Friday, May 31, 2013

Go Big Or Get Sent Home: Bonaparte Is A Great Place When You Need To Bring Dessert

Flan and apple pastries from Bonaparate in Savage
It's a tough call when you need to bring dessert to a Friday dinner and you know the host is really putting heart into a grilled extravaganza.

For the short-ribs-and-shrimp feast that the '34 Act Gourmet put on, I had to find something that could hold its own on the table -- and I had to do it on the way home.

That's how I ended up among Bonaparte Bakery's pastries in the Savage Mill.  The bakery does spectacular breads, but I focused on the display case where I passed on several cream-and-pastry creations to buy slices of flan and individual-sized apple pastries.

These are high-end desserts.  For $5 each, I got substantial desserts.  Two of you could split one.  To sample for the blog, the four of us split four.  Dense, lightly-sweet flan slices -- almost more like a sweet-potato pie than a Spanish custard.  Perfectly-tender apple slices with a sweet gel, baked onto a complex pastry crust that managed to be light and crisp without being dry.

Bonaparte does all kinds of intricate French desserts.  The chocolate croissants and the breads make it worth visiting any time, but keep Savage in mind when you want something sweet to make a special dinner.

If you check out Laurel Meat Market from Howard County, then Bonaparte can be a quick detour on the way home.  If you want more bakeries, check out my post about the revolution in bread in Howard County.  If you want more intricate pastries, stop at Touche Touchet in Columbia, especially for the chocolate croissants, fruit tarts and cookies.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Get Special From The Specialists: Short Ribs From Laurel Meat, Shrimp From Today's Catch

Shrimp from Today's Catch and short ribs from Laurel Meat Market
If you want something special, then you should start with the specialists.

The '34 Act Gourmet planned a special dinner, so he took the time to stop at some local spots for the main courses.  Short ribs -- bought from Laurel Meat Market.  Wild shrimp -- bought from Today's Catch in Columbia.

Shrimp and ribs with Korean side dishes
They're a little drive, but you should check them out for great food and a little advice.  Laurel Meat Market -- like the other local butchers like Boarman's in Highland and J.W. Trueth's in Oella -- cuts its own meat.  So you can talk to a butcher about special cuts like the chunks of rib that the '34 Act marinated and then grilled on his deck.

Those weren't thin-sliced Korean kalbi.  Those were fist-sized chunks that revealed bone as they cooked, then cut meaty and rich.  They were an exotic to me, and he went over the top by adding skewers of wild shrimp.

The '34 Act balanced the meat with some Korean side dishes that he bought at the H Mart in Catonsville.  The tang and spice of kimchi pairs perfectly with grilled meats, and it worked again here.  I completely over-indulged with an entire skewer of shrimp and three pieces of beef.

The local butchers and seafood markets provide special spots, a real chance to know your butcher or fish monger.  They get good stuff, and they will do special orders.  I need to update my guide posts, but the old ones provide a place for you to start.  Check out this 2009 post about butchers or this 2009 post about seafood markets.  But note that I don't update old links, so you may also want to scroll down the right column and just click on the labels for each market.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lemonade Cotton Candy At The Columbia Mall

You'll be hard-pressed to find better food in the Columbia Mall than the first-floor cotton candy and caramel popcorn stand just outside of the food court.

Last year, we had loved the fresh cotton candy when the stand was perched under the escalators near  the center of the mall.  Now, the stand has moved down the way and expanded.  Same great cotton candy, which you buy for $3 a bag or two bags for $5.  Each color is a different flavor.  Cotton candy is a simple pleasure, but it's worth celebrating when it's done well.

We'd thought the stand had been forced out by a bakery that appeared under the escalators.  But we found the new location on our most-recent visit and left with a bag of lemonade cotton candy.  It's an easy treat, and it's so good that you could serve some fluffs to guests.

