|House-made tortillas at Lily's. They'll make a meal.|
But Howard County, even apres le deluge, lets you shop for food worthy of a king. Markets, butchers, bakeries and more are tucked into all kinds of shopping centers and out-of-the-way places. No matter where you're looking to live, you'll have something close by and many things worth driving to explore.
HowChow's 2012 guide to Howard County -- "Welcome Home." Ten posts to prove there are dozens of places worth your time, that you can find great food all across the county. It's written for someone new to Howard County (maybe a link you send a friend thinking about moving here), but hopefully it's useful to anyone.
Your neighborhood is bound to have a basic supermarket -- Giant and Safeway have slowly been giving ground to Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Weis and other brands. They're fine. I shop there, but I tend not to write about them because people know what to expect at a supermarket.
But special shopping runs from Ellicott City to Laurel, from Clarksville to Catonsville just over the county line. Hundreds of HowChow posts describe these places and highlight what you can buy there. Your perfect place will depend on your tastes, but this is how I think of them -- with a few concrete ideas so that you're guaranteed delicious if you nose around:
Organic Markets -- Organic vegetables, bulk grains, gluten-free options, gourmet cheeses, supplements and vitamins. As I noted in a prior post about organic markets, your three options are spread across the county from east to west -- Mom's Organic Market in Jessup (formerly My Organic Market), David's Natural Market in Columbia, and Roots in Clarksville.
- Cheese at Roots. Apres Wegmans, the Clarksville store has the most interesting cheese in the county. Mom's Organic comes right behind.
- Michele's Granola at any market. This Baltimore company makes delicious, expensive granola, and it's worth every penny.
- The sandwich counter at David's. Definitely worth stopping for lunch, then checking out David's. Across the parking lot in the other half of the shopping center is Today's Catch for seafood.
H Mart in Catonsville is my gold standard with everything listed above -- plus a small restaurant and a place to order Korean fried chicken. Lotte in Ellicott City is smaller, but it the produce, meats and Asian items. Super Grand in Laurel goes broad. They have some American brands, plus a world of ethnic food heavy on Hispanic and Indian options. And the new Family Market in Columbia makes a similar attempt -- American items to serve as a local supermarket, plus produce, seafood, Korean and Hispanic items to draw people from across the county.
- Udon or other noodles at any market. The easiest way to add something Asian is just to boil some noodles for soup or some other meal. Easy as pasta. Check out Mark Bittman for udon (buckwheat) noodle ideas.
- Lychees in late summer at any market. I picked up a wife with a bag of lychees. They're like the sweetest grapes that you have ever eaten.
- Macarons at Linda's Bakery. They're not exactly like the French versions, but they're delicious.
- Challah on Fridays at Bon Fresco. Mostly, this is a sandwich shop. But they sell loaves, baguettes and others every day and challah on Fridays.
Butchers -- Like the bakers, the butchers can be split into three groups. American joints like Laurel Meat Market, Boarman's in Highland, and J.W. Treuth in Oella are professionals who cut in-house, great for roasts and steaks, mostly beef with pork, chicken and some fish. The new halal butchers have added a completely different lineup heavy on lamb and beef at joints like Nazar in Columbia, Columbia Halal Meat in Elkridge and Caspian Market in Ellicott City. Then there are Mexican or Latin American butchers at Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia and Panam Supermarket in Laurel.
- Your personal grind of hamburger at Laurel Meat Market. Watch for their pork sausages and Maryland rockfish when it is in season.
- Ground lamb from Nazar. They'll grind for you, or you could always get a leg.
But you'll find great items across the county. Closer Indian at Food Cravings and Desi Market in Columbia. Persian items (along with Greek, Indian and others) at Pars Market in Columbia and Caspian Market in Ellicott City.
- House-made corn tortillas at Lily's Mexican Market. Fresh tortillas are a revelation. They're also like $2.
- Kabob skewers at Pars Market. The broad skewers are great to experiment with lamb or other kabobs. Check out the
- Saffron ice cream at Caspian Market. Also try the nut mixes and my favorite Fard brand pistachio nougat.
- Frozen clams at Today's Catch. Great for chowder.
- Summer crabs at Frank's Seafood. I hold out for Maryland products -- crabs, oysters, rockfish -- because Frank's has taught me that they taste better.
What I Don't Know: Where else do you shop in or near Howard County? This isn't definitive. It isn't even as long as the 2009 series where I posted about What I Learned writing this blog. Anyone should stop for a takeout empanada at El Patio in Jessup. What other markets, bakeries, butchers do you frequent? What else do you recommend at your favorite place?