Olympic Style Pizza Party

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Some time back a couple friends told me that Hudson Street Stackhouse does pizza well.   That’s oversimplifying things just a bit  But keeping it simple and down-to-earth is what most of us want from our pizza pies.  It’s just pizza after all.

And the simplistic nature of their pies is what’ll make me want to come back.

Last Sunday a couple of friends and I wanted somewhere to go to enjoy sports in peace. They wanted soccer and I wanted the Olympics.   To say where we walked into originally was a zoo was an understatement.   Overcrowded venues have never done anything for me. It brings out the worst in people.   So after two minutes of chaos, we took a walk and let fate dictate the rest.

Minutes later we landed at Hudson Street and we were fortunate enough to grab some bar stools, and the rest was history.

Many locals and folks into sports know this is a hockey bar.  I’ve been there when this place has been packed to the rafters. Just like the spot we were in minutes before.  And I’ve been a part of some of the busy crowds at this bar too.  So to see a more mellow environment where my friends and I can have a peaceful conversation and hear one another is always welcome.

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Speaking of welcoming, the bartender was just that.  And I’ve always liked their food here. But how I overlooked getting a pizza baffles me.

It’s been hot out (no complaints from me), so a thick crust is not going to sit well with many of us. Fortunately, their dough is a yummy flatbread that won’t fill you up too quickly.

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I went with their Mediterranean pie, per the bartender’s recommendation, and I’m glad I did.  It was the one I was leaning towards.

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They use diced tomatoes instead of tomato sauce, and what a call.  I didn’t even miss it.  If it wasn’t specified, I wouldn’t have noticed much of a difference.  Whether that’s an indictment of how mediocre some sauces are in places, or that the tomatoes were so amazing, I don’t know.  I’d say it’s a bit of both.

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This is a vegetable pie that I’m savoring as I reminisce about this experience.  I love garlic. And it heightens so many entrees, not just pizzas.  This was no exception.  And the onions and olives tasted authentic.  This whole pizza was authentic. It was a pleasure to share it among friends.

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Even the oval shape had an Olympic or sports look to it.  I might be reaching but that’s what I was feeling.  Well when the Olympics are over they’ll still be cranking out these pies, so I may have to come up with another analogy.

For such little dough, this packs so much power.  The melting of the cheese is pure eye candy.   There was a lot of soul and positive energy behind this pizza. The slightly burnt edges adds a little more character, and it didn’t need any more.  I’m a happy guy.

I’m coming back to write about another pie.  And the likelihood will be during that sports season I referenced before.

I’ve been hesitant to move on from Summer.  It moves too fast.  It all does.  But many of us share this same sentiment.  I’m loving this season, I’m loving the Sun, and as a bonus I’m loving the Olympics. Many of us are.   Enjoy that while you still can.  And there’s plenty of time too.

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Beautiful.

For our friends in Baltimore, if you haven’t been to Hudson Street, I highly recommend it. Here’s some more links (here and here) that’ll help you say yes.  And many people know their beer list is a huge draw.

People have asked me about the heavy hitters and sexy names, of pizzas, in the Baltimore area.  I would put this in that conversation.   I look forward to reviewing another pie of theirs in the coming months.

Best,

Ideen

Frenchman Street

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Did I fool anyone with that title? My mind is still somewhere else or maybe it’s over here.

Nevertheless, we had the most dynamite individual pie brought to us by my new friends at Dizzy Cow Pizzeria.

I say friends because I chatted with them and explained what I was doing.  They were very receptive as long I was being positive.  How do you turn that down?  When supporting local and anything with good intentions, finding the heart and the good is the way to go.  More on that shortly.

Speaking of heart, St. Francis Neighborhood Center does a lot of good for the city of Baltimore.  I’m grateful to know some of the folks behind the operation and helped them volunteer at their Resource Fair & Music Festival this past weekend.  Links can be found here.

When I heard there would be food trucks I got the sense there’d be pizza.  Now I’ve reviewed a few in the past (click here for  more , over here, and wait up I got one more!) so you’d think I’d run out.  This isn’t the case as food trucks are still a growing phenomenon. I figure there’s room for everybody as long as the food and service is quality.

I’m glad I got to try Dizzy Cow for the first time at this event.  My first sight of them was at the Downtown Monument Lighting way back in December of last year.   The event was a frenzy, and as I was about to order some pizza, and snap some photos, my phone died.  It wasn’t meant to be.  It was too hectic, so in hindsight this all worked out like it was supposed to.

