Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Delicious: Ginger Beer at Julie's International Market

Royalty Ginger Beer is the British cousin of ginger ale -- the tougher cousin with more flavor and even a little bite.

This is soda, not beer, at Julie's International Market and other markets that cater to West African and Jamaican crowds. Strong flavor, including real ginger root extract. This British soda is an easy treat, a fun way to inject something exotic or new for a meal or a party.

(Update: Julie's appears to have closed in May 2009.  You can get the ginger beer at Laurel Health Food and other places.)

Check out this Chowhound topic for more advice about ginger beer. For real beer, you should check out The Perfect Pour just down the road from Julie's.

Julie's International Market
6520J Old Waterloo Road
Elkridge, MD 21075

NEAR: Julie's is in a small shopping center near the Food Lion on Rte 108 just up from Rte 175. When you pull into the Food Lion, steer left to the shopping center that also has a Chinese restaurant, a pizza place and a thrift shop.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Link: Thoughts on Perfect Pour's Beers

I wrote briefly about the enormous wall of beer at the new Perfect Pour liquor store at Rte 175 and Rte 108. An absolutely amazing selection for people who want to try something new or find something rare.

Now Greg from A Food and Wine Blog has taken some down from the wall of beer,and he posts about a tasting where he tried beers from the Otter Creek Brewery. Greg has a separate post about the beers from Clipper City, which I believe you can also get at Perfect Pour.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ranazul Reception For Its October Artist

Ranazul -- the tapas restaurant in the Maple Lawn development in Fulton (and home to honey-sweet sopapias) -- has a small room where they hang art from local artists. There is a table, and it makes a fun semi-private room.

October's artist is Cathy Harville, who has a studio at Savage Mill where you can also find Bonaparte Bread, home of great desserts and the best bread in Howard County. Ranazul will host an open reception for Harville at 4-5 pm, October 12, 2008. This from Harville on Hocoloco Girl:

I think it is so wonderful that the restaurant features a different local artist
every month, and holds a nice reception for the artist, and the public. They are
truly a great supporter of the arts, and many thanks to Chad Price, for making
it happen!

If you haven't checked out Maple Lawn yet, consider a progressive dinner of appetizers, tapas, and dessert at the three upscale restaurants there.

8171 Maple Lawn Boulevard #170
Fulton, MD 20759

NEAR: In the Maple Lawn commercial area just north of Rte 216. Maple Lawn is just west of Rte 29. The oz Chop House and Trapeze are on the same intersection. This is one exit north of the Montgomery County line in southern HoCo.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Trattoria E Pizzeria Da Enrico in Columbia

I'm looking for the best pizza, and the tour passed through King's Contrivance where I liked Trattoria e Pizzeria Da Enrico.

Where do you go for pizza? I'm a fan of Luna Bella Ristorante, a real Italian restaurant that does gourmet pies. They're heavy with toppings, sometimes too heavy for the thin crust, and they're always worth the drive.

But that can't be the only pizza in Howard County. I first tried Pastino's Upper Crust off Rte 108 near Rte 100. It opened just before we moved from up there, and we stopped for sandwiches, which I remember fondly. The pizza by the slice didn't create such memories. The teenager who helped me barely warmed the slice, and it needed to at least be crispy considering that there wasn't much special in a thin layer of sauce, a layer of some cheese, and three pieces of pepperoni.

Trattoria E Pizzeria crisps up the slices. Mrs. HowChow and I split two slices of vegetable specials and a calzone. When I asked, they heated the slices until the crust was crisp, and those slices were good -- although more expensive than the Pastino's slices -- with ricotta, broccoli, and tomatoes. This is a real restaurant that offers Italian dinners like pastas and even seafood
with shrimp, clams, and calamari. I wasn't giving this place the best chances by ordering the already-baked items from the counter. But the calzone was good. Warmed through. A little doughy for my taste, but filled with flavorful pepperoni, thick sauce and enough cheese to be good, but not overwhelming. Mostly, I was impressed that it all held together. Far too often, calzones are overstuffed and collapse into a mess. The Trattoria E Pizzeria calzone cut cleanly in half, and we picked up our pieces to dip in extra sauce.

This is a casual place. You order from the counter, and you sit at molded booths or tables. Not as classy as Luna Bella, but a friendly place for a weeknight break. Next time, I'll actually pass by the calzone for the Sicilian pizza, which they only sell by the entire pie. The family next to us was chomping happily on a square pizza that looked delicious.

Again, where do you go for pizza??

