Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mango Grove in Columbia

Mango Grove is one of the restaurants that is worth visiting a second time -- and again, and again, and again.

The Columbia restaurant stands out from the strong Indian restaurants in Howard County because it serves southern Indian dishes like dosas and uttapam. Mango Grove was one of my first HowChow posts because its one of our favorites, and I'm coming back because it might be overlooked in the archives.

Mango Grove does all the great vegetable curries that you would find in a standard Indian restaurants -- chickpeas, dals, baigan bartha, palek paneer. Start with the samosas or the tikki channa chaat, which are fried potato patties served with curried chickpeas and topped with chutney. Or, if you have a group, buy the pani puri and crack open the shells to stuff themselves.  Don't pass up the yogurt-based lassi drinks -- mango or rose water. But don't go looking for meat. It's a vegetarian kitchen, so you won't get chicken or lamb.

But you will get dosas -- the thin crepes wrapped around potato and onion that make for a spectacular meal. A warm, spicy filling at one side of the dosa, soaking into the crepe. Crisp pieces of crepe at the other end, perfect to scoop up filling or to just pop in your mouth. It's the type of contrast that you'd get in a great "soup-in-a-bread-bowl" where some bites of bread are soaked with flavor and others are crispy with crust. Start with a masala dosa. That's standard fare and comes out rolled with the filling inside.

On a later trip, try something more exotic like the mysore masala dosa, which is folded into a triangle and has a spicy red sauce spread between the layers. (Not that spicy. Just different.) Or try the special Mango Grove dosa, which is lacy and different enough that I have ordered it with the masala dosa on the same table.  With any dosa, you'll get chutneys -- often made with coconut -- for dipping and a small bowl of soup for dipping or spooning on its own.

This is a kitchen that wants to serve complex food, but it's a casual place. At times, there are specials like a jack fruit curry that we order any time it is on the menu. Firm pieces of fruit that had a meat-like consistency, but a tender feel and the spicy flavor that makes Indian food so exceptional. More like perfect potatoes than the sweet, ripe jack fruit that you can buy in a can.

This is also a kitchen that is literally connected to Mirchi Wok, the Indo-Chinese fusion restaurant next door. You can ask for the Mango Grove menu at Mirchi Wok, which would be wonderful if you had a table with a vegetarian and someone who demands meat on their plate. You can please everyone.

Click here the 2009 "best restaurants" in Howard County or for my overview of Indian restaurants in Howard County. The Indian newcomer is India Delight, which offers a buffet -- including dosas -- on McGaw Road near Apple Ford.

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

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

Mango Grove on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Schwarma With Your Pierogis? A World Of Food At The St. Matthew Festival

This weekend's festival at St. Matthew in Columbia is why I love eating in America.

The Orthodox church that meets in Columbia is holding its second "multi-cultural festival" this weekend, October 3-4, 2009 at the King's Contrivance Village Center. They're offering crafts, kids' activities, and other fun. But the HowChow angle is that St. Matthew's is serving "home-cooked" food that ranges from Lebanon to Russia, and you can mix and match your way around the map.

How about a Lebanese lamb schwarma with a side of Polish pierogis? Or Greek spanakopita and then a plate of Romanian mititei -- grilled meat rolls served with mustard? Or those nut horns in the photo above? The St. Matthew festival menu offers all those plus dolmades, gyros, stuffed cabbages, borsch and kielbasi, along with Mexican and American favorites like enchiladas, ribs and hot dogs. The parishioners are cooking it all on site -- often from family recipes, according to Andrea who sent me a tip. This is the variety that makes me love the Asian grocery stores in Howard County that sell Japan, Korea and Mexico on a single aisle.

The festival runs 11 am to 9 pm on October 3 and 1 pm to 7 pm on October 4. There is free entertainment, including music and dancing from Spain, Poland, Greece and Polynesia. Click here for more about the St. Matthew Festival.

(Update: On April 27, 2010, I am turning off the comments here.  This festival is long over, and the comments are way off subject for a food blog.)

Mangoberry in Catonsville -- and Picking Up Your Own Mochi Toppings at H Mart

The tart yogurt trend continues to spread, and now you can add a snack to an H Mart run by stopping at Mangoberry down the row.

