Friday, July 29, 2011

Stay Cool Out There: Ways To Cope With Heat (Other Than Thinking "This Is Better Than Ice")

The heat is returning, so HowChow returns to some of the best ways to cool off around here.

First, get something cold to drink.  Don't fall for the first soda that you see.  Check out the five takeout drinks that you can buy at Howard County restaurants -- from a yogurt smoothie to a fruit and and ice shake.

Second, think bubble tea.  These are really just mixes jazzed up with the tapioca pearls, but they're fun at Ichiban in Columbia, Bon Appetit in Ellicott City, and other places.  Look for Asian bakeries or takeouts.

Third, scoop ice cream.  A post this month collected a bunch of places to get ice cream in Howard County. Go exotic with that bing soo.

Last, go the opposite direction.  Lots of people think that hot and spicy dishes make you sweat, and that will cool you off better than cold food.  If that's your game, try the tofu stews at Lighthouse Tofu in Elllicott City.

Any other suggestions about how to cope with the heat?  Great cold food around here?  And anyone know what's up with Pete's Snowball Stand?  Did it open this year?  A prior comment asked what is happening because there are plans to extend Oakland Mills Road?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tacos And Mexican Along U.S. 1 -- It's A World To Explore And A Treasure To Taste R&R's Success

The "Steak Tipikal" plate at El Tipikal
Once, I happily stopped for barbecued meats anywhere on the side of U.S. 1, but R&R Taqueria has changed my view about Mexican food.

I recommend a U.S. 1 tour for anyone who wants to find their own delicacies.

Like I did, start with the taco trucks like Pupuseria Lorenita in Elkridge.  They're serving tacos or big Mexican sandwiches.  Then work up to the mobile barbecues.  These guys -- often on weekends -- drag half-barrel grills behind a truck and offer up ribs or other meats outside spots like Chesapeake Supply or Mel's Liquors on Rte 175.  For about $10, you get meat in a styrofoam clamshell with rice, beans and salsa.

The new arrival is El Tipikal, which opened earlier this year on the northbound lanes of U.S. 1 in Laurel and appears poised to stay.  It's a wood and plastic shelter built against a catering truck.  They have an enormous grill, and the menu runs from tacos to burritos to steaks with the usual rice, beans and salsa.  It's just a stand, but they have lights and a solid construction that make it seem like they plan on seven days a week for a while.

El Tipikal is fun.  If Lonely Planet wrote a guide of Howard County, it would send 20ish tourists for pork tacos under the plastic roof.  My carnitas taco was delicious and cheap at $2.  The salsas and guacamole are fresh and zesty, and I love the touch of fresh tortillas and cut limes.  But I have to admit that I sat at the table eating my steak and thinking about R&R Taqueria.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Columbia Wegmans Manager -- Wendy Webster

The manager of the new Wegmans being built in Columbia will be Wendy Webster, who ran the Hunt Valley store, according to a flyer sent to Michael Moore and posted on the I Want The Columbia Wegmans Facebook page.

It looks like we have two stories of steel on the McGaw Road site.  Now we have a manager.  The flyer is a bit tough to read, but you can enlarge it on Facebook.

Just received in the mail: Wendy Webster is to be the Columbia store manager. She previously was the store manager at the Hunt Valley Wegmans.

10 hours ago ·  ·  · 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Harvest Fried Chicken in Woodbine -- Perfect For A Pick-Your Own Picnic At Larriland Farms

Now is the time to plan your fried chicken picnic to go with an afternoon of picking your own fruit.

Larriland Farms is kicking into high gear.  Peaches, plums and blackberries are coming out in the heat, and the next three months run through raspberries, tomatoes, apples, and the Halloween events.

You have to get out there, and you should pair a healthy excursion with a fried chicken picnic.  Get your chicken at Harvest Fried Chicken -- a counter-service spot at the same exit off Rte 70.  Their chicken comes crisp and moist even out of the display.

I devoured a breast and wing as takeout.  There's a salty punch to the skin.  They're bulky pieces.  Even the wing had real meat, and the breast had that perfect ratio of chicken to coating.  On a Sunday afternoon, the customers flowed through, so I feel like the chicken hadn't sat long under the heating lamp.  I tasted a touch of oil obviously, but it's fresh, not greasy or tired.

