Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Buy The World: Ethnic, Organic and Specialty Groceries

You can buy the world in Howard County. Organic joints sell brands and items left out at supermarkets, and ethnic markets offer foreign -- both the ingredients for cooking and prepared, frozen or canned food that is ready-to-eat.

(Update:  This was published in 2009 or 2010.  The descriptions are still good, although it is not updated to note that Caezar's and others have closed.  Click on the links in the right column for each market to get updates.)

The organic markets are pretty similar to my eyes, and Today's Catch stands alone. Among the others, H Mart stands out as a supermarket and my favorite place for food. But you need to check out JW Treuth and Sons, and you could also spend an hour in Lily's Mexican Market, Sizar's Food Mart or one of the Indian shops making selections and asking questions because they're larger with densely-packed shelves and helpful staff. All the others are recommended except that I couldn't figure out Afia International when I went there. If you want West African ingredients, definitely start at Julie's or Accra.

You can search through the labels -- including "Markets - Ethnic" and "Markets - Organic" -- on the right column of the blog, or you can click on links below.

H Mart in Catonsville
My favorite place in the world for food. A real supermarket with both Asian and Mexican foods and with produce, fruit and fish unmatched by anywhere else in the area. Snack on the fresh popped rice bowls in the back.Why It's My Favorite Place For Food -- Profile -- Search Labels
Lotte in Ellicott City
An H-Mart competitor. Not as good as H-Mart for many things.  But closer to HoCo and offering the best takeout prepared food, including marinated meats, desserts, fried chicken and the panchan that makes Korean food so spectacular.
Profile -- Search Labels

Bonaparte's Bread in Savage (and at the Sunday farmers market in Columbia)
The best bread around. Spectacular baguettes, along with other breads. Plus pastries.
Profile -- Search Labels

La Bolangarie Bakery in Ellicott City
This Korean-run bakery sells terrific individually-wrapped pastries, including breads and buns filled with sweet red beans and hazelnut cream.  There are formal cakes, plus you can just stop for coffee or a bubble tea to enjoy with a madeleine or a chocolate-filled pastry.

Momo Bakery inside H Mart in Catonsville
Great Korean bakery with the rice/red bean sweets, plus donuts and sweet-looking cakes.

Laurel Meat Market in Laurel
A great source for thick-cut, peppered bacon. They sell other meats and fish, but I haven't been inspired.
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Boarman's Meat Market in Highland
Try the home-made sausages at this small grocery/liquor store south of Clarksville

JW Treuth and Sons in Oella
 A spectacular butcher near Ellicott City.  Good seafood.  Try the Chesapeake sausage!

Desi Bazaar in Columbia
A splendid grocery in a commercial park. Essential for Indian foods, including some produce like avocados and mangos and some prepared food like the samosas at the counter. Easy snack to start -- papads. Also has a well-stocked freezer with frozen samosas and breads.
Profile -- Search Labels

Apna Bazar in Laurel
10119-C Washington Blvd (U.S. 1)
Laurel, MD 20707
A super-stocked store just north of Main Street on U.S. 1. All the spices, flours, lentils and rices you need for Indian cooking. Plus, an exceptional variety of frozen prepared food and breads -- a few dozen different types of naan, puri, paratha, etc. Even though Apna is smaller than some other groceries, it has a better selection of many items.

Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia
Absolutely one of the best shops in the county. A fresh tortilla machine. Baked goods. A butcher.  Take-out tacos!  All on top of aisles of Mexican ingredients, sauces, peppers (chipotles!), and spices. Check out the frozen tamales.

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Tere's Latin Market in Ellicott City
Smaller than Lily's, but still nice for Mexican ingredients, especially canned goods, corn meal and similar dry goods.
El Patio in Jessup
Like Tere's, this is smaller than Lily's. The Argentine empanadas are worth a visit, and the place has both a large stock for its size and really class decor for a converted convenience store -- tile floors, faux-wood shelves, and cigarettes displayed in baskets like a country store.

Mexican Bazaar in Columbia
This small shop in southern Columbia has the Mexican basics like beans, chipotles, spices, pasta, etc.  It is in the same shopping center as An Loi Vietnamese restaurant, but it doesn't have a sign.  Check it out for Mexican candies and for soccer jerseys.

Caezar International Market in Elkridge (formerly Sizar's Food Mart in Columbia)
An emporium. Go for any food from Turkey to India -- breads, oils, syrups, beans, meats, pastries. This is a 13-year-old store that stocks and organizes a half-dozen kinds of bread from sweet Afghan rist to table-sized lavash. Dried fruit. Spices and herbs. Pistachio nougat. Jallab syrup. Halal chicken nuggets!

Aladdin in Laurel
Smaller than Sizar's, but a strong selection of breads, canned goods and well-stocked coolers with Greek yogurt, Lebni cheese and frozen pastries and appetizers.
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Caspian Supermarket in Ellicott City
I haven't visited yet, but on-line reviews describe a supermarket smaller than Sizar's but filled with Middle Eastern supplies. It is on Rte 40 just west of Rte 29. For more information and the address, check out this review.
Profile Coming

David's Natural Market in Columbia

My Organic Market in Jessup ("Columbia East")
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Roots in Clarksville
Search LabelsAll three of these offer organic vegetables and meat. They have the national organic brands of cereals, crackers, canned goods, detergent, etc. They have breads, cheese and herbal remedies. They don't differ much to my eyes. I wrote about buying grains and listed the addresses for all three.

Today's Catch Seafood in Columbia
Beautiful seafood. A minimal shop with most everything in a single cooler and an ice tray. Go for the quality. Expect to pay for it and expect to enjoy yourself.

Frank's Seafood in Jessup
The retail outlet inside the wholesale seafood.  Great for crabs, but with many fish on ice.

I don't know African food, so I'm not an expert on the stores. The owner at Accra was friendly, but even he didn't have recipes or the lines of prepared food that Indian or Middle Eastern stores offer. I need to find a cookbook. If you know what you want, all three carry the same brand of Ghanian items, including palm nut concentrate for making stew, potato starch, dried okra, and canned goods. Afia had a butcher, but honestly, it also had an odd smell that put me on edge. I'd appreciate any advice.

Accra International Foods in Laurel

Afia International Market in Jessup ("Columbia East")

Julie's International Market in Elkridge (really Ellicott City, near the Costco)

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