Friday, October 31, 2008

Delicious: The Easiest Quick Pickles

Pickles intimidate me, but I stumbled on the easiest way to turn vegetables into quick treats -- thanks again to the H Mart.

Yoricho cooking vinegar turns cucumbers, red pepper and carrot into pickles in just 20 minutes. Mix the Yoricho with an equal amount of water, then dunk in any vegetables that you want. They have a light vinegar flavor, although complex enough to be a real pickle with no labor at all. Great with Korean food, but they'd also pair with burgers or any other rich main course. I even soaked carrots overnight, then packed them for lunch.

Seriously, that's all I know because the only English on the bottle is a sticker with the ingredients and the name "Cooking Vinegar - Yoricho." I don't know if "yoricho" is a brand or a type of vinegar. The ingredients list vingar, corn syrup, sugar and then a list of flavorings like lemon juice, bonito extract, sea tangle extract, etc. I only bought the bottle because one of the H Mart's taste-testers convinced me to sample last weekend.

No waiting. No canning. I sliced vegetables into a bowl with the yoricho, and I served them as soon as the other food was ready. An hour gave a stronger taste, but 20 minutes really did work. Great with red pepper, carrots and cucumber. Probably great with whatever you try.

For all posts about the H Mart, check out here. If you go there, definitely check out the Jamaican patties at Golden Krust Bakery in the same shopping center. If you love pickles, remember the homemade pickles at Family Affair produce stand.

H Mart
800 N. Rolling Road
Catonsville, MD 21228

NEAR: Rte 40 just west of I-695. If you are driving from HoCo, you'll see a Starbucks and a FedEx at the end of the shopping center. Turn right immediately after the Starbucks. If you miss it, just turn right at the next intersection.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Link: Hedgehog Report on Second Chance Saloon

I may get elbowed off this blog soon. I had a little "food in HoCo" niche, but everyone seems to be crowding that market.

The politically-minded Hedgehog Report has Dave digging up news that people are remodeling the former Last Chance Saloon / Fire Rock Grille in Columbia. They apparently hope to re-open as "Second Chance Saloon. " Excellent news.

That followed Tale of Two Cities posting this morning about a new wine bar in an old firehouse. If everyone jumps into food, I'm going to need Jesse X advice to re-brand myself! (Wink! Wink!)

Link: New Wine Bar in Ellicott City's Old Firehouse

The Tale of Two Cities blog posts about a new wine bar that apparently is planned for the old firehouse in downtown Ellicott City. Wordbones saw the liquor board hearing notice on the old firehouse doors and says it looks like the bar will be called the Wine Bin.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shocked! Shocked!

I am shocked! shocked! to hear that the Washington Post finds none of its best food in Howard County.

The Washington Post unveiled a revamped "Going Out Guide" to restaurants, bars and clubs -- including an iPhone application to let you search from the road. The WPost now offers a series of "best" lists like "best pizza," "best view," "best romantic restaurant." A quick scan finds nothing from the Greater Columbia Metroplex. Has Tom Sietsema never been to House of India? I can get a whole tandoori rockfish and see my car at the same time. What better view could he want?

In all fairness, Sietsema remains a great read (and picked almost no "best" places outside DC, Arlington and Bethesda). I rely on Sietsema and the WPost guide when I'm looking down south. Lord knows you can't trust a blogger.

In all seriousness, you can't yet use the Going Out Guide north of, say, Silver Spring. The editors name only one HoCo restaurant worthy of their "pick" -- and then they list Great Sage under Montgomery County. Whoops. We may not be worthy of a Sietsema rave, but these editors "picked" an Austin Grill in Centerville. I'm sure they'll be tootling up Rte 29 soon to try out Sushi King, Bonaparte Bread, Iron Bridge Wine Company, Mango Grove, Maiwand Kabob, or Shin Chon Garden. If they hung around, they might eventually recommend An Loi, La Boulangarie or Sushi Sono. Or JW Trueth and Sons. Or Bangkok Delight. Or . . . . (sigh)

Delicious: Eastern Shore Roll at Sushi King

Imagination and flavor continue to fill the little plates at Sushi King and create new reasons to try the deluxe rolls.

