Friday, May 29, 2009

Did Jesse Wong Hong Kong Re-Open?

An anonymous person wrote a comment last night asking if Jesse Wong's Hong Kong had moved because he/she saw it listed on an iPhone GPS at 9824 Owen Brown Road.

There is also a listing on Urbanspoon for Jesse Wong's Hong Kong at the same address.

Does anyone know what is at that address? On Google Maps, the satellite image looks like a residential street.

Thanks for all the comments. Please post below if you know anything.  

(Update:  David P. points out below that the owner may have registered the company at a home address.  I emailed with someone at Urbanspoon, but they collect information from several sources so she didn't know exactly how they linked the address and Jesse Wong's Hong Kong.)

Link: Pizza Blogger Visits Howard County

The Pizza Blogger has come through Howard County as part of his quest for great pizza and drinks around Baltimore.

Yesterday, the PB posted about Pazani Trattoria here and about Gateway Pizza & Subs here.   Both spots are in Elkridge.  I really love Pazani, which is just north of Rte 100, because it serves my kind of thin-crust, and Gateway on Rte 108 has gotten compliments from commenters who love the soft, thick crust and heavy cheese.

The Pizza Blogger has an entire page of reviews of Howard County places, and he is recording his own attempt to make great pizza at home -- based heavily on making dough from wild yeast cultures.  Definitely worth checking out if you like pizza away or at home.

For my take, check out this post about the best pizza in Howard County.

Greystone Grill in Columbia

Greystone Grill is a restaurant for date night because it's great if you want to relax.

Greystone aims a bit higher than most Columbia restaurants.  It's going for a modern steakhouse vibe.  Pretty.  Classy.  Seasonal American meals served with an interesting sauce and precise cooking.

In the end, my review boils down to the piece of tuna in the photo above.  I remember that it was excellent.  Well-cooked, tasty flavor, and served with early asparagus and a tasty sauce.  One of Greystone's twists is that you can order any meat with any vegetable and a sauce on the side.  That worked well for us.  We built our own meals and appreciated that the sauce was available, but not drenching the plate.  But I don't remember if that tuna was mine or my wife's.  I don't remember the other plate.  As much as I enjoyed Greystone, I didn't come home inspired to write, and a few weeks after the fact, I remember the vibe more than the actual food.

Again, I remember that we had a nice night.  Our waiter disappeared at times, which made me think that, where Greystone borrows the menu from more upscale steakhouses, it appears to borrow its waitstaff from some casual chain.  But he gave nice suggestions for wine by the glass, and we were soothed by the atmosphere.  Romantic if you're there on a date.  Quiet if you're there on business.  One of my favorite parts of Greystone is that they give you space.  Even in the bar, tables are far enough apart that you're more than an arms length away, and the dining room offers some little banquets where you can almost disappear into your conversation.

I also remember that I didn't pay full price.  Greystone is a great reason to try the offer for discounted gift certificates.  This week, they have extended a special where you can buy a $25 gift certificate for $2.  You need to order $35 in food, but that's a flash at Greystone.  We had a $75 bill, and I was very pleased to pay $50.

For more about Greystone, check out BillZ's take on Live in Howard County.

Greystone Grill
8850 Columbia 100 Parkway
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: This is a classic Columbia location -- pressed up against Rte 100 and literally impossible to stumble across. Columbia 100 Parkway is the road running parallel to Rte 100 just south of the highway. You can reach it from Executive Park Drive (an exit from 100) or from Centre Park Drive (the road connecting Rte 108 and Rte 100 where you can also find Bangkok Delight
and Cafe de Paris).

Greystone Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Katana Sushi Opening In Mid-June In Elkridge

Katana Sushi is aiming to open in mid-June next to the Pazani Trattoria in Elkridge, according to the Pizza Blogger who sent me an email last night with this and news about a new Indian market replacing Julie's International Supermarket.

The PB checked out Pazani for his blog, and he saw construction at the shopping center for Katana. The owner (James?) told him that they're waiting for final electrical inspections and some finishing touches before opening. The PB sent the photo of the inside. I haven't seen the new sushi place, but it may be a branch of the Katana Sushi in Clarksville.

Pazani is one of my favorite pizzas in Howard County. I'll link to the PB's review once he posts.

This shopping center is just north of Rte 100 and just east of Rte 103. To visit, exit from Rte 100 onto Rte 103 North. Turn right at the light for Marshalee Drive and look for the shopping center on the right. Pazani is in the section past the Giant. This is the same development as the new hotel that overlooks Rte 100.

Indian Supermarket (Food Cravings?) To Replace Julie International

Julie's International Supermarket has closed in Elkridge and will be replaced by an Indian market, according to the Pizza Blogger who sent me an email last night.

The PB visited Gateway Pizza & Subs for his blog and noticed people renovating the store. The contractors inside estimated that it would open in two or three weeks. If you check out the truck in the PB's photo, it says "Food Cravings Inc." in small letters. Coincidentally, that is the Columbia Indian market that I had already written about for this morning. I assume they're expanding, not closing the Columbia store because I was there last weekend and saw no signs.

Gateway Pizza and the new Indian market are in a small shopping center near the Food Lion on Rte 108 just up from Rte 175. When you pull into the Food Lion, steer left to the shopping center that also has a Chinese restaurant and a thrift shop.

Food Cravings in Columbia

Columbia's two Indian groceries are paired just off Rte 108 where Desi Market and Food Cravings sit a few blocks apart in little commercial centers on Red Branch Road.

