Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mark Your Calendar Now For Town Grill's Barbecue And Pick-Your-Own Fun At Larriland

Brisket and BBQ chicken sandwiches at Town Grill
This week is a gift.  Don't waste it.

Instead of sweating through late summer, you can enjoy some 80s over the next few days to pick-your-own peaches and enjoy your barbecue sandwiches.

Larriland peaches
Larriland Farm in Woodbine goes into overdrive between mid-July and Halloween.  You'll be able to fill your trunk any day.  Right now, there are peaches, blackberries, and beets along with the last blueberries and the first tomatoes.  Soon, apples and other vegetables will start up and run into the season when you can make a day of pumpkins, hay rides and fried apple fritters.

But for now, you should pair your farm visit with barbecue from Town Grill in Lisbon.  We broke new territory and ordered chicken and brisket on our last visit.  We each got a great sandwich.  Tender, moist meat.  Fresh basic rolls.  A good pickle.

My brisket was perfect.  Tender without being soft, the slices of meat were delicious, especially dipped in a little container of extra sauce.  Mrs. HowChow relished her chicken.  It looked like white meat cooked in Town Grill's barbecue sauce.  We gave up our usual pulled pork to try the new sandwiches, and we were pleased to see that everything lives up that high standard.

Town Grill is a really special spot.  It's literally in a Citgo station, and its kitchen takes part in Restaurant Weeks.  No joking around.  They smoke their own trout and salmon, both of which are worth taking home.  They have also run Thursday night specials for Restaurant Weeks -- topped off on August 1 with local lamb kabobs served with seasonal vegetables and rice pilaf for $11.13.

Throughout the year, Town Grill offers a deep menu of breakfast specials, sandwiches and platters.  On summer Saturdays, they make ribs.  They suggest calling ahead to reserve a rack.  I don't know if that's necessary, but I know the ribs are worth a phone call.

Not ripe!  Even the black ones!
Truly, you should mark your calendar for a day spent out in the western county.  Larriland is beautiful.  You can pick your own, then shop in the large barn full of produce, drinks, candies and canning supplies.  Larriland  can host anything from a romantic date to a child's adventure to an extravaganza of fruit and vegetable canning.

Today we got peaches and about a pound of blackberries.  The blackberries are delicious, but it's always tough to find the truly ripe ones.  Black isn't ripe.  The ripe ones almost fall off in your fingers.  We watched people fill containers with black berries they were wrestling off the vines, and we worry those weren't sweet.  Check out all the Larriland posts.

Seriously consider Town Grill's smoked salmon if you can talk yourself out of a barbecue sandwich.  They were making "BLTs" with salmon and bacon.  If you go, notice that there is lots of parking around the gas station.  There is a lot across the street and another just east of the station.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Comments About Fried Chicken, A New Gourmet Store in Ellicott CIty, And Xitomate's Chips

The long-lamented Old Bay chicken wings at Bon Chon
One good suggestion leads to many, many more.

I wrote about the fried chicken at the BP in Maple Lawn, and the comments were a long rush of good ideas.  Karen and AlPal3 talked up the BP's Chinese food and other items.  Jess says we need to try the fried chicken at Kelsey's.

I have learned a few places that I want to try.  Steve Fine recommended bagels at Cafe Bagel in Elkridge.  In the same comments, BMoreCupcake recommended mushroom and cheese kolache at Kolache Korner.  Then Chris recommended Habib's Bagel Cafe in Eldersburg.

Tim and I had emailed about the folks coming to Turf Valley.  He also reported a new gourmet store coming to the western county:
I recently found out that the Foster County Store on the corner of Frederick and Triadelphia (next to the Pink Cabbage shabby-chic store) is going to reopen as a gourmet food market by some local caterer. The old store was closed when we moved here last year so I don't know much about it.
That's just the tip of the comment iceberg.  Lots of great suggestions -- special places, special dishes.  Check out a handful so you get more opinions that just mine:
I had lunch at Tomato Palace after not having been for a year or two, and it was pretty crummy. The Italian wedding soup had reduced beyond the pale: the pasta was completely mushy, and the broth was way salty and viscous. My carbonara was draped in really floppy pancetta - not cooked for nearly long enough. On the crunchier side was the bucatini, al dente to the point of not really cooked. Bucatini seemed like a weird pasta for that sauce to begin with AND it was served in what was essentially a cereal bowl, making it sort of hard to eat. I had a South African red wine that tasted completely flat and was served refrigerator cold. Our server was definitely on the B team (though, in his defense, he may have been in training - we were there at that weird time between lunch and dinner).
  • Lisa, CarlD and kam listed our their favorite places for something cool to eat on a hot summer night.  Separately, S recommended the white chocolate mousse at YogiCup -- and recommended a nearby place to sit on a bench.
  • Finally, BMoreCupcake emailed about what to find at the new Matcha store and restaurant in Ellicott City.  She had found some good Japanese items in the store:
    I meant handmade Japanese mugs, different types of green tea measuring spoons, Gyokuro green tea (which Wegman's always claims is on order but never arrives), bento accessories, and more.  Last time I was there, they had sold out of a lot of stuff.  I hope they restock the gift shop. I might prefer the gift shop over the restaurant side of the business.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

