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.

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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

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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I’ll have more to say on Tuesday.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

Sentimental Sicilian Style

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For months I’ve wanted to go to Joe Benny’s. 

JoeBennysFront

Circumstances have presented themselves that it wasn’t supposed to happen just yet. Either because I came after hours (I find their schedule endearing and down-to-earth), or on days they weren’t open (they’re closed Mondays).

JoeBennysBoard

It just wasn’t meant to be, for that time.  I have so badly wanted to try their foccacia pies.. And in the few years they’ve been open, I’ve heard almost nothing but glowing reviews, and how inviting and approachable their establishment is.

I concur.

A dear friend of mine had asked me where I wanted to go to dinner this past Saturday.  It was a welcome invitation that mirrors the theme of this post and experience thus far. And bear in mind, I had some idea of where I wanted to go.  I had a few days to think about it.   As the day approached and my friend reminded me of that fact, I came up with a few suggestions.  But Joe Benny’s was at the forefront of my mind.   It only made sense.

My original post about Little Italy can be found here.

We love Little Italy, we love Italian food, my friend is Italian, and it’s a place that had forever alluded me.

Funny that my friend had never heard of it.

What makes this even more charming is the place is self seating, a narrow space, with a few seats at the bar, and a sizable yet ample (cozy) amount of seats.   My friend got there before be and (at the time) grabbed the last one.   I love the restaurants of Little Italy because it’s in a universe all its own in Baltimore.  Many have great food, great wine lists, and many suggest reservations.

What makes Joe Benny’s stand out is their menu.  While many restaurants in Little Italy serve similar entrees, Joe Benny’s is not only the only Foccaceria in Little Italy, but it’s the first and only in all of Baltimore.  That right there is going to attract patrons of little Italy, old and new.

And it’s going to attract me back many times over.

This was perfection.

JoeBennysMeatballs&Sangria

We started with their seasonal sangria, that had a fall like taste to it.  I swear I tasted some cinnamon sticks, but I could be wrong.  It was enjoyable, and complemented our heavy meal that was yet to come.

 

The irony is that the heaviest part of the meal might have been the Mimma’s Meatballs. The baked beef and pork mix was delightful enough but it was that tomato sauce that screams habit forming.  And the bread that came with it nearly made us full before we even got to our pies.   I can’t stress enough how amazing this sauce was.  Of course we dipped parts of pizzas into the sauce…

…And speaking of which…

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My friend went with the Angry Ginger.  I went with the Kimtucky.

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How perfect that this past Wednesday (9/20) was National Pepperoni Pizza Day.  And that we have a pie to discuss on this most important of all holidays.  Did you happen to take off work that day?  Ha.  Well you might think pizzas of this magnitude would do just that.

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But the bread was not as filling as you might think.  There was a refreshing amount of air and a light heartedness to the pizza that doesn’t bloat you or make you full to the point of being down for the count.  It was quite the opposite.

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The all around red components of this pie made this not only beautiful to eat, but beautiful to look at.    The melange of pepperoni, roasted red pepper, spicy red pepper (yes both), tomato sauce, and fresh mozzarella made this approachable looking pizza an absolute gem.   It was almost too pretty to eat, but well nah, enjoy.  It was tremendous.

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The Kimtucky continues my tradition of loving pesto.  I’ve emphasized this point many times and I’ll never get sick of it.   And the asiago cheese, roasted red peppers, along with that homemade pesto and fennel sausage made this another masterpiece.  Fennel is something I’m really enjoying on pizzas.

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And I’m glad we went with two contrasting pizzas to see how two different sauces, meats, cheeses, and veggies work on the focaccia.

I think they’re going to be alright.  This is one of the better experiences you’re going to have, not just with pizza, but dining in Baltimore.   The great company helps, the great atmosphere helps, but that food and drink made this all wrapped up in those pretty little bows we might make jokes about.  But this is no joke.  This was worthy of all the superlatives you want to throw at it.

We didn’t have room for dessert, we didn’t have room for much more.  We each took a little more than half our pies home.  Because while it wasn’t that filling, there’s always room for seconds.  And my kimtucky tasted just as amazing the next day, or maybe it was later that night.  Oops!  Yes, it was so good.

And we learned from our server, that the staff have their pies on the menu as well, sometimes as specials and sometimes as mainstays.  Judging from the looks of it, we will be back and will be back soon.

