Monday, August 31, 2009

Yogiberry At The Columbia Mall

Yogiberry has come to the Howard County mall, and it's ironic that I miss the modern design after teasing the Olney location for ripping off Pinkberry.

One of the first weekend's customers at the new Yogiberry at the Columbia Mall was my friend -- who we'll call RDAdoc. RDAdoc had been waiting months since first seeing a "coming soon" sign and discovering that one of the original Yogiberry stores was around the corner from her office in Rockville. On Sunday, she took her taste for frozen yogurt -- and her training as a nutritionist -- to the mall for a little treat:

I was thrilled to find out from HowChow the other day that Yogiberry finally opened. Today I went to the Columbia Mall and walked around the food court expecting Yogiberry to be there. When I didn’t find it in the food court I continued walking in hopes of finding it. I was quite surprised to discover that it was actually a small stand right outside the play area near JC Penny’s. I was a little disappointed because one of the things I really like about the Rockville store is the d├ęcor. The Columbia location doesn’t seem to be fully up and running yet. They had a sign saying “cash only temporarily” and also only had plain and berry flavors. They did have a good selection of toppings including delicious fresh fruit; however, they didn’t have mochi which comes highly recommended by HowChow. I had a cup of original yogurt with mango and yogurt and it was delicious!

For those of you like me who are interested in nutrition information, I wanted to bring something to your attention. If you just look at the calories it seems like they are pretty low (green tea= 70, berry and original=90, chocolate=100). However you need to pay attention to the serving size and servings per container. The serving size on the nutrition label is ½ a cup (equals 4 ounces) and there are 1.3 servings per container. Yogiberry offers three sizes- 4 oz, 8 oz and 12 oz. That means an 8 oz cup of chocolate yogurt contains 260 calories. Remember that is just for the yogurt and doesn’t include toppings. So even though Yogiberry offers healthy options the calories can still add up if you aren’t paying attention.

So Yogiberry has joined the BP Market in Maple Lawn. as the Howard County outposts of the tart yogurt trend. (Check out other comments about Yogiberry here.) I hope the Columbia Mall location eventually expands like its other stores to offer four flavors of yogurt and the full mix of 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. RDAdoc brought home cups for both me and Mrs. HowChow. The standard is a touch sour, but that makes it refreshing and unique. My true treat is mochi topping, the little cubes of rice sweet that you often find in Japanese desserts. I had talked that up to RDAdoc before her visit. They're lightly sweet, sort of an adult gummy bear. You can't get them at the BP Market either so I actually bought rice flour at the Laurel Grand Mart to try to make my own. I'll be the guy in line with a plastic bag of his own toppings.

Yogiberry - Columbia Mall
10300 Little Patuxent Parkway
Columbia, MD 21044

NEAR: This is in the Columbia Mall on the lower level. It is a stand outside J.C. Penney's.

Yogiberry - Columbia Mall on Urbanspoon

U.S. 1: The Foodie Frontier

U.S. 1 is a great street for food in Howard County because you can see the food from the street.

This is the fourth in a series of posts that are a tour of Howard County, designed with the idea that people new to the county can learn best by actually driving the roads. Click here for the explanation and other tours. Check out the links below to see my prior posts about restaurants and markets on the route, then take a weekend drive. This post is adapted and updated from an earlier "Food Frontier" post that was part of my "What I Learned" series.

One of the great barriers to finding great food in Howard County is finding the great food. Most shopping centers -- especially in Columbia -- hide from main roads. Big landlords like the mall want safe, chain tenants, and downtown Ellicott City is the only place with dense, small-building development where someone could risk renting to a start-up restaurant and where you could stumble from a place you know to a gem you don't.

U.S. 1 from Rte 100 down to Rte 32 offers an interesting frontier for people who

want to try new food. Rents must be cheaper. Ethnic and casual spots have congregated. Go for a single meal, or meander away an afternoon snacking and shopping through Elkridge and Jessup.
  1. Start on Rte 100 heading east. You could just drive from your home to Caezar's below, but the conceit of these "tours" is that new residents need to learn the roads. Rte 100 should be easy to find, and even a newby may know Rte 100 from its intersections with Rte 29, Snowden River Parkway, I-95 or U.S. 1.

  2. Exit onto U.S. 1 SOUTH.

  3. Turn LEFT / EAST at the light for Rte 103 / Meadowbridge Road and follow the curves for a few blocks to Caezar International Market and Restaurant. Columbia's best Middle Eastern market (formerly known as Sizar's) moved to a shopping center that you'll see on the LEFT and brought its spectacular array of breads, teas, spices, yogurts, frozen food, and more. I'll drive just for the pistachio nougat. They're offering a butcher, and they opened a Persian restaurant next door.  (Update:  Caezar closed.  If you want Turkish or Middle Eastern groceries, consider Sizar's Market or Pars Market in Columbia.)

  4. Return to U.S. 1 South.

  5. Turn WEST / RIGHT on Roosevelt Boulevard for barbeque at Smokeys & Uncle Grube's. I go for the pit beef, which tastes extra delicious on a nice day when I can eat in the tent outside.

  6. Return to U.S. 1 South. Turn WEST / RIGHT at the light for Business Parkway and pull into El Nayar. This barebones Mexican place offers breakfasts with eggs, tortillas, and beans and then lunches and dinners heavy on tacos, sopes and burritos.

  7. Return to U.S. 1.

  8. Look RIGHT and turn RIGHT into the shopping center for Sysco Discount Food Center and the weekend U.S. 1 flea market. Sysco sells large-sized products like Costco, party supplies (disposable plates, table clothes, catering trays, etc.), and kitchen supplies, including knives, huge bowls, stock pots, and other commercial items. The flea market has an array of Hispanic food vendors.

  9. Return to U.S. 1 and watch both side of the street for my favorite stops on U.S. 1.  You need to decide which tacos to sample.

  10. Normally, you'll find Pupuseria Lorenita's taco truck parked on the LEFT / EAST side a few blocks north of Rte 175. Its former host (Paco's Paint) closed in early 2009, and I have heard that it has parked a few blocks away at times. Great tacos. Stop for a snack. I love the grilled beef and the sausage. You get two tortillas with each, and I split the fillings to extend the meal in my car.
  11. [Update: But keep going south on U.S. 1 for the find of 2009 -- R&R Deli inside the Shell station at U.S. 1 and Rte 175.  If anything, they're better tacos.  Fresh ingredients.  Sparkling cleanliness.  A selection of different meats, along with fresh milkshakes and a full menu of sandwiches and breakfast.]

  12. Return to U.S. 1 South and turn LEFT on Rte 175. If you turned right, you would cross I-95 and reach Rte 108 where you could start the first tour up Rte 108. or just stop at Fatburger, the Perfect Pour or Trader Joe's.

  13. Turn RIGHT into the Columbia East shopping center. There is a Starbucks and a Rita's, but the real stars are MOM's Organic Market (formerly "My Organic Market") for vegetables, some cheeses, and packaged organic products, Fortune Star Buffet for endless Chinese food (with mixed reviews), and Pollo Fuego for Peruvian chicken.

  14. While you're there, press your nose against the window at Coco Butter's across from Pollo Fuego. It advertises chocolates and jazz. It's only open at night. There is a story there, but I can't figure it out.

  15. Also take a look at Accra Foods, a West African market on the side facing U.S. 1 near the Goodwill. Personally, I have never loved the vibe of this market, but I also don't know enough about West African food to take advantage of the offerings.

