Thursday, December 18, 2014

Two Kinds Of Hand-Made Noodles In Catonsville; Or "Pair Your Clam Soup With Clam Pancakes"


Hang Ari's clam soup
I have raved before, and I will rave again:  Something terrific is going on at Hanoori Town in Catonsville.

The three restaurants have been revamped in the Hanoori Town section of the H Mart's shopping center.  Hang Ari's hand-cut noodles are the shiny new star.  Imported from Los Angeles.  Unique in the area as far as I know.

But they're not the only hand-made noodles in town.  Chan Mat -- the restaurant in the back -- appears to have chef Chang Yon Huh banging out the noodles for black bean noodles as well.  Those are jajangmyeun, a cornerstone of Korea's Chinese restaurants.  The chef works in an open space where you can see and hear him throughout the dining room.

Hang Ari's clam pancakes
Seriously, these are exceptional, reasonably priced, casual meals.  I treated my parents to lunch of Hang Ari's clam soup and a clam pancake.  One order of each served three of us.  The clam broth alone is worth driving to Catonsville. The bowl can filled with tender clams and again had perfectly-cooked squash and potato.  The noodles are slightly chewy and contrast beautifully with the briny flavor of the clams.

The clam pancake was just as perfect.  Imagine chopped claim with just enough batter to brown and crisp.  The minimal-filler construction of a great crab cake.  That means they don't stay together like a finger-food latke, but they're delicious cut with a fork and dipped in a sauce.

New parenthood definitely makes blogging tough.  We are still learning to be efficient enough to have any free moments.  So I'm writing short posts this weeks on the theme of two items that you could buy at a single stop.  At Hanoori town, you could pair clam soup with clam pancakes or order one dish from each restaurant and pair Chan Mat black bean noodles with Hang Ari's noodle soup.

These are videos below of both the hand cut and "Chinese" noodles being made.
video video video

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Noodles And Fried Chicken: Pair Chapchae With Spicy Wings At Rte 40's Bon Chon Chicken




Chapchae at Bon Chon

Lil' Chow dances for noodles.  Thick noodles.  Thin noodles.  Fetticine with tomato sauce.  Udon with sesame oil.

That how we discovered the chapchae at Bon Chon Chicken, where we normally just ordered fried chicken and called it a day.

Bon Chon is the local outpost of a Korean chain that does amazing fried chicken -- crisp and crunchy  shell around moist and delicious meat.  We have left satisfied many times after nothing more than chicken and beer.

Fried chicken -- still amazing
But chapchae is a Korean noodle dish -- glassy sweet potato noodles stirfried with vegetables and sometimes meat.  I've recommended them as a vegetarian option at Shin Chon Garden, and I needed them for a boy who will sit patiently through dinner if you keep filling his plate with noodles.

Bon Chon's chapchae was exceptional.  Noodles with a terrific chewy texture.  The mild flavor of a sauce made with sesame oil and soy sauce and a generous mix of vegetables and thin-sliced beef.  Lil' Chow chowed and flirted with the waitresses.  I actually ate some chapchae because it was delicious enough to forgo even a few pieces of that great chicken.  Easily as good as Shin Chon Garden, our standard in Howard County where Lil' Chow had chapchae as recently as Sunday night.

Don't get me wrong.  You can go to Bon Chon just for the chicken and beer -- or the "Chi Mec" as it is known for the first syllable of the Korean work for beer.  But the chapchae makes a great pair if your group wants to try several flavors.  You could also order it vegetarian if your carnivore friends drag you to Bon Chon for dinner.

If you go to Bon Chon, definitely check out Shilla Bakery for dessert.  Bon Chon is in a shopping center that is parallel to Rte 40, but set back from the main road.  You actually enter from Plum Tree Road.  Shilla is in the shopping center that separates Bon Chon from Rte 40, and it has great coffees, pastries, cakes and other sweets.

New parenthood definitely makes blogging tough.  We are still learning to be efficient enough to have any free moments.  So I'm writing short posts this weeks on the theme of two items that you could buy at a single stop.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pair It Up: Oil And Bread At The Breadery

Oils and vinegars at the Breadery
The basics are new again -- this time at The Breadery in Oella that has added artisan oils and vinegars to the hot breads that they pop out every day.

