Thursday, July 17, 2014

Korshi Buffet Brings All-You-Can-Eat Sushi, So Stretch That Stomach And Don't Be Surprised

I admit it:  My plate is the full one in back.
The new Korshi buffet has opened in Columbia, and I will leave it to other people to debate whether you get your money's worth with all-you-can eat sushi and Korean food.

I got my money's worth at a weekday lunch.  We took out a friend out to celebrate his new job, and I ate three plates of food -- two more than anyone actually needs at noon.

Korshi is fun for about $13.  You need to know what you're getting.  One line of sushi with thin-sliced fish, and one line of Korean dishes.  We liked a few tastes of spicy tofu, and I splurged on chicken wings.  But the sushi was clearly the draw.

Some rolls.  Some pieces.  I thought the quality matched the lunch joint near my office, and I love being able to try one thin slice of a half-dozen different rolls, chased by thin slices of a half-dozen different fish.  Each time that we walked through, the chefs were offering a full array of salmon, tuna, eel, octopus and more.  Plus, I assume there are more options at dinner when the price jumps to $23.

Until they get a liquor license, you can bring your own alcohol without a corkage fee.  I grabbed a six-pack of Hite beer at the liquor store just north of Korshi's shopping center.  I actually walked there by jumping up a low retaining wall off the parking lot.

Again, please don't be surprised at an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Sushi Sono sells single rolls for more than we paid for lunch.  Shin Chon Garden and Honey Pig specialize in grilled meats.  Don't be surprised if Korshi's offerings don't match those flavors.

Korshi replaced Nichi Bei Kei, a Japanese restaurant whose Web site says that they were relocating to a spot near the Columbia Mall.  I think those plans were from 2013.  Does anyone know if or when Nichi Bei Kei will open there?

The Columbia Korshi is apparently a spin-off of a Virginia restaurant with the same name.  They have different management, folks said on the phone when I called Virginia to try to get the hours of the Maryland store.  On Yelp, someone noted that the Virginia restaurant has table-top barbecue, but charges $40 for dinner.  If you know the Virginia place, don't expect an exact copy.

9400 Snowden River Pkwy
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR:  Korshi replaced Nichi Bei Kei in the corner of a shopping center on Snowden River Parkway.  This is the same center with Pars Market, the new Chutney restaurant, and Azul 17.  This is south of Oakland Park Boulevard and north of Broken Land Parkway.

Korshi on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ananda Shifting To Regular Menu, Showing Off Another Side Of Indian Food In Fulton

Avocado appetizer at Ananda
The new Ananda restaurant in Fulton is switching to its full menu, and it's definitely a place worth exploring -- especially if you want something off the beaten path.

We ate off the "soft opening" menu Monday night, and we particularly enjoyed some dishes that we had never seen before.  An appetizer salad of cucumber, avocado and herbs was the star of the meal.  Then the cardamon-kissed desserts stole the show at the end.

The shrimp entree
Overall, Ananda seems like a worthy entry among the great Indian restaurants in Howard County.  I have chattered with friends about how it compares to Royal Taj and Mango Grove.  It's too soon to write the book on a restaurant that doesn't even have a sign yet, but people are excited by the menu and the vibe of the place.

Ananda is one of the prettier spots for dinner.  You can still hear traffic off Maple Lawn Boulevard, but the dining room with open walls makes for a beautiful spot, complete with white tablecloths and a Monday night show by a baby bunny on the grass outside.  It's nice enough for a date, but completely friendly to the kids who have been eating when we visited.

This is an ambitious kitchen.  The dal and the raita were just side dishes in our meal, but they were intensely flavorful.  Great cooks use Indian spices and herbs in a way that I have never mastered at home, and they're paying attention to those details even in the side dishes.  They hit similar successes in the chickpea entree and in our desserts -- a house-made ice cream and a rice pudding.

But Ananda stands out because they're pushing the offerings of local Indian restaurants.  I have said for years that I'd love specials or seasonal dishes because several of our Indian kitchens are among the most-inspired in town.  Ananda's avocado salad -- fresh vegetables, dressed beautifully and served with the crunch of a papadum -- was a revelation.  Simultaneously Indian, but new to us.

The chickpea entree
Beyond the menu items, Ananda is following their original Ambassador restaurant in defaulting to plating each entree.  Unless you ask for family-style service where everyone shares, you get a main course with rice, dal and a sauce like the large shrimp on the "soft opening" menu.

