Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Chinese Supermarket Has Opened In Catonsville; What Does It Add To Lotte?

A new Chinese supermarket appears to have opened in Catonsville -- giving you a supplement to the Korean-run markets that already make Rte 40 a terrific place for food.

Great Wall Supermarket appears to have opened this week.  This is a chain with several locations in Virginia, and I love the Asian supermarkets that often have products that run from Iran or India through Korea and Japan.

Already, H Mart and two Lotte on Rte 40 are terrific places for everything from produce to packaged goods, fish to frozen dumplings.  The new Lotte in Catonsville has incredible Indian options.

In Virginia, the Great Wall overlapped with H Mart, but then had many Chinese ingredients and foods that weren't in the Korean-run stores.  I saw some Yelp posts that suggest the opening may have been rough, but that say the Great Wall will have roast duck and roast pork.

Hat tip to Cornelia, who posted on the HowChow Facebook page.  Please comment about what you see at Great Wall and what you recommend.  You need to drive past Lotte and H Mart if you're coming from Howard County, so I assume that our locals will go there mostly for items that aren't available at the existing places.

Great Wall Supermarket
5510 Baltimore National Pike (Rte 40)
Catonsville, MD 21207

NEAR:  Great Wall appears to be on Rte 40 just inside the Baltimore beltway.  From Ellicott City, it probably makes sense to drive east on Rte 40.  From southern Howard County, consider just going north on I-95 and curving around on I-695.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Who Says You Need To Eat In A Shopping Center? Three Big Restaurants Opening This Month

Highland Inn in snow
We ate delicious Facci pizza tonight picked up in a shopping center, so you know that I'm joking about the headline.

But check out the photo above of the Highland Inn covered with snow.  Christina snapped the photo last week in Highland.  She said they had just put the sign on the building.  Since then, they have added landscaping and exterior lighting and finished the parking lot.

That's a scenic spot with the new restaurant built into an old home.

Right now, we're waiting for three new restaurants with serious aspirations -- Brian Boston's Highland Inn on Rte 216, Cindy Wolf's Petit Louis on the Columbia lakefront, and the White Oak Tavern, well, in a shopping center on Rte 40.

Does anyone know when the restaurants will open?

In October, Boston told Richard Gorelick that they would open the Highland Inn by early December.  This month, the Foreman-Wolf folks said they'd open Petit Louis by the end of the year.  The White Oak Taven folks have said they're opening within a week.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gourmet Grilling -- Get Your Smoke From The Columbia Meat Truck On Fridays And Weekends

Ribs and wings from Gourmet Grilling
I'm always eager for smoke -- especially in the cold season.

With only a few exceptions, my outdoor cooking is limited to a gas grill, so I'm always drawn to smokey barbecue.  That doubles down in the winter when I get chased inside and cook even my hamburgers on a cast-iron grill.

The Gourmet Grilling truck in Columbia is a nice way to pick up some smoke.  Thick ribs and other meaty cuts cooked over charcoal and served up with nice sides like beans and rice fortified with sausage.

The Gourmet Grilling operates Fridays, Saturdays and every other Sunday at the Grandfather's Garden Center on Phelps Luck Road just south of Rte 108.  The pit master cooks ribs, turkey legs, pit beef, sausages and wings on a big-barreled smoker and sells them from a white truck parked alongside.

I loved the ribs.  They were thick and cooked to the tender-but-firm texture that I prefer.  They had a rich smokey flavor that made them more than I could make on my gas grill.  I'd pass next time on the sauce.  I think it might have just been from a jar.  Sweet and added nothing.  It distracted from the good meat and the "bumpin' beans & rice" side dish that came studded with sausage and flavor.  I got some chicken wings as well, and they were good -- although again would have been even better without the sauce.

