Harvest Makes Me Happy

HarvestThymeElBlanco2

The word ‘harvest’, evokes feelings of happiness, joy, tranquility, organic experiences, and well I honestly could go on and on.  It reminds me of what’s good in life, farmer’s markets, a sense of community, giving, and kindness.  Why does a harvest do this for me?

Maybe something happened in my past, and maybe a bunch of life experiences leading up to this story give me warm feeling of a harvest, and all that entails.  I’m smiling as I think about it, and write this out to you.

What I get the most is a feeling of togetherness and helping your fellow family member, friend, or whomever it may be out, and the feelings are reciprocal, but more importantly there’s a feeling of good from within.  I could go on all day…

That feeling of friendship, love, comradery, and all those other superlatives came together last week when my friends introduced me to a new restaurant that opened near them.   And what a most magnificent place this is.   I’m honored, thankful, and grateful to be sharing our experience at Harvest Thyme in Davidsonville, MD, which is comfortably nestled outside of Annapolis.

The location may feel a bit remote, but sometimes those are the best places.   My friends told me that there isn’t much in terms of food and drink in the immediate area, so this is a blessing to the community.   And we were witness to it, as the place was packed near the tale end of happy hour, leading into dinner.

HarvestThymeWines

The exterior has a welcoming aura and energy about it, as does the inside.  I didn’t take enough pictures, but I hope you get some idea of how elegant this place is.

HarvestThymeDiningRoom

We came in with the full intent of getting some pizza to go.  And if we had any second thoughts about dining in instead, those went out of the window immediately.  It was a sea of humanity, but a lot of good humanity.  People seemed jovial, upbeat, and realizing it’s the weekend, having a little worries or cares in the world, hopefully.

We did share a bottle of wine while we waited.  The wine will be updated here sometime next week, so be on the lookout for that.

But my pals and I decided on two different pizzas.  And it’s quite the dichotomy.

HarvestThymeElBlanco

The El Blanco is there White Pizza and it’s great.  When it comes to certain restaurants, you might come to have expectations of how a pizza may be presented; the size, the crust, the amount of cheese, and all those other nuances.    What I’ve looked forward to when some or all of the components of a pie are made in house.

HarvestThymeElBlanco3

Their dough is made in house, and it’s terrific.  This is a good white pie, if you don’t want too much overbearing cheese and garlic, which has been known to plague similar pizzas I’ve written about it in the past.  This is a charmer, a grower, and has many endearing qualities.  Yes I’m still talking about the pizza.

However, even better is the Carnitas.

HarvestThymeCarnitas

The pulled pork, which is twice cooked (I love that), cheddar cheese, and spicy tomato sauce is a blend from beyond and on a whole other level.  My friend joked saying we wouldn’t like this.  Hoping to not have to share.  But you know what they say about sharing.   Right.

HarvestThyymeCarnitasSlice

This to me felt like a sneak preview, an appetizer, and almost a dress rehearsal if you will.  The restaurant has only been open a few months but it already looks like a hit.

HarvestThymeSlices

The dining room looks great, the bar area feels welcoming, and our waiting area felt like more than just that.  And we go to share a bottle of wine on a serendipitous night before we sat down and watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games.  Yes I’ve got to throw in all the references to the Olympics I can.

This place is great, that’s all I’ve got for you right now.  If you’re in the area, or plan on visiting Harvest Thyme, here is their food menu, their drink list, their story, and of course their contact information.

 

More to come from this wonderful ristorante.

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

All The Colors, See The Colors, Feel The Colors…

OCGodfather

I was all set, like I usually do, to link the website to the specific restaurant or pizzeria that I would be writing about this week.  I’m surprised that I can’t find anything for the OC Brewing Company.  I’ve linked a review page, among other links for your information.

Nevertheless,  I was invited by a friend to meet up here earlier this week, at their Abingdon, MD location (not far from where I live) just to catch up and have some foods, and drinks.  You know because that’s what goes on at a restaurant.  Even though I’ve found myself being indecisive and just sticking with water.  That has happened more than once.