New Restaurant Owners In Maple Lawn Coming From DC And Silver Spring; Opening Next Week?

The new restaurant owners in Maple Lawn are folks who appear to own restaurants already in DC and Silver Spring.

At least, that's the talk among business owners and the landlord about what will replace the Venegas Prime Filet.  Apparently, it's a family that already runs Nellie's in DC and Cubano's in Silver Spring.  (No Bridge, if you'd heard that rumor.)

Does anyone know the new name or menu?  Anyone know the plan?  Or know Nellie's or Cubano's?  There is talk about them opening next week, which seems crazy fast.  But that sounds great.

Here Come The Salads At Wegmans: RDADoc's Pears & Provolone At The Caesar Station

Wegmans has been open a year, but they're still making changes.  RDADoc celebrated one innovation -- the salad station now open at lunch time and dinner time among the preapred foods:
One of the things that I was most excited about when I heard that Wegmans was coming to Columbia was that I’d be able to eat their "pear and provolone" salad more frequently.  I’ve gotten this salad at the New Jersey Wegmans in the past.  It’s made with field greens, provolone cheese, pears and Wegmans lemon vinaigrette dressing.  It is absolutely delicious! 
When the Columbia Wegmans opened, my biggest disappointment was that they didn’t offer this salad expect for on their catering menu. Over the last year I have purchased it for parties, and it’s always been a big hit! 
A couple weeks ago when I was shopping at Wegmans, I noticed that the counter that use to serve Mexican food and sandwiches had been transformed into a Caesar salad station serving salads by the pound. They offer my favorite "pear and provolone" salad.  They also sell a Caesar salad and a romaine strawberry salad.  I tend to stick with what I know I like.  So the last two times I’ve been to Wegmans, I’ve gotten the "pear and provolone."  Next time, I am going to branch out.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Updates On Future Restaurants -- Highland Inn Working Indoors, Ernesto's Coming To Rte 40, Red Parrot At Turf Valley, Grille 620 Mystery

Highland Inn - Outdoor construction looks complete
New restaurants keep coming to Howard County -- and we keep waiting for a few that have been on the board or under construction for a while.

I'm collecting what I can see.  Who knows more?  Any opening dates?

The Highland Inn looks like the work is heading inside.  Since the upscale restaurant on Rte 216 was announced last year, they did huge work renovating the building.  But the construction fences have been removed, and work presumably continues inside.

The new Polo Club in Fulton is a little behind that timeline.  Walls are still
The Polo Club in Fulton
going up in yellow construction boards.  But you can see the shape of the Indian restaurant destined for Maple Lawn Boulevard.

One of the recent hot spots has been Turf Valley, which clearly recruited second locations from local restauranteurs -- Xitomate, Facci, Mimi's Kabob.  Tim found a July 16 lease plan for Turf Valley that shows even more restaurants.  He wrote about Turf Valley and a follow up on new Mexican on Rte 40:
Red Parrot Asian Bistro is back on board for Turf Valley Towne Square. It was on the original plan last fall then dropped off until this new one. They also have a location at McHenry Row in Federal Hill near Harris Teeter. They join Grille 620, Xitomate, Facci, Mimi's Afgan Kabob, Subway, Yolave and Petite Cellars. Those of us west of Marriotsville Road are very excited to have some decent dining options close by.
I have not been able to find out any information on "Grille 620", have you? 
Also, I was looking through the Summer 2013 "Best of Elliott City" glossy flyer and I see that Ernesto's Fine Mexican Food is in fact coming to the Enchanted Forest shopping. The ad states "Next To Jilly's "Late July - Early August."  Their logo is the same of this website so I guess it's the same folks:,
Then there are places on Rte 40.  Shilla Bakery still has paper in the window, reports RelocatedFromNoVa.  And Bean & Burgundy is on its way a little farther west.  Last report had been that they were aiming to open in late August.  Who knows more?