I have raved about the Breadery since they moved just outside Ellicott City and started to offer a mix of crusty and soft breads, rolls and other items.  Now, I rave again because they're offering flavored oils and vinegars that can make a meal in seconds.

Again, this is basic stuff.  A dash of olive oil or vinegar to dress a salad, improve a sauce, or marinate a meat.  But it's new to me, and I love the ease of adding sweet, spicy and other flavors with just the tip of a bottle.

Honey-ginger white balsamic vinegar
The Breadery's selection is similar to the Secolari store in the Columbia Mall.  Vinegars with berries, chilis, or other spices.  Oils from a range of locations, some goosed with citrus, fruit or spices.  Great fun for a cook.  Great gifts if you buy for one.

For this week's blog theme, I'll emphasize that a Breadery loaf pairs beautifully with these oils and vinegars.  Dipped in an oil.  Served with a salad dressed with vinaigrette.  My Secolari finds let me make an ancho-lime dressing in seconds.  At the Breadery, I took honey-ginger vinegar.

You won't stumble on the Breadery unless you have business up the hill in Oella.  But it's a really easy drive from Main Street in Ellicott City -- even a beautiful stroll up a parkland path if you want to mix eating and exercise.  Definitely worth the effort.  With the occasional BrickNFire appearance, you can go there to eat immediately (BrickNFire's pizza), eat later (the breads) and cook for yourself (the oils and vinegars).

New parenthood definitely makes blogging tough.  We are still learning to be efficient enough to have any free moments.  So I'm writing short posts this weeks on the theme of two items that you could buy at a single stop.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Fun You Can Only Have In Howard County; If You Like Twitter Humor, Follow Colonel Gateway

My new favorite Howard County joke is the Colonel Gateway Twitter account that I just discovered today.

I've said before that I spent years thinking there was a road off Rte 175 called Colonel Gateway.  That's because there is a sign on Rte 175 that says "Col Gateway."  As if anyone ever abbreviates "Columbia."

Now, there is fun to be had.  Someone has created Colonel Gateway.  He is tweeting about Columbia and posing at local landmarks.  That's fun that you can only have in Howard County.

Pair It Up: Kalbi And Tofu Soup At Lighthouse

The table of food you get with a single combo order of kalbi and soup at Lighthouse Tofu
Our new toddler means that we need to be efficient, so this week's posts will be two items to try in a single meal.

First stop: Lighthouse Tofu, one of my favorite Korean restaurants in Ellicott City.  It's a casual place that specializes in a tofu soup called soondooboo.  Very friendly place.  A great spot to expand your Korean eating if you have only done barbecue before.

And my Lighthouse recommendation is a two-part order that lets you enjoy a little barbecue and expand into soondooboo.

Mushroom soondooboo
That's the combo order of kalbi and soup.  You can pick your soup -- mushroom or meat, spicy or mild.  I heard mild ordered as "white" because the basic soup looks white and the spicy pepper sauce turns it red.

Lighthouse's soup is a spectacular winter meal.  Piping hot broth with deep, earthy flavor on its own.  Spicy if you want it.  Thick like a stew with mushrooms or meat and vegetables, then the silky tofu throughout.  I didn't grow up with tofu, so I lack the vocabulary to really capture the pleasure.  It holds its shape, but goes down without the chewing that you'd need for meat or pressed tofu.  It's a delicious, filling bowl.

Then you get a small platter of kalbi as well.  That's beef rib meat, marinated and then cooked tender and full of flavor.  I often pass on kalbi because it can be pricey, but Lighthouse gave me exactly what I want -- rich and flavorful like I don't get from just vegetables, but even better because it was reasonably sized and paired with the soup and side dishes.

Lighthouse Tofu is a terrific restaurant -- casual, kid-friendly, and reasonably priced at $10-15 a person.  I'm highlighting the kalbi and soup here, but you won't do badly ordering anything.  In February, I wrote about Lighthouse as an alternative for Korean Food 101.  That post has step-by-step instructions about going to Lighthouse and ordering some basics.  In Step Two, you could order kalbi instead of the pork belly that I  mentioned there.