If you go to Trattoria E Pizzeria in the warm weather, you can top it off with dessert from Rita's. The King's Contrivance shopping center has a quiet central courtyard where you can enjoy your sweets.

If you like pizza, definitely try Pazani's in Elkridge -- which I learned about in the comments below. It was a key to my post about the Best Pizza in Howard County.  Next, I'm going to try Vennari's and Bella Mia as suggested in the comments.

Trattoria E Pizzeria Da Enrico
8630 Guilford Rd
Columbia, MD 21046

NEAR: This is in the King's Contrivance Village Center. This is south of Rte 32 and east of Rte 29. King's Contrivance has the new Harris Teeter, a Bagel Bin, and a CVS. Take the Eden Brook Drive / Shaker Drive exit from Rte 32. Follow the signs south to Eden Brook Drive, which goes right past King's Contrivance.

Trattoria E Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Pastino's Upper Crust
8835 Centre Park Dr
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: This is just off Rte 108 near the Giant just west of Howard High School and east of Rte 29. It is just up Centre Park Drive from Bangkok Delight.

Pastino's Upper Crust on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Link: Wegmans news from Tales of Two Cities

Wordbones posts on Tales of Two Cities about Wegmans receiving a critical planning approval from Howard County for its Columbia store. In another life, I had to explain planning documents. Now, I refer you to Wordbones, who has a series of posts about the Wegmans plan.

Delicious: Homemade Pickles at Family Affair in Catonsville

The only reason that you aren't craving the perfect pickle is because you haven't had it yet.

I found spectacular pickles at Family Affair Produce just up Rte 144 from Ellicott City. I stopped for vegetables to serve with a J.W. Treuth steak, and I stumbled on the homemade pickles -- dill and bread & butter -- stacked next to the checkout.

Ball jars filled with pickles and marked with hand-written labels. Four dollars is steep for a bottle of pickles, but it's a steal for something absolutely delicious and simply better than any pickle you would buy in the store. I don't think I really understood what "dill" pickle meant until I crunched on a Family Affair pickle and watched the pieces of dill spin around in the jar. The small cucumbers are crisp, and there is a flavor of dill, garlic, pepper. It's perfect.

The Family Affair owner says his wife makes pickles non-stop. She also makes the jams on the display. The store has a full McCutcheon's line, plus local produce.

If you are driving through downtown Ellicott City, check out the Old Mill Bakery Cafe for some sweets or even some local honey. And click here for a listing of all the organic and ethnic markets.

Family Affair Produce
2302 Frederick Rd
Catonsville, MD 21228
(410) 788-6167‎

NEAR: This is on Rte 144 (Frederick Road) on the way from downtown Ellicott City to Catonsville. Family Affair is on the left as you drive towards Catonsville. They're open about 10 months a year -- just not in the deep winter.

Monday, September 22, 2008

JW Treuth and Sons in Oella

Anyone who wants a meat adventure should drive to J.W. Treuth & Sons -- just up the road from Ellicott City in Oella.

This is the retail part of a company that sells beef to butchers and restaurants from Boston to Richmond and even overseas. The wholesaler is super-modern, boasting about both its kosher products and its special service whisking just-slaughtered eyes, glands, brains "and more" to medical researchers at NIH and Hopkins.

In contrast, the J.W. Treuth store is out of the past. It's in Baltimore County on a two-lane road off Rte 144 that alternates between commercial lots and older homes. Inside, there is just a long counter and enough room to check out the wares.

And the wares are the reason to drive to J.W. Treuth. All kinds of beef cuts, chicken, seafood, at least four varieties of house-made sausages. Everything is reasonably priced, and everything that I tried was delicious. I made a special dinner with a fillet and four enormous scallops. The fillet was tender, but had a real beef flavor that is just missing from cheaper joints. The scallops were sweet, pretty much on the level of my standard Today's Catch in Columbia.

I also bought the Chesapeake sausage, which is an Italian sausage with Old Bay seasoning replacing some of the usual spices. Delicious. Watch out though. I ordered a single sausage
figuring that I'd get a six-inch link, but one sausage weighed more than a pound and made its way into multiple meals, including sandwiches and then a chicken stew.

I read about J.W. Treuth in a post by Treetop Tom on Chowhound. The shop is regularly discussed in Chowhound posts about butchers, including people looking for high quality, for unusual cuts, or for speciality items like offal and organs -- see here. This kind of butcher is absolutely unique as far as I can tell. I do love the sausage at Boarman's, and people say great things about the Laurel Meat Market. But nothing looks like J.W. Treuth.

