Around the Globe, Around The Corner…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

Plenty of Christmas Spirit…

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Nine years ago I discovered this magical place called Quarry Lake, and what looked to be in its infant stages.  Nestled in the affluent Pikesville suburb of Baltimore, this neighborhood always seems safe, approachable, and inviting enough that while it’s not going to be groundbreaking in any way, yet it’s a place of a peace and harmony.

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I think those many years ago I looked at things with wider eyes, a little more idealism, and the happiness in discovering something new, which always brings about rejuvenation, a rebirth, and an all around feeling good.

This was also right around the holidays, so I recall that day with such detail that I’m getting a bit emotional thinking about it.  And I have no particular reason to feel emotional.  Well maybe I do.  I did some impromptu shopping that day, and discovered some new stores that I otherwise wouldn’t have known, at least not for a while.  It may or may not have been my first visit to that great grocery store, Fresh Market, which I wrote about some time ago, that post can be found here.

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Where is this post going?  Aside from more over sentimentality about the holidays, and everything else feeling larger than life?

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This brings us to Pizza Blitz, which is across the way in this ever-growing strip of stores, office building, and houses galore.

Now I’ve been here too many times to count, so I obviously think the pizza is good enough to eat and keep coming back too.  Or maybe it’s something else?  Nah it’s not really much of anything other than convenient, and I just find myself at peace for some reason when I’m here.  I have no explanation why.

Sometimes things don’t need an explanation.

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But about the pizza, it’s quite affordable.  Most slices are $3 or less, and you can’t complain about that.  It’s bring your own beer and wine, which is another major plus.

Yet I don’t find anything spectacular about the pizza.  But this is how it goes sometimes.  I’ve always found the appearance of all those slices on those pizza trays so charming.  It’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this blog.   There’s always places with plenty of food on display ready to be ordered and heated and then served, but something about all those pizza slices on display warms my heart.

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And something about Pizza Blitz’ display is especially welcoming.  Maybe it’s the energy of the place, maybe it’s the friendly staff, or maybe it’s the fact that it’s a local business, and local makes me feel good.  It’s all of the above, and then it all depends on the mood and place I’m in, any customer is in, and all those other details that once again, can’t be explained.

I love making pizza or anything into an existential and metaphysical conversation.  It doesn’t have to be like that, and not every visit I make gives me that feeling.

Something about this place gives me that feeling.

And I don’t need to go into detail about the five slices you see in this post.  The pizza is good but I’ve had a lot of great pizza this year that I wouldn’t know where to even put this.  It wouldn’t be high on my list, and that’s just fine.  Not every pizza is going to be the best pizza I or you have ever had.

In reading reviews, many folks seems to think highly of this place, and I love that.   When it comes to the pizza, I will temper my reactions to a couple notches below great.  The crust is safe and easy to eat, and while this is their version of New York Style, I’ve had much better.

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The white slices in particular weren’t my favorite, but the plain cheese and buffalo chicken are solid.   And for many people that’s all they need.

There’s a strong local presence among the clientele, and I’ve seen it with every visit.  You have your families, your students, and business people.  People from all walks of life just looking to grab a slice, enjoy some food, and enjoy present company embodies Pizza Blitz, and I imagine many of the businesses nearby have similar scenarios and sentiments.

Or I could just be overreaching and this could all just be me a bit emotional during the holidays.  I’m fine with that.

And I’m fine with Pizza Blitz.  Again, this pizza isn’t anything great to me, but it’s great to so many others, and that’s what matters.  I’m one person with an opinion and it’s easy to find the positives here.  All in all, this place is loaded with Christmas Spirit.

For more on Pizza Blitz, here is their menu, their story, and contact info.

I likely have only one more post for the year, and I have no idea where it’ll be from.  I just hope to end the year on a high note.

I wish you and yours a happy holiday, and peace be with you.

Ideen

 

That’s The Jingle Bell Part II

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Although it’s been said many times, many ways, I adore Annapolis. 

How many times can you or I praise something before it loses it’s shine, and it starts to feel transparent?  Well when you give authentic love and energy to anything, I don’t think there can ever be enough praise.

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One year ago I was invited to the most charming of holiday parties, at the Red Red Wine Bar, which in time for the holidays transformed themselves as the Jingle Bell Bar.  I know, how awesome right?  Last year’s story can be found here.