I wrote months ago that Sushi King is the best reason for your friends to drive all the way from DC or Baltimore. I'm still captivated by some of the most-imaginative sushi that I have ever seen.

The big rolls are expensive. They're more than $15 each. But they're superb, and the chefs continue to innovate. Two newer versions rely on a tempura shrimp wrapped on the outside with fish. The Eastern Shore roll tops with roll with crab meat. The Samauri roll wraps it with tuna. They're both delicious, and you can make a reasonable -- although not cheap -- meal by pairing them with some of the smaller rolls by the crispy roll or the spicy grilled roll.

(Update: Keith is the comments reports that Sushi Sono and Sushi King aren't owned by the same family. I was repeating hearsay -- like pretty much everything in the blog -- and was years out of date. I fixed the error. Thanks Keith!)

If you like Sushi King, you should check out Sushi Sono -- also serving special rolls, but in downtown Columbia. If you are at Sushi King, check out Lily's Mexican Market in the same shopping center or Mango Grove for Indian food right up the street.

Or check out a working list of the best restaurants in Howard County.

Sushi King
6490 Dobbin Road, Ste. F
Columbia, MD

NEAR: The Kmart on Rte 175 and the DMV/Starbucks/Blockbuster on Dobbins Road. Sushi King is in the same shopping center as the DMV off Dobbins. Look for the intersection with a Blockbuster. The Sushi King shopping center is across Dobbins from the Blockbuster.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pupuseria Lorenita's Has Rolled A Few Blocks

(Update: A comment on Feb. 18, 2009 says that the truck moved south and to the west side of U.S.1.  But in April 2009, I saw it again at 7731 Washington Boulevard.)

Pupuseria Lorenita's has moved across Rte 1 and a few blocks north to 7731 Washington Boulevard in Elkridge.

Thanks to Cash, who first mentioned the move in a comment. The truck is still parked outside a store called Paco's Paints. It still serves up tacos that rival any stationary restaurant. You have to stand next to the traffic, but don't be intimidated. The folks speak English, and you can enjoy the tacos in the privacy of your own car!

Golden Krust: Jamaican in Catonsville

You can't fit a much better meal in your hand than a Jamaican patty from the Golden Krust Bakery in Catonsville.

Pastry wrapped around a meat or vegetable filling is a universal treat -- the empanada, the knish, etc. Jamaicans made it their own with spicy meat fillings, including the ubiquitous "jerk" seasonings, and Golden Krust serves them up warm and delicious from a takeout location on Rte 40 near the Super H grocery store.

The Golden Krust patties are spectacular because they aren't greasy. The pastry is flaky, almost dry. The fillings are flavorful, but spiced more with the discretion of mild Indian food than with the blazing heavy hand of kimchi or jalepenos. The pastries run $1.65 to $2.30 each, so you can explore from the spicy ground beef to the curry chicken to the jerk chicken. That was my journey, and I have to admit that three patties was too much for a single lunch. I got too full, and Mrs. HowChow finished off the last patty when I re-heated them at home. Pair up the pastries with some grapefruit-flavored Ting soda or some Jamaican-style ice cream.

Golden Krust also offers vegetarian versions -- one with steamed vegetables and another with whole-wheat pastry and a soy filling. It also sells "cocktail" patties by the dozen if you order in advance. Those would star as party finger food.

From the menu, Golden Krust appears to be a New York-based chain. Beyond the patties, they sell full takeout meals, including jerk chicken, curried goat, braised oxtail and fried fish. The guy in front of me carried out an entire tray that smelled delicious. Golden Krust also sells baked goods, which I will sample next time. Gizzarda -- baked pastry shells will with ginger-flavored, grated coconut! Bulla Cakes -- ginger cakes to serve with cheese, butter or just coffee. Those sound like fun.

If you like patties, you should also try the empanadas at El Patio Market in Jessup. If you want to know more about Golden Krust, check out the Baltimore Snacker post about trying a chicken special.

If you drive to the Golden Krust, you should also check out the Super H grocery store next door -- my favorite place for food, but also an easy place to pick of stuff even if you don't cook. If you are looking for Jamaican products, check out Julie's International Market in Elkridge.