I blanked on the name of the stand.  It is something simple.  So simple that I knew that I could remember it.  If anyone spots the name, can you post in below?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Food Truck Showdown This Saturday: Come To Columbia To Eat And Raise Money For Animals

Five food trucks -- including the La Pearl Waffles and Bennett 5 Star -- will round up in Columbia this weekend, and you can chow down to raise money for the Animal Welfare Society of Howard County.

The trucks are gathering from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm for the "HoCo Chow Down" at the Monarch Mills apartment complex.  They're raising money for the Animal Welfare Society, which does adoption and neutering.  Society volunteers will be on site with adoptable pets.  Check out a Facebook page here.

(Update: Two new trucks signed on for Saturday's event.  More dessert!  Look for CookieRide and Kona Ice.  I don't know Kona, but Casey from CookieRide describes something that might be a shave ice!)

This should be a fun lunch if you're near Snowden River Parkway because Monarch Mills (7600 Monarch Mills Way) is off Oakland Mills Road, just south of Snowden River.  The trucks will provide variety from Smokey Meadows Grill to Savannah’s Jamaican Kitchen, from Karlita’s Latin American Food Truck to Bennett’s Five Star Caribbean Grill.

Then you can finish up with a sweet waffle from La Pearl Waffles.  I have been trying to get myself to the La Pearl truck, which has parked near Howard Community College many weeknights this spring.  You can even follow them on Twitter.

I'm not sure that I'll be able to attend.  If you go, please email me photos and a quick report.  My email is in the right column of the blog.  If you're interested in food trucks, check out all my posts about trucks in Howard County.

Link: Strawberry Fields Open Friday At Larriland

The strawberry fields will open at Larriland Farm in Woodbine this Friday, reports AnnieRie on AnnieRie Unplugged.

You should definitely make plans to pick-your-own fruit this year at Larriland Farm, one of my favorite places in Howard County.  It's an easy drive out U.S. 70.  If you go, consider lunch of either barbecue at Town Grille in Lisbon or fried chicken at Harvest Fried Chicken in Woodbine.

If you're making the drive, consider preserving the taste of your great fruits and vegetables.  Jam would be a terrific way to start, and I recommended some books on canning earlier this year.

You really should follow AnnieRie's food posts if you want to know about Howard County food -- especially the local farms and produce.  There is truly more good food around than one blog can cover, and I love AnnieRie's reports about where you can pick and what you can do with your CSA.

Grilled Halloumi At Pars And Nazars: Start Your Summer With The Cheese That You Can Grill

Grilled halloumi with pomegranate molassas
Ladies and gentlemen, start your grills.  Summer is here, and the first thing that you should throw over the coals is . . . cheese.

Not a cheese burger.  Not cheese melting on top of something else.  You need to cut half-inch slices of cheese, drop them on the grill, and let them brown for a few moments on each side.

To pull this off, you need to buy yourself the right cheese.  That's halloumi cheese, a brined white cheese so firm that it keeps its shape even over fire.

A spectacular, simple dish:  Halloumi cheese sliced about a half-inch thick.  Grilled for 2-3 minutes per side until the faces have browned slightly.  Then topped with a few lines of pomegranate molasses.  The sweet, rich molasses contrasts with the salty, warm cheese.  With just a block of cheese and a bottle of molasses, you can create an exotic appetizer or start an easy dinner.

Check out both the cheese and the molasses at the Persian Pars Market or the Turkish Nazar Market -- both near Snowden River Parkway in Columbia.

Of course, that's just a start.  We ate halloumi at Zaytinya in Washington, and it was amazing.  Probably pan-seared, which also makes a crisp, warm layer of cheese.  Then augmented with sliced dates, citrus and mint.  Search "halloumi recipe," and you'll find all kinds of ideas -- halloumi in salads, on burgers, or even serving as the "bread" in a grilled sandwich with a white bean paste inside.