Mangoberry sells the Korean-style frozen yogurt in H Mart's Catonsville shopping center that is definitely picking up a Korean style. It's inside the Hanoori World section of the center, which also includes a large, casual restaurant and a basement store that sells home goods (including bento boxes).

Mangoberry's yogurt fits the current trend of yogurt that is slightly-sour or flavored with green tea or fruit. You pick a yogurt and then toppings that tend to be fruit, breakfast cereal or exotics like mochi. This is the trend that brought Yogiberry to the Columbia Mall and hordes of Pinkberry to the streets of LA and New York. Bottom line: All these yogurt places are expensive, but Mangoberry is definitely worth the visit. We think Yogiberry has the most-interesting yogurt, but Mangoberry offered an enormous number of toppings (including red beans, which I thought were delicious, but Mrs. HowChow thought tasted too much like beans) -- plus we got to poke around the Hanoori Home Plaza and shop at H Mart.

The real secret: Bring your own toppings. Maybe I'm cheap, but $1 per topping seems expensive for what looks like a few teaspoons of chopped frozen fruit. So we bought an entire
bag of mochi at the H Mart based on a Chowhound post by bmorecupcake. Mochi are slightly-sweet, chewy candy made from rice and sugar. We enjoyed several rounds of these adult gummy bears -- eating them off the top and then re-covering the yogurt. Walk into H Mart and turn left. Look for the $2.99 blue bag of mochi in the top shelf of the refrigerator section next to the video rental place. (Bring your extras home, and you can top a few quick desserts if you get the frozen yogurt at the BP Market in Maple Lawn.)

Mangoberry's other unique offering is a shaved-ice dessert that bmorecupcake has sampled and that appears to be another Korean import.

If you visit Mangoberry, you should also check out the H Mart, my favorite place for food. (Click here for all the H Mart posts.) You'll also see the kitchen items -- including bento boxes -- at the Hanoori Home Plaza on the lower level of Hanoori Town and Jamaican takeout at Golden Krust down the row.

Much of the ground floor of Hanoori Town is a Korean restaurant that was packed when we visited. I want to go back. I ate there when it was called Besoto, and it was a good casual restaurant. I don't know if it has changed, but I was very aware that the crowd looked almost-entirely Korean and ranged from teenagers to white-haired couples, which suggested to me that it is good food.

Hanoori Town
822-28 N. Rolling Road
Catonsville, MD 21228

NEAR: Mangoberry is in the shopping center with H Mart at Rte 40 and Rolling Road in Catonsville. From Howard County, talke Rte 40 east from Rte 29 and then watch for the Starbucks on the right. Turn there. Mangoberry is right inside the door of the Hanoori Town section of the center.

Mangoberry on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 28, 2009

Central Columbia: It's All Hidden From The Road

You know how to find the Columbia Mall, but the true food in central Columbia is all hidden from the road.

This is the sixth 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. Or flip over to the "What I Learned" series.

