Around the Globe, Around The Corner…

TraderJoesSpinachRicottaPizzaReady2

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

 

Life Changing and Amazing

PaulieGeesBeatrix3

Baltimore is going through rapid changes.  Whether those are good or otherwise is anyone’s guess.  But change can be a good thing.  And with change means an upswing in great restaurants, retail, attractions, and everything in between.  Does that mean good pizza?   The answer is a resounding yes.

I’ve deliberately spaced out the heavy hitters and sexy names in the world of pizza in Baltimore and Washington, DC.  Since I live closest to these two cities, I’ve left other cities out, for now.   I intend to go through all the places I can in both metropolitan areas, and other locations, if and when I can.

PaulieGeesFront

With that introduction out of the way, I’m so happy to have finally eaten at one of the most anticipated and widely regarded pizza restaurants to come to the area, Paulie Gee’s of Hampden.

For whatever reason, circumstances prevented me from dining here at any point in time, until earlier this week.   Close friends of mine went around the time of opening to large crowds, long waits, and long faces because some were turned away.   My friends that did get the opportunity to eat have nearly unanimously said it’s fantastic and it has become a great addition to the Hampden neighborhood.

I am now a believer.  I never really had any doubts other than when I hear everyone else rave about it, does that cloud my judgement?  Do I let the opinions and noise of the outside world unfairly influence my opinion, one way or the other?  Yes there’s the sad truth that we can get tired of hearing how great a place is that we’ll cut off our nose to spite our face.  Just to spite it.  I think that’s the phrase.  Anyways, I want to get this out of the way before I start reviewing,  I loved this pizza.  And I’m only getting started.

Let’s begin what might become a regular staple in my life.  No, I take that back.  This is now a part of my life.  Speaking of life, this was life changing.   I don’t want to throw that term ‘life changing’ around too much or it will lose its luster.

Thank goodness I had the perfect person to join me in my debut feast at this sublime and divine restaurant.   My dear friend is a resident of the neighborhood and is a regular of this fair establishment.  It made this experience all the more surreal.   For what I thought would be an hour to an hour-a-half meal turned nearly three hours.  Yes, that’s when you know things are going swimmingly.   No, that’s when you know things are beautiful.

I’ve always thought the entrance and signage had an aura about it and taken on a life of its own.  I almost got scared to walk in.  The times in the past when I drove by I put this place on quite the pedestal and built this up into something I hope would lead to this day. Success.

The dining room is monumental and has another energy about it I don’t need to put into words.  It just is, and it’s spiritual and it’s special.

PaulieGeesSalad

First up,  the salad to get our appetites churning.  The Grape To Meet You (Ah I love these names) was such a joy and a treat.  The arugula on its own was worth the price of admission, or salad.   No, there is no cover to enter.  But the tomatoes and shaved parmesan cheese made this simple salad taste larger-than-life.  So good.

PaulieGeesSaladWine

Our wines paired perfectly with everything by the way.  We each had a couple of glasses. I just want to tie up those loose ends before we get to the main event.

My friend guided and coached me into ordering ideas.   She had something in mind already for her pie, and starting simple and working forward made sense for me.

Once again, a good cheese pizza is a good judge of how the rest of the pies will fare.  It’s just something that makes sense.  If the original pie is going to be amazing then it’s going to make folks think outside of their comfort zones and order more ambitiously from there.  That also means people will keep coming back.

PaulieGeesBeatrix1

So I went with the Beatrix Kiddo.  Yes, that title is awesome.  Perhaps you recall where the name came from.  This is their cheese pizza.  I had fennel sausage added to mine, so if I wanted to pick off the pieces and enjoy a cheese or enjoy a Beatrix with fennel I could. Ah this is so fun I know.

PaulieGeesRicotta2

My friend got a White Pizza, the ‘Ricotta Be Kiddin’ Me’ with bacon, basil, post heated ricotta dollops (which were a gem), and wait, fennel sausage again?

