Thursday, January 29, 2009

Crab Cakes at Boarman's Meat Market

Trust the place in the country to give you a taste of the bay -- and pick up crab cakes for an easy dinner at Boarman's Meat Market.

Boarman's is an institution on Rte 108 in Highland, and the house-made sausage is worth driving out. But Boarman's also makes crab cakes -- each the size of a fist and packed with tasty meat. On earlier visits, I had missed this treat in a case full of meat, but I got the tip from a friend. The cakes are moist and lightly seasoned. Maybe Old Bay? I wasn't exactly sure. I just dropped them on tinfoil and broiled until they browned on each side.

The crab cakes are normally $4 each. One would make a fine meal if you add a few side dishes. Easy enough for a weeknight. Delicious enough for a treat. Mrs. HowChow and I split four, and they were honestly too much for a single meal. (Not that I didn't finish my two!)

The other famous local crab cakes are at Timbuktu just off Rte 100. If you go to Boarman's, it is an easy drive up Rte 108 to Root's Market. That organic market is full of options to round out a meal.

Boarman's Meat Market
13402 Clarksville Pike (Rte 108)
Highland, MD

NEAR: Boarman's is the intersection of Rte 108 and Rte 216. It's south of Clarksville and west of Fulton.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Beer in Howard County: The Sudsy Triangle

If you want to explore beer in Howard County, you need to know two things -- the Baltimore Beer Guy and the "Sudsy Triangle" of Columbia.

The Baltimore Beer Guy writes a blog all about local restaurants, bars and breweries. He lives in HoCo, and he knows more and drinks more than I'm ever going to offer. The Sudsy Triangle is eastern Columbia around the intersections of Rte 175 and Snowden River Parkway -- where you can check out Victoria Gastropub, the Frisco Grille and the Perfect Pour in a single afternoon.
  • The Beer Bars: (Updated: Victoria and Frisco along with Judges Bench and T-Bonz Grille & Pub stand out because they basically curate their bars, rotating craft and foreign beers from dozens of taps, according to the BBG.)  Victoria Gastropub at Rte 108 and Snowden has a beautiful bar and a high-end pub menu that makes it a casual, but classy place to eat and drink. It also has had beer dinners and hosts a "Beer Club" with specials like Monday night discounts and raffles. The Frisco Grille off Dobbin Road serves beer with a menu that mixes pub food and Southwestern cuisine. They have 19 taps and dozens more bottled, and their special night is Wednesday, when there are often free pint glasses and special brews. (As a bonus, check out Pub Dog -- a bar in the same shopping center as Frisco Grille. If you go, the Beer Guy recommends the pale (Hoppy Joe) and the no frills pizza.)  The Judges Bench and T-Bonz are in the same class, according to the BBG.  They sound great, but I haven't been to T-Bonz since it started this craft beer push and the BBG named it to his top list.
  • The Beer Store: When you want to take your beer home, you just go east on Rte 175 and stop at the Perfect Pour near the new Trader Joe's. It looks like any other liquor store on the outside, but opens wide and ends with a 50-foot-long wall of beers. Craft beers. Foreign beers. Old favorites. Rare varieties. (Heavens, they ran out of beers to offer and have an entire shelf of mead.) I know there are other options -- for example i.m. Wine or any of the places that the Baltimore Beer Guy lists on his site -- but my meager thirst could be filled at the Perfect Pour for years.
If you still want to know more, check out the Baltimore Beer Guy blog. He writes all about local haunts -- for example this post. He offers ideas of some little adventures like the tasting room at Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick. He has a list of great liquor stores. He created beer maps for HoCo, DC and more. He reviews some beers and dashes off updates about special items on tap -- like Hoptimus Prime on tap at Frisco over Christmas. It is also a fun read if you want a window to life in Howard County.

(Update: Check out the comments below -- along with comments on my request for advice, which talk up places like Ram's Head Tavern, Ellicott Mills Brewing, the Judge's Bench and Phoenix Emporium. Also, check out the Baltimore Beer Guy's new list of places to stock up on beer.)

(Update: Also consider T-Bonz Grille & Pub in Ellicott City.  I didn't drink there, but the Baltimore Beer Guy blog posted in January 2010 about the beer selection at T-Bonz.  The BBG absolutely recommends the craft beer selection -- saying that the 10 taps and interesting bottles and seasonal offerings makes T-Bonz the best option after Frisco, Judges Bench and Victoria.)

This is part of the "What I Learned" series of posts. They're organized in rings. See below to continue on the ring of ideas about food in Howard County. Or click to switch to the posts about different cuisines or posts about shopping.

PREVIOUS: What I've Learned
NEXT: Cheese in Howard County

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Burgers in Howard County

In my book, Victoria Gastropub sells the best burger in Howard County.

I want there to be more competition, just like reviewers seem to want Victoria to be a super-star that competes with their downtown favorites. Mostly, I want a Five Guys, which serves up a burger and fries that I'd often take over Victoria. That treat -- especially the fries -- is worth a drive to Laurel or Arundel Mills or Security Square.

But, within our fair border, Victoria's upscale burger -- with a nice bun, good fries and delicious beef -- really has no peers. I love biting into a burger with real taste, with the juice that comes from fat but the flavor that comes from meat. My grill and a home-grown tomato make the absolute best hamburger, but Victoria is the place that I drive when I'm too cold or tired to do it myself.

(And this is all just their normal burger. The kobe beef tasted different to me, but not better and therefore not worth the extra money to me. But be firm on the fries. The last time I went for lunch, the fries were overcooked and hard. I should have sent them back.)

What are the other options? Victoria isn't a burger you can grab while you do errands, and it's not the affordable treat that I used to have in my favorite bar in Massachusetts. Eggspectaction used to draw me in, but my last burger there tasted frozen and plain enough to send me across Rte 108 to Victoria. That leaves me with Fatburger's upscale fast-food, Five Guy's delicious basics, and the Red Robin off Snowden River that got some justified praise in past comments (but which can be excruciatinly loud). I wouldn't turn down any of those three, but I feel like the drive would pass by other cuisines -- a quick pho, some Mexican -- that I'd actually prefer.

This is part of the "What I Learned" series of posts. They're organized in rings. See below to continue on the ring about different cuisines. Or click to switch to the posts about shopping in Howard County or posts about areas and ideas.