These Indian markets are essential if you want to cook Indian food, and they're helpful for almost any kitchen adventure because they sell spices by the bag. A bag for the same price that supermarkets charge for one-ounce bottles. Pepper, cumin, cloves, coriander, cardamom. These flavors have spread from Monterrey to Bangkok, and Food Cravings offers them all -- along with tumeric, fennel, and other flavors from around the world.

If you haven't visited an Indian grocery before, I'd suggest getting a cookbook -- maybe a beautiful one like Mangoes & Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. Starting with Indian food will ensure that your trip leads to at least one great meal for you. Pick a recipe. Then go to Food Cravings and ask for help. Everyone speaks English, and all the clerks -- especially women -- have seemed tickled to help me find ingredients once they realize that I'm interested in Indian food. You'll fill a basket with staples like chick pea flour, yogurt, rices, chutneys, oils, and shelves of different lentils. Like the spices, the lentils are a flexible basic -- great in Indian cuisine, but also easy to use in plain old American recipes. The one thing missing from most Indian groceries is meat, which I assume is a way that these store owners respect their vegetarian clients.

Fill out your meal with some quick-eat items. Appetizers like papad or frozen samosas that you can heat yourself. Breads like frozen naan or roti. Jars of pickled vegetables or fruit. With these, you can create a feast if you learn a single recipe from your cookbook. Or you can just buy the convenience food, which ranges -- like any American grocery -- along a spectrum from "super easy" to "almost from scratch." At the "Lean Cuisine" end of that spectrum, there are boxes of curries already-cooked and just waiting for you to microwave. They're great for lunches at the office. One step more complex, there are jars of curry sauces to simmer chicken and box mixes so that you could turn out jalebi like you make a Dunkin Hines cake. There are also little basics that you could sprinkle into everyday life like the papad for a snack, Indian pickles that go great with burgers, or the candy-coated fennel seeds that I love but Mrs. HowChow won't touch outside House of India. I bought chickpea flour on my last visit to make a Korean pancake recipe that Mark Bittman had adapted for How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

More than Desi Market, Food Cravings has produce. Nothing looks spectacular, but it is there as a resource. There are also samosas for less than $1 at the checkout. They're not hot. I had bought one as a quick snack, and I didn't realize it was cold until I had already bitten inside. It would have been tasty if I had taken it home to heat it up. (Of course, I ate it anyway.)

Like I all of Howard County's ethnic markets, Food Cravings offers easy, safe adventures. You can ask questions in English. You can read the ingredient list on every package. At Indian joints, you can know most everything is vegetarian as well. If you like to cook, these are fun places to browse. They're just hidden away.

In May 2009, Food Cravings may be opening a new branch near the Food Lion on Rte 108 in Elkridge, according to an email that I received from from the Pizza Blogger.

Does anyone know the difference -- if there is one -- between Desi Market and Food Cravings? Indian cuisine is as varied as as European, and I have only the basic knowledge from friends, restaurants and Wikipedia. To my eye, Desi Market and Food Cravings appear to offer very similar fare -- with Food Craving offering a larger selection. I wonder if there is a difference that I can't discern.

If you are looking for Indian shopping in southern Howard County, consider Apna Bazar or Eastern Market in Laurel. Apna is farther north, but Eastern is bigger and has unusually good produce for a small market. If you are looking for Indian restaurants, click here.

Food Cravings
9050 Red Branch Road #N
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: Red Branch Road intersects with Rte 108 just east of Rte 29. It is a commercial road. Desi Bazar is on the right facing the road. Food Cravings is farther up on the left. It is hard to see from the road because the buildings are set above Red Branch, so watch the street numbers. You need to park in the back or in the few spots on the driveway up to the building.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Link: Looney's on Dining @ Large

Lunch at Looney's is the subject of a guest post from John Lindner on Elizabeth Large's Dining & Large Blog.

The post is hilarious, and funny enough that you should read the original flow instead of an excerpt here. Not exactly a Valentine. But Lindner says a better bun and some better service could bring Maple Lawn's pub and music spot to above average.

I'm pulling for Looney's although I have not visited yet. They just started to serve Sunday brunch. And you can read other reviews of Looney's at this earlier post.

Parking Lot Cafe: The Ultimate Howard County Experience

The great bistros of Paris offer sidewalk tables. Converted row homes in DC offer rooftop dining. Country inns nestle you into garden cuisine.

As the season warms, the question arises: What is the quintessential Howard County experience for al fresco dining?

The answer: Parking lot cafes.

James Rouse banned churches so that Columbia could worship the automobile, and several Howard County restaurants have taken up his charge by offering food with a view of the parking lot. Sure, Elizabeth Large offers the limited view in her Top 10 places to eat lunch outside with back gardens and enclosed patios. But what about good food where you can see your car?

