Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Top 5 Pizzas of 2015

Everyone seems to be writing one of those "Year In Review" blog posts or articles, and while I like to use the blog itself to document our happenings, I decided it might be kind of fun to do one of these things for myself, particularly since I seem to have reduced my output this year.  Since it's the last day of the 2015, why not do our own year in review by mentioning our Top 5's of the year?  Every year is more exciting than the last, and there is so much that the Lord is doing in our lives.  So, today, on the last day of 2015, I'm starting with my favorite food.

I've never met a pizza I didn't like, though there are certainly different levels of good.  My pizza tastes were formulated at an early age with regular family dinners at chains like Pizza Hut (when it was actually good) and Pizza Oven, and one of a kind places like The Dino Restaurant in Suitland, MD, and the original Ledo's in Adelphi, MD.  You might laugh, but Mom regularly bought the Chef Boyardee pizza kits when I was a kid, and I learned how to dress them up into a weekly feast of the taste buds, and I still have a hankering for that pizza sauce, even if it was a thin, tomato-y tasting concoction of plainness.  Anyway, I consider myself a pizza connoisseur, and I continue to seek out good pizza everywhere we travel.  Keep in mind that there are many pizzas I would rank above some of these, but this is just for 2015.  So without further delay, here are my Top 5 pizzas of 2015:

5.  I really do try to stay away from the pizza chains.  Some of my least favorite pizzas come from Domino's and Papa John's, two of the few places who deliver to our home.  Ledo's is my all-time favorite pizza of those that are still around, but the original (and its sister location, TJ Elliot's in Bowie, MD) are better than the chains.  That being said, #5 on the list is a new chain I discovered several months ago.  It's called Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza, and it is the Chipotle's of the pizza biz.  When you arrive at the walk-up counter, you pick out the type of crust you want, the sauce, and cheese, then you add all and as much of the plethora of toppings they have available along their assembly line, just like at Chipotle's.  Once made, it is thrown into their oven and cooked in about 5 minutes.  And it's good!  They only have one size, and the price is the same regardless of the toppings, with the plain cheese a few bucks less.  The crust is nicely thin and crisp, the sauce just right, and the toppings are fresh.  It's easily one of the best of the pizza chains.  I just wish they delivered.  There's one at the Laurel Town Center, which is just close enough to be dangerous.

Picture courtesy of the Baltimore Sun
4.  Okay, I guess this one qualifies as a chain, too, though it is certainly a regional thing.  The Dough Roller, native to the Ocean City, MD, Boardwalk, is a long-time family favorite!  Every time Melody and I go to OC, we stop at one of several Boardwalk locations for a very unique pizza.  The crust is nicely thin, but it's the sauce that seems to give it a taste that's a little different from a standard pie.  I don't think I'd like it if I could have it all the time, but given that I only get it once each year, it's definitely in my Top 5 for 2015.  The ambiance of the Boardwalk, mixed with being at the beach, make for a wonderful memory-making experience.

3.  A local favorite, Pub Dog, in Columbia, MD, has become a personal favorite for me and Melody, and we eat there more often than we should.  But it's so good!  Pub Dog is a bar/draft house with really great pizza, especially their "Smash Dog" pizzas, which are two pizzas smashed, face-first, into each other.  They have a variety of different flavors, like the Veggie Dog, the Froggy Dog, and the Fox and the Hound.  Old Yeller is another good one.  Check out their menu.  There's a lot to try.  Pub Dog started in Federal Hill, Baltimore, and expanded to Columbia in 2007.

2.  After visiting the annual Auto Show at the DC Convention Center last January, Melody and I were looking for a good place to have an early dinner.  With Chinatown only a few blocks away, and despite the frigid temperatures and snow on the ground, we wandered down H Street, NW, and found matchbox.  This wasn't what I expected to find in Chinatown, especially since we were craving some authentic Chinese food, but I had heard of matchbox and we decided to try it.  The small place was packed, but we were seated within 20 minutes.  We both got a small pizza and they were fantastic!