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A dear friend had ordered the cheese earlier, or as they charmingly title it, ‘Old faithful’, and it was a great starter.   My friend pointed out, you always start with cheese.  That’s a recurring sentiment.  I knew I was in or something special.

Josh, the owner and operator could not have been more friendly.   And his associate Matt, was just as helpful in suggesting the most amazing of pies on this most momentous of days.

DizzyMenu

I wanted something different from the menu.  I wasn’t in the mood for meats or standard vegetables. Matt said his go to, if he was in the same frame of mind, would be the Frenchman, their house speciality.  No hesitation on my part.  The idea of honey, figs, and brie on a pie sounded awe-inspiring on the surface.  And unique is always good.  There’s plenty of weeks for your traditional pies.

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It was so good that this had to be shared.  I believe three or four folks helped me finished it. When I say it like that you might think I didn’t want any more.  That wasn’t the case at all. This was tremendous.  Honey and fig are two of the essentials I need more of in my life. And that brie mixed in with the mozzarella, you’ve got to be kidding me.  Neither cheese got lost by the other.  But I could always use more brie.  Mozzarella isn’t going anywhere. I’m at the verge of drooling as I write this.  Where can I find some more?   And that soft yet slightly (done to perfection) crisp crust was perfect for this day.

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I didn’t miss the tomato sauce at all.

For my pizza pals in the Baltimore area, here is a list of where they’ll be on a weekly basis.

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And finally here is their catering and contact information.   A user friendly and simple website speaks volumes by the way.  Their amazing pies do all the talking it needs to.  I can’t wait to try them again, whether by chance or some other universal alignment.

I’m hungry now.

Take good care,

Ideen

Hi Cousin!

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New Jersey is an untapped resource for me.  I’ve done one previous pizzeria (click here) nearly a year ago to positive results.  I don’t come here enough.  After this encounter, this will hopefully change.

My friend and  I were on a small road trip and the amount of pizza places up and down this stretch of road were plentiful.  Keep in mind, we originally saw all these places driving up and I was given the green light to choose one on the way back.

To pick one felt much more agonizing than it needed to be. But this tends to be my personality.  For a while I made this more difficult and less fun. Pizza is supposed to be fun!    Whether I was being too trigger happy or a bit instinctive, I literally went with the first spot we saw upon our return.  And Cousin Mario’s was it.  At the time I felt like I choked, but relief set in and in hindsight I’m grateful with this decision.

Cousin Mario’s of Mays Landing had this welcoming aura that I assumed would set the tone for the meal itself.  Indeed I was right and the heavy breathing and panic subsided.

The restaurant is quaint and cozy.  A lot of families and couples represented the majority of the venue, and people seemed to be in good spirits.

We were starving so an appetizer and full pie were in order.  More could have been gobbled but no need to get carried away. There’s a lot to digest (ha) from this menu.  And they have entrees from one spectrum to the other.  That may raise a red flag in some places, but I suspect these guys know what they’re doing.   It was Taco Tuesday.  No tacos this time. I’d like a large pizza please!

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The mozzarella sticks were solid but that vodka sauce was the real winner here.  It was a different take on a standard appetizer.  This was refreshingly different.  If we had standard marinara sauce I would think this was any other fried cheese experience.  But this was welcome.

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We split our pizza right down the middle.  And I don’t mean the tab.  Half pepperoni and half meatball was the call.  And the latter was brilliant.

I was starving so my review may not be as formal as per usual.  It’s never been that serious anyways.  The crust was standard but sometimes that’s all you want.  I’ve had and we’ve all had crusts that would keep us coming back for more to the point of no return, but this is not that I was looking for here.  This takes me back to simpler forms of pie and for this day, this was perfection.

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I’ll get the pepperoni out of the way.  It was standard.  I wasn’t blown away by it.  There wasn’t anything wrong with it.  It was a decent slice and not one to write home about.

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Now onto the meatball.   This was done with a lot of care and precision.  I’ve had meatball before where literally it was full or half pieces of meat thrown onto a pie.  There’s nothing wrong with that but it can be daunting trying to eat.  These were cut down and had a visual that made this a winner.  And most importantly it was tasty.  It made the cheese better. And I liked the cheese to begin with.  It was one I wish I ate a little slower and got more of a chance to appreciate what was going on here.   I’ll gladly have it again.   It suggests that the more informal toppings might be the way to go at this ristorante.

