Friday, May 30, 2014

Pizza Friday - Matchbox Vintage Pizza Bistro; Rockville, MD

Pizza is a strange food.  Even when it's a bad pizza it's still pretty good.  I could eat Domino's, Papa John's, or even a crappy frozen pizza every day and still be reasonably satisfied and happy with what I bought.  The fact of the matter is this:  I've never had a pizza so awful I wouldn't ever go back to the place I got it from.

On the other hand, I occasionally get one that's so good I wish I didn't have the "only once every year" unwritten rule for pizza shops.  Matchbox is one such restaurant.

Tonight the fiancee and I decided to give it a try on a whim...while we were driving past to go to Ruby Tuesday.  Neither of us had been there, and we figured it was a good night to give it a try.

Generally, at a Pizza restaurant I wouldn't order a burger for an appetizer.  We made an exception.  We were VERY glad we did.  The mini burgers came with a variety of high-end cheeses, and a pile of onion straws that meant it would be a very large meal for one person.  Of course, we didn't realize this when we ordered, and were in a bit of shock when we saw what landed on the table.

The big surprise, however, came when the pizza arrived.  We ordered a split pizza with half of it Matchbox Meat and the other half Sweet Sopresatta Salami & Wild Mushroom.  What it all boiled down to was this: when I tasted the Matchbox Meat, I instantly knew that was the best pizza I'd ever had, the Salami & Mushroom side, however, was far and away the better pick.

Matchbox, in the end was an incredibly unique experience.  Not only had I never had my "Best Pizza" knocked off the top twice in one visit to a single restaurant... but that same restaurant also took the title for best burger as well.

That, my friends, is a very unique accomplishment.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wine Day - Corcoran Vineyards; Waterford, VA

The biggest challenge with starting to write about wine is this:  How long can I do this before I start falling into the traps of wine-snobbery that have ruined many a wine lover?

One trap I've already fallen into is this:  I was under the impression that a good Pinot Noir couldn't be done outside of the states of Washington and/or Oregon.  Because I like Pinot so much, I thought for sure that the chances of me finding a winery in Virgina that could do one were slim to none.  As such I offered myself a mental challenge, and that challenge was if I ever found a Virginia winery that produced a even remotely drinkable Pinot, they would be my new favorite.

Well, dear readers, I did.

There's a catch though.  The Pinot I found is not at all what I'm used to finding out of the Pacific Northwest, which are lighter, and nearly water in some cases.  The Pinot Noir at Corcoran is thick, hearty and rich with tannins, and will age beautifully over the coming years.  Quite frankly, I can't wait to pop it open in 5 years and give it a try.

Heavy Rain!
My trip to Corcoran happened on an extremely rainy Saturday.  While not great days to bring a picnic and sit out on the lawn with a bottle or glass of wine, rainy Saturdays are arguably the best days to visit wineries here in the DC area, strictly because they're substantially less crowded, and you can generally get more attention and detail from the person conducting your pouring.  My trip to Corcoran happened on the same days as the trips to Loudoun Valley and 8 Chains (Link coming soon), and ended up being my favorite visit of the day.  It wasn't just because of the Pinot.  As opposed to 8 Chains, which is a very new winery, and Loudoun Valley's improper storage, everything I tried at Corcoran was if not on par with, above average for the Loudoun area.

In the end, everything I tried was very drinkable, and on-par with other Virginia wineries on price.  As such they're well worth a visit if you're looking for another winery to stop in during a weekend wine blitz.  

You can reach Corcoran on the web at or on twitter @corcoranwine.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

Pizza Friday - Jimmy's New York Pizza, Sterling, VA

There are days, granted they're rare, that I just don't feel like leaving, or for whatever reason, I'm bogged down in something and can't leave the house for dinner.  With the dishwasher in progress, one load of laundry in the washer, another in the dryer, and yet another waiting, not to mention the vacuuming I've neglected over the past several weeks, and a pending business trip, tonight just was not the night to put everything I needed to get done off to a later date. 

Just because I'm staying home for dinner doesn't mean I'm going to abandon my "No Large Pizza Chains" principle.  In fact, Jimmy's is one of the restaurants that proves my "You can always find a local place that's as good as or better than the national chains rule.

The proof behind this is the sizing.  For roughly the same price that you'd pay for a smaller Large at one of the national chains, I got a medium.   I can't even venture a guess as to what the "Large" would be, because I couldn't even finish half of the medium.  Not only was it bigger than all three of the major pizza delivery places, but it was leaps and bounds better in flavor and ingredients.  

Despite the high quality, tonight's pie was just a simple pepperoni, with no extras.  Plain, boring, but a staple in college dorm rooms and mediocre office parties everywhere.    

What made it unique though is it was a real New York style pie.  With the frequency I head north to the Philadelphia/New York/New Jersey area, I've had my fair share of good pizza.  This one ranks among the best, and it's hidden in a sketchy strip mall in Sterling, VA.  More importantly though: they deliver to my house.  Finding this diamond in the rough was a huge and welcome surprise.

After dinner tonight, I realized that I'm hooked.  There is no way I can order from any other pizza place for delivery while I'm living in this house.  I certainly am looking forward to trying it again.

