Friday, October 30, 2009

Link: Diamondback Tavern on Dining at Large

The Diamondback Tavern in Ellicott City gets a positive post from guest blogger Robert of Cross Keys on Dining at Large. He talks up the "testudo" -- a sandwich with pulled pork, sauteed bananas, onion, and avocado that someone had mentioned to me. (Although I can't find the comment now.)

To date, I have gotten mixed, although pretty skeletal, reports on the Diamondback like these. I have a coupon to use.

If you're adventurous enough for the testudo, consider other unusual sandwiches like the bulgogi panini at Riverside Coffee.

Kimiko Barber: A Japanese Guide To H Mart

H Mart is my favorite place for food, and Kimiko Barber has written a map for anyone who wants to explore an Asian grocery store -- at least the Japanese sections.

Barber, a Japanese expat who writes cookbooks in England, offers two cookbooks that I'd recommend to anyone who wanders the Asian aisles and wonders how to use the treasures wrapped in plastic packages. Noodles. Seaweeds. Tofu. Daikon radishes. I walk past these items, and I never know how to get them on my table.

My first hints were in The Chopsticks Diet, Barber's new cookbook that uses Japanese ingredients for light, flavorful dishes. Ignore the diet stuff. Most diet cookbooks are horrible. Barber's is imaginative and fun, although a little laden with questionable medical advice. The recipes are "fusion" dishes -- each uses a Japanese ingredient like dashi, miso paste or soba noodles, but they're completely accessible. Mostly, they're simple like a salad of shredded daikon radish with carrot, cucumber, peppers and shelled edamame, Japanesed-up with a vinaigrette made from rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey and yuzu juice.

After a lunch of pit beef at Oakey's and Pioneer, my friend and I cooked a light dinner for Mrs. HowChow highlighted by a "chilled misopacho" -- a gazpacho soup flavored with soy sauce and red miso paste. Flavorful
and fresh with a second plate of seared scallop and tuna, fava beans and pomegranate served over sushi rice and herbs.

From there, I branched into Barber's The Japanese Kitchen. (Full disclosure: I emailed the publisher trying to get a JPG of the Chopstick Diet's cover, and they sent me a free copy of The Japanese Kitchen. But I'm only writing because I love both books. Trust me, there was a third book by someone else. Not writing about it.)

The Japanese Kitchen is the perfect cookbook for someone who wants to explore. Barber organizes by ingredient -- a section on noodles, on vegetables, on fish, on sauces . . . . Each ingredient gets two or three pages, and you get a truly interesting explanation of each product and then two to four recipes. You could buy this book just for the noodles section. Soba, udon, somen, hiyamugi . . . They're in every Asian market, and they're cheap and flexible. But I never knew how to use them until Barber explained the differences and gave me some options to try. Then, I paged on and learned how to use seaweed and lotus roots, budock and salmon roe. (Salmon roe looks great, but it's a special occasion food because H Mart only sells $10 packages. Too bad my family demands super-traditional Thanksgiving.)

These are Japanese recipes, not the fusion of the Chopstick Diet. Chilled somen noodles were flavored with shiitake mushrooms, bonito flakes, mirin and seaweed. That's delicious. It's foreign in a way that made me want to explore the rest of the book, from the freeze-dried tofu to the mackerel simmered in miso. Ironically, the books' only stumbles come from Barber's British side -- some flawed conversions from metric, references to "British HP sauce" and "green bacon," and an explanation of a soba dish by describing it as "the Japanese equivalent of haggis on Burns' Night in Scotland." (Burns' Night?)

Most cooks have a few good ideas, but not enough inspiration to make them worth buying. Barber's books joined my "first team" shelf because these are recipes that I want to cook -- simple enough for weeknights, but exotic enough to be interesting -- and food that I want to eat: heavy on flavor, light on the stomach because it's mostly vegetables, fish, noodles and rice. The Japanese Kitchen is also extremely well-written. Clear explanations. A little Japanese culture. I'm going to carry it on months worth of H Mart trips, and I'll discovery something new every time.

Below is one recipe to try from The Japanese Kitchen. All the ingredients are available at Lotte in Ellicott City, H Mart in Catonsville, or Super Grand in Laurel. They're all pretty cheap, and they're all staples that you can keep in your pantry and use when you want. Don't be intimidated by the dashi. H Mart sells bonito flakes in a package with a bunch of small packages inside. (It's the red packet on the right of the top photo.) It was very easy to use small package. The rest is safe in my pantry. Nothing smells like dried fish.

You can use these ingredients again. I used the extra mushrooms to bulk up a tomato, mushroom and eggplant sauce for polenta. I used the nori for sushi rolls. I'll use the other stuff as I work through Barber's book.
Hiyashi Somen
(from The Japanese Kitchen)

15 oz dried somen noodles

For the dipping sauce
8 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in four ounces of hot water for 15 minutes
8 ounces (1 cup) of dashi broth (see below)
2 ounces (3 1/2 TBL) mirin
2 ounces (3 1/2 TBL) soy sauce

1 ounce (2-inch piece) fresh ginger root, peeled and shredded
shredded peel of yuzu (or lime, which I used)
1 sheet nori (dried seaweed), shredded
4 scallions, finely chopped

Put the mushrooms, their soaking liquid and all the other dipping sauce ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Simmer gently until the mushrooms are soft, then let cool. Remove the mushrooms and chop them finely.

Boil a saucepan of water and add the noodles. Stir with chopsticks to separate them. When the water is about to boil, add 1 cup of cold water and let it return to a boil. Drain, rinse under cold running water and drain again. (Alternatively: Cook the noodles according to the package's directions.) Serve the noodles floating in a big bowl of ice water. Serve with a cup of dipping sauce, the mushrooms and condiments. Each person can mix the noodles and condiments. The first night, I dipped the noodles in the sauce. For lunch the next day, I pour the sauce on noodles and packed them in a plastic container.

