The ‘Shoulds’ In Life…

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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.

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

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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

…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.

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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.

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

Peace Be With You.

 

 

First Thyme For Everything

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I’m just going to go with it.  The best plans and situations, are the ones that are anything but well, planned.

How I ended up in historic Ellicott City yesterday is just one of those things that needs no explanation.  But I’ll explain a little something…

To trust in the universe is something I often take for granted or don’t think about.  Tha’s essentially the same thing.  But if you get in your car and start moving forward, you have to trust that where you end up, is where you’re supposed to be going.  Everything in between is that awesome unknown.   Well sometimes you know where you’re going, I just want to be melodramatic here.

Sometimes plans alter, directions change, and you end up in a charming town like Historic Ellicott City.  And you’re not getting any complaints from me.

I was in the mood for well, what that is I don’t know.   Coffee, tea, breakfast, lunch, and everything in between, and in, out, and through the source, was on my mind.   But I sensed something different today.   The sun was finally out, and my mood was up.  All you need is a little daylight to inspire you, and get that spring (ha) in your step.

From where I parked on Main Street was a sign for a cafe that I swear I never noticed before.  But truthfully, this might have been my first time this calendar year back in one of my favorite places.   When I see a sign for tea, coffee, and other fun things I’m immediately drawn.

SyrianaFront

So with that I present to you Syriana Cafe & Gallery.

While the website is still on its way, here’s one of their pages for information.

I had no idea what to expect.  I honestly thought I was going to get some coffee to go and be on my merry way.  Instead, I noticed an endearing selection of teas (more on that in that here), and a menu that truly stood out.

Breakfast Thyme Pizza was the first thing that popped out, of course, why wouldn’t it?   I got that along with my tea, and from that point I walked around the multi level cafe and gallery while my food was being prepped.

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And all I saw was art.  It was splendid, captivating, and made feel like life is going to be ok.   And that’s not all that was ok…

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This is my first time ever writing about a breakfast pizza, and it was terrific.  I’m grateful this is the first.  And you can tell it was made with a soul and spirit that you’re only going to find at a local business.   But this had a little something else going for it.  What that is I can’t explain.  Again, sometimes it’s bigger than any of us and no words can do it the proper justice.  I’m just doing my best here.

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Heated on a magnificent naan bread and topped with thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, and who knows what other amazing spices, this is not your ordinary pizza.  And why would it be?

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My pizza and along with much of the menu is inspired by food and drink from the owner’s native Syria.  As a bonus I got to meet Majd, and had the most spirited conversation that I’ve had in quite some time.   It could have gone on all day, but that will resume at another time.

SyrianaInterior2

But I can’t recommend this place enough.  It’s been open since December, and the timing of all this is so fascinating.  I made my first ever visit yesterday.  They’re grand opening is this Saturday, April 14th (information can be found here), and there’s much to look forward to.

SyrianaInterior3

Syriana Cafe is a tremendous addition to a neighborhood going through lot of changes, while still maintaining the integrity of supporting local business with hopefully the same sense of community that created such a picturesque town to begin with.

This also leads in to SpringFest on April 21st.

BreakfastThymePizzaTea

I’ll have more to say on Tuesday.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

Seeing The Good…

GoodBurger&Pizza

This whole thing about neighborhoods, cities, and major metropolitan areas evolving is something that’s there.  It exists.  And we can look at it as, it is what it is and there’s nothing we can do about it; or it is what it is and we must adapt.  Can’t say either scenario is mutually exclusive if you see what I’m saying.

It is what…  Oh wait…

The Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore is going through those changes, whether it’s for the better or something else is all based on interpretation, how long one has lived or spent time there, and just making observations of what’s going on in the world.  It might be bittersweet, but hopefully can be embraced somewhat, and the historic parts can all preserved in spite of everything else.  Or in spite of, aha!

While I recently wrote about one amazing new pizza place in the area, I go in a similar, yet different direction with what I write about now.

GoodBurger&PizzaFront

Good Burger & Pizza has been around for a little while, and seems to inconspicuous in its presence and its aura.  Maybe that’s just my interpretation.   Here is their menu, and online ordering info.

If you recognize the location, then yes, it was the old Little Italy Pizzeria, which was a mainstay for so many years and a stop for folks in the neighborhood and visitors, to grab a slice, a pie, and many other standard carry out items, day or night.  Yes they stayed opened past last call.

While no longer staying that late, Good Burger & Pizza does stay open into midnight on the weekends.  It’s just one of those things that echoes a change in the neighborhood.  It may not be that big of a detail, but it’s something I sense.

GoodBurger&Pizza1

What I honestly didn’t sense is a pizza that would be so good and at such a reasonable price.

I was happy to see a large square pizza for only $11.  And what you get for that is the equivalent of 5-6 meals.  Seriously, it’s fantastic.  And I ordered a half cheese and half pepperoni to share with friends.

And shared with friends I did…

I brought this to a holiday gathering a few months ago, and it didn’t disappoint.   This is greasy goodness at its finest.   This is not going to win any championships or awards, but this is a grower and on the lines of pure comfort food.