Who knows timelines or Web sites?  What other new places have I overlooked?  There must be some new places in Columbia.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Last Night For The New Bon Chon Flavors!

Bon Chon's new flavors will be old news!

Bon Chon is ending the new chicken flavors -- Old Bay and honey-hot.

Today is the last day for them, reports Amber who sent the photo above.  That's a bummer.  The Ellicott City joint does great fried chicken -- along with some other Korean food.  They always had a hot and a soy-garlic, and they had added the two new tastes.

Now the menu says that the new flavors were just temporary.  They're ending today!

It's Howard County Summer Restaurant Weeks

The summer Restaurant Weeks have started up, and some local spots are doing themes with local ingredients through August 5.

Aida Bistro has a three-course menu for $40.13 where you can choose from dishes featuring local farms.  But that's just one of the options because organizers have recruited about two dozen restaurants including a bunch in the west county like Bistro Blanc, Drovers Grill, and the Woodstock Inn.

Check out the full list of participating restaurants -- with links to their menus -- and let me know what you'd recommend or what you try

Nando's Peri-Peri Opening At Arundel Mills -- And Keep Hope Alive For A Howard County Location

My obsession Nando's Peri-Peri is opening another branch in the Arundel Mill mall on Wednesday.

I wrote up Nando's when they opened a location in Gambrills.  Arundel Mill is closer, and I teased their PR folks about when they'll open in Howard County.  Keep hope alive.  The chain is clearly trying to expand, and Kira emailed me that there is a "chance" for us to get one in the next year.

Let me know what you think about Nando's.  They do great chicken from wings up to half chickens -- terrific flavor in birds that are grilled and pretty healthy.  I have been obsessed with the wings at the first DC location in Gallery Place.  I eat way too many, dipping them in Nando's sauces.

I have to admit that the product changed on my last visit.  The wings were much smaller -- and the price had actually gone up.  I'm hoping it was a short-time change because they're a terrific splurge.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Great Place To Eat (And Grab Lunch Too)

Where is this lunch table?
Mystery location!  This photo was shot within sound of a huge road, but it's a quiet spot with tables, umbrellas, a lawn and a view of a fenced in garden.  Even on Monday's hot noon, there was shade and breeze enough to eat and read.

Where is it?  Who knows the spot?

You can actually buy lunch here, although it isn't really a restaurant.  It's not your traditional place, if you know what I mean.  It's meant for their folks, but I'm sure you could rest here if you bought yourself a soda or a tea inside.  

Answer to come later.

(Update:  Winner!  Lisa knows the spot.  See below.  That's the tables out back of the Maryland University of Integrative Health (formerly Tai Sophia).  It's just off Johns Hopkins Road behind the Verizon building and the shopping center with Facci and Kloby's Smokehouse.)

(The school is the last building on the right.  There is a bookstore next to the front door.  They sell sodas, teas and fancy waters.  They also have some soups at lunch time.  You could buy something and relax on the tables on the back of the building.  Beautiful view of the grassy field.  Slight noise from Rte 29.)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

New Curry Leaf Restaurant Opens In Laurel

Eggplant curry -- bagara baingan -- at Curry Leaf
You need the good old media to find the new good new places.

Food blogs are fine, but we can't beat folks like Todd Kliman of the Washingtonian who turned us onto the new Curry Leaf restaurant in Laurel.  As Kliman has posted in recent chats, Curry Leaf's chef came from Udupi Palace, a stellar vegetarian restaurant from years ago.

Curry Leaf has a menu that runs a range from snacks to curries, Kashmiri lamb to south Indian curd rice.  It's an impressive array, and that's a reason to drive into Laurel.  Howard County has wonderful Indian restaurants, but Curry Leaf offers different dishes, different variations, a chance to try another take if you have fallen in a rut in your favorite place.

Start with the lemon rice.  That was Kliman's suggestion, and it was a dish that I had never seen in 25 years of eating Indian food.  Long rice turned yellow with tumeric, flavored with lemon juice, then spiced with fresh curry leaves and mustard seeds.  The lemon rice is light and fresh and studded with cashews for a little crunch.  It comes with Indian pickles and raita that you add as condiments -- little dashes of flavor and creaminess.

Lemon rice and raita
Overall, we had an entire meal of dishes that were new to us.  We love Mango Grove's baingan bartha, but Curry Leaf's eggplant came cooked whole -- they're the small, black skinned ones -- after being slit open and surrounded with a curry of coconut, peanuts, green chilies and spices.  Spicy, tender eggplant and a sauce that we poured over rice.