Central Columbia is Rouse Territory, so it's a tour -- for the most part -- of village centers. Perfectly designed for the commerce of the 1950s, the village centers are tucked deep in residential neighborhoods. You never drive past them, and you rarely have a reason to drive to one far away because they each basically offer a grocery, a liquor store, a Chinese restaurant, a dry cleaner, a bar/pub, a hair salon . . . Many centers actually have something unique and worth the drive, but they're such small businesses that it's hard to hear about them -- and impossible to just wander across them -- among the generic mix. So this tour has more driving per stop than most of the others.
  1. We're going to start with fried chicken a Chick N' Friends just off Tamar Road in the Long Reach Village Center. This is north of Rte 175 and west of Snowden. This is two examples of how to get there: 1) From Rte 29, take Rte 175 east and then turn LEFT at the light for Tamar Road. From Rte 100, take Snowden River SOUTH across Rte 108 and then turn RIGHT on Tamar Road.
  2. Turn into the Long Reach Village Center. It will be on the right if you're coming from Rte 175 and the left if you're coming from Snowden. There is a grocery store and the village center basics. Chick N' Friends serves up great fried chicken from a takeout spot that faces the interior courtyard.
  3. Exit the village center and turn LEFT on Tamar Road. Turn RIGHT at the light for Rte 175, then turn LEFT at the light for Thunder Hill Road. This curves around and deadends into Robert Oliver Place. Turn RIGHT and you drive into the Oakland Mills Village Center.
  4. Get out. On Sunday mornings from spring to fall, this is the location of the Sunday Columbia Farmers Market. But year-round, you can get Thai at Bangkok Garden or pub food at the Second Chance Saloon. The Second Chance is a reincarnation of a pub called the Last Chance, and it has a loyal following for wings, burgers and the like.
  5. Return to Robert Oliver Place and continue the way that you were heading. Turn LEFT on Stevens Forest Road. Turn RIGHT on Brokenland Parkway, cross over Rte 29, and continue until you're passing the Columbia Mall. That is about 1.7 miles. (I assume everyone knows the mall so you don't need a tour. But the Yogiberry and Five Guys are both new.)
  6. Just after the mall entrance, turn LEFT on Twin Rivers Road. Go about a half mile and turn LEFT into the Wilde Lake Village Center. Turn LEFT immediately and park outside the Bagel Bin and The Melting Pot.
  7. Get out. Walk through the Bagel Bin, which is the best source for local bagels, and out the front door. Walk across the central area, bear left and keep walking along the path. On the right in the covered area, you'll see Today's Catch. This is a great, small seafood store.
  8. Return to Twin Rivers Road and go to the next light. Turn LEFT back into the Wilde Lake Village Center on Lynx Lane. On the right, you'll see David's Natural Market, one of the organic groceries in Howard County.
  9. Go back the way that you came on Twin Rivers Road towards the mall. Turn LEFT at the light onto Governor Warfield Parkway, then RIGHT when it intersects with Rte 175, then LEFT on Wincopin Circle.
  10. Look for parking in the lots or garage that face onto Lake Kittamaqundi. Walk down to the restaurants that face the water. You'll see Clyde's, which is a local favorite, and Sushi Sono, which is one of my favorites. (You'll also see the Tomato Palace that gets a shout-out in the comments for salads and sandwiches.)
  11. Walk farther along the lake to the right, and you'll see the Lakeside Coffee Shop, which owes its existence in part to a local HoCo blogger.
  12. Return to Rte 175 and continue the way that you were going. You'll finish a circle around the mall crossing over Brokenland Parkway. After about 1.5 miles, turn RIGHT on Harpers Farm Road. Then watch for a shopping center on the right and turn RIGHT at the next light into the Harpers Farm Village Center. On the left is Maiwand Kabob for spectacular casual Afghan food. Across the parking lot is Rita's for Italian ice in the summertime.
  13. Go back to Harpers Farm Road and turn RIGHT so that you're heading the way that you came. (If you had turned LEFT and continued west on Harpers Farm Road, you would run into Rte 108 -- the first tour in this series.)
  14. Turn RIGHT at the first light onto Cedar Lane. You'll cross Rte 175 and see the Howard County General Hospital. Then watch on the left for Mad City Coffee in a small office building. Turn LEFT into the parking lot and check out the coffee shop.
  15. When you're done, you have to turn RIGHT onto Cedar Lane. You can just keep going to Rte 175. Or you can U-turn and go south to Rte 32.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Link: Maiwand Kabob and Dusenberg's American Grill on Alyssa's Fitness

Get a second opinion about Maiwand Kabob in Columbia and my first report on Dusenberg's American Grill in Catonsville on the Alyssa's Fitness Aventures blog.

Lyss took a "staycation" this week, and she and her husband tried out the two restaurants -- pumpkin, samosas, lamb and kabobs at Maiwand Kabob and burgers and a duck salad at Dusenberg's. Her verdict: She'll run back to both.

I had already written that I'm a huge fan of Maiwand Kabob, and I recommend a weekend stop at Dusenberg's so you could also drop by Home Anthology -- a very cool store with mid-century modern furniture that is only open Saturday and Sundays.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Max Blob's Park in Jessup

'Tis the season for German food, so you should celebrate Oktoberfest at Max Blob's Park in Jessup.

The Blob's Park music hall is an institution just east of the BW Parkway south of Rte 175. Polka music, good German beer and German food like sausages, sauerkraut, and schnitzel. It actually closed at the end of 2008, but then re-opened when the re-development of the property fell apart.

I haven't actually been myself. We're sausage fans, and Mrs. HowChow has happily gone out for many blog-related meals that she didn't expect to love. But she drew the line at polka, and I'm not going to push it soon even though I know she'd go if I asked. (I have my eyes on a Korean-inspired sandwich that I want to try first.)

