absolutely divine.  What else is there to say?  This is a pizza eaters pizza.

When I was told what pies to get, this was one of the stronger recommendations from dear friends who have visited, and from Ryan who was working behind the bar, who has a big help and could not be more hospitable.  Thanks so much.

FoxsDenPepperoniPizzaWine

The pie worked perfectly with the wine I chose.  I forgot the grape, but it doesn’t matter.  None of the details matter.

I did randomly meet some people at the bar, and throughout the day, people were just talking to me.  I wasn’t looking for it, I wasn’t looking for anything really, and that’s how it usually goes.  I was content and at peace with myself.

FoxsDenElMatadorPizzaPie

To go, Ryan suggested the El Matador, and it’s another gem.  The chorizo, feta, provolone, olives, and honey combination sounds like a lot, but the medley works beyond belief and beyond comprehension.   And that dough, my goodness.  This is one of the best heated pizzas I can ever remember.

FoxsDenElMatadorPizzaSlice

I almost write this in a way that takes away from the pizza.  This day was about a lot of things, and a lot of emotions.   I felt like I was carrying the weight of the universe, but the universe carried me and protected me from what I was feeling.

The amount of walking and thinking I did along this beautiful town, through the historic streets, the majestic buildings and colonial architecture hopefully burned off all this yummy food.  But it didn’t matter.  It’s a day that even as I write this, can’t be completely captured in words.

I’m glad I got this in before this coming Father’s Day.   I only realize this now, as I took a couple of weeks off to relax, find peace, and well keep trying to find peace.

This town, officially felt like my town, but that wasn’t the intent.  I was born in one place, that’s also home, but this to me made it official.   Annapolis has always had my heart, but this experience was beyond romantic.  It’s on that kindred spirit level.

I don’t know where we go from here…

I just don’t know, but I know someone out there, a spirit bigger than me, and bigger than us, is telling me everything is going to be ok.

It’s going to be ok…

Happy Early Father’s Day everyone…

Ideen

 

 

The ‘Shoulds’ In Life…

MellowMushroomHoly2

What am I attempting to say here?  There’s so many things in life we’re told to ‘should’ do, that we ‘must’ do, and that we have to do.  It’s programmed and wired into our brains pretty much the day we’re born.

It’s that which controls us, gives us wants and desires that may not always be reasonable, they may also be the path of least resistance, or in other words, following the herd.

We like our life simple, and with as few headaches as possible.  Experiences, challenges, and obstacles are going to come in our way.  We’ll experience heartache, joy, exhilaration, fatigue, and everything in between…

That’s the macro, or maybe the micro, or maybe I’m just being vague again.

Then there’s the ‘shoulds’ that are about the simple things.  We should have gone on this vacation, we should have accepted that job opportunity, we should have accepted when someone asked us out (or we should have mustered up the courage and asked them out, what’s the worse they can say?), or we should have…

This brings us to Mellow Mushroom, with a growing list of locations in the northeast, south, expanding westward, and many in Maryland, and a charming menu to boot.

The Rockville, MD location is footsteps to many things family.  A family business was once nearby, my family lives in the Rockville Town Square, where this and many businesses, commerce, and local entities reside, and where many of us have seen a transition from a historic town to well, looking like everywhere else.

No, that’s not a dig.  I’m just sentimental to how many towns used to look like, and many still do.   There’s another ‘should’.  I’m all for change as long as it helps everyone, yet we must also help ourselves.

Mellow Mushroom is among a list of many places I would suggest to pick up food from, or dine out at with my dad, when I would come visit him.   Yes a family business was footsteps away, so it was nice to come and spend time on a weekly basis.  Sometime more, sometimes less.  I loved every minute of it, more like every second.

But he has his favorite few places,  like many of us do.  And we get comfortable.  I get comfortable.  There’s another path of least…

Yet at some point something that is familiar and easy to us now, was once a stranger and foreign to us as well.  See what I’m saying?  Before I digress like I tend to do, let me talk about the pizza.

For the first time I finally walked into a Mellow Mushroom (just typing that out and saying that in my head makes me laugh, the name just sounds funny to me), without asking if he wanted any, because the ‘shoulds’ have done me in and done enough.