We left quite happy and already thinking about other new dishes to try.  Like Mango Grove in Columbia, the menu includes south Indian dishes like dosas and Indo-Chinese dishes like Chicken Manchurian.  I have my eye on a paneer dosa, some Sri Lankan breads, and a special called Haleem simmered overnight with wheat flour, lentils, meats and spices.

With a papdi chaat to start -- that's crisp cracker-like snacks topped with yogurt and chutneys -- and an excellent sweet lassi to drink, we were stuffed and carried out half of the lemon rice to star in packed lunches.  (If you want lunch at Curry Leaf, they have a buffet that looks expansive.  Maybe a dozen signs were ready for the next day when we ate dinner.)

Overall, Curry Leaf is a place that you should know.  Terrific if you want to try a new Indian kitchen.  Really convenient if you want to meet friends who live south in Laurel or into Prince George's County.  The space used to be a Korean-Japanese restaurant, and it was a central spot for us to meet a friend who used to live off the BW Parkway.

You should definitely check out Kliman's weekly chats.  That's where I saw his mention of Curry Leaf.  The Washingtonian only publishes monthly, but Kliman eats all over and writes short, descriptive posts and answers questions.  And you should definitely check out the local Indian even if you don't want to drive to Laurel.  We have everything from Nepalese to southern Indian, and I have posted dozens of times about restaurants like Royal Taj, Curry & Kabob, House of India, Akbars, and more.

Curry Leaf
13919 Baltimore Avenue (U.S. 1)
Laurel, MD 20707

NEAR:  Curry Leaf is on U.S. 1 in Laurel about a mile and a half south of Main Street.  It is an easy drive from Howard County.  Going south, Curry Leaf is on the left side of the street in a strip shopping center with a video store and an African-Caribbean restaurant.

Curry Leaf on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Family Market Closed In Columbia

Family Market in Columbia has closed.  The store in the Long Reach village center had opened last year with a mix of Asian, American and Latin groceries.  It was great fun, and it's a bummer that it didn't work.

Luke Lavoie has the story in the Sun.  Apparently, Safeway still rents the space and sub-let to Family Market.  They say they want to rent to someone else who would open a grocery.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

New Patio At Portalli's On Main Street

Drawing of Portalli's new patios
Eventually Main Street will get a new coat of paint, but in a few weeks, it will get a giant new patio.

Portalli's has all the approval to add patio seating for 80 people on its building.  That's actually two layers of patio covering 1,000 square feet.

Owner Evan Brown came home early from a first anniversary trip for the final meetings to get approval.  Construction should start late this week and take only seven to 10 days, Brown says.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Question Wegmans Fish Counter Could Ask

"I think we're going to need a bigger YouTube video."
Do you want that fish gutted?

I had a great conversation at the Wegmans fish counter on Sunday morning.  What kind of fish looked good.  How whole bronzini compared with whole trout.  How to cook them.  The nice flavors of lemon juice and herbs.

No language divide.  No cultural divide.  I figured that we understood each other -- until I unwrapped the bronzini today and realized that the Wegmans fishmonger saw me as far more skilled than I actually am.

H Mart always guts the fish.  They have a sign above the counter with numbers and pictures of the ways that they'll gut and chop the fish.

Imagine my surprise when the bronzini rolled out of Wegmans' beautiful packaging all in one piece.  I hadn't thought to ask about processing.  And I hadn't ever gutted a fish.

Thanks to Kyle at FlyFishingMyWay.com.  His YouTube video had everything that I needed -- including excellent advice about having a plastic bag ready to dispose of the innards.  The bronzini is roasting with some tomatoes from my garden.  It looks delicious.  And I'm ready for the next time.

(Update: It was delicious.)

Ellicott City Restaurant Becomes NYT Example For Health Care, Gets Some Nice Publicity

The Shanty Grille in Ellicott City became an example in the debate about health care policy last when the New York Times used it as a "case study" about the impact of new laws.

The article quotes owner Eric King.  I wouldn't base my policy opinions on a reporter quoting one restaurant owner and one bartender, and, as a former reporter, I see a few little techniques that make me suspicious of the entire article.  (It's in the style of NPR's efforts to "get outside Washington" by sending reporters to the end of the Metro.)  But it's some fun press for the Rte 40 restaurant.

Barbecued Lamb & Baked Beans At RG's BBQ Cafe

Lamb shank with mac and baked beans
Go to RG's BBQ Cafe with small expectations and great hope.