You should go try the beer, the dancing and the food. They're celebrating Oktoberfest for six weekends! So I'm collecting some reviews from Capital Spice, Owen Brown News, and the Food and Wine Blog. For special events, there are often detailed updates on Max's beer offerings on the Beer in Baltimore blog. There was even a polka article in the City Paper. This is a piece of the Capital Spice review:

The beer on hand at Blob’s Park is an outstanding representation of traditional German styles, including labels you aren’t likely to find outside of a import-beer focused restaurant like Birreria or Granville Moore’s. IMG_9050The food is definitely German and very bier hall flavored. Ever since the reopening, most dinners are served all-you-can-eat buffet style, with ample white sausages, sauerkraut, white potatoes, schnitzel, and steamed vegetables to be had for the taking. If you call ahead to reserve a table, which we do recommend for nights with more popular bands, you will be assigned a helpful no-fuss waitress to make sure your beer pitchers are full and empty plates are cleared.

If you’ve never been to Blob’s Park, or never seen the jubilant wonder that is live polka, this is the perfect time of year to start. Oktoberfest is upon us and every Saturday night from September 19 to the end of October, Blob’s Park features special uberrad Oktoberfest events, and all with a cover of $15 or less.

(Update: Definitely check out the comments below. K8teebug says make a reservation for Oktoberfest and other folks describe their visits in the past. You might want to try a Saturday night when the place is packed.)

Max Blob’s Park
8024 Max Blobs Park Rd
Jessup, MD 20794

NEAR: Take Rte 175 east and cross over the BW Parkway. Then turn right at the flashing light on Max Blob's Park Road.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Korean Recipes at the H Mart

If you shop at the H Mart in Catonsville, check out the Korean recipes that they offer on little cards in the produce section.

I grabbed cards with photos and recipes for stuffed tofu, stuffed tomato kimchi and summer squash pancakes. They look delicious, and the recipes look really straight-forward. They're in English, and they read like they're aimed at a non-Korean (or maybe second generation) cook. They're a great opening if you want to experiment with Korean ingredients like sweet rice flour, Asian pear, red pepper powder, salted shrimp or Korean radish.

Look for the rack of recipes next to the refrigerated section at the back of the produce department. If you look at the sushi takeout display, the recipe rack is on the opposite of that wall.

The H Mart is my favorite place for food. I have never done a comprehensive post on the H Mart, but you can click here to read all my posts.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Links: French Fries and Sausages

Two short links on local food --- renovations in the Columbia Mall food court (and musings on french fries) on Tales of Two Cities and an October 18 outdoor sausage event at Woodberry Kitchen on the Baltimore Beer Guy.

Cafe Oromia Changing Its Name To "Soretti's Ethiopian Cuisine"

The closest Ethiopian option to Howard County has completed its transformation from coffee shop to restaurant.

I had reported that Burtonsville's Coffee Oromia already changed its name to Cafe Oromia. This is a casual restaurant on Rte 198 at Rte 29 that offers Ethiopian stews and even some Ethiopian breakfast options. I love injera, and several regular commentators -- including Bets, Dzoey, and Momomom have talked up this food.

Now, HowICook reports that the name -- although not yet the outside sign -- has changed to "Soretti's Ethiopian Cuisine." It sounds like they're fully converting to a restaurant, and there may even be a "secret" option of off-menu items to explore.
All the indoor signage and advertisements (little postcards) use the new name. The place is still run by the same people. I was told that the place wanted to be a Ethiopian restaurant not a coffee house. So even though they have the same coffee setup, there's no mention of coffee anywhere else. Soretti is the nickname of the lady who does the wonderful cooking.

They've been advertising a $6.95 lunch menu that they honor on Saturdays too. We had lamb wot and vegetable combo today served Ethiopian style on one plate with an extra injera and no eating utensils.

I wish they would unify all the menus (coffee, breakfast, lunch & dinner) and the off menu items and lower the dinner prices a bit. The menu items should reflect the community dining aspect of Ethiopian food and not the single dish mentality of the menus. I'm thinking all small plates served together on injera. They've already lowered the wine and beer prices. This is one of my favorite ethnic dining experiences.
Soretti's Ethiopian Cuisine is next-door to a branch of Maiwand Kabob and a building east from Cuba de Ayer -- a casual Cuban restaurant that is absolutely worth a drive from Columbia.