I highly recommend Rte 40 and its Korean restaurants for anyone who wants to try great food in Howard County.  I posted a Korean Food 101 that explained how to try barbecue at Shin Chon.  I'm currently infatuated by the noodle soups at Hang Ari, which is in Catonsville but still on Rte 40.  You could also scan down all the posts about Korean food.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Garbanzo And Gadsby's Appear To Have Closed, And Folks Have Reported On Korshi Buffet Too

Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill and Gadsby's Bar American both appears to have closed in Columbia.

Garbanzo was part of a small chain, and it definitely drummed up a devoted following.  Folks have been emailing and posting in comments for a while, but I've been to crazed to even post.

Gadsby's Bar American had replaced Greystone Grill just off Rte 100.  This was Robert Gadsby's restaurant.  People have lauded the place for an innovative bartender, but I had heard so many disappointed reports that I kept postponing a visit in the hope that they would get it together.  Now the Web site is gone, and the phone has been temporarily disconnected.

I'm always bummed when people work hard on a restaurant and see it close.  This morning, Carole posted a comment on the Facebook page saying the Korshi buffet in Columbia has closed as well.  No one answered the phone when I called, but I don't know the situation.  Does anyone know the story?  Does anyone know any of these stories?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

New Vietnamese Restaurant Appears To Be Coming To Ellicott City, Replacing Wild Cajun

 A new Vietnamese restaurant appears to be coming to Ellicott City.  See above that Lanny posted a photo on Twitter of a Viet Pearl sign covering up Wild Cajun.

Wild Cajun had been a relatively new Louisiana-style restaurant in the Lotte shopping center at Rte 29 and Rte 40 in Ellicott City.  I hadn't been, but I have to say that I'd love good Vietnamese food.  We get pho from An Loi and Pho Dat Trahn in Columbia.  But they are both more about comfort food than exceptional.

Does anyone know the story of Viet Pearl?  Has anyone tried the Vietnamese food there?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New Main Street Book Store Doing A Food-Based Book Club, Partnering With Rumor Mill

There is a new book store on Main Street called Greenrow Books that specializes in children's books and cookbooks.

Amanda Yeager has a short profile in the Sun, and she notes that Greenrow will run a food-based book club, partnering with the Rumor Mill.  The club will meet at the restaurant where chef Matt Milani will riff off the book for appetizers and drinks.  That's definitely something to check out -- both cookbooks and the book club.

If you want to shop locally, check out last year's series about local shopping -- both food and non-food gift ideas.  The Boulder mens store closed, but I think the other options are still good.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Exotic Breakfast In An Unexpected Spot: Belgian Waffles And Crepes At Whirlz In Ellicott City


Liege waffles and crepes at Whirlz just off Rte 108
Suddenly, we are up early on weekend mornings, so we're on the hunt for cool places for breakfast.

First stop was the Whirlz shop in the Dorsey Hall village center in Ellicott City.  Whirlz has teamed with the folks from the La Pearl waffle truck to offer morning treats.  Belgian waffles with all kinds of toppings.  Crepes that run from sweet to savory.

We stopped by last Saturday.  We had thought Lil's Chow would love a waffle.  He eats well, and he loves crispy stuff like pizza crust and dumpling wrappers.  But he actually threw himself into the Whirlz crepe.  I had gone eggs, bacon and cheese, so that's a classic combination.  Whirl's crepes have a slight crunch, and Lil's Chow and I both enjoyed some warm savoriness on a cold morning.

Savory crepe
Mrs. HowChow went with a basic waffle.  La Pearl does liege waffles with sweetness in the batter.  We had the biscoff -- a spread made from crushed cookies -- and bananas.  La Pearl pushes the Belgian waffle from Belgium, not the American waffles that we call "Belgian."  It is a different taste, one of those dishes that stands out because it is succeeds by being simple.

Whirlz does breakfast from 8 am to 2 pm on weekends.  They offer a full coffee and latte lineup.  So the booths are a nice place to set up with folks.  An easy place to check the schedule is La Pearl's Twitter feed.