I don't want to oversell the small barbecue spot on U.S. 1 in Laurel.  But I went in for takeout, and I came out with two-thirds of a dinner that could sit proudly on any restaurant around town.

Barbecued lamb with sides of baked beans and macaroni and cheese.  I got a long bone with tender, moist meat on one end, surrounded by a pool of the most amazing sauce.  The meat was rich and tender, glazed where the sauce that firmed under the heat.  But it's the sauce that said I was eating from a professional kitchen, even if it was a tiny one.

A smoky tomato sauce that Todd Kliman describes better than I can.  (See below.)  I just know that I stood up half-way through eating the meat to defrost and lightly toast two slices of Wegmans sourdough bread from the freezer.  I used them to just eat sauce.  Then I finished with lamb.

RG's took over the former Bar-B-Que House on the strip of U.S. 1 that runs past thrift shops and low motels on the way into PG County.  But the Bar-B-Que House is 100% Howard County, my friends.

RG is Robert Gadsby, a guy who has been a high-end restaurant chef and who has brought high effort to even counter service and barbecue.  Notice the television on the Food Network, and the Baltimore Sun sections hanging by the door -- orderly and clean, waiting for customers to read while they wait.

The lamb came with a choice of two sides, and they're generous containers that warrant a $14 dinner.  My baked beans were as delicious as the collard greens that I ate on my first visit.  Again, they were tender and full of flavor -- even though they didn't have the nuggets of meat that have always been the key when beans stood out in the past.  These beans were just talent.  Tender, earthy beans cooked with a sauce that I know I couldn't pull off on my own.

Not everything is perfect, but even the drops make me want to go back again.  RG's macaroni and cheese was bland.  Not bad.  Just a chef trying something that didn't work for me.  I pushed half the container away because it just didn't live up to the lamb or beans, but I was already thinking that I'll try the onion rings on my next visit.

If you find crowds when you visit, don't be surprised.  Todd Kliman of the Washingtonian reviewed RG's BBQ Cafe in the current edition.  He praised the food.  He and others have noted inconsistencies -- like Kliman's night when the beans tasted purchased or a night when my friend's table waited 40 minutes for half their orders.  Kliman also has a professional description that captures the sauce that sent me for white bread to sop it up:
The chef produces three variations of his basic formula—mild, spicy, and hot. They elude easy classification. Gadsby has taken the signal characteristics of the various barbecue meccas and blended them into a sauce that tastes all at once of North Carolina (sharp), Texas (smoky), and Memphis/Kansas City (sweet and tomatoey). No one trait dominates. It’s a condiment that could probably make cardboard taste good.
Overall, I recommend people trying out RG's BBQ Cafe.  Gadsby is definitely trying something special, and you can try ribs, pulled pork, pit beef, hot dogs and specials like a bacon-wrapped quail.  There are honest barbecue fights to pick -- does he have a smoker? should ribs really fall off the bone? -- but Gadsby's kitchen makes for something special on U.S. 1.

If Laurel is too far, there is good barbecue around the county.  Kloby's Smokehouse is my local, and the "old and dirty" wings are among my favorite dishes around.  I wish Kloby's sides were as large or unusual as RG's.  At lunch time, you can go even-more-basic than RG's with a roadside barbecue from Dave's near the Savage MARC station.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Party For The Library TODAY In Ellicott City

The Howard County library is having a party this afternoon to celebrate its winning the Gale/Library Journal Library of the Year award.

it's a family event at the Miller branch in Ellicott City from 4 to 7 pm with the children's rock band Milkshake, free ice cream and popsicles, food trucks, and the farmers market. The band is playing 5-6 pm.

I'm a huge fan of the library -- for regular books and for cookbooks. So now you can get free books and free ice cream. What could be better?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Trolling: Pepperoni Pizza Kolache, Soboru Bread, And Einstein Bagels -- A Tour Down Rte 40