For me, you can't beat homestyle chicken, especially because I don't have the appetite to coat my kitchen in oil by frying at home.  Harvest has a dining room, but it's an uninspired spot.  I recommend takeout and picnicking at Larriland -- just from your car or sitting on the edge of an orchard.

Personally, I would bring my own sides to the picnic.  Christian L. talks up the coleslaw and baked beans on Yelp, and they look homemade.  But I like something lighter where the main course is fried.  I made sauteed cucumbers from Growing Up In A Korean Kitchen that would contrast nicely.  Or I'd look for a salad with vinegar or a touch of spice.

Of course, I might try a piece of Harvest's pie.

Harvest Fried Chicken is in a shopping center just north of I-70 at the same exit as Larriland.   The alternative to fried chicken is a picnic of pulled pork and barbecue.  The Town Grill in Lisbon is just south of I-70 off the same exit.  They smoke and grill meats -- including pulled pork, ribs, and smoked salmon that you could bring home.

If you want fried chicken in the more-developed part of Howard County, check out Chick 'n Friends in Columbia, which now delivers to offices.

Harvest Fried Chicken
710 Lisbon Center Dr
Woodbine, MD 21797
(410) 489-5870

NEAR:  Harvest is in a shopping center with a Food Lion.  It is behind a gas station and a Pizza Hut.  Take the Rte 94 exit off I-70 and turn northbound.  The shopping center is right after the first traffic circle, so you can turn right at the circle and drive through the gas station or go through the circle and then turn right at the next driveway.

Harvest Fried Chicken on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Larriland Update: Blackberries Have Arrived, A Few Plums, And The Peaches Are Peachy

These berries are waiting for you.
Look at those blackberries -- unripe today, but ready for you to grab them later this week.

Larriland Farms has entered the high season.  Blackberries, plums and peaches are available now.  We beat the brutal heat out to Woodbine today, and we filled containers of peaches and blackberries in minutes.  The blackberry vines are packed, and they'll be kicking off fruit for weeks.  We took only the engorged, super-ripe berries, and we left the sum of ONE MILLION blackberries behind.

Tomorrow: Watch for a post about what to bring for a Larriland picnic.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Howard County Restaurant Weeks Starts Monday

If you're reading this blog, then you need to at least consider what you're doing next week for Howard County Restaurant Weeks.

This has become a regular event to show off some local restaurants.  Now, the meals range from $10 to $40, and they have really expanded the lineup from the upscale best through ethnic restaurants like Mango Grove to the barbecue at Town Grill in Lisbon.

I love that, although I'd love even more if I could find a place where the restaurants list their special menus. Please add anything you know to the comments below.

Check out the main Howard County Restaurant Weeks page, and also check of the list of farms and other suppliers.  I'd love to know more about several of those places -- cheese, herbs, bison . . .

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

You! Stop Breaking Into Our Wegmans

Someone broke into the Wegmans contruction site in Columbia to steal tools, reports the Savage-Guilford Patch.

Stop it!  As if we haven't had enough delays here.  Let these people work!

And check out the sign that says Wegmans posted on the site.  It's the first one that I have seen.  Vicki posted it to the HowChow Facebook page.

Great Sage Hosting A Benefit This Weekend

Great Sage is hosting an all-day benefit for a non-profit Compassion Over Killing this Sunday, July 24th.

All day, a portion of the bills will be donated by the Clarksville restaurant that has gone all-organic and all-vegan.  It's a fun place, although I always prefer straight dishes as opposed to ones that try to mimic original meat food.  Richard Gorelick named it the third best restaurant in Howard County.

Compassion Over Killing appears to be a non-profit that investigates animal cruelty.  If you want to chat about food, feel free to comment here.  Please don't get into COK or its politics.  I'm just posting because Great Sage is a local.

Cooking Classes in Howard County; Chef Ben Tehranian Gets A Rave From Jackie

I have always wonder about local cooking classes, but Jackie actually got up and did one -- a night with chef Ben Tehranian who she recommends.

