Thursday, March 29, 2012

No Whole Foods In The Old Rouse HQ

Whole Foods is no longer negotiating to open in the former Rouse Company headquarters in downtown Columbia, reports Kevin Rector in Explore Howard.

Kevin interviewed a Howard Hughes Co. executive, who said they're looking for another tenant for the lakefront building.  I'm all for that.  I have to admit that I had pictured the Whole Foods filling that place and spilling out with some chairs on the lake.  It would be great if they could find something fun.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Napoleon and Cream Puffs At Linda's

Napoleons and some V-Day macarons
Let's talk about cream.  When a new bakery opens, it's easy to start talking about the cake and the cookies.

At Linda's Bakery in Columbia, I started with the meringues and then went back several times for macarons.  But you need go beyond the crunch if you're checking out Linda's.  You need to check out the cream.

Start with the cream puffs.  They're simple enough.  A wrapper of pastry, wrapped around a few tablespoons of thick, sweet cream.  They're simple enough, except that that's a professional pastry cream.  So sweet and thick, but bright and light.  The first puff didn't make it out of the parking lot.

The napoleons got home.  They're the same cream layered with thicker, crunchy pastry.  Mrs. HowChow knew that they're called mille-feuille for the thousand layers (or so).  Linda's tops them with sugar-glazed fruit.  They shattered under the fork into a crackle of crisp and gooey, and they're a great take-home dessert.

Think cream.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Unfiltered Rice Wine At Shin Chon

Makkoli and Bok Bun Ja Joo at Shin Chon
Candy is dandy, but liquor is a quicker way to learn a little foreign culture.

I posted last month my pitch about why you should try Korean barbecue with a beginner's step-by-step instructions for going to Shin Chon Garden.  But we got to enjoy dinner with folks in the know last month, and Kevin and Traci introduced us to some Korean makkoli.

Makkoli is a unfiltered rice wine.  It's very smooth, almost creamy.  It has the lower alcohol of beer.  We thought the bottle from Koodsoondang brewery went great with the table of meat and panchan.  It's a mild flavor and a slight carbonation, brighter than beer but not as much alcohol as a standard wine.  Reaching completely inappropriately across cultures, Mrs. HowChow and I both thought the makkoli tasted like an alcoholic horchata. (We also liked the fruit wine called bokbunja ju.)

One note: Makkoli is normally served in small bowls.  Kevin and I split a bottle.  We just sipped form the bowls.  I'm sure you could drink it from a glass, but let the Shin Chon people know if you're happy to get the normal bowl.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Link: Tino's Italian On HoCo Rising

People keep saying good things about Tino's Italian Bistro in Columbia, and Tom toasted them Saturday on the HoCo Rising blog.

Tom thinks Tino's has a strong, fairly-priced wine list, and he says that it is quite a package with the food:
Before the patrons of Iron Bridge, Aida, and Tersiguel's get on my case, I acknowledge that Tino may not bring the same firepower as those other places, but for a young couple looking to have a nice dinner without breaking the bank, I can't think of a better place to go.
I just haven't been to Tino's yet.  We eat out way less than most people seem to assume, and pasta sauces are one of things that I tend to whip up on weeknights.  That steers us towards other cuisines when we go out, but we should check out Tino's and make another run to Pasta Plus in Laurel.

Bon Fresco Basics Come Back Into Focus When The Special "Easter Basket" Catches Our Eyes

Sandwiches from Bon Fresco
It can take a moment of crazy newness to remember how great some of the steady, regular places around here can be.

It took an Easter special at Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery to make me post again about how great they make their regular sandwiches and breads.  Every day, you can pick up greatness in cold cuts, grilled vegetables, London broil, and other flavors.  Or you can pick up a baguettes, focaccia, and even Friday challah for your own menus.

Focaccia for you to take home
That's why I suggest the Columbia restaurant as one of the first stops in my advice to people who are moving to Howard County.  We were jammed with chores Saturday, so I got a spicy Italian sandwich for Mrs. HowChow and a London broil for myself.

You're just not going to get better sandwiches anywhere.  It's a small menu.  It hasn't changed much if I remember right.  But it's all delicious -- corned beef, grilled vegetables, real sliced turkey. . . The potato salad comes with tender potato and just enough mild binder to stay together.