Gourmet Grilling actually beat me.  I couldn't finish the entire plate.  So I carried home one meaty rib, and I turned it into one of the best risottos that I have ever cooked.  I made a pretty basic risotto with sautéed onions, a little wine, chicken broth and grilled red peppers.  In the final minutes, I shredded the meat off the rib and stirred it into the rice as it finished up.  The smokey flavor spread throughout.  Honestly, it was better than I had even hoped.  More like a restaurant than my kitchen.
Risotto with a little shredded rib

Gourmet Grilling food truck
at Grandfather's Garden Center
5320 Phelps Luck Drive
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR:  This is just south of Rte 108.  The light for Phelps Luck Drive is just west of Howard High School, and it has a shopping center on the north side and a sign for the garden center on the south.  Go south and the Gourmet Grilling food truck is on the right about a block down.  He is there Fridays, Saturdays and every other Sunday.  To confirm the days that Gourmet Grilling is cooking, check out its Twitter feed.

Gourmet Grilling on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hawaiian Food Comes Just Outside The County; Poke, Comfort Food Worth Searching Out

Spicy tuna chirashi zushi
The Taste of Aloha has brought the taste of Hawaii to the border of Howard County, and it's worth the drive to bring a little sunshine into your winter.

This is a small family-run restaurant in Arbutus that brings casual Hawaiian food -- with its mix of Asian and American influences, its range from light raw fish dishes through noodle soups to hearty burgers and "plate lunch."

I don't want you to go with heightened expectations, but Taste of Aloha reminds me of R&R Taqueria. It's a guy who wants to cook authentic food.  Bare-bones seating.  A short menu that changes with the ingredients.  And a real focus on making things from scratch.  Let's just say that we left disappointed that we had passed on macaroni salad because lunch made us realized that we had probably underestimated it.

Saimin and fish tacos
First, you need to hit up Taste of Aloha just for the raw fish.  Hawaiians make these wonderful dishes called poke where fish is cubed, then mixed with vegetables and often a dressing.  There are endless varieties, and they were one of our favorite parts of vacation.

Last weekend, Taste of Aloha was serving a poke cousin called spicy tuna chirashi zushi.  A scoop of warm perfect rice surrounded by cubed tuna mixed with a spicy emulsion.  A touch of creaminess, but mostly a bright, light spiciness.  A dash of furikake gave a little salt and crunch.  As a $6 appetizer, it was one of my favorite dishes that I have eaten this year.  On a china plate, it would have been at home at a high-end restaurant.

Second, you should come expecting authenticity.  Hawaii has developed a unique culture with input from places like Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Portugal.  During out single meal, we listened to two other tables exclaim about how the food tasted just like they remembered from their time on the islands. The menu included kalbi, chicken katsu, several burgers, and kahlua pig served as a hoagie or as a big plate lunch.

Mrs. HowChow ordered mahi-mahi tacos that had perfectly grilled fish with a kimchi slaw and pineapple salsa.  I tried saimin, a noodle soup that starts with a mushroom-vegetable broth and then lets you add spam, shrimp, tofu, dumplings or a bunch of other proteins to bulk it up.  It was a cloudy broth and a filling soup perfect for a cold day.  I jazzed mine with a dash of soy sauce and a squirt of hot sauce.

Again, this is the vibe of R&R Taqueria where the folks take the food seriously even though they're cooking in a gas station.  We heard folks talk about how the chef makes his own sauces and marinades, including his own teriyaki sauce.  That's the kind of effort that we tasted in all our dishes and that makes me want to go back to try the kalbi, the roast pork, and maybe even the dishes made with spam.  That was also when we realized that the macaroni salad side dish was homemade -- and probably delicious.

Don't go with crazy expectations.  This is a casual place with a one-man kitchen.  But Taste of Aloha is really worth checking out because they're making an effort to do something special.  Plus, it's a unique menu that will give you a little taste of the islands without even driving to BWI.

Thanks to Jonalyne and Dorothy, who turned me onto Taste of Aloha.  Katie at Cupcake RN even wrote about eating there last month, but I actually hid the place for a few weeks so that I could surprise Mrs. HowChow with poke.  If you're going to make a special trip, I recommend following the restaurant on Twitter or on Facebook to see when they announce poke, chirashi zushi or other raw fish dishes.

