But I'm being converted to Mom's Organic Market in Jessup -- by the selections and by its location in the midst of good food.
Anyone willing to make an effort for food in Howard County should know the organic markets -- David's Natural in Columbia, Roots in Clarksville, and Mom's (formerly My Organic Market) in Jessup. Yet for years, they weren't places that I visited in depth. So many aisles dedicated to vitamins, expensive packaged brands, and what I'll call "no" foods -- no gluten, no sugar, no meat . . .
I want "yes" food. Delicious food. Happy food, and I was pushed to open my eyes at Mom's by Mark Bittman and Frank's Seafood.
Bittman and friends got me back on a kick of whole grains and beans. The organic markets offer bulk aisles of brown rice, amaranth, bulgar, quinoa and more. I experimented by taking a few cups at a time and cooking my way through books like Super Natural Cooking and Whole Grains Everyday. They're the entry drug for healthy cooking.
Then Frank's got me to really look around.
Frank's sells great seafood a few blocks east of Mom's, and my recent seafood kick -- oysters! -- brought me to Mom's on successive Saturdays for the vegetables to accompany my fish. I started to walk the aisles. There's more fun than I had thought -- more food being sold because it's delicious and useful (and not just because they added soy or spelt).
- Bulk grains and beans are still the entry drug. You can buy beans at any ethnic grocery, but bulk lets you sample a bunch and see what you like. Plus they pay for themselves if you replace a single meat dinner with a vegetarian stew. Buy or borrow Bittman's Food Matters Cookbook to get a dozen accessible ideas. Or just make exotic oatmeal.
- Fresh vegetables. They're pricier than a supermarket or an Asian grocery, but they're really good. A few visits made me realize that even basics like potatoes, lettuce and beets were just fresher than my Harris Teeter. Look for cool surprises too -- like watermelon radishes that have fushia centers when you slice them.
- Muir Glen tomatoes. Buy in bulk when they go on sale. These are my #1 pantry items, up there with tuna fish and black beans. They taste like summer, and they're the key to quick meals -- cooked down briefly for pasta sauce, added to broth to make soup, just sauteed with some spices and topped with a piece of fish that cooks on top.
- Oils. Sesame oil does wonders for Asian dipping sauces. Any small bottles of flavored olive oil can zip up salad dressings. Mom's offers a variety that is worth the price when you think that you're often tasting them right out of the bottle.
- Bread and cheeses. When Mom's expanded, they added a cheese case next to the produce. It's small, but you can pick up a flavor that you just can't get in a supermarket. A strong Stilton, a cool goat cheese. One cheese and a baguette can make dinner.
- Exotics that you might expect to find at an Asian grocery. Check out the row of dried seaweed, and they're packaged for Americans with English names for everything. Get Kimiko Barber's The Japanese Kitchen for an easy introduction.
- And there are still the packaged brands of pricey, but delicious items. Mrs. HowChow loves both the local Michelle's granola and the national Fage Greek yogurt. Other people may be able to recommend crackers or cookies because they're not my normal buys.
Mom's -- along with David's and Roots -- are priceless resources if you want to page through the Food Matters cookbook. Super-Lemony Kidney Beans were a revelation, and you can experiment with recipes that use brown rice, millet, or bulgar wheat. You "cook" bulgar in minutes by just letting it soak in hot water. Don't pass it up.
The key to Mom's is that you can plan a run for delicious food. Once you're in Jessup, pair a second stop and almost feel like you're speciality shopping in a city. You have choices in every direction -- two blocks east to Frank's for fish or seafood, north almost at Rte 100 to Caezar International for Middle Eastern groceries, west at Dobbin/Snowden River to Lily's Mexican Market or Nazar Market, or south at Main Street to the Laurel Meat Market.
(And, of course, you can always justify a snack if you're working on the grocery shopping. R&R Taqueria is in the Shell station caddy-corner to Mom's. Or grab an empanada at El Patio Market a block south.)
The one downside of Mom's is that I don't see much meat that I want to buy. I keep meaning to try the smoked salmon or a salami, but I'm far more likely to experiment with a vegetable that I can touch or with a product that's cheaper than organic beef.
As I said, I'm still coming around to the organic markets so I'd love to hear other recommendations. I see some juices, sauces, etc. that look good, but are a touch too expensive to try blind. I also see some brands -- like chicken stock -- that I can get at my normal store. What else do you like there? Frankly, there are entire posts of food that I skip because I am not cooking for a gluten-free or vegan diet. If you have a guest post in you, please let me know.
For more about stuff to check at Mom's, check out all the posts about Mom's. The bonus at Mom's is that they'll also give you their trash. If you compost -- especially in the fall when you have tons of leaves -- then ask the produce folks for their old vegetables. Both Mom's and Roots will give you boxes of stuff to mix into your pile.
Mom's Organic Market
7351 Assateague Drive, Ste 190 (Rte 175)
Jessup, MD 20794
NEAR: Mom's is on Rte 175 just east of U.S. 1. It's a large shopping center with a Starbucks facing the main road and Pollo Fuego in the back. Caddy-corner from that center is the Shell with R&R Taqueria. To drive to Frank's, go out the back exit and turn left on Oceano Drive. That deadends in the wholesale fish market.