The Easter special was a bit unusual.  They baked an actual Easter egg into a loaf of bread shaped like a basket.  The bread is slightly sweet like the challah and glazed with spinkles.  Catnip for a food blogger.  Maybe an exotic treat for a kid who likes bread and eggs?  They were $3.75 Saturday.  I don't know if they were a lark or something that Bon Fresco is trying out for the season.

Easter special
It was playing with the "Easter basket" that made me think about what a deal we're getting with the $2 baguettes.  These are perfect.  They're crisp on the outside.  They cut open to reveal an interior that is dense and tasty, but lightened up with the irregular holes that you get in artesian loaves.  I grabbed one that we just sliced thin and put on a tray with eggplant dip for Mrs. HowChow's college friends.

If you're working in Howard County, you should add it to your lunch repertoire.  If you're looking for a break, you should stop by on a weekend -- just a short run from your errand at Lowe's, Home Depot, Target, etc.  If you're a food blogger, you shouldn't take Bon Fresco for granted.  All my old posts are true, but I'm going to hunt for new favorites on the menu.

My one Bon Fresco wish is that they try a bahn mi sandwich.  It seems right up their alley -- maybe some roasted pork, pickled vegetables, cilantro, cukes and hot peppers.  Until then, use Bon Fresco's baguette to make something amazing with Andrea Nguyen's recipe.

Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery 
6945 Oakland Mills Road 
Columbia, MD 21045 

NEAR: Bon Fresco is in the shopping center on Oakland Mills Road at Snowden River Parkway. The center with Race Pace bike shop and a Ledo Pizza overlooks Snowden, but you need to turn onto Oakland Mills at the intersection and turn right into the shopping center. Bon Fresco is in the out-building just to the right of the entrance.  Nazar Market is right across the parking lot.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Who Is Renovating The Former Rocky Run?

Inside the former Rocky Run restaurant
Someone is renovating the space that used to be the Rocky Run restaurant off Dobbin Road in Columbia.

There had been talk two years ago about this becoming a Buffalo Wild Wings, but that plan involved the demolition of the building -- plus a Buffalo Wild Wings went into the Arundel Mills Mall.

Last week, Erik drove past and noticed construction inside the Rocky Run building.  He said people were going in and out.  When I rolled by Saturday, the site was quiet, but the inside looked it was being torn up.  Two dumpsters were packed along the side.

Does anyone know what's happening here?  Demolition or renovation?  Restaurant coming?  Erik and I want to know.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Diamondback Fundraiser For An Injured Friend

Think about Diamondback Tavern this Sunday to help out a local waiter who was badly injured trying to break up a fight.

The folks who own Diamondback and Portalli's are holding a fundraiser at Diamondback from 6 to 10 pm Sunday to help pay medical bills for Rob Groomes, a lead server at Portalli's who was assulted when he tried to break up a fight at a house party.  He has no insurance.  He needs extensive plastic surgery on his face and eye.

They're charging a $5 cover and donating 25% of the food bills for Groomes.  Lee Biars, who helps run the PR for the two restaurants, let me know about the fundraiser:
Rob is the nicest and most harmless guy you would ever meet and what happened to him is truly disgusting.  
Not only is Rob one of our best servers at either restaurant, he's very genuine and always has a positive attitude regardless of how his day has been going (part of what makes him such a good server).   
Even after being attacked and stuck in his house until his wounds get better, he isn't down about it even though he has every reason to be.  The best thing that has come out of this tragedy is that we realize we aren't just a restaurant staff, but a family.  Many of our employees have gone out of their way to do something for Rob, bringing him food, checking up on him, or just keeping him company.  And for what it's worth, he has not once asked us to do anything for him.

Sumo Tangerines At Family Market: Top Secret Oranges (Seriously) Made It To Columbia

Sumo tangerines at Family Market
I'm not a name brand kind of guy, but I'll hype some name brand fruit that you can buy now at Family Market.

Sumo tangerines are sitting right inside the entrance to the new Columbia market.  They're a hybrid of orange and mandarin that Kevin turned me onto when they came on the market last month.

According to David Karp's LA Times article, they're a Japanese product originally called Dekopon and now grown in California through a consortium that actually grew them in secrecy starting in 2008.  They're sold under the Sumo brand name.