Victoria Gastropub offers the finest parking lot cafe around. We went for my favorite local burger last week and enjoyed a warm, breezy night watching the sun set and watching our Chrysler. You could feel the vibrations of the hot rods on Rte 108. How can Citronelle compete? Victoria built its patio last summer, and the open feeling is a nice contrast with the dark, cozy feel of the indoor rooms. But they're just the vanguard for le cuisine voiture:
  • Ranazul in Fulton has a handful of tables right on Maple Lawn Boulevard. Come early so that you snag the street parking close enough so that you lock and unlock your car remotely while you enjoy tapas.
  • La Palapa Too in Laurel captures the parking lot cafe vibe. The patio out front juts into the parking lot, and the weekend ceviche appetizer is even more delicious with the taste of a cold Corona and the sound of traffic. (As bemoaned by BillZ on Live in Howard County, the shopping center with La Palapa Too and Kloby's isn't really in Laurel. It's on Johns Hopkins Road just west of Rte 29 -- very convenient to Columbia, Scaggsville or Fulton.)
  • Mad City Coffee in Columbia is built for car viewing. In winter, you can watch your car through the plate glass windows while you have house-roasted coffee, breakfast or sandwiches. In nice weather, the tables right outside let you almost put your feet up on your bumper as you sip and read the paper.
  • Maiwand Kabob in Columbia only has two tables outside, but the view is spectacular. It's cars to the horizon (or at least to the supermarket and Rita's). You could take out these wonderful grilled meats, breads and the pumpkin appetizer. But you'd have to sit in your driveway to capture the full experience.
  • Touche Touchet Bakery in Columbia offers you the chance for dessert. My favorite cupcakes in Howard County, plus an array of coffee, other desserts, and a handful of savory croissants. If you're not careful, you could end up on the side of Touche Touchet's outdoor seating, staring at a peaceful, wooded yard. But the front tables are all-parking, all-the-time.
What parking lot cafe am I missing? Where can you eat and watch your car? Great Sage in Clarksville doesn't count because the creative vegetarian restaurant tucked its patio on the side of its shopping center. The seats overlook a slopping hill and trees. It's so lush and natural that you might think you were in . . . Baltimore.

(Update: People are already pouring in other great examples in the comments. They're worth reading in full because people captured the tone in which this post was offered. A sample of the early ones:
  • rdonoghue talks up Donna's on Rte 108 in Columbia. As he notes, "on a clear day" you can see all the way to Eggspectations. Take that San Francisco Bay!
  • Billz of the Live in Howard County blog has his own list, including the River Hill Grille "that lets you contemplate automobiles and the Columbia Gym where you should be working out.")
(Update #2: You have to check out Strapazza on weekends when you can get a view of your car -- and live jazz.)

(Update #3: Check out the 2010 update on this "parking lot cafe" idea.)

Does anyone know the Cocoa Lane restaurant mentioned by Eve in this comment on Elizabeth Large's blog? She says it has a series of decks. Can you see parking? (Update: Julie says Cocoa Lane has a great view of Ellicott City's skyline, but no cars. Sigh!)

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.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Snowballs is open in Clarksville

Snowballs is open and shaving ice outside the Kendall Hardware in Clarksville.  This was one of my recommendations in a post about places to get ice cream on a summer night.

Mrs. HowChow and I stopped by on Saturday on a mid-day run that took us to the River Hill nursery and for allen wrenches at the hardware store.  The Snowballs stand serves up shaved ice with a list of flavors and toppings that you couldn't exhaust in an entire summer.  

I loved the list of suggested combinations that included one for each high school -- based on the colors, not the flavors.  I remember when I would have ordered a purple and gold snowcone just for school spirit.  This time, I got spearmint, and Mrs. HowChow got blackberry.  Both refreshing.  Neither exactly organic or all-natural.

If you're looking for other ice cream options, check out that post about ice cream on a summer night.

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Brunch and Fun Dessert

Some news from Howard County restaurants:
  • Looneys in Maple Lawn has started serving Sunday brunch. I hear that it is a buffet brunch. I haven't been, but Looneys South has been filling the parking lot most evenings so I expect them to put on a good show at brunch as well.
  • Iron Bridge Wine Company in Columbia is running a truly creative special. Through June 15, they're running a creme brulee lottery. They have a housemade creme brulee with a dark chocolate bottom. They will hide five white chocolate versions among all the others. If you order the creme brule and get the white chocolate version, then your entire check is free. No matter how many people or what you ordered. That's fun. Iron Bridge gets more dessert orders. Five parties will get a spectacular surprise. And everyone enjoys a frisson of fun. This morning, Iron Bridge sent one of its promotional emails saying that two of the winners were large parties -- a table of seven in Warrenton and a table of eight in Columbia. The email jokes that one of the owners is hiding from his brother in order to keep the special going.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Farmers Market in Columbia

The peas are absolutely delicious at the Sunday farmers market in Columbia, but I'm always over eager for the taste of summer.

Howard County's three farmers markets have opened for 2009, and they remain a wonderful way to buy really fresh vegetables, breads, milk, plants, and more. The weekend markets are also just a great way to start a day -- browse for food, devour a chocolate croissant.

On Sunday, the market in the Oakland Mills Village Center was pretty empty because of the cold. There were four farmers and two bakeries. More than enough for me to fill two bags and help create a terrific dinner. The star was Penn Farm from Colonial Beach, Virginia,
which showed up withh peas, onions, greens, purple kolrabi, and other early-season specials. The peas were spectacular. I shelled them and dropped them in boiling water for a minute, then warmed them later with a pad of butter and chopped mint.

Right now, Treadelphia Lake View Farm is selling herbs and vegetable plants. They looked hardy if you're still planting your garden. I bought two basils to replace some plants mangled by last week's wind. I had already filled my last vegetable garden slots at River Hill Garden Center, or I would have bought tomatoes from another farmer (whose name I didn't write down). For $8.50, he had two-foot tall plants already starting to fruit. Great fun to harvest your own tomatoes so early in the year.

For the 2009 season, the new draw on a Sunday morning will be bread. Savage's Bonaparte Bread has been a farmer's market regular, selling baguettes, croissants and other goodies. This year, Atwater's bakery from Belvedere Square has also set up shop. I bought a delicious rosemary loaf from the Atwater's table. Perfect crust. Light white bread inside. Light rosemary touch. A great bread to bring home for dinner. (The Bonaparte chocolate croissant, I ate in the car.)

But respect the seasons. I was entranced by a package of small tomatoes. They were real tomatoes, greenhouse grown and beautiful in their irregular, natural shape. They looked like summer. But really, they tasted like tomatoes in the middle of May. Fine, but not the produce that nature intended from a Maryland farm at this time of year. I'm sure they'll get sweeter and more delicious as the true warm weather arrives, so I'll eat peas now and go back for tomatoes in a while.