Little did I know, this place serves pizzas, and flatbread kinds to boot.  That made me happy.  But even all the while, it still didn’t sink in that this is an easy thing to write about since it literally found me and fell in my lap.  Sometimes life works out that way and you don’t have to do much searching.

Now I do have a backlog of restaurants, pizzerias, and pizza parlors (mutually exclusive much? hmm..) that I will or may never get to.  But as the weather continues to be cold, and I prepare myself for more of the heavy hitters to come along the way, it’s nice to find a few gems and unexpected turns in the road.

OCMenu

I can’t link a menu, but thankfully I did get a snapshot of their pizza selections.

OCPizzas

My friend got the cheese, and after seconds of agonizing I ordered the Godfather.  I knew I wanted it but I had to be coerced into saying yes.  It’s just food.  Maybe I get kick out of being indecisive, maybe it’s the Gemini in me, or maybe I relaxed and let the pizza come to me.

And after a few minutes, our pizzas arrived.

Now if you like flatbreads, square & rectangular shaped pieces (which may remind you of this place), then you’re going to feel satisfied.

OCCheese

When thinking about how to review a pizza like this, I shouldn’t think so much.  I shouldn’t think so much on this to begin with.  But I will be less critical than I would be if the pizza carried a certain weight or aura about it.

OCCheese2

There’s lots to like.  The dough is simple, that means that the crust was heated and came out just right.  There’s a lot more cheese (per what my friend said) than you might expect, per the cheese pie.

OCGodfather3

For me, the Godfather was a solid choice.  Our server told us it’s one of the more popular ones.  I can understand that.  The name has a familiarity about it, though I have no idea from where.   Yes, that would be sarcasm.

But it’s essentially a supreme with a little more kick to it.    Some seasoning was needed to add even a little more flare to our pizzas.

OCGodfather2

So while this is not going to be award winning pizza, it’s going to make you happy, make you feel good, and bring joy into your life.  And that’s all you want from your pizza, and from all the simple pleasures we seek.

I’m grateful for the afternoon and time spend catching up, in a different yet close by setting, which I hope will happen again.  Which means another pizza story might be forthcoming.

OCBrewing

What’s also funny as I write this, is how often do we not go to places that are so close to us, because of the proximity, because it’s literally right there, and it’s easy to take for granted.   I don’t want to take things for granted.  I want to appreciate what is good and what is all around me, right in front of me, and right beside me, whatever that may be.

More to come…

Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

That’s The Jingle Bell Part II

JingleBellGus1

Although it’s been said many times, many ways, I adore Annapolis. 

How many times can you or I praise something before it loses it’s shine, and it starts to feel transparent?  Well when you give authentic love and energy to anything, I don’t think there can ever be enough praise.

JingleBellFront

One year ago I was invited to the most charming of holiday parties, at the Red Red Wine Bar, which in time for the holidays transformed themselves as the Jingle Bell Bar.  I know, how awesome right?  Last year’s story can be found here.

The amazing decorations, displays, lights, tinsel, trees, and so much that I don’t remember it all was back.   The great customer service was back.  And most of all the event was helped to support the amazing organization, Anne Arundel County CASA.

I’ve mentioned CASA several times in the past in this blog, and it’s wonderful organization with wonder people behind this operation.  I know feel like I’m part of the family and consider several people involved dear friends, as well as family.  It’s a blessing to be a part of something so genuine and so loving.

And being a part of these most wonderful, organic, and fun loving events makes it all the more merrier.  And it’s magnified during the month of December.

Let’s face it, our schedules are loaded and bloated with events that we either feel obligated to, torn about or may look forward too.  Some might me too big for their own good, or might be thrown for the sake of it with no soul.

This event was loaded with soul.  It was a great time with great people, and while the bar was busy, you never had to fight to get a drink or have yourself heard.  CASA also had a guest bartender for a couple of hours that added another level of charm to the event.  And yes this was an event on the calendar I was looking forward too.

And yes, being in Annapolis (here’s my Annapolis history that keeps on growing) just wraps it up in a pretty bow and screams Merry Christmas.   It almost seems too good to be true, but it isn’t.  Sometimes towns are that picturesque that it deserves as much as love from its locals and from visitors like myself.

