Wednesday, April 29, 2009

India Delight To Replace California Tortilla in Columbia

Buildings permits never lie.  It looks like a new restaurant India Delight will replace the California Tortilla in Columbia.

(Update:  It opened in June 2009.  I love comments.  Please post comments about the restaurant on the June post.)

I posted last month about a construction permit that described alterations to an existing restaurant space at 8874 McGaw Road.  This is the shopping center where Orinoco Coffee, California Tortilla and the Atlanta Bread Company have all closed.  The smoothie place and Cha Ya Thai have held on valiantly.

There is now a sign on the California Tortilla that says India Delight Restaurant will be joining them soon.  I couldn't see inside, but the Howard County Web site says that the work passed one inspection on April 17.  The revised permit says they won't make any electrical changes, so maybe that means a quick renovation.  Good luck to them!

Does anyone know details?  (Update: A comment below asks if this might be a restaurant moving from Catonsville  That is "Indian" Delight.  The sign says "India" Delight, but who knows.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Link: Goose Island Beer Now In Maryland

The Baltimore Beer Guy posts that you can buy Chicago's Goose Island beer at the Perfect Pour in Elkridge.  If he thinks that is important, HowChow thinks that is important.

(Update: Bob comments below that Goose Island is available at im Wine in Fulton too.  I assume it is distributed elsewhere as well.)

Las Vegas #2 in Jessup

A new Salvadoran-Mexican place Las Vegas #2 has replaced the closed El Patio restaurant on U.S. 1 in Jessup.

The El Patio market is still open next door.  I should have confirmed that they're still selling the delicious takeout empanadas.  (Click here for all the El Patio posts.)  In the restaurant, the Argentine dishes have given way to a pretty basic menu running from Mexican tacos to Salvadoran pupusas to American taco salad and chicken tenders.

I want go back and try some of the more involved items like the shrimp ceviche, the yuca 
with refried pork, and the plantain empanadas dessert.  For my first trip, I tried tacos, which I thought were a yardstick to fairly measure a Mexican place.  I hope they aren't.  The beans and rice were actually quite good, but the basic tacos looked and tasted like dinner in suburban Virginia right after my family discovered flour tortillas and gave up Old El Paso taco shells.  A flour tortilla.  Some ground beef or chicken.  Shredded iceberg lettuce.  Diced supermarket tomatoes.  Shredded cheese from a bag.  That's still a fine dinner, but we could make that
at home 25 years ago.  

The tortillas tasted exactly like the ones that I buy at Bloom.  The best flavor on the table was the El Yucateco habanero sauce that I used liberally.  That was disappointing because real Mexican tacos are just north on U.S. 1 at the El Nayar restaurant or Pupuseria Lorenita's truck.

It's the rice and beans that give me hope -- mashed, refried black beans and light, flavorful rice.  As I wrote in a post about the best Mexican restaurants in Howard County, many local places serve bland side dishes.  Las Vegas clearly puts some talent and into theirs, and I hope that comes through in some of the other dishes.

Las Vegas #2 has a sister restaurant on Security Boulevard in Baltimore.  Can anyone recommend good dishes at either location?  I'm looking for a reason to go back.  I was even wondering if I got served "American" tacos because Las Vegas thinks that I would prefer flour tortillas and the American style.   (UPDATE: David P wrote below about the original Las Vegas and talks up the salsa and a shrimp dish.  Marianne complimented the pupusa and platanos.)

If you want Mexican food, your starting place should be Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia.  Or peruse the restaurants discussed in my post about Mexican food in Howard County, especially El Azteca in Clarksville and La Palapa in Ellicott City or Laurel.

If you visit Las Vegas, definitely check out the El Patio market next door -- if only to pick up the frozen empanada wrappers from Argentina.  Also check out my post about the great food options along U.S. 1 from Elkridge through Jessup.

Las Vegas Restaurant #2
7968 Washington Blvd (U.S. 1)
Jessup, MD 20794

NEAR:  Just south of Rte 175 on U.S. 1. It's on the east side about a block south of the intersection. Very convenient from I-95.

Las Vegas Restaurant #2 on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 27, 2009

Link: Mexican Cheese on Ready, Set, Kate

Kate posts about Oaxaca/Asadero cheese that she bought at Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia.

Kate has a nice recipe that uses cheese and chorizo that you can buy at Lily's and serves that "flaming cheese" with Lily's fresh corn tortillas, bread rolls, beans, onion and some fruit juice drinks that she bought there.  (One in the picture looks like the tamarind soda!)

Ready, Set, Kate is Kate's blog about exploring cheeses.  Lily's is the best local Hispanic market -- click here for all the posts about Lily's.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Coal Fire Pizza in Ellicott City

Crisp pizzas -- charred on the edge and topped with unusually delicious sauce -- are popping out of the coal-fired oven just off Rte 108 in Ellicott City's newest pizza restaurant.

