|Pho at Pho Dat Trahn|
The Unmanly Chef has started up his own blog with recipes on everything from roast pork to breakfast shakes to Persian crispy rice. The Chef is a young guy from Howard County. He learned to cook from his immigrant Iranian grandmother, but he has a fully modern array of recipes under his belt -- a manly Flyers' apron on the page where he introduces himself.
We chatted yesterday, and the Chef jumped at the idea of a Trolling post. Most people say they'll do a Trolling post, then never email me again. Three paragraphs and a cell phone photo are always welcome, but I understand that they can be too daunting to complete.
For the Unmanly Chef, three paragraphs was too limiting. He wrote five. The same afternoon. Three sections talking up Howard County food that he really enjoys. Two bonus sections about great Iranian food in Rockville and the farm-to-table of Woodberry Kitchen.
Check out the Unmanly Chef blog. Follow him on Twitter. Like the blog's page on Facebook. Just generally welcome into the local conversation:
Friends & Farms -- a delivery service in Columbia
At first I was very apprehensive to joining Friends and Farms, because I thought it would be just another CSA that gives pounds of veggies. Meanwhile we were spending way too much on groceries each week for just two people. Friends and Farms delivers on both fronts. It gives a variety of meat and produce, while cutting my food bill in half. With Friends and Farms, you can customize your basket size to suit your needs. I'd recommend doing a sample basket for one week to see if it's for you. The quality of the food is excellent (especially the protein). Everything is from local farms. If you have any questions, you can engage with their staff via email,phone, or in person. (I've done all three.) It certainly is not for everyone, if you don't cook or can't handle changing seasonal ingredients, don't waste your time. Pricing ranges from $53/week to $99/week depending on what size basket you receive.
Yekta Kabobi Restaurant & Market in Rockville
Amongst Iranians in the Maryland area, Yekta is regarded as the premier Kabobi (or Chelow Kabob) place in the area. I'm fully aware of Nora's Kabob in Ellicott City or Maiwand Kabob in Columbia. They are great people, but their ground beef kabob or Koobideh does not stack up, and that is the true marker of a great Kabobi restaurant. F or the best experience, go to Yekta in Rocville and order the following: ask for the Tahdig (Crispy Rice), Mahst-e-Moosir (Yogurt with Shallots), and then get the Yekta Special. It's a lot of food, but this will give you the true Iranian Chelo Kabobi experience.
The real draw is a combination of everything. The consistency of the food is key. But juiciness of the meat and the larger variety of traditional Iranian side dishes make it great. For me, what makes it worth the drive is their Kabob Koobideh (ground beef kabob). It's the perfect mixture of salty and savory. Yekta also has daily specials, if you are there on a Tuesday or Friday, get the Baghali Polow Mahicheh (Lamb Shank with Fava Bean Rice), this is an authentic Iranian dish that is a true delicacy in Iran. After you've finished, you can go next door to their grocery store for some great treats.
Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore
Nestled away off I-83 lies a culinary oasis that brings rustic Chesapeake watershed cuisine to your table at a reasonable price. Woodberry Kitchen sources all their ingredients from local farms and makes everything in house. I first heard about it actually from Duff Goldman of Ace of Cakes fame) when he was on Food Network. You literally cannot make a wrong choice with their menu. Select whatever you crave, and prepare to be thrilled.
I've had the chicken and biscuits, and they are incredible. Cooked to perfection, they fry the skin, but not the whole chicken. T hey use a thigh instead of a breast so it's incredibly moist. Another great dish there is the mac & cheese, Fried chicken and mac & cheese are my two favorite foods so I always seek them out at a high quality place. Since it's a rustic American-style place, I base my choices off of my favorite American flavors -- savory and cheese. Haha.
You have to make a reservation generally because it's too popular now to walk in. But make the trip. It's worth it. They are open for breakfast/brunch on the weekends and dinner every night.Trolling (sometimes on Tuesday) is my attempt at a series where readers 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.
Aida Bistro & Wine Bar in Columbia
Italian food is often a difficult dining out choice for me because I always feel I can make it better than wherever one would usually go for Italian food in Howard County. Not with Aida Bistro & Wine Bar. Everything is locally sourced and hand-made in the kitchen. I've been twice now; both times were excellent. They do a seasonal menu. In the winter, I ordered a Lamb Shank Bolognese, and this past weekend we did an assortment of appetizers. Their pork belly appetizer is great. You think it's going to be somewhat chewy. But instead, it falls apart, and the crispy skin on the top makes it melt in your mouth. They serve it as a thick square of pork belly rather than the traditional korean BBQ way. It's almost like they braised the pork belly meat, but crisped the skin. It was awesome. For dessert, their cannoli are outstanding, not to sweet, and they have a home-made shell. The service is attentive and will offer their opinions if you ask. Aida's is great for any occasion.
Pho Dat Tanh in Columbia
Good pho is hard to find. Pho Dat Tanh in Columbia does exactly what you want. No fuss, no frills. They have carry-out, but I would not recommend ordering the pho for carry-out. It's not the same experience. We always come here when we have a cold because their pho will clear your sinuses and provide that warm soup craving. I always order the Pho Ga (Chicken Pho) instead of the Beef Pho. Mainly because I think it's healthier and it's a little less heavy. Their food is very reasonably priced and if you want pho, it's a great local source for it.