Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Comments on Azul 17, Frisco Tap Room, And A Host Of Other Places That Got People Excited

Comments are a great part of HowChow because people report news and provided detailed reports or sugestions about what you might want to try.

Chicken Stirfry w/ Cumin at Red Pearl
Jade's Mama suggests the E2 Sliced Lamb Stirfry at Red Pearl in Columbia -- and reported that they'll soon add authentic Cantonese and Mandarin dishes to the Sichuan menu. Michelle, Laura, Jagsters and others have given their early comments about the new Frisco Tap Room in Columbia, Bon Appetit Cafe in Ellicott City, and El Hidalgo in Elkridge.

But many great comments fall on old posts. For example, Bboyneko wrote a long review of dinner at Azul 17 in Columbia -- an ambitious restaurant where I had some mixed experiences. Bboyneko says the prices are fair for unusual goods like the bar drinks:
For example, the Mojito is made with Mexican ingredients for a very unique take on the classic drink. Then there are other surprises like using very hard to find Colombian juices for their drinks. (read, colOmbian, NOT ColUmbian.) Ever had Maracuya, Lulo or Guanabana juice? Well those use it in their Margaritas with very good effect. . .
I try to collect comments regularly so you get to hear from more than one mouth.  This is just a blog about food, and everyone has different taste and a different voice.  Here is a sample of the recent thoughts:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Link: El Hidalgo In Howard County Times

El Hidalgo gets a Howard County Times writeup in a review that appears online in Explore Howard.  Donna Ellis ate dinner at the Elkridge restaurant, and she interviewed the owner so we get the interesting fact that he used to own Zapata in Columbia.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Link: Fatburger On Technology & MSG

Fatburger in Elkridge gets a write-up on Technology & MSG, and Alex finds the food doesn't match up to the burgers and fries at Five Guys in Columbia or Laurel.  He also mentions onion rings at "Second Chance" -- which I take to mean Second Chance Saloon, a place that where I still want to try the Old Bay wings.

I have to agree with Alex on Fatburger, although my burger eating has dropped enormously over the past few years.  I haven't had an urge for a second lunch at Fatburger since my January 2009 visit.  I'd try Five Guys, or I'd hold out for Victoria Gastropub or my own burgers made with Laurel Meat Market's ground chuck.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nut Mixes And Blue Soda At Caspian Market

Fresh nuts are an easy way to introduce yourself to the Caspian Market -- a guaranteed find and an excuse to check out the yogurt, grains, meats and other Middle Eastern items at the Ellicott City grocery.

Right in the center of the store, Caspian sells two bulk nut mixes.  You scoop as much as you want into a plastic bag.  The mixes beat out any packaged mixes that I have bought at places like Trader Joe's -- and I love TJ's.

Caspian's nuts are so fresh.  Huge nuts in a mix that has a half doen varieties including pistachios, almonds, pecans, dried fruit and more.  Normally, I avoid walnuts because they can be bitter, but Caspian's mix was sweet from the walnuts to the Turkish delight.  That's right -- one of the mixes comes with a few bursts of candy among the nuts.  It's a delicious snack, but it is classy enough that you could fill a bowl for a party.

If you go to Caspian, you must try the Fard pistachio nougat.  Those candies remain one of my favorite HowChow discoveries.  Also check out the saffron ice cream.

And does anyone recommend Fanta Shokata?  It's a shockingly blue soft drink that Wikipedia says is flavored with elderflower blossoms.  They say its available in Romania, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia.  Cool bottle shape.  Worth buying?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sweet Bakery Moving From Ellicott City

The Sweet bakery will move from its Main Street, Ellicott City location into Baltimore, as noted on its blog and on Dining at Large.

The Sweet baked goods are still for sale at the Six Mile Coffee in Catonsville, and Sweet is working on a way to pick up custom cakes there as well.  (Hat tip to Adam for nudging me to post.)