Coal Fire on Rte 108 opened last week and leapt immediately to one of the best pizzas in Howard County. The pizzas here excel on the basics -- crisp crusts with a touch of smoke, mozzarella cheese that melts and stays creamy, and delicious sauces that make the pies terrific before you add anything else.

(Update:  Coal Fire's pizza is inconsistent.  Check out the comments and other posts on HowChow.  Also see if you can figure out who is making your pizza.  Sometimes, it's great.  Sometimes, it isn't.)

Coal Fire is a casual place. Waitress service and a small bar, but no more formal than the high-end counter service at Pazani Trattoria, my other favorite local pizza joint. The menu is small, but interesting. A few salads, pastas and sandwiches and some creative twists on appetizers like wings, onion rings and a "Chesapeake Mac & Cheese" that adds crab to a classic.

This kitchen wants to send out something unusual. For example, the"signature" sauce is truly sweet and slightly spicy as the menu promises. It's delicious, and it is also completely different from any chain or even the local pizza joints. (It's also several dollars more expensive.) That sauce paired well with the cheese, which looked more like Trader-Joe-quality balls of mozzarella as opposed to the shredded stuff you get in a supermarket bag. Mrs. HowChow and I carved up an entire 16-inch pizza. We planned on boxing up the final two slices, but they were so good that we gobbled them up instead and then talked about pizza the entire way home.

The menu offers only 10 toppings. Coal Fire clearly concentrates on some basics and makes sure that they're better than standard fare. That bodes well for the interesting twists that the menu offers like penne with spicy sausage and a cream sauce, a salad with bacon, pecans and grape tomatoes, and sandwiches with brisket or roasted vegetables. I went back for a brisket sandwich, and I'm looking now for other sandwich places that offer up something as interesting as Coal Fire's sliced meat, fresh bread and creamy horseradish sauce. (I went back today and tried the sandwiches because I had been so inspired.)

Early comments on another post rave about Coal Fire. An anonymous commenter says this is owned by the folks who own Nottingham's and used to own Trapeze. Leasol astutely pointed out that a children's menu would be pretty smart -- even if it were just a small-sized pasta or a basic macaroni & cheese. (Update: Elizabeth Large wrote about Coal Fire in the Sun.)

Coal Fire is still working out some growing pains -- literally because almost every employee appears to be a high school student and figuratively when our appetizer arrived at the exact same moment as our pizza. No big deal, but strange timing when the place was almost empty. The waitress clearly didn't know what to say. It didn't matter because she was carrying good food, including the oven-baked wings that are talked up in some of the early comments on a prior post. Good-sized wings with lots of meat. Baked, so there is no coating. Served with soft Vidalia onions, which were so good that I may ask for them as a pizza topping next time.

If you have tried Coal Fire, please add your comments below. Elsewhere, there are reviews on Inside Charm City and by Frank Hecker. Hecker worked in a clever jibe about the Coal Fire menu, which sports a long explanation about the coal they use and how it's wonderful for the environment. I love being optimistic, but Coal Fire's story about industrial mining is one step below, "Our coal is mined by happy elves."

(Update: The PizzaBlogger has written a treatise on Coal Fire Pizza that includes a review, a series of photos, an explanation of the oven, and a brief interview with the manager. I haven't progressed to real reporting, so you should definitely read the review. The PB's bottom line: Coal Fire Pizza is one of his favorite pizzas in Maryland.)
Click here for my revised post about the best pizza in Howard County or for the 2009 "best restaurants" in Howard County.My bottom line is that Coal Fire is Mrs. HowChow's favorite pizza. She downplays toppings for really good sauce, bread and cheese. I love Coal Fire, but I'm still holding out for Pazani based on a memory of artichokes and other vegetable toppings that tasted so fresh. Or click for the starting page for my "What I Learned" guide to food in Howard County.

The hat tip goes to Vivinator, who first posted about the Coal Fire sign on Chowhound in March and talked it up last week. Billz has also weighed in on Live in Howard County. I'm still not sure what the coal adds to the pizza. When I looked in the oven, it looked like glowing coal on the right and gas flames on the left. I love the crisp pizza from a hot oven. I just don't understand how coal stacks up with wood, etc.

Coal Fire
5725 Richard's Valley Road
Ellicott City, MD 21043

NEAR: Coal Fire is in the Shipley's Grant shopping center on Rte 108. It is between Rte 100 and Snowden River Parkway. There is a Starbucks and Cold Stone Creamery in the shopping center.

Coal Fire on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pollo Fuego Bringing Peruvian Chicken To Jessup

Peruvian chicken and another new restaurant appear to be coming to Jessup, according to a comment by emkenton to Wednesday's post about Mega Chicken in Laurel.

I wrote that Howard County could only hope for Peruvian roasted chicken, but the comment says there are signs saying that Pollo Fuego (Peruvian) is coming in around the corner from My Organic Market, where My Girlfriend's Kitchen used to be. This is the Columbia East shopping center at Rte 175 and U.S. 1.

(Update: Pollo Fuego opened in July 2009. Please post your comments here.)

