Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mystery Store: Mexican Spices To Japanese Noodles

Okay, the mystery was solved within a few comments yesterday.

But this store is really worth your visit . . . and a few lead up posts.

H Mart is my favorite place for food, but the mystery store has a broader reach -- an aisle for Mexican, an aisle for Indian, a half aisle for Jamaican/West African.  And then there are the Asian foods and the fish.

It's like five ethnic markets under one roof.  So comprehensive that there are separate spice sections with brands from India, Mexico and the United States.

The full celebration of Super Grand in Laurel later this week.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mystery: Where Is The Store That You Can Get . . .

HowChow mystery!  Where can you go to buy Jamaican hot sauce . . . and six kinds of Asian cabbages?

I'm infatuated with the around-the-world store.  Where in the world is it? Guesses?

Enough With The Campaign, I'll Sell My Vote

All that I'm saying is that democracy hasn't gotten me a Whole Foods.

You can go to some HoCo political blogs for campaign coverage, but you come to HowChow for actual votes.  I'm giving mine away . . . for a price.  Straight up vote-buying.  If politicians fill the right holes in the county's food options, I'll vote for anyone.

5.  My vote for board of education.

Let's start small.  I want cool sodas.  Get nutritional food for the kiddies, but I saw a Boylans soda fountain at Taylor Gourmet on H Street in DC.  Great flavors.  "Real" sugar.  Get some local restaurant to install a Boylans soda fountain, and I'll help you join the board -- and then sue yourself!

4. My vote for county council.

We need bahn mi, the Vietnamese sandwiches so common in Arlington or Rockville.  This is doable on the local level.  Buy the bread at Bon Fresco.  Slice some meats, pickle some vegetables.  You could be a county leader and a sandwich empresario.

3. My vote for state senate.

Jamba Juice.  The official drink of Mrs. HowChow's LA years.  The smoothies can be breakfast, lunch or snack.  Some of the gambling money could buy the franchise -- if you haven't used it all propping up horse racing.

2. My vote for county executive.

Lebanese Taverna.  We'd love even the Rockville counter-service version.  Mr. State-Wide Ambition could bring us some international flavor -- kabobs, breads, and spreads to complement Maiwand Kabob and that orange blossom lemonade.

1. My vote for governor.

Whole Foods.  It's the big job, so we want the big store.  Two words: Executive order.  Wegmans may fill the spot in 2012, but a governor could shoehorn a gourmet store into Ellicott City.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Link: The World Of Eats Comes To Howard County

New food blog with a Howard County author -- World of Eats written by Eric.  Eric now lives in Howard County, and his local writing has started strong with stops at the R&R Taqueria and Pioneer Pit Beef.

Trolling: A Recap of Baltimore Beer Week

Baltimore Beer Week ran for 10 days earlier this month, and it was an impressive mix of events that ran from the city out through Howard County.

I was shocked to see how many bars, how many breweries, and how many other folks got together to plan events that seemed to build on each other.  The organizers rallied a swath of people, and they created a lot of fun along the way.

If you want a report from 10 days of beer, I'm really not your guy.  But Brandon filled the gap with visits to many of the Howard County beer spots -- both the established joints like Judge's Bench and Victoria Gastro Pub and the new spots like Kloby's Smokehouse and T-Bonz.