Click here for my 2008 post about the Saturday farmers market on Rte 97, which had the South Mountain Creamery last year. Does anyone know if South Mountain is back on Saturdays in 2009? [Update: HowICook says in the comments that South Mountain was at the Saturday market on May 16, 2009. He notes that it was slim pickings, but I think vendors thicken once the warm weather lets them grow more.]

Click here for the WPost's interactive map that includes all three Howard County farmers markets or here for all the posts about those markets. Click here for my take on vegetable shopping in the county.

As always, don't expect a farmers market like they have in DC or Baltimore. This is a handful of vendors in a parking lot, but it is great fun and certainly enough to fill some bags with fresh produce. For an adventure, consider the JFX farmers market in Baltimore -- discussed lovingly on Chowhound.

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.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Panam Supermarket in Laurel

If you are looking for Hispanic foods -- especially for tropical produce or a speciality butcher -- then consider driving to Laurel for the Panam Supermarket.

Lily's Mexican Market is a great small grocery and takeout in Columbia. A spot for fresh tortillas, Mexican and Central American cheeses, canned goods, and even a small butcher.

But Panam is a supermarket. It's huge. You can buy everything from the shelves at Lily's -- although not the takeout tacos or the horchata -- and then shop through full-sized departments for produce and meat. Those look like the real draws to me. The produce section stocked fresh-looking vegetables and fruit -- including tropical items like fresh cactus, chayote, green mangos, and several kinds of coconut. Cheap price on limes. Extremely ripe avocados. If you are looking for a picture, imagine the produce that you can find at places like the H Mart in Catonsville or the Super Grand in Laurel -- except not the Asian items.

The butcher looks more like Beiler's at the Dutch Country Farmers Market in Burtonsville. There weren't big steak displays. This is like

the other end of the Beiler's display where you find roasts, stew meat, ribs, goat, oxtail, and pig's feet. There were a half-dozen sausages that looked like they were made in-house, including Mexican and Salvadoran chorizos and a goat sausage. There were marinated meats ready for tacos. They also had live tilapia, some whole fish, and several varieties of shrimp. This is the place if you know a Latin cut or just want to explore something new.

Panam offers aisles of the standard American products like corn flakes, Dole fruit and terriyaki sauce. It also has all the packaged food that you would see in a Hispanic market. Rice, tortillas, chipotles, nopales and a dozen varieties of dried beans. They have such a selection of the Goya brand that I found Goya organic beans.

Spanish is the first language in Panam, but don't be intimidated. The music and the customer chatter was all in Spanish. So were most of the signs. But the packages are all in English. Even the Mexican soda that I bought had the standard ingredient sticker applied so you can understand everything. You can also speak English with the employees. I tried to ask a question in Spanish at the checkout, and the employees quickly switched to English as I exhausted my vocabulary. In completely fluent English, they identified the spiny vegetable that I had bought as a spiny chayote and explained that it was a Guatemalan variety.

If you want a Howard County Mexican market, check out Lily's in Columbia. It's one of the best ethnic markets in the county. Click here for all the posts about Lily's.

If you go to Panan, consider checking out the Laurel Meat Market on Main Street or Laurel Health Food in the same shopping center as Panan.  Laurel Health Food has some organic produce and shelves of organic packaged goods and health supplements. You can also drive around to the shops that face Rte 198 and back against Laurel Health for a great Indian market  Eastern Bazar, the sugar cookies at La Espiga de Oro Latin bakery, and a Jamaican restaurant/take-out.

Panam Supermarket
111 Bowie Road
Laurel, MD 20707

NEAR: Panam is across the line into PG County just south of Rte 198 off the north-bound lanes of U.S. 1. You need to go a block south of Rte 198 on U.S. 1, then U-turn. Panam is in a shopping center set back from the road. This is the same shopping center as Laurel Health Food. Panam is on the far right set back pretty far from U.S. 1.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Link: Harbin Farms' Stand in the Sun

The Harbin Farms' produce stand along Rte 99 needs a zoning change to stay in operation, and zoning department staff recommended against the change, according to the Sun.

The Sun article describes the stand, which started on a family farm but which has become a stand-along business now that the Taylor family has sold most of their original land. This is just north of U.S. 70 where Bethany Lane/Old Mill Road intersections with Rte 99.

A Great Guide To Grilling

If you'd like to learn to grill, keep an eye out for the Cook's Illustrated special edition called "Summer Grilling" on sale at Bloom and other supermarkets.

I picked up an edition even though the Cook's Illustrated magazine often annoys me with its long descriptions about the "best" ways to make a dish.  Grilling lends itself to the Cook's Illustrated style -- simple recipes, standard (not ethnic) dishes, designed for foolproof food if you follow instructions.  I'm trying to go beyond burgers on the grill that we bought last year, and "Summer Grilling" is a terrific primer of techniques -- steaks, shish kebabs, pork chops, shredded barbeque, blacked snapper and more.

Last week, I stopped at the Laurel Meat Market and bought a porterhouse because "Summer Grilling" taught me that the porterhouse contains a strip and a tenderloin.  Although this was a bachelor night, that is the perfect steak for the HowChows -- strip for me and the tender filet for my wife.  The recipe was simple and clear.  Instead of hacking the steak to see inside, I followed the precise directions, learning to start on a highest flame and then finish up over lower heat.  The steak came out a perfect medium rate.  I ate sliced meat with warmed corn tortillas from Lily's Mexican Market and a corn salsa from Trader Joe's.  Great meal, and the start of a summer learning how to grill.