Whirlz does its main business as a frozen yogurt shop.  They're definitely trying to break the standard "yogurt shop" format.  That makes sense considering that we have four seasons here.  They have sold crepes for a while with fillings that run from fruits to Reese's-inspired mixtures to the savory eggs and bacon.  They're in the Dorsey Hall village center just north of Rte 108 and just west of Rte 29.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Go Walk The Columbia Lakefront: The New Path Has Circled Lake Kitt So You Can Eat And Run

From the trail to Whole Foods
The Columbia Association opened a path Friday that circles the downtown lake and opened all kinds of new options for you to eat and run ... or eat and stroll.

The lake -- officially Lake Kittamaqundi, but now Lake Kitt in the blog as dubbed by Jack in an email to me -- is really a new nexus for Howard County food.  The Whole Foods sits right on the lakeside, along with Clyde's, the Tomato Palace, Le Comptoir, Petit Louis and Sushi Sono.

The new trail along a stream
That's great eating, and the CA's new path makes for great walking as well.  For years, the path had circled only part of the lake.  Now it goes the whole way, and we circled with a stroller in about a half hour.  It's an easy walk, and it's beautiful even in cold weather.

(Update: See the story by Luke Lavoie in the Sun.)

You're not going to do better than lunch at Sushi Sono and a walk around the lake.  But all the restaurants are popular, and you can really enjoy an afternoon and even shop for groceries.

I'm impressed by the new trail.  They did pretty work, and there are places to sit and to check out the stream running against Rte 29.  Today is supposed to be beautiful so soak in some warmth. And please suggest dishes at any of the lakefront restaurants if you have favorites.  People have talked up the pizza at Tomato Palace, but I haven't eaten there myself.

Jack, who works with the Bicycle Advocates of Howard County, shared an old map that showed how the trail used to deadend.  He said the new trail was one of the initiatives under a "Connecting Columbia" plan.

Is It Worth The Trip? Emily Checks Out Great Wall, The Chinese Supermarket In Catonsville

Great Wall has Chinese duck, pork and chickens
Our options keep expanding faster than I can check them out.  Like the Great Wall Supermarket in Catonsville that opened in late 2013 -- and that I still haven't visited.

Luckily, I got an expert report from Emily of the Howard County Cook blog.  Emily is a first-generation Chinese-American who was born in Chicago and raised in Houston, home to one of the largest Chinatowns in the United States.

Emily's parents originally immigrated from Taiwan for graduate school.  She and her family -- including a husband and two kids -- moved to Maryland about five years ago.  She volunteers at local shelters, their school and church, and she has blogged about all kinds of eating and recipes, including red cooked pork belly and a yellow curry with squash and chicken.  She also wrote a great series based on the finds in her Breezy Willow CSA.

Emily and I got to talking about Great Wall, which is a Chinese-run grocery on Rte 40 just inside Rte 695.  I'm a huge fan of the Korean-run supermarkets like H Mart and Lotte, and they both offer Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese and other cuisines.  But I wondered what finds might make it worth driving past both to try a market aimed at a Chinese market.  Emily checked out Great Wall, giving her report and suggesting some items just like the Unmanly Chef wrote up the Caspian Market last month:
Even though I live five minutes from the Lotte close to Rte 29 and Rte 40, I usually travel to H Mart about 15 minutes away because I know where everything is.  I find the produce to be more consistent on any given day, and it’s small, which means there is a higher turn around on their produce.

I was a little worried I would find Great Wall to be too far. It really wasn’t. I drove past H Mart, past Rte 695, and there it was, just inside 695 on the left. Google told me it would take 22 minutes. Google was about right on. I realized I had been there before -- at the Asian grocery that was there previously, but apparently had closed.
Once inside, I was impressed by the variety of produce, all looking fresh. Check. The prices looked good too.  There were some really great deals, and some fair prices, comparable to the other Asian stores. I was VERY happy to find a huge stack of perfect Japanese eggplant. Not bruised, not wrinkled, perfect. The only thing I wasn’t crazy about, was that many of the leafy Chinese vegetables were pre-packaged into plastic bags. That sort of thing drives me nuts. I like to see, touch, examine, and pick my own produce, so I wasn’t a fan of that. Not all of the produce was that way, just most of the green Chinese veggies. I'm not sure why, and I hope they do away with that.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gangnam Style, Literally: A Bakery Every Block With Tous Les Jours Coming To Ellicott City

Rte 40 in Ellicott City is starting to actually get a Gangnam style with Korean bakeries popping up every few blocks.