If you're grilling, check out the butchers at Pars and Nazar for ground lamb.  Check out the entire Grilling Week series from 2010 that paired local ethnic groceries with Steven Raichlen's Planet Barbecue.  And you could call the markets before you visit.  Pars sells the cheese so quickly that they were out this weekend.  They get more all the time.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Link: The Best Potato Salad In Howard County

You need to start eating summer foods, and the Urban Bushwoman has the first suggestion with her call for the best potato salad in Howard County.

The UB posted about potato salad from the Columbia Grocery at the Atholton shopping center in southern Columbia.  She talked up the potatoes, the dressing, the tartness from the mustard.  

I'm game to try the salad.  I'm with the UB that most potato salad comes heavy and not worth the eating, so I'm up to try something better.  LisaB and Macsmom chatted about the post on Twitter, and I have to admit that I hadn't been inspired when I checked out the Columbia grocery.  So I'm pleased to see that there may be a find there.
Anyone else have recommendations for summer foods?  Other great potato salad?  I have some posts to come about grilling and the outdoors. 

(Update: Check out the comments below.  One reminded me that Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery has great potato salad.  Consider all the posts about Bon Fresco.)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Link: The Washingtonian Is Eating In Laurel

Todd Kliman of the Washingtonian ran an online chat today, and he started with his standard opening:  "Where am I eating now?"  The answer: Laurel.

RG's BBQ Cafe, Laurel

Let me get the key criticism out of the way first: The ribs come off too easily from the bone. That's not a small thing if you're one of the barbecue mad, of course, and it nagged at me all night after eating here, because the pork itself has the requisite lusciousness and the sauce is a pitch-perfect balance of tanginess, sweetness and heat. . . .
Click here for the entire chat.   Then check out our local critics -- the 2 Dudes -- writing about Red, Hot & Blue in Laurel as well.

New Indian In Maple Lawn Will Be The "Polo Club"

The new Indian restaurant coming to Fulton will be called the "Polo Club," the developer said at tonight's Maple Lawn annual meeting.

The restaurant under construction on Maple Lawn Boulevard just below Johns Hopkins Road is being built by the folks who run the Ambassador in Baltimore.  That's still a steel frame, so the Polo Club probably won't be serving food until next winter.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pistachio Baclava At Nazar Market: It Could Make Your Dinner Party, But It Should Be Your Treat

Don't buy a candy bar when you can snag two quick pistachio baclava at Nazar Market in Columbia.

You're doing errands.  You want a treat.  Treat yourself, but don't just buy a Snickers bar.  Grab a few sweets from the display at the front of Nazar's Market.

This is central Columbia at Oakland Mills Road.  Across the parking lot from Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery.  Down Snowden River from Target or Wegmans.  Nazar has a great halal butcher and a selection of cheeses and packaged goods that draw a big circle around Turkey -- basically from Romanian cheese to a few Indian frozen items with a emphasis on Turkish items from chocolates to grains to juices.

Ooooops.  These didn't get home.
So you could buy a plate of baclava for a dinner party.  You can do great Middle Eastern shopping at Turkish Nazar and the Persian Pars Market a few blocks south.  The baclava -- with their flaky pastry soaked with honey -- could be the crescendo of a meal with grilled lamb kabobs and a pilaf.

But you can also just grab two baclava as you run errands.  They could be your treat.  You could put them on the passenger seat and nibble them down as you drive to the post office or to pick up day care or whatever else you need to do.  Your spouse never has to know.

Unless you blog.

Hey babe!  I'll get you baclava next time!  Most of the great stuff gets home.  Remember the candied fruit from Tere's Latin Market?  Or those burgers with Laurel Meat Market bacon ground into the mix?  Or all those delicious items that I brought home from Roots.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Breakfast at R&R Taqueria: Get A Hearty Start With Eggs, Chorizo, Cactus, Salsa And More

Eggs and cactus with beans and tortillas (and a side of chorizo potatoes)
Hearty breakfast requires a hearty day, and that's why my brain connects breakfast at R&R Taqueria with errands at Lowe's.

