So Much To Love…

MolinaSlices2

You know, the first time I set food into R. House in the up-and-coming (eek!) Remington neighborhood in Baltimore, I thought was wonderful.  On the outside looking it, I could see why people could sense stuffy, hipster, unapproachable, and uninviting.  Now everyone has an opinion, and I wouldn’t question why folks would think that way.  I imagine that I might have thought that way too, initially.

But no, I’ve had fantastic culinary experiences, with friends or on my own, at stall that myself and many others would never had a chance to feast on.   I’m writing this on Thanksgiving Day, so I’m feeling a little more thankful than usual.   R. House is a place to be thankful for…

Rhouse1

However, for months, people were asking where is the pizza?

You have food from all over the globe, yet no pizza.  I was asking too.  I wanted something a little different to write about.   I had a feeling something special was coming…

…And I was right…

MolinaStall

Molina Pizze & Polpette,which has been barely open a month, is the perfect complement to everything else in the R. House family, or space if you will.  It feels like a family of establishments that all work together to serve us some awesome eats and something out of the ordinary.

I’ll save the other places I’ve dined at for another time, or maybe never haha..  But I will review all five of the pizzas they’re serving as of this write up.

Molina is New Haven style, (which I wrote about once before, you can find that post here) which is one of those acquired tastes if you believe in acquired tastes.  I do to an extent.

This was done over two visits, and the results were different, but not in the way you would think.   I’ll just say a few of the pizzas stood out above the others, but everything was good to great.  I may lump a few of these slices together, but here goes.

MolinaSlices

Visit #1 :

MolinaRaz

First, and of course, is the Raz.  This is their cheese, and for this and the next slice is the crunchier style I would have expected.    The cheese pizza itself was fantastic.   The basil, for its appearance and its flavor, put this one over significantly. Great pizza.

MolinaTerra

The Terra is their vegan pie.   I forgot that the pesto was lemon basil.  Basil is great isn’t it? I could have had this pesto on a piece of bread all by its lonesome and would have been happy.  Sounds like a great idea.  The veggies all tasted so fresh and blended with this pie so well.  And I love when places throw on that arugula that you can’t see anything else.  The cashew ricotta is as incredible as it sounds.  Oh my goodness right?  The texture, the look, and everything.  This is not a pie for everyone, but it’s a pie for everyone.

MolinaSlices2

The most recent visit made had the exactly comforting crust, that you may find traditionally at other pizzerias.  But why complain? It’s ‘officially’ the holidays and we’re going to be eating this kind of bread, dough, and crust frequently if you’re headed to a party (or ten+) near you.

MolinaCollabria

The Calabria is a slight deviation from the Raz, but with protein, and mmm Chili Oil?  Is that was that distinct taste was?

MolinaParma

The prosciutto on the Parma made this one fun too.  If it wasn’t for that the arugula would take over everything.  Did I mention how much I love that?  And I love how they’re using lemon as a topping.  Here they use lemon juice.

MolinaHenrietta

My favorite (which could change instantaneously) is the Henrietta.  It contains some of my most valued vegetables.  I adore spinach, mushrooms and that gorgonzola is a trifecta of tremendous proportions.    And having shallots on a pizza can be a challenge.  It can backfire, but not here.   Again, I’ve had balsamic glaze on a pie which lead to overkill and be too runny or unnatural.   This was natural.

Have I touted this place enough?

MolinaMenu

Even if you’re not into pizza, they have other things on their menu, which I would love to try sometime.  The prices may put off some, but I think they’re justified.

MolinaPrices

I like what Molina is all about.  Actually I love what they’re all about.

Their story and team information can be found on the main page, and it’s a charmer.

And here is their contact information.

RHouseDoors

Finally, for more on R. House, click here.

I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving with dear family and friends, that you hold closest to you.   I feel like Molina is a place I’ll hold close to me now.

Have a good one and peace be with you.

