Thursday, January 31, 2008

Delicious: Bacon at the Laurel Meat Market

Bacon is delicious, and it is best when it is thick, cut and maybe with pepper on the edge.

Go buy by the slice at the Laurel Meat Market in downtown Laurel. Great if you just want a few pieces of the good stuff and not a pound of the grocery-store bacon wrapped in plastic. Look for the plastic cow on Main Street just west of US 1.

(I know it's not Howard County, but it's just across the line. It's a real butcher, and I want it to be terrific. I hope you have better luck, although I'm going to try the steaks and sausage before I lose hope. The shrimp and scallops have never been better than Bloom/Giant, and the vegetables and packaged stuff are easy to walk past.)

If you are looking for a meat market, definitely check out J.W. Trueth in Oella. It's worth the drive. Or read my overall post on butchers in Howard County.

Laurel Meat Market
347 Main Street
Laurel, MD 20707
(301) 725-5855

NEAR: The market is on Main Street in Laurel just west of U.S. 1. You can get there by driving south on U.S. 1 and then right on Main Street or by taking Rte 216 east off I-95 and then left on Main Street.

Sushi King: Unique Rolls in Columbia

Sushi King is the best reason for your friends to drive all the way from DC or Baltimore.

It is also so hidden that it is a reason to write this blog.

The special rolls are the most imaginative sushi that I have ever seen. Unique designs from high-quality ingredients. Tuna wrapped around rice and a tempura shrimp. A long roll with two spicy sauces and king crab wrapped with tuna inside. A roll grilled so that the sauce across the top looks like melted cheese, but tastes delicious. I have seen nothing like them anywhere else, and I haven't tasted a bad one even after years of trying them all.

The regular pieces are high quality, and the other Japanese food looks good and often includes specials on the board over the sushi chefs. But these special rolls have made my friends happy to drive down from Baltimore or up from DC. They're imaginative. They're delicious. They're heavy pieces filled with flavor.

They're also impossible to just stumble across. Sushi King is in a shopping center next to a DMV off Dobbin Road just south of Rte 175. You turn at a traffic light across from a Blockbuster, and you can't see anything from Dobbin. Mrs. HowChow got the recommendation from a friend when she moved to Howard, and she took me here on an early date.

Try this as a first sample: samaurai roll, spicy grilled roll, crazy roll, and crispy roll (squeeze lemon on top). If you're a big eater, add a pretty in red roll or the Eastern Shore roll. You really won't go wrong, but you should notice that the rolls split into two price points -- about $6-8 for smaller ones and about $13-16 for the larger. The larger ones (samaurai and pretty in red) are huge and worth the price. But you may want to mix it up with the small ones.

You can eat the special rolls in a special room. Make a reservation for one of the two private rooms. Wooden walls, including a sliding door. Wooden benches so that your feet hang under the table. (You aren't sitting on the floor.) Room for six or even eight. The rooms are a beautiful place for an impressive dinner. They're also the perfect way to corral a toddler who comes along. My godson walked around the benches and crawled under the table. He loved the adventure, and the adults chattered happily without worrying that he would disturb anyone else.

All this comes with nice service. A little slow some nights, especially when the place is full. But the waitresses are friendly once they recognize you -- and maybe a little rushed until then -- so sit back and enjoy.

If you like Sushi King, you should check out my post about Asian restaurants in Howard County or my post about local sushi, which highlights Hanamura across Dobbin Road and Sushi Sono in "downtown" Columbia and has comments touting other joints. If you are at Sushi King, check out Lily's Mexican Market in the same shopping center or Mango Grove for Indian food right up the street.

Or check out a working list of the best restaurants in Howard County.

If you're interested in cooking Japanese food, check out my review of Kimiko Barber's cookbooks The Japanese Kitchen and The Chopstick Diet. They're great guides to the Japanese aisle of our local Asian grocery stores.

Sushi King
6490 Dobbin Road, Ste. F
Columbia, MD

NEAR: The Kmart on Rte 175, the DMV/Starbucks/Blockbuster on Dobbins Road. Sushi King is in the same shopping center as the DMV off Dobbins. Look for the intersection with a Blockbuster. The Sushi King shopping center is across Dobbins from the Blockbuster.

Sushi King on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Delicious: Corned beef sandwich at Produce Galore

I'm neutral on the produce at Produce Galore, but I can't get enough of the corned beef sandwich.

Produce Galore is a small grocery/gourmet shop in the Wilde Lake Village Center. Nice fruits and vegetables. An array of gourmet packaged goods like chocolates, cookies, oils, etc., although those kinds of items are always expensive for my tastes. A dessert section and a salad bar that would be great if you drove past on the way home from work.

But go for the corned beef and a lemonade. The deli counter is far in the back past the salad bars. Tasty corned beef with real flavor, but not too much fat. Sliced when you order. Served up with lettuce and spicy mustard on soft rye bread. It is a $6 sandwich that matches any deli sandwich outside New York. I grabbed one on the way to an evening class, and I ate it right from the wrapper as I drove. They display the beef right next to roast beef, pastrami and a bunch of special sandwiches that I will certainly try when I stop being infatuated by the corned beef.