JingleBellPizzas

Now onto the pizza.  Last year, I did two pies and I had to go back and make sure I would’t accidentally make a repeat.  So here goes.

JingleBellEasternShore2

First was the Eastern Shore.  This is barbecue chicken, with red onions, mozzarella, and marinara sauce.  I’ve had bbq chicken on pies that have been absolute disasters.  It’s real easy to screw up if you’re not careful.  That’s why when a place does it right, it deserves a lot of credit.  And this was really good.  I don’t know if this was my favorite bbq chicken but there’s a lot going for it.

A lot can go wrong when barbecue sauce, cheese, and the pizza sauce clash.  And all of these principles can taste fine but may not mesh well when molded together.  This was a great effort.  But what really stands out is the crust and those onions.   I could eat these red onions for days.  And the way this pizza was heated was done perfectly.  The pictures tell more than I can.

JingleBellGus2

But the Gus is the pizza you want to get.  Oh my goodness this was something.  This may have been cooked better than the Eastern Shore.  This was per our bartenders’, Bethany (whom we met last year at the same event), recommendation, and it never had a chance.

I mean it really never had a chance.  I was lucky to have a slice.  This is the one everyone was drawn to.   The cheese and sauce complemented the trios of ham, sausage, and pepperoni to perfection.  This was exquisite.  I’m craving one right now.   That only means…

I will be back.  I promised that if I were afforded the opportunity and pleasure to come back to this same party one year later, that I would revisit some of their pizzas, and maybe their wine.    To read more about the wine, click here.

A huge thanks to Bethany and Abby for helping with the pizza and wine suggestions.

This was great, this was a wonderful occasion with equally wonderful people, that represent a great organization that is Anne Arundel County CASA.  And to partner up with the friendly folks at Red Red Wine Bar is a winning Christmas combination.

For more on Red Red Wine Bar, here is their menu, their hours and location, and their backstory.

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And for more on Anne Arundel County CASA, here is more about them, and how to get involved.

Annapolis has my heart, and so did everything about this event.

I will be back. Actually, I have been back a couple of times over the year in between events, but not to write about.  I waited for this.

If there’s to be a trilogy, I will patiently wait one more year.   But honestly, where did one year go?  I felt like I was admiring this holiday decor just the other day.

JingleBellElf

And we’ll admire it again.

Happy Holidays and Peace Be With You.

Ideen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friend(s) of CASA

SocialPubAngelo&MarghertiaPie

This is a different post than the usual.  I’m going to get to the pizza right away, then focus on something of greater magnitude and importance.

This week brings me to the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore.  In the heart of everything are all the bars and restaurants on Cross Street.  And within that is the highly popular, Social Pub & Pie.

SocialPubPie

I’ve patronized this establishment quite a few times over the past few years, but never actually got to try their pizza.  It’s just how things work out I suppose.  The everything happens for a reason, and how things will work out, also applies here.  More on that after the reviews.

In anticipation of wonderful event coming up this Sunday, October 1st, I thought it was only right to discuss pizzas briefly, and then we’ll focus on something more significant.

I had every intention of making two separate visits, which would mean two pies.  I’m pretty good at math right?  Well, fortunately for me, and a great gesture by Social, they do half and half pies.  Which means I’m going to review for for you today.  And this fact can’t be discounted.  I’m grateful I got to expand my horizons a little bit.

And I broke down both visits by first doing a tomato based pies, and then the second would be the whites.

SocialPubAngelo&MarghertiaPie

First up, the Margherita and the Sausage and Peppers, better known as the Angelo.

SocialPubAngelo&Marghertia

That looks pretty doesn’t it?  I will say that the thin crust was a pleasant surprise.  I was expecting something mega.  But then when I figured out these were wood fired pies, I was looking forward to a lighter and flakier crust.  And that’s exactly what we got.  The Angelo was really good.  With the latter having some fantastic sweet sausage that really makes this pie stand out.  I was in the mood for a little something different and this fits the bill.  The onions and peppers tasted fresh.  The Margherita is exactly what you would expect.  I wouldn’t say it was anything out of the ordinary, but it was solid.

 

I love the presentation and it makes for a great visual.