DC Chinatown's matchbox

1.  Every year, daughter Melody and I travel to Chicago for the annual G-Fest convention, and we make a stop at the local Giordano's, famous throughout Chicagoland and beyond for their stuffed pizza, and it is a masterful creation.  I'm not a big fan of thick crust or deep dish pizzas anymore.  They're just too filling, and as a type 2 diabetic, I really have to take it easy with meals like pizza, so I try to stay away from the heavy breads and carbs.  But this once a year treat is just too wonderful to pass up.  It is awesome!  Melody and I each get a small pizza, and we're never able to complete them.  Melody sticks with the plain cheese, but I try a different variety of toppings/fillings.  This year's pizza had mushrooms, black olives, green peppers, and pepperoni.  I'm sure my body is still recovering.  If you're in Chicago, you've got to try it!

Giordano's in Chicago
Next Post:  My Top 5 Roller Coaster's of 2015

Have a great evening, everyone, and I hope 2016 is at least as great, but even better, than 2015!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Home For The Holidays

Yeah, I'm still here.  Though I wasn't here for much of the past month.  I was sent off to "executive training" for a solid two weeks by my boss, an experience I'm still trying to digest.  It was some of the most intense training I've attended in my 25 year career.  Not only was I far from home, and away from my daughter for the longest stretch of her life, it was during the lead-up to Christmas, my favorite time of year, and I was forced to do all of my Christmas shopping online.  Thank goodness for Amazon Prime!

Upon arriving home, Christmas was practically on top of us.  I spent last Saturday wrapping presents, and Melody and I spent the day doing some fun things together, including our service at Grace Community Church.  On Sunday, I introduced Melody to my personal annual Christmas tradition by taking her to see IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE on the big screen at the AFI Silver Theater in downtown Silver Spring.  It is the best movie ever made.

I returned to work on Monday, spending much of my time getting re-acclimated to the office.  Things were pretty much shutting down for the Holidays as the week went along, though, so I didn't feel pressed.  And the President gave us a half-day on Christmas Eve, so that was a nice gift, as well.

Monday evening was Melody's Middle School Band's concert, rescheduled from December 10 (when I was away), and I was so thankful to be able to attend.  Melody made first-chair clarinet in the Concert Band, and she has improved greatly over the last several months under Mr. Twigg's tutelage.  The concert was awesome!  It was a great evening, all around.

I could feel my stress and anxiety level drop all during the day on Christmas Eve, and after leaving the office, I had a leisurely lunch by myself (an annual tradition for me), and then I attended my church's Christmas Eve service at 1:00.  I returned home with plenty of time to prepare for the evening's festivities.  I was proud of myself for having gotten all of my Christmas shopping and wrapping completed early despite being away so long, and I felt relaxed when I left the house to attend my in-law's church's Christmas Eve service.  I had dropped off Melody with them the night before, and upon arriving at the church, I found out that she was singing during the service.  This was the third year in a row she was doing that, and it filled me with excitement and emotion to see her stand in front of the whole church singing from her heart.  My father-in-law delivered a great message, and then it was time to eat.

My parents and sister always join us on Christmas Eve for the service, and my in-laws host a great dinner.  After we all eat, we exchange gifts.  It's a wonderful tradition that we started about 3 years ago, and I'm happy to give my in-laws a day to spend with their only grandchild for Christmas.  My wife was an only child, and after her death and home-going, Melody is all they have.  After opening gifts and enjoying everyone's company, Mom, Dad, sister Angie, and Melody head over to Mom & Dad's while I rush home to pick up Faithful Pup Scout.  Then I join them at their place.  It's usually after midnight before I get to sleep, but all of the preparation is well worth it.

And Christmas Day was as meaningful and memorable as it can be.  God has truly blessed our family despite all of the tragedy we've experienced, and it was great to enjoy each other's company.  My brother, his girlfriend, Erica, and her two teen daughters, join us, too, and it's a big party.  We spend all day having a great time together.

Melody and I finally returned home last evening, and we spent today enjoying our gifts and preparing for the week ahead.  We're both home until January 4, so it's a great time to rest, relax, and recharge.

I hope you all had a meaningful Christmas and wonderful Holiday break.  Best wishes and blessings!  Have a great evening, everyone!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Where in the World Am I?


Hope to be home by Christmas!

Best wishes for a joyous season!