A Flair For The Gold

FranksTrios

I’m writing this as I watch the unofficial first day of coverage of the Winter Olympics, so please bare with me, I’m a bit excited.

I wanted on the eve (or day of depending on where you are and when you read this) of National Pizza Day, for this story to be inspiring, remarkable, heartwarming, and all those other superlatives and blessings.

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When talking about Frank’s Pizza & Pasta in the Northeast Baltimore neighborhood of Hamilton, or is it Overlea?  Well it’s Baltimore and it’s an institution that’s been around for over 30 years.   That to me is worthy of a medal itself.

I had actually intended on doing a story nearly two years ago but something told me the timing wasn’t right.  If I’m recalling correctly, my pictures looked underwhelming, or maybe some universal force told me it wasn’t time.   Some things can’t be explained nor need an explanation.

All roads brought me here this week.   Actually that’s exactly what happened.  Yesterday I drove passed Frank’s later in the evening, with the thinking that I need to get back here.  And while I was on my way home, if the situation presented itself, I know I’d be back again soon.  Literally, less than 24 hours later… And the rest is well…

My expectations had been raised after hearing about their pizza, from a couple peoples’ opinions that I respect immensely.  And it’s all about your own opinion, your own beliefs, experience, and all that good stuff.  But I can’t help but admit that I had high hopes.

If we’re using Olympic terms, the technical scores may be a bit low, or the qualification times may be enough to make the next round but I don’t know.  There are some deductions and maybe some penalties.   There may need to be a redo.

What does this all mean?  I’ll get to the point.  I wanted to love it but I can’t say that.  I want to love every pizza and every experience, but it’s not always going be that way.  While it’s easy to find positives (and there are), the faults do stand out.

I got three slices, and how perfect was this selection.  I might have stopped by right after the lunch rush since a lot of slices were bunched together, and the pickings were minimal. No problem at all, I still got a cheese slice, a meat lover’s, and the Mediterranean, which looked like it just came out of the oven.

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I’ll get my critiques out of the way first.  The cheese, and meat lover’s looked much better displayed on trays beforehand than how they looked after they were heated.  Maybe my eyes were deceiving me but the plain cheese looked like it shrank.

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You can also see that they reheated these slices a little too long.  You can see the burnt parts, especially in the meat lover’s, that the crust actually fell apart where it was charred.  Now there’s good charring and then there’s this.   It wouldn’t have mattered though, as neither slice did much for me.  The cheese felt flat and something just didn’t taste right.  Maybe there wasn’t enough?  Maybe it was out there too long.  I don’t know.

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The meat lover’s is not one I would ordinary try anyways, but I figured why not.  This one I could only take one or two bites of before I had enough.  It was burnt and it was a little too hearty for me, but that’s more of a personal opinion as well.   I like more of a….

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And this brings me to the Mediterranean.  This was the gem, or the crown jewel if you will, of the slices.  Maybe the fact that it just came out hot and fresh had a lot to do with it.  The toppings were exquisite and the pesto was tremendous.  I think I got some magnificent olive oil too.  All the toppings complemented each other perfectly.  It’ll make me want come back.    All this on top of a white pizza, is masterful.

And I will.  I think this place is capable of so much.  It wouldn’t be around so long if it hadn’t, even with changing times and tastes.

FranksMediterranean

That’s the most in depth I’ve been about pizza in some time.  I usually look for all the positives and situations related to everything outside of the food itself, as well.   And I still did here.  The staff is great, it’s very old school and very authentic in terms of service and appealing to a loyal clientele that serves a part of Baltimore you don’t always hear about, or think to go to.

All I know is that it won’t be another few years until I’m back.  If time allows, we shall do this again soon.  I know I say that a lot, but we shall do this again soon.

For more on Frank’s, here is their menu, and their storied history.

Enjoy the Olympics, the opening ceremonies, and all the good that comes from that.  I know I will.

And Peace Be With You.

Ideen

Everything Is Energy

PieInTheSkyPizza

This one of those stories that reminds us why this life is an amazing ride.  It’s a roller coaster alright. There’s lots of twists, turns, and all those other events that remind me us that everything is right with the world, and it can a magical place, if you let it.  If you let yourself go and let things come to you. you will attract certain people, events, and situations in your life, and it will become second nature.

I want to believe this is what happened here.

After what seemed like any other day of hanging out in the Fells Point neighborhood (my Fells Point pizza history can be found here) of Baltimore, a dear friend noticed new signage, for a new business that literally opened up a few days ago.   If I hadn’t seen this, I would have walked by and not thought anything of it. Not yet at least.  In time I would have gotten to Pie in the Sky, but timing is everything.

PieInTheSkyFront

The time is now.  The moment is now.  These windows of opportunity come and go, without us even realizing it most of the time.  But when you see it, it’s time to seize it.

I promise I will get to the actual pizza itself shortly.

From the outside looking in, the business itself didn’t actually look open.  I saw a gentleman on his laptop and another person hanging around the kitchen it seemed.  Now you see soft openings, friends and family openings, and in other instances you just see people preparing and setting up for when a place actually is ready to open to the public, for everyone’s enjoyment.

So yes, I almost didn’t walk in.  I’ve made so many hesitations in my life, so many times where I could have done this or that; the could’ve, would’ve, and should’ve scenarios that go on in a person’s life.  And there’s been so many instances where I didn’t walk in somewhere or take a chance because a place, or door, or opportunity seemed closed.  It’s all perception and it’s all what’s going on in my head, not with the outside world.  The outside world exists yes, but it’s not my world or your world.

See what I’m saying?  We can carve our own realities and imprints in this lifetime.  We can create memories, situations, and alter the course of our lives, with just a few simple decisions, changes, and maybe branching out of our comfort zones.

While it might just be a pizzeria or restaurant, to me this was something bigger than me, bigger than ourselves, and bigger than anything I can quantify.

So I walked in…

Something hit me, I felt compelled to explain what it is that I do.  So yes, the place was open, and all those unwarranted fears subsided.

I met Murat, the owner and he could have not been more gracious and helpful in coming up with what to write about for this blog.    It was so gratifying.

He let me take a tour of the kitchen and the ovens, where he simply explained that he makes all the sauces and pizza dough himself.  The olive oil is genuine, the toppings are the real deal, and so is the entire energy of this place.

I was flattered that Murat would give me the opportunity to explore this beauty of a restaurant and give me some insight into what he wants to do, plans to do, and where he’s been in the past.

This is where things get crazy, but in a good way.

He told me that he also runs a pizza place further up in Northern Baltimore, and while this is going on, I’m starting to sense where this is going.  That weird feeling of anticipation about what he’s about to say.  And when he mentioned Toss, I just had this freaking out moment (once again in the best way possible), because I’ve told people that Toss (review is here, and man where did three years go, and my writing style has evolved…) is one of the best pizza places in Baltimore, and one of the best pizza places in Baltimore that many don’t even know about.

It’s one of those things where Toss is a secret to many, but a secret that’s meant to be shared and shared with the universe.

And now it’s time to share how amazing Pie in the Sky truly is.

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Based on our conversation, and what I ate at Toss (the pies are similar and that’s an absolutely beautiful thing), Murat made me a half chicken pesto and half portabella mushroom pie, that is one for the ages and one for the books, or those top lists people like to make sometimes, haha.

When the vibe is going well, the pizza (or anything) is going to taste, feel, and hit you that much better.  This is what happened here.

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And I’m honored and grateful that Murat would make a half-and-half for me of this magnitude and with this precision, love, and care.   It makes me feel good writing about this and sharing this with you.

This pizza is incredible.

But it’s not just because of the organic ingredients, the dough, the crust, the sauce, the toppings, (gluten free and vegan options are also available), and everything other little detail.  It became from a place of soul, of kindness, and of heart.  And that’s just as, if not more important to the actual food or substance itself.  There’s a different kind of character, soul, and substance that can’t be measured nor should it be.

This was an experience I’ll remember forever, and one that almost didn’t happen.  Thinking about that gives me chills, goose bumps, and a feeling of relief.  I’m so happy and grateful this happened.

If you’re in the Fells Point area, I strongly recommend a visit to Pie in The Sky.  If it’s great this early, I can only imagine the incredible heights this place is headed to.

I’m grateful to Murat for his hospitality, grateful to the universe, and grateful to my dear friend for suggesting I write about it, and take the plunge.

Pie in the Sky is going to be massive.  It’s a secret and gem, that I’m honored to share with you.  And I’m honored to say, there at the beginning…

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

 

Love & Pizza

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I just had to get back to one of of my favorite Washington, DC area pizza places, We The Pizza.  The charm, the energy, the charisma, the positive energy, and most of all, the pizza has stuck with me since my inaugural visit to their Crystal City location back in November of 2015.  You can read about that surreal experience here.

I had said I would be back here sooner rather than later.  How does nearly 14 month sound? And how surreal again is it, one the eve of one of the biggest events in the area, and in our nation in a long time.   Life is funny that way.  It presents us scenarios.  It naturally plants us in situations where we either take it or throw it back to the universe for reorganizing.

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For many, a situation might be too much too handle and we withdrawal, we have reservations, and we overthink.  Heck what am I talking about?  I was footsteps away from where there was so much commotion, and the DC version of We The Pizza was in my sights.  Maybe that’s all there is too it.   Maybe.  I didn’t have any reservations.  Speaking of which, this is what they call, casual digs, no need to call ahead and reserve a table. I I suspect some of the folks in line might be paying a hefty tab for a dinner later on this weekend if you catch what I’m saying.

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The strip of bars, shoppes, and restaurants around Capitol Hill does have some charm to it. As much as DC has become so homogenized with bloated new apartment and condo units, it still has loads of charm.  You don’t have too look too hard to find it.  I forgot one of my new favorite pizzerias was nestled right in the heart of it.  It’s been here for  over six years. I don’t think I’ve been away that long.

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The vibe was much different than it’s Virginia Counterpart.  Yes there were plenty of “What Do You Do?” types mulling about.  But there seemed to be an overall intensity of joy all around.  The sun was out and you could almost get away without wearing a jacket.  It was that nice out.  That always helps.   On first glimpse, I didn’t sense as much as dining space as in Crystal City, but then I walked around and realized wow.  There’s outdoor seating, front seating, side seating, and more upstairs.  This is the combination of cozy and widespread.   I think this has always been the norm (if plausible) in restaurants within rowhomes, but I still like to point it out

To say there was a sense of community around is a statement.  Maybe you thought I would say understatement but now.  But not an overstatement either.  People seemed happy.  I saw people saying hi to one another.  There’s good everywhere and we don’t have to look hard to find it.  I bet sharing pizza has a lot do with that.  More on that shortly.  But speaking of which…

I wanted to keep it simple this time around.  But when you see their whole assortment of pies, it’s hard to just stick with cheese and pepperoni.   I’ll get to the meats in good time. But I did go with three slices, one was one of the magnificently crafted slices I’ve had.  You may see it hiding behind the other two, in the picture on the right above.  That overused artisanal word can be applied to that one.  The unveiling is coming.  I’ll get to that in pizza three.

wethepizzawhite

I went with with the White Pizza first.   I’m going with this one initially because this shocked me how disappointing this was.  White is usually hard to make poorly but something went awry here.  All the standards are there, but was it the fontina that gave this a strange taste?  Was is the ricotta?  How about the white sauce?  Maybe the whole not equalling the sum?  Maybe it was an off day. I’m really confused.  But look how beautiful this is?  Yet, I couldn’t finish it.

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I will say the crust on all the pies is tremendous, cooked to perfection, and with the perfect charring all over the place.

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Now we move on to simple cheese.  This was fantastic.  And the cheese is just like someone’s mom used to make, and hopefully still does.   It reminds me of pizza I had when I was a kid and still luckily find periodically.  I know in the past I’ve used that similarity before, but it applies here as well.  This was so damn good.  But the fresh oregano is the key ingredient that makes this magical.

That would have been enough to make it a 2 for 2 in visits.  But this just needed a little something else didn’t it?

I’m big on dramatics, even when it comes to something simple as pizza, but I noticed one pie on the counter that didn’t have an identifier.  I asked one of the pizza makers what this was and he asked me to look at the sign up ahead.  I keep making it so hard on myself. But it also makes it exciting no?  Well someone out there will agree with me.

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Anyways, what I thought looked like a dessert pie on first glimpse was actually the Roasted Butternut Squash.  I jumped like a little kid and said “me me, I want one!”   No that didn’t actually happen but my enthusiasm level went to a brand new level.  I’m building this thing up in anticipation of eating.  I deliberately saved this one for last and to call this a masterpiece would not be enough.   I just wish I noticed this sooner.  The squash by itself tasted fresh out of the garden. And as individual pieces they were perfect.  I pulled a few off for safe eating.

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Everything that was incorporated brought all the other flavors and textures to life.  From the goat cheese, to the caramelized onions, the thyme, the balsamic glaze, and the bechamel?

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I would be lying if I just threw bechamel acting like I use that word regularly.  But after reading about it, I see that it has just as much importance to this pie as everything else.  And I will now be on the lookout for other meals and foods that use bechamel.  But I really know what it is, I swear!  How many times can I say that without looking like a complete goof. Bechamel bechamel bechamel! Yum!

I need more of that squash pie.   I should have just ordered one to go and did what I could to preserve it to enjoy over the next few days.  That just means I’ll need to come back.  And it won’t be another year plus for the next recap.  This place is too good not to be applauded for all their fantastic za.

All three slices came out to $12 and change.  For the location, that’s more than reasonable.   Cheese is $3 and most other slices are $4.

And for all the good they do too.  Here are some links on that, being in the community and helping the environment.

If you’ve never been or are traveling to the area this weekend or anytime, here is their contact information, locations, and news feed.

This is what I alluded to earlier.  Pizza, almost 100% of the time, makes people feel good, it brings people together.  At that moment you’re enjoying a marvelous pizza pie, with good friends, good family, or whatever awesome company you may have, and just loving life. This is the whole point of  why I write about pizza and why We The Pizza does what they do.

The “We” and the “Us” is paramount here.

The charming pictures on their restroom wall help too!

Like I said earlier, they have too many slices not do be revisited again.  So I hope WE do.

WE’ll do it again soon!

Ideen