Overall, this is a fun place to check out.  People are loyal to their Indian favorites because they're among the deepest cuisines in Howard County.  We happily alternate between the curries at Royal Taj or House of India and the dosas and south Indian food at Mango Grove.  Ananda could create its own niche -- the same white tablecloth feel of Royal Taj, but a bar for cocktails and a menu that offers slightly different tricks.

Ananda is on Maple Lawn Boulevard just south of Johns Hopkins Road.  They don't have a sign yet, but they're across the parking lot from a Suntrust.  Ananda joins a scene with five established Indian restaurants in Columbia -- House of IndiaMango GroveRoyal TajFlavors of India, and Nepalese-Indian Curry & Kabob -- plus the new Chutney that replaces Akbar's and the quick service Tandoor Grill on Johns Hopkins Road.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mission BBQ Has Opened In Columbia

Mission BBQ has opened in Columbia. The Mission BBQ replaced a Chicken Out in the shopping center with Target just off Rte 175 and Dobbin Road.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Baughers Fruits & Vegetables Has Opened In Ellicott City; Fresh Veggies Off Rte 103

The Baughers farm stand has opened for the season.  It's a stand in Ellicott City that opens in July because they sell primarily vegetables, fruit and other products from their own farm.

Marcia and Steve hooked me up with photos.  Most of the produce is from the farm -- including honey.  They're bringing up tomatoes from Virginia, but we'll get those in season soon.

They're just off Rte 103, just north of Rte 100.  It's an easy stop for fresh vegetables, snowballs and other treats.

Baughers Fruits & Vegetables
4775 Baugher Farm Rd
Ellicott City, MD 21043
(410) 465-7053

NEAR: Baughers Farm stand is just off Rte 103.  This is east of Rte 29 and north of Rte 100.  Very easy to reach from most of the county.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Tamales At R&R Taqueria -- Another Simple Wonder From The Gas Station Taco Joint

Tamales from R&R
R&R Taqueira continues to surprise me -- years after I became an early thump in the drumbeat that took them to the Washington Post and the Food Network.

You can go for the frisson of eating in gas station on U.S. 1 at Rte 175.  But you should really drive to Jessup because they serve incredibly flavorful food up and down their menu.

I have raved about tacos, but I noticed tamales on my last visit.  Tamales are a benchmark dish for Mrs. HowChow who imprinted on rich vegetarian versions in a Los Angeles farmers market.  It's always a big deal when she thinks any tamales approach that grade.

Easy takeout. Heat at home.
I thought R&R's tamales were delicious, and they're a spectacular lunch or takeout at just $2 each.  For $2, you get a half-sandwich-sized block of steamed corn with filling.  I ordered chicken.  Then you get some red sauce to pour on top with R&R's signature mix of fresh ingredients and deep flavor.  Spicy and acid tomatoes contrasts with the smooth, slightly sweet corn.

These will make a perfectly fine lunch.  But I actually recommend them as takeout.  Your taco is best eaten right away, either on one of the R&R stools or in the front seat of your car.  But you buy the tamales straight from the refrigerator.  Tell them that you don't want them reheated.  Then microwave them yourself.  They'll last several days in your fridge, and three tamales and the sauce made lunch for two.

I can't recommend R&R's enough.  It has been more than five years since Alberto Flores turned me on to the Mexican takeout in the Shell gas station.  I've eaten breakfast.  I have eaten fish.  I have burned my tongue on lamb soup and on cochinita pibil.  I have cooled my mouth with agua frescas and horchata.  Check out all my R&R posts, and go see how much fun you can have for $10.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Kupcakes, Favorites at Johnny's And Comments About New Cajun, New Crepes, And More

Cupcakes from Kupcakes & Co.
There are still so many places that I haven't eaten!!

RDAdoc continues her run with quick reports on Cacao Lane in Ellicott City and Kupcakes & Co. in Elkridge.  She ended up with black bean tacos at Cacao Lane after she found her first choice closed on Mondays.  Good fresh ingredients with beans, Monterey jack, salsa, avocado and sliced red cabbage.  She thought the cabbage was a nice touch.