To reach Catonsville off Rte 40 from HoCo, you probably will pass the Lotte Plaza shopping center at Rte 29 with both the Lotte grocery store and the Shin Chon Korean restaurant. Both are worth visits. You'll also pass Tere's Mexican Market on Rte 40.

Golden Krust Bakery
838 N. Rolling Road
Catonsville, MD 21228

NEAR: This is in the same shopping center as the Super H grocery store. It is on Rte 40 just west of I-695. If you are driving east on Rte 40 from HoCo, you'll see a Starbucks and a FedEx at the end of the shopping center. Turn right immediately after the Starbucks. If you miss it, just turn right at the next intersection.

Golden Krust Bakery on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 27, 2008

Updates: Changes at the H Mart

After too many weeks of work travel, I returned to the H Mart in Catonsville this weekend and discovered two changes -- along with some new items for future posts.

First -- The H Mart has improved its takeout food.  Korean food makes for terrific takeout dinners because you can pick up soup or marinated meat as a main course and then a few side dishes from the panchan bar.  Maybe my choices -- marinated radish or seaweed salad.  Maybe something more adventurous like salted squid.  On the weekend at least, there is a table with samples and toothpicks so that you can try anything that looks interesting.

H Mart has created a refrigerated section in the far right-hand corner of the store. There are pre-packaged items, which always seem too large for me.  The innovation is a dozen panchan in "select-your-own-amount" containers so that you can buy just a serving or two.

There are plastic quarts of spicy beef soup across from the panchan.  On the weekend, there was sliced, marinated meat in a refrigerated cooler.  Heat the soup, or saute up the meat to make lettuce wraps.  That is a dinner that you can put on the table in 10 minutes with leftovers to take for lunch.  The H Mart still doesn't have the full array of panchan offered by Lotte in Ellicott City, but the panchan and the "select-your-own-amount" of meat are a vast improvement over the old selection.

Second, things are changing at the restaurants / shopping area that used to be called Besoto.  There are new signs for the "Hanoori Market" that emphasize new management.  I thought the Besoto restaurant was a fine cafeteria-style Korean place, and it appears to remain open (along with an all-you-can-eat sushi place that I passed on) under the sign for Hanoori.  But then there is also a smaller Besoto sign farther down the shopping center.

Honestly, I didn't have time this weekend to figure it all out.  But it's certainly worth keeping an eye on if you go to the H Mart.

H Mart remains my favorite place for food.  Even if you don't cook, it is worth the drive to Catonsville to check out everything from fruits to frozen food to ice cream.  That shopping center is actually pretty interesting with a Starbucks on the end and a new Jamaican takeout place that offers delicious patties.

H Mart
800 N. Rolling Road
Catonsville, MD 21228

NEAR: Rte 40 just west of I-695. If you are driving from HoCo, you'll see a Starbucks and a FedEx at the end of the shopping center. Turn right immediately after the Starbucks. If you miss it, just turn right at the next intersection.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

\Frank's Nursey & Produce in Elkridge

Nothing beats apples and pumpkins on a crisp fall day, and Frank's Nursery & Produce offers an impressive array of both close to home.

Frank's joins Larriland Farm as the best places for pumpkins in Howard County. Of course, Larriland is across the county off I-70 in Woodbine. So it's still a priceless place to pick your own apples, send kids through the maze, take a hay ride, shop in the store, etc. But that doesn't work if you just have 20 minutes between errands in Columbia.

In its small covered area, Frank's offers maybe 10 different apples varieties, many of which you aren't going to find in a supermarket. Mrs. HowChow and I are in love with honeycrisp apples, and Frank's let us grab a bagful on the way out of Lowes. Frank's also has spectacular pumpkins. They're lined up near the parking lot, and they're especially great jack-o-lantern candidates -- many with long, twisting stems that give them character. Tall ones. Round ones. Fat ones. All kinds of sizes. That is why this is the best pumpkins in Howard County.

Two large pumpkins ran $22, and the Mrs. picked up an array of other pumpkins (tiny, small and medium), gourds and mums to decorate the house. The mums are already-blooming not just budded, but they're color at cut-rate prices -- $8 for a mum similar to ones that we saw for $25 at Home Depot.