SocialPubWhitePie

But the whites is where things really went to another level.  For visit two, I went with the Spinach and the Onion Crumbled Bleu.   The caramelized onions on both were tremendous.  I have fondness for them in general and this did not disappoint.   The veggies on the spinach were good, but it was the Onion Crumbled Bleu that really stood out.  And I give all credit to the addition of Rosemary.  Yes there’s bleu cheese crumbles and provolone, and while they add something, the rosemary takes this to another place that I didn’t know existed.  If I’ve had rosemary on a pie before I don’t remember.  Either that, or just this just blew everything out of the water.  I can see where these cheeses, the olive oil, and that powerful rosemary taste can backfire.  Not here.  This was incredible.

SocialPubOnionCrumbledBleuSlice

If you could only get one pie here, I’d go with the Onion Crumbled Bleu. And that’s without me trying so many fun looking pies on the menu.  Well I can always come back.

SocialPubPizzaMenu

Their website is easy to navigate, so pretty much all the information you need is all found on the main page.

But onto something of greater consequence and importance, my dear friend Rebecca is the Executive Director of Anne Arundel County CASA, Inc.  And her organization will be hosting an event, the Ultimate Tailgate Party at Social Pub & Pie this Sunday (10/1/17) from 9a-12p, where ALL food and liquor sales will be donated to CASA.  How awesome is that?  How often do you hear of all proceeds going anywhere?

CASA-TailgateParty-2017-FB

A small percentage is always amazing, but to go above and beyond like this speaks volumes of the management of Social Pub, but also speaks volumes of the people at CASA.

Me and many of our friends have been supporters of CASA, for a number of years, so we know how amazing organizers, the volunteers, the events, and most importantly, the cause is.

I like to think of myself as a friend of CASA.  They even gave me a name tag with my name on it that read, ‘Friend of CASA’, on it, so it must be true.

But regardless, with all the events going on this weekend, this one I would highly suggest attending.  This will be in the private room on the second floor, so you can enjoy a good time with your friends in a more intimate setting, while still getting excited for any football game you’ll either be attending or watching

A gathering of good friends while supporting a more-than-worthwhile cause is what life is all about.  And I’m honored to be a supporter, and honored to be able to write about it here.

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Here are your links to know more about Anne Arundel County, CASA, how to volunteer, how to get involved, or to make donation.

Here are my previous CASA related posts for your reading pleasure (here, there, and, everywhere)

Sunday is going to be fun.  If you’re in the area, bring your friends, your pals, and anyone else that wants to take part in something beautiful.

We’ll see you then.  Peace be with you.

Ideen

 

Burnin’ In My Soul

FiresidePizzaWine3

I like to write about things.  Last year I wrote about a mobile pizza food truck at a wine festival.  Now I like wine too, but if I feel compelled to write about the tastings and various festivities at well, this festival, then I will get around to it.   If you sense my enthusiasm is lacking then you’re spot on.

FiresideTruck

But every cloud has a silver lining or something.  And this one goes by the name of Fireside Pizza of Hagerstown, MD.   This years’ pizza truck kept it simple but then it didn’t.

FiresideMenu

You could purchase two slices of cheese or pepperoni for $5.00 total.  Noticed I said cheese or pepperoni.  Their explanation was that they were cooking the pies separately and couldn’t give you one slice of each.  I understand the rationale.  Whether that’s the explanation given to everyone is not something to question.  Wait I think I just questioned.

But based on the grande scale of the event and the clientele being a bit demanding when it came to wine samples, food samples, and who knows what else, food trucks, food stands, stations of all kinds have to protect themselves.

I respect the $10 credit card minimum for that reason among others.

A whole cheese with one topping was $20.00.  I didn’t have enough people in my party of a big enough appetite to justify that a the time.  And the specialty pies at $22.00 may be a stretch for many people.

FiresideSlices

I sound like I’m being hard but I’m really not.  I didn’t see a lot of people ordering full pies, but this was earlier on the day.  As more people have had their samples, their sips, and then their bottles, they will get hungry.  And they’ll be willing to spend a little more to eat, and eat right away.

FiresidePizzaWine

Myself, I was one of the folks who ordered two slice of pepperoni but made one of them a cheese.  Simple I know.