What New Tex-Mex Restaurant Is For Sale?

A commentor pointed out this Craigslist advertisement that offers to sell a three-month-old Tex-Mex restaurant in Howard County:

Jump on this opportunity to take over this profitable Tex Mex restaurant in up-and-coming neighborhood. All new owned equipment comes with the sale. Plenty of parking in shopping center. Restaurant has been open 3 months and is already showing great income. 
The asking price is $380,000. The revenues are $550,000. The annual profit is $180,000. This business is located in Howard County. 
If you are interested in receiving more information about this business, please contact me and include your phone number. 

Mark asked in the comment if this was El Hidalgo in Elkridge.  I think El Hidalgo has been opened a little more than three months, so this could be another place.  El Hidalgo has gotten nice comments from people on old posts. Basically, people the service is spotty to bad, but the food was delicious.  The Sun's Rob Kaspar talked up a Mexican dish called tlcolyos, and it has been on my list of places to try.

(Update: That first ad appears to have been deleted.  But you could also buy this restaurant site on U.S. 1 in Elkridge -- whose name may be the Buttermilk Hill Tavern.  Anyone know more?)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Still A Great Takeout Dinner At Lotte Market

The Lotte Supermarket has reorganized its takeout section since I first wrote about it in 2008, but it's still a great place for an easy takeout dinner.

Lotte in Ellicott City sells marinated beef and pork -- including my favorite, the sliced ribs called kalbi -- by the pound, and it sells a small but tasty variety of Korean side dishes.  Those range from a mild pickled cucumber salad to some more exotic items like tiny fish and oysters.

Ask to sample.  Generally, a Lotte employee stands at the display and weighs your packages.  They're happy to let you try each dish, and I recommend the juliened white radishes, any of the seaweed salads, and (if you like spicy food) any of the vegetables covered with the red-pepper paste. You can quickly put together a great meal with some kalbi and a few sides.  I cook the kalbi in a cast iron pan, although you could grill them as well.

If you're looking for more, look for the containers of soup to the right of the kalbi and panchan display.  Spicy beef soup is delicious on a cold night.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lighthouse Tofu BBQ in Ellicott City

Korean restaurants continue to pop up on Rte 40 in Ellicott City, and the new Lighthouse Tofu BBQ offers a casual, focused menu perfect for a weeknight or people learning about Korean food.

Lighthouse Tofu is a branch from an established Rockville restaurant just like Honey Pig came from a Virginia original.  It's a deceptive storefront -- a tiny sign at the end of a shopping center with a Jerry's subs.    The door opens into a bright, spacious restaurant that was packed last Saturday night.

The menu -- at least the one that I saw -- was only three pages long.  There are many variations, but you basically choose between savory pancakes as an appetizer and between tofu stews, grilled meats and octopus/noodle dishes for the main courses.

The prime dishes are the stews called soon doo boo.  They're tofu stews.  You pick your level of spiciness and whether you want beef, oysters, others seafood or kimchi as the flavoring.  The stew comes out still simmering from the kitchen, and the waitress cracks an egg that you stir into the stew where it basically disappears among the other ingredients.  The medium soon doo boo with beef and pork made a perfect winter dinner, warm and luscious in way that filled us up but didn't leave us stuffed at all.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Link: Two Mexican Restaurants Are Prospects For Columbia's Long Reach Village Center

Two Mexican restaurants -- including one from the owners of the Mari Luna restaurants in Pikesville -- are prospects for Columbia's Long Reach Village Center, says the Columbia Flier.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Link: Weekly Food Posts On Swim Write Run Blog

The bulgogi panini
For a new voice about food in Howard County, check out the Food v. Food posts on Swim Write Run.  Maureen writes an ongoing series of Friday posts that pits local food against each other -- like the bulgogi panini at Riverside Coffee against the London broil sandwich at Bon Fresco in Columbia.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chen Hibachi Has Opened In Ellicott City

Chen Hibachi has opened in Ellicott City.  From the outside, it looks like a Japanese places with the standard menu of table-side cooking and sushi.