I didn’t see double dose of fennel until both are pies were out.  Is there something to this? Hmm..  Yes we did share and both were astoundingly awesome.

PaulieGeesBeatrixSlices

I’m not sure which one I loved more but I’m kind of leaning towards the Beatrix.  Maybe I’was and still am in a purist mood.  But the amount of cheese and tomatoes placed on this pie was measured to perfection.  I’m not kidding you.  The sausage was a beautiful touch but I almost think any topping would have added just the perfect hint of something else.  Yes I did pick my toppings off for a slice and enjoyed my plain Neapolitan slice in all its glory and solitude.

PaulieGeesRicottaSlices

The Ricotta Be Kiddin’ Me was the perfect dichotomy to the Kiddo.  The bacon and fennel sausage (which is becoming a new favorite of mine) was a powerful meaty combination. But the basil and dollops were the stand-outs for me.  So much yum.

The crust was charred and heated perfectly.  I like that dough was lighter than I expected.  I was told from previous visitors that it may have been a bit heavy for their liking.  That was one of the few minor critiques I heard.  I thought it was just right, so maybe those complaints were unwarranted.

I used the term ‘life changing” again over the course of the meal.  I had genuine reactions of happiness, jubilation, and then a calming over me.  I felt so comfortable during this meal.

This lends itself to the ambiance, the environment, the energy, and the company being just as important as the food itself.  I felt so happy and felt so overjoyed in such a welcoming and inspiring vibe.

PaulieGeesKitchen

I loved how everything was being prepared in the center of the restaurant.  Yes, their kitchen was hiding in plain sight.   The staff was visible but unassuming.   I want to thank our server Jenn who was helpful with our wine and pizza suggestions, and was extremely prompt and attentive in waiting on us.   Thanks so much.

Since this was my inaugural visit, I’m not sure where to go from here.  I can’t leave this to one post.  It would not be right.   There are so many pizzas with charming and over-the-top names to write about that I must come back.  This will need to be revisited and when I do it will make sense and connect with this post.

There are other points-of-view and pieces of information to expound about with Paulie Gee’s but I shall save that for next time.

To click on more info for a location near you, go here.

For the Baltimore menu, hours, and frequently asked questions click here.

My friend did tell me that they are good in supporting and promoting local businesses, and being involved in the community.   In addition, the general manager was visible and did have a presence about him that commanded the room. I wish I got a chance to thank for him all our awesome food, and an evening that will be imprinted into my memory forever.

But like I said, this will be done again and done again soon.

PaulieGeesFront2

Thanks so much Paulie Gee’s and thanks so much for reading.

Feeling fortunate,

Ideen

 

Charmed By Charred

CoalFireCheese

I’ve made this statement in previous postings, but this will one of my more enjoyable write-ups.

CoalFireSign

There’s a feeling of gratitude when friends want to hang out with you and actually say they will get a pizza or visit a pizzeria I can write about.   This happened with a visit last week to Coal Fire Pizza and even more specifically the Crofton location, which is located in Gambrills.  Try to make sense of that one.

CoalFireBack

My recent visit to see my pals was full of wonder, randomness, and adventure.   I tried to visualize and remember certain pizza joints in the area, this one seemed to have slipped my mind. I’m glad it slipped because I prefer spontaneity.  Life is usually great like that.

So after the area tour, my pals drove us to the Waugh Chapel shopping area, which in many ways looks like it was created overnight.  In many ways, it doesn’t seem that long ago and feels like it was effortless to develop.  It was at that moment I figured out where were headed.  And I’m so thankful we did.  I’m even more thankful it’s a spot I have yet to review or actually ever set foot in.  It’s a double bonus.  And there’s even more double bonuses to come.

CoalFireMenu

Since I was a newbie, my friends took the reigns on what the pies would be.   I was just along for the ride and trusted their judgement.   In the meantime,  I took as many photos as I was able to in the allotted time.  The pies were to go!