And grab a lemonade to go. Most restaurant lemonade is just soda without bubbles -- artificial flavor with some sweeter combined. Produce Galore says this is lemon juice, water, and sugar, and it tasted that way to me. Perfect with a sandwich. It'll be even better in the summertime.

(And they sell everything by the pound, so it makes a great hot, open-faced sandwich at home!)


Produce Galore
5430 Lynx Lane
Columbia, MD 21044

NEAR: Columbia Mall, Wilde Lake High School

Why the blog?

When I find came to Columbia, I couldn't find anything, and then I found that no one else could either.

The village centers are a cute idea, but it really matters that you can't see anything from the road. I knew where to find Target for a plastic trash can, but only luck led me to Produce Galore. I went looking for a seafood market on the Internet, and even after I found the address, I ended up lost in the Wilde Lake Village Center. Thank heavens because that was how I stumbled on Produce Galore across the parking lot.  (UPDATE:  Produce Galore closed.)

I read the WPost and Baltimore Magazine, and they're always commending a new restaurant in Rockville (finally, a specialist in Southern Ethiopian) or an organic grocery store in McLean (finally, a place that only sells vegetables grown with distilled water). I'm jealous because we don't have the exotic array of places that you can find near the cities. But we have great places, maybe just one of each. I want to find those places and enjoy them.

This blog is a game. I'll find good places and remind myself how much I enjoy them. And maybe someone will stumble across it when they move to Columbia and want to know what is nearby.

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.
Search Labels

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.

Profile -- Search Labels

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.
Profile -- Search Labels

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")
Search Labels
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)

Trapeze Closes

Why are you searching "Trapeze Closes" on Google?

I'm writing this post because someone has been visiting HowChow six to 10 times a day for weeks in early 2009 by searching for "Trapese Closes."

I'm just curious about why.  I'm happy to try to answer any question you have about Trapeze.  Please leave a comment or email me at howchowblog at gmail.

The Flowtron Leaf Shredder

I love this leaf shredder. I bought a new house with a lot that was nothing more than sod laid on top of clay. Over two years, I have dug new gardens and replaced the clay with compost and good soil. I run several compost piles over the winter, and this shredder rips up fall leaves so that they break down even faster. A great buy.

10 Cool Places To Start Eating

Start with something that you know you'll like. My first tastes of HoCo were dates over sushi and Indian food, so don't believe this is a county of white bread. Horchata. Masala dosa. A night outside with ice cream. Try something fun.

10) Papad at Desi Bazaar in Columbia or Apna Bazar in Laurel -- an Indian cracker that you toast over your gas range, converting a staple from your pantry into exotic, peppery snacks. It's a bargain, and it's a door into these Indian grocery stores.

9) The burger at Victoria Gastro Pub -- a small, delicious burger on the perfect roll. Good cheese and bacon options. And you can upgrade to kobe beef if you are amused.

8) The perfect baguette at Bonaparte's Bread in Savage. The bakery sells other delicious breads along with French pastries in a cute shop at the Savage Mill. They also sell at the Sunday farmers market in Columbia.

7) The Persian food at Ceazar Restaurant in Elkridge.  You get casual, approachable food with some special touches and unique items like pickled garlic.  Then you can shop at the Middle Eastern grocery store next door.

6) A horchata from a vendor at the U.S. 1 Flea Market in Elkridge. Make it a meal with tacos, pupusas, fruit salad and more.

5) The masala dosa at Mango Grove -- a South Indian crepe wrapped around spiced potatoes.

4) An ice cream outside -- sit outside for Italian ice at Rita's in Columbia or soft ice cream at Soft Serve in Ellicott City.

3) The whole tandoori rockfish at House of India in Columbia.

2) The private rooms at Sushi King -- groups of 4-8 can sit inside private rooms at the Columbia Japanese restaurant. You could impress someone. You could just want privacy. You could use the sliding door to corral a two-year-old. Whatever you do, eat those sushi rolls.

1) Taking one down from the 50-foot-long wall of beer at The Perfect Pour in Elkridge. This is a spectacular selection -- from the exotic to the seasonal to the standards -- at a liquor store that gets the thumbs up from the Baltimore Beer Guy blog.

Guide to Howard County Restaurants and Food

Without much planning, HowChow has become a de facto guide to restaurants and food in Howard County. For me, this is an inspiration to check out new places. Much of what I learned has been mentioned before in reviews or blogs or Chowhound, but this is centralized enough that some people stumble on the site and click around to read more.

For several months in 2009, I'm writing a series of thematic posts about "What I Learned," linking back to prior profiles and trying to summarize little things that I have learned. Where is great Chinese food? Where can you find Mexican groceries? The best take-out tacos? The best bread? This builds on the Best Restaurants in Howard County post, which people seem to enjoy.

Help me! Occassionally, I'm asking for advice on the upcoming subjects. I'll even update existing posts to incorporate good advice. Click here to see where you can make suggestions. Or browse through the existing posts in the three planned "rings":

Restaurants of Howard County

(Update: This listing is REALLY behind my total reviews. I have reviewed many restaurants since I last updated this. I am planning to re-do this list and the "best of" post. For now, you definitely check out the "cuisine" and restaurant name links in the right column.)