According to me, they're delicious.  The Sumo is a large, sweet fruit with lots of juice.  The peel pulls away easily.  The section have a skin so thin that it's almost like they're all pulp.  You get a strong citrus flavor, less sweet than those tiny oranges and more flavor of great fresh-squeezed juice.  The fruit have a distinctive bump at one end.  They're cute enough to display, although they won't last long once you have tasted them.

Hat tip to the Keep It Up David blog where I found the link to the LA Times and David's recipe for a salad that uses the Sumo tangerines.

Check out Karp's article for more details and a better description.  Then check out the fruit at Family Market (and maybe other Asian groceries?).  Fruit that once cost $10 each in Japan now sells $8 for a nine-fruit box.  Or they had packages of two in a refrigerated section for $1.50.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Link: Willy's Dog House On Elkridge Patch

The Elkridge Patch has profiled another new food truck -- this time Willy's Dog House, a hot dog truck that parks at the Hillside Motel on U.S. 1.  Elizabeth Janney profiles the truck's owner, who used to manage the seafood department at the Superfresh in Elkridge.  He is serving dogs now and looking to expand to pit beef.

Sausage: Make It Your Gateway Drug For Exploring Local Butchers And Ethnic Groceries

Chorizo selections at the Family Market in Columbia
Eat different.  That's a theme to HowChow, and it's a fun way to shake up your menu.

Start with sausage.  It's not even healthy, so it's totally easy.  The butchers around Howard County grind their own meat into a variety of varieties -- breakfast sausage at Boarman's, Italian pork at Laurel Meat Market, chorizos in Family Market or Lily's Mexican Market.  Even Harris Teeter sells excellent spicy chicken sausage.

Sausage sandwiches are easy -- especially if you can grab some good rolls.  Personally, I like the baguette at Bon Fresco.

Sausage in risotto
Beyond that, sausage is convenience food.  You can buy them one at a time.  You can freeze them and break them out (or break off a link) to add flavor to dinner.  My new find was the chorizo, Mexican and Argentine, at Family Market in Columbia.  Those make great tacos or omelets.

But my favorite use is defrosting a sausage and pulling it out of the casing to zip up kitchen staples.  Brown a bit, then add to pasta sauce.  Crumble a sausage into the first stage of any mushroom risotto recipe.  Start with any recipe that you find on the Web, and brown the sausage before you add the rice to the pot.  If you have a basic risotto recipe, a box of chicken stock, some dried mushrooms from an Asian market, and an onion can make risotto right out of the freezer and pantry when you haven't had time to shop.

Consider sausage your gateway drug.  It's a guaranteed find at any market, and then you look around for something else.  Make your own personal burger blend at Laurel Meat Market.  Work your way up to trying Steven Raichlen's Planet Barbecue and its suggestions.

Find yourself a meat market on last month's post about places to shop.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Promises Of Strawberries At Gorman Farm

Promises, promises:  Pick-your-own strawberries at Gorman Farm
Make your plans for strawberries at Gorman Produce Farm in Laurel.  It's just off Rte 29 on Gorman Road -- an easy ride from anywhere in eastern Howard County.  I'm a big fan of their pick-your-own if you're taking around little people.

Free Italian Ice Tuesday -- And It Actually Feels Warm Enough To Enjoy A Frozen Dessert

Rita's at the King's Contrivance location
Tomorrow is the annual day when Rita's Italian Ice kicks off its season by giving away from custard and Italian ice.  Most years, it's humorous because mid-March is too cold to make frozen desserts sound appetizing, but the warm spring makes this seem almost natural.

Local blogger Adam makes it seem delicious as well.  I'm a fan of many ice cream desserts, including  Meadow Frozen Custard in Columbia and the many Rita's Italian Ice franchises around the county.  But Adam -- who now blogs at Option Pitch and Waffle Crisp -- is a new employee at the Rita's on St. John's Lane in Ellicott City.

Adam wrote me about how even he is surprised at how much he likes the Rita's ice.  Personally, I think he is wrong to mention all the flavors.  Black cherry has been scientifically proven to be the best -- layered, of course, with custard in a gelati.  But I'll let Adam make his pitch:
I'm willing to guess the word "chain" might not have the best connotations for loyal HowChow readers. It's OK, I usually agree. As a longtime food blogger, I can fully understand the merits of Victoria's duck fat fries compared to the limp, salty things you get at Checkers, or the superiority of a hot-from-the-oven Coalfire pizza to anything advertised as remotely "artisan" from Domino's. But not all chains are bad. Some are even great. Case in point, Rita's Italian Ice.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Wegmans Update: Clock Tower Is Up

Steve posted photos of the new Columbia Wegmans showing that their signature clock tower going up.  Check out the "I Want The Columbia Wegmans" Facebook page.  Three months to opening . . .