If you want more, click for the starting page for my "What I Learned" guide to food in Howard County.

J.W. Treuth & and Sons
328 Oella Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21228
Phone: 410-465-4650
NEAR: You can get to Oella Avenue from Ellicott City or Catonsville off Rte 144 (Frederick Road). Don't trust Google Maps because Westchester Avenue is closed (or it was in September 2008). From downtown Ellicott City, you take Rte 144 towards Catonsville. Turn left on Old Frederick Road. Then turn left on Oella. Watch the house numbers because J.W. Treuth is small shop.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Link: Looney's Pub Possibly Coming To Columbia

Wordbones posts about Looney's Pub in Canton looking for a new location in Columbia. He wonders whether places like Looney's and Federal Hill's Dog Pub, which opened Pub Dog in Columbia, are "following their young clientele as they move from urban singles to young families seeking good schools." That does happen to best of us.

(Update 12/15/08: Looney's has leased the former Trapeze restaurant in Fulton.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Delicious: Opera Cake at Bonaparte Bread

Ornate desserts aren't my forte, so I love to carry home delicacies like Bonaparte Bread's opera cake.  

Chocolate ganache and coffee butter cream, layered with sponge cake and frosting with a thin layer of that ganache.  Perfect with cold glasses of South Mountain Creamery milk.

It's delicious.  It's so rich that it was almost too much for Mrs. HowChow.  If you don't want chocolate, Bonaparte in Savage sells a whole variety of French pastries.  Try the mini-tartes like the "Tarte Citron Meringue" -- a lemon custard tart topped with little squirts of meringue toasted brown.

One or two of Bonaparte's desserts are the storybook end to a romantic dinner.  A collection -- maybe sliced in half or quarters -- could create a dessert buffet to sample at the end of a dinner party.  Any single pastry is the perfect treat if you stop at the Savage bakery for a cup of coffee or to pick up bread.  One doesn't even count.  You don't have to tell.  I certainly don't!

Bonaparte Bread
8600 Foundry Street
Savage, MD 20763
Bonaparte Web site

NEAR: This is just north of Gorman Road and just west of Rte 1 in Savage. It's the Savage Mill complex that is two minutes from Rte 32. Just exit Rte 32 south onto Rte 1. Turn right at the light for Gorman Road, then right on Foundry Road where there are signs for Savage Mill. Bonaparte's Bread is in the central courtyard in sight of the entrance for the Ram's Head Tavern.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fractured Prune in Columbia appears closed

The Columbia location of the Fractured Prune donut shop appears to be closed.

Inside, the store looks just like it did when HowChow posted on August 29, 2008, but there was a sign on September 15, 2008 that says "Due to unforseen circumstances we have had to close this location at this time. Hopefully, we will see you back soon." The sign says that the Ellicott City shop is open and lists a phone number for questions.

The Columbia store looks fully stocked -- as if people just locked up one night and didn't come back in the morning.

Orinoco Coffee House in Columbia

(Update:  Orinoco Coffee House appears to have closed in early 2009.)

Orinoco Coffee House is the classic coffee shop -- and by classic I mean the casual, friendly kind of joint that appeared 20 years ago.

This could be a cousin of Mad City Coffee in Columbia -- house-roasted beans, breakfast sandwiches, lunch, and tables scattered for people to relax. You can go for java on your commute, for sandwiches on your lunch break, or for a quiet break with your laptop or a newspaper.

As I have written before, I'm a bad critic of coffee shops. I offer the addict's blind love for any place that sells caffeine, and I milk and sugar too much to distinguish the subtleties that excite the connoisseurs. Nina of Yet Another Food Blog says Orinoco is her gold standard -- and promises a post comparing the best coffee in Howard County.

Orinoco certainly works for me. Good flavor, nice people. It's a small place, but jammed full of stuff by people who want to do a lot. Inside seating and outside seating. Tables and seats at the bar. A large sandwich menu that runs to the unusual like Cuban or a Waldorf chicken salad, four vegetarian options or a chicken panini with horseradish cheddar. They even made their own empanadas (about $4 for beef, chicken or veg). I was impressed by the chicken empanada, which I brought home and reheated. Shredded chicken with some minced peppers and other vegetables. Great chicken flavor and a nice crust. I added some salsa for spice and a little moistness, and I was very happy.

Overall, this is a nice place for lunch and a good place for coffee. The owner's family has roasted coffee for a century, and Orinoco roasts nearby in Columbia. The bags of coffee tend more towards being different varieties of bean with few of the sweet flavored treats that Mad City seems to relish. Definitely worth checking out.