R&R is the taqueria in the Shell Station on U.S. 1 and Rte 175, but it opens early for eggs, sandwiches and other breakfasts.  Mostly take-out, but the '34 Act Gourmet and I ate at the small counter looking out over the gas pumps.

For $6, you get a full styrofoam plate of fresh food.  I went with eggs and cactus.  The Gourmet ate huevos rancheros.  The kitchen filled out both our plates with rice, beans, cheese and tortillas.  Everything works at R&R.  Earthy beans.  The lightly-spicy ranchero sauce.  The slightly sour contrast of cactus with hot eggs and fresh salsa.

R&R makes a series of salsas.  I can't track them.  I got a chunky tomato, onion and pepper salsa with my eggs, and I asked for a second container.  They're surprisingly fresh and flavorful for any restaurant -- let alone one in a gas station.

Then, I doubled the load with chorizo potatoes.  Diced hash browns crisped on the griddle, then mixed with a little cheese and crumbled chorizo.  Not that much meat actually.  Just enough to flavor the dish and sheen the potatoes with grease.  The plate just made me happier than most breakfasts because I kept scooping up variety on R&R's delicious corn tortillas.  A little salsa and eggs.  A little beans and chorizo.  Just eggs.  Just beans.  Repeat.

Most of the people flowing through R&R were gearing up for real work.  Landscapers, a Sears delivery guy. . .  I earned my breakfast -- including chorizo -- by getting 20 bags of mulch and spending hours spreading that around my yard.  R&R is just east of the Columbia Lowe's, which makes it a perfect stop if you're doing errands.

R&R serves a range of omelets and breakfast sandwiches.  We ordered from the Mexican eggs, but they'll also make breakfast tacos or breakfast burritos.  Check out the menu here.

If you want to try eggs and cactus at home, you can buy cactus in the produce section at Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Strawberry Picking Has Started At Gorman

The strawberry picking seasons has started at Gorman Farm in Laurel, reports AnnieRie on AnnieRie Unplugged.  She was there yesterday, and she has links to the Gorman Farm Facebook page where you can see what days they'll be open.

As of Thursday morning, Larriland Farm's Web site said they will open in late May when the berries ripen.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Tere's Expanding Into A Full Mexican Restaurant

The taqueria in the back of Tere's Latin Market has been a great place for Mexican food, and that place appears to be expanding.

The sub shop next to Tere's on Rte 40 has closed, and Tere's is expanding there, reports an anonymous commenter.  Talk of a full restaurant, a bakery and a bar.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dennis Lane Was A Wonderful Guy

Dennis Lane was killed early Friday.  The Sun has a story.  Dennis wrote the Tales of Two Cities blog, and he was wonderful to me from the moment that I started HowChow.

Dennis and I traded links and emails.  He answered questions.  Using the handle Wordbones, he also demonstrated a way to write with meaning and edges, but without the rancor and cheap shots that can infect blogging.  Dennis said wrote what he felt.  He just kept the humor and perspective in his writing that he had in real life.

Dennis had a real history in Howard County, which made him far more valuable than a voice who had moved here a few years ago.  I always appreciated his welcome and his blogging example, and I am glad that I told him.

For more about Dennis, look at TJ on The Rocket Powered Butterfly.  I wrote short because I knew that I could write well.  TJ did much better and ended with a Wordbones-style link that made me laugh and think about Dennis.  People are writing on Twitter.  Start with the HoCoBlogs timeline because JessieX is retweeting and responding to people.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tigi's Ethiopian Restaurant And Market

Veggie platter at Tigi's Ethiopian
When we left Tigi's Ethiopian, we felt like we had just eaten dinner in Tigi's home -- warm, cozy and comforting food served with a smile.

Tigi's is a new restaurant just off Rte 40 in Ellicott City.  It's a storefront with a small open kitchen serving the stews and other dishes from Ethiopia.  Disks of the spongy injera bread, topped with stews that range from mild to spicy, smooth to crunchy, and meaty to vegetarian.