Smoked Corned Beef At Kloby's Smokehouse

Smoked corned beef at Kloby's
Seasonal treat -- smoked corned beef at Kloby's Smokehouse on Johns Hopkins Road.

Some friends went to Kloby's last night to watch some basketball.  We snacked on the St. Patrick's Day special -- smoked corned beef.  They buy the pink beef, then smoke it in the "pit" with their wings, brisket, etc.

That's fun.  It's lean and thick-sliced.  Some pieces are salty, but they have a great smoked flavor and an outer crust that shows that you're eating something made special.

They only have the corned beef through Sunday.  I'd actually recommend just ordering the beef and sides.  We had one sandwich, but the roll doesn't add much.  Order a half pound or a pound of beef.  Get some cabbage or some fries.  Snack on slices as you watch the NCAA tournament -- and maybe try some of the beers, including the nitrogen-infused specials that they're serving up.

Kloby's is on Johns Hopkins Road just west of Rte 29.  It's a shopping center with Facci, Tandoor Grill and other restaurants.  The post office says that's Laurel, but it isn't.  I have had a political position against the description.  Now I want to push Steve's brilliant suggestion:  Tribeco.  It's a triangle below Columbia.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tandoor Grill Brings A Different Indian -- And Offers Up The Chili Naan If You Dare

Vegetable vindaloo and the chili naan
There are few more troublesome dishes than half-hearted Indian food.  It's a cuisine of spices, and a chef worried whether you will like hot-pepper spiciness can deaden a meal by cutting back on all flavor across the board.

Tandoor Grill delivers the flavor.  In fact, it delivers a different flavor than the spices of other Indian restaurants around.  With that, it creates a nice lunch and takeout option on Johns Hopkins Road just west of Rte 29.  It also creates a bit of a holy grail for people who crave heat, although we'll pursue that later.

Tandoor Grill replaced a sandwich joint aimed at the Applied Physics Lab crowd, and they have maintained the casual seating area, a sandwich menu, and an array of coffee drinks.  But I have only eaten the Indian food (and the garam masala chicken wings).  The short menu runs through a bunch of kebabs and other meats cooked in the tandoor oven through two dozen curries, both meat and veg.

Mrs. HowChow and I split on the curries.  I think they're delicious -- often ordering a mixed vegetable dish like vegetable saag or vegetable vindaloo to keep my takeout on the healthy side of a splurge.  Mrs. HowChow just prefers House of India or Royal Taj.  She enjoyed the chicken korma and chicken tikka but she just prefers H of I.

I think it's a question of familiarity.  H of I is a comfort food, and, after a busy day, it's just what the doctor ordered.  But a billion people cook Indian or Pakistani food every night.  I think Tandoor Grill's curries just have their own flavors.  They're certainly full-flavored.  A dish like vegetables saag comes with tender vegetables in a spinach sauced spiced beautifully.  Not hot pepper spice.  It's that mix of spices that fill your mouth and make Indian food stand out.  Like Bon Fresco, this is counter service that has the appetite to serve restaurant food.  And I'm not alone.  My friend Josh pretty much waxes poetic about Tandoor Grill.
Chili naan
Why do I love Tandoor?  a) Because the couple who run it are about the nicest people you will find. After three times there they knew me and started throwing in extra sides etc.  b) The samosas are awesome. they pull off a light feeling to deep fat fried dumplings which is incredibly tough to do. 
c) They offer an array of Indian dishes that are simply hard to come by.  I worked near Heritage India in DC, and we would frequent the buffet where there was always a seperate line made up of Indian people dining on some sort of "off menu" filled with Indian street food.  Tandoor has those dishes.  d) To further the Heritage comparison, quite simply Tandoor's food is better. 
Finally e) Chili Naan.  As a lover of spicy food, this is simply my "are-you-a-man-or-a-mouse" spicy food. There are pretend spicy foods, real spicy foods, and spicy foods that drives sweat from a lover of habanero peppers like myself.   Chilli naan is the rare restaurant made spicy food where they have not dialed down the spice for Anglo pallets.
Ah, yes.  The chili naan.  It's a $4 extra on the Tandoor Grill menu.  A naan literally baked with dozens of hot peppers in the bread.  Josh says he has felt the spice the next day.  I ate my chili naan with the spicy vegetables vindaloo.  I drank water, and I pulled a yogurt from the fridge to cool down my mouth.  But I thought it was a complete success.  Spicy and exciting with enough bread to give it heft and a crunchy bite.  It's a dish, not a gag, and it's certainly something new to me.