JoeBennysMenu2

You see the prices.  $15, give or take for these pies is well worth it.

I’m hooked, I’m a fan, and I always was before I even ever walked in the door. I can only hope the next time is coming soon.

Even their website is down-to-earth.

For more on Joe Benny’s, here is their menu, contact info, and their mission, which truly matches what we experienced.

 

Yes, their mission states it might take a few minutes longer than normal for the food.  But it’s so worth being patient.  Good things come to those…

I envision the same will happen for you.

Peace be with you.

Ideen

 

 

True Tampa Style

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I owe all this one to a dear friend who I visited this past June in St. Petersburg, FL.  I visited many friends, many amazing places, and experienced many awesome things.  For that I’m grateful to everyone who welcomed me and made me feel like home.  And it certainly did.

This vacation was somewhat bookended my some sight seeing in Tampa.  While it’s always fun playing tourist, it’s always a pleasure when a friend looks up pizzerias in the vicinity, to try, and for the sake of this blog.  If it wasn’t for my friend’s insistence this post would never see the light of day.

Thank goodness for good friends.  And thank goodness for great ‘za.

Eddie&SamsNYPizzaFront

After a few circles and strolls around Downtown Tampa, we marked our territory in what I now realize is the highly sought after and touted, Eddie & Sam’s N.Y. Pizza.

Eddie&SamsSide

As many of us do on a trip, we over indulge, we like the finer things in life, and we should always strive for those finer things.   With that said, I had five massive slices.

I mean who knows when I’ll be back here? I have every intention of doing so, but still, you never know.  And before you ask, no I did not eat everything.  I essentially ate a little bit of each, and then some more, and then some more.  And hopefully the significant amount that was saved was left for the person it was intended for.  I ask and I still don’t think I remember how that turned out.  Alright enough of that.

How I review is this going to be instinctive yet going with the flow as I write this.  That might mean the same thing, I’m not quite sure right now.

First, let me say that the dough on these pies is tremendous.  For some it stood out with much more passion than others.

Eddie & Sam’s imports water from New York to make this as authentic as it possibly can. I understand that the elements of time, space, and travel may not make this exactly New York Style.  And being in another state may pay a part in that.  But to be honest, I haven’t been to New York in quite some time.  I forgot how their pizza tasted.  I just remember some places being great, some being drab, and some everywhere in between.

We’ve all been to places that claim NY Style, only to be disappointed or accept the fact that it’s just pizza, sometimes good, but nothing memorable.

It’s been three months and I still think about these slices.  A lot has to do with being a new city, an unfamiliar city, an unpredictability of where this day was going, and being around great company.

Here are the five I ordered:  1) Cheese, 2) Blanca aka White, 3) Buffalo Chicken, 4) Chicken Bacon Ranch, and 5) Lasagna.   I realize now that vegetables are missing in this discussion.  I must have been in the mood for some protein.  This also leaves the door wide open for another visit and post sometime.

Eddie&SamsNYPizzaCheeseSlice

The cheese and buffalo chicken were the two main stand outs for me.   And if you judge a place by its cheese, this place is doing things perfectly.

Eddie&SamsNYPizzaBuffaloChickenSlice

But it was the dough on the buffalo chicken that stood apart from all the other slices. And yes while they overloaded all these stunning pieces of chicken on this pie, the softness of the dough mixed in with periodic crispy bites made this comfort food to perfection.

These were my two favorite slices by far.

Eddie&Sams LasagnaSlice

The lasagna was loaded with flavors but maybe I was expecting something more.  While still really good, I wanted a little more wow.

Eddie&SamsNYPizzaWhiteSlice2

The Blanca, while good, still is not what I had come to expect from a white slice.  I’ve mentioned this numerous times before, and maybe I need to lower expectations.  Maybe my tastes keep evolving but I don’t remember the last time a white pizza blew me away or was at least great.  This came close but not quite what I was looking for.

Eddie&SamsNYPizzaChickenBaconRanchSlice

The Chicken Bacon ranch was my least favorite of the bunch.  But it does get credit for having real pieces of breaded chicken and genuine pieces of bacon.   In many instances the slices served by many pizzerias will only include diced pieces of chicken and bacon bits.  That’s defeatist and in a way misleading to a pizza patron.  For presentation, Eddie & Sam’s get a lot of credit.