(From The Japanese Kitchen)

1 piece dried konbu (kelp), postcard size
4 c. water
3/4 ounce bonito flakes (about a handful)

Put the konbu with the water in a saucepan. Heat gently and take the konbu out when it begins to float. When the water begins to boil, remove it from the heat. Add the bonito flakes. Let them settle to the bottom. Strain the broth through a fine strainer lined with paper towels.
For more about Asian foods, check out my post about Asian grocery stores. Or check out the post about "Eight Japanese Ingredients" by a woman who attended a Kimiko Barber demonstration in London.

You can borrow The Chopstick Diet from the Howard County library, which is where I discovered it. Or you can buy either book on Amazon through these links (which means Amazon would pay me a referral fee):

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Azul 17 on Kevin & Ann Eat Anything

I keep linking because Kevin keeps posting great stuff.

Check out Kevin's review of Azul 17 on Kevin & Ann Eat Anything. I'm psyched that he loved the guacamole because it was one of my low points during my"soft open" visit. Mrs. HowChow and I need to go back. Also -- you have to read Kevin's report about Larriland.

Second Sunday: One More Time in E.C.?

We're going back to the Second Sunday for the caramel marshmallows -- if they'll have us back in November.

The talk at October's food and shopping market in downtown Ellicott City was that the monthly event had extended to November and maybe later. I don't know all the details, but the folks who run the French Market and Tersiguels have been spearheading a monthly market that offers unusual produce, special sweets and more. They paired up with several neighboring boutiques that offer non-food shopping, if you're into that kind of thing.

The market sits on the edges of the parking lot off Main Street in Ellicott City. For the October event, we pulled into the lot near Tersiguel's and walked to a series of umbrellas shading some excellent food. There were two tables of unusual produce -- baby artichokes, purple carrots, fresh figs. There was a table of homemade jellies and sweets by Rare Opportunities Farm. And you

can walk a few steps inside the French Market for coffee and its normal offering of sandwiches, pastries and items from Tersiguel's.

We arrived late, which meant we got a great 2 for 1 deal on some baby artichokes. We also got to talk to one of the chefs from Tersiguel's, who was really friendly explaining what to do with the unusual produce. Her description about how the French restaurant uses seasonal produce made me want to go check it out. Unfortunately, we arrived too late for many of Rare Opportunities' sweets -- including the caramel marshmallows. They make the marshmallows from scratch. We tasted a few samples, and Mrs. HowChow announced that we would be back next month.

The Terisguel's chef said that she had been told to expect a Second Sunday event in November. That would be November 8. She wasn't sure about December. Its definitely worth a visit, especially as it has expanded across the parking lot into stands for chocolates from Sweet Cascades and meats from a farm whose business card I lost.

The Ellicott City Web site's list of events doesn't include a November date for the Second Sunday market, although part of the site says the market runs 10 am to 3 pm when it happens. To see if Second Sunday is coming back, call Randy Neely at Good Life Market Home (410-480-4324) or Debbie Kehe at Mon Amie Boutique (410-465-3673).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Don't You Have Any Favorite Restaurants?

Two weeks ago, I posted my Best of Howard County 2009, and I figured that I was picking some friendly fights with people who really loved something that I omitted.

That sparked some comments, but not many people recommending their favorites. (It did trigger Alberto's tip about Mexican food in the Shell station at Rte 175 and U.S. 1. I drove past last weekend, but I was accompanied by a person who draws the line somewhere between BBQ at the Woodbine gas station and tacos at the Shell.)

Kristi just goosed up those comments with her Top 6 restaurants, including Hunan Legend, La Palapa Too, and Kloby's. Anyone else want to jump in and comment there in the comments on the "Best of" post? I'd love to hear other people's favorite places and favorite dishes. Kristi listed her favorite dishes at each place, and now I'm obsessing over hush puppies.

(Update: I disabled comments on this post so that people will group their favorites on the original post, which should get more traffic because it's linked on every front page.)

More FroYo: Tutti Fruitti on Rte 40 in Ellicott City

There appears to be another tart frozen yogurt place getting ready to open on Rte 40 in Ellicott City -- Tutti Fruitti, a new store that Elizabeth spotted and emailed me about.

Neither of us has tasted the yogurt yet, but there is a tiny blog site talking about a new store opened in October. [Update: People say the place is still under construction. The original post said that it appeared to be open.] Looks like this is a chain, although the Tutti Frutti chain's Web site doesn't show any stores in Maryland yet.

Anyone stopped at Tutti Fruitti yet? There are some Yelp reviews of a Tutti Frutti in Manassas that make it sound like Yogiberry (in the Columbia Mall) or Mangoberry (in Catonsville) -- tart yogurt, fruit and cereal toppings, modern design, a touch expensive. One unique aspect appears to be that you choose your own yogurt from lots of flavors and mix them yourself.

If you're going to check out Tutti Fruitti, check out my driving tour of food along Rte 40. There is great stuff in that neighborhood.

Tutti Fruitti
9191 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21042

NEAR: I got that address from the blog, and Elizabeth wrote that this is in the shopping center that houses Flags Etc. across from Bare Bones and the St. John's Plaza. It's Rte 40 west of Rte 29 and just west of St. Johns Lane.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rose Water Lassi at Mango Grove

The rose water lassi at Mango Grove proves that milkshakes can be refreshing.

OK. It isn't a milkshake. It's a yogurt drink flavored -- and beautifully colored -- with a few drops of rose water for a delicate, adult concoction that Mrs. HowChow makes part of every dinner at the Columbia Indian restaurant. In fact, she'll order them or a mango lassi at almost any Indian restaurant in Columbia -- and there are several goods ones, including Akbar, House of India, and the new India Delight.

The lassis are refreshing, and they're a nice way to sample real Indian flavors without filling your table with too much food. Of course, if you want the full taste of India, try a salt lassi -- a flavor that hasn't converted me yet.