If you go to Tandoor Grill, check out the weekend specials.  I haven't had them there, but I love gol gappe -- semolina puffs that you crack and stuff with chick peas, potatoes and a minty, sour sauce.

Tandoor Grill 
7500 Montpelier Road 
Laurel, MD 20723 

Near: Tandoor Grill is in the shopping center with Kloby's Smokehouse, La Palapa Too, Facci and a bunch of other restaurants. It is on Johns Hopkins Road just west of Rte 29. The post office calls that area Laurel. In the only political statement on the HowChow blog, we keep pointing out that's not Laurel.

Tandoor Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Doner Kebab At Rudy's Mediterranean

Doner platter at Rudy's
Doner kebab is one of those dishes that you can find all around the world because it satisfies carnivores across cultures.

It's a Turkish cousin to the shwarma or gyro.  A roasted meat cooked on a vertical spit, then carved off in slices that run from a crispy edge to a moist interior.  The Turks have spread them across Europe, and Rudy's Mediterranean has brought them to Columbia.

The 2 Dudes Who Love Food blog were the first to write up Rudy's.  The dudes have eaten in Istanbul, and they said that they felt the place when they ate hummus, an eggplant salad, doner, a minced lamb kabob, and more.

I can't vouch for Rudy's authenticity, but I can vouch for the meat.  Bad gyros taste of the freezer or have monotonous flavor across the sandwich.  Rudy's "Iskender Kebab" dinner tastes sliced for the order.  The edges are crisp, and the meat has a rich flavor without being greasy.  With the pita bread and the garlicy yogurt sauce, it's delicious and definitely the taste of a kitchen trying to do something unusual.

Turkish coffee
Rudy's is a relatively new place that serves a massive menu.  They do a full American or diner selection plus the Turkish offerings.  We enjoyed our other entree, which was roasted eggplant topped with meat and tomato sauce.  They serve a nice basic rice and a fresh salad with every meal.  (I would pass on the stuffed grape leaves, which were limp and tasted like nothing more than rice.)

Reviews on Urbanspoon and Yelp are as wide as the menu.  Some talk up the breakfast, the lentil soup, the rice pudding; others weren't happy at all.  I really recommend the doner.  That's the kind of meat that makes me want to splurge.  They serve a wrap for lunch and a few entrees at dinner.  I hope you can just get a sandwich with pita and the doner meat.

One bonus: Rudy's serves Turkish coffee as part of its dinner entrees.  It's fun.  It's tiny cups of strong coffee.  Definitely a touch -- like the free green tea at Sushi Sono -- that helps to create a special feel.

Rudy's Mediterranean Grill
7185 Columbia Gateway Drive
Columbia, MD 21046

NEAR:  Rudy's is easy to reach even though you can't see it from the road.  It's just south of Rte 175 on Columbia Gateway Drive.  (That's the signs that I thought meant "Colonel Gateway Drive" for years.)  You curve a bit to get there.  Follow the knife and fork signs and then turn right up into a shopping center.  The same center has the Flavors of India restaurant as well.

Rudy's Mediterranean Grill & Diner on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 12, 2012

Did Kuramo Restaurant Open In Columbia?

Does anyone know if Kuramo International opened in the Long Reach village center in Columbia?

There had been talk that the new restaurant would open on March 9.  I'm looking forward to trying a menu that promises breakfast, Peruvian chicken, Nigerian food and all kinds of flavors ranging from Latin America to Africa to the Caribbean.

I shopped at Family Market today, and Kuramo was locked in the middle of the afternoon.  Anyone have early reviews?  (Update: Publius comments below that Kuramo's Web site says they're closed on Mondays.)