Judge’s Bench in Ellicott City was host to eight BBW events. I stopped by two nights.  First, I made my way there for Heavy Seas Firkin Friday with Loose Cannon dry-hopped with local hops from Still Point Farms (Mt. Airy, MD), poured directly from an oak cask and six taps of their seasonal offerings including 2008 Below Decks Barley Wine and the bourbon-barrel-aged Great’r Pumpkin.  The next Tuesday, we stopped in for the "Judge your Java" event. They served Troegs Javahead Stout three ways -- on draft, a year-old aged keg, and in a firkin with vanilla beans. It was a great way to taste a beer in three different ways side by side.
Poutine & the beer flight
Victoria’s on Monday was Oktoberfests and Pumpkin Beers. They had a great selection of American as well as imported Oktoberfests and Fest biers. Favorites of our Oktoberfest flight were Harpoon’s Oktoberfest, Victory’s Festbier and Weihenstephaner Festbier. The pumpkin beers on tap ranged from subtle, Smuttynose, Saranac and Wolaver’s Organic Pumpkin beers, to strong spice and flavor with Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin, Southern Tier’s Pumking, Schafley’s and The Heavy Seas Great Pumpkin and Great’r Pumpkin. All the beers were good and I had to see how they matched with the poutine.
Frisco Grille and Cantina had a BCS of their own (Beer Championship Series) that actually made sense, not like the college football version. Each night a brewery put up a 1/6th barrel of beer against another brewery and whosever keg kicked first moved on in the bracket. (1/6 barrel contains 5.16 gallons. There are roughly 53 servings in one 1/6 barrel, based on regular 12-oz. servings.)  Breweries that were represented were Dogfish Head, Oskar Blues, Southampton, Bear Republic, Harpoon, Troegs, Flying Dog and Heavy Seas. For the winner ,you need to go by and check the bracket.
T-Bonz and Flying Dog’s "Firkins and Fried Chicken" was among the better events in Howard County, offering fried chicken and chicken & waffles sandwiches along with firkins of Flying Dog beer. Kloby’s Smokehouse had four events of its own and is making a name for itself in the beer community hosting such breweries as Oskar Blues, Evolution and Flying Dog.
With Frisco Grille in construction at its new location and Kloby’s and T-Bonz both with plans of expanding, Howard County’s beer/pub scene is really good and is only going to better.
Trolling on Tuesday is my attempt at a series where readers would share three things with other HowChow readers -- favorite restaurant dishes, food to buy, food experiences, etc.  Click here for all the Trolling posts.  Click here for the explanation and the rules.  Anyone can submit.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Link: China Chefs Closed in Columbia

China Chefs in Columbia has closed -- shut down after 20 years of Chinese food memories, reports Trevor on the new HoCo Politico blog.  China Chefs was Trevor's #6 place to eat back when he was a regular guest blogger on Hoco Rising.

Pakistani Sodas To Add To Your Collection

If you were amused by my April post about foreign sodas, then check out Columbia Halal Meat for another frontier -- Pakistani sodas.

These are mass-produced sodas, the Cokes and Pepsis of foreign countries shipped here to tickle some homesick taste buds or to provide an exotic option if you're new to the brands.

Columbia Halal Meat sells Apple Sidra, Bubble Up, Pakola Orange, and others in 1.5 liter bottles.  They join the Mexican, Indian, Turkish and Japanese sodas that I posted about in April.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bombay Peacock Grill Seems To Have Closed

The Bombay Peacock Grill appears to have closed.

The Columbia Indian restaurant was one of our early dates, but I have to admit that House of India and Mango Grove had pulled us away when we wanted that cuisine.  I got an anonymous comment two weeks ago, and I just forgot to follow up among my emails.

The restaurant's phone rings to an anonymous voice mail, and I see that the restaurant's Web site now offers catering.  It's always sad when people lose their business or their jobs, so I hope that there is some silver lining to the story.

Kloby's Is Expanding (& More Happy Hour News)

Kloby's Smokehouse is expanding -- and getting all complex on us.

The BBQ joint on Johns Hopkins Road started as a takeout and has expanded to have seating and waiters at night.

Now, Kloby's plans to take over the space next door -- ice cream parlor in the front, a bar in the middle, and space in the back that could be used as a stage.  (Separate entrances for ice cream and the main restaurant/bar.)  People had talked about the expansion since August, but I heard the plans first-hand at yesterday's happy hour.