CoalFireCheese2

And without further adieu, the pizzas were the plain cheese, or there version of the margherita, but without the basil, and the Ricotta Infusion.   One (or maybe both) really stood out and made a long-lasting impression.

It feels good seeing the imprints of the cheese embedded into the dough.  That’s when you know the mozzarella is home-made and made with sincerity. There’s a genuine soul behind this operation.

That crust is incredible by the way.  The coal fire treatment gives the crust a different kind of burnt, or of course, charred taste that’s different than standard oven or the popular brick oven.  It’s a smoked bread savor that you don’t get every day.  That swirl of their sauce is another brilliant touch.   The dough has a comforting chewy bite as well.  Man this is a great pie.  The slices got decimated and in part because we were enjoying ourselves.

CoalFireRicottaInfusion

The ricotta infusion was even that much more phenomenal.   Ricotta is a cheese that is a gift from somewhere unexplained.  It’s divine yet familiar.  And not just because I have the cheese on a semi-regular basis.  This just floored me.   And the charring is just as inspiring.  I love how some of the slices had the cheese envelope the entire crust.  Whether that was planned or not does not matter.  I was thrilled with everything.

CoalFireSlices

My pals made the most correct of choices.

CoalFire&Wine

And nothing can be better with great pizza, then with great wine.  And for more on this particular bottle, click here.

I got a few snapshots of the inside and outside.  I hope you enjoy.  And I certainly enjoyed this experience.  I sincerely hope this isn’t the last.  There’s so much more I want to try.

CoalFireBox

Kudos to my friends for an iconic place and for living so close by.  That definitely helps.

I wish this local and expanding chain the best of success and I look forward to returning sooner rather than later.    For more information and their contact information, go here.

Spring is here and hopefully the great pies just keep on coming.

All The Best,

Ideen

 

 

Road Trip To Annapolis

Mangias

I love Annapolis.  As the weather gets warmer, there will be more visits to this wonderful town.  And that means more pizza recaps.  This post will be dedicated to one of the more popular destinations downtown.

Charlie’s Bar at Mangia’s is in the heart of the city.  It has a great view of the nearby sailboats, tourists walking about, and other pleasures of the town.

Too bad the pizza leaves a lot to be desired.   I’ve been going sporadically over the past 10 years or so. And even though I never felt it was the best pizza, I don’t remember it tasting this poor.  Or maybe my tastes have changed.    They’re open until 2 am on Friday and Saturday nights. With that information in hand, we know the pizza is made to fit the later night crowd.   Unfortunately, that same pizza is also served to the daytime crowd.

Sometimes even bad pizza is good pizza.  And maybe that works in some instances.  However, this was abysmal.  I don’t want to reiterate this fact over and over.  So let’s get to my slices.

MangiasSlices

First up, was the cheese.  The crust was too crunchy and it didn’t taste like real cheese.    I could barely taste the sauce either.   I don’t think these were the freshest ingredients    I wish I could find some positives.

Second, was the white slice.   This did not taste like any white I’m used to.  But that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be good. Just like the cheese, not all good whites taste the same.   If I didn’t know this was a white slice, I would have just assumed this was garlic toast.  And bad toast at that.

Finally, was the Spinach Ricotta.  Like the previous two, I’m not sure what I was eating.  The spinach tasted ok, but the ricotta didn’t taste as good as other places.

The gentleman who heated up my slices was very nice.  Otherwise, the other staff seemed very idle.  But this was during lunch hour, so not much else was going on.   But, I did say lunch hour.  I expect pizza to be a little higher in quality during the day as opposed to near closing time at the bar.   This was disheartening on so many levels.

I don’t go into these blogs looking to disparage anything or anyone.  I want them all to succeed, especially if their intentions are to serve good pizza and to benefit the community.

Fortunately, I will be reviewing more pizzerias in Naptown, in the very near future.   And I know the best is yet to come.

Take good care.