Pepperoni pizza kolache
Adam is one of the weekend warriors who run and bike on Rte 40 and Rte 144 west from Ellicott City.  He offered a guest post with his perfect adventure route to get his carbophile on.  This is a "trolling" post about places to catch a snack on the go during a run or to recover afterwards -- options west of the Rte 29 split.
  • If you’ve never been to Kolache Kreations than you are missing out. Not only do they have hand-dipped Hershey’s ice cream in indulgent flavors like Oatmeal Raisin Cookie (not to mention soft-serve, sundaes, and shakes), but their baked goods are enough to make you consider moving to Texas and the heart of their namesake pastry.  Kolaches aren’t just for breakfast either. I recently picked up their new pepperoni pizza kolache.  Man, this thing is good.  The goo factor on the mozzarella is the stuff New York pizza places aim to achieve, while the kick of the thick pepperoni slices and sweet sauce just come together classically within the sweet, doughy pastry.  Think a Hot Pocket that actually tastes good.  Like really good.
  • If you’re more inclined for something crunchy rather than gooey, just head a quarter mile down the road to Bon Appetit Bakery. I might not be able to pronounce half the baked goods, but I recently discovered soboru bread.  For just a buck, you can get these spongy and rich sweet rolls with a variety of flavor combinations.  Try the one with a peanut topping.  The taste is rich and sweet and bright, with notes of butter and cream.  Yet there’s a surprisingly airy nature within the dough, and the peanut topping provides plenty of textural contrast.  In an odd way, it reminds me of a Marco Polo bagel from Wegmans.
  • Speaking of bagels, I really don’t think there’s a better place in Howard County for bagels than Einstein Brothers on Route 40.  Sure it’s a chain, but so what?  Dennis, one of the mangers, is a great guy who has been keeping people coming back for years (along with the bottomless coffee and iced coffee!)  It’s a great place to grab breakfast or lunch on summer days now that they have a shaded patio space.  I’m partial to the cinnamon sugar bagel for a post run treat.  It’s got all the sweet cinnamon taste of a donut, but that addictive and guilty pleasure buttery taste to glaze it over.  So good, you won’t even need one of there signature schmears!
Trolling on Tuesday is my attempt at a series where readers would share three things with other HowChow readers -- favorite restaurant dishes, food to buy, food experiences, etc. Click here for all the Trolling posts. Click here for the explanation and the rules. Anyone can submit.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bon Chon Kicks Fried Chicken Up Two Notches With New Old Bay And Honey-Hot Wings

Old Bay and Honey-Hot chicken at Bon Chon
Bon Chon brought Korean fried chicken to Ellicott City, and it has added a taste of Baltimore to the international treat.

We love Bon Chon's fried chicken  It's pricey by the piece -- like $1 per half wing or white-meat tender -- but it's exceptional chicken.  Incredibly crisp without being greasy.  Perfectly paired with the crunchy pickled radish that comes with every order.

Now, Bon Chon has doubled the flavor options.  They started with soy garlic and hot.  That original hot was really spicy.  Our friend MrDrCardio loves spicy food, and he can't get enough.  But it's so hot that Mrs. HowChow couldn't really enjoy that chicken.  Now, there are two options in the middle -- a honey-hot and an Old Bay.

That's right.  It's marriage made in Baltimore.  Seoul's double-fried chicken with a crunchy shell around piping meat.  The local Old Bay tricked up with lime and other favors.  So different, but not the simple "sprinkle with red powder" that you can get with "Old Bay" fries or other dishes.  So good that the Old Bay wings -- salty and zesty -- became Mrs. HowChow's favorite before we even finished our platter.

I think I liked the honey-hot even more.  The chicken comes glazed and shiny.  First on the tongue, you get honey -- more complex than just sugar.  Real honey that warms up with the Korean hot spices.  It's spicy, but nothing like the fiery Bon Chon original hot.  With the four flavors, they have made the fried chicken an even-better treat.  You could make a spectacular platter by asking for a mix of flavors, then cycling through soy to Old Bay to honey-hot to hot.  Rinse with some pickled radish and repeat.

(Update: Bon Chon phased out the flavors on July 20.  Keep an eye out.  Maybe they'll bring them back.  And it's still a fun place to eat.)

For more about Bon Chon's chicken, check out my 2012 post that quotes Henry Hong.  For another option, try Tian Chinese Cuisine where you can get Korean fried chicken and the house-made noodes with black bean sauce.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

New Mimi's Kabob Coming To Turf Valley? Construction Continues On The Facci Up There

There are signs for a new Mimi's Kabob at Turf Valley in Ellicott City, according to an email from Tim.

That development is getting some great restaurant options. Mimi's Kabob is a casual Afghan place whose first location is on Rte 108 in Clarksville. Turf Valley also has the second Facci Ristorante -- a sibling to the first Facci on Johns Hopkins Road. Adam had emailed me to say that the Facci looks like it may be a few more months away.
It looks like they’ve got the hardyboard set up on the inside, but not a lot of construction from what I can tell. It should be great though. The patio they have set up in the plaza is very resort-esque. Outdoor fireplace, Adirondack benches and chairs, even an awning with fans. I sometimes go there just to read.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

New Bean & Burgundy Will Be Sandwiches, Salads, Bakery Along The Line Of Panera

Anyone know details about the new Bean & Burgundy restaurant on Rte 40 in Ellicott City?