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I wish I was in the area more.  I would gladly give this place another go.  It’s not hard to find.  This stretch of road connects us from NJ to the main interstates that lead us to Maryland. Taking the dramatics out it’s a little over an hour away.

I’m also alluding to the fact that there’s more pizza just an hour away.  More is coming. Cousin Mario’s is a hit. If you’re in the area, I recommend them highly.  And supporting local business is always paramount. The staff is friendly, parking seems to be abundant, and so are the great eats.

Happy First Day of the Olympics!

Best,

Ideen

 

Flatbread Fridays

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Over the course of these Summertime posts I’ve mentioned how I wanted to focus on lighter fare, as long as the focus remains on pizza.

Lets face it, the majority of us love pizza.  Nutrition value is out the window.  We want our comfort food any time of year.  It’s something that bonds us together.  There’s a multitude of ways a pie can be made.  That’s one of the many things that makes this thing so fun.   It doesn’t discriminate even if our tastes may.  And that’s another joy.  We all don’t love the same flavors.  If we did, that would be boring.

Thicker dough is not my friend.  I’m not sure whose friend it would be.  Bread is a tough one and while the weather is hot and bright, it’s easy for me to get bloated and full without hardly eating a thing.  The yummy pizza crust becomes a challenge in these months.  This isn’t a complaint.  I’d take this weather all year round.

This brings me to a surprise discovery.  And we’re back at BistroRx in the Patterson Park neighborhood of Baltimore, MD.

But is it really that much of a surprise?  Just because a place isn’t known for their pizza, or in this case flatbreads, doesn’t mean it can’t be discussed.  It just gives expanded options and I will be taking full advantage of such.

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As we were enjoying our wine (for more on this bottle click here), a small plate was necessary.   I almost decided on a salad or random finger food, but the answer was right in front of me.   We went with the Margherita and what a superb choice.  If I went in another tangent or direction, this post doesn’t happen.  There’s a little dramatics for you.

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I had no idea the shape would be just as immaculate as a regular pie.  But what is a regular pie?  It can be anything you want it to be.   Nevertheless, this crust was superb.  It was thin enough to enjoy in the heat.  And that pesto was dazzling.   It can make any pie a winner and this would win some titles if they were handing out belts, or trophies.   Hopefully this praise is on par with those rewards.

Besides the pesto and crust, the mozzarella and tomato sauce make this simple recipe on the level of some of the better za’s I’ve had recently.   This flatbread never had a chance.  If I was feeling unreasonable I’d have ordered another (and maybe another).  It was that stellar.

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I will be frequenting Bistro more.  I’ve had quite a few meals and this was on that level of pristine eats.  I’ve mentioned some of the other diamonds I’ve had, and you can read more about that here.

The energy and the vibe certainly helped.  Outdoor seating didn’t hurt either.

I’ve made friends in the neighborhood, some who just moved in and some were here temporarily, they have praised Bistro’s food above most, if not all, of Baltimore.  I can understand why.  It’s top flight and I want more.  I’m pining for another meal from there as I near the end of this post.  They’re closed now as of this writing.  Maybe some other time.

Yes I know this experience didn’t take a place on a Friday but it makes for a great, albeit cheesy title.  I’m fun and funny.

Until next time,

Ideen

 

Creating Art

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It’s been 10 years since my first Artscape, and I’m in love with this event more than ever.  My reasons are the same for me as for many others.  There’s the first time we attended this event and it’s novelty, the art we witnessed, the performances, the food, the comradery, the energy, and everything in between.

For a while I felt the local flavor was deteriorating.   Apparently I wasn’t alone.  There was an outcry for more local food vendors and respective artists from the area.   And now for the last two years we’re seeing a renaissance.

My post last year was up the day (and weekend) of Artscape.  This time I chose to post something after the fact.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to come up with for this be all of festivals, but I sensed something was going to find me. Surely, one of the many great pizzerias and restaurants in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood would offer up some great write-ups.  Not yet at least.

As I was alluding to, the local flavor was in full bloom.  There were stands for all types of cuisines; whether you were looking for burgers, soul food, Caribbean, vegan, or maybe just a smoothie, it was there for you.  I indulged in a few of those eats as well, but this is a pizza discussion and I will stay the course.

PastaTruck

This brings me to Pasta La Vista Baby! Yes, with an exclamation point.  Now I had seen these guys in random parts of the city for years, and never brought myself to order anything from them.   I don’t know if the stars weren’t in alignment or what, but this was long overdue, as long as they had pizza.   After perusing the menu after the fact, I’m even more fortunate than I first realized.  There’s no pizza listed but lucky enough for the crowd, they had a white w/ spinach on the big board. That’s what I went with.