Soretti's Ethiopian Cuisine
15510 Old Columbia Pike (Rte 198)
Burtonsville, MD 20866

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Frisco Grille Was Burglarized

Frisco Grille in Columbia was burglarized early Monday, according to the Baltimore Beer Guy blog.

As a great American once said: "Savages."

Not sure about the damages, but check out the BBG blog for updates.

Azul 17: A First Visit

Azul 17 is slowly opening the kitchen, and we stepped in last week to take a peek.

I'm pretty excited by the new Mexican restaurant on Snowden River Parkway because it's trying something different -- a mix of real Mexican recipes, trendy "small plates" and a modern, classy design out here in Columbia.

Our first dinner was great fun, and I didn't even try the tacos, which sound spectacular and which Dzoey commended last week. The official grand opening will be about October 8. For now, they're serving appetizers and small dishes, gradually adding the main courses, desserts and the full spread. You start with great chips. You have to love that, and I loved both of our "platos pequenos" -- a paprika-spiced shrimp in camarones al periodico and grilled cactus with vegetables and tortillas in napalito asado. The napalito particularly was excellent as we made little tacos of cactus and the stewed vegetables at the bottom of the bowl. This kitchen aims high with unusual spices and layered flavors.

(We're so "Top Chef" these days. Mrs. HowChow loves to say "layered flavors.")

I hope the ceviche is popular. I liked the tuna, but I'm a tough judge of ceviche because I haven't eaten anything in years as delicious as the three-fish plate
at Alma de Cuba. I also hope that Azul 17 does something to improve the guacamole. Eleven bucks is a real price. We got an avocado mixed with some vegetables and queso fresco. Nice, but not a real dish like the tableside at Rosa Mexicano or places that have strong or unique flavors. Mrs. HowChow makes her signature dish with goat cheese, pistachios and chipotle that has a strength that I didn't get in the Azul 17 "rojo" ceviche. It took her months to work out her ratios, and she still has the advantage of tasting the guacamole as she makes it up. The Azul 17 waitress was really nice, but I will try other dishes before returning to the guacamole. (I also didn't know why our "rojo" was $1.50 more than the "traditional" when the only difference appeared to be a few tablespoons of queso fresco.)

Overall, I'm really excited. The Azul people were friendly. The decor is cool without being affected -- a mix of modern, but comfortable seating with Mexican paintings and neon lights. The menu will eventually have a million tequila variations, but they also have some non-alcoholic touches like agua frescas and horchata that shows they're looking for authentic Mexican, not just a party scene.

Definitely give Azul 17 a try. This isn't a cheap joint. You're going to average $10 each even for the little dishes, so it's $40 quick for two and that's without a margarita. But it looks like a special place for Howard County, and I'm excited to go back.

Monday, September 21, 2009

HowChow: We Are Watching You

The Dutch Country Farmers Market opened its new Laurel location earlier this month.

In the comments, 22209 posted a report about opening day and a link to the cell phone photo that he took while waiting for an apple fritter.

Two days later, regular commenter HowICook -- who had previously written a long post listing his favorites at the Dutch Country market -- dropped a short line chuckling at the coincidence:
You know it's a small world when you show up in [22209]'s picture.
Eat smart. HowChow is watching

Bento Boxes at Hanoori Home Plaza

Bento boxes are great fun if you pack a lunch, and there is now a local source for boxes and the crazy Japanese accessories in the new Hanoori Home Plaza opened in Catonsville.

Bento boxes are little plastic boxes that often come with dividers or little cups to separate your food. You pack lunches with a bunch of little items -- a little meat, some rice, some vegetables, a salad, a sweet, etc. I have had a ball re-packaging our leftovers into lunches. Save some cash. Enjoy good food. Some people even say they lose weight.

You could spend hours reading about bento lunches on blogs like Lunch in a Box or Just Bento. They each give tips about how to pack bento lunches. Lunch in a Box talks often about packing lunches for a toddler. Just Bento has great organization and many tips -- from bento basics to decorative cutting techniques. The coolest photos are complex bentos that look like art, but Biggie on Lunch in a Box emphasizes that she spends 10-15 minutes on a lunch. I pack in boxes, but I don't make anything look like art.

