Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Food Experiences: Best of Howard County 2013

Guacamole from Roots
HowChow is more about food than restaurants, so it always feels more natural to recommend a list of cool experiences where you can work food into a day.

When I write this annual post, I have tried to replace half the items between each list.  You should check out all the "food experience posts" since 2009 because there are great ideas there -- donuts, hot pretzels, Korean Food 101, and more things that we enjoy all the time.  For 2013, I have gone 100% new -- except, of course, Larriland's pick-your-own that is just so wonderful to omit:

  • Make an easy dinner with guacamole from Roots.  The Clarksville grocery makes its own guacamole, and that zesty flavor turns almost anything into a delicious dinner.  Guac and chips can make you happy.  Or guac spread on a quesadilla of tortillas and cheese.  Or go crazy by making your own little dishes -- a salad of chopped tomatoes, some cheeses, the guac, and crackers.
  • Go for my newest taco find at Linsy's Store in Catonsville.  Linsy's is perfect for food blogging.  They're serving terrific Mexican food in the back of a store off Rte 40.  I heard from one of the owners at Portalli's -- where the Latino employees turned folks onto the tacos.  Cheap adventure and a guaranteed full stomach.
  • Mix your own cocktails.  The trend towards fresh ingredients can come into your liquor closet.  I discovered bourbon this year, and you can find all kinds of exotic mixers at local liquor stores.  Vinegar based shrubs at im Wine in Fulton.  Bitters at the Perfect Pour in Elkridge.  Search the Web for cocktail recipes.  Then check any of the nicer local liquor stores, and I'm sure that you can find something interesting.
  • Plan on a lion show and dinner for the Lunar New Year.  
    See a lion dance.  
    At the end of January 2014, look for days when you can eat Chinese food and watch a show by dancers from the Jow Ga Kung Fu Athletic Association.  I wrote about these in 2013.  They perform at Chinese restaurants, so you get a meal and a performance.  The Jow Ga dance team had listed their events on a Facebook page, so mark your calendar to check that out a few weeks before the Lunar New Year on January 31, 2014.
  • Brunch at Victoria's Gastropub.  Treat yourself to special eggs -- scrambled, poached, served on Victoria's wonderful biscuits or a crispy potato cake.  Victoria's has a full brunch menu -- and my favorite burgers -- so you can please everyone.  This is a Sunday morning menu worth getting out of your house.
  • Eat outside as soon as it gets warm.  Years ago, we declared Howard County's indigenous restaurant style to be the "parking lot cafe" where you can eat while watching you car.  They're still the king, but Main Street in Ellicott City has gotten new patios at Portalli's and Pure Wine Cafe.
  • Get some food ideas from AnnieRie.  Over my five years, we have had a bunch of great food blogs, including the 2 Dudes who review restaurants. But AnnieRie Unplugged regularly has wonderful ideas about good eating nearby -- from profiles of local farms to reports on a CSA to cooking posts to inspire you to cook or can local produce. AnnieRie has a point of view, and you can learn about local options for meat, vegetables and more. If you're interested in local voices, check out the blogs in my right column or on the HocoBlogs site.
  • Pick fruit at Larriland Farms in Woodbine.  You can't get better food than peaches and berries from the fields.   Go for the fruit and vegetables.  Go on a date.  Go with your kids.  Go to fill up for canning.  Just go to get outside.  Picnic option:  Pick up barbecue at the Town Grill on your way.
  • Get a growler.  Maryland made it legal this year for some restaurants and liquor stores to sell beer in large glass containers.  The growlers can hold three, six or more bottles of beer, and people get them filled for the fresh taste and volume discounts.  I haven't done it yet.  I have heard about growlers at stores like Perfect Pour in Elkridge and Jason's in Ellicott City and restaurants like Frisco's Tap House or the Alehouse Columbia in Columbia and T-Bonz in Ellicott City.  Anyone have other places that they recommend?  Advice about how to pick a growler?
  • Find exotic takeout.  The Ethiopian food from Soretti's is the easiest "grab and go" option. But get outside your comfort zone with dishes like soon doo boo at Lighthouse Tofu in Ellicott City or Malaysian kway teow from Chopstixx in Elkridge.  Try lamb shank at RG's BBQ Cafe in Laurel or the "jarbecue" at Kloby's Smokehouse on Johns Hopkins Road.  Click around in the "labels" in HowChow's right column, and you can search by cuisine or location. 
    What would you add?  What else do you recommend?

    This week, I'm posting a series of "best of" posts with best restaurants and best food experiences.  You can see all of the "food experiences" since 2009, including 2012's advice about learning Korean food or walking an old railroad line to The Breadery.  You can click for all the "best of posts" going back.

    If you're looking for more, there are several long series.  First, check out the two weeks of 2012 posts with recommendations for people new to Howard County.  Then, look at two prior series of posts -- a "tour of Howard County" describing restaurants and markets in specific areas or my 2009 guide to what I've learned about Howard County from "best Chinese" and "best takeout" to "best BBQ" and "best burgers."


    K8teebug said...

    I also highly recommend the book Bitters if you've gotten into mixing your own cocktails. It's amazing!

    Anonymous said...

    Lyndwood Square Wine & Spirits is a great place to pick up a growler or 6 six back for that matter. Prices are more reasonable than Perfect Pour and the staff is amazingly knowledgeable and friendly!

    cdarl said...

    I saw the Jow Ga Dancers at Mandarin House last year. Great food and very entertaining dance. We are going to go again next year.

    Anonymous said...

    I know its outside of Howard County, and not a locally owned place, BUT Total Wine(formerly Corridor) in Laurel is top notch and their prices are very very good.

    Though I'll admit I still shop at PP, even though they are a few bucks more than TotalWine in general, because they are a local place.

    Dan said...

    The Wine Bin has a growler station too.