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It’s different and cooked on a nice flat bread, almost pita style.  On a hot day like it was, this was necessary.  Thicker dough is not going to work in the heat. It’ll bloat you silly, or maybe that’s just me.

The staff working the truck were all smiles.   My lunch was during the earliest part of the event so it wasn’t too crowded and I imagine they weren’t overwhelmed.  This was a deliberate move on my part.  I wanted my food with little wait time.

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This was a charmer.  For $8 it was a personal joy and a smidgen of a bargain. The only downside was the added ricotta to the side.  And ordinarily it wouldn’t be.  It was a bit rich for my taste but otherwise this is a great choice. The pizza on its own was enjoyable and pleasing to my sensibilities.  Wow did I just say that?

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Even for its size, I was able to make two meals out of it.   I picked up a delicious burnt taste under the crustand,  and flipped it around to see just that.  The charred taste really does wonders. So my educated and over-analysis tells me this was grilled?  This is a winner.  The spinach complemented everything and was the perfect vegetable to go on top (and from within). I’m not sure anything else would.  This was well thought out.

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If they make other pizzas, I’d love to find them again.

Here is their contact info if you’d like to get well you know, get in contact.

Best of all, here is their story.  There’s some soul behind this operation.

For my pals in Baltimore and everywhere else, I’ll leave you with a few images from Artscape.  It was transforming.  At certain times I felt like I was in another world, yet knowing I was still close to home.  I’m not sure these brief pics depict that.   But what is telling is for my friends in the city, you may recognize someone in one of these photos.  This was not planned, and I had no idea until after I glanced at my pics earlier today. Life is funny like that.

Hope your Summer has been rocking!

Best,

Ideen

A Safe Bet

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After last weeks hard-to-top post, it was meant to be that I take it down a couple of notches and shake things up a bit.  I mean this with all sincerity, last week is something special.  Read it if you get the chance.

I was at a crossroads on what to write for this week.   Not every post is going to be or meant to be profound.  It’s pizza we’re talking about.  It’s supposed to be fun, enjoyable, and maybe inspirational. There I go again.

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And this is no way meant to denigrate my review of Safeway’s Signature Select Spinach & Mushroom Pizza. That was a mouthful.  Speaking of which…

…But first a little intro.

I was turned away at a few places where their respective kitchens were about to close and no more orders were going to be taken.  A couple of these are some of the heavier hitters in Baltimore.  Ah well, the tease continues.  I’ll get to those when it’s meant to be.

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But instead, good old reliable, 24 hour Safeway was footsteps away.   My fellow pizza pals have suggested I write about a frozen pizza here and there.   It’s good to change it up and either by hook or a last ditch effort, this is what we’re getting this week.

Let me be honest.  For $5 it’s hard to complain about anything, unless it’s an absolute disgrace.  This was nowhere near that.   The alfredo sauce really adds some zip to an otherwise standard pie.

And even though I’ve grown up from the little kid, who loved frozen pies when I was young, I secretly hoped the spinach and mushrooms would look like how they do on the front of the box.   Once again, not this time.  Maybe one time it’ll work out for me.  Insert sad face here.

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The dough rose nicely post heating.  And that golden brown tint along the crust is always a treat.  I can’t say this stacks up to certain pizzerias creations or other frozen pies, since there’s nothing for me to compare it too.  Not yet at least.   But the dough and crust was a mix of soft and crunchy in parts.  That could be the way the oven heated it, the way the dough was made/frozen, or universal elements that are inexplicable.  I dug it though.

For a night out after the bars or on a random day where the pickings are slim, this pizza does the job.  Scratch that, this pizza works whenever you want it.

I was full after just a couple of slices, so this can last you a few meals if dining alone, or it’s perfect to share among 2-3 people.  And for only $5, you’re almost making money on this pizza!  And money is cool.

I’ve been a fan of Safeway’s Signature items, and the za only continues to reinforce my belief.

Supermarkets across the globe have frozen pizzas from all over the place.  So this may just be the beginning.  I may have opened up pandora’s pizza box, or this may not be revisited again for months.  Time will tell.

To locate the nearest Safeway by you, click here.

Back to our regularly scheduled pizzeria journey next week.