Of course, it's a circle of life.  So Chen's arrival came at the expense of Panda Buffet, which left behind survivors such as Michelle's husband was reported to be broken-hearted and thinking about crab rangoons.

This is the Lotte shopping center.  I walked by too early for Chen Hibachi to be open, but it is next to Shin Chon Garden.  Anyone know more?

Spike Mendelsohn: The HowChow Interview

NOT Mrs. HowChow & Spike Mendelson
Spike Mendelsohn has no idea where you live.

Spike is a Top Chef All-Star.  He is a gracious guy, a tasty chef, and a restaurant owner.  But he is no geographer of Howard County, although he says he will stop for gas station tacos.  More about that later.

Spike did a round of interviews yesterday from his Capitol Hill restaurants to promote the MasterCard MarketPlace Web site with Suntrust -- a deal in which Spike got $5,000 in toys to donate to his favorite charity, my friend and I got to talk to Spike, and MasterCard/Suntrust get link after link to their Web site.  For the blog, we'll call my friend "Brooklyn" because, well, she has a professional reputation to protect.

The tidbit of news is that Spike plans to open a restaurant in Baltimore.  They don't have a site yet, but he has been driving up to look for space.  (What kind of restaurant, asks Mrs. HowChow? Whoops.  I didn't ask.  I'm 15 years out of practice for journalism.)  I pitched hard for him to look in Columbia.  I even had some Google maps of the area around Rte 175, but more about that later as well.

The HowChow interview happened on the top floor of Spike's Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill.  My co-worker Brooklyn and I ate lunch at We The Pizza next door.  Then we had a half hour to kill so I got a bag of fries and a vanilla shake at Good Stuff.  Spike sells high-quality comfort food, and it works.  The place was so packed that we went upstairs for quiet in the business office.  Spike's sister and mother were working at desks while we talked.

The interview will be shocking if you know absolutely nothing about television.  They edit Top Chef.  Like, wow, it's not live.  If that's news to you, then you're going to be stunned by this interview.  Otherwise, I hope you'll be mildly amused because that's success on a blog or reality TV.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kolache Kreations in Ellicott City

New bakeries are popping up along the western run of Rte 40 in Ellicott City, and Treetop Tom turned me onto one hoping to import the kolache from Texas to our area.

I had already been thinking about a trip to the new Bon Appetit when Tom emailed me a photo and a report about Kolache Kreations:
A kolache (also known as kolacky, kolach or kolace and don't even get started on how it's supposed to be pronounced: Ko-LATCH, Ko-LAHTCH-see, Ko-LOCK-eh etc., ad infinitum) is a Czech pastry consisting of a light bread roll/biscuit hybrid either topped with fruit and sweets (apple, cherry, cream cheese etc.) or surrounding a sausage/pepper filling like a miniature pepperoni roll. They are especially popular in Texas, Oklahoma and parts of the midwest where eastern European families settled. 
I had read about them, but until this last week had never tried them. A young couple (Ileana Fernandez and her husband, whose name I didn't catch) from Texas have opened a small bakery specializing in the toothsome treats on Frederick Road at the old consignment shop at Kiwanis-Wallas fields in Ellicott City. They also sell other confections including cinnamon rolls, cakes by the slice, coffee, bubble teas, smoothies and ice cream. 
The kolaches are much denser than an ordinary flaky danish and not as sweet, and still warm from the oven on a Saturday morning they are a little round bite of heaven (they also reheat well in the microwave). If you're a hungry expatriate Texan or just a lover of good baked goods I heartily recommend this place. 
Sunday morning I rushed out to confirm Tom's report.  Kolache Kreations is a small building about a half-block off Rte 40.  In one room, they have set up a casual bakery.  In the other, they're selling a mix of jewelry, candles, toys and other gift items.  They even have a heater on the porch so you could warm yourself with coffee and a treat on a brisk day.