PREVIOUS: Kabobs and Barbeque in Howard County
NEXT: Asian Restaurants in Howard County

Monday, January 26, 2009

Help Me: Best Cheese and Asian Restaurants

Asian and cheese restaurants -- That's not a natural pair, but they're this Monday's request for your favorites in Howard County.  

I'm posting about "What I've Learned" to collect a guide to the best of Howard County food. I'm asking for help, and I'll incorporate comments in the upcoming posts (or update them if the post already happened):
  • Where can you buy great cheese in Howard County?  Cheese plates at nice restaurants?  Retail displays for special brie or blue cheese that you want to take home?  Where do go?  What do you buy?
  • Where do you drive for great Asian food? I know that is a continent, but I'm looking for your favorites from Korea through Japan down to Vietnam.  I already asked for Chinese and Indian joints.  Now I want to know what you order at Bangkok Garden or whatever places draws you in for great food.  How do you distinguish An Loi and Pho Dat Trahn?

Pho Dat Trahn in Columbia

In the last few blocks of Snowden River Parkway, one step on the gas pedal can drive you past an unusual cluster of good, casual restaurants.

Indian joints Akbar and House of India sit in adjoining shopping centers, and their Vietnamese cousins An Loi and Pho Dat Trahn sit just a block apart as well.  An Loi is my perennial favorite with a simple menu of delicious noodles, grilled meats and soups.  Pho Dat Trahn offers those same basics -- plus a wider Vietnamese menu and decor one level dressier than An Loi's vibe of "just-the-food-ma'am."

Pho Dat Trahn pulls off the alchemy of Vietnamese food -- serving dishes full of tasty sauce and grilled meats, but somehow making them light and healthy.  Like An Loi, Pho Dat Trahn serves up the Vietnamese basics -- the beef soup called "pho" and the noodles dishes called "bun."  They're both great options to try this food because they're basically "pick your own adventure."  You're either getting a beef broth with noodles or a bowl of noodles with a piquant
 sauce, and you pick what meat you want on top.

The bun with lemongrass chicken (#H6) has been my favorite dish so far.  Slightly spicier than the An Loi version.  (Make sure you get the small dish of sauce to pour over the noodles.  Our waitress forgot the dish at first, but apologized and grabbed one right away when we asked.)  We also enjoyed the ginger chicken in a clay pot (#J10) -- not actually cooked in 
a clay pot, but covered with the thick, rich sauce that I have had elsewhere -- and the sugar cane  shrimp (#I1).  The shrimp was something new.  Think shrimp shish-kabob.  Shrimp paste formed into thin patties around lemongrass stalks, then grilled and served with rice-paper wrappers, noodles, herbs and a peanut sauce.  We rolled them up like fresh eggrolls.

Like food in Vietnam, the menu flows from these signature, local items through traditional Chinese dishes like chowfun, stirfries and even mapo tofu.  You can really explore because most entrees cost less than $10, and the weekday lunch special lets you pick any three items for $6.25.  Based on only two visits, I will be bypassing the appetizers to order more entrees.  Summer rolls are a spectacular invention -- a light wrapper around vegetables, a slice of pork and shrimp -- but the Pho Dat Trahn roll wasn't as good as the main dishes.  On our last trip, we ordered three entrees and packed up leftovers for lunch.

If you want to know more, check out this 2006 Chowhound post comparing Pho Dat Tran and An Loi and this 2007 Chowhound post about how An Loi and Pho Dat Trahn had been sold by their original owners.  I can't compare before and after.

Pho Dat Trahn
9400 Snowden River Parkway
Columbia, MD  21045

NEAR: This is on the right if you're driving south on Snowden River.  It's the same shopping center as Akbar with the bright, colorful store names.

Pho Dat Thanh Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 23, 2009

Five Guys in Laurel (and Now Columbia)

Five Guys burgers started out as a cult favorite -- a run-down joint where I went during 1990s visits home to Virginia. As that joint exploded into a chain, I'm impressed that it is still worth a pilgrimage.

Howard County doesn't have a Five Guys yet, but it's a short run down to Laurel or up near Arundel Mills to try the burgers and fries. Don't expect anything else. Five Guys serves up burgers, hot dogs, fries and drinks. I go because they're all delicious -- perfect for the days when your motto is "Grease is Good."

The burgers are delicious. The regular is actually a double-stack of thin patties. You can pick any condiments -- lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and many more. It's a meaty burger with a soft bun that I really like. Unlike a Fatburger in its pretty paper wrap, the Five Guys burger comes crumbled in tin foil and packed -- if you're lucky -- in a grease-stained paper bag.

You want those grease stains because you want those fries. The Five Guys burger is probably a little juicier than the competition. But the fries are certainly the best around. They taste to me like actual pieces of potato, deep fried, and overflowing their paper cup into the bag. Nothing like the Fatburger fries, which tasted like the ones in my freezer. A small order costs $2.50, but it's enough for two. On my recent trip, I left half in the bag to stay warm while I enjoyed my burger. I savored the extras while I read a book.

In the end, I'm firmly with the comments that judge Five Guys above the new Fatburger. You can't get more basic ambiance. You can't get a more limited menu. And you can't even get a Five Guys in Howard County. But you should make the drive when the hunger hits.

Five Guys Burgers (Laurel)
15102 Baltimore Ave # 101 (U.S. 1)
Laurel, MD
(301) 362-3483

NEAR: This is on U.S. 1 just south of Rte 198 in Laurel. It is in a shopping center with a CVS in between the south- and north-bound sections of U.S. 1.

Five Guys Hamburgers on Urbanspoon

Five Guys Burgers (Shops at Arundel Preserve)
7690 Dorchester Blvd.
Hanover, MD, 20794

NEAR: This is near the intersection of Rte 295 and Rte 100.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kabobs and Barbeque in Howard County

Where should a carnivore got to dine?

You can get meat at any restaurants (except Great Sage), but some of those balance the meal with vegetables. Burgers come with fries. Korean bulgogi comes with an entire table of kimchi, seaweed and pickles.