For more about the Indian restaurants, check out my post about Indian restaurants in Howard County. To make your own rose water lassi, pick up a bottle of rose water at any of the Indian or Middle Eastern stores in the post about ethnic groceries in Howard County.

Mango Grove
Mirchi Wok
6365B Dobbin Center
Columbia, MD 21045

Near: On Dobbins Road just south of Rte 175. It is in a outbuilding of the Wal-Mart shopping center next to the McDonalds and the Chik-Fil-a.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sidamo To Open In Maple Lawn This Week

Sidamo Coffee in Maple Lawn should open in the middle of this week, according to the folks at the original Sidamo in Washington.

On Friday, I stopped by the original Sidamo on H Street NE to try the coffee that is coming to Fulton. The photo is the original Sidamo -- a cozy little place on a scruffy commercial block a few blocks east of Union Station.

The coffee was delicious. The chocolate chip cookie was pretty good. I bought another pound to brew at home, and I checked out the backyard where they serve a short menu of sandwiches. Sidamo clearly is doing something right. Even on H Street, they attrached a full house of people having a late lunch and tapping away on laptops. It would be terrific if they can create a similar atmosphere in Maple Lawn.

The new Sidamo has been under construction for several months just off Rte 216. The folks at the DC spot say that they're aiming to open in the middle of this week.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Union Jacks To Replace Columbia That's Amore?

Union Jacks may be replacing the That's Amore that closed in Columbia, according to a comment by Anne who says she saw a sign on the shuttered restaurant.

I assume this is the Union Jacks that has pubs in Ballstom and Bethesda. (Update: John comments below that the logo looks the same.) Anyone know more about when it will open? Any reviews of the existing Union Jacks? This sounds like Trapeze closing in Maple Lawn and being replaced by Looney's, which has packed the parking lot ever since.

Click here for all the recent news about restaurants and food in Howard County.

Oakey's Grill in Ellicott City

I love showing off pit beef to friends from out of town -- a unique taste of Baltimore that is accessible to anyone except a vegetarian.

My friend wasn't open-minded enough to jump at the offer of Riverside's bulgogi panini, but he encouraged a tour of pit beef joints. We started at Oakey's, the new stand on Frederick Road just west of Rte 29.

Oakey's serves a good pit beef sandwich. We split a regular one with horseradish, and my friend was really happy. Good beef, sliced thin and served on a pretty good roll as well. That's a good lunch or a treat while doing errands, and I will stop back at Oakey for more sandwiches and to try the other items. It's certainly on par with Uncle Grube's -- my Elkridge connection for pit beef.

The truth is that it isn't Pioneer Pit Beef. My friend and I split the Oakey's sandwich so that we could split another at the Woodlawn stand. (We were en route to H Mart in Catonsville, so we were just minutes from Pioneer.) The Pioneer sandwich is still the best around, meat pulled from the barbeque when you order and then sliced into your sandwich. The best beef flavor, the best juiciness.

If you're up on Rte 40, check out my tour of the "Beef Highway" from Korean barbeque through the pit beef joints and east to the H Mart. On that tour, you're see Canopy on Rte 40, an Elliott City institution for pit beef but a place that I haven't tried yet.

Oakey's Grill
9095 Frederick Road
Ellicott City, MD 21042

NEAR: This is on Frederick Road just south of Rte 40 in Ellicott City. From Rte 40, turn south at the light onto St. Johns Lane and then turn left at the light for Frederick Road. Oakey's is on the right.

Oakey's Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Link: Bon Fresco on Kevin & Ann Eat

I'm joining with Kevin on the Kevin & Ann Eat Anything blog to start a campaign to get more people into Bon Fresco, the new sandwich place and bakery off Snowden River in Columbia.

Great food. Never enough people eating there. That is why Kevin & I think you should go for a sandwich at Bon Fresco. (And definitely read Kevin's musing on the Mrs. HowChow favorite -- and his plan for conveyor-belt sushi in the closed Dunkin Donuts.)

Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery
6945 Oakland Mills Road
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: Bon Fresco is in the shopping center on Oakland Mills Road at Snowden River Parkway. The center with Race Pace bike shop and a Ledo Pizza overlooks Snowden, but you need to turn onto Oakland Mills at the intersection and turn right into the shopping center. Bon Fresco is in the out-building just to the right of the entrance.

Rice Noodle Wrappers At Shin Chon Garden

On our most-recent trip to Shin Chon Garden, we turned a little delay into a big discovery.

Shin Chon fills its renovated space in the Lotte shopping center with people coming for great Korean food, particularly the beef, pork and other meat that you barbeque on the table in front of you. On a Saturday night, we arrived at that unlucky moment when all the tables were full and ended up waiting about 20 minutes for seats. (Everything opened at the same time, so people who arrived when we were seated walked straight from the door to their barbeque.)

But the wait was a blessing because I noticed a woman wrapping her barbeque in some kind of white paper squares. I had learned to wrap bulgogi or kalbi in lettuce with a little rice and sauces. So I asked the manager about those little squares when she came to tell us that a table would free up soon.

It turns out that they're rice noodle squares. Imagine fresh pasta sheets, but with the lighter flavor of rice instead of flour and eggs. They're the perfect size to fill with a piece of meat and a dab of spicy sauce. I popped the packets into my mouth, and they're nice to alternate with the lettuce. (Unfortunately, there is some problem with my photo of the noodles, and Blogger can't load it.)

The manager explained that Shin Chon normally serves the rice noodle squares with the barbeque specials. Those are mixtures of meat sized for 3-5 people. (I'm looking to organize a group so that I can try one of those. Magda? Magda?) But she had our waitress bring a plate with our bulgogi, and she said they're happy to serve them if people ask. That is the kind of great service and great food that makes Shin Chon one of my best restaurants of Howard County.

(Update: Ann comments below that wrappers are think slices of dduk (rice cake).)