After that, RDAdoc bought cupcakes for a party, and she talked up Kupcakes & Co., which sells a bunch of sweets on top of cake.  She even compared them to Georgetown Cupcakes, which is pretty esteemed here in the HowChow house:
The assortment of flavors are great from simple chocolate and vanilla to more interesting and sophisticated flavors that are similar to Georgetown cupcakes including salted caramel, root beer float and key lime.   A daily calendar of  flavors is posted on line.  They even offer gluten free cupcakes which I heard from a friend are great.  They are served with an excessive amount of frosting but I just took some of it off.
Cronut from Weiss
Other folks are reporting about all kinds of new places.  Kevlar51, Marcia, and others have tried the bahn mi at Phubs in Hanover -- and even reported on a new banh mi shop that seems to be opening.  Kevlar 51 also reported that David Welch's barbecue stand has moved around the corner onto Corridor Road because of MARC construction at the Savage station.

CrunchDaddy seconded Jeff about Lima's Chicken, a new Peruvian place near Fort Meade.  It is just east of Howard County on Rte 175.
I went to Odenton tonight for my weekly fix at Grace Garden... and they're closed on Sundays! Yikes! What to do? Everything happens for a reason... so where am I gonna eat now? Oh yeah, that chicken place up the road! 
I got a half-chicken and two sides... perfectly fried plantains... and almost went with the black beans when I saw that they make a Peruvian fried rice, so I went with that... Yummo!! It's nearly Asian in taste, with egg, onions and diced chicken... but well done.
Adam even emailed me about a local spotting of cronuts.  They were a New York city fad a while ago. now, they're available at Weis.  "Really good, even if I have nothing to compare them too.  Worth the what, 600 or 700 calories, I guesss?"

Tacos at Cacao Lane
And there are more great comments on other HowChow posts:
And finally, there is Korshi: Kate, Mark and others have reported on the new Korshi buffet that has opened on Snowden River Parkway in Columbia.  It's an all-you-can-eat joint with sushi, Asian foods and more.  DozyCat tweeted some photos below, and Kyle emailed me after two lunches:
I've been there twice for lunch and I liked it.  Not everything works but with a huge variety of dishes there's enough to like. It mostly Korean inspired food split between hot and cold dishes with sushi in between. The candied bacon wrapped rice cake was unique to me. 
The sushi is colorful, plentiful and fresh. Certainly not up to the quality of the stand alone sushi joints but it's acceptable. The jalapeƱo topped spicy roll is worth trying just for the super heat level. We now have easily accessible Korean buffet food in columbia.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Brewery Updates: Jailbreak Is Great Fun; Anyone Know More About Manor Hill Or Black-Eyed Susan

Jailbreak's tasting glasses -- four on a key-shaped plate
I need some beer-loving folks to report on the new breweries opening in Howard County.

Jailbreak Brewery in Laurel has kicked into business with both retail and bar sales.  Those bar sales are going to 40+ places like White Oak Tavern, where you can often find Jailbreak on tap.  Although it is the retail tap room just off U.S. 1 that seems like a new opportunity.

The front part of the brewery is set up like a modern bar.  A bar, long tables, huge televisions.  You can try all kinds of Jailbreak brews, including sometimes experimental ones that haven't made it yet into kegs.  You can eat from food trucks that they've recruited to work the parking lot.  You can even hear music many weeks.

Jailbreak is pushing a niche of culinary beers.  Chocolate and coffee in a stout.  Basil in a wheat beer.  JalapeƱos and cilantro in an IPA.  Generally, I skip flavored beers because I came of age in the wretched Cranberry Lambic Era of microbrews.  But Jailbreak's beers are smart and delicious.  Hints of unique flavors if you're looking, but just good flavor if you just want to drink a beer.

George Berkheimer from the Business Monthly touted that Basil Wit -- saying that there was huge basil nose and flavor at the start, but it mellowed a bit in the growler.  He recommends it with pizza.

I went to a Jailbreak's opening with a beer-loving friend Satellite Dann, but I haven't had a chance to go back for regular business.  What have you thought if you tried Jailbreak beers on site or on tap?  How is the scene in the tap room?  What food trucks are they getting?

At least two more people have talked about opening breweries.  Manor Hill Brewing will open in on a farm in Ellicott City.  These are the same folks who created Victoria Gastro Pub, a terrific place for both beer and food.  Black-Eyed Susan Brewing had talked about opening in Columbia.  After initial articles over the winter, I hadn't heard anything since spring.

Anyone know the story about either?  Manor Hill has an active Twitter feed, and I eagerly await details.  Black-Eyed Susan hasn't updated its Facebook page since April, and some folks had left comments saying that their Berger Road space is empty.  I need to drive past when I'm in the area.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Aida Bistro Changing Menu And Chef, Aiming To Go Beyond Italian, To Welcome Daily Diners

Aida Bistro has been a Howard County hallmark for its Italian menu and for being a special occasions restaurant.