It felt like a different universe.  I can’t explain it.  But it felt like a place I’ve had recurring dreams about, and not in a bad way.  It’s just well…

MellowMushroomMenu

The pizzas themselves are reasonably priced.  I got two small pies to share at $13 a piece.  The House Special and The Holy Shiitake.

MellowMushroomHouseSpecial2

The former is decent.  And the latter is really good, maybe even great.

MellowMushroomHoly

The crust on both, especially the Shiitake really complemented the pie well.

MellowMushroomHouseSpecial

The House Special has a lot going on more for my taste.  The extra mozzarella added on top is a nice touch.  And I know some people love it, or are going to love it.  It was a bit too much for me.

MellowMushroomHoly2

But the Holy Shiitake has everything I want in a pizza, and in food in general.   Olive oil, garlic, shiitake, portobello, caramelized onions, aioli, and truffle oil is up there with the best combinations in pie, or in anything ever.  Yet something was missing…

What was missing was… I ended up eating this on my own.  I came to visit, yet I was only able to enjoy it by myself.  I left the rest for family, and hope at some point they get to enjoy some too.   I wish I had done this sooner.

MellowMushroomSlices

I had all the intentions of getting pizza here, a year ago, two years ago, maybe even longer, and that didn’t happen.

What I’m saying is, with anything, don’t wait till something happens to do something.  I have to tell myself this.  You should just do, just be, and not overthink things too much.  I’ve done a lot of that, and continue to so.

You never know when opportunities like this are going to run out, or ultimately….

I was told by a wise man once, don’t let something monumental happen or be forced to make changes in your life.

Have a blessed one…

Ideen

Family Time…

MammaLuciaSlices

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

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

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

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

MammaLucia

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

MammaLuciaMenu

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

MammaLuciaArt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’ll be ok.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

…And All Is Spinning Around

UdisGlutenFreePepperoniPizza

I was first introduced to Udi’s several years ago by a friend who was looking at transitioning into a Gluten Free and other health conscious lifestyle changes.   I hope that worked out for him and worked out for any of you who have felt it was time for something else, and a time to do something different.  The results can be fruitful and beautiful, if you let it.

That goes for all of us.

Additionally, we don’t have to switch to Gluten Free or anything free to try Udi’s or any similar brand.  Sampling different foods and different styles is what makes this world go round.

Their breads and bagels are just as on par in taste versus your regular style you will find anywhere.  In a blind taste test you could taste a difference, but it’s not that significant.  Good food is good food and eating healthy is a challenge, but only if we let it.  This is supposed to be fun.  Eating is one of the joys of life.

Honestly, I just dig the name Udi’s. Here is more about this young yet growing company, their product catalog, and where you can find them near you.

Before I completely digress, I had all the intentions of once again writing about a pie of the frozen kind.   Let’s make it two.

Udi’s does pizza right, and once again their is no sacrifice in taste.

It’s funny how different grocery stores frozen pizza aisles will be so different versus the competition.  Where you think you might find gluten free pizza, by anyone, might surprise you.

In the interest of keeping it simple, like they do, I went with a three cheese and then a pepperoni.  Both are fantastic in their own little way.  Yes the pizzas are little.  And you know Gluten Free items are a bit higher on the price side.  I believe these pizzas will run you for $7-$8 each.

The crust is perfectly thin and golden brown.  I had to show you a picture with my pizza turned over so you get the idea.  The way it cooked in the oven was so in sync with everything.  I can’t explain it exactly.   I mean it’s just putting a pie in the oven and voila, but there was something more diving going on here.  It was in there for the right amount of time, and yes I read the instructions…  But this felt so precise and in tune with the universe.

The olive oil, garlic, and basil just added so much in such a unpretentious fashion, that I had to savor every bite just a little more.

Oh and those pepperoni slices are divine, delicious, and delightful.  I did that on purpose by the way.  This is pizza, and even just food from another dimension.  I must really like the letter ‘D’ today for some reason.

UdisGlutenFreePepperoniPizza

This isn’t going to fill you up as fast as your typical frozen fare, but that’s the point.  It’s a lower calorie, lower fat, and welcomed alternative to what you might be used to.  The frozen pizza choices out there are in abundance that some may get lost in the shuffle.

Don’t let Udi’s be one of them.  This is world class and well done pizza.  Make it a point, make it a priority, make it whatever you need to, to find their pizza.  It’ll be worth whatever trip you need to take.