If you're looking for suggestions about what to order, definitely check out the Yelp reviews of Shin Chon. They're unusually detailed and include several people giving specific suggestions, including Su K., Chiristine P., and Arthur K.

Shin Chon Restaurant
8801 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21043

NEAR: The far end of the Lotte shopping center on Rte 40 just east of Rte 29.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Maple Lawn Turkeys And Special Amish Hours -- Early Thanksgiving Thoughtsing

Two early thoughts if you're planning on a special Thanksgiving dinner.

Maple Lawn Farms will start taking requests for fresh turkeys this Sunday, November 1, 2009. Check out their Web site. You'll be able to pick up turkeys at the farm on Rte 216 in Fulton between November 11 and 30, and they have sold in past years through Whole Foods as well. For more links, check out last year's post about the Maple Lawn turkeys.

The Dutch Country Farmers Market will be opened Tuesday, November 24 (9a-5p) and Wednesday, November 25 (8a-6p) for Thanksgiving shopping. They'll be closed Thursday, then open again the two days after the holiday.

More Peruvian Chicken -- "Chick'N Pollo" Coming To Hickory Ridge in Columbia

More Peruvian chicken is coming to Howard County -- this time Chick'N Pollo to the Hickory Ridge village center in Columbia, according to an email from Colleen.

Colleen said she stopped by yesterday and peered into the Chick'N Pollo restaurant on the back side near the Dominos. The sign says that they'll carry Peruvian chicken and Mexican food. She says it looks like it could open any time (although I remember waiting months for Fatburger!).

Pollo Fuego opened the first Peruvian chicken restaurant in Howard County last spring in Jessup. It was just December when BillZ was hoping for a roasted chicken joint and we all had to drive to Mega Chicken in Laurel for chicken, yucca fries and the spicy sauces, as pictured above. Chick'N Pollo could make the top Howard County takeout list if the food turns out good. (BillZ got Peruvian chicken and a Five Guys from his post about "things he would like to see in Howard County." This December, I want him to wish for a Lebanese Taverna and maybe a banh mi sandwich shop.)

If you want more information, there is a Web site with the right address in the 6400 block of Freetown Road and the name "de Chick'n Pollo," as Colleen pointed out. For now, it looks like a dummy site because there are blank menus, photos of white tablecloths and china that can't be Hickory Ridge along with critical reviews commending the place that hasn't opened it. But I assume they'll add more information soon.

Thanks for the tip!

Hickory Ridge is off Cedar Lane just north of Rte 32, and it has some nice food options. People talk up the gyros at the Hickory Ridge Grill, and there is a new Japanese steakhouse called Maruha. Then in the back, there is Luna Bella for Italian and pizza and Narita Sushi for basic Japanese.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Beer Sampler at Ellicott Mills Brewing

On a glorious lunchtime earlier this month, I walked an out-of-town friend down Main Street in Ellicott City and ended up with a sampler of beers at the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company.

There are two types of tastings -- standard beers for about $7 and their "bocks" for about $7. You get four good-sized tasting glasses, maybe four ounces each. It's a generous pour, and it's a friendly bar. Our favorite was the Mammoth brown ale. The Kolsch was a bit weak, but we also liked the Marzen and the Alt. It's all interesting beer with real flavor. The brew it on site, and they also sell in growlers or kegs, so it's great if you're hosting a party at home.

Brian at the Baltimore Beer Guy blog has posted on Ellicott Mills. He says they brew in an Alpenhof style, so they're not exactly like the craft beers that you get in other places. He does recommend their beers -- although we're still waiting for a full writeup review. (I'll link again when it comes.)

Main Street is a hotbed for good beer even though I left it out of the Sudsy Triangle when I wrote about Beer in Howard County. The Judge's Bench is right across from Ellicott Mills, and the Wine Bin had a nice selection of craft beers as well. If you like samplers, check out the offerings at Victoria Gastropub. And if you love beer, remember the Baltimore Beer Guy and the Beer in Baltimore blogs.

Ellicott Mills Brewing Company
8308 Main St
Ellicott City, MD 21043-4601
(410) 313-8141

NEAR: This is on Main Street, up the hill and almost at the end of the commercial section. It across from La Palapa and the Judge's Bench.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bulgogi Panini at Riverside Coffee in Columbia

Let's start with the pickle. It's a pretty good pickle -- sour like a New York deli, which is exactly what you need with a Korean-Italian sandwich.

Korean-Italian sandwich? Of course, we're talking about the bulgogi panini -- the Riverside coffee shop's contribution to the fusion flavors that make me love America. Bulgogi panini. It's an inspired idea.

A pretty good roll, split and filled with Korean barbecued beef, lettuce, and a few slices of melted cheese. The right amount of cheese. Mostly, the sandwich tastes like bulgogi, and that makes for a pretty good lunch at Riverside. On the afternoon when I stopped, they only had the regular beef. Next time, I'll try the spicy pork because the sandwich could have taken a shot of Korean pepper paste.

Riverside is a nice coffee shop with tables, a few big leather chairs and free wifi (according to this Yelp review that says you should ask about wifi when you order). I'm working on a coffee shop overview, but the truth is that I'm a coffee addict who likes almost everything. Utterly unable to differentiate.

Riverside roasts its own beans, and the owner has been cool enough to wave me away when I ordered a half pound of beans that had been roasted a week before. Definitely ask for the freshest beans. So far, I have enjoyed everything. They serve pastries, plus standard sandwiches and a small Korean menu that goes along with the bulgogi panini.

If you want to try a bulgogi panini at home, I would recommend that you get baguettes at Bon Fresco and takeout bulgogi meat at Lotte. If you visit Riverside, definitely check out the rest of that shopping center -- including beer and Southwestern at Frisco Grill, sushi at Hanamura, Asian at Noodles Corner, and beer and pizza at Pub Dog.