The newest entry is Tous les Jours, another of the chains selling Korean variations on French pastries along with coffee and other items.  The sign is up in the shopping center with Boston Market and Lighthouse Tofu on the north side of Rte 40 west of Rte 29.  Tous Les Jours will be perpendicular to Rte 40.

These bakeries do really interesting sweet pastries and coffee drinks.  They generally have other desserts, some savory pastries, and sometimes broader menus.  In Seoul, people seemed to call them "coffee shops."  On our first trip, we stayed in Gangnam and walked past multiple coffee shops on busy blocks.  Mostly chains that haven't come to DC-Baltimore.

But we have had Korean bakeries since I moved to Howard County.  The first that I remember was La Boulangerie in Ellicott City.  Then we had Bon Appetit and Shilla.  Now, the Korean chains seem to be coming -- first Caffe Benne that will open next to Soft Stuff and now Tous le Jours.  Mrs. HowChow really wants Paris Baguette.  We have enough that I created a new tag so you can pull all the posts about Korean bakeries.

The broad read is probably smart.  I have found some cool things in different bakeries.  But I'm not an expert, and their menus overlap enough that you can probably scan all the posts and then look around any of the bakeries.  These are great places to check out on a chilly afternoon.  They're very friendly, and they are really more like coffee shops where you can sit with friends, kids or just a book.

Can anyone recommend a specific bakery -- or better yet specific items at different ones?  We have become infatuated recently with Shilla, especially the sweet potato latte

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Do You Make Rice Balls For Your Toddler? Do You Have Any Recipes Or Advice For A Newbie?

Lil' Chow lived for a year with a wonderful family in Korea who seem to have made him a good eater.

When we took Lil' Chow, the family packed his bags with an array of his favorite snack foods, a container of miso soup, and a package of homemade rice balls.

So now I'm trying to make soup and rice balls.  The balls are essential because I'm cooking more rice than ever before, and we don't finish even the 2-cup minimum that the new Japanese rice maker cooks each time.  Plus, they could be a great part of the vegetarian lunches that I'll need to pack for daycare.

So does anyone out there make rice balls for their toddlers?  I have read recipes and blogs.  I know that I can use the leftover rice and flavor them in an endless number of ways.  But I'd love some suggestions about what kids really eat.  And whether I should make the balls with warm rice, then put them in the fridge.  Or whether I could use cold rice to make them "fresh" the next morning.

Frankly, I'll take any advice.  It's a fun, new technique, and Lil' Chow seems always hungry.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New Red Liquor Store Opens In Clarksville And Sparks My Question About Filling Growlers

The new Red liquor store in Clarksville
Can someone explain the current state of growlers in Howard County?

A new liquor store called Red has opened in Clarksville a few doors down from the Roots organic market.  It's one of the classy stores.  Wood paneling and pretty displays like im Wine in Fulton or Columbia Palace Wine & Spirits.  Not metal shelves and piled cases like some other places.

But I'm far from an expert on wine or liquor.  My knowledge and my tolerance are too low.  Red looked nice.  The folks said they pick wines that are organic or has some other positive-sounding traits.  I don't know what that means, but they said it means the selection differs from many other places.  Last month, Lane Page wrote a short profile of Red in Howard Magazine with the awesome idea of "Yappy Hour" events pairing Red with the Bark pet store next door.

My question is about growlers.  Can I now buy a growler and have it filled at any Maryland liquor store?   (Update:  See the answer to my question below from Trip Klaus.  I should have just emailed him directly before I posted!)

Red sells beer in growlers, including a Jailbreak Brewery beer that I thought about trying.  But I have never bought a growler because my tolerance is low and because I thought growlers could only be filled by the store that sold them.  I certainly can't see myself going back to single store enough to warrant the purchase.

But the Red sales woman said they can fill any growlers as long as they're the right size and have the legal warning on them.  If that's true, I might take the plunge.  It might be fun to explore a bit when I have people coming over.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ancho Squash Chili Hits The Spot At Roots; Part Of Their Expanded Prepared Food Display

Ancho Squash Chili at Roots
Take my advice knowing that I'm no chili purist, but I really enjoyed a new Roots prepared chili made with squash and ancho peppers.