I'd love other people's views on Orinoco and on coffee shops in general if you want to leave a comment. Plus watch Nina's blog for her promised post. Coffee seems to be a personal thing, and opinions vary.

If you're looking for coffee shops in Howard County, also check out Mad City Coffee in Columbia or Bonaparte Bread in Savage. If you visit Orinoco, you are just around the corner from Lily's Mexican Market and Sushi King on Dobbin Road -- plus Mango Grove and Mirchi Wok for Indian.

Orinoco Coffee House
8874 McGaw Road #H
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: This is on McGaw between Dobbin Road and Snowden River Parkway. It's a new center with a smoothie shop, a Z Pizza and the Green Turtle. This is just south of Rte 175 near Apple Ford.

Orinoco Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sizar's Food Mart is moving to Elkridge!

Sizar's Food Mart -- the Middle Eastern grocery in Howard County -- is moving from Columbia to Elkridge in early 2009 -- after missing the original dates of late November or early December 2008.  The business will re-open as Ceazar International Market and Restaurant and offer the current retail groceries plus a new halal restaurant.  

Definitely check out Sizar's for Greek and Middle Eastern items like yogurt, breads, spices, and olives.  Currently, there is a Ramadan special on dates -- $6 a pound for regular and $8 a pound for spectacular jumbo ones.  They're better than candy.  But if you have to buy candy (and I do), try the pistachio nougat at the high end ($9 for 12 ounces) or the Turkish Coco Star candy bar at the low (39 cents for a bite-sized bar at the check-out).

Click here for more about Sizar's.  Click here for a listing of all the organic and ethnic markets.  

Ceazar's Inc. (opening in 2009)
6801 Douglas Legum Drive
Elkridge, MD 21075

NEAR:  Just off Rte 103 east of U.S. 1.  This is just south of Rte 100.

Link: A Food and Wine Blog on The Perfect Pour

Greg from a Food and Wine Blog posted about The Perfect Pour, the new Elkridge liquor store that I raved about for its wall of beer.  Greg knows his rare beers, and he talks about several that he tasted and bought.

Check out Greg's advice because you can buy some unusual stuff.  That green box is a $50 bottle of beer.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Yetnal Asian Food Service House in Ellicott City

Can someone explain Yetnal Asian Food Service House to me?

This Ellicott City store clearly caters to a Korean clientele.  There are beautiful party platters, coolers of soup and prepared food, and a menu that offers dozens of choices.  My problem is that there is little English.  Not on the menu.  Not from the employees, who have not spoken any English on either of my visits there.  One day I spoke Spanish with a woman who came out of the kitchen.  Another day, a construction worker explained that the soup I was holding had been made with meat, but didn't have meat in it.   (It turned out to be a spicy seafood soup that I assume was made with a beef broth.)

(Update:  Yetnal has completely changed.  By 2013, the space had been renovated into a cozy, casual restaurant.  There is still a takeout counter, and they still sell takeout kimchi, soups, panchan and other dishes.  But it so different that I actually added another label for Yet Nal Restaurant.)

Yetnal's seafood soup was delicious, but you can find similar prepared food at H Mart and Lotte -- especially at Lotte with its entire bar of panchan for takeout.  Both supermarkets offer English labels and employees who can be encouraged to explain dishes and Korean food.  At Yetnal, I tried what looked like a large sushi roll, which was okay.  I also tried some pickles, which I didn't like at all.

What should I buy at Yetnal?  What is good?  How do I order?  Clearly,  something happening here.  The menu (below) looks like they offer catering and party platters.  Yetnal's appears to be expanding, and people have come and gone while I browsed.  A woman my age came in as I was leaving, and I should have overcome my embarrassment and asked her what she buys there.

Any help?

Yetnal is in the same Rte 40 shopping center as Mirocjo, a Korean restaurant that is on the western end of Ellicott City.  It is also just down Rte 40 from the Soft Stuff ice cream stand.  Or click here for all the posts about Korean food

Yetnal Asian Food Service House
10194 Baltimore National Pike #6 (Rte 40)
Ellicott City, MD  21042

NEAR: On the north side of Rte 40 west of Rte 29. It is west of the Enchanted Forest shopping area. If you're driving west, you pass Enchanted Forest, then a wooded area, then the Bethany 40 shopping center is on the right.  