Riverside Coffee
8865 Stanford Blvd
Columbia, MD 20723

NEAR: This is in the same shopping center as Frisco Grille, Hanamura, Pub Dog and Noodles Corner. From the north, take Rte 175 and turn south on Dobbin Road at the intersection with a Chik-fil-A on the corner. The shopping center is on the left after the second light. From the south, take Snowden River Parkway and turn left on McGaw Road at the light with Apple Ford. Turn right at the light with Dobbin, then look for the shopping center on the right.

Riverside Coffee on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pizza Mysteries

The Pizzablogger appears to have gotten some food blogs caught up in a competition about the best local pizza.

First, an anonymous letter to the Pizzablogger in Baltimore. Then one to a pizza blog in DC. Now, HowChow gets pulled in by the local connection:

I represent some interests here in Howard County and we have some serious problems brewing that require your strict attention.


You can’t sit by and let these lightweights from DC and Baltimore not include us in their goal to settle the score. What, these guys think Howard County is only some kinda way station between the “big cities”? They got some set on them not planning to include us!


DC and Baltimore ain’t the only locales in the area that can whip up the Queens favorite pie. You make certain to get us included so we can be represented alongside the shoddy interests of Tommy the Tomato and Sourdough Sal.

The letters go on about "settling the score." The Pizzablogger is the best source for local pizza reviews. He is serious about his pie and amusing in his writing. So it's worth following there to see what is going on about the "Queens favorite pie."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

South Mountain Creamery's Fall Festival

The South Mountain Creamery is hosting its fall festival this weekend at the farm in Middletown, MD.

(Update: The rain delayed the festival. It was rescheduled for October 24-25, 2009.)

I'm not holding a grudge that South Mountain didn't choose my neighborhood for the 2009 pilot of their vegetable delivery program. It's still a great source at the Saturday farmers market at the Glenwood library.

South Mountain will have food, hayrides, music and a petting zoo on October 17 and 18, 2009. Click here for contact information and directions. Click here for information about the veggie delivery, which is currently sold out.

Food: Best of Howard County 2009

Most of my favorite food doesn't reduce to my "Top 10" list of restaurants in Howard County -- even after I supplemented with a second list of great items at little places.

So I'm taking Elizabeth Large's inspiration for a list of "great experiences" to create a second list of ways that you can enjoy great food in Howard County. Please add comments with your favorite Howard County food experiences -- places to shop, places to eat, etc.
  • Eat a peach right off the tree at Larriland Farm in Woodbine. From berries in early summer through apples and pumpkins in fall, nothing beats the flavor of the first peach that we split driving away from the farm stand.
  • Reserve a private room at Sushi King in Columbia. The private rooms are really walled-in tables for four to six. Romantic or impressive, but also surprisingly useful to keeping a toddler confined during a meal.
  • Grill your own meats at Shin Chon Garden in Ellicott City. Korean restaurants serve some of Howard County's best food, and the post-renovation Shin Chon is pretty, welcoming to beginners or immigrants, and fully-outfitted with grilling tables. Go with a group so you can try several meats.
  • Keep thick-cut pepper bacon in your fridge from Laurel Meat Market, JW Trueth in Oella or Beiler's Meats in the Dutch Country Farmers Market in Laurel. Four-to-six slices are perfect when I am canvassing the refrigerator to make a meal -- BLTs, pasta sauces, or just bacon-and-eggs.
  • Buy hot baguettes at Bon Fresco in Columbia or Bonaparte Breads in Savage. I have knocked on the door at Bon Fresco 30-45 minutes before they open, and they're so nice that they'll sell you baguettes and other bread right out the door. Two baguettes for that night's dinner party, plus one more than I started eating warm in the car.
  • Buy a hot pretzel, then walk around the Dutch Country Farmers Market in Laurel. Start with a hot pretzel, then circle the relocated market to check out Amish salads, butchers, candies, baked goods, etc.
  • Grilled kabobs, naan and Italian ice on a summer night at Maiwand Kabob and Rita's in Columbia. Harper's Choice Village Center is the spot for a perfect casual dinner.
  • Pho on a winter night at An Loi or Pho Daht Trahn in Columbia. People complain that both of Columbia's Vietnamese restaurants have gone downhill, but the noodle soup makes for a warm, full night (and is great takeout) -- even though it's traditionally a breakfast in Hanoi.
  • Coffee and breakfast at Sarah & Desmond's Bakery and Cafe in Ellicott City. Bring the paper. Enjoy the food. Squint hard enough, and the traffic driving past the plate glass window could almost convince you that you're in a city.
  • Buy your vegetables right off the farm at the Gorman Produce Farm in Laurel. The Likers run a CSA and a seasonal farm stand on Gorman Road just east of Rte 29. Expect nature. People have correctly pointed out that every selection isn't mind-blowing, but the Likers improved throughout the 2009 opening year -- and it's still a treat to buy produce that was harvested a few hundred feet away.
  • Pick up a few dozen crabs at Frank's Seafood Market in Jessup. It's free to visit Frank's at the wholesale seafood market. You just show ID to get through the gate.
  • Stop for tacos and a horchata at Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia. You should visit Lily's just for the homemade corn tortillas. But you can treat yourself to a few of the tacos and the horchata drink in the machine across from the takeout counter.
  • Stop for empanadas at El Patio Market in Jessup. The Argentine restaurant closed next door, but the small market on U.S. 1 still sells empanadas that you can order hot for a "mid-errands" snack or cold to carry home and re-heat for dinner.
  • Walk around Main Street in Ellicott City. The weekend parking and dusty antiques have discouraged us, but you can spend a great afternoon poking around -- even if none of the shopping interests you. Snack at the French Market or Sweet Cascades. Grab at beer at the Judge's Bench, or take one home from the Wine Bin. Sample yourself a "progressive dinner" by trying appetizers along the way.
  • Saute the big scallops from the Today's Catch market in Columbia. My friend Cheryl has me freaked out with the facts about fish and big business -- the chemicals, the packaging, the by-catch destruction. Today's Catch sells scallops that aren't pumped full of phosphates. You don't need anything more than butter.
  • Sample beer and a burger at Victoria Gastropub in Columbia. Five half-pours and the best burger in Howard County. Even better if you can enjoy the "parking lot cafe" and eat watching your car.
  • Picnic and paddleboats at Centennial Lake in Columbia. Enjoy a meal on the grass, then work it off pedaling (or kayaking) around the lake on Rte 108. Big enough to entertain any kid. Small enough that you can survive even if you're solely responsible for locomotion.
  • Take your meat-eating father-in-law to Mirchi Wok in Columbia. This is the vegetarian's trick. Sit in Mirchi Wok, and the meat-lovers in your life can order Indian or Chinese-Indian fusions. But you can order off the menu from vegetarian Mango Grove next door. No fuss, no conflict. (Eventually, they'll be enlightened enough to respect the food at Great Sage in Clarksville.)
  • Ask for advice at the fish counter at the H Mart in Catonsville. Not from the fishmongers. I am slowly learning to cook whole fish by asking other customers "What are you going to do with that?" So far, everyone has been tickled to talk fish, although they have offered far more general plans ("then you cut it up for soup") than step-by-step recipes.
  • Go for a late-night margarita at Azul 17 in Columbia. You're in the suburbs. You're not dead. The new Mexican restaurant feels like a city restaurant, and you can splurge on a designer tequila -- whether your idea of late-night is 9 pm or 1 am.
If you're looking for good food in Howard County, check out two prior series of posts -- a "tour of Howard County" describing restaurants and markets in specific areas or my guide to what I've learned about Howard County from "best Chinese" to "best takeout" to "best burgers." Or check out a listing of ethnic and organic groceries.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Restaurants: Best of Howard County 2009