The kolaches are definitely worth a wait on the porch right out of the oven.  They're a light white dough with yeasty bite.  So yeasty that the woman who ordered before me asked if there was beer in the batter.  No beer.  It's all yeast, and that flavor went great with the sausage stuffed in the savory kolache that I ordered.  I'm down on cheese in breakfast sandwiches.  The Kolache kolache overflows with cheese, which would work for people don't want breakfast sandwiches limited to "egg and bacon on a roll."

Next time, I'll go sweet.  Tom wrote that the fruit-topped kolache were delicious and even reheated well. The blueberry ones looked luscious, and they were right out of the oven on Sunday morning.  I only passed because I had already eaten a red bean donut at Bon Appetit.  Kolache Kreations had other breakfast pastries, along with bubble teas and ice cream.  So they'll be cozy in this season, then refreshing when the heat returns.  Please let the heat return one day.

(Update:  See the comments below about the many varieties -- and about special orders.)

Kolache Kreations 
10455 Frederick Road 
Ellicott City, MD 21042 

NEAR: Kolache Kreations is just off Rte 40 west of Bethany Lane.  Frederick Road intersects with Rte 40 twice, so there are actually two traffic lights where you can turn onto Frederick Road.  Kolache sits just north of the western intersection.  It's in sight from the turn lane if you're coming west from Rte 29.

Kolache Kreations on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 13, 2010

Saving The Bees In Howard County

Now is the time to call your county council member and support the bees of Howard County.

County code inspectors recently started to enforce the rules that characterize bees as livestock.  On December 20, the council will consider a zoning change to reduce the setbacks that beekeepers need to follow.

The bees have a support group with all the information about the hearing.  The bees have a Twitter account.  They even have a page where you can email your council member.

Overall, concerns about beekeeping seem overblown.  I have seen even some Howard County supporters say they want hives in single family homes, but they couldn't imagine them in townhouses.  Seriously?  People raise bees in Brooklyn.  Dogs seem way more dangerous than bees.

Narita Sushi Closed In Columbia's Hickory Ridge

Morty put a comment on a prior post that confirmed bad news that someone else had mentioned:
Narita Sushi, the tiny sushi place in Hickory Ridge shopping center, has closed. Presumably the much larger Maruha managed to drive them out of business just as Maruha itself was tanking. Peking Chef is the Chinese restaurant that surrounded the much smaller Narita on three sides. I stopped by Peking Chef and asked what was up; the guy behind the counter didn't know the history, but said that they would be expanding into Narita's old space. 
Hickory Ridge has developed a nice cluster of restaurants beyond Peking Chef -- Chick'n Pollo for Peruvian chicken, Luna Bella for pizza, Hickory Ridge Grill for lots of item, including gyros.  You can even get frozen custard and coffee drinks at Meadows Custard.

Bon Appetit Bakery & Cafe In Ellicott City

Bon Appetit Bakery & Cafe has burst on the scene with sweets, bread and sandwiches, although it is all but hidden from Rte 40 in Ellicott City.

The new bakery offers up a Korean-tinged variety accessible to anyone.  Sweets for a snack.  Cakes for a special occasions. Sandwiches for breakfast or lunch.

And there are red bean donuts.  Oh, I love red bean sweets, and Bon Appetit's rice donuts are bulked-up donut holes -- a really nice balance between the filing and the surrounding fried dough.

Check out Bon Appetit because you can't go wrong.  The sweets are terrific.  Madelines, donuts, mnju, and three kinds of castella.  The last two are Japanese pastries, although I only learned that on Wikipedia.  Bon Appetit could use some explanations -- a few lines about each variety to tell you what you can buy.