If you're looking for Cook's Illustrated, check here for a photo of the cover.  If you're looking for a butcher, try Laurel Meat Market, Boarman's in Highland, JW Treuth in Oella, or Beiler's Meat at the Dutch Country Farmers Market in Burtonsville.  You can start by just checking here for my take on those butchers and meat markets.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Maiwand Kabob in Columbia (and elsewhere)

Maiwand Kabob is one of my old favorites, but it has a beautiful new look at its flagship location in Columbia.

The Afghan restaurant sells kabobs and a concise menu of some of Howard County's best food for a large takeout crowd and a small dining room. The Harper's Choice village center has always been a great place for a summer night -- delicious food, then Italian ice at Rita's across the parking lot. But it was a pretty low-end design with paper plates and basic decor.

Now, Maiwand Kabob has been renovated with trendy earth tones. Wood details. New tables and chairs. A cool open kitchen. It is honestly a surprise that they invested so much without the opportunity to expand.

Despite the flash, the food remains the real attraction. The main dishes are grilled meats -- beef, lamb, chicken chunks, chicken versions of a gyro -- and daily specials that offer tastes of Afghan cuisine. The grilled chicken holds its own with the best barbeque around like Kloby's in Laurel. But Maiwand Kabob becomes a great restaurant -- and not just a takeout joint -- because of the appetizers and the bread that deliver delicate flavors that are unique, yet accessible to anyone who likes Indian or Middle Eastern food.

The pumpkin is tender orange flesh served with yogurt and a sprinkle of ground beef. The aushak are ravioli filled with scallions and topped similar to the pumpkin. You can work your way through samosas, bowlawni and any of the other appetizers, and you need to try the tandoori bread. Those crisp and warm loaves are worth the entire visit. Consider ordering an extra if you plan on having leftovers. You can watch them being shaped and baked right behind the counter.

(Update: Also check out the mantwo -- another appetizer where the meat-filled dumplings come with a yogurt sauce spiked with mint and topped with earthly lentils.)

Maiwand Kabob isn't fast food. Call ahead if you want to pick up. Mrs HowChow and I waited more than 30 minutes on a Sunday night. Eventually, I elbowed through the crowd to ask for our appetizers, which the counter folks were happy to give me but hadn't thought to offer on their own.

Maiwand Kabob is part of an expanding local chain. A new one opened near Arundel Mills Mall and the BW Parkway. There are others in Linthicum and in Burtonsville, although the Burtonsville location appears to be owned by someone else.

Click here for my take on kabobs and barbeque in Howard County. If you want kabobs closer to home, consider Parsa Kabob in Elkridge or Mimi's Kabob in Clarksville. Or click for the starting page for my "What I Learned" guide to food in Howard County.

Maiwand Kabob
Harpers Choice Village Center
5467 Harpers Farm Road
Columbia, MD 21044

NEAR: This is in central Columbia, west of the Columbia Mall. Harpers Choice is between Rte 108 and Cedar Lane / Little Patuxent Parkway. From the south, Cedar Lane connects Rte 32 to Harpers Choice. From Rte 29, Broken Lane runs into Little Patuxent, which runs into Harpers Choice Road. To spot the shopping center, look for a McDonalds up against Harpers Choice Road.

Maiwand Kabob on Urbanspoon

Maiwand Kabob
Arundel Mills Preserve shopping center
7698 Dorchester Boulevard
Hanover, MD 21076

NEAR: Take the Arundel Mills exit from the BW Parkway. That road only goes east. The Arundel Mills Preserve shopping center is on the left almost immediately. There is a Starbucks in that shopping center.

Maiwand Kabob on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 15, 2009

Link: Village Market and Cafe on Tale of Two Cities

The Village Market and Cafe will replace the shuttered Soto's Grill in Ellicott City, according to the Tale of Two Cities blog.

Wordbones posted about the new Village Market and Cafe as part of a post that mentioned the couple who are opening the new cafe. The cafe will be on Hillsborough Road north of Rte 103. They're aiming to open in July. Wordbones met Desai Siddabathula because he saw him and friends playing cricket.

If you want to check out the new cafe, click here for the Village Market and Cafe Web site. If you want to play cricket, click here for Wordbones' post about Howard County's naescent Maryland State Club cricket team.

Village Market and Cafe
8001 Hillsborough Road
Ellicott City, MD 21043
(410) 963-0104

Comments About Sushi, Bacon and More

As always, I appreciate the comments, and there are several recent posts that I thought that other people might enjoy or be able to answer:

As always, thanks for the comments.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Harris Teeter in Fulton Update #3

The Harris Teeter in Fulton is scheduled to open at 5:30 pm, October 6, 2009, according to the Maple Lawn developer.

(Update -- Click here for the latest news on Harris Teeter in Maple Lawn.)

Stuart Greenbaum spoke at last night's Maple Lawn annual meeting, and he said that Harris Teeter on Rte 216 has that official start date five months in the future. Like me, he says that the store looks like they could open far sooner. He says the developers have finished their work on the site, and they would love Harris Teeter to open before October. But the schedule has some connection to Harris Teeter's fiscal year.

Harris Teeter's parent company appears to have a fiscal year that starts October 1.

In other Maple Lawn news, the developers said they're in talks with two people about replacing the Daily Grind coffee shop with a morning/breakfast restaurant. Mrs. HowChow would love a Starbucks. No one mentioned the name of the possible tenant, but Greenbaum talked about how Starbucks is closing stores, so that dream doesn't appear likely. They said they hope to have some news in a few weeks because they want that site occupied for their commercial tenants.