Best,

Ideen

I Love Luna

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The stars aligned for this one, big time.  I’ve been fully engrossed in these blogs for well over a year-and-a-half.  The best experiences are the ones that happen organically and unplanned.  That fact has been reiterated many times over.  But I can’t say it enough.  Life can be magical and majestic if you let it.   This leads me to what I’ll look back on fondly and say it was one of my favorite experiences, Luna Blu of Annapolis, MD.

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Just a day removed from writing this, I found myself in beautiful Downtown Annapolis and got in touch with a dear friend who works in the vicinity.  In previous attempts, timing wasn’t in sync and schedules didn’t always match.  It’s only because the first encounter was meant to be on this day.  You know I have a flair for the dramatics but this story and the build-up has to be told.

We met at her office and after doing the grande tour, we reconvened on where to get food. After a few suggestions on where to eat in her town, she suggested a place where she has had an outstanding working relationship. Yes, the aforesaid Luna. And she mentioned they served pizza.  The theme of thoughtfulness is going to permeate throughout this post.   She recalled my blog and this was the perfect merging of everyone benefiting from this visit.

I rarely mention names here, mainly for the sake of imagination and letting the experience tell the story itself.  But in this case it’s necessary.  My dear friends’ name is Rebecca and she runs Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA for short) of Anne Arundel County.  In the past she mentioned how generous Luna Blu has been in helping with her events.  I’ve lucky to have been a part of several events and seen the multiple bottles of wine and food donated to CASA.  It’s a beautiful thing when people help one another.  It inspires me to want to do more when I see the height of altruism.  I get those warm and fuzzy feelings.  And you can never have enough of those.

On this beautiful Summer day this translated into our meal.  And I mean from top to bottom.  I was introduced briefly to the owner Erin, who was everything Rebecca says she was and more.

LunaSalad

With the gorgeous day, the sunny skies, and the positive energy radiating all over, everything else would be gravy.  Luckily, we didn’t order gravy.  We glanced over the menu and saw they do lunch combos.    I would love to do that another time but instead we split the Spinach Salad with Grilled chicken, and the main event, the Chicken Pesto Pizza.

 

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How many times have I sung the praises of pesto over these many months?  This may have been the best display of this most magnificent of sauces.  And the actual presentation of our za reminded me of large pies I used to get when I was a kid on family outings.  I responded like a kid when this yummy goodness came out of the oven and onto our table.   The salad and the chicken was delicious.  The same authentic pieces of grilled chicken were piled on high on our pie.

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Chicken, mushrooms, pesto, ricotta, and mozzarella is a combination for the ages.  The pesto and ricotta blended together is a first for me.   Maybe I never paid close attention to similar pizza styles I’ve had in the past, but this was art.

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This is the New York Style I’m more accustomed to.  It wasn’t the typical crunchy NY Style pizza I’ve been getting at many pizzerias lately.  This was its own style, its own class, and in a universe all its own.  The golden brown that circled the crust was almost too pretty to eat.  Fact of the matter is the whole pizza itself was just so stunning.  Yes I took a lot of pictures and numerous ones have been posted.

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On one of the hottest days of the year thus far, we each barely had a slice.  That just meant a couple of days of meals.   The way the to go slices were prepped was as pleasant as the original order.  Our waitress (who was wonderful by the way) packaged each slice with wax paper in between each.  Who does that?  That’s the meticulous care you only get from a place that cares.  She mentioned they would taste even better reheated.  And boy she was right.  That’s the true test of a pizza.  Does it taste better after the original heating?  The answer is an infallible one.  Delish!

From the moment leading up to our meet up, the discussion, the walk up, the dining, and the departure was sheer perfection.   I love seeing good people succeed and great things happen to great people.  This is what’s happening here.

In a not so frequent instance, I will be back in a few month with a further elaboration.  The reasons will be obvious come round two.   And I’m going to love it.  I think you will too. Maybe I’ll try the Wine & Pizza Pairing on Thursday.    That wine list looks incredibly tempting.  I can’t wait to go back and try a glass or two, heck maybe a bottle.

Cozy and quaint describes the inside perfectly.  For a quiet place to dine and to detach from the rest of the world, this is your place.  I could go on with the superlatives all day, so I will…And here’s one more for the road! :

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This was the perfect Annapolis day.  I look forward to many more.  I love this town, and love to spend it with awesome people.

For more on CASA and all the good they do, click here.  For more on Luna Blu, click here.

More to come on this most inspiring of places.

Much Love,

Ideen