The amazing decorations, displays, lights, tinsel, trees, and so much that I don’t remember it all was back.   The great customer service was back.  And most of all the event was helped to support the amazing organization, Anne Arundel County CASA.

I’ve mentioned CASA several times in the past in this blog, and it’s wonderful organization with wonder people behind this operation.  I know feel like I’m part of the family and consider several people involved dear friends, as well as family.  It’s a blessing to be a part of something so genuine and so loving.

And being a part of these most wonderful, organic, and fun loving events makes it all the more merrier.  And it’s magnified during the month of December.

Let’s face it, our schedules are loaded and bloated with events that we either feel obligated to, torn about or may look forward too.  Some might me too big for their own good, or might be thrown for the sake of it with no soul.

This event was loaded with soul.  It was a great time with great people, and while the bar was busy, you never had to fight to get a drink or have yourself heard.  CASA also had a guest bartender for a couple of hours that added another level of charm to the event.  And yes this was an event on the calendar I was looking forward too.

And yes, being in Annapolis (here’s my Annapolis history that keeps on growing) just wraps it up in a pretty bow and screams Merry Christmas.   It almost seems too good to be true, but it isn’t.  Sometimes towns are that picturesque that it deserves as much as love from its locals and from visitors like myself.

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Now onto the pizza.  Last year, I did two pies and I had to go back and make sure I would’t accidentally make a repeat.  So here goes.

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First was the Eastern Shore.  This is barbecue chicken, with red onions, mozzarella, and marinara sauce.  I’ve had bbq chicken on pies that have been absolute disasters.  It’s real easy to screw up if you’re not careful.  That’s why when a place does it right, it deserves a lot of credit.  And this was really good.  I don’t know if this was my favorite bbq chicken but there’s a lot going for it.

A lot can go wrong when barbecue sauce, cheese, and the pizza sauce clash.  And all of these principles can taste fine but may not mesh well when molded together.  This was a great effort.  But what really stands out is the crust and those onions.   I could eat these red onions for days.  And the way this pizza was heated was done perfectly.  The pictures tell more than I can.

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But the Gus is the pizza you want to get.  Oh my goodness this was something.  This may have been cooked better than the Eastern Shore.  This was per our bartenders’, Bethany (whom we met last year at the same event), recommendation, and it never had a chance.

I mean it really never had a chance.  I was lucky to have a slice.  This is the one everyone was drawn to.   The cheese and sauce complemented the trios of ham, sausage, and pepperoni to perfection.  This was exquisite.  I’m craving one right now.   That only means…

I will be back.  I promised that if I were afforded the opportunity and pleasure to come back to this same party one year later, that I would revisit some of their pizzas, and maybe their wine.    To read more about the wine, click here.

A huge thanks to Bethany and Abby for helping with the pizza and wine suggestions.

This was great, this was a wonderful occasion with equally wonderful people, that represent a great organization that is Anne Arundel County CASA.  And to partner up with the friendly folks at Red Red Wine Bar is a winning Christmas combination.

For more on Red Red Wine Bar, here is their menu, their hours and location, and their backstory.

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And for more on Anne Arundel County CASA, here is more about them, and how to get involved.

Annapolis has my heart, and so did everything about this event.

I will be back. Actually, I have been back a couple of times over the year in between events, but not to write about.  I waited for this.

If there’s to be a trilogy, I will patiently wait one more year.   But honestly, where did one year go?  I felt like I was admiring this holiday decor just the other day.

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And we’ll admire it again.

Happy Holidays and Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s The Jingle Bell Bar

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That everything happens for a reason cliche is a legitimate thing.   I was all set to do a review of an experience at Red Red Wine Bar back in the spring.   As luck would have it, my phone died as I was getting pictures of our pizzas and vino, while enjoying a casual outdoor setting in Downtown Annapolis.  I took it as a couple things, 1) this is not the way this wine bar was meant to be portrayed, and 2) the universe had grander plans for me.  And is that an understatement if there ever was one.

No matter what goes on in life, one thing I know for sure, the holidays bring out the best in us.  We go through a million emotions all year, and all of a sudden it’s Thanksgiving, and then it’s December.  What the heck happened here?   That time to reflect, to appreciate, and spread love magically appears this time of year.   Wouldn’t be great it you felt that all of the time?