Want to find a restaurant in Howard County? Look below for a map and then "by-category" lists of most of the restaurants mentioned in HowChow. I update gradually, and I'm keeping a working list of my favorites. Also, check out this listing of ethnic and organic markets.

View Larger Map

Maiwand Kabob in Columbia -- superb, best meal "dollar for dollar," especially the appetizers

Iron Bridge Wine Company --one of the best restaurants in Howard County
Five Guys Burgers -- coming in 2009 to the Columbia Mall
Second Chance Saloon in Columbia -- recommended by people in the comments
T-Bonz Grille & Pub in Ellicott City -- great place for football and food
Trapeze in Fulton -- closed
Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia -- recommended, especially the biscuits and burgers

Bagel Bin in Columbia -- recommended
Eggspectation in Columbia -- recommended

Jordan's Steakhouse in Ellicott City -- recommended
Kloby's Smokehouse in Laurel (really Columbia/Fulton) -- recommended
oZ Chophouse in Fulton -- recommended, especially fun for a "progressive dinner" in Maple Lawn
Pioneer Pit Beef in Woodlawn -- spectacular pit beef, sold from a tiny shack on Rolling Road
Smokey & Uncle Grube's in Elkridge -- super-casual BBQ and pit beef just off Rte 1
Carnivores should also check out the kabobs at Maiwand Kabob and Parsa Kabob

Fortune Buffet in Jessup -- an adventurous buffet with good food and an amazing array
Hunan Legend in Columbia
Hunan Manor in Columbia
Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro-- recommended for a classy dinner of Chinese and more

Mad City Coffee in Columbia -- recommended for coffee, breakfast and house-roasted beans to take home
Orinoco Coffee House in Columbia -- recommended

Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsville -- superb and worth driving for traditional Cuban

Bonaparte Bread in Savage -- French pastries like opera cake, sandwiches, coffee, the best bread in Howard County
Fractured Prune in Columbia and Ellicott City -- hot donuts with creative glazes, also breakfast (donut w/sausage)
La Boulangarie Bakery in Ellicott City -- a Korean bakery with sweets, cakes and bubble tea
Old Mill Bakery Cafe in Ellicott City -- coffee shop/bakery

Coffee Oromia in Burtonsville -- recommended, although for a simple meal more than an "out to dinner" night

Tersiguel's in Ellicott City -- recommended by others, on my list of places to try

Ice Cream/Snowcones
KyKy's Hawiian Ice in Elkridge -- recommended
Rita's in Columbia -- recommended, especially after a dinner at Maiwand Kabob
Snowballs in Clarksville -- recommended
Soft Stuff in Ellicott City -- recommended

Akbar -- recommended for northern Indian food
House of India -- recommended for northern Indian food, especially for the classy decor and interesting menu
Mango Grove -- superb for southern Indian food, especially the naan, the masala dosa, and the samosa chat
Mirchi Wok -- superb unusual Indian food, including northern and fusion Chinese-Indian

Luna Bella Ristorante in Columbia -- recommended
New York JP Pizza -- recommended
Pazani Trattoria in Elkridge -- my new best pizza in Howard County
Trattoria E Pizzeria Da Enrico in Columbia -- recommended

Maruha Japanese Steakhouse -- new hibachi and sushi joint in Hickory Ridge, haven't been yet
Sushi King in Columbia -- superb
Sushi Sono in Columbia -- superb

Golden Krust in Catonsville -- recommended for takeout patties

Besoto Food Court in Catonsville -- recommended
Mirocjo in Ellicott City -- recommended
Shin Chon Garden -- recommended (and reopened after renovations in 2008)
Yetnal Asian Food Service House -- looks great, but still a mystery to me because it's a takeout with a menu in Korean

El Azteca in Clarksville -- recommended
El Nayar in Elkridge -- recommended for very casual meals
La Palapa Too in Laurel (really Columbia/Fulton) -- recommended, especially for the weekend ceviche
Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia -- recommended for takeout tacos and chicken
Pupuseria Lorenita's (the "Taco Truck") in Elkridge -- superb tacos, super-inexpensive
Pupuseria Y Taqueria Las Delicias in Elkridge -- a taco truck that grills ribs and fajitas
Pupuseria Y Taqueria Los Pinos in Laurel -- recommended

Ceazar Restaurant in Elkridge -- highly recommended for a casual and accessible meal, but unique options
Parsa Kabob in Elkridge -- recommended, also check out Maiwand Kabob in Columbia

Trapeze in Fulton -- closed

Tapas / Small Plates
Iron Bridge Wine Company in Columbia -- recommended
Ranazul in Fulton -- recommended, especially for sopapias or a "progressive dinner" in Maple Lawn

Bangkok Delight -- superb
Bangkok Garden -- recommended
Thai Aroma -- recommended

An Loi Pho -- superb, especially the "French" coffee with condensed milk and the salted plum/salted lemon sodas
Pho Dat Trahn -- recommended