Zeke's Coffee At The BP In Columbia Crossing

Zeke's Coffee is a Baltimore boutique roaster that my stereotype says you'll find in a Hampden shop selling cupcakes and sandals made from hemp.

But Twitter says that you can actually get a cup at the BP station near the Target in Columbia.

This morning, Good to Go Market tweeted about their new Zeke's set-up at the BP in Columbia Crossing.  This just north of the intersection of Rte 175 and Dobbin Road.  I admit to being surprised, so I thought the Good to Go folks -- who also run Sunocos in Ellicott City and Columbia -- deserved a little notice.

Is it just me, or do you feel like a company that makes an extra effort to buy niche coffee will also make an extra effort with your car?  I'd love to know any other gas stations with coffee that you think does something special.  Will anyone clean your windows and serve you Southern Skies?  My to-do list already includes the subs at the downtown Columbia Exxon.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

City Smackdown: Get Howard County Restaurants In Zagat, Win $300 For Sharing Your Opinions

Zagat is a child of the big city.  It started rating New York City restaurants.  It started with the Zagats just polling their friends.

Now, they want you and your suburbs.

Zagat is collecting ratings for its next Washington-Baltimore book.  They want you to rate restaurants.  I want you to add Howard County spots to smack down a few of those city hot spots.  Review your local favorites.  They'll get into the next edition.

Zagat will pay $300 for your reviews.  Or at least for someone's reviews.  If you use the link to a Zagat site, you can sign onto Zagat and write reviews to enter a contest through March 25.  They'll pick their favorite reviewer based on points for each review.   The winner will get a $300 gift certificate as a prize.

Disclaimer:  I'm writing about the Zagat contest, but it's Zagat's contest.  You need to read their rules.  You need to go through their site.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Herring At Today's Catch

Herring at Today's Catch
I know herring is a limited market -- so limited that half my house doesn't care for the pickled fish.

But it's a great snack if you're in the mood and shopping in Today's Catch in Columbia.  The fish market often sells small containers for less than $2.  You get delicious fish in a sauce that may have wine and mustard.  Great on a bagel for breakfast.  Great on a crack for a snack.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Comments On Chinese, Pizza, Cheesesteaks And More -- And Where Do We Find A Giant Pizza?

Whole snappers at Costco from Min E.
The "Welcome Home" posts were great fun, and people should go back for the comments if you want to pick up more tips.  On the "Date Night" post, folks talked up Tino's, Cafe de Paris, Ranazul and more.  Scan through all those posts and look for ideas for everything from Chinese and pizza to a bunch of places for liquor.

Or remember that Min E. emailed a photo of whole snappers and an update to my post about unusual food:  chicken hearts seasoned with salt and pepper paired with Korean rice wine at Rainpia in Ellicott City.

Even as I tried to summarize what I've learned, the Howard County scene continues to improve.  The Family Market in Columbia feels like a game changer to me.  The Wegmans will clearly have a huge impact on the local food scene, but the new supermarket in Long Reach brings produce, Asian and Latin products that you couldn't get south of Rte 40 before.

Anne, Allan and others added their comments to the original post.  Min E. always offer great advice about what to buy.  The fact that she came away impressed confirms that this could reduce my runs to Catonsville.  I have shopped twice at Family Market, and I have several posts in mind -- Korean snacks, Argentine chorizo, and more.

Beyond those, people keep adding their ideas -- and asking questions:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Western Howard County -- A First Step In Restaurants, Markets And More West of Rte 32

South Mountain Creamery
The Howard County of Columbia and Ellicott City may be sprawling compared to big cities, but they're the big time compares to Howard County west of Rte 32.  Out in the western county, there are fewer options, but that doesn't mean you need to settle at all.

I'm not an expert on the western county, but people have joined in before with comments that collect places like J&Y Tokyo Market in Eldersburg and Town Grill in Lisbon.  Babs dropped her list on a post next month.  Now Annie of the AnnieRie Unplugged blog has offered up an entire guest post of joints for locals to try.  Annie posts regularly about food, especially local sourcing, and she has started an entire series about living out in the western county.