Link: Seafood Lists on Dining @ Large

If you want to lose an hour in fun, check out the list of lists on Dining @ Large.  Elizabeth Large created a list of her "top 10 lists about seafood," including everything from the best crab cakes to the best dining on the water.  

Sushi Sono made that last list (as did the shuttered Jesse Wong's Hong Kong), and there are Howard County spots scattered throughout.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Link: Great Sage on Black Coffee And A Donut

The Black Coffee and a Donut blog posts about Great Sage, the vegetarian restaurant in Clarksville.  The post has roundly positive reviews and great photos.

Click here for my take on Great Sage, which extols the food and especially the food that isn't trying to be meat.

Laurel Meat Market in Laurel

I'm working my way through the Laurel Meat Market, and I'm having fun along the way.

The Laurel Meat Market is a small grocery on Main Street just over the line into Prince George's County. The produce and the packaged stuff are nothing special, but walking through puts you in the deli and butcher sections where you can find some special items.

Start with the butcher. I don't know meat enough to truly compare Laurel Meat Market to supermarkets. Certainly, Laurel butchers on site, so you can talk to the butchers and see some items that chains don't offer like freshly-ground beef, handmade sausages, and thick-cut bacon by the slice. I love the individual portions. Four slices of pepper-edged bacon beat an entire plastic-wrapped pound, and I'm a sucker for sausage -- both here and at other local butchers around Howard County. When it comes to the steaks, I like what I have had. Laurel Meat Market doesn't have the marketing of a Whole Foods or the just-slaughtered atmosphere of JW Treuth in Oella. Mostly, the steaks are on display, and I pick something for tonight's dinner. When I take the time to buy steak and grill, I pay attention to the cooking so I generally like the results.

Recently, I have bridged over to the deli as well. I started with pie. They sell whole pies that look hand-baked. Even better, they sell 99-cent slices. Perfect for me to bring home for a fun dessert. The French apple pie with raisins has been tasty. Now, I'm working through some deli meats. Laurel Meat Market roasts its own beef, and it's delicious. Thin-sliced, tasting of beef, and alternating between well-done and pink. At lunch, the market sells hot foods. I haven't been yet, but a nice review on Yelp talked up hearty, fresh, large servings and a "truck stop cuisine."

(Update: I'm now loyal to the ground chuck at Laurel Meat Market.  They grind meat into hamburger in the store, and it makes for delicious burgers, kabobs, chili, etc.  It also lets me avoid the factory-made ground beef where the grind crap and add pink slime.  Also look for fish specials like scallops and local wild rockfish.)

(Update II: You should also consider Laurel Meat Market if you're looking for a large cut like a standing rib roast.  My friend got great advice and a nice piece of meat for Christmas Eve 2010.)

Overall, I think Laurel Meat Market is a nice place if you want personal, professional attention or if you want to try something unusual on the grill. You should also check out the other local butchers -- including the Dutch Country Farmers Market in Burtonsville, Boarman's in Highland or JW Treuth in Oella.

If you go to the Laurel Meat Market, check out the Claeys Candies up near the checkout. If you are food shopping in Laurel, you should also check out the Middle Eastern groceries at Aladdin Food Mart on Main Street or the Mexican produce, butcher and groceries at the Panam Supermarket near U.S. 1 and Rte 198.

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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ice Cream For A Summer Night 2009

With the warm weather, you should definitely go get an ice cream under the stars -- or a snow cone in the midst of your errands.

Howard County has a long list of stands that will sell you ice cream to enjoy outside. It's a fabulous simple treat of the season, and ice cream is just a little more delicious if you're leaning up against your car.

(Update: Most of these places are still around, but I updated this post in 2011.)

These are the ones that I know about (paired with a place to grab an easy dinner):
For a more hipster touch, consider Yogiberry in Olney for the closest taste of the sour yogurt trend. It's a Pinkberry clone with delicious frozen yogurt topped with mochi.  (Update in 2010: Actually, Yogiberry is now in the Columbia Mall, and you can enjoy Tutti Frutti in Ellicott City on a summer night.  There are few outdoor chairs, but lots of places to lean against you car, enjoy the frozen yogurt, and watch the Burger King drivethrough.)

Can anyone recommend other places for ice cream outside? Anywhere good in downtown Ellicott City? Does anyone in Howard County actually make their own ice cream? The closest that I have heard is the gelato that I want to try at Cafe di Roma in Catonsville.

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: Great Takeout in Howard County.
NEXT: Parking Lot Cafe: The Ultimate Howard County Experience

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cactus at Lily's Mexican Market

Easy and exotic. You can't find something more unusual for such little effort than the cactus paddles on sale at Lily's Mexican Market.

These are nopales -- a standard vegetable in Mexico yet something that I have never seen at a standard grocery store. Generally, they're available in the small produce section at Lily's, one of Howard County's best ethnic markets. Grilled or cooked on a skillet, the cactus becomes tender and has a mild flavor. It has a vegetable taste, a touch of sourness. You can find endless uses on the Web, but you could be eating cactus tacos this evening if you just stop at Lily's off Dobbin Road.

The cactus at Lily's already has the spines removed. Or at least almost all the spines. Be careful, and run a knife along the nopales to scrap off any errand spines once you get home. Pick pads that look plump. They have lasted me several days in the fridge. With some of Lily's store-made corn tortillas and any toppings that you enjoy, you can make weeknight tacos.

You can buy everything in the recipe below from Lily's. For more about Oaxaca cheese, check out Ready Set Kate's post. You can omit the chorizo or substitute chicken, ground beef (with or without "taco spices") or a diced potato that you have boiled until tender. I rely on good salsas to provide much of the zest to weeknight tacos, but you could jazz this up however you want -- homemade salsa, summer tomatoes, lettuce, etc. Next, I'm going to try this nopales in chipotle sauce.