Please post a comment here if you see it open or know when it will. In the last weekend of April 2009, I drove past and saw construction inside that looks like a long counter and tables.

Emkenton also says that the closed El Patio restaurant on U.S. 1 just south of Rte 175 now says Las Vegas Restaurant #2. (Update: Frank Hecker comments below that this appears to be a sister restaurant to a Salvadoran/Mexican takeout place off Security Boulevard. I confirmed that when I visited and tried the basic tacos.)

(Thanks to emkenton, Frank and to everyone who leaves comments.)

Coal Fire Pizza Opens in Ellicott City

The Coal Fire Pizza opened this week in Ellicott City on Rte 108. People have left some reviews on a prior post. So far, anonymous folks have complimented the food and said that it is owned by the same people who own Nottingham's down the street and former Trapeze in Maple Lawn.

(Update:  I posted about Coal Fire. Thanks for all the comments.)

Great Takeout in Howard County

I'm secure enough in my kitchen abilities to know that it is best some nights to just carry dinner home. Pull some plates. Spread out the food. Start eating right away.

Howard County is made for takeout. Every shopping center has a Chinese restaurant and a pizza joint. But bad food doesn't make for a great night of takeout, so there are the places where I'll drive a little extra to pick up.

This list is about pick-up, no-cook dinners. Tacos at Lily's are great to eat right away, and the crab cakes at Boarman's broil up to a dinner worth serving guests. However, this is a list about lunch in a bag (or a box) that you can take home, eat right away, and maybe have something left over for lunch the next day.
  • Chinese at Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro off Rte 108 in Ellicott City. This was Mrs. HowChow's staple when we lived up near there. Hot and sour soup with crunchy noodles. Chow fun. Black bean chicken. That's my wife's comfort menu, although you can't go wrong at Jesse Wong's -- and it tops the list because they'll deliver so you don't even have to go there.
  • Fried chicken at Chick N' Friends in Columbia. Chick N' Friends is takeout -- no seating at all. If you can, get chicken right out of the fryer. Pair it up with corn bread, maybe collard greens. This is home cooking in the best possible way.
  • Pizza from Pazani Trattoria in Elkridge or Coal Fire in Ellicott City. Pizza is personal. I go thin crust with premium toppings, so I go to Pazani off Rte 103 north of Rte 100 or Coal Fire on Rte 108 near Snowden River.
  • Korean soup and panchan at Lotte Supermarket in Ellicott City. It'll be a while before I forget the Channel 2 report about vermin. But I have to still say that Lotte serves up a unique takeout if you buy a quart of spicy beef soup near produce and your selection of pickled vegetables and other dishes at the panchan bar near dairy.
  • Peruvian grilled chicken at Pollo Fuego in Jessup or Mega Chicken in Laurel. Mega Chicken is all the way into Anne Arundel, but it's only 15-20 minutes from much of Howard County. At either place, the delicious chicken and the yucca fries are worth the drive, and the fries crisp right back to life in a 400-degree oven.
  • Any grilled meats and the pumpkin appetizer at Maiwand Kabob in Columbia (or in Burtonsville or near the Arundel's Mill Mall). This growing Afghan chain sells wonderful food and especially wonderful bread. That pumpkin is worth any drive.
  • Thai curries and mango sticky rice from Bangkok Delight off Rte 108 in Ellicott City. The curries all travel well. This is one of my favorite places. The sticky rice dessert is best right out of the kitchen, but it travels okay as long as you don't put it in your refrigerator.
  • Pho from An Loi in Columbia. This may be my favorite. You get the Vietnamese soup in pieces -- a quart of broth, a container of noodles and meat, a bag of sprouts, herbs and hot peppers. So it's as fresh in your kitchen as it is at An Loi. Warm comfort in winter. A light dinner in summer. We always have leftovers and have learned to refrigerate the noodles in with the broth so that they don't dry out.
What take out do you love? Pizza that I missed? Other places for Chinese? For sandwiches? I would love suggestions. (Update: There are already some suggestions in the comments. Thanks.)

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: Why I Want Wegmans in Columbia
NEXT: Ice Cream For A Summer Night

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mega Chicken in Laurel

Yucca fries can be a perfect food -- hot from the fryer, lighter than french fries but a little more flavor.

Mega Chicken fries up delicious yucca to accompany its Peruvian grilled chickens in a converted McDonalds in Laurel. As BillZ noted, we can only wish for Peruvian chicken here in Howard County. But we can make a quick dash into Anne Arundel to feast or carry home takeout.

(Update: A comment below says in late April 2009 that there are signs that say Pollo Fuego (Peruvian) is coming in around the corner from My Organic Market at Rte 175 and Rte 1 in Jessup.)

I'm a recent convert to rotisserie chicken, and Mega Chicken clearly beats out the supermarket birds that I have tasted. It's a touch more expensive too, but the meat is moist and flavorful with a charcoal tinge. It also comes with those yucca fries and two sauces -- one yellow and creamy, the other green and spicy -- that are the hallmark of the Peruvian chicken fad. Well worth the $10-20 that you'll spend depending on whether you want a half or whole chicken and how many sides you order. We got four meals from a whole bird with yucca and rice & beans.