Again, I'm no purist.  Barbecue and chili tend to kick up comment wars about whether chili can truly have anything but tomatoes and meat.

Prepared foods at Roots
Of course Roots' chili can't have meat.  They serve some, I think.  But the Roots-Great Sage complex in Clarksville is certainly built on the idea of good tasting vegetarian and often vegan dishes.

Roots' ancho squash chili really felt like chili to me.  The right texture -- where it is thick enough not to be stew, but chunky enough to be more than sauce.  I wouldn't have ever guessed it was based on squash.  The lead flavor is that ancho chili, smoky and lightly spicy.  Roots has created an entire kitchen to make prepared foods, and this qualified as a restaurant-quality meal that filled us both with a few slices of bread on the side.

Roots seems to be expanding its prepared food offerings.  I hadn't seen the guacamole and soup section next to the salad bar.  Now they have prepared foods in several refrigerated sections -- sandwiches, quesadillas, soups, and more.  Over recent years, they have added more breads and baked sweets.

I assume it's a smart move to differentiate from Whole Foods.  The new Columbia store must be affecting the organic groceries and other stores.  Roots' prepared items -- including that guacamole -- make it a great stop for quick eats, and it certainly keeps the stores from becoming just competitors selling the same national brands.

What other prepared foods do people recommend at Roots?  We tried some beet hummus.  Lil' Chow didn't take to it immediately, and I cringe at the idea of beet anything when I see the food dropped, thrown and smeared in our kitchen.  But Roots is a great resource in the south county.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Comments About A New H Mart In Ellicott City, Hang Ari's Broths, New Peruvian Chicken & More

A shrimp entree at Ananda -- on Todd Kliman's current Top 10 list
There are definitely rumors that H Mart will come to Ellicott City -- replacing closed Shopper's Food Warehouse near Rte 40 and Ridge Road.

Marcia gave the first tip.  According to comments from Sang Ahn, Anonymous and others, the new H Mart would augment the Lotte across the street and both the H Mart and Lotte in Catonsville.  I don't know what's happening.  A recent comment says that a Chinese company has bought that Lotte's shopping center and wants to replace Lotte with a Chinese supermarket, but Adam notes in a comment below that the Lotte seems to have been spruced up and renovated recently.

Does anyone know more?  That's the kind of news that keeps me blogging.  I really appreciate folks who post tips or suggestions in the comment.

H Mart to replace Shoppers?
The other big news that I learned in the comments is that the path around Columbia's downtown lake is being completed.  I had asked in passing why the path only went partway around Lake K, and Ambe, Omars and others gave me the update the construction is literally finishing up.  That makes the lakefront even better for walking, shopping and eating.

There are lots of great voices about Howard County food.  As always, I recommend the blogs that I list in the right column of every page.  Elizabeth has created a group board on Pintrest for anyone who wants to share ideas there.  Plus, there are some folks that drop in -- like the Dining Out In Baltimore review from earlier this year about the Stained Glass Pub.  I've never stopped there, so I'm glad you can hear from other folks.

And, of course, some of the best folks to hear  are professionals -- like the Sun's Richard Gorelick and Washingtonian's Todd Kliman.  Kliman had a great post last month commenting on the WPost critic's list of best restaurants.  Kliman made a broader point about the value of many restaurants in the suburbs, which don't really get love from the WPost's list.  He also knocked off a Top 10 list that includes the new Ananda in Fulton.  Pretty high praise for a restaurant so new that it still lacks a sign.

This is a sampling of what some of us amateurs have been saying in the comments or email:
My wife and I decided to try the Highland Inn for our anniversary last night. We were extremely impressed with both the decor/ambiance and the food. We both tried the Chef's Tasting Menu/Early Bird/Prix Fixe Menu that is available from 5:30-6:30pm Mon-Thurs so we could sample a variety of appetizers, entrees and desserts for a very reasonable $35 dollars.