If you haven't been to Lily's, you should definitely try Howard County's best Latin American market. Click here for all the posts about Lily's -- including ones about horchata, chips, takeout tacos, fresh corn tortillas, tamales, and more. Or click for the starting page for my "What I Learned" guide to food in Howard County.

Weeknight Cactus Tacos
(serves two or three)

2 cactus paddles from Lily's
1 can black beans or other beans, warmed on the stovetop (option: add some minced garlic)
1 jalapeno or other hot pepper, seeded and diced
shredded Oaxaca or cheddar cheese
1/2 pound chorizo, cut into small pieces
6-10 corn tortillas

1) Starting at one of the short ends of the cactus, make slices along the length of the cactus every half inch. Stop about an inch-and-half from the other end. When you're done, the cactus will look like a hand with many fingers.

2) Heat a ridged grill pan or a grill. Cook the cactus on one side until it chars a little and starts to soften. Flip over the cactus and cook until it is tender. (The "hand" cutting makes it easier to flip the cactus in one piece.)

3) While the cactus is cooking, saute the chorizo and cut up the other vegetables.

4) If the tortillas have been in the fridge, reheat them. Wet a paper towel and wring it out. Wrap one or two tortillas per person in the damp towel, then microwave for 15-20 seconds. Check to see if they're warm. Microwave more in 15-second steps until they're moist and warm.

5) When the cactus is tender, slice it so that the "fingers" become chunks of nopales.

6) Serve all the items in bowls and let people make their own tacos.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pop Chips in Howard County?

Has anyone seen Pop Chips anywhere near Howard County?

In a New York City drug store last month, I saw a display of this branch of chips.  I love "salt and pepper" chips so I picked them up.  The bag says they're cooked by somehow popping, not frying.  They were pretty good, although I don't remember how much I paid for them.

Has anyone seen these anywhere nearby?

(Update:  Hilarious.  What I thought were "exotic" NYC chips turn out to be available all over Howard County.  An entire bag of comments below tell you where to buy them.  Plus, the company that sells them found my post in a matter of hours and commented below as well!)

Link: Great Harvest Bakery on GrubGrade

The GrubGrade blog talks up the Great Harvest Bakery in Columbia. Adam loves the bread, especially the onion dill rye. I have never been captivated by Great Harvest, but he loves the local feel with high quality bread: "At $5.00-7.50 a loaf it may not be your supermarket bakery price, but it sure as heck delivers in terms of taste and quality, which ultimately are the most important things."

Click here for my take on bakeries in Howard County. Check out GrubGrade for multimedia blogging -- often about casual and fast food joints -- that runs from YouTube to every social media site you would want to try.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pepperjacks Deli in Laurel

With warm nights coming, Pepperjacks Deli just south of Rte 216 is a great option for an easy dinner -- delicious sandwiches and then ice cream or a shake to enjoy outside.

My current search is for interesting sandwiches in Howard County. This is a search for basics -- good bread paired with good fillings. Personally, I like rolls with a crust to them, and I'm a fan of interesting deli or an interesting twist -- rather than huge subs covered in melted cheese. Subway and Boar's Head deli work for me, but you can get them anywhere so I'm looking for one step above.

Pepperjacks delivers. Well, actually you have to go to the shop just south of Rte 216. But Pepperjacks delivers the good bread, good fillings that I want in a sandwich. Don't be fooled by the outside, which is ramshackle enough that I had driven past until I read comments from HowICook and UhOhBadDog on an earlier post. Inside, it's a cozy takeout shop that serves up mostly sandwiches, fries and ice cream. There are a few seats and a playground outside.

My Italian sandwich was delicious. Thin-sliced meats with fresh vegetables on a roll that tasted as if it were baked on site (as they advertise) even if it wasn't the best I had ever eaten. The deli was my favorite -- tasty and flavorful, but not greasy. I knew it was good after I finished when I realized that I spread on mustard, my way to spice up any mundane sandwich. Pepperjacks offers a large menu of sandwiches, and other folks have talked up the Roast Beef Signature and the turkey rueben. They also serve Boardwalk fries, which they seemed to be frying up for each individual order. We'll go back to try more.

One great hole in the Howard County sandwich world is that lack of Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches. They're everywhere in Northern Virginia. They're a spectacular fusion of French bread with Vietnamese fillings. The Chinese takeout near the Food Lion on Rte 108 has a sign advertising them, but the folks there say that was from a prior menu (and probably a prior owner). Does anyone know where to find the closest banh mi?

Pepperjacks Deli
10919 Scaggsville Road
Laurel, MD 20723

NEAR: This is just south of Rte 216 and just east of Rte 29. From Rte 216, you turn south at the light for Crest Road. Then turn right in about a block when Crest deadends into Scaggsville Road. Pepperjacks is on the left a few hundred feet from that intersection.

Pepperjacks Deli on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Quick Cook Oats at Trader Joes

I go through oatmeal phases -- weeks at a time when I get myself organized in the morning to make oatmeal that I eat on the way to the train.

Oatmeal is boring.  I admit that.  The key is having a variety of nuts or fruit to mix into the bowl and even different grains to make the dishes taste different.

For weekdays, my new discovery is the Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats at Trader Joe's at Rte 175 and Rte 108.  As the name promises, they're a variation on the steel cut oats, which take 40 minutes to cook so they're weekend fare like millet or quinoa.  They're cut somehow that they cook in about eight minutes, making them a reasonable variation on the regular quick oats that I buy bulk at My Organic Market or Roots.