Tehranian lives in Columbia and teaches from his town house off Snowden.  Jackie made an appointment, then picked one of the 10 menus on his website.  She says he was really flexible with scheduling, and they cooked a menu that included soup, poached pears, lamp chops and more.  (He also snapped photos for her.)

The 10 menus all run six courses.  It looks like an adventure, and Jackie said she had a great time:
It was $95 for the session which normally runs 2.5-3 hours, but I managed to get 3.5 hours out of him :) That included all of the food, copies of the recipes, take home containers and a pretty little certificate for completing the lesson. He also mentioned that he's willing to work with any kind of menu, not just the ones listed on his website. He's trained in classical French but I should mention that he used to own a seafood restaurant in which he received many awards for his crabcakes, which he will teach you how to make!! He also gives discounts for groups.
Anyone else know about local cooking classes?  I feel like I have heard about classes at Donna's and Cafe de Paris.  Anyone have experiences?  I would love if you'd email me a photo and a description of what you paid, what you did, what you thought . . . 

(Update: See the comment below about Michelle's Kitchen --

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Howard County Has Out-Suburb'd Montgomery"

Just Up The Pike blog reports on friends who are house-hunting in Howard County -- in part to be near the Korean BBQ on Rte 40.  Love it.

Dobbin Road Starbucks Moving Across The Road

Why does the Starbucks cross the road?  To get a drive-through, it seems.

The Dobbins Road Starbucks will move across to the Kmart shopping center, reports Wordbones on Tales of Two Cities.  No timing mentioned in his post.

Wordbones says the Starbucks will may replace the Wendy's.  I had been wondering if Starbucks would occupy the new building that will replace the current home of Mango Grove -- mostly because that plan calls for a drive-through.

Asian Palace Has Replaced China Chefs

Okay, okay!!  Asian Palace has replaced China Chef in Columbia, and I'm getting a steady stream of emails talking it up.

Phu commented on a prior post with a thumbs up on the food and service.  China Chef was a local institution, as noted by HoCo Politico last year.  This new place on Hickory Ridge Road near Mad City Coffee does a broad menu with Chinese, Thai, and Chinese, one that Chuck emailed today to recommend:
No alcohol until the weekend, but place was very nice inside - a complete makeover, with subdued lighting, many booths and contemporary furnishings. Food was very good to my taste - servings were small and not really sharable but tasty and not over sweetened. Large sushi menu actually dwarfed the main menu, but all the standards were there - Kung Pao chicken was very good. Large Sushi bar and main bar and nicer reception area.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Corner Stable Coming To Kings Contrivance?

A Cockeysville restaurant has applied for a liquor license that suggests it will open a location in King's Contrivance, says Wordbones on the Tales of Two Cities blog.

Wordbones had posted in June (and I had missed) that the Corner Stable was looking in Columbia and specifically the former site of Michael's Pub.  He quotes a Karen Nitkin review of the Cockeysville place.

(Update: I fixed the spelling.  Thanks.)

(Second update:  Dslevay just emailed me with a rave about Corner Stable -- especially one favorite meal:
They apparently were going for their liquor license thing today and the preliminary move in date is this October, 2011.  Let me be the first(?) to let you know that the Corner Stable is AMAZING! BEST baby back ribs I have EVER had.... SO good that I've never eaten ribs anyplace else. Seriously!

The original Corner Stable is up in Cockeysville (north Baltimore County), and we discovered it about 30 years ago and go back up there as often as possible. The sauce on the ribs is magnificent and the ribs just fall off the bone. Apparently there are other dishes as good as the ribs but aside from trying the Hot Turkey Sandwich (also very good), I just stick with the rib dinner. The crab cakes get rave reviews but seriously your first trip has to include at least one order of ribs.

I strongly suggest you put it high on your list of places to check out.... OR, if you find yourself in northern Baltimore County beforehand, stop by the original location on York Rd.... Anyway here's a couple links to check out:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Link: Teres Market On Chowhound

It sounds like Teres Latin Market in Ellicott City has added a taqueria at the back -- offering up Mexican basics like tortas and tacos.