The ice cream parlor will have its own door in the front.  The new space will have a new main entrance and continue Kloby's expansion into a spot for craft beer as well as barbecue.  I let the Baltimore Beer Guy order for me at the happy hour, and I loved the new Flying Dog Single Hop Simcoe Imperial IPA.  Hoppy like the Raging Bitch that I drank all summer, but maybe one level smoother and less bitter.

Somewhere between the beer and the wings, I forgot to ask about when the expansion will happen.  Go try Kloby's wings and you'll understand.  Before the happy hour got started, David of Hoco360 and I got a backstage tour and saw the huge smoker that makes Kloby's so different.  Real firewood burning, and the end result where Kloby's had put that smoky flavor into trays of ribs, chicken and wings.

They serve those wings in a dozen ways.  I went with "dirty and old" -- which meant they were fried twice and seasoned with Old Bay.  Those are absolutely my favorite wings around -- big meaty wings with real flavor, not just a fried coating and hot sauce.  I shared those around so that I could justify having a second round of three "slider" sandwiches -- a chicken, a pork barbecue, and a beef brisket.  Delicious, and I'm ready to go back for the ribs.

Thanks to everyone who came for the happy hour.  That was great fun, and I appreciate everyone who came to talk.  I'm always glad that HowChow is entertaining and useful.  I hope everyone had fun -- and good luck to the Patch folks who are kicking off their respective sites for Ellicott City, Columbia and Savage-Guilford.  (We explained there is no such place as Savage-Guilford, but they have bosses at corporate who know this area better than all of us.)  HowChow is just a hobby, but these folks are journalists so they have to figure out new media as its happening -- and do it right at the same time.

Click here for other reports on the happy hour from the EC PatchColumbia PatchHecker, 53 Beers, Hoco Rising, and Jessie X.  And check out the new blogging at Hoco Politico.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Any Suggestions For A Thanksgiving Restaurant?

Joe and Jen are celebrating their first Thanksgiving in the area, and they're looking for somewhere to eat on the holiday -- simple place, no need for turkey because Jen is allergic.

My first thought was Victoria Gastropub in Columbia.  They're serving a special Thanksgiving menu -- limited items, but offering turkey, duck, and pasta entrees for $12-20 and all kinds of traditional sides.  Anyone have any holiday experiences?

(Update: Victoria has posted its Thanksgiving menu, as noted by Randy Marriner's tweet.)

Link: No Open Windows In Restaurants

Maryland apparently forbids restaurants from having open windows, according to an article in TBD cited by the Tales of Two Cities blog.

The article concentrates on Bethesda where many restaurants have large windows that they open onto the street in good weather -- without the screens required by state law.  Wordbones points out that state law applies here too.  He says the new Stanford Grill in Columbia will need to adapt, but couldn't think of any other Howard County restaurants that have adopted the city-scape design of large, removable windows.  Neither can I.

Food Finds: Best Cooking Ingredients 2010

When you want to make great food at home, Howard County offers you way more than the standard supermarkets.  You have no Whole Foods, but there are ethnic and organic markets where you cobble together some good cooking.