The Columbia restaurant sent an announcement to customers last week aiming to stay a special place, but to highlight changes to broaden their appeal.  Their executive chef left and was replaced by their incumbent sous chef.  Their menu has changed -- keeping the house-made pasta, but broadening from just Italian to a mix of small and large plates and a renewed emphasis on local products.

The email touted a chef's menu that appears to be a five-course meal served Thursdays to Saturday, paired with the wines that they have in their cool tap system.

It's a seasonal menu that changes, but you can get a flavor of the flavors from their Web page.  Aida is on my list of places to return.  Does anyone have thoughts on the new menu or the new arrangements?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Patriotic Cookies And Bacon-Beef Burgers Celebrate Independence Day With Flavor

Macarons at Le Comptoir
Happy July 4th!

Le Comptoir in Columbia is celebrating the holiday with red, white and blue macarons this week.  We hope you like them.  The HowChow Home problem in that one of the flavors is raspberry and another flavor has Chambord, which is stealth raspberry.  And raspberry around here is . . . banned from desserts.

But we love Le Comptoir, and I'll eat raspberry so nothing goes to waste.  Plus, it is always appropriate to celebrate the American Revolution with a nod to the French.

The best burger from Laurel Meat Market
The French and, of course, bacon.  This looks like a great weekend to grill, and Laurel Meat Market is open until mid-afternoon today offering a full array of beef, chicken and sausages.  And that's headlined by their custom mix of ground chuck and bacon.

I bought meat last night and made cast-iron-skillet burgers because of threatening clouds.  That's a delicious burger -- and one rich enough to make me crave vegetables and lemons for the rest of the weekend.

What else do people recommend for the weekend?  Has anyone bought local crabs this summer yet?  I hear prices are high because the catch is low.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

New Blogs On Cooking And Local Restaurants; Learn Korean BBQ, Cooking From The Farm

There once was a time when I could link to every blog post about food in Howard County, but now it is hard to even keep with the new blogs.

On top of the Unmanly Chef who wrote a Trolling post last week, there are more options for local food writing.

Lisbeth Eats is a new blog that ranges from posts about Korean barbecue to Italian recipes to the weekend market in downtown Ellicott City.  Lisbeth lives a bit outside Howard County, but she came in for a great post about Shin Chon is terrific.  It's a terrific guide for people who want to try Korean barbecue.  I tried something similar with my Korean 101 and Korean 102 posts, but Lisbeth did beautiful photos that would really help you figure out a meal.  She also said there are secret panchan -- ssam moo (thinly-sliced pickled radishes) -- that they'll serve if you ask!

The new blogs are terrific if you belong to a CSA or just want to get inspired to cook vegetables.  Kitchen Scribble, AnnieRie, and others have posted for several summers about how they use their direct-from-the-farm produce, but now there are at least two more sources:
  • Howard County Cook.  This blogger is getting a Breezy Willow CSA, then posting about ways to cook without recipes.  Like Lisbeth, these are terrific photos showing cool ideas.
  • CSA Creations.  Jill is writing about discovering new vegetables like kohlrabi.  She is getting the Gorman Farm CSA and getting some her ideas from my master Mark Bittman.   
While you're reading, check out the Unmanly Chef's current posts for his "grilling week" -- swordfish, ribs, etc.  Also, the 2 Dudes Who Love Food got the early look at the new Chef Paolino Cafe in Ellicott City.  That opened last week, but I haven't had a chance to go.

I try to list food blogs written in Howard County in my right hard column.  Blogs come and go, so some of those haven't been updated recently.  But several are very lively, and they have a mix of terrific ideas for cooking and for eating out.  For the best listing, check out HocoBlog's food section.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ananda Has Opened Softly, And The Open-Walled Patio Is Pretty Sweet; Full Menu In A Few Weeks

Lemon-basil sorbet at Ananda
Ananda, the new Indian restaurant in Fulton, opened softly this evening.  We already had dinner at home, but Mrs. HowChow saw that they're serving sweets.

Not just any sweets -- rice pudding, lemon-basil sorbet, and cardamom ice cream.

Next thing you know, we were sitting on the open-walled patio at sunset drinking cocktails and eating dessert.  It's a beautiful space, serving ice cream that Mrs. HowChow rated like Capogiro, our favorite gelato up in Philadelphia.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

This was the first night for Ananda, a new restaurant in Maple Lawn from the folks who own the Ambassador in Baltimore.  They have been building for a long time, and they're opening slowly.  For a few weeks, they'll do a $20 three-course dinner off a smaller, but pretty diverse, menu.  They'll add a sign and eventually expand to a full menu.