Yetnal Asian Food Service House on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wine Tasting in Laurel for KidsPeace

Corridor Wine & Spirits in Laurel will host a free wine tasting next Wednesday evening to raise money for KidsPeace, a non-profit that runs programs for kids.  The free tasting -- from 6 to 9 pm -- will include a silent auction, a raffle and other prizes, and 30% of the night's sales will go to KidsPeace, which runs a variety of programs for kids in foster care.  

Click here for information about the event. The Daily Record has an article about a similar tasting in 2007 that said the money raised would help a local literacy program, and this year's press release talks about similar programs.

Corridor Fine Wine
3321 Corridor Marketplace
Laurel, MD 20724

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bangkok Delight: Today's Best Restaurant in Howard County

Today, I think the best restaurant in Howard County is Bangkok Delight just off Rte 108 in Columbia.

I already posted that I normally can't even rank my Top 10. But Wednesday night Mrs. HowChow and I drove to Bangkok Delight for dinner, and I ordered three entrees because I honestly couldn't pick just two. The Malaysian brown curry with chicken. The drunken noodles with tofu. And the special eggplant vegetarian stirfry, which was pricey for vegetables at $17 but absolutely delivered.

Bangkok Delight qualifies as a best restaurant because the food is beautifully cooked and because it is subtle and wide-ranging enough to compete with any other kitchen around. The vegetables were exquisite. Stirfried with a light sauce, but they were mostly delicious because someone cooked them perfectly -- cooked through, but still firm. Eggplant. Zucchini. Onion. A few hot peppers that really carried a wallop.

This isn't mere shopping center food. Thai hot peppers are disaster in unskilled hands, but Bangkok Delight serves up just enough for zip and flavor and serves them on pretty plates with a carved-vegetable flower decoration. That skill crosses a broad menu -- laab with its minced chicken and lime flavor, soups that balance lemon grass and coconut milk, stirfries, noodles and curries. Bangkok Delight serves five curries, and they're each unique. This week's brown curry tastes of coriander, cinnamon and cloves in a sauced tinged with coconut milk and peanuts. At the other end, the green curry leads with hot peppers that bring the perfect fire -- except for the few times that it has actually been too hot for me. This kitchen shares the skill and range of places like Iron Bridge Wine Company -- a yardstick for great dining around here.

On top of all that, it's pretty with paper umbrellas hanging from the ceiling. This isn't the gravity of Jordan's Steakhouse or even the decor of Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro. But it's pretty enough for a date, and it's perfect for a night out or to please visitors who love food. All at prices below almost every other great restaurant around. (We spent $50 on a dinner that would have fed three at least.)

In the end, I blew the budget Wednesday because I couldn't pick just one dinner. The eggplant was a special. I wanted a curry. I was amused by a wing appetizer, enticed by some duck options, and finally couldn't leave without

noodles. But pad thai or drunken noodles? We ordered three entrees, then packed a meal's worth of leftovers into containers so that we would still have room for the mango sticky rice. Mrs. HowChow has it every time. Like the kheer at Akbar, Bangkok Delight's sticky rice converts humble grains into a rich, sweet pudding. Simple, normal enough to please even someone without an adventurous palate. And the perfect way to end the best meal in Howard County this week.

(Update:  In 2010, I wouldn't say this is the best restaurant.  We had a few less-perfect meals.  It's nice, but it didn't make my Best Restaurants list for 2009.)

If you like Thai, you should also check out Bangkok Garden in Oakland Mills in Columbia. If you want other Asian, try Korean at Shin Chon Garden or Mirocjo. Click here for my take on the best restaurants in Howard County. Click here for my prior post about Bangkok Delight and how it captures the authentic flavor of Thailand.

Bangkok Delight
8825 Centre Park Drive #A
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: The Giant off Rte 108 just west of Howard High School and east of Rte 29. Bangkok Delight is in the shopping area just north of Giant. Look for the Burger King on the corner.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Delicious: El Club Mexicano Candies at Mexican Bazaar

The thing about Mexican candy is that you can never predict exactly how much hot pepper they put in that lollipop.

Candies import easily so most Mexican markets carry a selection, and the El Club Mexicano candies at the Mexican Bazaar are a good place to start.  The Super Mango Lollipop at El Patio was so salty and hot that I almost couldn't finish it.  But El Club Mexicano packages a variety of Mexican brands into 99-cent bags.  You get 4-10 candies in each pack, including several that are a nice introduction -- sweet with just a touch of hot pepper or sour tamarind.

Mexican Bazaar in southern Columbia is a small market with Mexican essentials, including dried beans, spices, pasta, sodas and peppers.  Another source for my favorite chipotle peppers.  It doesn't have the selection or the prepared foods of Lily's Mexican Market up near Rte 175, but you can buy the basics.  Plus, you can buy soccer jerseys and hats.