Sometimes, you don't want to be distracted by anything green. My travels say that you can visit three types of joints for meat-lover experience -- barbeque, pit beef and kabobs.
  • For barbeque chicken, pulled pork, or ribs, my place is Kloby's Smokehouse in Laurel. This is Johns Hopkins Road where Laurel, Fulton and Columbia come together. Very convenient off Rte 29. You order at the counter. You take away or sit at the casual tables. In comments, other people have talked about Bare Bones and Pig Pickers on Rte 40 in Ellicott City.
  • For pit beef and other barbeque, some people really like Canopy on Rte 40 in Ellicott City. I enjoyed Uncle Grubes off U.S. 1 in Elkridge. Nice beef with a charred edge, served with surprisingly good coleslaw. You order at a counter and can eat outside. But the real champion in Pioneer Pit Beef in Woodlawn -- a shack with just enough room for you to step inside, order a sandwich and step back out with . Pioneer is the real deal -- that flavorful cut of beef, grilled and then sliced so thin that you bite them like it was filet mignon. It's just north of Rte 40 and great to pair with grocery shopping at the H Mart.
  • For kabobs, my car heads on its own to Maiwand Kabob in Columbia. Ironically, that's as much for the pumpkin and other appetizers as for the kabobs. The complete Afghan experience at Maiwand Kabob is just one of my favorites overall. If we're just talking grilled meat, you should also check out Mimi's Kabob in Clarksville (also Afghan) and Parsa Kabob in Elkridge (Persian).
If you're cooking meat, the most unique experience is J.W. Treuth and Sons in Oella. Or check out the upcoming "What I Learned" about meat markets.

This is part of the "What I Learned" series of posts. They're organized in rings. See below to continue on the ring about different cuisines. Or click to switch to the posts about shopping in Howard County or posts about areas and ideas.

PREVIOUS: Indian Restaurants in Howard County
NEXT: Burgers in Howard County

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Link: Snacking Around the Beltway

The Baltimore Snacker blog has summarized its 16-month project of snacking around the Baltimore Beltway.  John stopped at 102 spots as he visited every exit.  He posted each exit separately, but now, they're organized by area.  

It's fun reading and a monumental project.  John's highlights in the "Catonsville" section include Taneytown Deli, Golden Gate Chinese Restaurants and Sugarbaker Cakes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Seafood Markets in Howard County

Seafood was a key to this region for centuries, and there are still great options now that seafood has gone global.

For now, I have three options for seafood: The H Mart in Catonsville, the Today's Catch market in Columbia, and Frank's Seafood in the wholesale market in Jessup. They're all good. They all sell fresh fish, and you can find something delicious at each. In the end, I'd suggest that you try the one closest to you and then wander to the others when you have time.
  • The H Mart can't be beat. This is a Korean supermarket with an enormous, recently-renovated fish section in the back. Whole fish. Fillets. Clams. Live crabs. Everything that I ever wanted is laying on the ice at the H Mart, and the prices -- and the high quality -- let me experiment. Last winter, I made an enormous pot of clam chowder because it was a favorite of my friend's fiance. I couldn't afford dozens of clams at even the regular supermarket, but I bought bags at H Mart.
  • Today's Catch is super-convenient for Columbia. The store in the Wilde Lake center near the mall is the smallest of my three, and they may only have a few of each species on display. But the fish is delicious, and the workers are eager to answer questions and help. I loved the "dry" scallops, which were delicious after tasteless scallops that I have bought elsewhere. Also Today's Catch sells frozen fish heads for soup and often sells mixed chunks cut off fillets for about $10/pound -- great for fish tacos and soup.
  • Frank's Seafood was my place for summer crabs. This is a full-scale market inside the wholesale seafood market in Jessup. Whole fish. Fillets on ice. Crab cakes. Huge, special-order lobsters. A bustling location that says the fish flies through their place, and I stood in line at New Years behind dozens of people stocking up on oysters and mussels. They also steam thousands of crabs. They have enormous wheeled cans that they fill with crustaceans and wheel into steaming rooms. They sell everything from jumbos to the "cold" specials (buy a dozen, get a dozen free of the crabs steamed yesterday). This is absolutely worth driving past the prison, then showing the license to get through the market's gates.
If you aren't in the mood to cook, consider the crab cake at Boarman's in Highland or just go for crab cakes at Timbuktu in Hanover just off Rte 100. You can also buy fish if you visit JW Treuth and Sons for steaks and sausages.

This is part of the "What I Learned" series of posts. They're organized in rings. See below to continue on the ring about shopping in Howard County. Or click to switch to the posts about different cuisines or posts about areas and ideas.

PREVIOUS: Bakeries in Howard County

NEXT: Vegetable Shopping in Howard County

Monday, January 19, 2009

Help Me: Best Burgers and Beer

What are your favorite places for burgers or beer?  I'm posting about "What I've Learned" to collect a guide to the best of Howard County food. I'm asking for help, and I'll incorporate comments in the upcoming posts:
  • What is the best burger in Howard County?  Did you try Fatburger yet?  Can we (metaphorically) annex Laurel for the Five Guys?  Are there any gourmet burgers you like?  Any pubs that go beyond the frozen patties to serve up great meat?
  • Where do you get great beer?  My first stop in the Baltimore Beer Blog, and my destinations are Victoria Gastropub, Frisco Grill and the Perfect Pour.  Where else do you go for great beer?
(Update:  This was the best beer post and the best burger post.)

Timbuktu in Elkridge

Timbuktu is a place for crab, just crab.  

In early December, I sat at the bar at this Elkridge institution after flying into BWI, and I thought about my college roommate who always recommends that you eat the speciality of the house.  That's what I did.  A nice crab soup.  A large crab cake, packed with meat and light on the filler.

People must order something else because Timbuktu fills three large rooms with a full menu, but I didn't see any reason to waver.  The bun tasted bland, so I skipped it.  The sandwich garnish looked average, so I pushed it aside.  I spooned up my soup, then just read my newspaper and sliced up the softball-sized crab cake.

This is Maryland, so I don't think that I need to describe a broiled crab cake to you.  The key here is that Timbuktu's tastes like crab, just crab.  Making a crab cake isn't rocket science, but restaurants find it too easy to cheapen theirs with crackers or hide low-flavor meat with mustard and spices.  Timbuktu's flavor was sweet and strong.  It brought me right back to the final hard shells of 2008 that I had enjoyed a few weeks before.  

If you're looking for seafood, my favorite place for hard shell crabs in Frank's Seafood in Jessup.  For fish, clams, etc., you should check out Today's Catch in Columbia and the H Mart in Catonsville.

Timbuktu Restaurant
1726 Dorsey Road
Hanover, MD  21076

Timbuktu on Urbanspoon

NEAR:  This is just off Rte 100 between I-95 and the BW Parkway.  You take the Coca-Cola Road exit south, and then turn left.  Timbuktu is at the top of the hill at that intersection.