Hanoori Home Plaza opened in the shopping center with H Mart on Rte 40 in Catonsville. It's part of the "Hanoori Town" complex, and it's a Korean "Bed, Bath and Beyond" -- all kinds of kitchen items, appliances, and soft goods like blankets. The kitchen goods are worth checking out for anyone looking for bargains -- knives, plates, bowls, peelers, Lock & Lock brand containers. Mrs. HowChow had her eye on

some stainless steel bowls and chopsticks, and there are tons of decorative tea cups, sake pitchers, and gift sets.

Among Hanoori's bento boxes, Mrs. HowChow saw the box that I love but hadn't found anywhere but Los Angeles. It's a 950 ml box that says "vive" on the bag and "Asvel" on box -- white with three interior pieces and a snap-on top. I fill each section, then cover them with "Press and Seal." It's overkill, but I carry my lunch sideways in a shoulder bag. I can't afford a leak. I bought them originally at a Japanese market in LA, and my friend was nice enough to ship me more when I lost the originals to snapped tops and lunches forgotten in the office fridge. Hanoori sells them for $12, but that pays for itself in a week's lunches. Hanoori sells a bunch of other boxes, including small ones for kids.

Hanoori also sell silicon shapes that people use to separate one dish from anyone. I have cupcake liners from Target, and I'll fill one with sliced vegetables or pickles or something. The Japanese items are precious, and they'd probably be great fun if you were trying to get your kids into the bento program.

One thought: We're unclear if the bento boxes will survive for long in a dishwasher. My favorite box seems to warp slightly even on the upper level, but I use one or two every day so it's such a luxury to throw them in the machine. Consider hand-washing.

If you visit Hanoori Home Plaza, you should also check out the H Mart, my favorite place for food. (Click here for all the H Mart posts.) You'll also see Mangoberry inside Hanoori and Golden Krust for Jamaican takeout down the row. If you're interested in cooking Japanese food, check out my review of Kimiko Barber's cookbooks.

Hanoori Home Plaza
Hanoori Town
822-828 N. Rolling Road
Catonsville, MD 21228

NEAR: Hanoori is in the shopping center with H Mart at Rte 40 and Rolling Road in Catonsville. From Howard County, talke Rte 40 east from Rte 29 and then watch for the Starbucks on the right. Turn there. The "home plaza" is on the lower floor of the Hanoori section. You walk into Hanoori past the Mangoberry, then down the stairs to the Hanoori Home Plaza. Kitchen goods are right at the bottom of the stairs, and bento boxes are on the back side of one of the kitchen goods displays.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Link: Sushi King and Touche Touchet on the Kevin and Ann Eat Everything blog

There are dueling posts about Sushi King by a brother-sister team on the Kevin and Ann Eat Everything blog. (Click here for Ann's and then click the first link of her page for Kevin's.) They're Sushi Sono fans, but the lakeside restaurant was closed for a week.

Kevin may live in Howard County. He posted about Touche Touchet in Columbia, but he talked up the Dutch Market in Hunt Valley -- rather than the newly-opened one in Laurel. It's hard to know . . . .

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hunan Legend: The Not-Secret Menu

One of my favorite parts of HowChow ends today because Hunan Legend no longer has a secret menu that they give to people who read Chinese.

In February, I posted a bootleg copy of Hunan Legend's Chinese menu. A reader Wai had translated it herself and annotated each item by hand so that anyone could try the dishes. I offered to email the file to anyone, and people steadily sent it requests.

By June, Warthog has posted on Chowhound about how much fun he was having with the "secret" menu. He shared my experiences that Chinese restaurants often don't want to serve the authentic Chinese dishes. They think Americans prefer Americanized food -- even if it is gloppy or sweet. But Warthog carried the translated menu. He recommended being very obvious about consulting it and then assuring the waiter or owner that you had heard good things about their "real" Chinese food. It worked for Warthog and for several other people who commented. They got to know Hunan Legend's owners. They tried the secret Chinese items. They tried some Malaysian ones. People say good things, and it is a little closer than Grace Garden in Odenton.

And now, Hunan Legend is handing out its "secret" menu to anyone who asks. They have a typed version. Kristi mentioned it to me in late August, and KC emailed me a copy last week, and I'm posting the jpg version above. (Click on it to expand in my browsers.) I can email you the full PDF if you want, but you can just get a copy yourself at Hunan Legend.

Thanks to everyone -- especially to Wai who started this all.