The restaurant has zero ambiance. It's a converted McDonalds with a counter and fast food tables. But it's extremely clean, and it's a quick ride west on Rte 198 through Laurel and home. Inadvertently, I discovered that everything travels well. I raced home only to find Mrs. HowChow on a business call. By the time she was done, I had had the food for an hour. The chicken was still moist and delicious. The yucca fries softened as they cooled, but then crisped in a 400-degree oven until they were as good as they'd been when I was sneaking a few in the car.

If you go, concentrate on the chicken and yucca. Try the plantains, which I didn't notice on my visit. The half and whole chickens come with salads that are just lettuce and some shredded carrot. You can also buy rice and beans, but they were nothing special. Definitely add some of the spicy green sauce to liven them up. On Yelp, reviewers did not talk highly of the beef dishes. It is called Mega Chicken for a reason.

If you're looking for other trends that are close, but not yet in Howard County, you should go for the tart frozen yogurt at YogiBerry in Olney. If you're looking for takeout chicken, check out the fried chicken -- or the roasted ones -- at Chick N' Friends in Columbia.

Mega Chicken
3485 Fort Meade Road
Laurel, MD 20724

NEAR: This is on Rte 198 east on downtown Laurel and into Anne Arundel County. It's not an upscale area. You pass the Home Depot on the right, then look for Mega Chicken after another light or two. It's a converted McDonalds. You can't miss it.

Mega Chicken on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Link: Special Menu At Great Sage

BillZ -- in his new role with the Examiner -- posts about Clarksville's Great Sage restaurant and its special menu this week offering seasonal foods. The event is sponsored by the Slow Food Baltimore group. Great Sage is a very interesting Vegetarian restaurant.

Edamame at the H Mart

Edamame is the perfect example of the fun that you can have in the freezers at the H Mart in Catonsville.

Bags costs as little as $1.  They stay in your freezer for months.  You just steam them up when you want a snack, a cool starter for a fancy dinner, or a little green to create a full meal from soup or takeout sushi.

Edamame are just soybeans.  I prefer the bags of beans still in their pods.  Drain them from the boiling water and dust the damp pods with salt.  The sea salt from William Sonoma is a delicious extravagance.  You squeeze the pods with your teeth so that the soybeans go in your mouth and just a taste of the salt gets to your tongue.

Edamame were part of my "10 easy pick-ups at H Mart," and they're available as appetizers at Japanese places like Sushi King.  If you're inspired by edamame, you should look all around the H Mart -- my favorite place for food.

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.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Link: Jazz and Food in Howard County

The Sun's wonderful Dining @ Large blog listed 10 places to hear good jazz while you eat. Howard County boasts three: Cafe de Paris (Tuesday and Fridays), Donna's (Saturday nights), Jordan's Steakhouse (Thursday evenings).

2009 Farmers Markets and the WPost Map

The 2009 farmers markets in Howard County will open in the first week of May at the same three locations as last year -- East Columbia Library on Thursdays, Glenwood Library on Saturday, and Oakland Mills Village Center on Sunday.

The WPost has created a cool Google Map that shows farmers markets around the region.   They even include markets in Howard County and in Laurel. These are great places to buy vegetables, flowers, breads and even South Mountain milk and cheese at the Glenwood market.

Click here for all the posts about the Howard County farmers markets. Click here, for the press release about the Howard County Economic Deve,opment Authority's farmers market program.

East Columbia Library
6600 Cradlerock Way, Columbia
Thursdays, May 7th to mid-November
2:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.

Oakland Mills Village Center
5851 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia
Sundays, May 3rd to mid-November
9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Glenwood Library
2350 Route 97, Glenwood
Saturdays, May 9th to October 31st
9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Comments about Cha Ya Thai, Coal Fired Pizza and More

News and opinions are pouring in from people who leave great comments. I'm highlighting some recent ones, including pizza updates and a review of Cha Ya Thai Sushi on McGaw Road in Columbia.

So far, our favorite dish is the duck with coconut milk curry. Wonderful duck, cooked and chopped in the traditional style, then added to an incredible curry. It comes out moist and tender, tasting like duck of course, but with the lightness of the coconut and the spice of the curry to balance the fat of the duck. Very impressive.

We also had hibachi chicken, which took a bit longer to prepare than other dishes, but had that wonderful charcoal flavor and a great sauce, along with grilled veggies. They make some really impressive sushi rolls, too. They have the obligatory Chow Fun, which they call "Drunken Noodles", done very nicely and doesn't leave you with a puddle of grease when you are done. Still working our way through other dishes.