Ideen

Every Peace Is Important

DonatosHotChicken4

You know after last week, I thought my time in Vienna, Virginia was going to be short lived and an eventual return to Baltimore was inevitable.  The universe had other plans for me.  And that can only mean more pizza from out of the way.  And I’m so grateful for another place to discuss, which I otherwise wouldn’t have.

DonatosFront

Until last week, I had never heard of Donatos. I wasn’t aware of this growing pizzeria chain, and why it sometimes takes so long to find something so beautiful, or for it to find you, is just one of those things.  I wasn’t meant to discover this until now.   Who knows what else is out there, but what I do know is this a magical discovery that is another great reminder of how life, and as we approach the holidays, can be so awesome if you let nature and a belief that good things till come, take its course.

Of course I’m talking about pizza, but you can apply this to everything.

What I first loved when first walking in was the decor and the colors of the interior.  It had a soothing feeling that can only be described as pizza.  I know, this is the expert analysis you come to look for in this blog.  Thank you so much and have a blessed day.

All kidding aside, I just had a good feeling about this place before I even walked in.   I love the fact that they use provolone cheese as their base.   I mean, who doesn’t love mozzarela, it’s the perfect pizza for cheese.  It was the cheese that was meant to be married to pizza dough and sauce.  But provolone has a distinct taste all its own.  And it showed on my two pizza choices.

DonatosBoard

First, I went with the pepperoni.  Maybe it was the sign that enticed me?  Wouldn’t it do the same to you? No? Well ok, it did to me… But if I’m going to get cheese, I might as well get a simple topping so I can get several tastes in one.  That’s what makes pizza and blends of foods so fun.  You never now what you might discover.

DonatosPepperoni

But as the sign said, they throw a multitude of pepperoni that you won’t know what to do with yourself.  Well you can eat it for one.  Not sure what else you can do, except have a little fun with this.

DonatosPepperoni2

This was a fun pizza.  I got this and the second pizza to come, in personal size (at only $6) to sample and to save for later.  I like the basic crust and the charming pieces it was cut in.  I like their style a lot.  It’s a style all their own.

DonatosHotChicken

Speaking of all their own,  the Hot Chicken was a first for me.  This showed ambition and while it was aggressive, it succeeded.  I didn’t even realize they threw pepper jack cheese on it.  I figured it was more of the provolone.  But little did I know.  The hot chicken pieces were the highlight.  And as I’ve been stating since the beginning of this journey, I always have fun picking off the toppings and eating them by its lonesome. The same goes for the aforementioned pepperoni.  It would be a crime not to do this.

DonatosHotChicken2

The jalapeno peppers and pickles that complement the pie, may be a challenge to eat for some (it was a little for me), it’s a different take on pizza.  Essentially a chicken sandwich was put on top of a pie.  Some ranch drizzle thrown on top and you think you’re somewhere else.

DonatosHotChicken3

I’ve grown to like pickles again, or otherwise this might have been more of a chore than a feast.  But with all that being said, this was a fun adventure, and I love when pizzerias get creative with how they present their takes on favorites, and then throw in their own select pies to stand out.  This one stands out alright.   And if their menu tells us anything, they have quite a few stand out pizzas that I would love to try sometime.

But what’s most important is when we approach this time of year, you’ll start seeing more requests for donations to causes near and dear to each and every organization and establishment we come across.  I like the gesture.  It makes me feel warm. It makes me want to do more.  And while I think I can only do so much.  A little donation here, a helping hand there is what life is all about.

DonatosDonate

It wasn’t a forced request.  It’s there waiting for your support, and it’s up to us to decide if it’s a cause we believe in, or not.  And even if isn’t, it’s always the symbolic gesture that always means the most.

I like that the word Donatos sounds so similar to donate.   I don’t think I’m reading too much into that.  And I don’t think it’s by accident.

For more on Donatos, here is their menu, their locations, and more about their company.

DonatosBox

I found my brief visit quite peaceful yet so substantial and spiritually healing.   I’m grateful to have been granted the opportunity to discuss and share with you.