The Frank's store has some nice produce, although I never know whether it is local or somehow different from what you can buy elsewhere. In the spring, Frank's grows annuals and some perennials in its greenhouses, and they're a beautiful experience to stroll through thousands of flowers after the winter cold. Again, they're a bargain. Great prices if you want a large display for your yard.

Click here for all the posts about Larriland. If you go to Frank's, you are just around the corner from casual kabobs and Persian food at Parsa Kabob.
FYI -- This isn't Frank's Seafood in Jessup. I don't know if they're connected.

Frank's Produce
6686 Old Waterloo Rd
Elkridge, MD 21075
(410) 799-4566

Near: This is actually near the shopping center with Lowe's and Trader Joe's at Rte 108 and Rte 175. From Rte 175, turn onto Rte 108 and then turn right at the second light onto Lark Brown Road. The Trader Joe's will be on your right. Follow that under it deadends, then turn right on Old Waterloo Road. Frank's is a few hundred feet up on the right.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Do You Eat From The Candy Bowl?

Mrs. HowChow took one look at the bowl on the way out of House of India and said, "Two words: Herb Denenberg."

Twenty years ago, Denenberg was a television reporter famous in Philadelphia for consumer investigations like hidden-camera stings of street vendors. That cheesesteak vendor didn't wash his hands! That soft pretzel was covered in bacteria!! Looks what we cultured from the egg sandwich that we bought near Independence Hall!!!

But I love those fennel seeds at the door of most Indian restaurants. The licorice taste. The candy-coated crunch. A spoonful cleans your mouth, and they're delicious.

Mrs. HowChow doesn't touch the fennel seeds. Nothing against House of India. She worries about the dozens of people who touch any bowl of unwrapped candies. She thinks "bacteria" and "unwashed hands." She remembers Denenberg, and even more, Mrs. HowChow is actually Dr. HowChow -- so she knows her bacteria and her infections.
I cling to my ignorance (and have such clean breath)!

Friday, October 17, 2008

House of India in Columbia

We have a new Top 10 restaurant thanks to the Sun's food blog, which raved about a place that I have driven past a hundred times.

House of India sits on Snowden River Parkway just up from Akbar, our staple for northern Indian food like naan and tandoori chicken. Elizabeth Large's fun blog named House of India on a list of the Top 10 Restaurants in a Strip Mall along with Asean Bistro, Shin Chon Garden and Aida Bistro. Top 10, and I have never been? Really? "First," Large promised, "there are hidden gems here."

And there certainly are. House of India sits in a strip mall that is non-descript even for Columbia -- barely a blink as you drive past on Snowden River. But the doors open into a classy restaurant. Table cloths. Red-lined flatware. Warm stylish paint colors. White banquets. They're all really nice, and none of them can compare with the food.

First, they start you off with papadum, the crisp crackers that you can break into pieces and enjoy with three chutneys. Although you can buy them and make papad at home, Mrs. HowChow remembers them fondly from her favorite Indian restaurant from Los Angeles. After crunching an entire bowl, we started with bhel puri, a plate of rice puffs and crispy noodles tossed with tomato, cilantro and a tamarind sauce. It had the complexity of a great Thai salad -- crunchy, mixtures of sweet and sour, then a spicy flavor that came on at the end. The appetizer was also the size of a dinner plate. We barely ate half. One appetizer could have easily filled us both if we had spooned it all up.

Thank heavens we stopped because our entrees were Top 10 dishes as well. Chicken Kashmiri -- a chicken curry in a creamy sauce that tasted of nuts and sweetness, and Fish Angaar -- a whole rockfish cooked in the tandoor oven, served beautifully with charred skin and a delicious sauce laced with ginger. The fish was a tour de force. The flesh was moist and flavorful, and I used tongs to lift the fillet off the bones and then to pick off the delicious meat up near the head. This all came with a naan and a platter (not a mere bowl) of rice. I don't know what was in these dishes. They were not spicy like hot peppers. Instead, they were cooked with spices. Real skill in that kitchen gave everything the complex flavor that makes Indian food so exciting.