If you're looking for more Chinese, check out my post about Chinese restaurants in Howard County.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bistro Blanc in Glenelg

Bistro Blanc has served my best meal in Howard County and the worst meal of my life.

You should check out Bistro Blanc on Rte 32 in Glenelg. You can get spectacular food. Imaginative food. A meal that Elizabeth Large
thinks is worth a drive from Baltimore, so it's a no-brainer if you're lucky enough to live around here. But you need to be a tough customer.

Bistro Blanc is trendy in the best possible way. The seasonal trend means changing, imaginative dishes. Small plates let you experiment and share a table's worth of fun. These are the trends that spawned Woodberry Kitchen and Iron Bridge Wine Co, and they created a magical meal on my first visit to Bistro Blanc. We thrilled through a series of bright, full flavors. A watermelon carpaccio. An avocado soup. A cheese tart with plums. Each course was inventive, then exceeded by the next. We ended with an herbed panna cotta that was so perfect that I strained to remember the details of the dishes that came before. I left convinced that it was the best restaurant in Howard County.

That is why our Labor Day disaster was such a surprise. We went back so that I could profile Bistro Blanc energized by great food, and we ended up with bad food and bad service. Really bad service. I'm not going into detail. I have set aside my overly-detailed, overtly-angry first draft and offer instead some basic advice:
  • If you get anything bad at Bistro Blanc, send it back immediately. Don't smile politely when they say your fig tart has no figs because they're out of season. Ask for a different dish. Bistro Blanc wants to serve magical food. If they fall short, tell someone -- politely. They want you happy.
  • Stay on top of your waiter. Don't expect perfection. Both times, waiters we liked were a bit goofy and mis-described the menu or food. Fine with us. But our Labor Day disaster occurred because our main waitress took our order and never returned even though we were sitting 15 feet from the manager. By the time I made my stand, we had been abandoned to bad food and dirty dishes, and our evening was a mess.
Nothing at Bistro Blanc should be a mess. When the kitchen is on, the dishes are beautiful. Unique, sculptural plates with unique, sculptural food. The chef Marc Dixon started at Iron Bridge, and Bistro Blanc
shares the same concept of wine store / wine bar / restaurant. I love Iron Bridge for the cozy atmosphere and the sometimes funny food -- the "burger, fries and a milkshake" that Mrs. HowChow and I still talk about. Bistro Blanc is more precise than funny. Imagine a fruit and cheese tart covered with greens on plate dotted with sauces. That could be a vegetarian thicket of bitter lettuces, but it came together beautifully. Great flavor. The illusion that I controlled the dish by dipping in sauces, but the truth was that the chef had thought out each piece and assembled something that I would never imagine at home. (And it would have been worth ordering if it had figs.)

Bistro Blanc's owner heard about my disaster because I mentioned it to BillZ of Live in Howard County. The owner emailed to apologize. It turned out my wife had been right to wonder whether people had taken off the holiday. The second team -- no Chef Dixon, no owner out front -- had ruined the tuna and served the fig tart with watermelon. Don't let that anomaly keep you away. Bistro Blanc still serves terrific food, and there are surprises -- of the good kind -- yet to eat out there.

(Update: There are some detailed comments about Bistro Blanc below. Read them. Trip Klaus writes great reviews on Urbanspoon. Lukes appears to be starting a food blog, and I'm always trying to support the locals.)

If you enjoy seasonal cuisine, definitely check out Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore and Iron Bridge in Columbia. Because Bistro Blanc is on Rte 32 just south of I-70, it would be fun to pair with a visit to Larriland for pick-your-own apples and pumpkins this fall.

(Update: I put Bistro Blanc on my Top 10 list. Click here for the 2009 "best restaurants" in Howard County.)

Bistro Blanc
3800 Ten Oaks Rd
Glenelg, MD 21737
(410) 489-7907

NEAR: Drive west on Rte 32. It is a really easy drive about 11 miles west of Rte 108. Take the exit ramp for Ten Oaks Road. At the top of the ramp, use the traffic circle to cross back over Rte 32 on the new bridge. On the other side, use the traffic circle to go on Ten Oaks Road. Ten Oaks runs parallel to Rte 32, and you have basically headed back in the opposite direction. Bistro Blanc is on the right in the first shopping center.