GoodBurger&Pizza2

That crust is cooked perfectly and the amount of cheese and toppings placed from above is all most people want from a pizza.   When you’re not worried about details, or even if you are, this is a pie that’s going to sell you without having to sell anything.  It sells itself.

And I really think the square slices are a nice touch.  Yes I know that’s no an original concept, (this place may claim that title, read about it here), but it’s their take and they did a tremendous job.   I must admit, I didn’t have high expectations, and it’s not that they were low whatsoever, I went in with an open mind and I feel good about the results.

It feels like a carry out spot that belongs in the neighborhood and has the aura of a place that’s been around for a long time.  And that’s the good vibes you get from a local business.

So while many local businesses are closing its doors, changing hands, and just moving on; it’s good to see many others thriving.  This is so important to the integrity, backbone, and character of not just this neighborhood, but many.

Here is my ever growing pizza history of Fells Point.

I look forward to writing about many more small, independent, and local businesses to come.

Have a Happy Holiday Weekend!

Best,

Ideen

Elevate Me To The Sky

UrbanPieTruffleAlfredoPizzaReady2

I’ll be the first to say it, but I’m really not.  I don’t care for winter.  I don’t get the excitement that others do, and I don’t think I ever will.   I respect everyone’s view and feeling about it, but it’s not for me.

Maybe it’s past memories, when I was a kid and maybe even more recent than that, of feeling trapped for upwards of a week, with little resources, no food, no one really around to hang out, and nothing but my thoughts.   And that can make someone stir crazy and a bit lonely.

So we had our first significant storm of the season recently, and those fears returned.  There’s trauma from the past rearing its ugly head, and those feelings of dread that might be warranted, might be justified, but are they really justified.   Sometimes you (I) just need to get out of your head and just appreciate things for what they are, what is, and what is being.  It’s all temporary anyways.

Just as this day (and it was only a day) of having nowhere to go, which in many ways can be a good thing.  I don’t need to worry about work, doing anything, and anything is the operative word.  I did absolutely nothing except relax, have a little food, enjoy some vino, and lay in my bed with my cat.   Saying it was needed is incorrect because ‘need’ implies lack.  So I’ll just say it was welcome, calming, and refreshing.

Where is all this going?  Well I did somewhat fall prey to the chaos of having to buy a few groceries in case the weather turned worse than expected (it didn’t come close), which lends itself to the perfect excuse to buy frozen pizza, which is something I would like to do more of for this blog.

So with that I present to you two from Urban Pie Pizza Co.

I had seen Urban Pie promoting and handing out free samples of their pies (sometimes whole pizzas) back in 2015 but it didn’t register and for whatever reason I didn’t let it resonate.  Well that would make sense right?

I love how their pizzas are inspired by various neighborhoods.  That’s different and that’s a draw alright.

Because of that this will have to be revisited again sooner than later, but for now the two that were available (bear in mind the pizza aisle was somewhat decimated to the pending weather situations) were the Truffle Alfredo with Shiitake and Crimini Mushrooms (North End neighborhood, don’t ask me where that is but I should know…) and the Pesto with Fresh Mozzarella out of Little Italy (yeah I know…)

Can you guess which one I liked and actually preferred much more?

I’ll go with the Truffle Alfredo first.  Actually I’ll explain that the crust on both is fantastic and was one of the true highlights of both pies.   However, something was missing with the Truffle Alfredo.

UrbanPieTruffleAlfredoPizza

I wanted more flavor and it just didn’t seem to come through.  And I wanted to make sure I heated this thing properly, and even if the timing wasn’t perfect (I’m giving the benefit of the doubt here but you’ll see the flip side on the next pie) I still expected some tremendous flavors, but it fell short.

In a way that might be good.  Truffle can be too rich for some.  I know it’s been too powerful for me to take on certain occasions, but I didn’t get much of anything.  And same goes for the cheeses, onions, and mushrooms.  It was a bit of a disappointment.

On the contrary, the Pesto Fresh Mozzarella is an absolute winner.

UrbanPiePestoMozzarellaPizza

And you see it may looked overcooked in some parts, and maybe the tomatoes looked under cooked, but it didn’t matter.  The pesto and mozzarella are gold and golden, like the crust.  Haha that was meant to be funny.   But regardless,  I got more enjoyment out of this slice than the previous pie of course.

UrbanPiePestoMozzarellaPizzaReady

The way the mozzarella goes from pre heated to becoming one with the pizza is a joy to see.   And I’m so glad the taste matches the visual.   Terrific stuff.  This is art.

And if it wasn’t for being ‘forced’ inside during a snowstorm, who knows when I would have gotten around to trying Urban Pie.  That sounds like a slight but believe me its not.  It was meant to happen this week.  And it will be meant to happen again soon.  When it’s supposed to.

To learn more about Urban Pie, here is their storycontact info, and the link to find their pizzas near you is at the upper right hand corner of their page.

This was rejuvenating and I look forward to Spring, and what pies cross my path and what finds me, or maybe I’ll find some myself.  But for now…

Peace Be With You.

Ideen