Best restaurants in Columbia or Ellicott City? The great fun is finding your own favorites, but this post aims to give starting points. This is my favorites right now, my "Best of Howard County 2009."

This is an update from my July 2008 post about the best restaurants. It certainly differs from Howard Magazine's lists as reported by Live in Howard County. I'm sure that it differs from yours, and I would love comments listing your top restaurants or "favorite dishes" -- especially if you'll tell people why you pick them.

My lists change all the time. I'm staking this list to spark a little conversation and as a starting point for people checking out HowChow for the first time. Tomorrow, I'll follow up with a list of great food experiences to supplement these.

A Few Of My (Current) Favorite Things:
I love great food, and great items appear at some places that aren't great restaurants. For example, you won't get anything more than beef and a picnic table at Pioneer Pit Beef. But you can't beat a pretty lunchtime listening to the hum of I-70.
My Top Restaurants in Howard County:
Not claiming to be "The Ten Best." This is an alphabetical array of recommendations to anyone moving to Howard County. My list tilts to flavorful and affordable, and it changes over time.  [I even updated the list in January 2010.] Plus, it omits places like Tersiguel's, King's Contrivance and Aida Bistro that I haven't tried recently enough to post about.
Others that make the list: Bethany Seafood Restaurant in Ellicott City for Korean, Pazani Trattoria in Elkridge and Coal Fire in Ellicott City for pizza and Sushi King in Columbia for sushi, especially in the private rooms. Great Sage does great vegetarian food, and there are surely others to work up the list.

Five Places On My List To Try:
My favorite part of HowChow is that it is my excuse to try new places. These are joints on my list to try for the first time or to try again so that I could post:
  • Tersiguels in Ellicott City for French
  • Aida Bistro in Columbia for Italian
  • Tian Chinese Cuisine or HanJoonKwan in Ellicott City for Korean Chinese food
  • Cafe de Paris in Columbia for crepes
  • King's Contrivance in Columbia for American/French
  • Burrito Brothers in Columbia for burritos (mostly because I never noticed it in King's Contrivance) [Update:  Closed in early 2010 before I could visit].
Click here for my follow-up about great food in Howard County. If you're looking for more, check out two prior series of posts -- a "tour of Howard County" describing restaurants and markets in specific areas or my guide to what I've learned about Howard County from "best Chinese" and "best takeout" to "best BBQ" and "best burgers." Or check out a listing of ethnic and organic groceries.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Comments About Shrimp Heads, Quality Beef And Several Ways To Serve Chorizo

Thanks again for everyone who voted for HowChow in the Sun's Mobbie's contest. Even more than a vote, I love that people add their two cents in the comments. I often pull news or new restaurants from there, and I periodically highlight some comments because you probably missed the ones on older posts.

Today's I'm posting comments because I hope to get more tomorrow. I'll start a two-day post of my "Best Restaurants" and "Best Food Experiences" in Howard County. Please do jump in.

First, a real question about Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro. It is one of my favorites, so I was struck by an anonymous comment asking whether the Asean Bistro had changed ow

ners or chefs. In a detailed, reasoned comment, she says that the food seemed totally different on a recent trip. Nothing like the quality they had had before. Does anyone know any news about
the Asean Bistro?

Now, all the opinions:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Has That's Amore in Columbia Closed?

That's Amore in Columbia appears to have closed. Wendy emailed me saying that the Columbia Italian restaurant closed the weekend before last, although the Rockville location remains open.

I haven't driven by, so I am couching the news because the Columbia location remains on the Web site. But Wendy has known her stuff in the past!

(Update: See Brendela's comment below, which wryly suggests I'm being too conservative with the question marks and couching the news.)

Korea's Chinese Food in Ellicott City

Korean restaurants serve some of Howard County's best food, and thanks to the Kevin and Ann Eat Anything blog, I have learned that they're not just limited to serving Korean food.

Kevin has written a really interesting post about Jja Jang Myun -- the Chinese cuisine that has developed in Korea and now been export to the United States. He points out that America created General Tso's chicken and the Taco Bell chalupa. They're now available around the world, but they're a hybrid cuisines -- American inventions, not catholically Chinese or Mexican.