(Update: The Mexican Bazaar closed in or around February 2009.  However, you can buy similar candies at Lily's or other markets.  I saw a big display at the Super Grand market in Laurel.)

The El Club candies are in a display at the back -- colored crackers, a coconut candy in the shape of the Mexican flag, something called "crayons."  Since I enjoyed the Tamarind Maracas, I went with two flavors of tamarind -- "solo" or with hot pepper.  The Rellenitos Frescas hard candies are the "solo" tamarind flavor, really just a sugary candy with a touch of tamarind flavor.  The Pulparindo kicks it up a notch.  A rectangle of tamarind pulp dusted with salt and chili pepper.  This is my favorite.  Candy sweet, but like the off-spring of a lemon drop and a cinnamon fireball.

I also enjoyed the "big corn" lollipop by Super Ricos Elotones.  It's mild like the Rellenitos Frescas with guajillo chili dusted over a lollipop.  Not as hard core as the Tamarind Maracas or the Tama-Raca that the Mexican Bazaar sells at the cash register.  But way better than the lollipop you took at the dry cleaner. 

If you want Mexican groceries, definitely check out Lily's Mexican Market, which offers hot corn tortillas.   You can also try Tere's Latin Market in Ellicott City, or -- no joke -- you can't go wrong shopping for Hispanic food at the H Mart supermarket in Catonsville.  Or check out the full listing of ethnic and organic markets.

The Mexican Bazaar is in the same shopping center as An Loi, whose Vietnamese is worth a long drive.   Check out the salted plum and salted lemon sodas.

Mexican Bazaar
7104 Minstrel Way #7
Columbia, MD  21045

NEAR:  On Snowden River Pkwy north of Broken Land and south of the Home Depot.  Minstrel Way has a gas station and a KFC at its intersection with Snowden.  The Mexican Bazaar is in the shopping center behind the gas station.  It doesn't have a sign.  It is between a cleaner and CK Nails.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Delicious: Dried Fruit Candy at Larriland

Don't think that Larriland Farms is all healthy. You go to pick your own fruits and vegetables, but the store in the Larriland barn has an even-sweeter side.

If you go out for apples or pumpkins this fall, check out the dried fruit candy at the checkout. They're coconut-coated sticks that come in six flavors. The sign says they're made of dried fruit. They're slightly chewy and taste like real fruit, maybe made from pulverized fruit and sugar? Lemon is our top choice. Mrs. HowChow says she would never have thought to eat one, but I sample my way through the strange items whenever I can. Now, she is the one who gets a bag and picks them out for herself.

Also look on the checkout counter for honey sticks. You cut off one end and squeeze the flavored honey into your mouth. Delicious.

Larriland Farm
2415 Woodbine Road
Woodbine, MD 21797

NEAR: This is off I-70 west of Rte 32. Take I-70 West to Exit 73. Turn left at the end of the exit ramp. Then follow that road through a circle and then along a road of farms and new developments. Larriland is on the left, although there are some fields across the road.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Old Mill Bakery Cafe in Ellicott City

Downtown Ellicott City sells itself on a vibe of sweet and clutter, and the Old Mill Bakery Cafe will sell you sweets amid clutter when you want a place to rest.

This is comfortable clutter.  Tables and chairs scatter around a coffee shop that invites you to relax with some tea and maybe the apple betty that I had last week while doing errands.  A delicious  pastry with slits on top that revealed an filling still firm with apple slices and rich with spices.  It tasted of butter and being baked that morning by someone who cared.

The Old Mill's pastries range from a casual muffins to proper-looking heart-shaped cookies, from scones to breads.  It's a wide variety.  They accompany coffes or a selection of teas that seemed unique to my eye.  Many boxes are for sale in the shelves, so this might be good shopping if you have a tea-lover in your life.
The Old Mill also offers sandwiches, including eggs-and-bacon breakfast versions.  I don't know that they're a reason to drive into downtown, but you could try if you are downtown.  Plus, you can take home a loaf of the bread that the Old Mill bakes every morning, including baguettes, an Italian loaf, a rye.  It also sells local honey from the Sweet Bee Apiary in Relay, MD up where I-95 intersects with I-195.  At $5 for a small bottle, it was too rich to impulse buy for my morning oatmeal, but I'll keep it on my list to try.