Overall, this was a wonderful, memorable, and joyous experience.   Another thing, these pizza slices vary in price.  I think for my five I spent around $25.  It sounds pricey but an experience like this was invaluable and worth its weight in pizza, and in everything else.

And while the exterior feels welcoming yet intimidating all at once (depending on your point of view), there’s room for everyone and the staff was working hard and were extremely friendly.  I sense many of the folks took pride in the pizzas they were creating, and aimed to make them the best they could possibly be.

That’s all you can ask for.

Eddie&SamsMeatLovers

Well my friend did order this work of art.  What else needs to be said?

Eddie&SamsNYPizzaMenu

Here is Eddie & Sam’s Menu and their contact information.

They make over 20 slices a day, so I want to say we’re just getting started.

We’re just getting started.   It’s New York Style yes, but I’d like to call this Tampa Style. Tampa now has my heart, but maybe it always did.

Let’s do this again sometime.

Take good care,

Ideen

 

 

 

More Pizza With My Poppa

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After last week, I’m feeling even more compelled to get nostalgic about pizza memories and the town of Rockville, MD, where my dad has built a great reputation for himself as a small business owner, and has cultivated and nourished relationships for over 35 years

Time flies…

As time goes on, towns change and they tend to start looking like every other.  That can be good but in many instances sentimental folks such as myself miss how towns looked 20+ years ago, and in some instances still look like today, but are on the verge of changing.  With that situation I almost feel that the historic parts of a town, or the signs on the road are there in spite of, or in spite of everything else around it.   See what I’m saying?

The more things change, some things to remain the same.  My dad’s business has changed locations ever so slightly.  Literally from one suite many years ago to its current location.  But the heart and soul has remained the same throughout its entirety.

GiuseppisFront

I want to believe the same goes for Giuseppe’s Pizza Plus. Here is their menu.

Many years ago it was located in an old looking and aging strip mall (many years ago you would’t call it that), but it was home to many visits by me and my friends after high school or after classes at the local community college.  And sometimes I would grab a slice or pie with my dad.   It was walking distance, so it was convenient, but in a way we took it for granted, because it was so close.

We didn’t eat here enough but when we did we acknowledged that it’s good pizza that fills you up, makes you feel good, and made life easy when cooking or sitting at a restaurant isn’t an option.   And the affordability was a plus too.

GiuseppisSign

The tremendous deal I remember still exists.  Even with inflation, two slices and a soda is only $5.50.  Beautiful.

And now it sits in its current home next to a movie theater.   You can call it movie theater pizza, you can all it anything you want.  But it’s pizza that you can appreciate for what it is.  It’s the history I have with the place that brings me back.  No it’s not the best pizza you or I will ever have.  But does it really matter in this or most circumstances?  Five dollars and change is the best.

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For my father I got a cheese and random toppings on the other.  He just likes pizza with toppings on them, that don’t always make sense.  But for me I find that endearing.  And I got a somewhat supreme slice with just the pepperoni, onions, and peppers.

Everything was fresh and everything was fine.  It’s going be to be fine…

Thinking back to how the interior and exterior used to be versus now, it’s a tremendous upgrade.  The same goes for its other location in Gaithersburg.  And here is more about this great family business.

I was thinking about this earlier today before writing.  My dad once lived within walking distance of the Gaithersburg location and didn’t go often.  Again, maybe because it’s always gong to be there.

I say lets not take things for granted.  There will always be reasons to go or not go somewhere, to try or avoid something new, and throw all the excuses or ignoring signs to do this or that.  But it’s important to appreciate what’s around you along with going outside of where you reside or work.   But it’s also important to appreciate what’s right in front of you.  This isn’t just abut a restaurant, store, or entity near you.  It’s about everything.  It’s ok to walk past something to revisit it later.  But if something is there, waiting to be embraced, then that’s exactly what you and I should do.

I write this projecting a lot, because life is about seizing the moment and grabbing things while you still can, and while you’re still here on this Earth.

This is only a pizza blog, but it’s the spiritual aspects that I wanted to hone in on.  And I don’t just mean this week, but preceding posts and for the duration.  I will as much as I can.

But for now, I’m sending good vibrations to you, my father, my family, my friends, and the rest of the universe.

There may be one more post down the line incorporating pizza, my dad, and my family. And after that, I hope the next time will be a meal which actually involves my loving family sitting together, and embracing all the love we have or one another.

I look forward to this happening soon.

Peace Be With You,

Ideen