I haven't been to the market on Rte 40 in years, but I just read two Chowhound posts one by elgringoviejo apparently from April and one by baltymoron this week.  Lots of Howard County voices on those posts, and I especially take advice from elgringoviejo:
This place merits high praise. The owners are Mexicans who prepare delicious authentic Mexican food at reasonable prices. One of the employees is Salvadoran and makes delicious pupusas revueltas, as good as those served at Dona Azucena near Langley Park in Prince George's county. At two bucks apiece, two or at most three of these delicious and extremely filling pupusas make an excellent yet economical meal that constitutes chow-worthy cheap eats. One afternoon I enjoyed a plate of flautas that would be th envy of many a fonda or fogata in La Republica (Estados Unidos Mexicanos) where I have enjoyed over a hundred meals. The piece de resistance of Tere's is the condiment bar that includes both green and red salsa as well as pickled chiles. Tere's deserves ample chowhound patronage IMO.
Is it just me, or are there fewer posts on Chowhound these days?  I feel like there used to be dozens of posts a day on the DC/Baltimore page.  I hadn't been going as often, and now I feel like there can be days with fewer than 10.  It's a great resource.  There are several regular commentators about local places, and I like the "Question and Answer" connection.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

DC Kertuffle = Columbia Cupcakes

Has anyone heard about a cupcake place opening in Columbia called Cooks 'n Cakes?

The WPost is whipping up some stories about DC school principals who are quitting their jobs in frustration.  Their new venture:  Opening a cupcake places in Howard County.

All I have is the WPost stories and a reference on the Tony Kornheiser Show.  (I'm podcasting, so I'm a week late here.  Hello Harley and Aaron!)  One of my favorite hosts Jeanne McManus said cupcakes are over and then offered a totally unnecessary jab at our locals:
Jeanne: "And it's cupcakes in Columbia or Germantown?"
Kevin: "Columbia"
Jeanne: "Come on.  No."
Et tu, Jeanne, et tu?

This appears to be a starting Web site for Cooks 'n Cakes.

Link: Pita & Rye In The WPost

The new Pita & Rye deli in Fulton got featured by the WPost yesterday -- although Martha Thomas wrote as much about the owner, the location of the condiments, and the kosher certification as she did about the food.  This is her lede:
Pita & Rye, which may be Howard County's first certified kosher delicatessen, is certain to offend no one. But that may be to its peril.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sushi Sono Does It Again - #14 Roll With Salmon

Sushi Sono can't leave well enough alone, and they keep adding off-menu rolls that confirm its place at the absolute top level of sushi places in DC and Baltimore.

The newest invention is the #14 Roll.  We had already ordered dinner when we saw a waitress carry a strange roll past our seats at the bar.  The blog was my excuse -- Order Up!

The #14 comes thinner than many of Sono's special rolls, but it's just as unique.  It's a roll of tuna and rice topped with seared salmon and a sauce with a bite.  I think there was a dash of pepper across the top, although my notes are three weeks old and say "Pepeth."  Like Sono's other unique rolls, the #14 makes us skip the soy sauce.  You don't want to muddle the bite that the chefs have balanced so right.

If you like sushi, then Sushi Sono is an absolute must.  Rolls like the #12 roll and the sushi nugget show off both the fish and the skill of chefs who put flavors together.  Because they're all so different, you can mix and match your own table.  The place is one of my favorites and on Richard Gorelick's list as well.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Link: Kabob Connection On Sarah Says

There is a new kabob places in the Columbia Mall, and Kabob Connection is worth a visit, says Sarah on the Sarah Says blog.  She talked up the chicken kabob, fresh bread and the gyro turning on a spit.  Strobist had tweeted me about the same place -- noting the fun of a locally-owned joint in the food court.  I need to check this out.

Link: New Asian For Shipley's Grant, Patio For T-Bonz, Grill For Golf On Tales Of Two Cities

Shipley's Grant is getting a new restaurant called East Moon Asian Bistro and T-Bonz may be getting a new patio, at least according to the talk heard by Wordbones and posted on the Tales of Two Cities blog.  He also reports that the grill room has opened at the Timbers of Troy public golf course.