I know that Trader Joe's is a chain, and I try to write about the local spots in Howard County.  But TJ is really a treasure if you're looking for interesting food.

Trader Joe's
6610 Marie Curie Dr
Elkridge, MD 21075
(410) 953-8139

NEAR:   Trader Joe's is in the shopping center with the Lowes and Best Buy at Rte 175 and Rte 108.  It is actually in the separate building that backs up on Rte 108.  Down the row are a great liquor store Perfect Pour and Fatburger

Monday, May 4, 2009

Harris Teeter in Fulton Update #2

To me, the Harris Teeter in Maple Lawn looks like it should open in Summer 2009 -- not the Fall 2009 that I have seen in official announcements.

On Saturday, the store had plate glass windows that were new since our last visit on Easter. Outside, the parking lot is lined and mostly landscaped. Inside, you could see signs for the different departments, which suggests that they're deep into interior construction. People were working on Saturday, which meant Mrs. HowChow wasn't dying to snap a photo out of the car window.

Of course, I was overly optimistic about construction at the Fatburger. But I can't believe Harris Teeter wants an empty store sitting around all summer. Anyone know more? (Update: Kristin comments below that a cashier at the Kings Contrivance Harris Teeter told her Maple Lawn will open in October. That seems so far away!)

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

Touche Touchet Bakery in Columbia

The B More Sweet blog loves Touche Touchet Bakery. Seriously loves the Columbia bakery. Loves it with all her heart.

I note this because I have delayed for months a post about Touche Touchet. The bakery is off Rte 29 so close to my house, and I just thought that I was missing something. I visited after people commented about its absence on my post about bakeries in Howard County. I liked my cupcake. I liked my croissant. The pastries were pretty, but I just wasn't inspired enough to rave or sure enough of myself to write something lukewarm.

Now, I know that I was missing something. You should read all of B More Sweet's review, but this is the money quote:
[I]t was Touche Touchet's cupcakes that really won first place in my baker's heart. I had been suffering of late from a serious case of cupcake fatigue, where everything seemed too cutesy-pie and nothing tasted like anything other than a big cloud of cloying fluffiness. You know the kinds of cupcakes I'm talking about - you can buy them all over the place in Baltimore, I'm afraid, and I blame Sex and the City for that. It only took a step inside Touche Touchet for me to get the heck over my cupcake boycott. Here the cupcakes are ethereal, dense and beautiful, appropriately-sized, and not cloyingly sweet. Each cupcake is its own work of art, , and each is fun to eat. These are truly the cupcakes that all the other bakeries want to bake, and these are the cupcakes that grown adult people want to eat.
B More Sweet is a pretty, thoughtful blog by a former Howard County resident who both shows her own confections and comments about bakeries, mostly in Baltimore but sometimes into Catonsville. She knows her baking, so I took her opinion and went back to Touche Touchet last week. (B M S is also a lawyer, nicknamed her spouse in the blog, and denounced Facebook. This makes her very big at HowChow.)

Touche Touchet is a sweets bakery except for some savory croissants. I think that's why I missed the point. My cravings run salty so I'll plan my errands around the tastiest taco truck, but I have been jaded by desserts that were nothing but sugar and empty calories. With B M S's prodding, I paid attention at Touche Touchet, and I liked everything that I saw and tasted. The coffee cake is moist and slightly sweet. The coffee is delicious. The tarts are beautiful. And the cupcake was everything that B M S promised. I chose lemon drop. Moist cake. A dense lemon filling hidden inside. A hard frosting that was artistically swirled and added something more than the tooth-shocking sweet of a cheap dessert. They were head-and-shoulder better than the dinner party dessert that Mrs. HowChow had picked up a few weeks ago at one of Baltimore's cupcake specialists.

This should be a casual pilgrimage for anyone who wants to try the best in Howard County cupcakes, muffins, brownies and more. You can buy beautiful pastries to serve at home. You can stop for a snack at either the few indoor seats or the tables outdoors. (A few outdoor chairs look on the woods next door, but you can get the Columbia special -- seats where you can watch your car.) This would be a magical place to bring a child for an afternoon break of cupcakes and milk.

Check out my post about bakeries in Howard County. Touche Touchet does not bake bread like Bonaparte in Savage.

Touché Touchet Bakery and Pastry Shoppe
Atholton Shopping Center
10400 Shaker Drive
Columbia, MD 21046
410-99SWEET (410-997-9338)

NEAR: This is right off Rte 29 in Columbia. Trust me. You get off at the Seneca Drive / Shaker Drive exit (Exit 17). Go east and turn right immediately onto Shaker Drive. The Atholton Shopping Center is a few blocks down on the left. Shaker then continues down and hits Rte 32. You could come from that direction as well, although it's semi-residential so don't drive too fast.

Touche Touchet Bakery Pastry on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 1, 2009

Horchata at Lily's Mexican Market

If you explore Lily's Mexican Market, definitely spring $1.59 for the horchata soft drink that you can buy at the takeout counter in back.

The horchata is the lighter-colored soft drink running through one of the two "jetspray" machines across from the counter.  You pay for a cup, and you fill it yourself.  The horchata is a refreshing, mild drink.  It tastes smooth and lightly sweet, creamy but still refreshing.  The other drink is tamarind, a flavor that I have previously recommended in candy and other drinks although I haven't tried that specific drink yet. 

Wikipedia has an entire article that describes different drinks described by the same word.  I think Lily's version is the rice-based drink that is one of the three typical flavors of Mexcian aguas frescas.

If you haven't been to Lily's, you should definitely try Howard County's best Latin American market.  Click here for all the posts about Lily's -- including ones about chips, takeout tacos, fresh corn tortillas, tamales, and more.