In the same way, Chinese food migrated to Korea, where local ingredients, local tastes and local people changed it into the hybrid Jja Jang Myun. For several years, you have been able to buy Chinese-Indian dishes at Mirchi Wok in Columbia. Now, there are at least two Ellicott City restaurants where you can sample the Chinese-Korean cuisine, and Kevin lays out a primer so that you could give it a try:
  • descriptions of the three main dishes jajangmyeon, jjamppong and bokkeumbap and the side dishes that you should expect.
  • options if you want to order larger dishes meant to share -- along with directions on making a dipping sauce from the condiments on your table.
  • links to Wikipedia and other sources about the Chinese-Korean cuisine.
Check out Kevin's post for the details, but you're looking at variations on steamed noodles, soups, fried rice and other items that will be accessible to anyone who has tried Asian food. The two restaurants, Tian Chinese Cuisine and HanJoonKwan, might look Korean to the uninitiated. But they would be considered Chinese if they were in Seoul, and Kevin says the calssification here probably depends on whether you're Korean and what generation you are.

I had seen Tian down from Shin Chon Garden, but I hadn't tried yet. Now, these are definitely on my list. One day, I'd love to try to write about the variations of Chinese food around -- the Indian-Chinese and Korean-Chinese cuisines juxtaposed with the whole "authentic" versus Americanized discussion sparked by Hunan Legend's "secret" menu. For now, this is my take on Chinese restaurants (and it needs updating).

For more about Tian, check out the Yelp! review by Su K., who gave a funny, detailed review and mentions Da Rae Won in Beltsville. Previously, I linked to Kevin and Ann posts about Sushi King and Touche Touchet. Definitely keep them in mind if you read local food blogs. If you want more, check out my post about Asian food in Howard County.

(Same shopping center as Sal's)
9338 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21042

Tian Chinese Cuisine
Lotte Shopping Center
8151 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21043

(Photo taken from Kevin and Ann Eat Anything.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thanks For The Votes!

Thank you to everyone who voted for HowChow in the Sun's Mobbies contest. Thanks especially to Mrs. HowChow and my mother, who both ran public relations campaigns on-line.

HowChow finished in the Top 10 overall based on the unofficial results and #4 in food blogs. I figure that should hold up unless my mother learned recently how to program software to spam the Sun's voting machines. We'll see on Wednesday when the official announcements come out.

Congrats to Tales of Two Cities, a Howard County blog that finished #1 among politics blogs.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mochi Ice Cream At Hanamura

Cute ending for a sushi dinner -- the mochi-wrapped ice cream at Hanamura in Columbia.

Hanamura is the kind of sushi restaurant where you can eat your fill and still afford a few dollars for dessert. They offer several, including a dish of ice cream -- mango, chocolate or vanilla -- wrapped in the sweet rice mochi.

I'm a mochi fan. Imagine adult gummy bears or the texture of marzipan. Lightly sweet, but more-often used for chewy texture than sharp taste. I like it on Yogiberry and buy filled mochi at the Asian supermarkets. Hanamura clearly buys these desserts a well, but they're a fun treat -- extending a night out for just a few minutes more.

If you like mochi-wrapped ice cream, check out my post about red bean desserts. If you want to kick it up a notch, try the tempura ice cream here or at Sushi King.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Link: Jordan's To Become An Italian Restaurant

Elizabeth Large has news: The former Jordan's Steakhouse in downtown Ellicott City will become an Italian restaurant Portalli's -- brought by the owners of Diamondback Tavern and other investors. Check out the Dining at Large blog.

Link: Ellicott City's Forest Diner On A Walk Into The Past

Check out some Howard County food history at the A Walk InTo The Past blog where Kay writes about the Forest Diner on Rte 40 in Ellicott City.

Baltimore Beer Week Update

Baltimore Beer Week kicks off today with more than 300 events spread over the next 10 days.

They have a great Web site that lists all the events. You'll find a bunch of Howard County happenings -- including beer tastings at the Perfect Pour, Victoria Gastro Pub and Frisco Grille. Victoria in Columbia has tastings every day. I'm a fan of their tasting sampler. Judge's Bench in downtown Ellicott City has something called "Judge Your Elf Night."

You can check out my take on Beer in Howard County, which I need to update. But the real action over the next 10 days will be on the Baltimore Beer Guy, Beer in Baltimore and the other local suds blogs. For more about the beer week (and this history of beer in Baltimore), check out the Sun.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Please Vote For "HowChow" In The Mobbies

One last time -- Vote for HowChow in the Sun's "The Mobbies" contest. Voting runs through October 9, and you can vote once a day. You can actually vote once in the "Foodie" category and once in the "Best Overall" at the top of the page. Vote in these last few days! So little time. So much help to HowChow.

Click here to vote for my blog ... early and often

Indian Summer Soda at Bean Hollow Cafe

Catch the flavor of fall in an "Indian summer soda" at the Bean Hollow Cafe in old town Ellicott City.

The Main Street coffee shop serves up a standard fare of coffee and sandwiches. The espresso got two cups up from my friend, who had a double shot to get himself going. The strong, but only slightly bitter taste that he wants in an espresso.

I went with the Indian summer soda -- apple cider, soda water, vanilla and cinnamon. Those flavors all came together for a refreshing drink, nicely mixing the cider with the thick flavor of vanilla and the light bubble of soda water. It's a nice treat if you take a window-shopping walk along Main Street.

Bean Hollow Cafe
8059 Main St
Ellicott City, MD 21043-4861
(410) 465-0233

NEAR: This is on Main Street in downtown Ellicott City. It's in the lower section between the river and the light at Old Columbia Pike.

Second Sunday in Downtown Ellicott City

I'm going to try to go to downtown Ellicott City this Sunday for the next "Second Sunday" event of the year.

(Update: I heard at October's event that they're extending to November and maybe December.)

