Cauliflower Alley

GustoObeyTheClaw

For years, and even decades (oh boy…) I have spent time at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, MD, that it will always be a part of my childhood, a part of my youth, and a part of something that I don’t always think about when I’m in the vicinity.

However, earlier this week I was back again and the reasons don’t matter.  I was just there.  No, not that bad kind of there where you just exist and you’re mediocre, or average.  I’m talking about a place in time where everything felt ok.  I was one with the universe and the universe was on with me.  It’s one with you too.

Many shopping centers, malls, strip malls, and the like have gone through necessary renovations to keep up with the times and evolution.  It’s that progress and that sometimes gives the illusion of well, progress.  It’s that more things change, the more they stay constant and maybe even, just there.

Something told me to go to this place where I spent many times ‘hanging out’ (aka sitting around doing nothing) and being a kid.  I still feel like a kid at times.  And being a kid means…

That food court has evolved while everything else around it looked the same.  In a way, I like that.  It’s the old sentimental in me.  I’m good with change (sometimes, that’s my own issues at play) but I find such endearing charm in things looking like they will always be the same.  This is a mall I’m talking about mind you, yes I could be referring to anything, maybe I am.

I liked what the food court has become.  You have your staples, you have your local food operations, and you have some places I had never heard of.

Gusto

That brings us to Gusto (here are their locations, their story, and of course the food), which makes all their food with love, and the farm fresh ingredients that we’ve grown accustomed or at least are becoming more aware of.

Because of the location, fast is the name of the game, and I went with two pies and got  creative with the differences.

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First is their current season item, the Obey The Claw.

I’m not going to explain how I thought about everything on this pie, that would be too much.  There’s so much going on here, and I would be lying if I told you I could taste everything.  Yet, nothing is too in your face or crammed down your throat.

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The crab meat itself is tasty, and the various vegetables all look so beautiful, yet everything feels like they complement the other. It’s understated in a way that I didn’t expect.  Maybe that’s the point.  The thin whole grain crust is a a nice touch.  I really enjoyed this thing and took my time, never felt full, and felt good.

GustoWildShroom

You may have heard about cauliflower based pizza crusts becoming more predominant, as we continue to look for ways to eat right and more health conscious.   For the Wild Shroom pizza I went said crust and it was different, it was distinct, and at the same time it felt satisfying.

There’s an art to heating a crust, and there’s an art to a lot of things.  I’ve had cauliflower crusts before but in such small doses, that I can’t compare one to the other.  All I can say here is that it worked with the mushrooms, arugula, and goat cheese.  I don’t know if the crust could have been heated differently or this is how it was supposed to be.  But no need to quibble, I had fun.   For a couple extra dollars, this was a fun experience.

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At $9 a pie ($2 extra for cauliflower and gluten free) it may feel pricey, but I understand with the location and what we’re supporting.  I’m all for supporting it and I highly recommend a trip to Gusto if there’s one near you.

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You can just sense that more stores are coming and we’re going to be hearing and seeing a lot more from them.

Beautiful.

Peace Be With You

Ideen

Sentimental Sicilian Style

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

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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