I wrote a series of 2009 posts about shopping, including Asian supermarkets, ethnic markets and organic stores, and I wrote a week-long review of Steven Raichlen's grilling cookbook with explanations about where to buy his international ingredients.  Today's list is just 10 simple things:
  • Orange blossom water at one of the Middle Eastern groceries.  Buy a small bottle and make a flavored lemonade.
  • Smoked salmon at the Town Grill in Lisbon.  It's a great stop on the way to or from Larriland Farms.  Grab the house-smoked salmon and use it for pasta or other recipes.
  • Kabob skewers at Pars Market in Columbia.  Pars sells the flat skewers that work perfectly with ground-meat kabobs.  Perfect for lamb kabobs, especially now that you can buy ground lamb either at Pars or at the Nazar Market just up Snowden River Parkway.
  • Ground chuck at Laurel Meat Market.  Ideal for hamburgers, the ground chuck would also work wonderfully for meat balls or pasta sauces.  This is real meat, ground in the shop.  The only kind that I want to eat these days.
  • The scallops at Today's Catch in Columbia.  The fish market sells the scallops that haven't been injected with saline.  They're not cheap, but they infalliably sweet and need nothing more than a little butter to saute.
  • Cheese at Roots  in Clarksville and Mom's in Jessup.  When I wrote about cheese, Roots was the best selection.  Now, Mom's has expanded and added more cheese.
  • Fish and crabs at Frank's Seafood in Jessup or fish at H Mart in Catonsville.  Pick your own.  Have them cleaned and cut.  Get out of the salmon filet rut.
  • Fresh tortillas at Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia. They make them there, and you can check the shelves while you're there.  Peruvian yellow peppers.  Cactus for tacos.  A full butcher.
  • The most-local fruits and vegetables.  Pick your own at Larriland Farm in Woodbine, especially my favorite peaches and apples.  Or shop the stand at the Gorman Produce Farm in Laurel.
  • One stop trip around the world at the Super Grand in Laurel.  It's Korean-run like Lotte or the H Mart, but it is aimed at broader with entire aisles of Mexican, Indian, Jamaican, African, and Asian food.

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.  

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."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Remember: HowChow Happy Hour Tomorrow

The HocoRising Blog and I are hosting a happy hour at Kloby's tomorrow.  Details are at the official invitation.  It's open to anyone.  We'd like for you to sign up for a "ticket" on the official invitation because it lets us know who to expect.  But feel free to just stop by.

Food Finds: Best Grab And Go Items 2010

Good food can be absolutely simple.  So simple that you just grab it and go.  No cooking.  No recipes.  These are your excuses to go try some new places -- candy in Elkridge, coffee in Fulton, crab cakes in Highland.  You can't go wrong picking up any of these items, and they're the easiest way to introduce yourself to new places.
  • Pistachio nougat at Caezar's in Elkridge or Caspian Market in Ellicott City.  Nothing has been a better find that the Fard brand nougat that mixes rose water and pistachio for a perfect dessert.  Be brand loyal.
  • The house roasted coffees at Sidamo Coffee & Tea in Fulton.  Sidamo's coffee are full of flavor, but never bitter.  I rotate between the Ethiopian varieties, buying whole beans and grinding them at home.
  • Michelle's Granola at any of the organic markets.  This Baltimore brand has become Mrs. HowChow's breakfast with some Greek yogurt and honey.
  • Alfajores cookies at Chick'N Pollo in Columbia.  The Peruvian cookies are filled with caramel, and they're a great dessert if you stop for some roasted chicken.
  • Empanadas at El Patio Market in Jessup.  Argentinian savory pastries.  Served hot, they're a great snack or lunch.  Buy a bag-ful, and you could serve them as appetizers or along with drinks.
  • DeDe Basil Seed Soda at the Columbia Halal Meat in Elkridge.  It's the craziest soft drink that I have ever seen, but it actually tastes tame.  Honey, a slightly odd texture like tapioca.
  • House Wine at i.m. Wine in Fulton.  The Washington State wine has become a Mrs. HowChow favorite.  (Although I have to admit they were talking about discontinuing the brand on my last visit.)
  • Popped rice bowls at the H Mart in Catonsville.  H Mart is a priceless place for all kinds of food, but the popped rice bowls are a simple way to grab something unique and easy.
  • Crab cakes at Boarman's Market in Highland.  Okay.  So this takes a few minutes of cooking, but you literally just toss the cakes into your broiler.  While you're there, check out the sausages.
  • Opera cake -- or really any pastry or bread -- at Bonaparte Bakery in Savage.  These are formal pastries, the kind that you could serve at the fanciest dinner party or grab for a decadent, romantic treat.

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.  

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."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Food Experiences: Best of Howard County 2010

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 MarketThey'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.  