  16. Exit out the back of Columbia East past Pollo Fuego and turn LEFT on Assateague Drive.

  17. In a few blocks, Assateague deadends into the wholesale fish market where you can shop at Frank's Seafood Market. Whole fish, fillets and crabs, crabs, crabs. (You show your driver's license to the security guard, but there is no charge for retail customers.)

  18. Return to Assateague Drive and take it back to U.S. 1. Cross over U.S. 1 and pull into the parking lot for El Patio Market. The store is tiny, but it offers delicious takeout empanadas that they'll heat in the store or let you carry home. You can also pick up make-at-home products like empanada wrappers or sweets like spicy Super Mango lollipop or the peanut brittle.

  19. Return to U.S. 1 South.

  20. For one final stop, turn LEFT / EAST on Patuxent Range Road for the Ann's House of Nuts outlet. They have limited hours so make sure they're open, and I haven't been. Some people swear that it's a great place to buy nuts and dried fruit. Some people caution that the prices aren't always lower than retail. (UPDATE: Ann's appears to have moved to Columbia in November 2009.)

  21. At this point, you can call it a day.

  22. Or you can keep going south where you'll hit Rte 32 and then Savage and Laurel. They're part of the earlier "south county" tour that includes stops at Bonaparte Bread in Savage, and Apna Bazar, Aladdin Food Mart, and the Laurel Meat Market.
Please comment below if I missed anything. I have already revised several times to add places or correct errors. You can use a number (like "12 1/2") to put your suggestion in the right part of the tour.

Friday, August 28, 2009

New Maple Lawn Steakhouse Won't Be Jordan's

The new steakhouse planned for Maple Lawn may still open in November, but it won't include the owner of the now-closed Jordan's Steakhouse, according to the Howard County Times.

The Times reported yesterday that it received an email from Carlos Venegas, the owner of Ranazul tapas restaurant and one of the partners behind the steakhouse to replace Oz Chophouse. The email told the Times that Venegas still plans to open a steakhouse across from Ranazul in Fulton. But he says the venture will not include Jordan Naftal and has a working name of "Carlos' Steakhouse."

Thanks to Paul for the tip. (Update: Elizabeth Large posted about this as well.)

Yogiberry Opened At Columbia Mall

Yogiberry has apparently opened at the Columbia Mall!

On two trips this week, we couldn't even find where the store will go. So I posted this morning that Yogiberry hadn't opened. Of course, Yogiberry opened.

At lunch time, people started posting comments like "I'm at the mall. It's opening!" Check out the play-by-play below. Paul provides an instant review. It sounds like Yogiberry is a stand in the middle of mall near J.C. Penney. Thanks for the updates! (Click here for more thoughts and a photo of the Yogiberry.)

Yogiberry joins the Five Guys, which is slinging burgers in the Columbia Mall's food court. And Wendy wrote about the new Ruby Thai Kitchen in the food court next to Auntie Anne's Pretzel's:
Had the eggplant tofu, the Bang, Bang Shrimp and the Pad Thai noodles. The shrimp lived up to its name (bang, bang or hot, hot). You can order 3, 2, or 1 entree(s) with rice or noodles for varying prices. My friend ordered the mango chicken, which she wanted after tasting the free sample (they will let you taste a dish if you ask). Choose the Pad Thai noodles if you like spicy, the fried rice if you don't. They have many chicken dishes, a couple beef dishes, the tofu dish previously mentioned, some veggie choices, the shrimp dish I already mentioned, and some cheese wontons and other appetizers. The eggplant tofu cannot be found at any of the other food court restaurants, and never having seen or tasted it before, I had to try it. The tofu didn't disappoint or thrill, but my curiousity was satisfied.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Link: Cupcake RN Blog

HowChow links to Howard County food blogs -- even if they don't admit to being from Howard County.

Check out the Cupcake RN blog where Katie blogs about restaurants and cooking. Katie's profile says she lives in Baltimore, but she was writing about Howard County restaurants during restaurant week. Anyone who has a first date at Sushi Sono must secretly be living the HoCo life. ;-)

(Update: Oh, dear. She's from Baltimore. Just comes out to Howard County for the food -- and a boy!)

Sidamo: Still No Date, But Ambitious

The new Sidamo Coffee & Tea in Maple Lawn still doesn't have an official opening date -- in part because Sidamo is going to roast coffee on site, and the roaster hasn't been delivered.

The French Market coffee shop in Ellicott City got accolates on Tales of Two Cities blog earlier this week when Wordbones named it his new favorite coffee shop.

I need to have a coffee tour one weekend this fall. Try Sidamo, the French Market, Bean Hollow, Lakeside, Java Grande and all the rest (including the Ethiopian coffee ceremony at Cafe Oromia in Burtonsville as suggested below by Momomom). I stopped by Sidamo's tasting on Saturday, and the coffee was delicious.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Link: Baltimore Beer Week on BBG

October 8-18 will be "Baltimore Beer Week," and you can track the special events by following the Baltimore Beer Guy blog's posts on the subject.

The BBG is the best resource for checking out beer in Howard County. He posts about craft beers being offered at local pales. You should also read Alex at the Beer in Baltimore blog, who has had a hand in organizing and who links to a Web site with all the events.

Alex says that the real credit for the Baltimore Beer Week:
"goes to the indefatigable Joe Gold and many other members of the BBW committee, including--in no particular order--Dominic Cantalupo, Hugh Sisson of Clipper City, Rob Kasper of the Baltimore Sun, Casey Hard of Max's, Gene Myers, Les White of the Free State Homebrewers Guild, Jim McGinty, Mick Kapp, Volker Stewart of Brewers Art, Mike McDonald of Red Brick Station, and many others, most especially the sponsors that have put up the money necessary to properly promote this event, as well as the many brewers and breweries that are stepping up to promote their products and meet their fans and consumers."
They have already lined up two Howard County locations. There must be more local beer spots that want to join!

(This post was heavily revised because I completely blew the source of the Baltimore Beer Week in my initial post. Alex stepped in with what we like to call "true information" in the comments. There is more on the Sun's Midnight Sun blog.)

Kloby's Is Getting A Bar

Kloby's Smokehouse seems to be thriving in the shopping center at Rte 29 and Johns Hopkins Road.

It's my favorite ribs around, although this is a family split here on whether ribs' first duty is tenderness or flavor. Kloby's first expanded next door with a full seating area. Now, they're building a bar. Mrs. HowChow picked up BBQ chicken last week for our friends who just had a baby, and she saw the new construction.

This is officially in Laurel, but it's really stuck between Columbia and the growing Fulton/Maple Lawn area. It's in a shopping center with Mexican at La Palapa Too near the Applied Physics Lab.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sushi in Howard County: Getting Beyond My Old Standards

Sushi should be all about fresh, but I find myself returning to old places because they both work for me.

Mrs. HowChow discovered Sushi King from a friend when she moved to Howard County. We ate the unique crazy rolls on an early date, and it is still our favorite splurge after a harsh day at work. "Crispy." "Grilled." "Pretty in Red." "Eastern Shore." Each one is a treat, although I can't make a trip without splurging on the "Samurai" (oooo, fried shrimp inside) and without thinking about who wants to double-date so that I can split the BBQ squid that Mrs. HowChow will not wrap her tentacles around.

But I keep thinking about the sushi places that I haven't visited and the rolls that I haven't nibbled.