This is a homestyle place.  Pretty tables, colorful art, and a friendly host who cooked and served our entire meal.  We aren't experts in Ethiopian cuisine, but we loved our dinner.  We ordered a vegetarian platter, then got feted with a tasty lentil sambusa and cups of coffee.

Go to Tigi's this weekend.  Ethiopian welcomes the experienced and the new.  Our experience says Tigi's matches the flavors of places in Silver Spring and Washington -- injera made from teff, earthy lentils and split peas, fresh tomato salad, and spicy chicken.

For new folks, I'd recommend a sampler platter.  The menu in the restaurant has several veg and non-veg platters, but we just asked for a double-serving of whatever vegetables Tigi suggested.  You'll get some lentils, some vegetables, some meats if you want.  We sampled a finely-chopped beef (michet abish) and spicy chicken (doro wat).  Tell them what looks good, whether you like spicy or not, whether you want chicken, beef or lamb.

This is still a new restaurant.  It was quiet last night.  Completely casual and a place you could definitely bring kids.  We really want people to find Tigi's and check it out.  Try the sambusa appetizer -- like a small samosa, crisp and stuffed with spicy lentils.  Try the coffee.  This is a friendly spot and unique for Howard County.  Go.

For more opinions on Tigi's check out comments on prior posts and Tom's post on HoCo Rising.

Tigi's Ethiopian Restaurant & Market
8459 Baltimore National Pike #14 (Rte 40)
Ellicott City, MD 21043

NEAR:  Tigi's is on the south side of Rte 40 east of Rte 29.  It's just across from the Normandy Shopping Center.  Tigi's is in a row of shops with the C & B Italian Dely.  They face Rte 40, but they're behind the Dunkin' Donuts.

Tigi's Ethiopian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Link: Serafino's Closed, Maybe Reopening

Serafino's in Ellicott City has closed and has a sign saying that they'll re-open this summer, reports the Columbia Patch.  This is an Italian spot that we haven't tried, but Andrew Metcalf said they're talking about renovations and maybe a change in concept.

Baguette From Bon Fresco: Go For The Sandwiches, Carry Home A Loaf Of Something

Sometimes, it is good to remember the basics.  Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery does that, and that's why it's one of my best restaurants in Howard County.

Go for any of the sandwiches.  Maybe start with a cold cut or that London broil.  But the Columbia spot is worth a visit just for bread.

That's the base of all those sandwiches.  Baguettes, ciabatta, wonderful challah on Fridays.  You won't get a better loaf anywhere -- even after the revolution in bread around here.  Bon Fresco pays attention to the details, and they bake up special bread.

For $2, I grabbed a baguette last week as I was doing late-afternoon errands.  I broke a hunk in the car.  A light white crumb with a real flavor -- lightly sour, crisp on the outside.  We made sandwiches with just a slice of speck from Wegmans.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Links: Review Of Tigi's, An Eye Out For Howard Mag, And A Class For People Who Want To Blog

I still haven't followed through on my plan to try the new Tigi's Ethiopian on Rte 40 in Ellicott City, but you can still get a blogger's take from HoCo Rising.

Tom and Jane chowed down on dishes that Tom said could have easily served two or three people.  We're both excited that injera has come to Howard County, and Tom says the food was delicious and an adventure.

If you like clicking around for local opinions, keep an eye out for the most-recent Howard Magazine.  It's a cool cover shot about O'mak Designs in Savage Mill that takes advantage of the mill's brick.  Inside, you'll find an article about the new Friends & Farms in Columbia that sells weekly food baskets that they fill by contracting with farmers.  You'll also see a feature on three great local food blogs -- Jackie Gonzalez-Feezer's La Casa De Sweets, Victoria Budich's The Soffritto, and Elizabeth Brunetti's The Bare Midriff.

Those three -- along with others -- appear in the blog list in the right column.  Most of us stumbled together through the HoCoBlogs connection, and I love that Nikki Gamer wrote these three.