I will be taking this trip again.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

Back Where I Come From

CSNYSicilianPepperoniPizza

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

Here are my past posts from this historic town.

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

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

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

CSNY

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

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

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

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

But onto the pizza…

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

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

CSNYSicilianPepperoniPizzaSlice

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

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

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

CSNYSicilianPepperoniPizza2

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

CSNYPizzaSlicesAll

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

Oh I’ll be back.

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

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

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

Say Hello To Everybody

SammysFourPizzaSlices2

That’s the feeling I got when I walked into Sammy’s Italian Pizza Kitchen, in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis.  I’ve talked at length (history can be found here), about my fondness for our state capital.

Here’s Sammy’s menus, contact info, and more on their story can be found at the bottom of their main page.

SammysItalianPizzaKitchen

I’ve been to Sammy’s many times before, initially out of curiosity, but then out of convenience.   The shopping center itself has a feel from decades ago, and once again takes me back to being a kid, and going out to lunch on a Sunday with my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and you get my drift.

It’s a feeling of comfort and familiarity that is a great reminder that restaurants don’t need to be fancy and over-the-top to produce quality food, service, a warm atmosphere, and a positive dose of energy.

Now in every town, you have your bakery, post office, general store (do those still exist?), local bank (one can only hope), florist, and many other mom-and-pops.  That does include plenty of good food, and of course pizza.

That’s the sense I got the first time I drove through this part of Eastport, and discovered this, among several other hidden gems.

What’s funny is there’s been many instances where I have not been enamored with their pizza.  I thought it was good, but nothing to necessarily write home (or write a blog/story) about.  I have an ongoing list of places I’ve been meaning to talk about, and Sammy’s among others was on that list, but I either never felt the time was right, or just wasn’t feeling it, good or bad.

You’ve got to feel it, positive or negative, or what’s the point?

But something about a recent visit felt different.  Maybe it was me, maybe it was the mood I was in, or maybe there’s just something else inexplicable, where I should just let it just be, and allow the best experience to come to me and find me.

That’s exactly what happened.

I love how you can’t see the inside of the restaurant from the outside.   There’s something mysteriously beautiful about this, that will draw many in, and I’m sure scare a few people off.  I promise you nothing about what I’m saying is to be feared or be made to feel afraid of.

The interior feels more authentic than how many more contemporary restaurants try to portray themselves as.  This just feels real.  And if and when you’re inside, I think you’ll get what I’m selling here.  Nor do I have to sell.  Everything about it sells itself.

SammysFourSlices

To go back to basics, I went with the four most simplest slices there is.   Cheese, pepperoni, white, and vegetable is about as genuine and to the core pizza as you’re going to find.  It’s as if the slices were there waiting for me.  Maybe they were.

The staff working the counter made me feel like home and made me feel good about my visit.  And to feel like a million bucks is not something you ask for or expect, but it’s great when it happens.  The next few groups of people that walked in got that same first class treatment.  It’s good to be feel important.  That feeling should come from within but it’s always gravy when it comes from external sources as well.

Before I go on any further of a tangent, this was the best pizza I’ve had by them in the multiple times I’ve been by.  And it’s not even close.  From what was once mediocre to decent, turned into fantastic.

What makes this all the more intriguing is I got these slices at dinner time.  I don’t know how long the pies were out.  Those are not the questions I should be asking, when the pizza turns out to be this good.  Maybe I answered my own question.

Maybe the reheating from the cold pies made it that much more tasty.  But good pizza is good pizza.  And these four slices really turned out well.

The pepperoni and the white were the true stand outs.   The crust and dough just had a taste about them that once again took me back to my younger days sharing pizza with family and dear friends.   That’s where a long synopsis is no longer necessary.

It’s a simple pizza, with a simple feel, from a creative source.

SammysFourPizzaSlices

What more can you ask for then what I just described?

That’s good pizza, nestled in a neighborhood in one of my favorite places.

If I could write about a place like this every week, I’d be happy.  But then it wouldn’t be so special.  Yet for now, this is to be savored, adored, and appreciated.

SammysItalianPizzaKitchen2

I look forward to my next visit to Annapolis, and a future visit to Sammy’s.

Peace Be With You.