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."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Restaurants: Best of Howard County 2010

Best restaurants in Columbia or Ellicott City? The spirit of HowChow is that the great fun is finding your own favorites, but my annual post aims to offer starting points. This is my favorites right now, my "Best of Howard County 2010." 

This is an update from my July 2008 post and my October 2009 post about the best restaurants. 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. Later this week, I'll follow up with a list of great food experiences and great shopping finds 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, R&R Taqueria is a takeout joint, but you can't beat lunch at the counter overlooking the gas pumps.  I arbitrarily forced myself not to repeat anything from my 2009 list.
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.  Plus, it omits places like Tersiguel's and Aida Bistro that I haven't tried recently enough to post about.
Others that make the list: Facci in Laurel for pizza and the house-made pasta, Aida Bistro in Columbia for superb Italian food and wine, Victoria Gastropub in Columbia especially for burgers,  Bethany Seafood Restaurant in Ellicott City for Korean, and Sushi King in Columbia for sushi, especially in the private rooms.

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
  • Second Chance Saloon in Columbia for Old Bay wings
  • Pure Wine Cafe in Ellicott City for small plates
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.  

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."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chatter: People Talking About Victoria & Facci

Chatter at Facci goes back and forth.  Talk that they may expand into the space next door.  Might be cancelled.  Definitely postponed.  Anyone know?

At the same time, talk on  Hoco Rising at Victoria Gastropub is that they may expand their liquor license so that they could sell growlers and six-packs for people to carry away.

(Update: Victoria folks confirm on Twitter.  Their license was approved last week, and they're planning new beer possibilities in 2011.)

Squash And The Last Vegetables At Gorman Farm

Good morning!  Take advantage of the great weather by making a run to Gorman Produce Farm in Laurel.

You get all the final vegetables -- tomatoes, lettuces, cilantro and basil.  You get to pick a pumpkin.  And you can check out the wildest selection of squash that I have ever seen.  Cushaws, hubbards, sweet bananas . . .  The Gorman people were pitching the idea that the squash can be decoration now and then eaten later in the fall.

Much of the produce has come from other farms, but it looks great.  I picked up green tomatoes because, for some strange reason, all my tomatoes ripened this year.  I'll fry those up early this week and serve them with a soup.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Reminder: HowChow Happy Hour Next Thursday

Just a reminder that HowChow and the HoCo Rising blog are co-hosting a happy hour next week with the the HocoBlogs Web site.  Happy hour will start around 5:30 on Thursday, October 21 at Kloby's Smokehouse just off Rte 29.

For a full description, check out the prior post about the happy hour.  Or click for the official invitation Please sign up if you think you will attend, but the "tickets" aren't required.  Feel free to drop in because we're just going to sit in the back at Kloby's.

HowChow/HoCo Rising Happy Hour w/HocoBlogs
Thursday, October 21, 2010 -- 5:30 to about 8 pm
Kloby's Smokehouse
7500 Montpelier Road
Laurel, MD 20723

NEAR: On Johns Hopkin Road just west of Rte 29. This is really the border of Columbia and Fulton.  It's not Laurel.  Kloby's is in a shopping center with a Subway, a liquor store and La Palapa Too just east of the JHU Applied Physics Lab.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lovebirds Pies at Gorman Produce Farm

You can buy sweets to go with the healthy eats at Gorman Produce Farm in Laurel.

The farm just south of King's Contrivance has been selling their own produce all summer along with fruit from local orchards.  Now, they're also selling pies from Lovebirds Cookies and Cakes, according to RDAdoc who discovered the pies last week.

The pies come in a variety of flavors and sizes.  RDAdoc grabbed two mini-pies -- a pumpkin for her family and a maple apple for us.  They're good.  The maple flavor came through in the apple pie.  It was a crust that tasted homemade, not as refined as the pastries at Touche Touchet but more like a pie from your good friend the good baker.  