The cakes are obvious.  An entire case is filled with formal-looking cakes and tortes.  I assume they're a Korean style because I have seen similar ones at La Boulangerie and the bakery at the front of H Mart.  Those would make a birthday or an office party.  Mrs. HowChow doesn't like cake, so I have never bought one yet.

But the rest of the place is definitely a chance to explore.  On Sunday, they were offering green tea donuts.  Not my favorites, but certainly something to try.  Much of the items are individually wrapped, so you can grab one to try.  This time, I tried lightly-salted bread sticks that were crisp and perfect with soup,  Next time, I'm going to get the cookies that look like smiley faces.

On top of all the sweets, you can also get sandwiches or bubble tea.   You can also get breakfast sandwiches, and the egg sandwiches were cheap.  From the effort put into the pastries, I assume that they're paying attention to all tose items as well.  I'd love to hear if you lunch there.

(Update:  Check out the comments below.  I have to be honest that you can go wrong with some of the savory breads.  They were tasting a "pizza baguette" that didn't thrill me.  Not terrible, but you should eat sweets at Bon Appetit and get your pizza elsewhere.)

(Update 2: In 2011, the Ellicott City Patch also wrote about Bon Appetit.)

If you're driving out to Bon Appetit, consider stopped by the Caspian Market on the same trip.  It's in the same shopping center as the Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt shop on the south side of Rte 40.  If you drive from Bon Appetit to Rte 29, you pass Caspian on the right.  Absolutely worth checking out for a range of Middle Eastern food.

Bon Appetit Bakery & Cafe 
10155 Baltimore National Pike 
Ellicott City, MD 21042-3669
(410) 203-2071 

NEAR:  Bon Appetit is in a brick building on the south side of Rte 40.  It's just west of Bethany Lane.  The building sits perpendicular to the main road.  You need to be driving eastbound to turn into the building so you need to go past and U-turn if you're coming from Rte 29.

Bon Appetit Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Link: Aida Bistro AND WINE BAR In The Sun

Aida Bistro's new location is open, and Richard Gorelick focused on the wine bar aspect, including wines on tap in his Sun restaurant roundup.  (Hat tip to HoCo Rising.)

Aida Bistro & WIne Bar
6741 Columbia Gateway Drive
Columbia, MD

NEAR:  This is off Colonel Gateway Drive.  (Seriously, I thought that the signs on Rte 175 were saying "Colonel" Gateway for years.  The abbreviation "Col" means "colonel.")  You get there from Rte 175 just west of I-95.  It's very easy to reach.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Half-Smokes At The Laurel Meat Market

Okay, so I said that I stopped buying pork sausages in favor of Harris Teeter's chicken links.  But I lied just a little bit.

I experimented recently with half-smokes from Laurel Meat Market because, well, it seems like the local thing to do.

They're lightly spicy.  Firmer than the chicken sausage, and we ate them in sandwiches.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Coconut Macaroon at Bonaparte in Savage

Among the intricate French pastries at Bonaparte Bread, I picked out the coconut macaroon because it looked so simple.

The bakery in Savage Mill sells terrific breads and a line of sweets like tarts, opera cake and scones.  They're wonderful, and the macaroon lived up to the reputation -- dense and sweet, but with coconut way out in front.  The flavor overcomes the sugar, and the moist texture closer to a marizipan than cake.

Bonaparte and Touche Touchet in Columbia fulfil everything that you would want from a bakery.  Settle at a table for a sweet and an escape from the cold outside.  Or carry out a special dessert to enjoy at home.

The coconut macaroon is large enough to split.  You could buy a few for a dinner party -- or mix it up with selections from the case.  You also eat one alone in your car -- but that's a big dessert.  Get a cup of coffee to go along.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Link: Lighthouse Tofu On HoCo Rising

The beauty of blogging is that you can have a sense of humor.  HoCo Rising writes about dinner at the new Lighthouse Tofu in Ellicott City, and the post encourages you to go -- without making the same mistakes.