I was thinking this last week during dinner at Sushi Sono, our second standard. We had the perfect table overlooking the lake at sunset, and we devoured a "Bridal Roll," a "Garden Something Roll," and a few others. Before living here, I tended to order sashimi or sushi pieces. Yet Sushi Sono and Sushi King have pulled off interesting -- and different -- combinations of fish, wrappers, sauces, and crunch, so I focused on the dramatic rolls. It's a rare treat. Often on a night when I'm tired and want guaranteed fun. So, considering sushi prices, it is hard not to just buy my favorites and enjoy a night with my wife at one of our usual spots.

But I pledge to try new. You need to help steer me right -- the right new restaurant and the right rolls or fish to order.

What is on my list?
  • Hanamura in Columbia gets rave reviews. Chris emailed me in January about the "Kevin Roll" and the opportunity to get great fish at a price a step below Sushi King. (Update: I like Hanamura!)
  • Nichi Bei Kei in Columbia gets mixed reviews on Yelp, and there is some mention of a sushi chef leaving in the posts from early 2009.
  • Katana Sushi started in Clarksville and opened a new location in Elkridge this year.
  • Bethany Seafood Restaurant in Ellicott City serves sushi on top of its Korean menu. Some of those Korean places on Rte 40 must be noteworthy.
  • Niko Japanese in the Normany Shopping Center also on Rte 40 has a lunch buffet that nuttyturnips says is his favorite.
(Update: Check out all the comments below along with Hal's new comment on another post. Great suggestions about many of these places and more.) If you are going to try sushi check out my prior posts about Japanese food and the comments -- like Kevin on aji at Sushi Sono.

If you want to dive deep on how people pick sushi places, check out Sallet J, Rushworth FS, "Should I stay or should I go: genetic bases for uncertainty-driven exploration," Nature Neuroscience. 2009 Aug.; 963-65. If you don't have a subscription at home, Richard Gorelick is chatting up technical neuroscience articles in the Sun's restaurant reviews.

If you're interested in cooking Japanese food, check out my review of Kimiko Barber's cookbooks. They're great guides to the Japanese aisle of our local Asian grocery stores.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sun To Review Ranazul on Sunday

This Sunday, Elizabeth Large will review Ranazul, the tapas restaurant that is the last original kitchen in the Maple Lawn development in Fulton.

The Sun is truly the best voice on restaurants in Howard County. Large came out in June to review Bistro Blanc.

Rte 40: The Beef Highway

Rte 40 is the "Beef Highway," running from Korea to the pit with a little bread and ice cream to sample along the way.

This is the third in a series of posts that are a tour of Howard County, designed with the idea that people new to the county can learn best by actually driving the roads. Click here for the explanation and other tours. Check out the links below to see my prior posts about restaurants and markets on the route, then take a weekend drive.

This is too much beef to stay in one county. Stores and restaurants
unfettered by the Columbia code of hiding village centers in obscurity. Start in the northern part of Ellicott City, then drive east into Baltimore County looking left and right at the sights along the way. It's worth it. Start on an empty stomach if you want to kick off with a Korean sampler. And save room for the end if you'll want to try pit beef. Along the way are great sweets and shopping. Let's go.
  1. Start in the parking lot of the Bethany 40 Shopping Center. This is Rte 40 and Pine Orchard Lane about 2.5 miles west of Rte 29. Bethany 40 is a little center dominated by Korean businesses. It's not the Eden Center, but it is a place to start if you want to try some Korean items.
  2. First, check out the two Korean restaurants: Mirocjo on the second floor overlooking the parking lot and Bethany Seafood Restaurant that backs on the parking lot and actually faces the far side of the building to the east. They're both good, both options for kalbi or bulgogi. Mirocjo was my first find, but Bethany is my current infatuation because the dolset bim bop was delicious and the seafood is calling my name.
  3. Then, check out the Yetnal Asian Food Service House on the first floor under Mirocjo. I haven't figured it out entirely. Looks like a Korean caterer or takeout joint. I have bought delicious beef soup, but some sushi and pickles that weren't great.
  4. Drive east on Rte 40.
  5. Look LEFT for the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center. There is a Bagel Bin in there.
  6. Look RIGHT for Soft Stuff -- a local institution for soft serve ice cream. Last winter, there was talk about development on that site, but they'll keep Soft Serve as a tenant.
  7. Turn RIGHT on Plum Tree Drive and look for the Crab Shanty. This is the first of several Rte 40 joints that I haven't visited yet, but get good comments. Across the street is Pig Pickers, which people have said has BBQ worth the visit. Again, I haven't been.
  8. Return to Rte 40 eastbound, then look RIGHT for Canopy -- a local favorite for pit beef that I overlooked and which Tom Comeau talks up below.
  9. Drive through the intersection with Chatham Road. Look RIGHT for a Starbucks. Turn in and check out The Breadery down the row -- great rolls and lots of breads.
  10. Turn LEFT at the sign for Chatham Station shopping center, then an immediate LEFT into the area with a cigar store, a tire store and the Asian Court restaurant. This is Howard County's dim sum option -- the boisterous fun of rolling carts on the weekend and a dim sum menu at lunch during the week. When you leave, you're forced to turn WEST on Rte 40, so you need to U-turn at the next light.
  11. Pass by Asian Court again. Now there are a three more places that I haven't tried yet.
  12. First, turn LEFT at the traffic light for St. Johns Lane. Mi Casa is on the right. That's a Mexican place that gets good talk but (again) I haven't tried yet.
  13. Second, U-turn and go SOUTH on St. Johns across Rte 40 and go down to Rte 144. Turn LEFT on Rte 144, and look for Oakey's Grill. That's a new pit beef place. I'm going to drive you past my favorite later, but you might taste-test Oakeys as well. It is on my list to try.
  14. Return to Rte 40 eastbound.
  15. As you drive along, look LEFT across the divided highway. Java Grande is in the last shopping center before you hit Rte 40. It's the fourth places on my list to visit. You would need to cross under Rte 29 and U-turn to come back to Java Grande.
  16. Cross under Rte 29 on Rte 40. Then, turn right into the Lotte shopping center on the other side.
  17. Now you're in my part of town. Get out of the car.
  18. Check out the Lotte supermarket. I have talked up its takeout dinner options (marinated beef, Korean panchan), and it has the Asian produce, seafood and other attractions of the Korean supermarkets. Buy what you want -- although know there have been health code violations. The truth is that we're heading to the H Mart, and I think the H Mart is just a better place.
  19. Walk down the same side as Lotte. At the end of the row is Shin Chon Garden, the classiest Korean restaurant around. Great food. Great opportunity to grill your own meats if that is your fun. This is one of my favorite restaurants.
  20. Now, walk across the parking lot and check out La Boulangarie Bakery and Thai Aroma. You need to pick up a snack at La Boulangarie -- a banana cake, steamed sweets, or one of the red bean desserts. You should get a menu at Thai Aroma, which has some real partisans in the dispute for the "best Thai" crown.
  21. Return to Rte 40 eastbound. You do that by driving out to the access road behind the bakery and Thai Aroma. Turn left, then left when that ends at Ridge Road. Then right on Rte 40. (This access road lets drivers from northbound Rte 29 drive almost straight into the Lotte parking lot by taking the Rte 40 East exit ramp and curving left where the ramp splits.)
  22. Turn LEFT at the light for the Normandy Shopping Center. Unfortunately, the supermarket there closed recently. But you should check out the Nora Cafe & Bakery. Also, I have people talk up the brunch at Kelsey's Restaurant -- especially the jazz musicians who play on Sundays.
  23. Return to Rte 40 eastbound. You'll drive more than three miles through a park and then into Catonsville. You'll pass car dealers, then re-enter a commercial zone.
  24. Look LEFT across Rte 40 for Patel Brothers. It's an Indian grocery, which gets good reviews but which seems duplicative if you go to one of Howard County's Indian markets.
  25. Again, watch for a Starbucks on the RIGHT and turn there into the parking lot of the H Mart. Get out of your car again
  26. The H Mart is my favorite place for food -- spectacular for vegetables, fruits, fish, Mexican food and more. There is a little takeout restaurant near the produce. (Again, great beef soup dish!) There is a bakery in the front. I love this place and posted about 10 easy things to grab from the shelves.
  27. Next to the H Mart is "Hoonari" foodcourt. I hear there is a Mango Berry for sour yogurt. There is also an all-you-can-eat sushi and a Korean counter-style restaurant. I liked the restaurant when it was called "Besoto," but lots has been changing there. In June 2009, Patricia raved about the sushi buffet. On my last visit, there was a store on the lower level selling a variety of items, including rice cookers and other kitchen items. I would love to hear more if you have checked this out recently.
  28. Down the shopping center near Starbucks is Golden Krust, a Jamaican takeout. If you still have any room, try a pattie.
  29. Get back in your car and exit onto Rolling Road. That is the road that runs parallel to the H Mart and intersects with Rte 40 at the traffic light. Turn LEFT on Rolling Road and cross over Rte 40. There is the Double T diner and a pit beef place at that intersection. corner. They're probably fine, but you're going to the Pioneer.
  30. Go about 1.5 miles north on Rolling Road. Look for Pioneer Pit Beef on the LEFT. It's a shack next to Rte 70 with "PIT BEEF" on the roof. You turn LEFT on Johnnycake Road at the light before Pioneer, then RIGHT into the parking lot. This is my favorite pit beef -- meat, horseradish, then out to eat in my car.
Please comment below if I missed anything. (Update: Definitely read the comments because there are great ideas there that I'll try to update later.) There are a dozen places on Rte 40 on my list to try, including several Korean places beyond the joints like Crab Shanty and Pig Pickers. I actually created a bunch of numbered paragraphs so I have space to amend later. I will try to revise to add places or correct errors. You can use a number (like "15 1/2") to put your suggestion in the right part of the tour.