Cha Ya has the most spectacular rolls I've ever seen. Everything from simple California rolls to bizarre assemblies with pureed fish in the rice, crisp wrapping around it and layers of various raw fish on top of that. They use a variety of sauces, too. With the bigger ones, one could be an entire meal.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Link: Sun Reviews La Palapa in Ellicott City

The Sun's Richard Gorelick -- who I think met Mrs. HowChow just this week through his other job -- reviews La Palapa in Ellicott City today. It's a review that mirrors my views of the La Palapa Too in Laurel -- although I admit the outdoor dining there overlooks the parking lot.

Yogiberry in Olney

The new frozen yogurt fad has not yet washed ashore in Howard County, but it is lapping at the borders at Yogiberry in Olney.

(Update: Yogiberry opened in the Columbia Mall in August 2009.  But the Olney one might be closed, says a comment below.  Call ahead.)

Yogiberry is the suburban outpost for this tart yogurt trend. You choose from four flavors of frozen yogurt and then mix in toppings like fruit, candy or sugar cereals. ("Fruity pebbles!") It's not the celebrity attraction of Pinkberry, but it is a fun treat -- especially because the fruit is fresh and not some canned syrup.

The yogurt is delicious. The standard is a touch sour. That is the point of this fad, I guess, but our favorite was the berry yogurt with mochi topping. This is little cubes of the rice sweet that you often find in Japanese desserts. They're lightly sweet, sort of an adult gummy bear.

Yogiberry is shockingly modern for the shopping center where it sits right off Rte 108. See-though chairs. Replica Barcelona loungers in the front and replica Nelson benches against the wall. The colorful displays should entertain kids or people who miss a little urban cool. The bathroom looks like a club, not an ice cream store.

(Update: The weekend after this post, I saw a Pinkberry for the first time in New York City. Yogiberry's design is a hilarious rip-off of Pinkberry. Same floor. Same chairs. Same kind of lighting. I still like Yogiberry, but I was wrong to assume that someone with a sense of style created a modern look for Olney. Someone just bought cheaper versions of what they saw at Pinkberry! Go for the yogurt.)

(Update #2: Anonymous protests in the comments that the plastic chairs are not cheaper versions. They apparently cost $300 each. OK. Let's be clear -- I really like Yogiberry, and I own knock-offs of modern furniture. They knocked off good stuff unless people are dripped yogurt on $800 Nelson benches and $4,000 Barcelona chairs. I'd *love* anything as cool as Yogiberry in Columbia. I was just shocked to realize that the design came right from Pinkberry.)

(Update #3: YogiBerry is COMING to the Columbia Mall in July 2009.)

(Update #4: Or more like August 2009, the mall customer service said in early July.)

18107 Town Center Dr
Olney, MD 20832
(301) 570-7575

NEAR: This is about 15-20 minutes from Clarksville and Fulton. You take Rte 108 south from Clarksville through Sandy Spring and into Olney. Yogiberry is in a shopping center on the right just as you enter Olney. You turn right at a light for Spartan Road and them immediately left into the shopping center.

Yogiberry on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Joy Ike at Java Grande in Ellicott City

Joy Ike -- official house band of the HowChow blog -- plays Java Grande in Ellicott City on April 18.  

People recommended locations for the Pittsburgh musician in response to an earlier post.  Joy noted her gig in a comment there.

Mangos at the Lotte Supermarket

For $10, we picked up a box of champagne mangos at the Lotte Supermarket in Ellicott City.

I have vented about Lotte before, noting that I strongly prefer H Mart in Catonsville because the vegetables and the people have been subpar at Lotte. But we were coming back from the Bethany Seafood Restaurant, and Mrs. HowChow had a craving for the red bean desserts, which you can buy at a stall next to Lotte's produce department.

The mangoes were right inside the door. The champagne mangos are sweet and a little softer than the regular variety. We bought an enormous box and already gave two away to the neighbors. I'm thinking chicken with mangos, maybe some mango ice cream. They're delicious just sliced and eaten on their own. I also bought two packages of mint because the smell was intoxicating.

Click here for more about buying produce in Howard County. Or visit Lotte and click here to check out the other attractions in the same shopping center -- La Boulangarie Bakery for sweets and bubble tea, Shin Chon Garden for Korean, or Thai Aroma for Thai.

Lotte Market
8801 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21043

NEAR: On Rte 40, just east of Rte 29. From Columbia, you go north on Rte 29 and take the Rte 40 East exit. Stay in the left lane on the exit ramp. That takes you into the shopping center.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Harris Teeter in Fulton Update

The exterior of the Harris Teeter in Maple Lawn appears to be almost finished, although I can't find anything predicting an opening before Fall 2009.

Maple Lawn has built the roads for an entire shopping area off Rte 216 in Fulton. Mrs. HowChow and I drove around on Easter Sunday. You can wind your way all the way around the Harris Teeter and through an area that will one day host a collection of other stores. It even connects to the existing commercial area.

The Harris Teeter's brick exterior looks complete. The entryway is covered with plywood, so you can't see inside. But the parking spots have been painted, and the outside looks cleaned up, swept, and even landscaped in spots. It looks like one contractor finished its portion of the job. Anyone know more?