Not that we finished even half of the food. Mrs. HowChow ruefully noted that she was too full to even imagine ordering kheer, her favorite rice pudding dessert. House of India has an entire "carry out" station. A woman rolled over a cart outfitted with takeout bowls, small clamshell trays, and large clamshell platters. She wrapped each dish individually, then assembled it all in a plastic bag. We brought home two, maybe three meals.

(Update: House of India remains one of my favorites. The chicken tikka masala and a baingan bartha (eggplant) were great takeout on a recent rainy, cold night. They were spicy and delicious, although the naan never travels as well as I would hope. Consider keeping some frozen naan in your freezer from Apna Bazar in Laurel or or Desi Bazaar in Columbia. House of India's bread is splendid in the restaurant, but the frozen stuff can heat up in a few minutes at home. If you like mango lassis, order it without ice so that nothing melts in the car on the way home.)

Check out my favorite restaurants in Howard County. If you like Indian food, you should certainly check out my post about Indian restaurants across the county -- including the vegetarian and southern Indian options at Mango Grove and the Chinese-Indian fusion menu at Mirchi Wok. You can buy Indian groceries at Desi Market in Columbia or Apna Bazar in Laurel. Or click for the starting page for my "What I Learned" guide to food in Howard County.

This end of Snowden has a nice collection of food options, including Indian at Akbar, Vietnamese at An Loi Pho, and a small Mexican grocery at Mexican Bazaar.

House of India
9350 Snowden River Parkway
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: This is on Snowden between the Home Depot and Broken Land Parkway. It's one shopping center closer to the Home Depot than Akbar. If you are coming from Broken Land, you reach both of those centers by passing them on your left and then U-turning on Snowden.

House of India on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Weekend: Philadelphia for Food and Escape

People act surprised when I say that they should go away to Philadelphia.  

I understand.  I lived there in the late 1980s, when the city wasn't a place to wander for food and window shopping.  But you need to  leave Howard County some time, and driving two hours can create a short escape that feels like weeks away.

First, pick a downtown hotel.  Anything within five blocks of City Hall would be great and give you the opportunity to enjoy a city time.  Consider just two nights like Mrs. HowChow and I stayed last week for our anniversary

Then, check the Web for a special restaurant where you might need a reservation. We recommend Alma de Cuba, a modern Cuban place west of City Hall.  Great food runs from Olde City against the river through Center City along Chestnut, Walnut and Sansom.  But we can't take ourselves away from Alma de Cuba.  Beautiful, dim atmosphere.  Delicious mojitos and caipirinhas.  They start you with Columbian rolls with a light crust and a soft interior.  Then we always start with ceviche.  Alma de Cuba serves at least six varieties, and we splurged last weekend for the trio sampler -- a classic hamachi, a tuna variety, and lobster and crab in a coconut milk.  Honestly, I can still taste the corn nuts in the hamachi ceviche, but I don't remember what I had as a main dish.

Then walk.  The fun of Philadelphia is that you can stroll day-long loops and graze with no reservations.  No plans.  This isn't Columbia.  This isn't even Washington DC.  Check out Reading Terminal Market for breakfast or cheesesteaks that make Lexington Market seem pedestrian.  Head all the way down to Fork Etc. at Fourth and Market for gourmet sandwiches (the Cuban!) or the makings of a picnic outside the Liberty Bell (the fried chicken!).  You can walk 40 blocks and stop in any pizza shop that you pass.  The slices or the hoagies will exceed almost anything you can buy around here.  It's like New York without the Manhattan prices.

Or it's like Italy with more imagination.  We plan our days around Capogiro -- the best gelato that I have ever had.  It's the creamy taste of Italy, but it's even better because Capogiro's daily flavors include both traditional flavors like dark chocolate, fior di latte or fruits with imaginative ideas that you won't taste even in Rome like sea salt or Thai coconut milk.  My favorites are actually sorbettos -- mixtures of made from sugar, fruit and a paired herb.  Lime-cilantro.  Lemon-opal basil.  Orange-cardamon.  They're expensive.  But Capogiro invites you to taste -- literally taste a dozen flavors before you pick two or three for your dish.