I also have hopes for a future series of posts about Catonsville because it is full of cool places that I haven't tried yet. You can check it out by going south on Rolling Road past the H Mart, then turning LEFT on Rte 144 when Rolling Road ends. You'll go through Catonsville. Look for the Catonsville Gourmet and for Sugarbakers, which is loved by Bmoresweet. If you want mid-century furniture check out the Home Anthology vintage shop.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sidamo Coffee Tasting on Saturday

There are signs in Maple Lawn that say the new Sidamo Coffee & Tea will host a "taste our coffee" event at 4 pm Saturday.

Sidamo is renovating the former Daily Grind off Rte 216 in Fulton. I'm not sure if this means they'll open for regular business Saturday or just that they're offering a sneak peak. The store been repainted, and it looked cleaned up and ready to be filled with tables and chairs when I rolled by this morning. The original Sidamo is near Capitol Hill in Washington.

Sonoma's Bar & Grill -- A Reader Review

Sonoma's Bar & Grille is one of the many places that I haven't had a chance to visit, but it's now part of HowChow thanks to a reader named Wendy.

Sonoma's is one of the village center joints that does an American menu and lively night life. In other words . . . that means it is a neighborhood bar. Wendy is a vegetarian who eats fish. In other words . . . actually I don't know what means. This is Wendy's review of Sonoma's -- slightly edited from her two emails:
I ate with a friend for the first time at Sonoma's in [the Owen Brown] Village Center in Columbia and it was very good. They have TVs all around the inside and some nights they have entertainment (a DJ or a band). What's fun is they also have trivia which we were trying to answer while we waited for our food. I had a Rum Runner to drink, which was delicious and refreshing with a combination of liquors and fresh fruit juice. My friend had a Creamsicle, which wasn't creamy, but had vanilla vodka, O. J. and some other ingredients that made it a hit.
Being vegetarian, I ordered the fish taco appetizer, which I have ordered at many places, many times, and usually wondered why I ordered it, because it wasn't good. I questioned the waiter about what kind of fish and how did they cook it and he said it was pan-seared tilapia (not fried). They put some fresh avocado slices on the tacos and served it with salsa and sour cream on the side. They were the best fish tacos I ever had. My friend had a shrimp salad on lettuce and chose coleslaw as a side. She liked hers, but I loved mine. We both really liked the dessert we split: apple pie a la mode with whipped cream. The apple pie didn't have a crust, it just kinda melted in your mouth and the ice cream/whipped cream made an excellent complement to the fresh, slightly tart apples.
Sonoma's has soups, salads, pasta, burgers, seafood (really good crabcakes according to my co-worker who also loved the fish tacos), unusual appetizers like Portobello Caprese (grilled portobello topped with diced fresh mozzarella and tomatoes and served with garlic wedges) and Tomatoes Parmesan (breaded, fried crispy and topped with marinara and provolone).
They also have tables outside and "Big Kids" entrees which are for "adults wanting smaller portions" -- $5 or $6 for items like grilled cheese with fries, linguini and meatballs with vegetable, chicken tenders with fries. They have 17 HD TVs, 1/2 price happy hour, and a special small plates menu. They also have trivia (at least one night for cash and prizes) and music some nights. It's a one of a kind place that I hope can survive the bad economy.

Thanks Wendy!

(Update: Wendy and I misplaced Sonoma's. It is in the Owen Brown Village Center, not Oakland Mills.)

Sonoma's Bar & Grille
7284 Cradlerock Way
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: This is in the Owen Brown village center just off the piece of Brokenland Parkway between Rte 29 and Rte 32. Turn east on Cradlerock from Brokenland Parkway. That is left if you're coming from Rte 29 and right if you're coming from Rte 32.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Don't Have To Wade Thru Crystals"

On a prior post about mozzarella cheese at MOM's Organic Market -- formerly My Organic Market, there is an anonymous comment too witty to wait for the next wrap-up. After listing several specific products that the writer likes at MOM's, she [?] gives a great summation of MOM's -
There are a million other things, but mostly I love that I see something new and eco every time I'm there, but I don't have to wade thru crystals and kokopelli ornaments and things like that, which I might even buy but def don't need!
Thanks for all the comments. I have learned a ton, and I really appreciate them all. (Except you people trying to post spam links.)

Meat As A Condiment

The Afghan restaurants in Howard County shout "kabob" in their name, but their appetizers offer some of the most interesting flavor around.

I love eating at Maiwand Kabob's various locations or Mimi's Kabob in Clarksville. The kabobs are great. But the real draw to me are the appetizers, which I tend to use like mezze by ordering up a single kabob and a couple small dishes like aushak, bowlawni, samosas or pumpkin. Perfect light lunch with my in-laws when we were coming from Larriland and had reservations that night for Woodberry Kitchen.