Our light dessert makes us optimistic.  Really terrific sorbet and ice cream -- both strong, subtle flavors and perfect consistencies.  Really nice cocktails, one with rum, blackberries and ginger beer and another with cucumber, tonic and gin.  The attention and ingredients make us look forward to actually eating a meal.

You can get such great Indian in Howard County that Mango Grove and Royal Taj both make my favorite restaurants.  But I'm an actual homer when it comes to Ananda.  We can walk here. 

As much as we look forward to the food, we're just as excited to hang out in the space.  It has taken almost two years, but they've built a beautiful space with a large bar and an entire room with garage-style doors that open to make it an open-walled patio.  In other rooms, they have fireplaces that look like they'll be cozy spots in the winter.

7421 Maple Lawn Boulevard (I think)
Fulton, MD 20759

NEAR:  This is on Maple Lawn Boulevard just south of Johns Hopkins Boulevard.  It isn't near the other Maple Lawn restaurants.  This is a stand-alone building -- for now without a sign -- across the parking lot from a Suntrust bank.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Whole Foods To Open August 20 In Columbia

Whole Foods will open its new Columbia store on August 20, the company announced today.

The store will open in the former Rouse Company headquarters, the white office building on the lakefront and across from the mall.

You can follow some pre-opening events on Whole Foods' Facebook page.  Mrs. HowChow is super-excited about a popsicle bar.  They're making special juices and freezing them into popsicles.  We could have used those tonight.

Better Than Good Humor: Get Your Sweets From The Waffle Truck; Belgian Treats Are Real Pearls

La Pearl's mini waffle with biscoff spread
A special truck will bring you special sweets, and I'm fan enough to promote them for a quick treat or catering your party.

This is the La Pearl waffle truck.  It's a Howard County staple now serving warm waffles with various toppings like ice cream, fruit and whipped cream.  They're a treat well worth both the calories and a little work tracking them down.

I had a La Pearl waffle at a neighborhood event a few weeks ago, and I thought it was unique and delicious.  I had a mini with biscoff spread, a thick liquid made from ground cookies.  They compare it to a spread made from graham crackers.

Either way, it showed off the real talent of La Pearl.  These are fresh-made waffles made from a batter that they import from Belgium.  The plain waffle is lightly sweet and would make a terrific breakfast or snack.  Then they only get better when you add your own toppings.

La Pearl's Twitter page is the best place to follow their locations.  They post schedules.  Some days they just post where they are.

In the initial months, the truck was regularly near Howard Community College, but the summer schedule has varied more.  They go to festivals, swim clubs, schools and more.  They also rent the truck for parties and special events.  Not that you get to drive.  They will come to your party and serve waffles.

Again, you should check for La Pearl's location through its Twitter page or its Web site.  They're looking to partner with restaurants, bakeries and other businesses.  If you're wondering, check them out or check out this tweet.

Monday, June 30, 2014

If You Want To Splurge, This Should Be Your Signature Cocktail Of Summer 2014

San Remo cocktail from Scarpetta restaurant
Some of us have reason to drink a little this summer, and I'm exploring cocktails as my dropping alcohol tolerance lets me splurge.

When you're only going to have one drink, then you can splurge a bit on that glass -- especially if you construct it at home.

Our inspiration came from a very special birthday dinner for our niece at Scarpetta in New York City.  I tried their "San Remo" drink.  I thought it was delicious, and Mrs. HowChow was stunned to find a bourbon cocktail that she actually loved.

That's because it's about 10% bourbon.  The brown stuff is in the mix, but Scarpetta's "San Remo" is a bright orange glass with two juices and four liquors.  It's a bracing, refreshing drink.  No harsh alcohol flavor, especially if you follow the HowChow variation.  I think it would be popular with folks who want fancy cocktails and with folks who just want a fruity drink.

To make this happen, we went to Perfect Pour in Elkridge on the way home from New York.  We got good advice and toned down two of chef Scott Conant's liquor choices.  It's still a touch more than $100 for four bottles.  Of course, that's many, many drinks for you to enjoy this summer, and it's a great way to check out both Perfect Pour and the deluxe cocktail craze.

Scarpetta's San Remo
adapted from The Food Network's posted recipe

You can make one drink at a time or measure larger quantities, then shake individual drinks as you want them.  