Click here for the latest news on Harris Teeter in Maple Lawn.

Bethany Seafood Restaurant in Ellicott City

The beauty of a Korean meal is the array of flavors and dishes.  A table might have spicy kimchi and tender vegetables, pickled radish and steamed egg, broiled meats and miso soup.

Bethany Seafood Restaurant in Ellicott City makes my list because it pulls off that array of flavors in a single dish -- dolset bi bim bop (or "bob" as Bethany calls it).  The waitress brings a hot stone pot filled with rice, cooked vegetables, and some pieces of meat.  Bethany's is my new favorite because the meat is actual slices of kalbi rib meat and because the hot pot browns the rice, which becomes crisp against the soft vegetables and tender, charred beef.  With dollops of the spicy sauce, the bi bim bop becomes perfect.

(UPDATE:  Bethany Seafood Restaurant has changed its name by late 2010 to Kimko.)

Bethany is a strikingly anonymous restaurant -- at least in English.  It is hidden in the back of the Bethany 40 shopping center, and its English name appears just once outside the restaurant.  Everything else is in Korean -- although the menu is completely translated and the waitresses were fluent and happy to answer questions.

But Bethany is friendly, and the food was exceptional.  That dolset bi bim bop was better than the local gold standard Shin Chon Garden because it crisped the rice and used kalbi instead of shredded beef.  Shin Chon still serves a great meal and maybe even better panchan -- the half-dozen dishes that a Korean restaurant serves as appetizers/side dishes.  They run from kimchi to pickled vegetables to little salads of tofu or potato.  They're the variety that makes a Korean meal so entertaining, and Shin Chon serves tasty dishes that take real skill to season and prepare.

We only knew about Bethany because it is across the parking lot from Mirocjo, another Korean restaurant.  Our friends, who are Korean and Chinese, said that they liked the place across from Mirocjo, but they didn't know if it had an English name.  Inside, Bethany is casual, and it has the nice touch that all of the tables are separate by wood and glass dividers.  Everything is a little private.  Some tables even have buzzers to call your waitress.

The irony is that I assume that I have missed Bethany's best dishes.  Mrs. HowChow and I started with our basic Korean dishes to get a feel for the place.  Our waitress plied us with an appetizer of soaked rice and then another appetizer of steamed egg.  Then, we ate panchan, bi bim bop and a kimchi pancake.  Everything was delicious, and the complimentary dessert -- a cold cinnamon tea -- was spectacular.  We left stuffed and still carrying left-over pancake the size of a small pizza.

But it's the Bethany Seafood Restaurant, and I need to go back for the fish.  The waitress translated the Korean name as "Eel City Flounder Country," and there is both a sushi bar and a series of aquariums that show off how fresh your dinner can be.  I have my eye on a pan-fried squid and on a cod and claim stew.  "AJ K" on Yelp describes a live lobster sashimi as shocking, but delicious.  I'm not sure I'm up to live lobser, but I would love any recommendations if you have eaten at Bethany.

If you want to try Korean food, you can go to Bethany, Shin Chon or Mirocjo and get all your questions answered in English.  It helps to eat beef and spicy food, but Mrs. HowChow and I ordered a successful meal for my brother and sister-in-law before they went to adopt my cousin that was mostly vegetarian and mostly mild.

I always recommend that you start with a grilled meat -- either kalbi (rib) or bulgogi (sliced beef).  Then consider some options that seem very normal to an American palate: 1) the dolset bi bim bop described above (which can be served vegetarian and which people can spice individually if you don't mix the hot sauce into the serving bowl), 2) chapchae (a noodle dish that can come vegetarian and/or not spicy), 3) the Korean pancakes (savory pancakes with vegetables and/or seafood mixed into the batter) or 4) hwedupbap (sashimi fish served over a bed of rice and vegetables).  Wikipedia had a great list of Korean dishes.  The Cooking Korean Food blog has a recipe for hwedupbap, although it is different than I have seen served in restaurants.

If you want to check out Korean food, try this list of all of the Korean posts.  Or click here for an overview of Asian restaurants in Howard County.

Check out AJ K's review on Yelp -- in which he describes a live lobster sashimi that the father of one of his students ordered.

Bethany Seafood Restaurant
10176 Baltimore National Poke #116
Ellicott City, MD  21042

NEAR:  On the north side of Rte 40 west of Rte 29. It is west of the Enchanted Forest shopping area. If you're driving west, you pass Enchanted Forest, then a wooded area, then a former 84 Lumber.  Turn right after the 84 into the Bethany 40 shopping center.  The entrance of Bethany Seafood is on the side that faces the lumber yard at the back.  It is next to Bits & Bridles Saddlery.  There is actually a back entrance to Bethany that faces Mirocjo's parking lot, but you enter down a long hallway.  Don't let that turn you off.

Bethany Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 10, 2009

Is Z Pizza closing in Columbia?