Frisco Tap House To Open Tuesday Or Wednesday

The new Frisco Tap House in Columbia looks to be opening Tuesday or Wednesday.

That's what the sign says, according to Lanny who posted a picture.  The former Frisco Grille is getting the final inspections done on its new Dobbin Road location.  For up-to-the-minute updates, check out the Baltimore Beer Guys tweets.

Link: Big T-Bonz Event On Baltimore Beer Guy

Are you looking for a day-long event with craft beers and a whole-roasted pig?

The Baltimore Beer Guys has news of an event for you -- December 11 at T-Bonz in Ellicott City.  It's "Beers & Steers" with steaks, pit beef and oysters as well.  Check out the BBG for the list of beers.

Trade Peace Hammered Out In Columbia

U.S. and Korean negotiators could agree:
House of India is delicious.
Korea and the United States hammered out a trade deal last week -- in Columbia.

My friend Josh and I propose that it's the Howard County magic that brought people together.  Plus, they negotiated non-stop for days.  What local food could have lead people to come together?  Josh's theory:
Personally, I'd get takeout from House of India.  I'd also take our international deligations for tacos at R&R Taqueria in Elkridge.  What Korean government official could believe that we eat Mexican food from a gas station?

Anyone know where these trade negotiations were held?  A conference center in Columbia?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Link: Touche Touchet On The Columbia Patch

Touche Touchet gets a business profile in the Columbia Patch.  Lisa lets the owner and the star cake decorators tell their story.  The Columbia bakery is one of the great local spots for sweets -- and a beautiful place to hole up for coffee or hot chocolate on a cold day.  Click here for all my Touche Touchet posts.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Link: A "Must Try Places In HoCo" List From Yaka H.

Check out a list of "must try places" in Howard County that Yaka H. created on Yelp.

Yaka recommends a lot of places that I love like Bon Fresco and House of India.  She suggests some specific items from R&R Taqueria that sound terrific.  She also has created a "to do" list for me of Korean places on Rte 40 in Ellicott City -- Lighthouse Tofu & BBQ, Soeul Soondae, and Manna Korean.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Back For Porterhouse At J.W. Trueth In Oella

We're not huge beef people, but the drive to J.W. Trueth in Oella is worthwhile for anyone who wants a great steak.

A porterhouse serves us perfectly -- a little filet for Mrs. HowChow, a little strip for me.  And Trueth serves perfectly.  Butchering the beef themselves.  Answering any questions.  Happy to check the back for a porterhouse with a more-equal split between filet and strip.

I'm better with a castiron pan than putting a steak on the grill.  More light in my kitchen.  More control with the fire under a pan.  I make a sauce with ginger, soy sauce and water.  The steak needs nothing special.  It's delicious with just the right marbling to keep the meat moist.  If you actually have grill skills, you can make a masterpiece.

In fact, J.W. Trueth would be priceless if you wanted to serve a special meal, and you just drive a few minutes east of downtown Ellicott City.  Check out the dry-packed scallops and the huge tuna chunks.  But the place makes its name on meat.  Porterhouse, sirloins, filets, and thick lamb chops.  Pick your favorite and fire up.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Links: Kloby's Smoker And Meats On HoCo360 And Farmers Markets On The Elkridge Patch

The Elkridge Patch went outside the borders to write about the JFX Farmer's Market, which was packed the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  TJ maneuvered the family around for produce and snacks.

HoCo360 stayed closer to home with an awesome photo inside the smoker at Kloby's Smokehouse on Johns Hopkins Road just off Rte 29.  I join the recommendation that you try any of the smoked items -- wings, chicken, ribs, etc. -- with sauce on the side.  They're delicious, and you can see which sauces you prefer.

Who Serves Great Christmas Dinner - Especially Buffet

Any suggestions for Christmas brunch or dinner?

On the HowChow Facebook page, Kay asked for people's advice.  It's really not my speciality.  I have gone for Chinese food on Christmas, but never an impressive family meal.