Friday, January 16, 2009

January 2009 update on Wegmans in Columbia

Wordbones has the latest news on Wegman's in Columbia -- which is mostly that the court fights continue.

Pizza in Howard County

If you want to search for hidden gems, then pizza is a tasty item to make your gustatory grail. It's not that expensive. It is offered in almost every strip mall from Columbia to Ellicott City, and joints offer up an endless number of styles and atmospheres.

As I'm updating this in April 2009, my favorite pizza in Howard County splits between Pazani Trattori in Elkridge and newcomer Coal Fire in Ellicott City.  You need to know that I'm a thin-crust, thin-cheese kind of guy. 

Pazani Trattori serves a crisp, greaseless crust with exceptional, unusual toppings. Too many pizzas taste like canned sauce and bland toppings -- where you couldn't tell if that was
mushroom or chicken with your eyes closed. The flavors at Pazani Trattori are fresh, and they taste like someone picked out deliciously-salty olives and sauteed the peppers there in the store. The restaurant -- which is almost impossible to stumble across but very convenient from Rtes 103 and 100 -- also serves pastas, desserts, etc.

Coal Fire opened just off Rte 108, and it immediately leapt to the top because it pulls off the basics so perfectly.  Thin crusts with slight chars and crisp bite.  Cheese that looks like melted balls of mozzarella, not the shredded stuff you get in a bag.  And sauce that provides the real flavor, especially the sweet and spicy "signature" sauce.  Mrs. HowChow picks Coal Fire without a second thought.  She values crust and sauce over any flashy toppings.  I love the new place, but I'm still holding out for Pazani because I remember some vegetable toppings that tasted so unusually fresh.

Either way, this is an excuse to try those places and to continue the search.  Your tastes may run Chicago-style or exotic like "Peking duck pizza," and there has never been a consensus when people leave comments. For example, I always enjoyed Luna Bella Ristorante in Columbia, although the toppings and cheese can be so thick that slices are actually difficult to lift. I would love more comments because there are just too many HoCo pizzerias to try them all. Highlights in the prior comments included:
  • Gateway Pizza in Elkridge off Rte 108 for a soft, thick crust and mild, gooey cheese. An anonymous poster said it was the best pizza he had had outside of New York. I had to visit. I actually went that same day, and the pizza was perfectly described -- and the white pizza with chicken was a really nice pie. Now, I already said that I like crispy crust, but the poster is right that Gateway makes a uniquely soft crust with good toppings.
  • Bella Mia in Ellicott City on Rte 104 has had fans every time that I ask. I haven't been yet, but it first came recommended by Nina of Yet Another Food Blog. Last week, an anonymous poster touted the chewy crust and the buffalo chicken variety.
  • Trattoria e Pizzeria da Enrico in King's Contrivance also gets recommended. I thought it was nice, and it certainly makes a great warm-weather night out with an ice cream at Rita's. Thin-crust as noted by the most-detailed poster, who also wrote  "The sauce is tasty, a little sweet with an herby aroma. The cheese is very flavorful, a bit on the salty side. They've got a decent-sized list of toppings but don't offer anything exotic like pineapple. I particularly recommend the sausage, which is crisp slices of a spicy Italian sausage instead of bland lumps of pork."
Is there deep dish anywhere near? The Baltimore Beer Guy talked up Uno's. I haven't had pizza there in years, although my nephew loved making his own pie the last time that we went.

I'm still exploring to find pizza worth driving past a half-dozen strip malls -- places with pizza on the level of the best burgers or best Chinese. Based on comments from prior posts, my next stops look like Chef Paolino's, Bella Mia and Vennari's.

If you're looking for more about local pizza, check out the Howard County reviews from the Pizza Blogger -- and look around that site for reviews and tips on making your own pizza.

This is part of the "What I Learned" series of posts. They're organized in rings. See below to continue on the ring about different cuisines. Or click to switch to the posts about shopping in Howard County or posts about areas and ideas.

PREVIOUS: Indian Restaurants in Howard County
NEXT: Barbeque in Howard County (and Kabobs!)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Want To Work At Looney's South?

The new Looney's Pub South in Maple Lawn wants to hire new employees, and it will hold open houses on January 27, February 4, and February 10 from 2 to 8 pm.

At least, that's what I heard in an email from Bill Larney, who is opening the new Looney's in the former home of Trapeze off Rte 216.  Since I just started getting spam in the comments, I'm skittish about fake email.  But I can't imagine why anyone would fake email about this!

Bakeries in Howard County

Bakeries can be many things, so there is no single "Best Bakery in Howard County."

Do you want bread? Cupcakes? A cozy place for coffee and a scone? A high-volume shop to pick up your red bean sweets? You may need to drive from Columbia or Ellicott City, but you can enjoy all those things.
  • For great bread in Howard County, start at Bonaparte Bread. Bonaparte sells a variety of loaves, although I love the baguettes for sandwiches and French toast. They have a store (and now a cafe) at the Savage Mill in Savage, and they also sell at the seasonal Sunday Farmer's Market in Columbia and the My Organic Market in Jessup. (I discovered this during the first attempt at a HowChow taste test, which was supposed to compare the Bonaparte baguette to the one sold at the farmers market. Whoops.) You should also check out The Breadery in Ellicott City for muffins, rolls and whole grain breads, and there is a comment below extolling some sweet-sounding breads at Great Harvest Bread Company in Columbia.
  • When you say "cozy" in HoCo, you mean downtown Ellicott City, and you can find several nice cozy spots at Old Mill Bakery Cafe and Sarah and Desmond's Gourmet Bakery & Cafe. The Old Mill has some nice breads, and it sells a variety of teas, sweets and other items.  Sarah and Desmond's is the coffee shop that I wish were in my neighborhood.  Great muffins and cupcakes.  Sandwiches, soups and other savory fare.  Plus, there are vegan baked goods if you're into that kind of thing.
  • I'd rather buy one great dessert than two average ones. My two local spots are Touche Touchet in Columbia and Bonaparte in Savage. Touche Touchet serves wonderful cupcakes, coffee cake, brownies and other sweets that look simple, but take talent. I actually learned about it from Deblynne who commented below on an earlier version of this post. The cupcakes alone are worth a visit -- flavorful, moist and not the sugary, cloying monsters that popped out elsewhere. Bonaparte seems to go slightly more complex. They bring chocolate croissants to the Farmer's Market, and they have rotating cases of tartes, opera cakes, and other pastries at the Savage shop. I also plan on checking out Sugerbakers in Catonsville, which the B More Sweet blog loved in June 2008, and The French Connection in Sandy Spring on Rte 108, which several folks have complimented in the comments.
  • For Korean sweets, you can try La Boulangarie in Ellicott City or the Momo Bakery inside the Super H in Catonsville. Both serve formal-looking cakes that would look right on a shelf at any French bakery. But they go beyond to sell Asian items like the packages of Korean sweets that I love, red bean donuts (Momo) and single-serving cakes and steamed buns (La Boulangarie).
On top of these, I recommend the bagels (and the challah) at the three Bagel Bins, and I have also had the cookies at the Nora Cafe & Bakery on Rte 40, and I trundle out into the cold to pick up bagels at the Bagel Bin. There was also a comment extolling Cakes Plus off Rte 198 in Laurel. Not Howard County, but not far either for an excellent cake!