We got a little more description from Cindy's comment on the HowChow Facebook page -- namely that Bean & Burgundy's menu will be similar to a Panera with sandwiches, soups, a bakery and a wine bar.  Wine makes separation from Panera, I think.

What else is there to know?  Cindy was quoting the owner of the My Pet Store and More -- who also noted on their Facebook page that the Bean & Burgundy owners hope to open in late August.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fried Chicken At The BP In Maple Lawn

Fried chicken and potato wedges
I'm not saying you should eat fried chicken at a gas station, but I know where you should go if you're in the mood.

The BP at Maple Lawn has a food counter inside.  They do sandwiches and a bunch of other items, and they sell fried chicken and french fries that are a fast food treat.

I got a box.  I admit it.  I was in a rush, and it was a terrific dinner on the way to a meeting.

I got a wing and a hot juicy chicken breast.  Wedges of fried potato.  I sat at a cafe table and tore in with my fingers.  They have a bunch of hot sauces, and hot sauce goes so well with crispy chicken.  For chicken under a hot light, it was ideal -- a thick crust that comes crisp but not greasy.  Great fun.

Fried chicken makes a great holiday.  On top of the BP chicken, I still recommend a picnic from Harvest Fried Chicken in Woodbine, and I love Bon Chon in Ellicott City.

BP Station at Maple Lawn
8181 Maple Lawn Boulevard
Fulton, MD 20759

NEAR: The station is just north of Rte 216 in the Maple Lawn development.  It is behind the shops to your right if you arrive from Rte 216.  Look at the pet store that overlooks the BP station.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pho, Crab Cakes, And Farms: Catch Up On Local Bloggers Writing About Food And Drunkeness

Photo from Coriander Dreams -- go check her recipe!
Follow some links to local blogs to get some thoughts on pho, a review of crab cakes, and a recipe for a spicy watermelon spritzer.  Howard County food blogging runs from people talking about farms to providing recipes, and it's rich enough that I can't link to everything anymore.

But I still love to recommend everyone on the "food" page on HoCo Blogs and would highlight a few recent posts:

What Are You Doing For July Fourth? Some Ideas To Start On Main Street Or On Your Grill

Pork burgers -- portobellos stuffed with ground pork
What are you doing for July Fourth?

It's a weird night for restaurants because people cook out and go out for fireworks.  Portalli's and Diamondback Tavern in Ellicott City sell half-priced gift certificates on Thursday -- their recent tradition to bring people down to Main Street on the holiday.  The only hitch is that you can't use them on July 4.  You get a deal, but you need to go back.

Walking around Main Street should be a nice time if the weather stays good.  Folks say that Scoop-Ah-Dee-Doo is scooping ice cream, and the new Matcha Time Cafe has opened with Japanese food.

Even in the heat, I recommend a walk along the tree-lined path that runs between Main Street and the Breadery bakery in Oella.  That's a hill to walk up, but it's shady and way cooler than most of the outside.  Plus, you can start or end with coffee, sweets, bread and other treats at the Breadery.

If you're staying home, consider expanding your grill skills.  Bacon-grilled eggplant.  Grilled haloumi cheese from Pars Market.  The "firecracker" burger mix at Laurel Meat Market.  Or consider a mushroom stuffed with ground pork below.  It's more of an idea than a recipe.  You could stuff the mushrooms with all kinds of meat options and have a good time.

What are you doing?  Where do you recommend?  If you're going to Portalli's or Diamondback, check out their hours on July 4th.  I think it's noon to 4 pm and noon to 7 pm respectively.

Mushroom Burgers With Ground Pork
serves four

4 med. portobello mushrooms
1 lb. ground pork
1 small onion, diced

1) Clean the mushrooms, removing the stem and the the gills on the underside.

2) Sauté the onion until tender, then add to the ground pork.

3) Put about a quarter of the pork mixture inside each mushroom.  Press it into the mushroom to make a burger shape.

4) Grill, starting on the mushroom side.  Cook them until the mushroom is tender and the pork is cooked through.

Variations:  Use a mix of ground pork and pork sausage.  Buy a bunch of small mushrooms and served the stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer or party food.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Join The Local Food Fun! Make A Foursquare Map, And Enter A Raffle For Concert Tickets

Come join the local food fun by making Foursquare maps with your favorite place.