Best,

Ideen

Isabella’s – Inspirational, Incredible, & Iconic

IsabellasStoreFront

It took me a while to get to Little Italy, didn’t it?   When I first thought of doing this blog, Isabella’s Brick Oven, was one of the catalysts.  I’ve eaten here a few times and have always had a positive experience. Simply put, their pizza is awesome.

And I adore Little Italy.  I don’t come here as often as I should.

Not all brick ovens are created equal.  I’ve had many a pie this way and some have tasted exquisite. Other have tasted atrocious.  This falls in the former category.

It’s been so long, I forgot what I’ve ordered here previously.   To make up for that and to support our awesome local establishments, I ordered three amazing pizza pies!

IsabellasCheese

First, was their Traditional Cheese.  This was a joy to eat.  Their homemade dough really shines through here.  The crust is heated to perfection.  And the way the mozzarella is baked into the bread is impressive. This is one of the best cheese pizzas in all of downtown Baltimore.

IsabellasBlanca

My second order was the Pizza Bianca.   Their take on the white pizza included feta.  And what a fantastic addition this is. How beautiful does that look?   The ricotta, mozzarella, and feta really come together here.  My taste buds were blown away.  Again, the crust is dynamite.  And feta is one of my favorite cheeses.  This is the kind of white pizza one can only dream of.  But then it comes true.

IsabellasLombdardi

Last and nowhere close to least, is the Lombardi.  We wanted to change it up this time.  So we got a specialty pie.   And special is an understatement. Putting a pie like this together is a stroke of genius. We have pancetta, gorgonzola, and walnuts.  You’ve got to be kidding me.  This was a lesson in Pizza 101 and all other courses combined.  I really wanted to take my time eating this and appreciate every bite. My last helping of it came together perfectly.  It’s as if the cheese, meat, and walnuts all hit each other symmetrically and with unison.  That was one of the best bites I can recall in sometime.

IsabellasAllThree

I can’t pick a favorite as I loved all three.  But Isabella’s is one of my favorites in all of the Baltimore area.  I can’t recommend this place enough.   They have many other pies I look forward to trying.  Their slices may seem smaller than what we’re used to. But I find it all the more charming.

The girl that was working yesterday was very kind and courteous. She seemed truly appreciative that I stopped in.  That always leaves a great impression.

And for being open less than 10 years, they’ve already made their mark in the neighborhood and the city.   I can’t wait to go back.

Take good care.

Best,

Ideen

Buon Appétit

Buon

I have wanted to write about Buontempo Brothers Restaurant, since I began this blog.  And I organically hoped to be in downtown Bel Air, MD to be able to try enjoy some unique slices.  And this week I was fortunate enough to do so.   Oh and you better believe, they have some creative ideas for pies.

Just as important, they have a friendly staff that has always greeted me and as far as I’ve seen, all of their patrons with a friendly hello and some pleasantries.   I have only lived in the area for over 6 years, but I always get the feeling, that there is a strong sense of community and it’s frequented by a lot of regulars, that have been coming for years.  There’s a lot of love going around.   It just feels like what a pizza place/Italian restaurant should be.

And that love translates into their cooking.

Simply put, I love their pizza.  And you see how aggressive their menu is.   You see some selections that are atypical of many pizza parlors.  And ever since, the first time, I visited them in 2008, it’s been nothing short of fantastic quality.

My indoctrination came from their Tuesday special.   A purchase of any large pizza, would get me a second large cheese for just $2.00.   Worth it’s weight in gold, and za!

My favorite slice of theirs, is the Chicken Pesto, and I’ve continuously raved many times on how much I love pesto.    I will review this slice in time, but I wanted to get out of my comfort zone again.

First off, I ordered the Mediterranean and as you can see below, I barely made it to the party.