FiresideCheese

This was good pizza.  And when I mean good, I mean good.  I bet at a more controlled and less raucous event the pizza would taste that much better and made under more ideal conditions.  I hope I’m making sense.

These were solid thin slices, that even though were on the small side had a great charred taste to them.  And the cheese and pepperoni did their job and did it well.  I think I enjoyed my pepperoni and my faux cheese slice equally.

If I was in a more laid back atmosphere I think the pizza would taste that much better.

Local business is one of the most beautiful things out there, so I hope they succeed, wish them all the best, and hope to catch them at another event down the line.  And maybe try one of their specialty pies.  I’m curious now.

FiresidePizzaWine3

For more on Fireside, here is their website and their other page with more information.

Summer means more outdoor events, more parties, and hopefully more chances to write about brick oven and wood fired pizza served outside, served with some soul, and served with the best of intentions.

I look forward to it.

Thanks so much.

Ideen

 

 

 

…Your Favorite Pizza Shop

LittleItalyPizzas

How many different ways can you articulate your fondness and affinity for a town, for it’s spectacular views, small town vibe, and yes the inspirational pizza?

Annapolis has my heart.  Whether I have theirs is a topic for another lifetime, but even the missteps tend to be charming.  And the charm tends to be all that more charming. Yes I’m romantic.   I just love this place so much.  And part of this reason is I have no reason. It doesn’t necessarily get me and I don’t necessarily get it.  Everything about it just feels right.  I feel one with so much when I’m here.  It’s those proverbial goosebumps.

We’ve arrived at Memorial Day Weekend.  How’d that happen?

As I did two years ago, this kind of a homage and congratulations to the Naval Academy and all the commencement activities that will be taking place this weekend.

Here is my pizza history with my favorite state capital.

LittleItalyAnnapolis

A little bit away from the commotion and situations in downtown is a little hole in the wall, Little Italy Famous Pizza & Pasta.

If I hadn’t done a little research after the fact I would think this place would have been here for decades and honoring the authenticity of Italian Style, New York Style, and any other old world style pizza and restaurant for that matter.

I was asking around to friend who do live, have lived or spent frequent time in the area to see if anyone has eaten there.  I either got no response or pals saying they’d never heard of it.

Then I find out this place has been open less than a year.   I was all set to get excited and talk about how this is a diamond or a gem within many others.  My preconceived notions and presumptions are not going to sway me towards the negative.  Not yet at least.

If the pizza’s good then we’re onto something.

It was once a Peruvian Chicken restaurant that converted into this current restaurant. Maybe it’s new owners and maybe it’s some of the same folks that felt like a rebranding was necessary.  And there’s nothing right or wrong about that.  Local business is what I root for, is what many of us are rooting for to succeed because they’re still the heart and soul of so many things.    And there can never be soul.

With that said, the pizza was not exactly what I expected.  Maybe I was going to strike gold and find something not many others have.   Not quite.  It was good but it wasn’t life changing.  But the pleasant surprise was they had slices.  I was going in assuming I would get a small pie to go, but they have their pizza trays with a few choices and that made me happy.

LittleItalyPizzas4

I got three and because we feasted heavily on meat last week I figure I would dial it back and go with the cheese, the white, and the veggie.  And did they put on a lot of veggies.

LittleItalyPizzas3

Again, nothing wrong with them.  I just wanted more.  And I’m one of those people that doesn’t ask for a whole lot except in this instance I want my pizza to taste good.

LittleItalyVeggie

The crust was fine on all of them.  Since I don’t have much to say about the cheese or the sauce, I will say the vegetable slice with all of its overloaded vegetables was slightly charming and entertaining in a way.  Maybe I was just (and am) entertaining myself, but it was my favorite of the three.

I do wish I took a picture of the interior.  They had those red and white vinyl tablecloths you might have seen at a restaurant when you were a kid and might still see today.

That’s what made me think this place has been around for a while. I love the attention to detail.  It may not mean to much but I found it endearing in a way.  For that reason a lot it will make me come back.

The pizza may not have been great this time around but I’m all for giving it another chance.  I think this place has some great food to offer including their pizzas.