Downtown Annapolis always feels like Christmas to me.  It has the old world, small town, welcoming feel that radiates an aura of holiday spirit 365 days a year.  That might be an exaggeration, but it’s the feeling I get.  And that’s no accident.  Different neighborhoods bring different feelings.  It’s up to us to choose to embrace it or move along.    Well I’m embracing and moving forward.

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So we move along nearly eight months later, and this was meant to be.  However, this time, it wasn’t the Red Red Wine Bar.  They transformed themselves into a winter wonderland and holiday spectacle, happily titled, the Jingle Bell Bar.

This bar is something else.  The set-up with all the lavish decorations screams holiday cheer.  If this didn’t get you in the spirit than I’m not sure what else might.

Actually, it was my dear friend’s event that brought us here tonight.   The Anne Arundel County, Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, for short, has done so much good for the community of Annapolis and nearby.  I’m proud to have volunteered and been associated with some wonderful and unique parties and events.  I’m grateful for that.  And I was grateful for this one.

They had a guest bartender on hand, and part of everyone’s check and tips went to CASA. It’s a win win for everyone.

I  could just sense going in that this was going to be an awesome time.  Sometimes you just know.  When you’re connected with a good community, it’s only going to bring about more of that community.  The folks in attendance were there for the same reason, to celebrate this fantastic organization and the holidays.   I felt so at home.  I think everyone else did too.

After all that, how was the pizza?  To make up for last time, I went with two pies, and was happy to share them with friends, old and new.

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I went with the two that I feel most represented this season, with their flavors, ingredients, and overall presentation.

First up, was the White Chicken on Roasted Garlic Flat Bread.   The look of this was fantastic.   For the simple fact that one of the toppings was garlic puree  is why I went with the garlic flat bread.  It did make me wonder how it would taste with the wheat.  That chicken tasted fresh and organic.   I love brussels sprouts, caramelized onions, and butternut squash.  Tell me another trio that spells out the holidays more than that?  This was a really good pie, but I almost felt like I didn’t get a taste of the squash or onions in every bite.  That could be me trying too hard to find them or some flavors overpowering the other.  Hence why I wonder how the wheat flat bread would turn out.  Nevertheless, my new friends and I finished this wonderful arrangement in mere minutes.  And I would definitely order this pizza again.

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But the quintessential pie of the holiday season might just be the Pear Prosciutto.  You’ve got to be kidding me.   I confirmed with one of the manager’s, Bethany (who was world class by the way), on which pizza to go with.  I’m glad we were on the same page.

Oh my and Christmas was this one of the best things I’ve eaten in sometime.  This is a must with wheat bread.   This is a throwback to my childhood.  And isn’t what Christmas and the holidays does to us sometimes?  The combination of honey, feta, and wheat on a piece of warm and toasty pita bread (usually wheat) alone is something I share with my family, especially my dad, and continue to this way.  So I felt warm inside before even noshing.  And when I finally noshed, everything was confirmed. This is one I’ll be thinking about for a long time.  The pears, prosciutto, and arugula are what you see immediately.  But to me, the heart is the honey, feta, olive oil, and minced garlic.  Again, that’s a family thing.   I’m getting emotional as I expound on this.  I’m getting goose bumps.  I’m not kidding you.

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And combining these pizzas with good people, good wine (click here to read more about the wines), a festive vibe, and a great cause, this is a win-win and then some.

I love this place.  Let me reiterate.  I LOVE this place.  Nestled in the heart of Downtown Annapolis automatically makes a place welcoming.  But there was something special about this night.

Once again, a huge thank you to Bethany for helping me with everything when it came to pizza and wine suggestions.

I’m ecstatic to have been a part of something so special.  I look forward to my next visit to Red Red Wine Bar.   And if you’re in the area I strongly recommend you do the same.

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Here is their story and their contact info.

For my Annapolis Pizza History, click here.

For more on Anne Arundel County CASA and all the good that they do, click here.

And for the last inspiring CASA experience, click here.

This was a holiday party for the books.  I’m so thankful and appreciative to have been a part of this.  All many of us want for the holidays, and out of life, is to feel good.  This event and this bar checks of all the boxes.

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To a safe and happy holiday season,

Ideen