If you have ever thought about writing a blog -- for fun or for business -- then you should consider a one-day class that will be offered twice in early June.  David Hobby is a spectacular blogger, a really smart thinker, and a really nice guy.  He runs the Strobist blog from Columbia, and he is running one-day classes on June 7 and 8 in conjunction with HoCoBlogs.

Blogging is hard.  It's great fun, but it takes far more time than I would have imagined.  For $169, Hobby will talk to you about how to think about writing and running the blog.  It's a bargain if you think a blog might help your business.  It'll be a fun day if you just want to blog as a hobby.  Or like a Hobby.

Please let me know if you see a link to the Howard Magazine articles.  I can't find the articles, and I can't figure out the magazine's on-line strategy.  I'm happy to link when they post on-line.

Monday, May 6, 2013

My Dream Of Whole Foods: Chicken Sausage

Pork andouille, chicken andouille, chicken brat, pork brat with hot dogs in back
We're still more than a year from the opening of the Columbia Whole Foods, but I have begun to dream -- and I dream of chicken sausage.

We hosted friends Sunday and centered the meal around sausages.  I learned to two things:  1) the bottled gas runs out on your busiest day and 2) people jump at good chicken sausages.

We had an array of links, including pork sweet Italian and pork andouille from Laurel Meat Market.  But I had bought more than two dozen chicken sausages at the Harbor East Whole Foods, and people jumped at the chance to eat the chicken bratwurst and chicken andouille.

Whole Foods makes great chicken sausages.  They're delicious.  They're zesty.  And they're leaner so you can eat two with so qualms.  (At least, you can eat two after you have rushed the second round of raw sausages off the quickly-cooling grill and onto a cast iron pan in the kitchen.  Mrs. HowChow opened windows avoid repeating last summer's visit from the firemen.)

I'm a huge proponent of sausages.  I have promoted them as the gateway drug to try local butchers and ethnic markets.  I recommend mixing the Laurel Meat Market hot Italian into both meatballs and into double-ground "firecracker" burgers.  And I relish a great pork sausage with great relish.

But I don't understand why Whole Foods and Harris Teeter are the only places where I find really good chicken sausage.  I like the raw links that you can cook whole or break up into pasta sauce or other dishes.  The chicken ones can have almost all the flavor with a fraction of the grease, and they convert sausages into something that I can eat regularly.

Apparently, I'm in the minority.  Laurel Meat Market makes a wonderful array of sausages -- hot Italian, sweet Italian, peppers & onions, bratwurst, etc. -- but they said they discontinued chicken sausages because they didn't sell that well.  Whole Foods often has four or six varieties in their butcher shop, and they're a variation from the Teeter's hot Italian.  I load up when we visit, and they'll get me into the store -- and buying -- when the Columbia Whole Foods opens in 2014.

The last timeline that I saw were the initial press releases that -- as reported in the Columbia Patch -- said the Whole Foods was aiming at late summer or fall 2014.  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Use A $10 Discount To Try RG's BBQ Cafe

Use a discount as an excuse, and you'll be going back to RG's BBQ Cafe in Laurel for the food.

I wrote about RG's BBQ Cafe on Tuesday.  I loved ribs, collars and corn bread.  Other people have snapped up specials like bacon-wrapped quail and barbecued lamb shank.  This is new management for the U.S. 1 barbecue spot, and it's serious folks.

So use today's Groupon as an excuse.  Rob pointed it out to me.  For $10, you can feast on $20 of barbecue some time in the next four months.  Stop in.  I think you'll be happy to go back at full price.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Looking For Farms Or Farm Stands?

Spring is the season to start thinking about eating and getting outside.  You can put them together by shopping at farms or farm stands, and AnnieRie helps make that happen.

Annie -- who blogs at AnnieRie Unplugged -- has created a FourSquare map with a bunch of Howard County farms and stands.  The map is a nice place for inspiration, and AnnieRie has been posting about farms around the area.