The HocoBlogs folks want you to build a map -- great wings, great vegan, great dog-friendly joints, etc. -- and they'll try to entice you with tickets.

Jessie X has some Merriweather Post tickets, and she will enter you in a raffle if you make a Foursquare map.  Check out the offer and join in the fun.

Today's Catch Has Joined Facebook; Do You Like?

The Today's Catch seafood market in Columbia has joined Facebook -- with games like "guess the fish."

Check out the Today's Catch page.  Like them! They have 25 "likes."  Let's bump that up.

Hat tip to Anne Ray. 

Squid At Wegmans: Try A Light Summer Dinner That Is As Easy As Grilling Up Hamburgers

Squid Burlissimo
Quick-cooking.  Low-fat.  Fresh-tasting.  How could squid not be part of your everyday kitchen?

Well, the squid part kept me from cooking them for a long time.  Big bodies you need to clean or frozen blocks you need to defrost and use.  But that changed at the seafood counter at Wegmans.

They're easy there.  Sold cleaned -- either as tubular bodies or bundled tentacles. You literally just slice them and cook, no harder than a fish filet.  We go with bodies.  Buy maybe a 1/4 pound per person.  Then find recipes that keep me from deep-frying them into crunchy calamari.

My current recipe was adapted from a Melissa Clark recipe in the New York Times.  Sautéed squid with lime, hot pepper and mint.  Served -- by accident -- on toasted bread when I misread Clark's recipe and then decided that I liked the change.  It's a fresh little dinner, great flavors and dedicated to the famous Duke and Duchess of Burlbaugh.

Squid Burlissimo
serves two, easy to double if you cook in two batches

4 tbl olive oil
1/2 pound squid bodies, cleaned
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small Thai pepper, seeded
1 lime
1/4 c. chopped mint
thin slices of crusty bread -- 2 large or 4 small

1) Rinse the squid, then drain and dry with a paper towel.  The bodies are long tubes, pointed on one end and open on the other.  Slice them into 3/4-inch-wide rings.  Pat dry, then put in a bowl.

Watermelon & feta salad
2) Heat a skillet large enough to hold the squid over high heat.  Let the pan get very hot.  Add the oil to the pan.  Then add the squid.  Sprinkle with salt and cook them for one minute without touching them.

3) Flip the squid.  Add the garlic and hot pepper.  Cook one or two more minutes.  Cook the squid until it gets firm and opaque.

4) At the same time, toast or grill the bread.

5) Pour the squid, oil, garlic and hot pepper into a clean bowl.  Squeeze the lime to pour juice over the squid.  Add the mint and stir.  You want a bit of oil at the bottom of the bowl.  Add a 1/2 tsp if you don't have enough.

5) Put the bread on plates or a serving platter.  Spoon squid onto the bread.  Spoon a bit of the oil on each slice.  Serve immediately.

Consider serving with a salad made of cubed watermelon, feta and basil.  Dress with a little olive oil and salt.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Cool Food For Hot Nights: The Best Part Of Summer Is Ice Cream, Snowballs And Bing Soo

Snowballs from KyKy's in Ellicott City
This is our summer without Soft Stuff, but you can still keep cool even while the Rte 40 landmark is being redeveloped -- and hopefully revived for 2014.

The beauty of Howard County is that you can get a half dozen major variations on "a night of ice cream."  Get yourself a reasonable dinner, then sit outside with a cone or a cup.  I've done similar posts several times over the years, and your choices just keep growing.

My 2009 recommendations mostly went from ice cream to snowballs -- with Rita's Italian ice as a variation.  

Since then, tart frozen yogurt swept through the county.  You make your own sundaes with toppings that range from fruit to candy.  Terrific fresh fruit makes Red Mango in Clarksville has terrific fruit, which makes it one of our favorites.  But shopping centers are dotted with chains that differ mostly in whether they have adult items like tart yogurt and mochi or whether they're 100% kid-oriented like Sweet Frog.   

At the same time, we discovered some other traditional treats -- like the bing soo at Bon Appetit bakery on Rte 40.  The joke was that we discovered the Korean shaved ice dessert in February, but it's perfect as our weather boils up into July.

Take your own tour -- pairing dinner with a cold dessert.  Some of the places below are stands, so you should check Yelp or the Web to make sure they re-opened for 2013.  I have at least two new places to try this year, and you can't eat too many.  After all, it will be winter before you know it.

Let's start with ice cream and frozen custard:
  • 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.)