You'll see that we bought cheaper versions of the elderflower liquor and the bourbon.  The Perfect Pour employee said the difference between St. Elder and St. Germain would be imperceptible in a mixed drink.  I just like Buffalo Trace, and it was less than the Michter's from the restaurant.  You can splurge even more if you want Conant's original.

Also, we doubled the orange juice.  The recipe calls for one ounce of juice.  We both thought the drinks tasted more like the restaurant with about two ounces.

1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth such as Carpano Antica
1 ounce elderflower liqueur like St. Elder (or pricier St. Germain)
1-2 ounces orange juice like the fresh-squeezed stuff from Wegmans
1 ounce bitter orange liqueur like Campari
1/2 ounce bourbon like Buffalo Trace (or pricier Michter's bourbon)
Juice of 1/2 lime
Orange twist for garnish

1) Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.

2) Shake well, then strain over ice in a rocks glass.  Garnish with the orange twist.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mission BBQ To Open July 14 In Columbia

The new Mission BBQ in Columbia will open officially on July 14 -- with a special opening for dinner on the July 11, according to a tweet from Linda Dotterer.

The Mission BBQ replaced a Chicken Out in the shopping center with Target just off Rte 175 and Dobbin Road.

Chef Paolino Opens In Ellicott City, But Hunan House In Laurel Has Closed; Know Why?

The restaurant cycle continues as Chef Paolino opens a new joint in Ellicott City, but we need to pay a tribute to the passing of Hunan House in Laurel.

Good news first: Chef Paolino's Cafe has opened just off Rte 40 in the former home of Serafino's, says Alicyn on the HowChow Facebook page.  She ate there.  They don't have a liquor license yet, but the kitchen is open.

But there was bad news off Rte 216 where Hunan House has closed.  Several people have emailed me.  I don't know the story.  BT has been going for more than two decades with family.  We'd both love to know if anyone heard what happened or whether the Hunan House folks have relocated, and she wrote a little tribute:
Hunan House had great sauce; it was extremely flavorful. My mother wrote a review of it for the Sun in 2000; there is a little info about the restaurant there, The owners and staff were always so friendly and recognized and remembered people, and dining in was a nice experience - dishes were served beautifully. I also appreciated that they had an extensive vegetarian menu with a lot of good choices. I believe the owners were relatives of the Hunan Manor owners, and there are many of the same type of dishes at both. Hunan House was the only place I would eat Chinese takeout; it was always so flavorful! I hope that helps some. It has been there for many years; I'm 28 and my parents tell a story often about a time we were dining there and I was very young. I can remember going there for takeout as far back as five or six.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Bean & Burgundy Bread Does The Korean-American Split And Pleases Even Little Diners

Bi bim bop at Bean & Burgundy Bread
The RDADoc went on a limb this weekend after visiting the Miller Library to celebrate National Pink Day.  She rode with her five- and three-year-olds down Rte 40 and gave a try to Bean & Burgundy Bread.

This large, modern-looking space opened late last fall in Ellicott City with a hybrid menu of American food, Korean food, coffees and desserts.  It's good-looking, and I had heard that they spent much of the winter making changes to the menu.

But Mrs. HowChow and I still haven't gotten there, which made us curious about RDADoc's lunch.  She reported:
As we all know preschoolers don't always make the best restaurant guests. However, after going there today I feel comfortable recommending Bean & Burgundy Bread to people with young children. 
Grilled cheese
The atmosphere is casual and kid friend and I did notice several young children there. However, my one caveat is that the only item on the kids menu is grilled cheese.  So this isn't the place for you if your children are looking for a traditional American kids menu including pizza, chicken nuggets or hot dogs.

The lunch menu included both sandwiches and Korean dishes. I ordered Bibimbap which is a signature Korean dish served with warm rice, vegetables, gochujang (chili pepper paste), and soy sauce.  I ordered mine with brown rice and tofu although they did offer chicken or meat as options.  I am no where near as well versed in Korean dishes as the HowChows, but I very much enjoyed it.  I just ordered plain tea, but they did have an extensive tea, coffee and smoothie menu.  My children were very pleased with their hot chocolate (which was served with a beautiful heart design), grilled cheese and broccoli.  All in all it was an enjoyable experience.
Bean & Burgundy Bread does a full day menu -- from breakfast to dinner.  Does anyone else have reports?  Elizabeth talked up her meal on the Bare Midriff blog in March.  I'd love to know what other folks think or recommend.  So far, I'm drawn to the baked sweets at Shilla Bakery just east on Rte 40.  The Bean & Burgundy sweets hadn't pulled me away, but there are tons of menu items to try.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chicharron at Lily's Mexican Market: Let The Experts Fry Chunks Of Pork Belly For You

A chicharron from Lily's Mexican Market
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

Apparently, a famous German philosopher had eaten chicharron.  Now, you can as well.