(Thanks again to Deblynne who told me about Touche Touchet.)

This is part of the "What I Learned" series of posts. They're organized in rings. See below to continue on the ring about shopping in Howard County. Or click to switch to the posts about different cuisines or posts about areas and ideas.

PREVIOUS: What I Learned
NEXT: Seafood Markets in Howard County

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Delicious: Cherry Glen Goat Cheese

Eating "local" is one of the current food buzzwords, and Cherry Glen cheese from Montgomery County is about as local as a product can get -- especially in winter when the farmers markets are dark.

Goat cheese is one of my favorites -- a tangy flavor that stands out, but just a step or two down from blue cheeses that can be too sharp or gamy. The Cherry Glen cheese is an expensive treat ($19/pound), but its creaminess stands out. I bought some for Mrs. HowChow on a night when she was working hard, and she gave her greatest compliment: "If you hadn't said, I would have thought that was from Whole Foods."

I bought the Cherry Glen cheese at Roots, but the farm's Web site says that they also sell through My Organic Market (along with Whole Foods and The Common Market in Frederick). They also sell to Great Sage in Clarksville.

We tasted the "silver" cheese along with a variation that has a layer of ash. I like the ash, which doesn't change the cheese extraordinarily but makes the flavor a touch smoother. I was consciously trying to compare. They're close enough that I would only buy one next time, and I'll pair it up with something new.

If you want more information, check out Cherry Glen's cheese Web site.

My Organic Market (Columbia East)
7351 Assateague Dr. #190
Jessup, MD 20794

NEAR: It's on Rte 175 just east of I-95. There is a large shopping center on the right just after you cross Rte 1. Look for the Starbucks. MoM is in that shopping center. It's a bit tricky to return home. You have to exit east-bound on Rte 175 and U-turn at the next light.

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, January 13, 2009

Looney's Aiming To Open in Late February

Looney's Pub aims to open in Maple Lawn (in the former Trapeze) in late February, according to a newsletter put out by the community's developer.

The newsletter says co-owners Bill Larney and Steve Litrenta hope to open their Fulton pub late next month -- in time for St. Patrick's Day.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fatburger Opens In Columbia / Elkridge

Like the Obama administration, Fatburger has arrived in town after months of hype, a big-money investment, and the hope that out-of-town innovation would change our lives.

News Flash: It's a hamburger. A good burger with great toppings and a tidy half-wrapper. But Obama better have some better solutions than adding a fried egg to mortgage-backed securities.

Thanks to an anonymous comment at 10:45 am, I enjoyed a first-day Fatburger with fat fries. With a Comcast Sports Net cameraman on scene, it was hard to tamp down the expectations as I waited in line. Fatburger is, after all, the chain that literally has people in LA squeal when they talk about double-chili-cheese-burgers -- although
Mrs. HowChow swears by In-and-Out.

I kept down my expectations and snapped up my Fatburger. That's the 1/3 pound burger -- smaller than the half-pound Kingburger, larger than Baby Fat. You get a thin, rough patty and a pile of lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles probably twice as thick as the meat. I liked what I ate. Real meat flavor. Fresh toppings. The half-wrapper must be old news in California, but it actually helped me keep the over-stuffed burger together. Next time, I'll order with chili because my LA connection sings its praises. I'll probably skip the fries, which were pretty much the same as the steak fries that Trader Joe's sells by the bag.

The Fatburger restaurant was actually fun. You order at a fast food counter, but the cook-to-order takes 8-10 minutes. So you sit at a table, and a runner brings out your tray. On the first day, the cashier called out the name of each sandwich that someone ordered. The cooks and folks in the open kitchen called it back, "Fatburger. . . . Kingburger." It's certainly a guy's joint. Loud with music. Filled with meat and fries. But the crowd was mixed. I mean, there were four women in 20 minutes. Five if you count the Comcast reporter. Two white-haired couples seemed quite happy even as I was cringing at the volume that the jukebox played "West End Girls."

Fatburger is definitely a great place to grab something if you're doing errands at Best Buy or Lowe's. I don't think it's a "night-out burger" like Victoria Gastropub, but then it isn't as expensive either. The three sizes of burgers should fit every appetite, plus you can order a Boca veggie burger, a turkey burger or even a grilled chicken sandwich. They even offer a "lettuce wedge" salad -- although I think I'm more likely to try to milkshake before I drive to a burger joint for my vegetarian meal.

Who else has visited Fatburger? What did you think? It was great fun to keep up on when this place would open. (It looks barely different than it did in September.) But now, the meat truly hits the road.

(Update: Check out the comment from Sam.  He says the Fatburger doesn't taste like the one he had had before.  He says they're cooking the meat longer.  That's interesting.  Anyone else have any experience with an LA Fatburger that they can compare?)

If you love burgers, you have to try Five Guys in Laurel or Hanover and check out the upcoming post about the Best Burgers in Howard County in the "What I Learned" series.

6630H Marie Curie Drive
Elkridge, MD 21075

NEAR: This in next to the Trader Joe's and the Perfect Pour in the Gateway Overlook Shopping Center. It's at the intersection of Rte 175 and Rte 108. Very convenient from I-95.