LittleItalyaPizzas5

Their menu, location, contact information, and story is all available on the main page.

If this works out I will be doing another Annapolis location next week or soon.  And one that’s close to Little Italy Famous Pizza & Pasta.

No this wasn’t my favorite pizza place as the title says but I got a kick of the to-go box. And I thought I saw them all…

LittleItalyPizzaBox

Have a blessed and safe holiday weekend,

Ideen

 

My Favorite Mexican Restaurant

LaToltecaPizza2

That might be a bold statement but La Tolteca has always been so good to me, and to my friends who live(d) in the Bel Air, MD; Harford County; and now Baltimore County and City.

Warning – their website has music, so turn it down if you’re at the workplace or a library. The music is fun though.

LaToltecaFront

But my first was the Bel Air location and it will always be my favorite.  I’ve been to others but this has the look of what an original and authentic Mexican restaurant.  I sound like I’ve been to a bunch of restaurants or Mexico itself, but it’s just a feeling.  Bel Air will always be my favorite and home base restaurant.

LaToltecaPizza1

That’s why I chose home to finally write about their Mexican Pizza.  I meant to do this two years ago for Cinco de Mayo and then again last week but well, things happen, life happens, and the timing wasn’t right.

I figure a week a later isn’t going to hurt anything.

What you might find humorous is their Mexican Pizza is on their Children’s Menu.  So kids and kids of all ages are invited to try this.  I say this because at first I was afraid there was some protocol about a grown up ordering from the kids’ menu but no questions were asked.  I did feel a bit awkward for a second when ordering.  No I didn’t, because…

LaToltecaPizzaDisplay

It’s also on the grown up lunch.  In hindsight I wish I got both to do a comparison but as someone once said, six in one, half dozen of something.  Right.

Let me first say I love their food.  I’ve never been disappointed.   I’ve ordered burritos, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, salads, soups, and everything else under the sun.  I want to focus on the pizza but I also want to focus on the soup.

LaToltecaPizzaEaten

First, the pizza.  I honestly can say I didn’t love it.  It wasn’t good or bad.  It was good enough to eat but nothing I would go out of my way to order again.  I didn’t have grandiose expectations of eating something amazing or life changing.  Not at all.  But I was hoping for something with a bit more pizzazz.  Yes I know what I just typed and it was no accident.

The crispy tortilla which acted as the dough seemed a bit too crunchy for me.  And I know other people will love it.  It just work out for me.  The beef tasted life beef, the cheese, tomatoes, jalapeños (which had a kick to it), and onions all completed the pizza. It was fine but nothing memorable.

LaToltecaPizzaDisplay2

Honestly, that’s as class to a negative thing I’ve ever said about La Tolteca.  Now I want to shift to something magnificent.

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That Mexican Chicken Soup is worth going in for alone.  I don’t know all that is in it. Actually maybe I do but my mind is wandering and my mouth is watering at the thought of having this soup.  As I type this the restaurant is closed or I’d be having some right now to draw a little more inspiration as I write.

LaToltecaSoup

My love comes from the combination of the shredded chicken, random vegetables, and the tomatoes becoming a part of the soup.  Oh my goodness this soup is ecstasy.  I know this is a pizza blog but I had to make mention of this.

LaToltecaDisplay

And if you’ve been here before, you know habit forming the free tortilla chips, salsa, and that white sauce is.  Yeah that white sauce will get you.

I’m glad I waited a week (and two years) to get around to this.   But if you’ve never eaten here don’t wait any longer.   Don’t wait a year, two years, or another minute.  This place is fantastic.  If you live anywhere near a La Tolteca I highly recommend it.

Their website is as inviting and accessible as it gets, so you should have no problem finding a location near you and something inspiring of their inspirational menu.  Yes loads of inspiration.

And as inviting as their site is, you will see how more inviting the staff is when you walk in. I’ve usually ordered food to go.  But when I’ve sat down with friends we’ve always been treated like family.

I started writing this as a way to end up suggesting trying a Mexican Pizza at your local restaurant or making it at home but this went in a different direction entirely.

And I’m not only suggesting, but also encouraging going to La Tolteca if you’re in Maryland.

And I wish you all a Belated Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Ideen