That is where you get meat as a condiment. Sweet pumpkin baked until tender, then topped with ground beef. Raviolis filled with scallions and sauced with yogurt, then topped with ground beef. Those are delicious little dishes topped with ground beef. I love a good burger, but I have to admit that sharing an aushak gives me all the flavor of a meaty burger with probably half of everything that I don't need in my body -- the cholesterol, the fat, etc. Where else can get this "meat as a condiment" experience?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Comments About Pizza, Ice Cream, Beer and A Mixed Bag At Cha Ya Cafe

For the first time last week, I actually met people who had read the blog. (Hi Becky and Paul!) That was fun, and the comments make me pleased to see that HowChow has led some people to interesting food. Thanks for the heads up on openings and closings. Super thanks for the little reviews, including the Sonoma review that I'm going to post separately. I love all the comments -- long or short. This is a sampler of recent ones:
  • And finally, Marja emailed me about Cha Ya Cafe. This is the Thai/sushi place on McGaw Road near the Greene Turtle and India Delight:
"Went to Cha Ya Sushi & Thai last night for the first time. The service was very friendly but the food wasn't great. Not terrible, but not great.

We ordered the teriyaki chicken dinner, which was very good. Two chicken breasts seasoned and grilled with a light teriyaki sauce. Served on top of sauteed bean sprouts and onions with steamed carrots and broccoli. It came with rice and the option between miso soup and a salad. We opted for the salad and wondered if we shouldn't have gotten the miso. The vegetable were fresh, but the dressing was not good and was an odd mustard yellow.

We had the Yum Woonsen as well and it was very good, packing a tingling bit of spice along with the mouth puckering lime taste.

We also ordered the Masaman Curry. It was not good, very thin with a not so great flavor, it was almost bland. The waitress let us exchange it for the Penang Curry. It wasn't that great either. The curry itself had good flavor and I liked the addition of the green beans, but it was very soupy and thin.

Haven't tried the sushi side yet and not sure I would want to at this point.

They do have two tables set up outside. It was nice to sit out there and people watch a bit."

Cha Ya Cafe
8874 McGaw Rd, Suite G
Columbia, MD 21045

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Jordan's Steakhouse: What's Up?

Jordan's Steakhouse in Ellicott City was closed Monday night, and it's unclear whether this is a short-term dispute or the end of the steakhouse's Main Street location.

The closing was a surprise to people like HowICook, who commented that he went for dinner Monday night and found the doors locked:
What's going on at Jordan's in Ellicott City? I made reservations on open table for 6:30 PM today for a special birthday dinner. We arrived and the doors were locked with a couple of signs saying 'No trespassing... locked by the order of the landlord...'. There was no sign of any life. I tried the phone # and no answer. Maybe, it's just a utility problem.
On Tuesday, Wordbones reported on Tales of Two Cities that Jordan's and its landlord are in a rent dispute:
Jordan [Naftel] told me he is attempting to reach some sort of an accommodation that will allow the upscale Main Street steakhouse to reopen but until then he says he is busy trying to get the Maple Lawn location ready for a November opening.
(Update: Check out the links in the comments below. Based on those stories, it sounds like Jordan's had a long term issue with the landlord. Sounds like Naftel was dealing with that even while he announcing a new location in the former Oz Chophouse at Maple Lawn. That might be the start of a local chain, or it might be a way for Naftel to decamp from Ellicott City for a new restaurant.)

Le Gourmet closing in Columbia Mall

Le Gourmet, the kitchen and gourmet store on the Nordstroms end of the Columbia Mall, is closing this month, according to an email from Wendy.

Wendy says there was a 20% sale when she visited, but it could be higher by now. One of the employees told her that they're planning to close the Columbia Mall location by the end of September, but the products will still be available on line.

I figured the new Williams Sonoma had to hurt Le Gourmet, and the mall has been aggressively changing tenants from the Williams Sonoma to the new Five Guys, imminent Yogiberry, and other food options. Says Wendy:
For the first 6 years I've lived in Columbia, everything in the mall stayed the same and within the last 2 years, the changes are happening so fast it's hard to keep up with them. The good news is, businesses go out, but new businesses come in, and they come in fairly quickly.

Ethiopian Breakfast in Burtonsville

You don't have to settle for diner bacons and eggs if you're looking for something more exotic for breakfast.

Eggspectation makes a great breakfast in Ellicott City, but Cafe Oromia in Burtonsville offers Ethiopian options if you run down Rte 29. Cafe Oromia has gradually expanded its Ethiopian menu into a nice, small cafe. They started as a coffee shop, and they still offer a basic breakfast menu with baked goods and a standard "fried eggs and bacon" option (as eaten by Momomom's "won't eat most interesting food" husband).

(Update: Cafe Oromia changed its name to Soretti's Ethiopian.  By 2012, they had stopped doing breakfast, but they do great lunch and dinner.  Check here for the Soretti's posts.)

But there are several Ethiopian alternatives in the morning as well. Start with scrambled eggs with spices and vegetables that are just a Oromia variation on an American breakfast. Go one step farther for Ethiopian wheat grits. Or try a truly traditional breakfast of ful -- the beans and condiments eaten when the sun comes up from the Middle East through Egypt into Africa. I thought the ful was delicious. Warm, creamy and full of flavor from the beans and from the onions, tomatoes and spicy peppers that I stirred around. The beans have the heartiness of oatmeal, but the savory flavors that I prefer even at breakfast.

Cafe Oromia is a really casual place with good coffee. Great if you're stopping quick on the way to do errands or if you're pausing to read the newspaper in peace. (And you can also still order beignets. They're not on the printed menu, but they're whip them up, according to Momomom.)

The stretch of Rte 198 west of Rte 29 offers a few interesting options beyond Cafe Oromia, including Cuban at Cuba de Ayer, Afghan at a branch of Maiwand Kabob, and homemade ice cream at Seibel's.

Cafe Oromia (now Soretti's Ethiopian Cuisine)
15510 Old Columbia Pike
Burtonsville, MD 20866

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

Monday, August 17, 2009

South County: Bacon, Baking and Braking

Southern Howard County runs from almost-country to almost-town, and the food options along those roads are a nice supplement if you have limited yourself to Columbia.

This is the second in a series of posts that are a tour of Howard County, designed with the idea that people new to the county can learn best by actually driving the roads. Click here for the explanation and other tours. Check out the links below to see my prior posts about restaurants and markets on the route, then take a weekend drive.

Clarksville is suburbs masquerading as countryside. Laurel is suburbs absorbing an established town. The swath south of Rte 32 may not be common driving for people from Columbia, but there are some remnants of life of before the suburbs and some tastes of ethnic food that haven't flourished yet in Howard County. It's also closer than you think. This tour tries to link these sights to places that you probably already know in Columbia or Ellkridge.