Fatburger on Urbanspoon

Help Me: Best Seafood and BBQ

What is your favorite place for seafood and meat? I'm posting about "What I've Learned" to collect the best of Howard County food.  (See here.)  I'm asking for help, and I'll incorporate comments in the upcoming posts:
  • Where do you get the best seafood in Howard County? Best restaurants? Best markets? What is a good deal?  What delicacies are worth every penny? Where do you get crabs?  Do you know any hidden gems like Boarman's crab cakes?
  • What are the best restaurants for meat -- BBQ, pit beef, kabobs, etc.?  I love Kloby's smokey ribs and Maiwand Kabobs kabobs.  Where do you go when your carnivore comes out?  (I'll make a separate request about burgers next week.)

Shin Chon Garden: Blond and Beautiful

After a summer of renovations, Shin Chon Garden reopened blond and beautiful -- blond wood and modern design, but still great Korean food.

One of Howard County's old-school Korean places, Shin Chon remains casual and friendly. The old place was a bit quirky and dominated by televisions. Now, there seem to be more seats, and there certainly are more tables with built-in grills. The crowd still looks like the optimal ethnic restaurant: Most of the crowd is Korean, but the atmosphere welcomes anyone.

I don't know enough about Korean cuisine to notice any change in the menu or the food. As I wrote in my original post, your dinner with start with a spread of small dishes. Those are banchan: 5 to 7 room-temperature snacks that you can eat as appetizers and to accompany the meal. Tofus, pickled vegetables, kimchi, even potato salad. They change every visit, but the

mixture makes a Korean dinner one of my favorites. Because we order only two entrees, we tend to return to the basics like bulgogi and kalbi (marinated meats) or dolset bi bum bop, which is a mix of rice and vegetables toped with an egg. Jump at any chance to go with a person who knows Korean food or with a large group so that you could try a few dishes.

(Update: Normal orders of bulgogi are served with lettuce leaves, and you make little rolls with meat, rice and a spicy sauce wrapped in lettuce. Shin Chon also has rice noodle squares that they normally serve with the barbeque specials -- mixtures of meat sized for 3-5 people. You can ask for the squares, and they're a nice alternative, as I wrote here.)

You should enjoy spicy food and meats if you're going to really love Korean food. Other than a distaste of spicy food, you're going to have a fine time because you identify almost everything by sight. (We once had a conversation about what we thought was in a banchan that looked like potato salad. We asked, and the waitress said, "Potato salad.") Some of the stews have organ meats, and there is a banchan of dried tiny fish that I have never loved. But the menu is clearly translated, and the waitresses are eager to help or answer questions. As long as you relish a little heat on your tongue, you could feast at Shin Chon for a long time.

(Update: Shin Chon made my 2009 list of the best restaurants of Howard County.)

If you like Korean, try Mirocjo farther west on Rte 40 or create your own take-out dinner from the panchan and meats at Lotte supermarket in the same shopping center. If you visit Shin Chon, check out La Boulangarie Bakery or Thai Aroma across the parking lot in the Lotte shopping center.

Shin Chon Restaurant
8801 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21043

NEAR: The far end of the Lotte shopping center on Rte 40 just east of Rte 29.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Wine Bin's Grand Opening This Weekend

The new Wine Bin wine shop in downtown Ellicott City is having its official grand opening this weekend.  Thanks to Michael for the tip.  I'm late to post because I was out of town.

On Saturday, there is a noon to 4 pm tasting of chocolate, Clipper City beer and Mondo Vino wines and then a 5 to 9 pm wine and cheese tasting of Constantine Wines.  On Sunday, there is a noon to 4 pm wine tasting of "trash can blends" with cheese.  I don't know what "trash can" means, but it has to be good with cheese.

The Wine Bin wants to specialize in smaller vineyards and high quality wines.  The new shop looked cool when we drove past last weekend -- set in the historic firehouse on Main Street.   For all the details, check out the events page on The Wine Bin's Web site.

The Wine Bin
8390 Main Street
Ellicott City, MD  21043

Fatburger -- To Open Monday?

Many signs say that Fatburger will open on Monday, January 12.  (Update:  It's open.)

Everything broke while I was out of town. Mrs. HowChow even drove past on Wednesday night and called me in Florida to say the Fatburger was full of people in uniform who looked like they were training.

Thanks for the anonymous comment about Zeus Brown's radio appearance announcing the January 12 opening, but the scoop goes to Wordbones, who posted Tuesday. I read Tale of Two Cities on a phone and couldn't figure out Blogger from there.

I hope that eating the burgers is as amusing as it has been tracking the opening!

Where Are The Crispy Noodles?

The first thing out of a Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro delivery bag should be the hot-and-sour soup -- and the crispy noodles that they love.

Mrs. HowChow and I gorged on Asean Bistro delivery and takeout when we lived off Rte 108.  We alternated entrees -- both because we enjoyed many of their dishes and because we could never remember which chow fun was which.  (We came to enjoy both.)  But an Asean Bistro meal begins with hot-and-sour soup, and the hot-and-sour soup came with crispy noodles.  The most Americanized kind of Chinese noodles.  Fried up, bagged with wax paper, dropped or dipped into the dark, tangy soup.  That soup, those noodles, and a reality TV show soothed away all the pains on a work-day night.

But where are the crispy noodles at Asean Bistro itself?  The restaurant clearly shares a kitchen with the takeout window, but the soup -- although served in a classier decor than my couch -- comes out alone, bereft of its crunchy companion, naked in its little bowl.  The soup is still delicious, but we are amused every time that the waiter tells us that they don't have crunchy noodles.  I know they have the noodles.  They know I know they have the noodles.  

Last month, Mrs. HowChow was refused her crunch, and we were amazed when the next couple to sit next to us actually got them.  The couple was friendly and insistent.  "You don't have noodles?"  The waitress told them that she wasn't supposed to serve noodles to eat-in customers.  We all started light-hearted joking that we should have ordered the soup takeout next door, then carried it inside to order our meal.  Are the noodles not classy enough?  Too expensive?  Too Americanized?

Very quietly, the waitress returned and dropped off a bowl.  Everyone laughed.  The other couple enjoyed their soup.  All was right -- and crunchy -- with the world.

Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro
Columbia Palace 9
8775 Centre Park Drive
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: In the shopping center just off Rte 108 between Howard High School and Rte 29. Very convenient from Rte 100. There is a Giant on Centre Park Drive, but Jesse Wong's is actually the closest store to Rte 108 near a dry cleaner and Dunkin Donuts.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thai Aroma in Ellicott City

I don't think I could ever eat too much Thai food.  Mrs. HowChow and I flew to Thailand for our honeymoon, and it was the first long trip that I reached the end without wishing once for a some meal from home.