There is a Chowhound post that says Z Pizza will close this weekend in Columbia. This is the shopping center on McGaw Road that already lost the Atlanta Bread Company, California Tortilla, and Orinoco Coffee.

I wrote earlier that someone pulled building permits for a restaurant called India Delight at that shopping center. But I don't know anything more about it.

(Update: See the comments below that say the Z Pizza closed. Or check out a commentary from the Columbia Blog Project.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Claeys Candies at Laurel Meat Market

I tried to eat the all-natural candies, but I came back to licorice flavor in the end.

Claeys is an Indiana company that sells bags of hard candies in everything from lemon to cherry to root beer.  At Laurel Meat Market and at the Dutch Country Farmers Market, they generally stock Claeys in sassafras, licorice and horehound.  Horehound is a natural herb, and I thought it would be good to try something that wasn't artificial.

If you like horehound, than this is the treat for you.  The flavor starts like root beer, but it ends bitter and just a touch harsh to me.  So I'm back to licorice -- even though it is artificial and way too harsh for Mrs. HowChow.  I have to pop a sassafras to clean the taste and get a smooch.

(Update:  In May 2009, the Laurel Meat Market had several other flavors of Claeys, including lemon drops that are naturally flavored although artificially colored.  They're nice too.  Lightly sour, then sweet.)

If you're just looking for candy, they're cheaper at Laurel Meat Market.  But the Dutch Country Farmers Market is great fun to check out.  If you're looking for candy, check out all the posts about candy.

Laurel Meat Market
347 Main Street
Laurel, MD 20707
(301) 725-5855

NEAR: The market is on Main Street in Laurel just west of U.S. 1. You can get there by driving south on U.S. 1 and then right on Main Street or by taking Rte 216 east off I-95 and then left on Main Street.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bangkok Garden and the Thai New Year

Bangkok Garden in Columbia is the only local entry in a "Thai Restaurant Week" sponsored by the Royal Thai Embassy from April 13 to 19, 2009, according to the WPost.  The article says restaurants will serve special menus of holiday foods, and they'll offer free samples of fresh Thai fruit like mangoes, litchis, rambutans, etc.

See this Chowhound post for more information about Thai New Year festivities.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Coal Fire Pizza in Ellicott City

Coal-fired pizza is coming to Ellicott City, according to comments here and here by folks who have seen signs at the Shipley's Grant development along Rte 108.

(Update: Coal Fire opened in late April 2009. Thanks for all the comments below about the food and restaurant's local owners below. I posted more detail about Coal Fire. Please put your comments there. I'm going to turn off comments here to focus them on that post.)

Does anyone know the story behind this new restaurant Coal Fire -- or whether it is part of an established chain? I first caught wind from a Chowhound post by vivinator. I'm excited because I had terrific pizza in Fort Lauderdale at Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza. That is the crisp crust similar to my local favorite Pazani Trattoria in Elkridge.

Anthony's doesn't list any franchises outside of Florida. Does anyone know what we're getting in Ellicott City?

For my take on pizza, check out my post about pizza in Howard County. Or click for the 2009 "best restaurants" in Howard County.

Breakfast Beef at Caezar Market

Halal bacon sounds like joke -- like kosher oysters -- but it's actually an option at the new Caezar International Market in Elkridge.

"Breakfast Beef" is a bacon look-alike made with beef instead of pork. It's a good flavor, although the strips are so thin that they're difficult to get crispy without burning. This is one of the items that I picked up while checking out the new Caezar, which moved from Columbia where it was known as Sizar's.

Breakfast Beef won't replace the pistachio nougat as my favorite item at Caezar. And it won't replace the thick-cut bacon from Laurel Meat Market or the Dutch Country Farmers Market as my favorite breakfast treat. But it's great if you keep halal, and it's just an example of the fun that you could have checking out one of the local ethnic markets. For a few bucks, you can sample something new.

If you like shopping at Caezar International Market for Middle Eastern food, definitely check out all the posts about Mexican food at Lily's Mexican Market.

Ceazar International Market and Restaurant
6801 Douglas Legum Drive
Elkridge, MD 21075
443-755-9442 (market)
442-755-9444 (restaurant)

NEAR: Just off Rte 103 east of U.S. 1. This is just south of Rte 100 and less than two miles from I-95. From Rte 100, you take U.S. 1 south, turn left at the first light onto Rte 103 and follow it as it curves twice. Ceazar is in a shopping center on the left.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Link: Easter Brunches in Howard County

Live in Howard County has a list of some Easter brunch and dinner options in Howard County.

Challah at Bagel Bin in Clarksville

Challah is a light, egg bread often baked for the Jewish Shabbat, which starts on Friday nights.

I stumbled on the distinctive braided loaves at the Bagel Bin in Clarksville.  They bake challah on Fridays, and they would be delicious with any dinner if you can pick them up before Bagel Bin closes at 5 pm.  By Saturday afternoon, the $5 loves were a dollar off as "day old" bread, but they're equally delicious.  The bread stays fresh several days in a plastic bag, and it can be the base for a weekend of projects.