You can find Jimmy's on the web at

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wine Day - Loudoun Valley Vineyards

When I was mapping out my route the other week, I noticed that Loudoun Valley was strategically locatated at the mid-point between two of the other wineries that I wanted to stop by.  As such, it seemed only logical that I'd make a quick detour on the way to Cocoran!

I promise I took some photos of Loudoun Valley, but this isn't one.
I hadn't heard of Loudoun Valley, so I didn't really know what to expect.  What I found was a winery in a near perfect location, with a disappointing tasting room, and selection.

They tried hard!  But the downside is they tried too hard.  I found that many of the whites were over-aged, the reds were probably aged appropriately, but the entire group of wines they had were similarly vinegary.  The only one I bought was the 2011 Traminette, which was probably perfect about a year or two ago.

I will certainly not fault them for trying.  There are few joys in this world for me beyond a perfectly aged wine.  I always long for a day when I can buy a properly aged wine direct from the shelf.  The problem comes in that there are so many variables that come into play.  I've certainly made my own mistakes in the aging process, but here is a vintner selling wines that are beyond their peak.  I'd like to go back next year at some point and try their 2012's and 2013's.  Not the 2009's and 2010's which is what they'll be selling.

It will be a good place to return to at some point, but I just don't think they're there yet.

As an aside, it was extremely rainy the day I went, and unfortunately it appears the photos I took with my iPhone disappeared.  So, this isn't a photo at Loudoun Valley, but it is a photo on the same day!

To contact Loudoun Valley Vineyards please visit their website at or on twitter at @LoudounValley

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mothers Day Adventures

When my sister and I started planning Mothers Day 2014, we decided that the typical Mothers Day activities consisting of a Sunday Morning church service, and a crappy "Family" restaurant weren't in the cards.  My sister and I like wine, our mom likes wine, so off to the vineyards we went.  The whole trip was great, and a great side track from the typical Mothers Day Activities. 

Since the three parties involved are spread far and wide in the state of Virginia, Ruckersville seemed like an equally inconvenient place, as such we decided that we would stop in two or three wineries in the area before shoving off for our respective trips back home. 

Because the grand-dog wanted to visit my parents for the week, I needed to stop in Harrisonburg before slipping across the mountain, because I had a business trip back to New Jersey.

After picking up my parents, we loaded up our respective cars an headed east on US 33, across the Blue Ridge and into Ruckersville. 

It was a highly beneficial day from a wine perspective, as we got to visit two wineries none of us had ever been to, Barboursville and Horton.  One of the two I recommend a trip to, the other, unfortunately I'd recommend skipping despite the potential.  Those reviews are coming. 

After stopping at both wineries, I headed off in my own direction as the Virginia Starbucks mug had still proven to be elusive (you can read about that adventure here, here and here).  I was determined that by the end of the day I would have the mug in my hand.  Sure enough, after stopping in four Starbucks stores on my way down to I-64, I found it. 

8000 miles! 
My plan to stop at a well known pizza joint for the pizza feature was unfortunately thwarted by the dwindling sun, my need to pack for a business trip scheduled the next day, and my increasing exhaustion.  I decided instead to high tail it back north, and find a good pizza another day.   

All around Mothers Day was an absolute joy for all four of us.  We can say with certainty we're looking forward to a repeat on Fathers Day!

Finally, as I got close to home, right there in the middle of 28, the Jetta hit a big milestone.  2,000 miles left until the first maintenance!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Pizza Friday - Andolini's, Ashburn VA

Andolini's was a unique experience.  Clearly, the restaurant was set up more to be a delivery location than a eat-in pizza shop.  I say clearly because their location is not near any housing or hotels, and has limited business interest for a quick lunch stop.

Over the years I've developed a sort of standard pizza order, the unfortunate thing is at Andolini's, the special was for a three topping pie, not four.  I like four.  Pepperoni, Bacon, Spinach, and Garlic.  Because of this I left off the spinach, where in reality I should have left off the Bacon.

The pizza was VERY good.  The crust was near perfect, and had an almost herbal quality to it.  It's hard to compare with the fluffy, airy crusts that you typically find up north except in texture.  The flavor was more similar to what you'd find in an area not as known for Italian food, but what I'd expect in a more rural farm-to-table setting.

The downsides were a bit more obvious.  The first thing I'd suggest is the store should probably strongly consider easing off on the strong flavored toppings.  The bacon was good, but it was laid on so thick it was impossible to discern any other flavors except the garlic (which I'll get to in the next paragraph).  It was so thick on the pizza, I couldn't even taste the pepperoni.

Now, the garlic.  I love garlic on my pizzas.  Normally pizza shops use either a nicely roasted or minced garlic to limit the strong flavor.  Not Andolini's.  The garlic was raw, and left whole, and spread extremely thick.  I would venture to guess I probably consumed an entire head of garlic, if not more in the three slices I ate at the restaurant.  Needless to say, the next day was in no way pleasant.