Those discoveries make Philadelphia an adventure and an escape.  A few years ago, we window shopped for clothes, then looked at art galleries.  Last week, we nosed around modern furniture stores in a district along Third Street north of Market -- six interesting stores topped off by the cool vintage pieces at Mode Moderne.  Heading back to the hotel, we stumbled on Foster's -- a home store with a mix of furniture, kitchen ware, clocks, books, etc -- and walked out with a shiny mobile.  That is the fun of being away.

If you want to check out Philadelphia, start with Philly Mag.  If you go to Capogiro, also check out El Vez across the street.  That is great guacamole that inspired Mrs. HowChow's creation.  We tasted the El Vez version last week, and we were shocked to realize that they taste nothing alike.

Alma de Cuba
1623 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Alma de Cuba on Urbanspoon

Capogiro Gelateria
119 S. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Capogiro Gelateria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Delicious: Spiced Apple Brew at Roots Market

The taste of spiced apple cider, the bubbles of sparkling wine. Reeds' Spiced Apple Brew is a fun fall drink that is an adult take on non-alcoholic wine.

I poured Spiced Apple Brew into champagne glasses last night as part of the first anniversary dinner that I made for Mrs. HowChow. You can't drink liquor with every course when you have to go to work in the morning.

We drank the bubbling cider with cheese while we caught up on The Hills and waited for dessert. (I have been out of town for two weeks.) Spiced Apple Brew tastes like mulled cider with cinnamon and apples. It is sweet, but less sweet and more interesting than most non-alcoholic wines. I paid $4 for a four-pack, and one bottle filled two glasses. You could serve it anywhere that you wanted juice, but I liked my original inspiration of drinking it with cheese. Next time, I'll serve it with something sharper like cheddar.

I previously posted about Roots for whole grains and for the salad bar, and I have created a page that lists organic and ethnic markets across Howard County. If you visit Roots, consider checking out the Mexican food at El Azteca, which is in the shopping center just north on Rte 108. If you want traditional brew, check out the wall of beer at Perfect Pour in Elkridge or the make-your-own six-packs at im Wine in Fulton.

Roots Market
5805 Clarksville Square Drive
Clarksville, MD 21029

NEAR: It's on Rte 108 just north of Rte 32. The Clarksville Square shopping center is on the west side filled with "crunchy" businesses owned by the same people -- a restaurant, a pet supply shop, a decorating place. Look for the Jiffy Lube on Rte 108.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Out of Town

I was out of town all last week on business, and I'm going away again this week for fun.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Best Hamburgers -- Still Waiting For Fatburger

(Click here for the most-recent Fatburger posts. Click here for a post about the best burgers in Howard County.)

Victoria Gastropub appears to be handily surviving its mixed review from the WPost. There was a 90-minute wait on Saturday evening when Mrs. HowChow and I arrived craving some burgers and fries.

We should have waited for something to open in Victoria's bar. The Victoria burgers were spectacular in our prior visits (and come with biscuits!), and there was one table where the women seemed to be finishing up their beers. But we didn't want to skulk around their table, and we figured that we could get good burgers at Eggspectations just across Rte 108.

We should have waited for something to open in Victoria's bar. Eggspectactions still has the loud, friendly feeling that we loved when we lived nearby. But the burgers don't taste the same. I remember flavorful patties that felt like someone had made them by hand. This weekend, they were thin and tasted right off a food service delivery truck. Still a good pickle. Still fine fries and a great place for breakfast. But Mrs. HowChow voiced her burger disappointment before I even said anything, and I think an $11 hamburger shouldn't be anonymous.

On the way, we checked out the Fatburger in Columbia under construction near the Trader Joe's. It looks just like it did a month ago when I figured that it looked ready to open. The tables and chairs are there, but the window is still full of construction permits. We're waiting!!!

(Update: Paul reports in the comments that someone told him on October 8 that Fatburger was two weeks away! I went past on October 19, and the place still wasn't open. I called The Perfect Pour on October 27 because it is a few doors down, and they said it was still not open.)