You can thank Seb, who left a comment last month on a post asking for advice on what to order from the butcher at Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia.  Seb steered me a few feet from the butcher to the taco counter where he talked up the chicharron:
It's a star attraction at Lily's. Not for the faint of heart, the square chunks of pork meat and fat are perfectly fried. Super crispy on the outside and sinful fatty goodness on the inside. Napkins required, cardiologist appointment recommended.
Perfectly described.  With chicharron, you get old-school food.  A deep-fried morsel of pork, fat and skin.  With my normal diet, that skin is crispy and exotic.  I bit through the chicharron, and the meat provided a solid chew and flavor.  Then the fat squeezed out and burst around my mouth.

The chicharron at the Lily's taco counter
It's delicious.  It's rich and crunchy.  I bought three as a sample, and it was probably one too many.  For a while that afternoon, I could feel grease coming through the pores on my face.

To me, that the perfect kind of food to buy from an expert.  Lily's folks crisped my chicharron skillfully, and I don't have to butcher pork belly or clean up after deep frying.  They made a great snack.  They're an authentic taste of Mexican cooking.  They'd be amazing party food if you have a friend who talks a big game about loving bacon.

I'm a huge fan of Lily's Mexican Market for the butcher, the house-made tortillas, and the full selection of Latin American items.  I'm still looking for suggestions about what cuts of meat to buy from the butcher.

On my last trip, I bought El Salvadoran crema and grated cotija cheese for terrific corn.  Grill the corn, then spread a light coating of crema, which is the consistency of sour cream.  Then roll that in a dish filled the salty cheese.  The corn becomes a star of any plate.  With some tortillas and other items, you can do authentic, delicious tacos any day.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Cool Detail: Perfect Pour Has Its Own Barrel Of Buffalo Trace, Bottled And Selling Now

Buffalo Trace at Perfect Pour
I hadn't noticed a shortage of Buffalo Trace bourbon, but I stumbled on a cool detail Monday at Perfect Pour in Elkridge.

Apparently, there have been times when Buffalo Trace isn't available.  The giant liquor store apparently  avoided disaster because it had agreed months ago to buy an entire barrel.  That barrel -- bottled up -- has arrived, and it's for sale both in front and in the bourbon aisles.

I'm new to bourbons, but Buffalo Trace has been a favorite -- especially because it costs less than $30 and less than many of the small distillery liquors on the same shelves.

The Perfect Pour bottles even have a special sticker on the side commemorating the barrel.  It's a cool detail, and I'll post next week about the bourbon cocktail that we stumbled on in New York City.

If you're a bourbon fan, this might be a reason to run over.

Trolling: Iranian Kabobs, Exceptional Italian, And Vietnamese Soup From A New (Unmanly) Blogger

Pho at Pho Dat Trahn
It's great fun to welcome Howard County food bloggers, and it's even more fun to introduce one who can't stop writing.

The Unmanly Chef has started up his own blog with recipes on everything from roast pork to breakfast shakes to Persian crispy rice.  The Chef is a young guy from Howard County.  He learned to cook from his immigrant Iranian grandmother, but he has a fully modern array of recipes under his belt -- a manly Flyers' apron on the page where he introduces himself.

We chatted yesterday, and the Chef jumped at the idea of a Trolling post.  Most people say they'll do a Trolling post, then never email me again.  Three paragraphs and a cell phone photo are always welcome, but I understand that they can be too daunting to complete.

For the Unmanly Chef, three paragraphs was too limiting.  He wrote five.  The same afternoon.  Three sections talking up Howard County food that he really enjoys.  Two bonus sections about great Iranian food in Rockville and the farm-to-table of Woodberry Kitchen.