For HowChow, she stepped in with a primer on food in the west county -- where to eat, where to shop: 
We ate out quite a bit more when we lived in Columbia and commuted to DC, than we do now that we live in west county, mainly because it is less convenient to go out. More of that is from being retired. We may run around all day so lunch is usually the time we eat out, and if we are home all day, we don't feel like getting all dolled up (in other words, changing out of our farmer jeans with dirt, grease or whatever on the knees) and fighting rush hour traffic to get to a restaurant.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Link: Shin Chon On Tech & MSG Blog

Lunch at Shin Chon Garden in Ellicott City gets a thumbs up on the Technology & MSG blog.

For $8, Alex got a plate of panchan to share with friends and then a big plate of bulgogi, sushi sticky rice and more.  I'm a huge Shin Chon fan.  I think you can get an English translation of anything, especially if you ask the manager who runs the place.

Lunch looks delicious.  Or put together a table of four and go big with a "grill-your-own beef" dinner -- my step-by-step suggestions so you know what to expect.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Link: Whole Foods vs. Wegmans on Sarah Says

How do you compare the coming Wegmans and the maybe Whole Foods and how they'll affect the design of Columbia?

Sarah posts about the supermarkets and their choice of locations on the Sarah Says blog.  She is a fan of the idea of Whole Foods coming to an existing building near the Columbia Mall.

Party At R&R Taqueria -- Friends Come To Celebrate The Triple D Show With Rodrigo

Television star Rodrigo Albarran-Torres
R&R Taqueria celebrated its "Diners, Drive-ins & Dives" debut with a party this afternoon -- food and mariachi music for friends who came to share the fun on the Elkridge-Jessup line.

R&R shirts
Rodrigo and his crew served up a buffet of chicken, pork, beans and rice.  I hadn't had their chicken mole before, and I'm going back for that and more of the slow-cooked pork.  He also brought mariachi music in from Washington.  They turned the parking spaces at the Shell station on U.S. 1 into a party, including a cake with a picture of Rodrigo and Guy Fieri.

(Update:  Better photo from the folks behind Southern Skies Coffee.  Click here.)

Rodrigo said the show kicked up business the day after it debuted on Monday night.  They have been busy all week.  You can catch the "Time Tested Treasures" episodes on March 9 and March 10.  Check the Food Network Web site for details.

They also have R&R Taqueria t-shirts with their own logo on the front and a Guy Fieri homage on the back.

Click here for my original post on the "Time Tested Treasures" show.  Or click here for all the posts about R&R with suggestions about what to order.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Butcher At Lily's Mexican Market

Soft tacos with meat from Lily's
I need advice about how to use the butcher at Lily's Mexican Market.  I see great opportunity, but I don't know what to buy.

Lily's is a terrific market off Dobbin Road in Columbia.  I have gone for years to buy fresh tortillas, canned goods, cheeses, and even some fresh produce like avocados, tomatillos and cactus.  Now, I want to expand into the meat counter.

My last trip was successful, although not what I expected.  I bought fajita meat expecting to grill something that looked like a skirt steak from Laurel Meat Market.  Instead, I got four separate pieces of meat.  They were maybe a half-inch thick with ragged edges, halfway between what I expected and some paper-thin cuts for a Philadelphia cheesesteak.

Fajita meat from Lily's
I didn't grill the meat.  I heated a cast iron skillet and just touched pieces down for 60-90 seconds per side until they cooked through.  Then  I sliced them against the grain -- and there was a strong grain -- to serve with vegetables and cheese for soft tacos.

My dinner had a great beef flavor and a chew similar to skirt steak.  At a minimum, you could start with an order of fajita meat because good ingredients served with Lily's house-made corn tortillas will make a great dinner no matter what you do.  But I'd love advice about what else to buy and what else to cook.

Lily's butcher board
I can translate Lily's butcher chalk board -- oxtail, beef leg, leg of lamb, pork chops, pork chorizo, etc.  But I know very little about meat, and I know that cuts differ.  A pork chop isn't the same as every other pork chop.  I was trying to use a recipe from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday, but his recipe clearly wasn't describing the cut that I got when I ordered "fajita" meat.  What are the popular cuts at a butcher aimed at Mexican or Central American chefs?  What recipes work?

If you're looking for interesting butcher options, you're in luck around Howard County.  There are three full-service butchers in an American style heavy on beef and pork along with a growing group of halal butchers for lamb and the Korean-style packages at the Asian grocery stores.  For links to them all, click back to my collection of butchers, bakeries and groceries in the Welcome Home series.