Saturday night -- bread pudding.  I'm still working on a recipe, but you can't go wrong soaking torn up challah in a mix of milk, eggs and sugar.  Scatter dried cherries and some pieces of a broken chocolate bar.  The bakes up soft inside with a browned, crisp exterior.  You can Google a bunch of recipes until I figure out the right way to pull this off..

Sunday morning -- French toast.  Again, soak thick slices in eggs and milk.  Challah ab
sorbs the liquids faster than a baguette from Bonaparte Bread.  With a pat of butter, the French toast comes out crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.

Bagel Bin is a local chain with outlets in Clarksville and Columbia.  They're my favorite local bagels, even though they can be inconsistent.  I'm not sure whether the other locations serve challah.  If you love your baked goods, check out my post about good bakeries in Howard County.

Bagel Bin - River Hill
River Hill Village Center
6030 Daybreak Circle
Clarksville, MD

NEAR: Just north of Rte 32 on Rte 108. River Hill shopping center is just north and across Rte 108 from the car dealerships.

Bagel Bin on Urbanspoon

Link: The Sun on Looney's in Fulton

The Sun weighed in Thursday with an article about the new Looney's South in Fulton.  I still haven't been, although I'm hoping this could be my local for burgers and wings.

I have been really pleased to see the Maple Lawn parking lots fuller since Looney's open.  I was wondering who had found Looney's until I hit the Sun's nut graph: "Looney's South looks like it will appeal to hard partyers in their 20s and 30s. The bar sits in an outdoor shopping plaza with plenty of parking. Even so, the lot near Looney's was jammed with cars the night I went. A handful of smokers stood outside the bar chatting, and one of them spoke in bar voice."

Tip of the menu to BillZ at Live in Howard County who posted about the Sun article last week.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Honey Bunnies at Great Harvest Bread Company

Check out a little Easter humor this week at the Great Harvest Bread Company in Columbia where you can buy a "Honey Bunny" -- a whole wheat loaf in the shape of a bunny rabbit.

Great Harvest comes recommended by several people, although I haven't been inspired yet to write about the bread that I have bought there.  I was amused by the photo of the "Honey Bunnies" advertised in this week's Howard County Times.  They're cute, and it's a reason to try out a new bakery if you have never been.  They're available April 1-11, 2009.

If you are looking for baked goods, check out my post about bakeries in Howard County.  I'm still checking out several places to add there.

Great Harvest Bread Company
8835 Centre Park Drive
Columbia, MD  21045

NEAR:  This is near Bangkok Delight and Asean Bistro off Rte 108.  It's very convenient to Rte 100.  Asean Bistro is right against Rte 108.  Bangkok Delight is in a cluster of stores on Centre Park Drive on the other side of the supermarket.  And Great Harvest is in a cluster of stores just beyond Bangkok Delight.

Fractured Prune Closes; Coldstone Creamery Opens

It's the circle of sweets.  The Fractured Prune in Ellicott City has closed, according to a comment by CurranStat on a prior post.  Apparently, the windows are papered up and already advertising a new tenant. That follows the Columbia outlet, which closed last year.

But comments on the same post say that Coldstone Creamery has opened in the new development on Rte 108 between Snowden River Parkway and Rte 100. That development has a Starbucks and something advertising "coal fired" -- maybe pizza?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Giogio's Deli Closed

Giorgio's Deli closed, according to the Columbia Blog Project. That post has a nice rememberance of the deli on Snowden River across from Lincoln Tech.

Where would you recommend the best deli sandwich in Howard County? I have had some okay sandwiches, but nothing that I'd recommend you actually travel to eat. Philadelphia taught me about great hoagies, so I'm always looking for the right place.

Answers To Google Searches

One of the weird perks of running a blog is using Google Analytics to watch the searches that lead people to HowChow. At times, searches suggest a rumor or news that people are trying to confirm -- like when repeated days of "Looneys Maple Lawn" identified the bar that would replace Trapeze.

This is a few answers to questions that people seem to have:
  • Is Desi Bazaar in Columbia still open? Yes. I called today, and they're open and selling Indian and Pakistani foods.
  • Did La Palapa open a branch in Burtonsville? Almost. The Howard County chain opened La Palapa Three in Silver Spring near the intersection of Rte 29 and Briggs Chaney Road.
  • Did the Fractured Prune in Ellicott City close? I don't know, but it appears that it might have. (I'm in Florida so I can't confirm.) The location isn't listed on the corporate Web site, and the phone number that I had for the store (410-203-2992) has been disconnected. This follows the closing of the Columbia store, which closed in September although it was still full of equipment and supplies a few weeks ago.
  • Is someone opening a "coal fired pizza" off Rte 108 in Ellicott City? I don't know, but I'd love information if you know anything.
And one question of my own -- Why are you searching "Trapeze Closes" every day? Someone started searching this term about three weeks ago, and now there are eight or nine visits a day based on that search. What do you want to know?