We’re less than a week away from Thanksgiving and I could feel the peace and spirit of the holidays at Donatos.  I can’t wait to see where I head to next.   But for now…

…Peace be with you.

Ideen

Local, Simple, Superb…

ArostoBrisket

There’s that old cliche that if you stop looking for things, they come to you.  I’m not articulating it as properly as I could, but I think you know what I’m saying.  Watching too many cheesy (ha) Christmas movies a little earlier than maybe one should will get one overly sentimental.  Oh my…

Well where am I going with all this?

I’m so blessed to live in an area that is close enough to many busy cities and towns (Baltimore, Annapolis, DC, Philadelphia, and many places in, between, and around the area) that I get more of a pick of pizzas places and for that matter, places to go in general then if I were living in somewhere more remote.  I should not take that for granted.  It’s significant now and it’s going to mean something that much bigger later.  Oh here I go being sentimental and dopey again…

Where did I end up earlier this week, that has gotten feeling so emotional?   I mean it’s only pizza right?  But how can become so invested in something if I don’t have passion for it?

This week my travels brought me to Vienna, Virginia, which is right outside Washington, DC.

First of all, I technically have not written about a pizzeria in Vienna, so any new location is easily going to get me excited.  Second, while there’s still historic, more authentic, and older parts of Vienna that are easily accessible, it’s becoming like many other towns, and many other cities across the country, lots of chains, lots of town centers that portray themselves as something they’re not, and lots of transient people.

So when I find a local place, that’s where I’m going first.  And remember, I wasn’t looking…

ArostoSign

This brings me to Arosto Pizza in Dunn Loring.  Which is now more than a metro station, it’s a conglomerate of things that I may or may not have ever been to.  There’s chains, a grocery store, and a bunch of things that all look the same, but within all that Arosto brings a much needed local face that we can never have enough of.

ArostoOven

The stone hearth pizza oven which heats up these gems is just that, a gem.  Some people may frown upon this kind of rapid fire pizza making, and I might have been one of those people, but I got over it.  The crusts on both of my orders tasted differently in a good way.  My taste buds got a doughy, buttery, and most importantly comforting feeling at times.  And as we approach the holidays, this is the kind of pizza and food you want.

Man this was fantastic.

I’m singing the praises before I even tell you what I ordered.  Yeah it was that fun.

I was going to go with the cheese, but since I’m only here every once in a while, I went with two distinctively different pies, the District White and, the Smoked Beef Brisket.  The latter seems to be appropriate for the time of year.

ArostoBrisket3

The Brisket looks like art.  The presentation is immaculate.  Upon first reading, I thought the slaw would be infused into the pie, which would be quite ambitious.  And when re-reading the menu, it would be easy to make that determination.  But they pile it on high on top of this already gorgeous array of brisket, cheddar cheese, onions, and scallions.  If I had one gripe is maybe a little more brisket would have been preferred.  There was just enough (which means not too much for me) barbecue sauce that everything is easily accessible, easy to be tasted, and nothing gets lost in the shuffle.

ArostoBrisketSlice

And like I said, that crust is tremendous.  I like saying that word a lot, ‘tremendous’.  It’s tremendous, stellar, awesome, and anything else awesome you want to add. Ha…

But even with that being said, the simplicity of the District White was my favorite of the two.

ArostoDistrictWhite

The combination of spinach ricotta sauce (I know right, yum!), mozzarella, romano, and fontina cheeses is already a winner.  And I’ve frowned upon some of the whites I’ve had in the past for being overdone, but this was creative, yet simple, and that’s all anyone can ask for.  It’s done just right without doing too much.  I think there’s an analogy in there somewhere.

ArostoDistrictWhiteSlice

I would be happy with that, but they drizzled on some fresh basil that puts this pie over the top after it was already over.  And believe me it’s all over after this.  The pizza never had a chance.  And the visual of the spinach ricotta by itself is visually mesmerizing.