Old Mill Bakery Cafe
4 Frederick Road
Ellicott City, MD  21043

Old Mill Bakery Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 4, 2008

T-Bonz Grille & Pub in Ellicott City

With the NFL season upon us, you sometimes need a place where you can devour football with a plate of food on the side. That's the time to settle in at T-Bonz Grille & Pub in Ellicott City.

T-Bonz is a restaurant and bar hidden behind a strip shopping center at the intersections of Waterloo Road (Rte 104) and Montgomery Road (Rte 103). There are television screens in every direction with the full Direct TV package advertised for this season. This is the Baltimore side of Howard County with tasteful Ravens decorations and a few period pieces from the Colts.

While you're rooting, there is food. A wide menu of pub food -- wings, potato skins, burgers, sandwiches, salads -- and American entrees like crab cakes, chicken Parmesan, baked salmon, and steaks. My lunchtime BBQ pork sandwich was good. The coleslaw was actually the high point, plus I got fries. T-Bonz is a real kitchen, not just a bar. Even in mid-afternoon, the bartender told another guest that what he wanted wasn't on the menu, but she could go ask if the kitchen would make it for him. There are specials every day, including half-priced burgers on Mondays.

(Just don't whine that it's not "Chowhound" food. The U.S. Foodservices semi was parked outside when I left (which is why I have no photo), so go for what T-Bonz offers knowing that the menu advertises "sushi grade" tuna, but then blackens the fish and tops it with bleu cheese.)

On top of the football, T-Bonz offers live music all fall -- every Saturday night and every other Friday. Again, that the kind of draw that would turn some wings and a burger into a fun night.

(Update: The Baltimore Beer Guy blog posted in January 2010 about the beer selection at T-Bonz.  The BBG absolutely recommends the craft beer selection:
Lo and behold its actually a legit craft beer bar as well, with around 10 taps and an interesting collection of bottles and seasonal themed offerings.  Nobody talks about them but seriously they're probably the best (craft beer) thing going in Howard County after the Holy Trinity that is Frisco Grille/The Judges Bench/Victoria Gastro Pub.
By April 2010, the BBG had decided that T-Bonz had earned a spot on his top list.  The Holy Trinity is out.  He is looking for a metaphor with four parts.)

T-Bonz Grille & Pub
4910 Waterloo Road
Ellicott City, MD 21043

NEAR: This is at the intersection of Rte 104 and Rte 103. It's north of Rte 100 and west of I-95. From Rte 100, you can exit on either Waterloo Road (Rte 104) or Montgomery Road (Rte 103) and head north for 2-3 minutes.

T Bonz Steak House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Perfect Pour in Elkridge

The Perfect Pour is the Ali Baba's cave of beer. A liquor store with a more extensive -- and more interesting -- selection of beer than I have ever seen before.

Fifty feet of beer -- most of it six shelves high. The selection runs heavily to craft and foreign beers, and it's breathtaking. Entire shelves of brews that I have heard of, then entire shelves that are completely new. Entire sections from hotspots like Germany and England. Rarities from Russia. Beers that cost $25 a bottle. My favorite Shiner Bock, plus four other Shiner varieties that I have never seen before. There must be 1,000 different beers, and the Perfect Pour invites you to discover something new, find something rare, or just amuse yourself by picking by type, country or wacky label art.

But you could easily miss it all. The sign outside doesn't even say "Perfect Pour." Just a door with "Spirits Beer Wine" overhead stuck between a running store and the soon-to-open Fatburger in the new shopping center with Trader Joe's and Costco east of Columbia on Rte 175. Step inside, and the stock seems to go forever off to the right. The light wood shelves of a store trying to separate itself from the shopping center joints decorated with Coors Light posters. Friendly people. And what a selection! The wine and the liquors would be notable on their own. Somehow, they paled as I walked the beer section and passed old favorites (Red Stripe from my years in Miami, Singha from my honeymoon, etc.) and fascinating new options (a mead, a gaggle of Belgian beers, an entire shelving area of hard ciders, etc.) This is a perfect pair with Trader Joe's -- absolutely worth a long drive and a place to fill a cart with a few month's supplies at once.

The Perfect Pour does offer "make-your-own" six-packs like I enjoy at i.m. Wine. I'd also suggest that you ask for advice. After enjoying "cristal weis" beer in Germany, I have found the filtered wheat beer only twice in the U.S. in the last decade. The Perfect Pour had two German
brands and an American variety as well. One of the workers had taste-tested it a few weeks before and gave me his personal reviews.