RDAdoc agreed: "The pumpkin pie had a delicious flaky crust and tasted like it was made with only fresh ingredients.  It could have used a touch of cinnamon or nutmeg but overall it was quite tasty and I would recommend it to others."

But she is RDAdoc because she is a nutrition doc.  So she also emailed with Lovebirds Cookies and Cakes and got the full story -- including ingredients -- from the owner Lydia, who said that the next batch of pies will have new labels that list ingredients.  Lydia also confirmed that Lovebirds aims for the flavors that we had found:
We do a whole array of stuff and specialize in "homemade" utilizing the best of ingredients. For example the Maple Apple contains NO white sugar, it is simply sweetened with 100% Maple Syrup. Plus we use a cortland apple (that is naturally sweeter) that are grown locally.
Lovebirds is selling their sweets through David's Natural Market in Columbia, maybe the other organic markets like Roots and Mom's Organic Markets.  Keep an eye on the shelves.

Gorman Farm is operating under fall hours -- open Thursday to Sunday, according to RDAdoc.  Click here for all the posts about Gorman Farm.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Patch, A New Place To Check Out Local Food

AOL is popping out Patch Web sites for areas around here, including Ellicott City, Columbia, Elkridge and Laurel.

Patch sites are "hyper-local" Web sites with listings and news.  They also include restaurant reviews, which read -- at least in the Ellicott City Patch that has already gone live -- like blog posts.  In that first Patch, Soo Young Lee is writing up a storm, most recently writing up Shin Chon Garden (recommending the cod fish tang) and explaining many of the Korean-French pastries at Boulangerie.

Click here for a full list of Lee's restaurant reviews.  Watch for the Columbia and other sites to open soon.

Sidamo Coffee & Tea in Fulton

The coffee at Sidamo Coffee & Tea has become so key to my mornings that the place needs a post of its own.

The Fulton coffee shop opened last year in Maple Lawn, and it serves breakfast, lunch and all the coffee drinks that you would expect.  Ironically, I bought beans there as part of a survey that initially left me convinced that all Howard County coffee shops were created equal.  But Sidamo's coffee was more equal.  I kept going back.  I kept loving the coffee.  By now, Sidamo has been my source for whole beans for almost a year.

Sidamo is the second location for owners who started out on the H Street NE corridor near Capitol Hill.  It's a cheery, sunlit space that kicks off

If anything, I wish Sidamo did more to push its sandwiches.  The chalkboard lists just the generic names, and it took a Washington Post review to talk up the fact that they're imaginative sandwiches made with homemade ingredients like hummus, lentils, etc.  (Update: The sandwiches are delicious -- worth a visit if you need lunch.)

But the coffee has become my real addiction.  I have been addicted to the caffeine since a relapse in 1998, but Sidamo has me addicted to coffee that tastes delicious.  They roast the beans on site in the red metal roaster that sits at the front of the store.  They're heavy on Ethiopian varieties, and I cycle between Mandheling, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe.  They're all full of earthy coffee flavor -- but smooth rather than bitter.

One fun item that I actually haven't seen yet: Sidamo hosts a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony every Sunday at 2 pm.  It's a little theater.  A free lesson about Ethiopian culture.  The WPost described the version at the DC location.

If you want crazy-good coffee, check out Pele Plantation coffee from Hawaii.  These are the people who taught me that coffee doesn't have to be Starbucks-bitter.  Their coffee is delicious and might make a fun gift for the coffee nut in your life.

Sidamo Coffee & Tea
8180 Maple Lawn Boulevard
Fulton, MD 20759

NEAR: Sidamo is in sight of Rte 216 in the Maple Lawn development.  You need to drive around the back of Looney's to park and walk into Sidamo.

Sidamo Coffee & Tea on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Come Chew The Fat -- Or At Least Some Bones

The HocoBlogs Web site does a great job of bringing together writers from Howard County, and its driving force Jessie X strives for more -- namely face-to-face time for people who write and read local blogs.