I’m craving some right now.   Thankfully I have leftovers.

The prices are listed with the menu, and while there isn’t a lot of places to compare it too, I find them reasonable for their medium vs. large pies.  But again, no need to compare it to anyone or anything.   These are charming pies that avoid all the pretentiousness that you find in the DC and Northern Virginia areas.

They heat everything in front of you.  I was in and out in 10 minutes.  But there was no rush.  I relaxed a little bit in the small park right outside of one of my new favorite pizza places.

And maybe it’ll be one of yours.

ArostoMenu

Here’s their menu, their gallery, and contact/location info.

ArostoBox

I’m so grateful I made this discovery.  I hope to be back again.

Thanks so much, happy holidays, and peace be with you.

Ideen

 

 

 

 

Pretzel Pals

PretzelPizzaOlympicPizza2

Pretzel and Pizza Creations of Downtown Frederick, MD is a refreshing change for so many reasons.  First, the location just makes me feel so warm inside.  I adore any town that has a historic and neighborly looking part.   It feels even more cozy when the temperatures start to drop a little bit and those leaves start changing color.  The symbols and images are open to your interpretation.  I interpret as feelings of community, love, and looking out for one another.

PretzelPizzaStore

With all that being said, Prezel and Pizza definitely has a feel of a small town shoppe with all kinds of treats and goodies ready at your disposal.   Not every town or community has a store like this.  You got your community bank, your bar, wine shop, bookstore, and your various food places.  This might sound like something out of program or cinema, but it’s also real life.  Mom and pop shoppes are still number one in my eyes, and always will be.

I’m grateful to have made two visits to Frederick in as many months, and my inquisitive nature made me research a place for pizza.  And a bonus was this charming place.

My first time I was mesmerized by the menu.  If you’ve never gone to a restaurant or any food place, you may find yourself perusing the menu a lot longer than wherever you might be a regular.  But that’s the fun of it.  Every place you’ve been to, there was a first time.  I like the sound of that.

PretzelPizzaOlympicPizzaPie

Back near the end of the Summer was that first time and I ordered the Olympic Games as my first pizza.  Now for those who know me personally know why I went with that.

PretzelPizzaOlympicPizza

I had no idea what to expect with how the pretzel would taste along with the mozzarella cheese, spinach, olives, and feta.  I just realized that my pie had two cheeses.  I did take notes and that taste resonated with me.

PretzelPizzaOlympicSlice2

The Bavarian Style soft pretzel crust is divine, it’s heavenly, and it’s comfort food at its finest.  As the weather gets colder, this is the kind of doughy goodness you’re going to be seeking.

PretzelPizzaOlympicSlice

As a collective I think the clash of cheeses might have been an issue for me.  I didn’t love this pizza, or pretzel if you will.  I didn’t love the flavor of the dough on this first go around.  But that was until…

Fast forward to earlier this week,  I kept it simple and then I got into the spirit of the season.

PretzelPizzaCheese

The simple cheese is just what I needed and the flavors of their mozzarella and homemade sauce worked perfectly with this crust.   And while the pictures of both look appetizing, the cheese is truly a winner.  Sometimes keeping it simple is the way to go.  Just like the simple town setup is some all anyone needs.   A standard and reliable cheese is usually going to raise your spirits and make you feel good.   This made me feel really good.

PretzelPizzaPumpkinMenu

Just when it couldn’t get any better, a nice bonus menu of pumpkin pretzels was their just glistening and waiting to be ordered.   I went for the big one and that means the stuffed pretzel with pumpkin chips, cream cheese, and loads of pumpkin spice sugar. We might be getting carried with all this pumpkin stuff, but I love it.  Tis the season, wait not that season just yet.  It’s full on pumpkin season and this pretzel is a treasure to behold.

And what a great way to celebrate National Pumpkin Day.  Yes that’s a holiday!

PretzelPizzaPumpkin

Their menu is loaded with exciting foodies, aside from the pizza and pretzels, that will be sure to please anyone visiting, and all the locals.   For a moment I felt like a local.  The staff was personable and welcoming upon each visit.