Taste of Aloha
1405 Sulphur Spg Rd
Arbutus, MD 21227
(410) 501-3030

NEAR: Taste of Aloha is a little south and east of Catonsville. Get directions. From Ellicott City, you can take Frederick Road to Rolling Road and then into Arbutus. From the south, you'll probably come up I-95 and then loop around on I-195 and local roads. You probably won't happen across Taste of Aloha from Howard County, but it's pretty easy to find.

Taste of Aloha on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 16, 2013

White Oak Tavern Opens In A Week; The Menus Will Be Posted By Deena Over Five Days

The new White Oak Tavern appears set to open on Rte 40 in the next week, and Deena is posting the menus over the next five days on Deena Days.

The White Oak replaces Jilly's, and the new crew is taking up the seasonal, farm-to-table banner.  Looks like a mix of salads and small plates for $5-12 and then entrees from $12-25.  The menus -- which highlight the places where they're getting meat, cheese, coffee and more -- are definitely worth checking out.

Today, Deena posted the winter dinner menu.  Or check back for all of Deena's posts about the White Oak to see her add the other menus.

If the White Oak folks say that they're opening in a week, then I suspect that they may have already soft-opened to work out the kinks.  Anyone know?  Has anyone been?

Ulman Jokes With A Hollywood Star; I Steal His Catchphrase: "We Have A Shoe You Can Play In"

I was in Miami when the Julia Louis-Dreyfus controversy swept through town, but I'm going to keep it alive one more day to steal a catchphrase.

If you missed it, a really well-known New York writer came to Columbia to interview the actress for a Web site.  The writer slashed Columbia, where Louis-Dreyfus films "Veep," as "one of the dreariest American landscapes imaginable" and quoted Louis-Dreyfus as saying that something was like "a prison."

The ant hill boiled over.

A bunch of local writers posted about the comment.  Folks responded on Twitter.  Ken Ulman and his crew created a charmingly amateur video where he declares his love for Louis-Dreyfus and assembles a team to list reasons to love Columbia.  Louis-Dreyfus apologized on Twitter and said the warehouse stage was a prison, not the county.

I could have just let the moment pass, but I love Team Ulman's Number 3 Reason to love the county (at about the 1:20 mark): "We have Enchanted Forest.  It has a petting zoo.  It has a shoe you can play in."

I need to know the name of the Ulman aide who gave this quote.  For the record, I came to Howard County for a woman.  While I was here, I found a lot of food to enjoy, and I have been arguing for years with young-uns from Baltimore and Washington who write restaurant reviews on the theme: "You'll be shocked to hear that anything but chain restaurants exists outside the city limits."  But I never had a true HowChow slogan until now:
"Howard County: We Have A Shoe You Can Play In."
Just to be precise, I think the shoe is in Ellicott City.  The shoe is at Clark's Eliok Farm, right?  Seriously, I love that Ulman responded with something that joshed and tried to make a few points for the hometown.  I don't figure anyone with Seinfeld money is reading HowChow, but this is a few places that the Veep production company could call to cater a lunch if Louis-Dreyfus wants to get a taste of the real Howard County:
Julia can check out all the great restaurants at the HowChow's Best of 2013 post.

Check out Jonathan O'Connell's Washington Post blog post for the video and the best summation of that I saw.  The Twitter hashtag #AwesomeColumbia seems to have lost its focus -- Fretboard Coffee is in Missouri -- but it's fun to scan.

Second Chance Saloon Goes Public Hoping To Get A Lease Extension And Survive The Winter

Sometimes, people think that restaurants are something more than a business.

The Second Chance Saloon has taken on its landlord, and a bunch of local folks are trying to argue for the Columbia restaurant to get a lease extension and survive the winter.