Kay's 90-year-old mother likes to treat the family to a Christmas meal.  They need some gluten-free options for one of her brothers.  Buffets work well, she said.  They used to like the Waterside in Columbia, but they'd prefer a new option.  My thought -- Victoria Gastropub -- is closed.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Link: Smokin Hot On Grub Grade

Smokin Hot in Glenwood provided Adam of GrubGrade with a feast a day after his Thanksgiving feast -- and Adam recommends the barbecue and the kale with smoked turkey.  Adam talks up the pit club sandwich -- with some humor that makes GrubGrade worth checking out for local posts.  He would like some improvements on the in-house feel and the sweet potato fries, but he recommends Smokin Hot as one of greater Baltimore's better spots for barbecue.

Mrs. HowChow Loves Jasmine Bubble Tea -- Why Not Boba? -- At Ichiban Cafe In Columbia

It's Mrs. HowChow here putting in my two cents about a new place in Columbia:

I don’t know about you, but I try to ration the amount of holiday coffee drinks I get from Starbucks. Don’t get me wrong, I love the high-calorie “snacks” as I like to think of them and often reward myself (almost like a small child) with a Peppermint Mocha, Pumpkin Spice Latte or other whipped-cream-laden-sweet chocolate-with-a-bit-of-coffee creation while doing errands or as a break at work.

However, Monday, I decided that my morning coffee intake had already caused my blood to run a little too high on the caffeine meter, so when I needed a little break and snack while doing errands in Columbia, the Ichiban CafĂ© provided a yummy alternative. It was also at least 50 degrees – too cold to put the top down on the car, but warm enough to forgo the toasty Starbucks treat.

Ichiban lured me in with the words, “bubble tea” engraved along a border on their storefront, and Mr. HowChow had already mentioned this place to me as a new “to try” restaurant when we felt up for going out to eat sometime soon. I entered Ichiban to be greeted with an overwhelming number of items on their menu, both posted above the counter, as well as provided as a take-out version that I brought home later. The first thing that drew me in was the long lists of “Specialty Drinks”, which included Bubble Teas, Smoothies, and Milkshakes. Although the milkshakes looked especially good, the 50 degree weather swayed me to save that for another day. It also turned out that the Jasmine smoothie may have been a mistake on the takeout menu (the folks who work there said that maybe it was due to some changes on the menu since they opened a few weeks ago).

I tend to pick the unusual things on menus like this, so it was no difficulty to decide on the Jasmine Bubble Tea. (By the way, can anyone help me with this name – I swear that when I lived in LA, everyone, including the stores where I bought this, called it Boba Tea…..is Bubble Tea an east coast thing?). Anyway, there are a large variety of offerings, from the more common coffee, mango, and chocolate to the more unusual Taro, Bubble Milk, and Papaya. I have to admit that you need to like both the flavor of jasmine (floral and light, though distinctive) as well as those tapioca Bubbles (Boba) to make this a hit.

While I waited for my take-out-Jasmine Bubble Tea, I read the rest of the menu and watched a few people pick up an early dinner (or late lunch) to go. The items looked quite tasty as they were being packed up (you can eat in, by the way, but it was about 4 0’clock, so a little early for eat-in diners). There is even a small sushi bar to pull up a stool and eat in as well. The menu items were diverse – ranging from sushi, sashimi and bento boxes to a very long list of Chinese and Japanese items sure to please many palates (including those who may not care for Jasmine).

The flavor of the tea was lovely and as always, I love the weird little Bubble things that I eat during the drink as well as suck up afterwards with the straw on steroids.

I brought the take-out menu home and definitely plan to bring Mr. HowChow back to try their other offerings.

Ichiban Cafe
6250 Columbia Crossing Circle
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: Ichiban is in the Columbia Crossing shopping center. This is off Rte 175 at Dobbin Road. There is near the Joseph A. Banks and across from the Dick's sporting goods.