PretzelPizzaMenu

Until just now, I had no idea they had a second location in Hagerstown.

To find out more about Pretzel and Pizza Creations, here is their story, their menu, the food, and contact information.

This was so fun. I’m so fortunate and grateful to have discovered this gem in a different part of Maryland, that I don’t visit nearly enough.  If you live or are ever around the Frederick or Hagerstown areas, I would definitely pay a visit here if you haven’t already.

ILoveDowntownFrederick

I welcome the next time I’m in town and will make it a point to visit again.

Thanks so much and peace be with you.

Ideen

 

With All The Trimmings

rusticatrios1

This is a Thanksgiving Special two months in the making.   And the holidays means roads trips, leaving town, going to see family, and all the other stuff that makes this overly busy holiday that much busier.  But what would the fun be if it were otherwise?

For this particular trip, I was on my own.  A visit to one of my favorite cities, Philadelphia, led me to one of the more unique and creative pizzeria experiences I’ve had in some time.

Rustica in the Northern Liberties part of town, looks very welcoming, approachable, and unassuming all at the same time.  It has a neighborhood feel to it that my pictures may not do it justice.  It feels like a corner bar or restaurant that I would frequent on a regular basis if I lived close by.  I’m heaping a lot of praise before I even walk inside.  As I always tells myself, I hope I’m not setting myself for disappointment.   This would not be the case.  Rustica is awesome.

rusticafront2As their story says, they’ve been a part of the growth of the neighborhood since its inception back in 2001.  Before I knew anything about this place, (other than the fact they served creative slices)  I got a sense when I was driving through and then walked through the neighborhood, that Northern Liberties has really developed.   It had been many years since I last set food in this part of Philly.  I did recall it was less populous and less busy than it is today.  And there’s room for more.  It still feels like a hidden gem within such a hectic and ever-growing city.

Ok now onto the pizza.

Through my limited knowledge, I did know they had some creative slices but I didn’t know how inspired they really were.  In hindsight I’m even more happy with my three slices. Yes I got three.  I would have had more if my stomach could handle it.  It could barely handle two.  Yes they were thick, rich, full of life, and inspiration.  Yes I said inspiration again. There was a lot of soul and effort to make these pies

I’ll start with the simplest and work my way to my holiday special.

rusticacheese

Do you see that cheese slice?  I know right.  It has the look of what a thick and hearty cheese slice should look like.  This would be considered an extra cheese in most places but not here.  If you like your dairy and you like your dough than this is the equivalent of heaven on earth.  Wow this was something else.

rusticajambalaya

On almost any other day I would talk about the Jambalaya last.  I feel bad putting it in the middle with the two bookends.  However, that doesn’t discount how incredibly good this was.   The andouille sausage, the fresh and smoked chicken,  red peppers and those carrots are a wondrous and mesmerizing combination.   These are the freshest toppings.  They cut no corners and spared no expense.  Oh by the way, I honestly forgot there were clams on the pizza.  Not that it wasn’t memorable.  It’s more that the other toppings stood out more.  White as the base seems a bit understated with all the other players involved.  And that’s saying a lot.  This was a visual and palatable achievement.

rusticabrisket

Now serendipitously we go to our holiday feast special  I didn’t realize at the time I was celebrating Thanksgiving early. but the Brisket with mashed potatoes, and gravy is one of those slices that may not be for the faint of heart.  It’s not quite turkey but this is the perfect protein to go with mashed taters, gravy, and thick bread.   And as rich, hearty and intimidating as it may sound, it’s a creative masterpiece.  I tend to throw that word around a lot but this was a special one.

rusticatrios3

This visit took place couple of months ago but I might as well have been celebrating Thanksgiving then.  And little did I realize I was.   I’m so relieved I waited until now to talk them up.   And they deserve all of the praise and accolades you can throw at them.