Go taste test on your own. The Perfect Pour will host a gala tasting this Saturday -- 3 to 7 pm, September 6, 2008 with discounts, plus food by Mamma Lucia. Plus, there is a calendar just inside the door that lists dinners that they're coordinating with restaurants like Victoria Gastro Pub.

Thanks to reader Kate for the tip!  For more beer news, check out The Baltimore Beer Guy or Greg' s post from A Food and Wine Blog on The Perfect Pour or his post about Spanish beer.  The Beer Guy post some more photos of The Perfect Pour.  I still like i.m. Wine for "make-you-own-six-packs" and honest advice.

If you're at The Perfect Pour, you're also near Parsa Kabob and just across I-95 from the empanadas at El Patio or the seafood at Frank's.

The Perfect Pour
6610 Marie Curie Dr. #E
Elkridge, MD 21075

NEAR: This is in the same shopping center as Trader Joe's. You enter from Rte 108 just north of Rte 175. It's easy access from I-95 or Rte 175.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Update: Fatburger in Elkridge Looks Near Opening

Looks like the Fatburger in Howard County will be opening soon. Last weekend, I peeked in the restaurant being built near the new Trader Joe's and Costco in Elkridge -- just east of Columbia. Clearly construction continues. However, the heaviest equipment that I saw was a caulk gun, and the chairs and tables are installed and covered in plastic. They looks like they just need a shipment of beef to start up the grills.

People love this California chain -- see here and here, for example. Looks like they won't be waiting long.

(UPDATE: Don't believe me about "soon." Still construction when I drove past on September 19, 2008 and on October 4, 2008. The permits were off the windows on October 19, 2008, but the place wasn't open yet. When the grills go hot, please post that in the comments. And please write your own opinion. Mrs. HowChow was an In-And-Out Burger woman during her LA years, but we're excited for Fatburger. My favorite hamburger remains at Victoria Gastropub, but I'm open to any suggestions.)

(UPDATE: Most recent update is a November 25, 2008 post when I talked to a guy inside.)

If you go to Fatburger, definitely stick your head in the liquor store next door -- The Perfect Pour, which has a breath-taking selection of beers.

Smokey & Uncle Grube's in Elkridge

I'm not born in Baltimore, so I don't claim to judge "the best" pit beef. But I do enjoy it, and I'll go any time to Smokeys & Uncle Grube's in Elkridge.

Uncle Grube's is the kind of place where the counter help have opinions. Do you recommend the beef or the pork? "The beef." With horseradish? "Get horseradish and our homemade barbeque sauce." They make good stuff, and they know it. Who am I to argue? "Onions too. Do you like onions?"

I like the Uncle Grubes sandwich, that's for sure. I really like it. The beef is a bit thicker than I have had in other places. But it is that flavorful pit beef cut, charred perfectly on the edge of each slice and moistened by the toppings. The coleslaw looks
homemade with a surprisingly light dressing. Creamy, mostly tasting of crisp cabbage. Spiced by something, but not strong enough that I recognize it. Great food on a picnic table is the simply delicious that I respect and that makes me regret every "just okay" sandwich that I suffer through elsewhere.

The restaurant clearly does a catering and party business. A block off U.S. 1, it also offers some minimal indoor seating and a covered area with picnic benches. You can also get ribs and barbeque sandwiches along with other sides and fountain sodas. Bring cash. There is a $10 minimum on credit cards, and I had to buy a soda to make my minimum.

While you are at Smokey & Uncle Grube's, you are a few blocks north of the El Patio restaurant and store -- both of which offer empanadas. You carry out some empanadas to heat later at home. Or you could overdose on meat by pairing your pit beef with tacos from Pupuseria Lorenita's.  Click here for a post about all the cool places that you find along U.S. 1.

If you like barbeque, definitely check out Kloby's Smokehouse on Johns Hopkins Road where Laurel, Columbia and Fulton come together. If you just want to eat delicious when you eat less-than-healthy, check out the sausage at Boarman's Meat Market in Highland or the burgers at Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia.

For detailed Chowhound posts about the best pit beef, start here or here. Pit beef is the perfect kind of meal to find on Chowhound. Most of the places are in Baltimore or farther, but I remember them for the day when I'll have some errand that takes me past.

Smokeys & Uncle Grube's
7300 Roosevelt Boulevard
Elkridge, MD 21075

NEAR: This is a block west of U.S. 1 on Roosevelt Boulevard. That is south of Rte 100 and north of Rte 175. It's a block north of El Nayar if you have tried that for Mexican.

Uncle Grube's and Smokey's Pit Beef Barbecue on Urbanspoon