We had caesar salad and pork belly (smoked and crispy) for appetizer, tri-tip and duck for main course, and creme brulee and truffle (very chocolate tort) for dessert. It was all excellent. The wine list selection was well thought out for menu and there were both craft beers (bottle only) and interesting looking cocktails available. One of my pet peeves with higher end restaurants (and those hoping to be) is extremely small portion sizes. That was not the case with Highland Inn - portions were appropriate for each course and provided value. We left happy and wanting to come back with friends.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pizza And Popcorn: BricknFire Pizza Brings Great Pizza To Columbia, Oella And Other Spots

Margherita pizza with prosciutto by BricknFire Pizza
New fatherhood has meant that I need to plan my days around naps and bedtime, and Mr. CrunchDaddy has inspired me to at least try to plan for some pizza this weekend.

Dan -- creator of the local CrunchDaddy Popcorn and friend of the blog -- has been nudging me to seek out pizza at BricknFire Pizza.  BricknFire is a pop-up pizzeria.  A portable oven run by Megan Lanasa, whose family owns the Breadery in Oella.  She bakes pies at farmers markets, Howard County General Hosptial, the Breadery, and other sites.

Dan has been a fan for a while.  He has even teamed up with Lanasa so that he'll do popcorn tasting on Saturday from noon to 3 pm while she is selling pizzas.  I asked him to write up what has caught his fancy:
The quality, authenticity and simplicity of BricknFire Pizza makes for a truly wonderful eating experience. This portable brick oven operation (run by Megan Lanasa) appears at various locations in the area from week to week and frequently on Saturday afternoons at The Breadery in Oella (run by her father, Mike Lanasa). The best place to find their weekly schedule and list of specials is on their Facebook page.

I'm Italian... but I order my Americanized pizza with lots of stuff on it... all the meats, mushrooms, olives, etc. When I have the opportunity to enjoy a real Italian pizza, I'm happy to let the bare elements speak for themselves. I expect the tomato sauce to be fresh, the mozzarella to be milky and the herbs to make my taste buds dance. BricknFire does it like they invented it, with San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, fresh herbs and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil as a finishing touch. Baked on fresh made dough in a wood-fired brick oven, the result is heavenly.

Regular offerings at BricknFire Pizza include the classic cheese and Margherita pizzas as well as one with soppressata (cured Italian sausage) as a nod to the meat lovers. Specialty pizzas, dessert pizzas and sandwiches are offered at the whim of Chef Megan and feature a variety of locally-sourced ingredients. The picture that I included was a Margherita pizza with prosciutto added. It really doesn't get more Italian than that.
Again, BricknFire posts its schedule on its Facebook page.  Get lunch today at Howard County General Hospital in Columbia from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm.  Or check them out at the Breadery in Oella Friday from 4 to 8 pm and Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm.  Try for the bonus Saturday afternoon when you can get pizza, shop at Breadery, and taste CrunchDaddy.  I'm a huge fan of Dan's popcorn and recommend bags as hostess or holidays gifts.

The Breadery is worth checking out even without the pizza.  It's a really nice bakery.  Part of the real revolution in bread that happened even before Whole Foods came to town.  They were expanding into cheese and others foods when I last visited, but I haven't seen the expanded layout.  It's an easy drive from Main Street in Ellicott City, and it's a great walk up a trail when the weather is good.  Again, I'm hoping this weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Veggie Bar At Asean Bistro's Chinese Lunch; All-You-Can-Eat Side Dishes With Your Entree

Half of the veggie bar at Asean Bistro
Check out the cool extra that comes with lunch at Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro in Columbia -- two special vegetable dishes that you can eat with any entree.

Asean Bistro is a Howard County institution, serving good Americanized Chinese food just off Rte 108.  This was our local stop when we lived near Rte 108 and Snowden River.  They deliver, and we often got large orders that fed us for days.

Kung pao, noodles and tofu
They also do lunch.  We met the RDADoc and her preschool sidekick this week, and we had a nice lunch of dumplings, noodles, tofu and kung pao chicken.  The cool extra is that Asean Bistro has to chafing dishes at the front with rotating vegetable dishes that you can serve yourself.

Zucchini in sha cha sauce and cauliflower in garlic sauce were both really good.  Tender vegetables and flavorful, but light sauces.   It's great to get  extra flavors, and it's cool to try something unusual.  We snacked on the vegetables at first, then ate them with our entrees.  Even Lil' Chow who grazed on miso soup, rice, and little bits of everything else.