All the good that they do for their community makes me even more grateful I supported a business that represents strong support for local and national organizations.  That’s what the holidays and life is all about.

Because they do so much good, the energy levels are much higher.  The pizza is automically heightened to taste even that much better.  So if the pizza was only average it would turn into good, but because this pizza was already great,  that makes it near perfect.

If you live in Philadelphia chances are you’ve at least heard about them.  If you’re visiting or planning to, make this a part of your holiday plans or whatever plans you like.   I intend to be back and intend to try some more outside-the-box slices.   Their prices may turn some folks off and I certainly understand that, but you’re paying for quality.  I’ll gladly pay a few dollars extra for world class anything versus the norm.  We pay for what we get.  And you can always get a slice or two at around $5 per if that’s more within your budget.

I’ll gladly make it a part of my budget.

Next time I’m in town you know I’ll be stopping by here.

It’s the holidays  It’s about indulging, over-eating; and making everything bigger, larger than life, and out of this world.  These slices cover all those bullet points and then some.

rusticabox1

Thanks Rustica for being a gem in a city full of them.

Happy Early Thanksgiving,

Ideen

New Sensation

Italian Sensation

Happy Opening Day in Baltimore.  For many this feels like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other festive days, all rolled into one. Life is good.  Everyone is happy and feeling like a million bucks.  As we should.   Now in keeping with the tradition of today, I did go local on today’s review.

My pizza journey this week led me to Italian Sensation in Fallston.   I go through a running list of places I want to check out and listen to suggestions from my fellow pals.  But, the funny thing here is I had no idea they had a local creation, until perusing their menu.  You could call it coincidence, happenstance, or fate.    The inspiration and stories find us.  I was to go about this pizzeria like any other.  And of course with different analysis.  But serendipity finds me again.  Of all days to write about their spot, of course it had to be today.  And I’m glad.

Have I stretched this out long enough?

Baltimore

The Baltimore, pictured above, looks so beautiful doesn’t it?  With sauteed shrimp and crab meat, it’s a locals dream.   The olive oil, garlic, and mozzarella are a good complement to this pizza pie.  Now I say good.  In my opinion, it’s not amazing.  I didn’t have any expectations going on, and I wasn’t disappointed nor was I blown away.  The shrimp is incredible.   I could pick those off and eat those myself.  Actually, a few times I did.   Something about the crab meat didn’t entirely work for me. Maybe I didn’t enjoy it on my slice?  If this were just loaded with shrimp, I would be heaping for praise.   The pizza otherwise tastes pretty good.  If you take off all the toppings, it’s essentially a white pizza, without the ricotta. And it tastes alright.   The crust is magnificent though.  It’s just a little crunchy, but mainly soft and chewy that it ranks up their with the best of them.  And I love when the cheese crunches up near the end of the crust, and becomes one with the pie.  Lovely. I’d say it’s a good pizza, but not a great one overall.  It’s maybe a case of the whole not equaling the sum of it’s parts.

TheCheeseStandsAlone

I also ordered a cheese, as a nice dichotomy to the Baltimore.  And in the back of my mind, I thought it might play second fiddle.  How wrong I was.  This was stupendous.  It’s just as scrumptious and savory as it looks.  I don’t know if the cheese swirled while I was bringing it home, or it was made that way.  But this is almost too beautiful to eat!  But it was enjoyed and appreciated.   And again, the dough is a stand out here.  Magnificent.

Togetherness

Paired together, they look good.  For more of the wine that’s hiding back there, click here.

I haven’t been to Italian Sensation often, but I’ve usually been happy.  I’ve had several of their slices, and always enjoyed them.

locations!woo!

The staff was also very friendly and welcoming.  The Fallston location has a nice aura about it.  The outside looks so charming.  I’ve also been to the Bel Air spot and got the same vibe.  A review of that place is forthcoming. And a drive up to Perry Hall is going to happen as well.

But for now, enjoy opening day, enjoy one another, and enjoy yourselves.

Take good care.

Best,

Ideen