Ice Cream On A Summer Night 2011

Summer heat here can be disgusting, so you need to create your own cold wave with ice cream under the stars.

Take advantage of these late sunsets. Check out one of the Howard County joints offering variations on soft serve, frozen yogurt, or even a bowl of ice and a dozen Korean ingredients. From standard to exotic, they're all a chance to escape the heat, hang out with your people, and remember why the hottest night is still better than being trapped in your house by winter's dark and cold.

For bonus points, pair one of these joints with an easy dinner

  • Soft Stuff on Rte 40 in Ellicott City. This is the gold standard for a summer night out. Soft serve ice cream at a picnic table. Banana splits for a few dollars more. Nostalgia for free. (Pair with Korean barbecue at Honey Pig or Shin Chon Garden.)
  • Seibel's in Burtonsville may have the best ice cream, although I haven't been there recently enough to crown them officially. They are the closest place that I know that makes its own ice cream.  They're creamy and delicious.  (Pair with Cuba de Ayer.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Still Champs: Burger, Fries And A Raging Bitch Pale Ale At Victoria, Even Trapped Indoors

Indoor lighting = terrible. Burger = Still champ.
I went to Victoria Gatro Pub a while ago with the plan for the perfect evening, and their burger was so delicious that it made up for the fact that our plan fell apart.

More than two years ago, I crowned Victoria Gastro Pub as my favorite burger, but I said then that I wished there was more competition.  So I went back for a test in light of the recently-arrived burger chains like Five Guys and BGR The Burger Joint. 

Our plan was the outdoor space.  Victoria has covered its patio, and we drove with our hearts set on a seat outside to enjoy an evening, some beef, and some beer.  When we walked inside, I wondered what kind of suckers were sitting indoors when the patio was half empty.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cold Drinks: Blended Iced Mocha At Sidamo

Sometimes you need a "cool me down" and a "pick me up," and Sidamo Coffee and Tea in Fulton has the blended mocha to do both.

Ice, espresso, presumably a dash of chocolate, and they whip the concoction right for there while you wait. Sidamo is a local joint.  I have to admit that the textures have varied a bit more than at a corporate coffee shop.  But their coffee makes the drinks delicious no matter how thick they end up.

Last weekend, my drink was thinner than a Starbucks frap.  The ice was blended to a fine slush, and there was a froth on top.  The key though is Sidamo's coffee -- strong flavor with no bitterness or burnt flavor.  The blended mocha -- along with all of their iced drinks, including the blended chai tea -- is a rich, refreshing drink.

Who else has good coffee drinks?  This is Cold Drink Week. You want something cool, but you want something better than another soda. The Cold Drink Week posts offer house-made refreshment -- places that make their own drinks and let your carry them out.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Link: Kloby's In The Sun's Table Talk

Kloby's Smokehouse and its expansion got written up by Richard Gorelick in the Sun's Table Talk column.  For a second, I thought Gorelick had actually beaten me to see the new space in my own local, but the column doesn't have any physical descriptions of the space.

Tell The Local Press What You Think Of Wegmans

Howard County Times reporter Lindsey McPherson wants to write about the Columbia Wegmans.  She said she will have updates on the construction plans, and she wants local folks to talk to her.

Lindsey posted on the I Want The Columbia Wegmans Facebook page.  You can see her phone number below.

Hello everyone. My name is Lindsey. I am a reporter for the Howard County Times. I'm doing a story on Wegmans to update people about the construction progress/projected opening date. I wanted to talk to some people for my story who are anxious for the store to open. If you'd like to share your thoughts with me about Wegmans, please call me at 410-332-6599. Thanks!
Yesterday at 12:57pm ·  ·  · 

Cold Drinks: Watermelon Agua Fresca At R&R

The agua fresca at the R&R Deli in Jessup are the drink that Slurpees wish that they could be.

Imagine a drink slightly thinner than a smoothie, but made from real fruit.  The watermelon agua fresca literally tastes like you're sucking the middle of a melon up through your straw.  Part liquid, part crushed ice.  It's perfect for summer heat -- the cold shock of ice with the flavor of fruit, not artificial syrup.