HowChow and the HoCo Rising blog are co-hosting a happy hour on Thursday, October 21 at Kloby's Smokehouse just off Rte 29 on Johns Hopkins Road.

The bloggers will settle in for some beer, wings and maybe some barbecue pork.  Or maybe ribs.  You're on your own for your tab, but you can share a table and talk local food or local politics.  The HoCo Rising can talk about both.  I'll stick to the food -- and get Trevor to expound on the liberal politics of Sam Zell and Robert McCormick.  We're inviting anyone whose work appears on HocoBlogs and anyone who reads us.  Come share your tips, your opinions, your suggestions for the future.

Click for the official invitation

HowChow/HoCo Rising Happy Hour w/HocoBlogs
Thursday, October 21, 2010 -- 5:30 to about 8 pm
Kloby's Smokehouse
7500 Montpelier Road
Laurel, MD 20723

NEAR: On Johns Hopkin Road just west of Rte 29. This is really the border of Columbia and Fulton.  It's not Laurel.  Kloby's is in a shopping center with a Subway, a liquor store and La Palapa Too just east of the JHU Applied Physics Lab.

Arties Appears To Have Closed In Clarksville

Artie's ice cream shop on Rte 108 in Clarksville appears to have closed.

Artie's and Breakfast, Burgers and More operated from a white building just south of Rte 32, and it appears to have closed at the end of the summer.  Alicyn posted a comment on the HowChow Facebook page, and Marcia emailed me with confirmation yesterday:

FYI - was driving down Rt. 108 thru Clarksville today and it looks like Artie's ice cream is gone. I thought it looked a little empty a week or so ago but thought maybe they'd just closed for the winter - today I saw a "For Lease" sign out front.
I have to say when I was there early this summer it looked like they weren't putting their best effort into the business. Almost looked as if they found some ice cream and were just using it up.
(Update: Arties generally closes for the winter.  The difference is Marcia's observation of a "For Lease" sign on the building.  If you know anything, please email me or post a comment below.)

Mantwo at Maiwand Kabob

I'm changing my mind and pushing mantwo to the top of the list at one of Howard County's best restaurants -- Maiwand Kabob.

The Columbia restaurant serves Afghan food with counter service and a casual feel.  The kabobs make for good eating, but Maiwand Kabob qualifies as one of the best places around because its kitchen turns out appetizers that are exotic using ingredients accessible to almost anyone.

Pastas, dumpling wrappers, scallions, pumpkin, a little ground meat.  Everyday ingredients go in, and they come out with unique, fresh flavors.

On our most-recent visit, the mantwo edged out the old champion aushak as my favorite plate.  We love the appetizers so much that we tend to order 2-3 appetizers and a single kabob main dish.  You still get grilled meat and Maiwand Kabob's delicious bread, and the $4 appetizers become "small plates" that you'd happily pay double to eat if they were served among white tablecloths and a waitstaff.

Mantwo are basically meat-filled dumplings, but there is nothing basic about the tender wrappers and the yogurt sauce spiked with mint and topped with earthly lentils.  The flavors pop in a way that made it my favorite -- even against the pumpkin and the scallion-filled aushak.  Don't get me wrong: I'd order all three tonight.  But I dug into the mantwo with such enthusiasm that I had make sure that I didn't outstrip my wife and gobble the entire plate for myself.  One of the best dishes at one of the best restaurants.  Definitely an item that you should go out and sample.

Maiwand Kabob isn't fast food.  Orders regularly take 15-20 minutes and 30 on a rough night because they're cooking your kabobs and bread to order.  Go with a plan to wait.  And I recommend that you ask to substitute the salad for a side vegetable.  The salad is fine, but the baked pumpkin at Maiwand Kabob is outstanding.

If you're looking for Afghan but live south of Rte 32, consider Mimi's Kabob in Clarksville.  Another casual place with counter service and a menu similar to Maiwand Kabob's.