Start at the Roots in Clarksville that I mentioned in the prior tour down Rte 108. You'll loop east on Rte 216 and then back along Gorman Road and some other locals roads.
  1. Start at the Roots organic grocery store on Rte 108 north of Rte 32. This shopping center has this nice organic market and a classy vegetarian restaurant Great Sage. They're both worth checking out -- along with the gift shop, the pet store, and the rock company across the parking lot if you're visiting on a weekday.
  2. Turn RIGHT on Rte 108 and drive south.
  3. After you pass over Rte 32, turn right on Ten Oaks Road. After one block, look for Katana Sushi on the right.
  4. Return to Rte 108 South.
  5. Look LEFT for Arties in its white stand-alone building and Mimi's Kabob in a little shopping center. You reach Mimi's by turning LEFT at the traffic light, then LEFT again into the parking lot. Arty's is great for a summer ice cream. Mimi's offers Afghan food similar to Maiwand Kabob and pizza.
  6. Return to Rte 108 South.
  7. Watch for the traffic light at Rte 216. In the shops on the near right corner is Hidden Treasure, a casual cafe with sandwiches, salads and Moorenko's ice cream.
  8. On the far right corner is Boarman's -- a country groceries that sells great house-made sausage and crab cakes. Stop for a few slices of bacon or a crab cake to bake tonight. If you were to keep going south, you would run into Olney.
  9. Turn LEFT on Rte 216. You'll go a little less than three miles past new homes, old farms, churches and a reform synagogue Temple Isaiah. You'll pass through the Fulton crossroads where you'll see a Ledo Pizza, the post office and a gas station. The farm across from the post office is the Maple Lawn turkey farm. (Update: Check out HowICook's comment about the Heyer's orchard stand in Highland. It sounds spectacular.)
  10. After the farm and then Reservoir High School, look LEFT for the Harris Teeter set to open in October 2009 in the Maple Lawn development. Over the next few miles, you'll go through several new traffic circles.
  11. Look LEFT again for the main Maple Lawn commercial area. TURN ONTO Maple Lawn Boulevard from the traffic circle on Rte 216.
  12. On the left are Pizza Fresca and a really busy bar Looney's and a really friendly liquor store i.m. Wines. A new Sidamo Coffee is slated to open next to i.m. Wines very soon. You reach them by turning LEFT after Looney's and circling around behind the stores.
  13. Circle back to Maple Lawn Boulevard and cross the boulevard towards the BP gas station on the other side. On the LEFT, you'll see Ranazul for tapas. On the RIGHT, you'll see the former home of Oz Chophouse, which is slated to become a new steakhouse by the owners of Ranazul and Jordan's Steakhouse in Ellicott City. But you should also check out the BP's market, which sells sandwiches and offers the trendy sour frozen yogurt with fresh fruit.
  14. Return to Rte 216 East. Go through the traffic circle with a Bloom.
  15. Turn RIGHT at the traffic light at Crest Road, then RIGHT in about a block when that ends at Scaggsville Road. Pepperjacks Deli will be on the left, and you can stop for good sandwiches or soft serve ice cream.
  16. Return to Rte 216 East. Go over I-95. Cross into PG County.
  17. Turn LEFT at the traffic light for Main Street. Now you're driving through Main Street Laurel.
  18. Look LEFT for the Laurel Meat Market with giant cows outside. Stop for a few slices of peppered bacon. Check out the steaks, the house-made sausage, and the shrimp that they say is normally wild-caught in the United States. Look RIGHT for the Aladdin Food Mart for Middle Eastern groceries. This is as urban as you'll get near Howard County, and you can take the stop-and-go traffic to explore south on U.S. 1 into Laurel because you'll find a Latin supermarket, Jamaican restaurants, Five Guys hamburgers, and more. That's just a bit too much for a single tour.
  19. Cross over the southbound lanes of U.S. 1. At the next light, you can see the Laurel MARC station and should turn LEFT onto the northbound lanes of U.S. 1.
  20. Look LEFT for the sign for Apna Bazar. The Indian grocery is in a shopping center perpendicular to U.S. 1, but the sign is visible a few blocks up on the left.
  21. Look LEFT for Pupuceria Y Taqueria Los Pinos taco truck in the Roll Rite Tires parking lot at Whiskey Barrel Road. (I have always felt comfortable at the taco truck. Just know that that intersection seems to be the police's favorite spot for prostitution stings (1, 2).) Keep going north on U.S. 1 past the Car Max. If you keep going north on U.S. 1, but that is a separate tour through Savage and Elkridge.
  22. Turn LEFT at the traffic light at Gorman Road. You're turning west on Gorman. There is a grocery store and shopping center on the left at the intersection.
  23. Turn RIGHT on Foundry Street. You'll see a cool old bridge there, and the Savage Mill shops are on the left. Turn LEFT into the Savage Mill parking lot. Stop for bread or a French pastry at the Bonaparte Bread bakery. You can also check out the other shops, including the Rams Head Tavern, Bonaparte's lunchtime restaurant (if it re-opens), and stores that sell antiques, pottery, used books, games, and more.
  24. Return to westbound Gorman Road.
  25. Look LEFT for the Savage library. Great place to get cookbooks. After you cross over I-95, watch for the intersection when Gorman Road turns right. Literally. You need to turn right because the "straight ahead" becomes Skylark Boulevard. After it turns, Gorman winds through farm fields and past a horse farm.
  26. Look LEFT where Gorman curves right for the sign for Gorman Produce Farm. They offer a year-long CSA program, but they also sell vegetables.
  27. As you approach the traffic circle at Rte 29, look for Old Columbia Road on the right. That actually connects to Guilford Road and King's Contrivance Village Center with its Harris Teeter and Rita's.
  28. As you cross over Rte 29, the road changes name to Johns Hopkins Road. On the far side of Rte 29, look RIGHT for a shopping center with several nice eating choices: Mexican at La Palapa Too, ribs and BBQ at Kloby's, and Japanese hibachi at Ginza of Tokyo.
  29. Across from that shopping center is Mrs. HowChow's favorite Chik-fil-A.
  30. Turn RIGHT at the traffic light after the JHU Applied Physics Lab. You're turning onto northbound Sanner Road. If you had turned left, that would have been Maple Lawn Boulevard, which connects you back to Ranazul, Looney's and other tenants in Maple Lawn's commercial area.
  31. You'll drive along the JHU Applied Physics Lab campus, then you'll drop down a hill and come back up to an intersection with Rte 32. Turn LEFT onto the entrance ramp for Rte 32 West. If you had continued north, Sanner would change name to Cedar Lane. That takes you into the heart of Columbia and past Mad City Coffee. Feel free to head that way.
  32. Take a RIGHT EXIT onto Rte 108 northbound. Now, you're back at the Roots in Clarksville. The End
Please comment below if I missed anything. I have already revised several times to add places or correct errors. You can use a number (like "15 1/2") to put your suggestion in the right part of the tour.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

MOM's Organic Market -- New Name

My Organic Market in Jessup is changing its name to MOM's Organic Market. They have always used the abbreviation MOM's, and the short version beat out the old name. I'll have to overlook the gender issues since I'm the shopper in this house!

Click here for all the MOM's posts. MOM's is a key place for organic shopping in Howard County, and that stretch of U.S. 1 is really a great place to explore for food.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Link: La Palapa on Food & Wine Blog

Greg B reviewed La Palapa in Ellicott City on the Food & Wine Blog. He loved the chile rellenos and gorged himself. But the other dishes were just okay, and it wouldn't be the first Mexican restaurant on his list.

My La Palapa is "La Palapa Too" off Johns Hopkins Road. If you go, try the ceviche appetizer if it is available.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Second Five Guys In Howard County

A second Five Guys is coming to Howard County -- this time to serve burgers and fries on Dobbin Road in Columbia where the party store closed recently, as first noted by MegH.

The property owner pulled permit B09001673 in July, as noted below by Lotsabogeys. The party store had a big space, and Brendela wrote below that one of the Party, Party, Party cashiers told her that the landlord wanted to split the space in two.

The Columbia Mall Five Guys just opened in July. This second location seems to serve a very different area. It will also be close enough to Mango Grove to create some interesting options for a "vegetarian Indian and then a burger" adventures.

Hidden Treasure Cafe in Highland

If pigs could fly, then I wouldn't have been surprised to enjoy "BBQ pork wings" at the Hidden Treasure Cafe in Highland.