I'd definitely recommend Asean Bistro if you want Chinese food.  Grace Garden in Odenton has captured our hearts, and our meetings with friends there have cut down our Chinese in Howard County.  But Asean Bistro is one of the good spots.  I'd love to hear any recommendations on dishes that people really enjoy there.

What do people recommend now for other Chinese in Howard County -- restaurants and specific dishes?  I have tons of posts about Chinese food, but my 2010 overview post must be out-of-date by now.  We really enjoy Noodles Corner in Columbia and dim sum at Asian Court in Ellicott City.  Then there is the Korean Chinese food like the black bean noodles and pork at Tian Chinese Cuisine in Ellicott City.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Iron Bridge Leads The List Of Good Meals That I'm Not Eating Right Now; Recs For Small Plates

There are so many meals that I'm not eating these days.  It's by choice, and it's great fun.  But my restaurant dinners will be far fewer once I have fit them around work and bath time.

But friends are stepping in to help.  The Cordis Couple are friends with terrific taste in food and wine -- and a toddler old enough to leave with family.  They recently hit up Iron Bridge Wine Co., the Columbia restaurant that was on our "to do" list all summer but never actually gone done.

Sra. Cordis wrote up their dinner from last week.  They recommended a great red wine called Quilceda Creek, and they do recommend Iron Bridge -- especially for a mix of small plates:
Iron Bridge is one of our favorite local restaurants to go to for date night. Our first time there with our toddler wasn't the most successful (what were we thinking?), but subsequent visits there solidified this restaurant as our go-to-place for a delicious adult meal with wine as the star of the evening.

Our favorite meal there was actually sitting at the bar, when we had a spontaneous evening free, but no reservations. If you get there early (before 6 p.m.), there is usually room for two at the bar, where the bartender is knowledgeable and can quickly give you sips of wine by the glass before choosing your bottle.
In general, we prefer several small plates rather than large entrees.  We typically order 3-4 appetizers and one entree for two adults. The crispy brussels sprouts, although ubiquitous at most hip restaurants, are absolutely delicious. So is their burata, with its soft creamy inside, complimented with tomato and fennel jam, olive oil and sea salt. The hamachi ceviche, served with roasted pineapple, red onion, macadamia nuts, cilantro, and Sriracha, is a lovely balance of acid, heat, and crunchiness. The soup of the day was a white asparagus soup with beans and crispy fried kale, which was a little salty and bitter, but warmed us up for the rest of the meal.

For their entrees, almost all their pasta dishes are outstanding and typically change with the season. T onight's pasta was a kale and ricotta cannelloni made with savory fennel sausage Bolognaise, which was terrific and went well a bold full-bodied red wine.  Their burger is excellent, and their signature steak is outstanding. In general, I find their protein entrees (e.g. steak, salmon), while extremely tasty, a bit large/generously proportioned.  However, they are great for sharing, especially if you want to make room for dessert. Typically, their 'bread pudding of the day' is the highlight of their dessert menu.  My personal favorite was a bread pudding made of glazed donuts.  It was worth all the calories.

We feel fortunate to have a place like Iron Bridge so close by.  Not only is it a wonderful restaurant, but it is also a wine store. I n fact, we often bring home a few bottles after dinner (and, at times, a couple of cases), in hopes of recreating the experience at home (at least the wine part).
 I'm going to need to annotate the HowChow To Do List with some things that I can really do and some that need to wait a while until we can match Lil' Chow with some babysitters.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Is H Mart Replacing Shoppers On Rte 40 In E.C.?

Can anyone confirm that H Mart is replacing the Shoppers Food Warehouse on Rte 40 in Ellicott City?

Marcia left a comment earlier this week saying that her cleaners said the neighboring store would become an Asian market.  Marcia was talking about the Shoppers at Ridge Road, just east of Rte 29.  I just called the store's number from the Shoppers' web site.  No one answered, but I don't know what that means.

I'm a huge fan of both Lotte and H Mart, and the new Lotte in Catonsville is really terrific.  I assume a new H Mart would also open with bells and whistles like a food court and prepared foods.  That Ridge Road location basically looks across Rte 40 at the Ellicott City Lotte.