R&R Deli continues to surprise me.  This is the takeout inside the Shell station at Rte 175 and U.S. 1, and they're turning out delicious food that offers up fresh, fresh ingredients.  I'd put their tacos up against almost any other food in Howard County.  When I was last there, they would blend agua fresca with strawberries, melon, watermelon and something else -- maybe guava.

This is Cold Drink Week.  You want something cool, but you want something better than another soda.  The Cold Drink Week posts offer house-made refreshment -- places that make their own drinks and let your carry them out.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cold Drinks: Mango Lassi at Mirchi Wok

A mango lassi is a guilt-free milkshake, and it's a way to cool off while filling up.

This is a fruit and yogurt, whipped into a shake and then cooled down with ice.  The lassi is an Indian restaurant standard, and I can vouch for them at House of India, Akbar, Mango Grove and Mirchi Wok.

At the dinner table, the mango or the rose-flavored "sweet" lassi is a must-have for Mrs. HowChow.  But I carried one out last month from Mirchi Wok as a lunchtime treat.  I think all the local Indian joints will let you carry them out.

A lassi is thick.  It's not the icy refreshment of water, but it's cool and substantial considering that you're sucking down yogurt.  It's half of a meal, so it's worth the $4.

(Update: Mirchi Wok and Mango Grove relocated under the Mango Grove name to a spot off Dobbin Road.  Click here for all the Mango Grove posts.)

This is Cold Drink Week.  You want something cool, but you want something better than another soda.  The Cold Drink Week posts offer house-made refreshment -- places that make their own drinks and let your carry them out.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cold Drinks: Salted Plum Soda At An Loi

The lesson of salted plum soda is that you don't need to buy a Coke to stay cool this summer.

An Loi Pho in Columbia sells the salted plum soda, and it was one of our first HowChow finds.  Mrs. HowChow ordered one up, and we found that they're light and sweet, wonderful with the grilled meats and noodles dishes that make An Loi one of our places for summer dinner.

In the middle of the day, the sodas are refreshing as well.  They're sweet, sour and salty all at once.  It makes sense.  The plums are preserved, so they muddle salt out into the drink.  That swirls with a touch of sugar and the soda water that they pour over top.

You get a thicker, saltier flavor at the bottom, so you should stir it up.  This is a handmade drink -- something way more genuine than even the Coke Zero that I love.  The takeout version goes great with a summer roll if you want a snack.  That's noodles with a shrimp, a slice of pork and some vegetables wrapped in rice paper.  Light, cool food for our crushing heat.

It's Cold Drink Week at HowChow.  Stay cool without feeding a bill into a soda machine.  Go check out the handmade drinks that will keep you just as cool.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Off-Menu Chinese At Grace Garden

If you want to explore the offering at Grace Garden, consider calling ahead and asking if they can make Sichuan Steamed Fish with Rice Powder in a Lotus Leaf.

Min snapped the picture above at the Odenton restaurant that is one of the best Chinese around.  She says the dish is time-consuming and usually not available on weekends. Min got the dish because she ate with folks who are old friend's of Chef Li:
The steamed fish version gives a great more delicate taste than its pork counterpart with a lot less grease. (At GG, Chef Li uses thinly sliced pork while in Taiwan chefs prefer using pork baby riblets.)  With the fish, we could taste the subtle aroma of the dried lotus leaf, the five spice powder and the kicks that the Sichuan peppercorns bring. 
She says that she'll call in advance next time and see if she can get the steamed fish and to ask Chef Li to make fish stock for pocket tofu.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Man Vs. Burrito At El Hidalgo -- Celebrate First Anniversary With Free Food If You Can Handle It

The Burrito And Mr. Monzon

El Hidalgo in Elkridge celebrated its first anniversary by pitting its menu against its customers.  

Daniel goes to El Hidalgo for the burrita prenada, the BBQ pork sandwich, and the tres leches cake.  But he went last night to report on the first time that the Tex-Mex restaurant offered up a two-foot burrito with the promise that you could get it free -- with a catch.

Daniel is a pro, so let him take it from here:
A classic showdown played out last night at an Elkridge restaurant: Man vs. Food.
Final tally: Food 2, Man 0.