Med

I will say, that their crust has always stood out to me.  I can’t put my finger on it.  I don’t know if it’s something in the water but, oh my goodness, it’s divine.  I sense there might be some parmesan or butter embedded in the crust, or I could be tricking my into thinking as such,  But it’s top notch.  I could’t resist the pesto anyways, as we’re drawn to each other like magnets.   But this is a damn fine slice.   With the aforementioned pesto, eggplant, feta, tomato, and spinach piled on top of a traditional cheese slice, this is a certified winner.  I was so happy to try this and will be seeking it out again.   I know, many of us, myself included, can’t help but devour a pizza very quickly.  In this instance, I tried to savor this.  The flavors and the soul behind this slice, coming together, was pure ecstasy.

My second order, the Stuffed Spinach, almost didn’t have a chance.   I’m glad I got it though, and for folks that love bread, this is amazing.   But it’s too filling for me.   But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t try another stuffed pie again.  It’s all a matter of taste.  I was pretty full after the first choice.

Spin

I could hardly eat the crust but, the spinach, ricotta, and mozzarella inside was a real winner.  Toasted to perfection.   On a thin crust, it’d be even more magical.  The marinara sauce, on the side, added some more flavor, that was already bringing some good ones.  Still a solid slice, just not something I would go for, on a regular basis.

I’ll tell you one thing that’s cool, they reheated both and to my pleasure, the slices, ended up being stuck together.  Now some people might find that annoying.  I find that cool.  And the theme of this blog has been about soul, joy, and fun.  And how can you not get a kick out of this :

Duo

I had to break the two pies apart, and perhaps that’s a source of good luck or just great food.

If you’re in the Bel Air vicinity, I suggest going here.  There’s a vibrant energy that keeps many of us coming back.   One review of this place will not do it justice.  More to come.

Best,

Ideen

In Plain Sight

pasticcio

There’s a lot of places we go to, because we like it, love it, out of necessity, or out of habit.  And then there’s you don’t even know exist or unintentionally take for granted.   Many of us drive by such locales to and from work everyday.

Pasticcio, in the Can Company part of Canton, might be one of those places.    Until a few years ago, I didn’t know it existed either.    But they have some mighty good slices.   They also have a full menu and a stocked bar, which is set up nicely to the side.

In the half dozen or so times I’ve been in, I’ve always felt a good energy and a good welcoming aura walking in.   The staff has always been friendly, and that’s an understatement.

One of the charms of this place, unintentional or not, by the pizza trays, is there his no signage describing which each pizza is.  So I always find myself asking one of the team members each time what certain pies area.     Always fun.  In turn, their online menu seems limited but in person it’s anything but.   They change their specials daily, and even the big ing.board with their specials list doesn’t feel intimidating.

All I’ve had their are slices, but next time, I would love to get something else.  It all looks so beautiful.

I usually do types of pies, but I was in a great mood, so let’s do another!

elookatthat

The pictures above don’t do this justice.

As I mentioned, the descriptions were not available, so I am going to describe each one, based on what this amazing person told me.

Going clockwise, we have Grandma’s Slice, which is squared shape and with a thicker crust.   And I could taste something  different about it, I just can’t put my finger on what it is.  Maybe it’s left to be mysterious and under the radar.  Seems to be a common theme throughout.  The yummy pesto and marinara are layered over the cheese and that’s it. Simple. Awesome. Delicious.

Next down the line is, the Deluxe, with pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, and peppers.   And I don’t usually eat pepperoni slices, not out of spite, just because it’s not one of my preferred toppings.  But this was wonderful as well.   Everything was baked into the cheese perfectly.  And the thin crust is just as great as the aforementioned Grandma’s slice.

The white pizza, with ricotta, spinach, and mushrooms was next.  This was good, but my least favorite of the three.  I feel maybe since I tried the other two first, that my palate may have been thrown off a bit.   And I’ve also had some amazing whites.   You don’t often see mushrooms added to a white pie, so I loved that very much.

All in all, this was a rousing success, and I like the fact that this is readily available to us, in a wonderful part of town.   This is not something to be taken for granted.

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen