A Truly Amazing Club…

CheddarBurgerDeepDishPizza2

A group of kind souls got together and signed me up for a Pizza of the Month Club.

For more on this and other Amazing Clubs, click here.

It was unexpected, an incredible gesture, and something I will always remember.  It’s something that makes me warm inside, and makes me feel so much gratitude.  It’s a validation that not only what I do means something to someone.  But I also have people that care for me in general.

It’s a hard thing to grasp.  I’m not good with compliments, I’m not good with people doing kind things for me, or to me.  I’m not good with anyone doing anything for me with no expectations in return.   I don’t want anything in return either.  Well maybe kindness, because I don’t think that’s asking too much.  So maybe in a way, how I’ve been to people has been reciprocated.

And a lot of the best parts of our life are based on reciprocity, doing good things for one another, with nothing expected in return.  Anything that’s attracted to us is a bonus, but it’s to be cherished, embraced, and loved.

That’s that attitude of gratitude you might have head about.

So when this package arrived at my doorstep I was blown away.  I mean I was literally blown away.  This was beautiful.

This is so beautiful.

I opened up the package to see not one, but THREE Chicago-style pizzas in the most charming and welcoming of sizes.

I wish I had people to share this with, but maybe for this installment, I was meant to share these over time, and alone.

The three for this month are the Artichoke & Plum Tomato, the Cheddarburger, and the BBQ Chicken!  The themes may have to do with the season, the summer, and the upcoming holiday.  Whatever the reason I’m just so thankful for this, and it’s a change of pace for this blog as well.

As a friend who spearheaded said that they hope this inspires a few blog posts.  Well you know at least two more are coming.  But first things first…

I loved each pie so much, and for various reasons.

ArtichokeTomato

The Artichoke & Plum Tomato might have been my favorite.  Maybe because it’s the most season and light to me.   I’ve also grown to prefer vegetables and different types of veggies over your standard toppings.   That’s what makes pizza so great.  You can add just about anything to it, within reason, and even for no reason, and it could turn out to be YOUR masterpiece.

Tomato&ArtichokeDeepDishPizza

I love the quality of the ingredients, and the golden brown crust just works fabulously here.  This is a unique taste on a white pizza, is one way to look at it.  Yet I can also just say it’s awesome.  Awesome!

Just so you know, the cheese complements the pizzas on all of these in first-class fashion.  I don’t need to go over every ingredient, there prominently displayed in the one picture earlier on in this story.

Now the Cheddarburger would go great for the nearing holiday, or whenever you want.  This is simple yet creative.  Ground beef and cheddar cheese in that deep-dish crust, well… you might know the rest.

BBQChicken

In the past I’ve said how I feel BBQ Chicken is one of the harder pizzas to master.  This was well done though.  And if you notice, I have goofed heating this one in the oven. There’s the burnt marks on the pie and on the crust, but it turns out it worked in my favor.  I heated these all just a few minutes under the suggested amount, and they all turned out differently, yet so well.  Lesson learned.

The quality of chicken and sauce on this is quite high end.  You just know.  And you just know there’s a soul and feeling behind this and the previously mentioned pies, that you’re a part of something special.

I’m grateful to be a part of something special. I’m grateful to my friends for being there in a rough patch of my life, maybe the roughest.  This means so much to me.  For future installments of this, I hope to share these pizzas with the folks directly involved in having them attracted into my life.

What an Amazing Club…

Peace Be With You…

Ideen

 

For Me…

FoxsDenElMatadorPizzaPie2

I had all these titles in mind, and nothing stood out.  It all seemed forced.  It all seems, well, suited for another time.   In a way I’m working backwards and forwards, and it’s a continuation of something I spoke of two weeks ago.

There’s going to be a point where my love for Annapolis (and my love affair can be found here) is going to sound repetitive, and all the phrases and connotations are going feel trite.  I’m hoping I’m nowhere close to that point.  Because this is a good one.

This was an interesting day, that takes me a few weeks ago, to where I was in a vulnerable and confused place.  I was in a state of shock and numbness that I had never felt before.  It was a sense of relief, peace, and forthcoming (still waiting…) rejuvenation.  Maybe.

When I’m feeling the blues or anything uncomfortable, the natural inclination is to hide under whatever I can for as long as I need to, as in a way to stamp out that feeling.  That works every once in a while.  That feeling is going to be there, so why not make the most of things.

So I got in the car and just went with a sense I would head to Naptown, literally to buy some tea and maybe get some fresh air.

That did happen, but who knew this would become a marathon like afternoon that turned into evening, that I will always remember with every emotion ever created.  Even if I never wrote about this particular day, it’s going to stick with me.

Some things age well and resonate with you because the memories are amazing.  This one tells a story that I’m torn on now, but it got better as I say I’m torn, and it’s becoming the night out of all nights out that I’ll look back so fondly on.

And it was all on my own.

I’ll leave a lot of the places out, because I’ll revisit those another day.  But I did a lot of wandering, and discovered some unfamiliar places that may be considered home sometime.   It’s good to go to places where you feel like you belong.  That’s what most of us are wanting. Yet, that belonging first comes from within.

Annapolis has that aura about it.  If you hang around long enough (and maybe not even that long) you’re going to know everyone and they’re going to know you.  That’s a powerful thing, can be a dangerous thing, but can be the most beautiful thing.

In the back of my mind, I’m aware that news travels fast, and that people talk…

It’s a place I always called home.  And I have several fond family memories of our state capital, going back to childhood.   More come to mind as I write this.

While I’ve made so many new ones with so many new amazing friends, and people I consider family.  This one is just for me.  And anyone who reads this.

FoxsDen

Fox’s Den is what I thought was a hidden gem in the heart of Main Street.  Well there’s a lot of hearts of Main, but that should go without saying.

FoxsDenPizzaWine

Back in January, I was all set to do a review of a wine and pizza experience here, but it was packed with state officials, and instead of faking it till we made it, we were shown the door.   A few days later, it was a typical crowded happy hour, but it didn’t feel right.  Not even close.

Four months later, it took a life changing experience, an unplanned (sort of) drive, and the universe rearranging itself to present me with a magnificent pizza, wine, and personal experience that is too good not to share, or too good to share.  Either one applies, but I’m happy to continue…

It was an early afternoon Thursday, before the long holiday weekend, so it was quiet.  And quiet is good.  Those steps that lead to this basement bar exciting.  I felt like I was on a runway and that fox at the top has all eyes on you and I.  No need to get over yourself, it’s looking…

FoxsDenMenu

I was told the pizza here is fabulous, and it absolutely is (here is their menu,their story, and contact information); it had the most comforting wood-fired crust, that remind me of many meals with family.  It had a familiarity that I’m sure many of us can relate to.

In reading what the owners and management had in mind, a family and locally oriented kind of vibe is always welcome, and you can never have enough of it

FoxsDenCheesePepperoni2

I ordered a half pepperoni & pepperoncini, and half cheese.   I figured basics was first, before I went any further.  Those piece of pepperoni are absolutely divine.  What else is there to say?  This is a pizza eaters pizza.

When I was told what pies to get, this was one of the stronger recommendations from dear friends who have visited, and from Ryan who was working behind the bar, who has a big help and could not be more hospitable.  Thanks so much.

FoxsDenPepperoniPizzaWine

The pie worked perfectly with the wine I chose.  I forgot the grape, but it doesn’t matter.  None of the details matter.

I did randomly meet some people at the bar, and throughout the day, people were just talking to me.  I wasn’t looking for it, I wasn’t looking for anything really, and that’s how it usually goes.  I was content and at peace with myself.

FoxsDenElMatadorPizzaPie

To go, Ryan suggested the El Matador, and it’s another gem.  The chorizo, feta, provolone, olives, and honey combination sounds like a lot, but the medley works beyond belief and beyond comprehension.   And that dough, my goodness.  This is one of the best heated pizzas I can ever remember.

FoxsDenElMatadorPizzaSlice

I almost write this in a way that takes away from the pizza.  This day was about a lot of things, and a lot of emotions.   I felt like I was carrying the weight of the universe, but the universe carried me and protected me from what I was feeling.

The amount of walking and thinking I did along this beautiful town, through the historic streets, the majestic buildings and colonial architecture hopefully burned off all this yummy food.  But it didn’t matter.  It’s a day that even as I write this, can’t be completely captured in words.

I’m glad I got this in before this coming Father’s Day.   I only realize this now, as I took a couple of weeks off to relax, find peace, and well keep trying to find peace.

This town, officially felt like my town, but that wasn’t the intent.  I was born in one place, that’s also home, but this to me made it official.   Annapolis has always had my heart, but this experience was beyond romantic.  It’s on that kindred spirit level.

I don’t know where we go from here…

I just don’t know, but I know someone out there, a spirit bigger than me, and bigger than us, is telling me everything is going to be ok.

It’s going to be ok…

Happy Early Father’s Day everyone…

Ideen

 

 

Time Splitters

TimesSquareKitchenPizzaSlices

This is another one of those by special request.  And I mean by request over the past couple of years.

When I get to or end up in Owings Mills, I’m not always thinking about pizza.  Then again, I’m not really thinking about anything.  I’m here, I drive, I do things, and then I keep going about my business.

It’s an area I would be sentimental to, as you see, it was where I had my first grown up job, out of college.  It lasted for a time, I left on good terms, and all the while I could see the writing on the wall.  The area was growing, new buildings were well, being built; and more land was turning into corporate and professional entities.  This is not a ran about progress or whatever you want to call it.  It’s just an observation.

TimesSquareKitchenFront

Many years later, here we are.  More is coming.  And that more of the past is Times Square Kitchen, in an area of Owings Mills where I don’t even recall what was there before, which makes believe there was lots of green, and lots of land to do what people choose to do with it.  It’s there.  I remember seeing it on the highway which feels like a different lifetime ago.

Nevertheless, there’s restaurants, a library, a branch of college, and a residential development up the street.  I’m sure I’m missing a few things.

Before I lose track, the question always is, how was the pizza?

I found it missing something.  Maybe it was the mood I was in, but it just didn’t wow me.  And I gave everything a chance.   I ordered a cheese, a white vegetable, and a buffalo chicken slice.  So I tried to cover all bases.

Here is their menu.

TimesSquareKitchenCheesePizzaSlice

The crust on all of these was again, fine.  It just tasted like decent pizza.  If you’re to rate a pizzeria by its cheese then it continues to the theme of an alright pie.  The cheese is again, decent.  It’s not that the cheese and sauce was bad (they make everything in house), it just lacked spark.  I wanted to like this.  I actually want to love everything I eat. If not, what’s the point of all this?

TimesSquareKitchenWhitePizzaSlice

The white veggie was a bit overloaded.  The crust wasn’t big enough to handle all this.  And it’s a sizeable crust, but the whole didn’t equal the sum of those things.   I’ve said it before, I think white is one of the more challenging slices to make.  I think you can rate a place based on their blanca, as much as their plain cheese.

TimesSquareKitchenBuffaloChickenPizzaSlice

The buffalo chicken was a bit of a saving grace.  I liked the shredded piece of chicken on top.  The buffalo sauce was good, and this was a slightly better piece of pizza then its predecessors, but again the feel good story wasn’t there.

TimesSquareKitchenPizzaSlices2

I haven’t been to New York in some time.  But I’ve had great slices there.  I’ve had great New York Style slices in various places, including Maryland.   This doesn’t quite reach that.

Even though I didn’t love it this time, you may think otherwise.  I’ve been told by several people that this is one of their favorites in the Baltimore area.   It’s important to agree to disagree.  We all shouldn’t like the same things.  We all shouldn’t love the same things.  That wouldn’t be fun.

TimesSquareKitchenILovePizza

There’s fun in respectfully disagreeing.  There’s fun in sharing the love of pizza (among so many other things) with the people you love as well.   It’s disappointing this one didn’t work out, but I’ll gladly give it another shot again down the line.

Many a time I’ve gone back a second or third time to many types of a restaurants (not just pizza) and was happier.   One iffy visit isn’t going to stop me from coming back, just like one amazing visit somewhere else should sometimes be met with caution, depending on the place or scenario.

That’s what makes this all so fun.    I shall revisit Times Square Kitchen down the line.  Local business will always have my heart.   I’m all about an encore.

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