The casual counter joint opened in June 2009, and they're serving a small but interesting menu at the intersection of Rte 216 and Rte 108. This is the intersection of Boarman's crab cakes and sausage. Hidden Treasure adds sandwiches, salads, and sweets served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. This is an assertive kitchen that wants to serve you fish tacos, salads with cranberries and bleu cheese, or a Tuscan wrap with chicken, spinach, and a parmesan pesto aioli.

Hidden Treasure also serves the "BBQ pork wings." The $7.25 order comes with a cole slaw sitting next to three sauce-slathered chunks of meat. They actually look like drumsticks -- a little bone sticking out of a chunk of meat. It's tender pork, basically boneless because the bone falls out, with most of the flavor from the sauce. A touch of vinegar. A touch of sweet. I had to talk to the chef, who was having his lunch while I ate my "wings." The chef said it's a cut like
pork loin with a piece of rib bone. I saw other Web sites (1, 2) that say it comes from the lower leg. Either way, it's worth a visit -- even if you're driving from Clarksville, Fulton or the Applied Physics Lab.

The Highland cafe fits into the "Maiwand Kabob" style -- classy design, counter ordering, and some seats to enjoy your meal. They serve ice cream and a bunch of "penny candies" that they have actually turned into decorations in glass jars on the counter. Very smart look. They even have some outdoor seating with my favorite parking lot view. I'm going back for the cuban panini and the fish tacos. I'll also check out the ice cream and especially the shakes. They're open for dinner, so I might wander down for a treat one evening with Mrs. HowChow.

(Update: emkenton comments below that Hidden Treasure serves Moorenko's ice cream. That is high end, so the shakes must be dynamite.)

Hidden Treasure Cafe
13380 Clarksville Pike (Rte 108)
Highland, MD 2077

NEAR: This is at the intersection of Rte 108 and Rte 216. There is a modern development with a Subway and other stores. Hidden Treasure is next to the Subway. It's a really easy drive from Clarksville or from Fulton. (Three miles west of Maple Lawn.)

Hidden Treasure Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hunan Legend: The Not-So-Secret Menu

Some of my best fun with HowChow has been publicizing Hunan Legend's secret Chinese menu. A reader Wai translated the menu into English after I posted about my frustration getting authentic dishes. I emailed the menu to people who have explored the items, chatted on Chowhound, and finally posted the menu there as well. (Thanks Warthog and Hon!).

Reiyi announced last night that Hunan Legend has now officially translated the Chinese menu and taped it to their front counter.
Seems like H.L’s “secret” menu is now officially an open secret! My husband went in for carryout the other day and happened to see the “secret” menu fully translated and taped to their front counter. As much as I would love to share a copy of it with everyone, it still boggles my mind as to why he didn’t even manage to ask for a copy! Perhaps someone else can get their hands on a copy to share with the rest of us. From what he mentioned, it seems everything is translated nicely and organized well, which is nice to have since the version you posted is a bit loosely translated (although much appreciation to the original translator) and a bit hard to read. I wonder if they’ve been secretly listening to our requests to have it translated…
Can anyone get a copy and scan it for me?

Exotic Fruit at Harris Teeter

I proposed to my wife on a pomegranate and checked her out on our first-date test with a plastic bag of lychees.

Seriously. My mother was surprised to learn that I packed lychees on a first date when I'd been invited to go kayaking. Some people might not like lychees, she said. That had been exactly the point. I was looking for a woman eager to try new things. Mrs. HowChow popped open the little fruit as we paddled on Centennial Lake four years ago today. She hinted that I was passing her test by saying that she hoped we could try other fruit together like pomegranate in the fall. (Thus, a pomegranate bouquet the first time that I met her at the airport and a pomegranate surprise when I gave her a ring.)

So we like Harris Teeter. The produce section is good, better than an average Giant or Safeway. But the truly unique options are on a small table where Harris Teeter sells unusual - and often very expensive -- fruit. The photo is a cherimoya, a tropical fruit with a creamy inside and a flavor that hints of strawberry, banana and more when it is really good. That one was good, and it had better be because I think I paid $6 or $8. But the Harris Teeter exotic fruits are an occasional treat, and you need to go big or just go home with something mundane like baby bananas that you could get at the H Mart anyway. When they're ripe, cherimoyas will remind you that life can be sweet any time that we take a risk and try something new. Thanks for four years of my new life, Mrs. HowChow.

If you're waiting for the Harris Teeter in Maple Lawn, click here for the latest news. If you like great fruit, definitely check of the Asian grocery stores for lychees, longan, melons and more. If you want to identify the fruit that you find there, check out this Web site.

Harris Teeter
8620 Guilford Rd
Columbia, MD 21046-1404
(410) 290-5902

NEAR: This is south of Rte 32 and east of Rte 29. King's Contrivance has the new Harris Teeter, a Bagel Bin, and a CVS. Take the Eden Brook Drive / Shaker Drive exit from Rte 32. Follow the signs south to Eden Brook Drive, which goes right past King's Contrivance.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Link: New Maple Lawn Steakhouse To Have Same Menu As Original Jordan's

The "Carlos and Jordan's Steakhouse" that will replace Oz Chophouse in Maple Lawn will have the same menu as the original Jordan's Steakhouse in Ellicott City, according to Elizabeth Large's column in the Sun (second item).

Oz closed last weekend, and the new venture will partner the owners of Jordan's and Ranazul, the tapas restaurant next door. Large's column quotes the owner of Jordan's about changes already made to the Jordan's menu including small plates. They're talking a November 2009 opening.

The news is similar on Explore Howard, which reports about the new restaurant and also say that the United Methodist Church will build a regional office at Maple Lawn.

Link: Hard To Stay Away From Bon Fresco

Bon Fresco Sanwich Bakery gets an enthusiastic write-up from BillZ, who is back and blogging on Live in Howard County. I have really enjoyed the sandwiches and the bread at Bon Fresco, which is just off Snowden River Parkway just south of the Home Depot.

Gorman Produce Farm Update

I was a little early last month to write about the Gorman Produce Farm, but they're up and organized now.

You need to check out this Laurel farm stand if you're interested in good vegetables. Lydia and Dave Liker have leased the farm on Gorman Road, and they sell produce just in from the field. I stopped by Tuesday and picked up two kinds of squash and some nice sweet peppers. The tomatoes look gorgeous, but my entire crop ripened in the past week so I'm designing every menu around home-grown.

The Gorman Produce Farm sells to the public on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursday and Saturdays, according to the woman who helped me Tuesday. They're open until about 5:30 or 6 pm, but be patient because it's a family farm not a supermarket. Just look for the sign on Gorman Road a few miles east of Rte 29. It says "open" or "closed." Right now, they have onions, squash, several tomato varieties, melons, and eggplant. Last weekend, Bets found the lemon cucumbers pictured above and posted a bunch of photos. (Thanks Bets!!) The Gorman fields are filled with an array of produce that should run into the fall -- cauliflower, fennel, lettuces, and more.

Much of the Liker's produce goes out through their "community supported agriculture" program where people paid $550 for weekly boxes of vegetables from June through October. But they sell everything else to the public.

Gorman Produce Farm
11051 Gorman Road
Laurel, MD 20723

NEAR: This is on Gorman Road east of Rte 29 and west of U.S. 1. This is south of Rte 32, just minutes south of Columbia and almost walking distance from King's Contrivance.

From Broken Land Parkway, take Broken Land south of Rte 32 until it deadends. Turn left and then right on Murray Hill Road. Take that until it deadends into Gorman Road. Turn right on Gorman. You'll see the farm's sign on the left just before a point where the road bends to the right.