Some downtown businesses -- lead apparently by the Little French Market, The Good Life Market and Mon Amie boutique -- have been hosting an outdoor event on the second Sunday of each month. It's produce, bread, and other food items in the courtyard of the Little French Market at 3744 Old Columbia Pike.

The last of the season will be this Sunday, apparently from 10-3. I'm not 100% sure of everything because the only official Web site I can find doesn't have the dates. Jessie X and Wordbones wrote about "Second Sundays" during the summer. Naomi sent me an email that she got about the September market. (Update: Naomi then sent me the email about October:)
The October Second Sunday Market is this weekend! As you may know, we been growing with each and every Market and are excited to be introducing even more local farmers and vendors and will have repeat appearances from Rare Opportunity Farm with delicious baked goods and pastries; Springfield Farms with organic meats and eggs; additional specialty grain and bread vendors; another special appearance from Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant and more prepared food tastings from several other of Historic Ellicott City's fine restaurants and cafes - there is something for everyone!
Second Sunday Market is a monthly specialty Market on the courtyards of The Good Life Market Home, The Good Life Market Cottage, Mon Amie Boutique and the Little French Market on Tonge Row off Main Street in Historic Ellicott City. Tonge Row courtyards are located off of the large public parking lot, behind the old Post Office off Main Street.
Bring your family and friends!

When: Sunday, October 11, 2009
Time: 10am - 3pm
Where: On the Courtyards of The Good Life Market Home, The Good Life Market
Cottage, Mon Amie Boutique & the Little French Market

Questions?: Contact: The Good Life Market 410-480-4324
Little French Market 410-465-5995

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

At The Harris Teeter Grand Opening

It's shocking to see the crowds that will show up for cheese cubes and free shrimp.

The Harris Teeter in Maple Lawn opened today, and the parking lot was so packed in the early evening that we left the car on the service road and walked through construction.

Frankly, it looks like the Harris Teeter in Kings Contrivance. I don't know why I expected something different in Fulton. No Starbucks in the front, but otherwise, it looked the same to me. The store was chaotic because people were alternatively strolling, shopping, and standing in line. One woman leapt in front of us to grab free chocolates at the entrance. Fun to see my neighbors' baby, but I'll be happier to go back when it's quiet and I can really browse.

What happens now to the Bloom?

Old Bay Chocolates at Sweet Cascades

They're not joking around. The chocolate crabs at Sweet Cascades in Ellicott City really taste like Old Bay seasoning.

Imagine the sweet and savory sensation of chocolate-covered pretzels. Then the sharper pinch of pepper and paprika that you know well from a table of hard-shelled crabs.

Mrs. HowChow here. Actually, the chocolate crabs are not as good as Mr. HowChow is describing. Does anyone else think "chocolate crabs" just sounds disturbing in and of itself??

When I read about these on Tales of Two Cities, I assumed that the "Old Bay chocolate" was a gimmick -- that the Old Bay would either be barely noticeable or overpowering. But this was an inspired pairing done by someone with a talented hand. The first flavor was chocolate. Really smooth chocolate even in the dark chocolate crabs. Then, the Old Bay kicks in and builds while the chocolates melts on your tongue. Mrs. HowChow again. These remind me of Baltimore french fries. I couldn't finish one. He's from Northern Virginia. All I could think was fries with Old Bay. That's not a dessert in my book. We saved a little Three Philosophers beer to drink with our dessert, and the "crabs and beer" flavor really worked.

Along with the crabs, we bought some dark chocolate truffles and a piece of chocolate with bacon, which was also a novelty that turned out delicious enough to buy again. Loved the bacon. Weird, but strangely good. Loved the truffle. Gotta run....he's coming back! Sweet Cascades makes all its chocolates in the Main Street store, and they're the best that I have had recently. (And I say that after tasting several other chocolates and choosing not to blog about them.)

Consider a cooking workshop at Sweet Cascades. They'll schedule with you for groups from four to 12. You pay $25 per person, and Sweet Cascades teaches you to make chocolates and serves up chocolate to drink and eat. You can even bring your own wine.

If you want more looney ideas for Old Bay, check out the The Ice Dreamery blog's recipe for Old Bay ice cream. They make "ice cream sandwiches" with crab cakes. That's a step too far for me, but I might try to convince Mrs. HowChow to make Old Bay ice cream.

Sweet Cascades
8167 Main Street
Ellicott City, MD 21043
(410) 750-8422

NEAR: This is on Main Street in Ellicott City. It's in the lower section between the river and the light at Old Columbia Pike.

Sweet Cascades on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rambutan at The H Mart

The H Mart has rambutan -- the spiny Asian fruit that make for terrific conversation, even if they're just a few degrees from exotic grapes.

Rambutan are sort of like hairy, brightly-painted lychees. A moist firm fruit inside a stiff red shell covered with bristles. They're not sharp. They're actually fun to

The fruit come from the tropics, and they're fragile and expensive to ship, which means that they're available most of the time but really plentiful and fresh in high season. Still $7 a pound, but worth the money when the H Mart workers are pouring entire flats into the display on a weekday morning. The rambutan were delicious at the end of last week. Pick fruit that are relatively heavy and don't have any soft spots. I served them for dessert with a few pieces of chocolate from Sweet Cascades.

If you go the H Mart, check out my post about my favorite place for food or all the H Mart posts. Also check out the other joints in that shopping center -- like the Korean restaurant in Hanoori, the Mangoberry for yogurt, the Golden Krust for takeout Jamaican, and the Hanoori Home Plaza for bento boxes.

H Mart
800 N. Rolling Road
Catonsville, MD 21228

NEAR: Rte 40 just west of I-695. If you are driving east on Rte 40 from HoCo, you'll see a Starbucks and a FedEx at the end of the shopping center. Turn right immediately after the Starbucks. If you miss it, just turn right at the next intersection.

Rambutan on Foodista