Second Chance is a casual restaurant and bar in the Oakland Mills village center.  I talked up the Old Bay wings a few years ago.  Their lease expires soon, and a bunch of folks went public last week lobbying the landlord Cedar Realty Trust to give them an extension.

Basically, that's a mix of Facebook, blogging and random chatter.  Second Chance put most of its information on its Facebook page.  Folks started on-line petitions.  The Marshmallow Man posteed on The 53d.  Bill Gray posted a call to action, asking people to write the Cedar Realty chief operating officer.  He says that Calvin Ball and Ken Ulman both wrote the landlord as well.

No one is concentrating on the food.  No one is claiming that Columbia will lack for places to get a beer.  They're saying Second Chance is a special place in their part of Columbia -- a place open to little meetings, open after football games, open for something more than selling food in a neighborhood that needs a place to meet and hang out.  As often, Julia McCready sparked the interest and captured the idea best on Village Green/Town Squared:
What do we stand for in Columbia, in 2013? Is there still room for the mom and pop privately owned business? We sigh and shrug when Don Pablo's goes, or Chicken Out, but what about the life and times of a local homegrown business whose only desire is to make good in Oakland Mills? Does our future hold nothing but chain restaurants whose coming and goings are dictated purely by numbers?
If you're interested in Second Chance, check out Julia's post and the links there.  And go eat at Second Chance.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Akbar In Columbia Appears To Be Closed

Akbar in Columbia has closed and may reopen as a different Indian restaurant, according to some folks with reliable information.

Plus, no one answers the phone during the middle of dinner service.  The Akbar on Snowden River Parkway was a little sibling to the Baltimore restaurant of the same name.  It was a nice place, but there are so many great Indian restaurants in Columbia that I don't think we had eaten there in four or five years.

Does anyone know the plan for the space?  Nichi Bei Kei also closed in the same shopping center, and they're aiming to reopen near the Columbia Mall.  The Akbar folks still have their other restaurants.  Does anyone know if someone will really re-open the Columbia space as an Indian restaurant.

Honestly, Indian kitchens have some tough competition.  I can think of five other good Indian restaurants in Columbia -- House of India, Mango Grove, Royal Taj, Flavors of India, and Nepalese-Indian Curry & Kabob -- plus quick service Tandoor Grill on Johns Hopkins Road and the Polo Club opening soon in Fulton.

Click here for all the posts about Indian restaurants.  What do you recommend on the local Indian scene?  Any places?  Any special dishes?  Hat tip to my brother in neurology research.

Nutella And Banana Crepes At Whirlz

The recent yogurt trend has begun to mature, and the Whirlz parlor in the Dorsey Search village center has added dessert crepes.

Check out the photo of a banana-Nutella crepe from Strobist.  He reports that they're delicious and enormous.   That's on my "need to get out to try" -- along with the Belgian waffles from the La Pearl Waffles truck that often sells near Howard Community College.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cool New Bartender At The New Gadsby's; Now This Is Really A Chance For Teenaged Bloggers

Because I have lost the ability for quantity, I have found my liquor interests turning to quality and a little imagination.

I love the trend for hand-crafted drinks, and I have heard that the new Gadsby's Bar American has brought in a new bartender with a reputation for creative cocktails.  Chad Spangler competed in a national cocktails competition earlier this year after working at Founding Farmers and Farmers Fishers Bakers.  No, he is part of the new regime in the Columbia space that used to be Greystone Grill.

Spangler has been profiled by local blogs like Sophie Pyle in In The Capital and in video by GQ, which sponsored the competition.  This is the kind of bartender who messes with ingredients and techniques like a chef -- fruits, spices, foams, shrubs.  They even think about ice, the way that different kinds of ice would chill or melt or not melt in different kinds of drinks.  In my new-found taste for bourbon and rye, I have tasted some brilliant drinks that I could have never made at home.