From Rte 29, take the exit for Johns Hopkins Road, which is also marked for Gorman. Turn left at the top of the ramp and go through the next traffic circle. The road changes name to Gorman, and you just drive until you see the farm's sign on the right at a point where the road bends to the left.

From U.S. 1, go west at the light for Gorman Road. You'll pass the Savage library. Gorman Road actually turns right. The "straight ahead" changes name to Skylark Boulevard as you enter a housing development. After you turn right to "stay" on Gorman, the road curves and curves. You'll see the farm's sign on the left just before a point where the road bends to the right.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Rte 108: Start Fat and End Thin

Rte 108 loops around Howard County -- from Fatburger to tofu and everything in between.

This is the first in a series of posts that are a tour of Howard County, designed with the idea that people new to the county can learn best by actually driving the roads. Click here for the explanation and other tours. Check out the links below to see my prior posts about restaurants and markets on the route, then take a weekend drive.

Rte 108 is the slow route. Not the quick shots of Rte 100 or Rte 32. I had actually been on several stretches of Rte 108 because I realized that it was a single road, meandering near several of my favorite joints. Driving the full arc of Rte 108 is my first advice for someone who wants to discover good food in Howard County -- Elkridge to Clarksville with a few detours along the way. You'll see some great restaurants, some excellent shopping, and a few treats to enjoy.

Start at the Fatburger. I'm more of a Five Guys fan myself, but the California chain caused quite a sensation when it opened in 2008. This is the shopping center with Best Buy and Lowe's at the intersection of Rte 175 and Rte 108. This was trees when I drove past on my way to a first date in Ellicott City. A week later, my life had changed, and big trucks were clearing the entire parcel to dirt. That's progress for you. You just keep heading the same way on Rte 108, although it snakes around so you'll go north, west and south during the ride.
  1. Start at the Fatburger. It faces Costco. (Nuttyturnip recommends below Mimi's Cafe in that shopping center. Fatburger definitely created more anticipation than comments about how people love the food.)

  2. Walk down the shopping center to Perfect Pour, Trader Joe's and Mama Lucia's. Perfect Pour has a tiny front, but sells an enormous wine. beer and alcohol selection that spreads back and to the right from the door. The beer wall alone is worth a visit. Trader Joe's sells everything else. Mama Lucia breaks the "food blog" rule because it is a little chain, but several comments below talk up the pizza and garlic knots.

  3. Get back in your car and exit the parking lot by going downhill away from the Trader Joe's. You'll drop down to the main exit from the shopping center. Turn RIGHT on Rte 108.

  4. Turn RIGHT at the traffic light at Lark Brown Road and follow the road until just before it deadends at Old Waterloo Road. There is a shopping center on your LEFT with Parsa Kabob.

  5. U-Turn on Lark Brown and return to Rte 108. Go another block or so.

  6. Turn RIGHT into the Food Lion and then curve around the left of the supermarket. The shopping center next to Food Lion has Gateway Pizza, a restaurant that sells both pizza and Indian food. Columbia Halal Meat has opened with a small Indian grocery store and a meat counter that is a great resource for goal or lamb even if you don't keep halal.  Across the parking lot is a Chinese place with a sign for banh mi sandwiches. Don't get excited. They don't actually sell them. That is from a former owner.

  7. Return to Rte 108.

  8. You're heading towards the intersection with Snowden River Parkway. Remember Snowden. You'll see again in a later route. Look RIGHT for Eggspectations at University Drive. Look LEFT for Victoria Gastropub (and its beer sampler) just before the Snowden intersection.

  9. Pass through the Snowden intersection and look RIGHT for the Coal Fire Pizza in the shopping center with a Starbucks and a Cold Stone Creamery.

  10. Turn LEFT where Rte 108 turns left at a traffic light. You'll see Howard High School on the right. If you pass over Rte 100, then you have gone too far. U Turn at the traffic circle on the far side of Rte 100 and then turn RIGHT at the light to get back on Rte 108.

  11. Turn RIGHT at Centre Park Drive. Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro is in the shopping center pressed against Rte 108. Cafe de Paris is in the base of the commercial building on the right. (Well known for crepes and French food, as noted by Marci in the comments. I have actually never been!) Go past the Giant (whoops, fixed that), and Bangkok Delight is on the LEFT. (Mrs. HowChow loves the mango sticky rice at Bangkok Delight.) If you turn left on Columbia 100 Parkway, you'll eventually see Greystone Grill sitting in the shadow on Rte 100.

  12. Return to Rte 108 and keep going.

  13. Turn RIGHT at Red Branch Road. There are two Indian groceries on this road, which is actually a "U" starting and ending on Rte 108. The original Food Cravings is first on the right in a building above the road. Then Desi Market is more visible on the left.

  14. Keep driving on Red Branch, and it will deadend back into Rte 108. Turn RIGHT on Rte 108. Cross over Rte 29.

  15. Turn RIGHT on Columbia Road, then first RIGHT on Old Annapolis Road, then go to the end. You'll see LeeLyn's, not one of my favorites but a very popular place with American food and a patio.

  16. Reverse direction on Old Annapolis Road and turn RIGHT into the Dorsey Search village center that backs onto Old Annapolis. In here, you'll find Hunan Legend -- a local institution that serves Chinese and has a "secret" menu of authentic Chinese dishes. You'll also find Trattoria -- another local favorite for pizza, eggplant parm, and more as noted below.

  17. Return to Rte 108 and keep going.

  18. You'll pass Centennial Lake on the right. Possible detour: If you haven't seen the lake, drive in to see the hiking/biking trails, the boat rental, and the picnic areas.

  19. Look LEFT for Iron Bridge Wine Company on Rte 108. Great small plates. Interesting wine.

  20. Keep driving. Columbia is on your left. Clarksville mansions are on your right. Watch for the intersection with Harpers Farm Road. That leads into Columbia, and you'll see it on another tour.

  21. Look LEFT for the River Hill Garden Center. A tad expensive and tending towards exotics that may not always survive winter. But a nice place to stop. (Update: But stop soon. The owners asked in the summer of 2009 for a re-zoning that would allow them to redevelop.)

  22. Look RIGHT for El Azteca in a strip center against Rte 108. (In a comment below, a former San Diegan says El Azteca is decent, which is high praise based on my Californian or Texan friends who bemoan the lack of Mexican food here.)

  23. Look for the sign for Roots Market (all Roots posts) and turn RIGHT into the shopping center. Roots is a nice organic market. In the same shopping center, you'll see Great Sage, which is a classy vegetarian restaurant. This is the anti-Fatburger where even the bulgogi has no meat.

  24. Return to Rte 108.

  25. Turn LEFT at the light for Great Star Drive. There is a Bagel Bin in the River Hill village center that serves challah on Fridays. There is also the River Hill Sports Grille around back.

  26. Go back to Great Star Drive and cross Rte 108 into the parking lot of Kendall Hardware. That is a good, local hardware store. They repair and service lawnmowers in the back. In summer, there is a Snowball stand in the parking lot and often someone selling produce.

  27. THE END. On the next tour, I'll start at Roots and head south to Highland.
To go home, you just go another block south on Rte 108 to Rte 32. If you want to go back to Fatburger, just head EAST on Rte 32 and then NORTH on I-95 until you see Rte 175 again.

Please comment below if I missed anything. I have already revised several times to add places or correct errors. You can use a number (like "15 1/2") to put your suggestion in the right part of the tour.