Most of my favorite food doesn't reduce to my list of the best restaurants in Howard County -- even after I supplemented with a second list of food finds at special groceries.
So, like in 2009, I'm taking Elizabeth Large's inspiration for a list of "great experiences" to create a separate list of ways that you can enjoy great food in Howard County. I arbitrary replaced half the items from the 2009 list. 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.
- Try ground lamb at one of the local halal butchers like Nazar Market. They'll grind it for you, and you can make delicious kabobs. Start with Steven Raichlen's recipe.
- Dim sum at Red Pearl or Asian Court. Both joints do weekday dim sum from a menu, but take a group for weekend brunch when you can pick from a card and sample both the standards like shumai or steamed buns along with exotic items like chicken feet and savory cakes.
- 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.
- Sample craft beers and spicy burritos at Frisco Grill in Columbia. If I drank more, I would spend more time at the bar sampling the best beers and eating the Southwest cuisine. Frisco is moving soon to a new place and changing its name to Frisco Tap Room.
- Grill your own meats at Shin Chon Garden in Ellicott City. Korean restaurants serve some of Howard County's best food, and 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.
- Eat ribs on the side of U.S. 1. If Lonely Planet wrote about Howard County, there would be European tourists eating our street food on summer weekends along Savage and Jessup -- like the flanken ribs being sold this summer in Savage.
- 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.
- Treat yourself to a sweet at Touche Touchet bakery in Columbia. Easy to reach from Rte 29. Start small with a cupcake. Build up to a tart or a cake.
- Buy authentic Mexican ingredients at Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia. Start with shepherd's tacos from Steve Raichlen's cookbook or anything from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday. Lily's has all the spices, the canned peppers, even fresh cactus. And Lily's makes fresh corn tortillas.
- 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.
- Fried chicken and frozen yogurt on a summer night (or any season) at Rainpia and Tutti Fruitti in Ellicott City. Korean fried chicken is a spicy treat, and Tutti Frutti seems the leader among all the tart yogurt spots on Rte 40.
- 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.
- 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 2010.
- 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.
- Shop for kitchenware in the Hanoori Home Mart. The Asian kitchen store near the H Mart sells decorate items like tea cups and chop sticks, along with knives, steamers, bento boxes, and rolling pins that you won't see a Williams Sonoma. You can buy all the supplies that you'd need for Andrea Nguyen's Asian Dumplings recipes.
- 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.)
What would you add?
This week, I'm posting a series of "best of" posts starting with best restaurants and best food experiences. Then some posts about finds at stores -- the best grab and go items and the best ingredients for cooks. You can click for all the "best of posts" going back.