Thai Aroma delivers this salty-sour-spicy cuisine on Rte 40 in Ellicott City.  The menu serves all the classics: tom yum soups, larb, pork and chicken stirfries and the beautifully colorful curries -- red, green, yellow, panang . . .  The kitchen delivers as well.  I came out of a frigid afternoon and warmed up with tom yum shrimp soup and panang pork.  The soup was delicious with the undertone of sour that takes a steady hand to do right and with fresh-tasting tomato diced into the broth.  

The curry was good.  Its hard to judge because I have a soft spot for Bangkok Delight so I don't want to dismiss Thai Aroma.  I enjoyed lunch, and, although its a little dark inside, it felt like a friendly place.  (It felt extra friendly when the waitress chased me down in the parking lot with the credit card I left behind.  Should have tipped a dollar more)  The food was good, and it deserves its accolades from fans on Live in Howard County.  Definitely a worthy place, although maybe a step below Bangkok Delight -- a place that, some days, I think is the best restaurant around.  The Columbia restaurant just puts some extra crisp to the vegetables, some extra bite to the curry.

I'd love to hear from other people who can compare.  People swear by Bangkok Delight and by Bangkok Garden, also in Columbia.  But then, I could never have too much Thai food! 

If you are near Thai Aroma, definitely check out Shin Chon Garden Korean restaurant and La Boulangerie bakery, which are in the same shopping center with the Lotte grocery store.  There is also a Korean-style Chinese restaurant, but I haven't tried that yet.

Thai Aroma
8815 Baltimore National Pike (Rte 40)
Ellicott City, MD  21043

NEAR:  Thai Aroma is across from the Lotte grocery store in the shopping center just east of Rte 29 on Rte 40.  It is next to La Boulangerie bakery.

Thai Aroma on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Indian Restaurants in Howard County

Columbia offers more variety for Indian food lovers than for pretty much any other kind of cuisine.

Mango Grove and House of India are my top two, but the truth is that there are a half-dozen good options for people who like Indian food.

For the traditionalists, you can start with the northern Indian or Pakistani cuisine. These are the naan, the curries and the tandoori chicken offered by the majority of Indian restaurants. House of India in Columbia is my current favorite because it delivers both the basics and unusual dishes like whole fish and a bhel puri appetizer. But both Akbar and Bombay Peacock have their backers, including Mrs. HowChow who loves the kheer (rice pudding) at Akbar. (Update: In 2009, Royal Taj opened on McGaw Road in Columbia (briefly as "India Delight" until it chaged its name), and it serves a terrific lunch buffet -- along with a white tablecloth menu for dinner.)

For southern Indian food, you must try the vegetarian food at Mango Grove in Columbia. The broad menu has the standard vegetarian curries like baigan bartha and palak paneer. But Mango Grove offers the masala dosa of southern India, along with a dozen other of the crepe-like dosas and the rice and lentil pancakes called oothappam. This kitchen also does spectacular specials. Never pass up the jack fruit if it is on the menu. An unripened fruit cooked down to a tender texture and the spicy flavor that can only come from talented chefs.

Next door to Mango Grove is the fusion alternative -- Mirchi Wok. Chinese food has travelled to India and come out new on the other side. Mirchi Wok serves up the standard meat dishes unavailable at the vegetarian restaurant. It also serves up fusion dishes like a rice bowl cooked with chicken and spice. It was almost a jambalaya, almost a biryani. Really something different and a way to excite anyone who has been bored by too many meals of tandoori chicken.

All of these restaurants serve takeout. Except for Bombay Peacock in its commercial development, they're all the classic Howard County shopping center restaurants -- casual, friendly, but not dressy. The most-dramatic is House of India, which dresses up its space on Snowden River to the point that I was shocked to walk inside. Your guests will think they were in a city spot if you just blindfold them and drive them there in the trunk of your car.

For the post about the best restaurants in Howard County, click here.

For all posts about Indian food, click here. For Indian groceries, check out the full list of ethnic groceries or focus on Desi Market in Columbia or Apna Bazar in Laurel.

This is part of the "What I Learned" series of posts. They're organized in rings. See below to continue on the ring about different cuisines. Or click to switch to the posts about shopping in Howard County or posts about areas and ideas.

PREVIOUS: Chinese Restaurants in Howard County
NEXT: Pizza in Howard County

Akbar Restaurant
9400 Snowden River Parkway
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: This is on Snowden River Parkway south of the Home Depot. That is between Rte 175 and Rte 32. It's on the west side, so you need to be southbound to enter the shopping center.

Bombay Peacock Grill
10005 Old Columbia Road
Columbia, MD 21046

NEAR: This is just south of Rte 32 off Eden Brook Drive. It's actually very easy to reach, although it is tucked into a commercial development without much chance to see it from the road.

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.

Mango Grove & Mirchi Wok
6365B Dobbin Center
Columbia, MD 21045

Near: On Dobbins Road just south of Rte 175. It is in a outbuilding of the Wal-Mart shopping center next to the McDonalds and the Chik-Fil-a.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What I Learned and How You Can Help

Writing about Howard County food has been fun, but, even more, this blog has been my inspiration to check out new places.

Although I appreciate the thanks from readers who discovered new places on HowChow, my finds have been enjoyed and championed by other people for years. If you had the patience to search Chowhound, you could find posts extolling everything from favorite restaurants to Grace Garden.

Over 2008, HowChow developed into a de facto guide. Most people stumble here after searching the name of a restaurant. A few stayed around to click on five or 10 pages and explore. To encourage that, I'm writing a series of thematic posts, linking back to prior profiles and trying to summarize little things that I have learned. Where can you find ethnic groceries? The best take-out tacos? The best bread?

So I'm looking for your help. Over the next few months, I'm going to post in three "rings" -- "cuisines," "shopping," and the catch-all "ideas." The first -- Chinese Restaurants -- is below. But I'd like to include your comments both there (I'll update it) and in future posts. As I asked last week, these are the first three questions:
  • What is your favorite Chinese restaurant? Why? What's the best dish? The best hidden specials? What makes people love Hunan Legend?
  • What is the best pizza in Howard County? Is there any good deep dish?
  • What is the best bakery around? Best bread? Best cakes? Is anyone making exceptional cupcakes or cookies? Any ethnic specialties? What sweets do you crave?
Click here to learn about all three rings of planned "What I Learned" posts.