Where are the best hamburgers in Howard County now that Eggspectations has fallen off our list? We'll return to Victoria's, but we need options.

(Update: First vote in the comments -- Famous Dave's. More votes for Red Robin and Five Guys. If you want to read about Five Guys in Laurel, check out the Technology & MSG blog.)

Victoria Gastro Pub
8201 Snowden River Parkway
Columbia, MD 21045

6010 University Boulevard
Ellicott City, MD

NEAR: They're both on Rte 108 near Snowden River Parkway. Victoria is at the intersection. Eggspectation is one intersection to the east -- on the way towards Rte 175. They're both super-convenient off Rte 100 if you take the Snowdon River Exit.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Delicious: Indian Lunches at Desi Market

One of the easiest lunches to bring to the office is a packaged Indian meal -- often delicious, always safe for weeks on a shelf.

Trader Joe's offers a few versions from a single brand. So do some supermarkets. But Desi Market in Columbia offers shelf after shelf for your selection, including palak paneer, aloo mutter, chickpeas, and lentils, lentils, lentils.

If you have never had these, the Indian meals are curries and sometimes rice dishes that are fully cooked, sealed into envelopes, then boxed. They don't need to be refrigerated, and they can be easily reheated if you pour them in a bowl and microwave. That makes them perfect to bring for lunches. You can throw one in your bag, or you can even store a few in your desk.

Desi Market sells a series of brands, including Kohinoor, Priya, and MTR. I don't have a favorite, and the reason to drive to the store off Rte 108 is to pick your own. Each line tends to have a dahl (lentil) option or two, plus a chickpea option and several with vegetables and paneer. Try a few. They run about $2.50, which is a bargain compared to most turkey sandwiches sold for lunch. At home, you could pair one of these meals with a frozen naan baked in the oven. At the office, I suggest microwaving papad -- the crispy crackers that balance off the curries.

If you're looking for Indian food, check out Akbar for northern Indian food or Mango Grove for vegetarian or southern Indian food. If you're looking for other Indian markets, check out Food Cravings in Columbia or Apna Bazar or Eastern Bazaar in Laurel. Or the full list of ethnic and organic markets.

Desi Bazaar
9179 Red Branch Rd # H
Columbia, MD 21045
(410) 997-8400

NEAR: This is in a commercial area off Rte 108 just east of Rte 29. You can't see anything from Rte 108. You turn north on Red Branch Road at a traffic light, and Desi Bazaar is in a commercial building on the right. The parking is actually before the store, so we had to U-turn and go back.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Coffee Oromia: Beignets and Ethiopian Grits

If you're bored with breakfast, consider going one exit south of Howard County for beignets and Ethiopian grits at Coffee Oromia in Burtonsville.

(Update:  See Robert's smart comment below.  This has become Soretti's Ethiopian -- no breakfast, but good lunches and dinners.  Check the Soretti's posts.)

Coffee Oromia offers the closest Ethiopian food to Columbia. But in the morning, the same shop offers a light breakfast menu. The coffee shop basics are here -- coffee, espresso, eggs, some plain-looking bagels. You can also buy smoothies, which were fruity and could be a meal on their own.

But the reason to drive past Eggspectation or the breakfast sandwiches at Mad City Coffee are the Ethiopian grits and the beignets. These aren't exactly the beignets that Mrs. HowChow had in New Orleans, but they're fine members of the donut family. Crisp pastries with a light sugar taste. Good and certainly unusual. Coffee Oromia serves up a plate of three, which were nice with a coffee and a Sunday newspaper.

Coffee Oromia is right next to the Burtonsville branch of Maiwand Kabob. It is just down the road from Cuba de Ayer. If you're still looking for breakfast, click here for all the posts.

Coffee Oromia
15510 Old Columbia Pike (Rte 198)
Burtonsville, MD 20866

NEAR: This is on Rte 198 just west of Rte 29. From Howard County, you take the first exit on Rte 29 south of the river. That exit puts you on an old piece of Rte 29 that passes an Indian temple and a garden center. Turn right on Rte 198 at the traffic light. Coffee Oromia is a block up on the right next to a Maiwand Kabob outlet. There is a sign.