Check out the Unmanly Chef blog.  Follow him on Twitter.  Like the blog's page on Facebook.  Just generally welcome into the local conversation:
Friends & Farms -- a delivery service in Columbia
At first I was very apprehensive to joining Friends and Farms, because I thought it would be just another CSA that gives pounds of veggies.  Meanwhile we were spending way too much on groceries each week for just two people.  Friends and Farms delivers on both fronts.  It gives a variety of meat and produce, while cutting my food bill in half.  With Friends and Farms, you can customize your basket size to suit your needs.  I'd recommend doing a sample basket for one week to see if it's for you.  The quality of the food is excellent (especially the protein).  Everything is from local farms.  If you have any questions, you can engage with their staff via email,phone, or in person.  (I've done all three.)  It certainly is not for everyone, if you don't cook or can't handle changing seasonal ingredients, don't waste your time.  Pricing ranges from $53/week to $99/week depending on what size basket you receive.

Yekta Kabobi Restaurant & Market in Rockville
Amongst Iranians in the Maryland area, Yekta is regarded as the premier Kabobi (or Chelow Kabob) place in the area.  I'm fully aware of Nora's Kabob in Ellicott City or Maiwand Kabob in Columbia.  They are great people, but their ground beef kabob or Koobideh does not stack up, and that is the true marker of a great Kabobi restaurant. F or the best experience, go to Yekta in Rocville and order the following: ask for the Tahdig (Crispy Rice), Mahst-e-Moosir (Yogurt with Shallots), and then get the Yekta Special.  It's a lot of food, but this will give you the true Iranian Chelo Kabobi experience. 
The real draw is a combination of everything.  The consistency of the food is key. But juiciness of the meat and the larger variety of traditional Iranian side dishes make it great. For me, what makes it worth the drive is their Kabob Koobideh (ground beef kabob).  It's the perfect mixture of salty and savory.  Yekta also has daily specials, if you are there on a Tuesday or Friday, get the Baghali Polow Mahicheh (Lamb Shank with Fava Bean Rice), this is an authentic Iranian dish that is a true delicacy in Iran. After you've finished, you can go next door to their grocery store for some great treats.

Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore
Nestled away off I-83 lies a culinary oasis that brings rustic Chesapeake watershed cuisine to your table at a reasonable price.  Woodberry Kitchen sources all their ingredients from local farms and makes everything in house.  I first heard about it actually from Duff Goldman of Ace of Cakes fame) when he was on Food Network. You literally cannot make a wrong choice with their menu.  Select whatever you crave, and prepare to be thrilled.
I've had the chicken and biscuits, and they are incredible.  Cooked to perfection, they fry the skin, but not the whole chicken. T hey use a thigh instead of a breast so it's incredibly moist.  Another great dish there is the mac & cheese, Fried chicken and mac & cheese are my two favorite foods so I always seek them out at a high quality place.  Since it's a rustic American-style place, I base my choices off of my favorite American flavors -- savory and cheese.  Haha.
You have to make a reservation generally because it's too popular now to walk in. But make the trip.  It's worth it. They are open for breakfast/brunch on the weekends and dinner every night.

Aida Bistro & Wine Bar in Columbia
Italian food is often a difficult dining out choice for me because I always feel I can make it better than wherever one would usually go for Italian food in Howard County.  Not with Aida Bistro & Wine Bar.  Everything is locally sourced and hand-made in the kitchen. I've been twice now; both times were excellent. They do a seasonal menu.  In the winter, I ordered a Lamb Shank Bolognese, and this past weekend we did an assortment of appetizers.  Their pork belly appetizer is great.  You think it's going to be somewhat chewy. But instead, it falls apart, and the crispy skin on the top makes it melt in your mouth.  They serve it as a thick square of pork belly rather than the traditional korean BBQ way.  It's almost like they braised the pork belly meat, but crisped the skin. It was awesome.   For dessert, their cannoli are outstanding, not to sweet, and they have a home-made shell.  The service is attentive and will offer their opinions if you ask.  Aida's is great for any occasion.

Pho Dat Tanh in Columbia
Good pho is hard to find.  Pho Dat Tanh in Columbia does exactly what you want.  No fuss, no frills. They have carry-out, but I would not recommend ordering the pho for carry-out.  It's not the same experience.  We always come here when we have a cold because their pho will clear your sinuses and provide that warm soup craving.  I always order the Pho Ga (Chicken Pho) instead of the Beef Pho. Mainly because I think it's healthier and it's a little less heavy. Their food is very reasonably priced and if you want pho, it's a great local source for it.
Trolling (sometimes on Tuesday) is my attempt at a series where readers share three things with other HowChow readers -- favorite restaurant dishes, food to buy, food experiences, etc.  Click here for all the Trolling posts.  Click here for the explanation and the rules.  Anyone can submit.