Chinese Restaurants in Howard County 2009

Columbia is the ideal habitat for mundane takeout Chinese, but a few delicious options have evolved from the mass.

Anonymous shopping centers are the perfect place for anonymous Chinese counters or small restaurants. Most are named "Hunan" something. Most mirror the greasy joint where I discovered fried wantons during middle school. Please post in the comments about the good ones, but the truth is that I don't explore the "Hunan Whats" because I can choose Chinese food -- American-style, authentic Chinese, or boisterous dim sum.  (Update: 2010 update on local Chinese.)
  • For the Chinese food that has become traditional in this country, you should start at Jesse Wong's Asian Bistro. This is the place for dumplings, lettuce wraps, hot-and-sour soup, Szechuan green beans, chow fun, basil chicken, General Tso's chicken (renamed for Chef Xu). But the Asean Bistro goes far beyond your normal shopping center fare. First, the restaurant is beautiful, and there is live jazz on weekends. Second, the menu goes far past the Chinese-American staples and serves up excellent seafood, Thai and Malaysian-inspired dishes, and some unusual dishes like the spicy Duke Chicken that Mrs. HowChow and I enjoyed in December. This is a classy-but-casual place that lends itself to large dinners where you can fill a table with interesting food.
  • For truly authentic Chinese food, the trendy choice is a drive to Odenton. Grace Garden is a diamond in the rough -- literally. This is a family-run restaurant where chef Chun Keung Li -- formerly of Hunan Manor in Columbia -- serves up authentic Chinese flavors in a Spartan dining room. This is a place for people who want to explore, who want to drive a little extra to enjoy tea-smoked duck, sliced pork belly, steamed whole fish, and fish noodles. Everything is on one of the two menus, and everything is well-described and easy to understand. I savored everything that I tried, and I will drive an extra five minutes for unique dishes, for the expert way that everything was cooked, and for the adventure of something new. Mrs. HowChow enjoyed her meal, but Asean Bistro's food and atmosphere are enough to keep her in HoCo. As I noted in my original post, you should read the blog posts that I collected. If the posts interest you, then you'll love the food.
  • (Update: I'm overly proud that you can also get authentic Chinese food off the "formerly secret" menu at Hunan Legend. After this post went up originally, I got a great comment from Wai -- who talked about a Chinese-language menu at Hunan Legend. Wai said that the dishes off that menu were authentic home cooking. Then, she translated the Chinese menu so that anyone can order from the secret dishes. By summer, people were requesting the menu from me, and people like Warthog were flourishing the hand-written translations, ordering Chinese and Malaysian dishes, and really getting to know the owners. Warthog posted on Chowhound about his experience. By fall, the owners trusted Americans enough to offer their own translated version -- typed and available to anyone who asks. Definitely check it out.)
  • For dim sum, check out Asian Court on Rte 40 in Ellicott City. They serve a Hong Kong-style dishes from a menu on weekdays and from carts on weekends. Grab a yellow dim sum menu even on weekends so that you can pick favorites and wait for -- or even request - your favorites. Everything from basic shu mai and spicy rice to authentic tripe and chicken feet. Save room for dessert because the coconut jelly and the fried sesame balls were the best dessert that I have ever had in a Chinese restaurant.
And if you can't decide what you want, go to Fortune Star Buffet in Jessup for a little bit of everything. This is an all-you-can-eat exploration. The food doesn't match any of the places above, but you can try a little of everything. I filled several plates with good options, and the best dishes were things that would have been my second choice if I had been ordering from a menu. But check out the comments on my original post because opinons range from "FANTASTIC" to "RUDE! and . . . substandard."

These options ignore one of the places that most locals seem to love -- Hunan Manor in Columbia. I like Hunan Manor, and I carry out from there, recommending dishes like the pickle appetizer, the Chinese broccoli and chicken in Oyster sauce. Honestly, the food is better than Fortune Star. But it remains second to Asean Bistro in my mind because every few times that I explore, I end up with a package of heavy, flavorless food that I don't really love.

Look on Chowhound, and you'll see eloquent posts about Hunan Manor and Hunan Legend and about Gourmet Garden at the Long Reach Village Center. (Every post by ElGringoViejo appears nuanced and based in experience, so I'm going to try Gourmet Garden eventually.) They talk about ordering authentic entrees off the menu, but I had a horrible meal at Hunan Legend where I asked about specials, etc. and got gloppy American-style food. Ironically, that was what sparked my whole Hunan Legend "secret" menu fun.

(Update: I am writing a new Chinese restaurants overview in July 2010.  Please post your comments about Howard County Chinese places there.)

This is part of the upcoming "What I Learned" series of posts. They're organized in rings. See below to continue on the ring about different cuisines. Or click to switch to the posts about shopping in Howard County or posts about areas and ideas.

PREVIOUS: What I Learned
NEXT: Indian Restaurants in Howard County

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sizars (Caezar) Has Not Moved

Howard County's best Middle Eastern grocery store has not yet moved to Elkridge.

Sizar's Food Mart -- a Columbia fixture for more than a dozen years -- is moving to Elkridge near the intersections of Rte 103 and Rte 1.  The original plan called for moving in November or December (and changing the name to Caezar International Market), but construction continues at the new place.  As of December 29, Sizar's was still open in Columbia.

After all the Fatburger false alarms, I won't estimate when the Elkridge location will open.  Freezers had been installed when I drove past last week, but there looked to be piles of steel shelves that still needed to be erected.  Obviously, there was no food to be seen at all.

The new location in the Dorsey Commons will be called Caezar International Market, and they'll have a restaurant as well.

Thanks to the anonymous commenter who visited Sizar's last week.  For more information about Sizar's, check out all the posts.

Ceazar International Market and Restaurant (opened in late February 2009)
6801 Douglas Legum Drive
Elkridge, MD 21075

NEAR: Just off Rte 103 east of U.S. 1. This is just south of Rte 100.

Sizar's Food Mart (now closed)
6955A Oakland Mills Road
Columbia, MD 21045

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Sun - Not The Post - Praises Grace Garden

The Baltimore Sun reviewed Grace Garden on January 1 and gave it four stars out of four.  The short review echoes my recommendation that you go with a group so you can try many dishes. The Sun recommends reading the restaurant's Web site, but you should really read the blogs that I linked in my original post.

This is presumably the review mentioned last week on Chowhound.  It is going to send the crowds!