To me, a cool bar would be a fine reason for people to check out Gadsby's.  I know people who love the fresh juices and tequilas at Azul 17 in Columbia, and these fun drinks can draw the hardcore fans and the "date night" folks who just want something special.  I'd love to hear what people think if they try Spangler's cocktails -- or if they recommend other local spots for cocktails.

Of course, my thoughts turn to the Two Dudes who scored the first interview with chef Robert Gadsby by showing up there for lunch with their parents.  It would really push the boundaries of "teenagers who blog about food" if the whole family sidled up to the bar to interview Spangler.  I bet Spangler has some non-alcoholic ideas.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Something Big Is Coming To Howard County In Late Summer Or Early Fall, Plus "Wellness"

I don't think that I ever heard an official announcement, but Luke Lavoie reported that the Columbia Whole Foods would open in "late summer or early fall of 2014" in a story about a spa that the Columbia Association will build underneath.

Seven-to-nine months?  It is feel like such a long time to wait after already waiting a couple years.  But good things take time, and this will bring fun to Howard County.  It will certainly be a big change in the HowChow life.  It helps to know that other people have waited in the past and that things turned out well for them.

The Sun story made me really excited that CA is building a "holistic spa and integrative health services."  I have been waiting for CA's "mind-body wellness concept."  I just need classes that "strengthen the body and contribute to overall wellness."  Tough to wait, but I feel fortunate to have that time to figure out what Luke and the CA are talking about.

The Whole Foods is really exciting as we drive past and watch them gut the old building.  Does anyone know a more-precise estimate?  I feel a need for a count-down clock like the fun that we had with Wegmans during its construction.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Peruvian Restaurant Appears Coming To Elkridge; Pisco May Be Coming From The Facci Folks

It appears that people are planning a Peruvian restaurant with a ceviche bar for the Elkridge shopping center with Trader Joe's and Perfect Pour.

There are Facebook and Trip Advisor pages for Pisco that seem to be talking about a new restaurant to replace the shuttered Mamma Lucia's.

The phone number isn't in service yet, and I didn't see any signs or permits when we drove past the place yesterday.  But the Facebook site links back to some of the people who own Facci.  That location right off Rte 175 seems perfect for folks with a history in Howard County and Facci locations in Turf Valley and on Johns Hopkins Road.

Hat tip to Ryan Smith, who posted on the HowChow Facebook page that he had heard about Pisco from a neighbor.  Does anyone know the plan or the timing here?

Pisco Restaurant -- coming in 2014??
6630 Marie Curie Drive
Elkridge, MD 21075

NEAR:  This is the shopping center with Trader Joe's and Perfect Pour at the intersection of Rte 175 and Rte 108.  The center backs onto Rte 108 and faces the Costco.  The former Mamma Lucia was on the end away from Trader Joe's.

Foreman-Wolf Restaurant In Columbia Appears To Be French, A Second Version Of Petit Louis

The new restaurant from Tony Foreman and Cindy Wolf in Columbia appears like it will have a French menu and be a second version of their Petit Louis Bistro -- with patio dining overlooking the lake.

The name and cuisine have not been officially announced, but people can't keep a secret when they have a hunger for booze.

The Alcoholic Beverage Hearing Board ran an ad in yesterday's Baltimore Sun noting a application from "LouisCo Columbia, LLC t/a Petit Louis Bistro" in the name of Diane Patton and John Anthony Foreman.

The new restaurant is under construction on the lakefront in Columbia.  It's the former location of the Red Pearl.

Another cool detail: They're asking for liquor sales on a 471-square-foot patio.  That patio seems like a great idea.  They get extra tables, and diners can enjoy some seasonal seats with one of the best views around.

Hat tip to Anonymous for spotting the ad and posting a comment last night.  Does anyone know the plan or the time table for opening?  Mrs. HowChow loves Petit Louis, but she had been dreaming of Cindy Wolf's take on "farm to table" seasonal food.  The liquor hearing is 6:30 pm on December 17.  Let me know if anyone happens to attend.