Overall Andolini's is a great shop.  I'd go back in a heartbeat, but would avoid the garlic.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wine Day - Fabbioli Cellars, Leesburg, VA

In addition to my Pizza obsession, my long time readers will know I also actively seek out new and varied experiences with wine.  These pages have a long history of going and finding a winery, which date all the way back to this post in 2010. 
Fabbioli's unique Food Pairings

This weeks visit was to Fabbioli Cellars just outside of Leesburg, VA.

Fabbioli is, out of all of the wineries I've been to in Virginia, one of the most unique; and I mean that in a good way. 

The most surprising part of my visit came very early on.  It was the tasting fee.  Safe to say, this was the highest tasting fee I've encountered in the state of Virginia.  Your $15 does go a very long way.  You get a slate of about 7 wines with a food item specifically picked out for its compatibility with that particular wine.  Safe to say...they NAILED it each time. 

Fabbioli does some very unique wines that you can't really find in the general Loudoun region.  They do fruit wines.  I got to try two, both of which I'd buy if I knew of an occasion they'd be appropriate. 

The two fruit based wines I tried were the Raspberry Merlot and the Aperitif Pear.  The Raspberry Merlot reminded me a lot of Ocean Spray Cranberry Raspberry juice.  As an adult fan of fruit juices (both the kid version and the adult version) I could see how this one could potentially be dangerous.  The winery recommends it with chocolate, personally I'd say it would make a fabulous foundation for a berry compote or even a chocolate torte.

I was taken aback by the Aperitif Pear Wine.  Okay, so confession time, I hate pears.  I don't know why, I've occasionally had really, really good pears I've been talked into buying , but for the most part there's just something off for the majority of pears.  Maybe it's the skin?  Maybe it's the texture of the fruit?  Honestly, I couldn't tell you.  So I had extremely low expectations when it was poured.  When I did my initial swirl the guy doing my pouring commented about my face lighting up and...surprise!  It was really good!

Overall, the $15.00 was well spent.  I need to get back at some point because the wine that (according to the others who were there tasting with me) I'd like the most wasn't being poured.  Unfortunately I took all my notes on the sheet provided by the winery...a sheet which I've completely misplaced.

Monday, May 12, 2014

6 Months/7000 Miles - Short Update.

The Jetta has undoubtedly been the best car I've ever owned.  Granted, the fleet I've had over the years is, in short, downright impressive, Volkswagen did it right with this car.  No Question.

After 7,000 miles the good items really shine, but unfortunately it's not all good.

Over the last 6 months I've not had a single mechanical or electrial issue with the vehicle.  This is the first car I've ever owned I could say that about. 

There have been zero trips to the dealership for anything other than scheduled maintenance.

The one bad I've encountered is I don't quite get the fuel economy that I was expecting based on a number of things.  That said, it could be a lot worse, and I've been driving it pretty aggressively.  It is, after all, a REALLY fun car.

While I was initially frustrated with the fact that I could only get a sunroof with the automatic transmission, and was told in no uncertain terms, manual transmissions and sunroofs did not, in any way mix, it's actually turned out that I very much like having the automatic.  I never would have expected that.

We are currently looking at a massive road trip later this summer.  Stay tuned for details!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Pizza Friday - My Deli & Cafe, Purcellville, VA

I originally picked My Deli & Cafe because it had high Yelp ratings.  The ratings were well deserved as the service was impeccable.

The downside is, after spending all day writing and editing my Pizza Friday posts, I was really in the mood for a pizza.  Apparently, you have to order that from their catering menu, and you can't get it on a walk-in basis.

It felt a bit misleading because the restaurant showed up in the Yelp Pizza results, but yet there was only single-serve Pita pizza to be found.  Very disappointing.  The cafe is a Greek restaurant, with greek ownership, that happens to serve Pizza on a catering menu.

Regardless, my visit happened on Super Bowl Sunday.  From the time I arrived until I disappeared I was the only customer in the place.  The owner bent over backwards to make sure I was satisfied.  He even went to great lengths to recommend other food for me since he assumed (Rightfully) that the Pita-Pizza may not be enough.  It wasn't.

I won't say it was bad, but it's something I could easily make on my own at my house.  Since it didn't solve my cravings, I had to move on and try somewhere else.

I think the next time I stop in I'll get the Gyro.

Sorry for no pictures!   They'll be back next week!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Off to the Vineyards

Visiting Willowcroft
I love visiting the wineries in and around the Washington DC Metro Region.  For a long time Virginia wine was the bastard stepchild of American, or even Global wine production.  Only a small handful of vintners received any recognition for producing an average product, much less something simply above average or even exceptional.

My how the times have changed.  Virginia's wineries are now producing award winning wines that compete on the same stage as some of the well known world greats.

While nothing is currently produced in large quantities, the level of the quality displayed in their wines is substantially above par. 

Recent trips out to some of the bigger names in the Northern VA Area makes it clear that I need to spend some time and energy focusing on the wine that is here in the local region.  As such I've started collecting visits in the area.  Starting next Wednesday, expect to see a short blurb about my trip out to a local vineyard show up here.  I expect this feature will last a little longer than my pizza fad, but don't be surprised if, like almost every other trial I run I either get bored, or tired of it, and it just disappears.

Here's to hoping it goes on a bit longer than that!