DO NOT FOLLOW GOOGLE DIRECTIONS because they don't account for the new bridge that eliminated the "at grade" intersection of Rte 32 and Ten Oaks Road.

Bistro Blanc on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Asian Court's Dim Sum Wins "Best Of Baltimore" From The City Paper

Asian Court's dim sum in Ellicott City won "Best of Baltimore 2009" from the Baltimore City Paper.

Congrats to Asian Court, which is on my list of places to try. It gets good comments, and Rte 40 is closer than Oriental East in Silver Spring.

(And congrats to the City Paper, which is a good sport for coming so far into the 'burbs. They also have a cool list of winners. Next time, try the Korean on Rte 40. Bethany Seafood Restaurant has to be edgy enough for you young folks -- three words: "live lobster sashimi.")

(Update: Whoops. The headline said "Asian Court's Sim Sum" originally. Just telling you so that the comment below makes sense.)

They're Building The Columbia Wegmans

You're looking at the wreckage of the Snowden River warehouse where Wegman's is building its new store.

Wegman's Web site still lists the store's opening as "TBD." But it is good to see the work commencing. I remember a day in 2007 or so when someone told me that the Wegman's wouldn't open until 2009, and that seemed far too long to wait.

(Update: An anonymous commenter below says he/she knows people who work for Wegmans and estimate the opening in early 2011. He/She also describes how the store will be laid out.)

If you're new to the Columbia Wegman's, this construction is at Snowden River and McGaw Road across from Apple Ford. I posted a while ago about why I want Wegman's. For real estate news, I always suggest that people watch the Tales of Two Cities blog.

Columbia Foodies: A DIY Club

If you like food blogs, then you may like a food club as well -- so consider the Columbia Foodies that some locals have been putting together for the last few months.

I emailed with the organizer George, who has been advertising the Columbia Foodies in the Columbia Flyer. The group has met at three restaurants (Donna's in Columbia, Bacchus in Bethesda, and Grace Garden in Odendon). They also cooked a picnic lunch and held a wine tasting at Elk Run Winery in Mount Airy. They're attracting both singles and married couples, George says:

This is a slightly-edited version of George's pitch:
We are planning a hosted dinner in September with a Hungarian menu and another in November inspired from recipes from Julia Child's 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking.' We are also considering volunteering around Christmas to prepare food at 'Food and Friends,' a wonderful charity in Washington.

I love cooking and eating good food. Most of my friends are on special diets or are just not particularly interested in food. I am trying to watch my weight so I'm usually on a diet. I think that having a nice dinner occasionally might actually help me stay in line.

I am continuing to put together a congenial group of people who might like to cook dinners together -- maybe four or five times a year -- and take turns hosting dinner at their homes. Additionally, I'd like to get together occasionally as a group to eat at interesting restaurants, visit wineries, tour an organic farm or get together for any other food-related activity that sounds like fun.

I have no formal training as a cook and am reasonably adventurous in trying new foods. I particularly enjoy cooking and eating Chinese, French and Italian foods.

We are still not very well organized and we are very flexible in deciding the best direction for our organization. I suspect that some of us will be more interested in restaurants and outings than in home-hosted dinners, but time will tell.

We still welcome new members who are passionate about food.
If you're interested, email George at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What Is "Second Sunday" In Ellicott City?

Jessie X has posted about buying tomatoes at "Second Sunday" -- which appears in her pictures to be farmers market in downtown Ellicott City.

What is Second Sunday? Who sells there? Just food? Does it run until October?

(Update: Jessie X heard about this from a post on Tales of Two Cities. Sounds great. Correction: This used to say "Saturday." Ignore that!!)

(Update #2: Click for information about the October 2009 Second Sunday.)

Azul 17: The Soft Open Has Begun

Azul 17 Mexican Cuisine & Tequila Lounge has opened quietly -- starting with dinner and working towards an October 8 grand opening.

Dzoey ate at the Snowden River Parkway restaurant on Sunday night and says they were serving appetizers, salads and small plates. This week, they're adding main dishes. Next week, they'll add lunch. I had been piecing together the story, but Dzoey has a full report that I slightly edited:
I liked the decor which gives the place a nightclub feel. Not sure if it will go over well in family oriented Columbia, but on the other hand, there's probably pent up demand for a place like this. They are happy to see families as well, and treated my kids nicely, but if I were in my 20's, I'd feel comfortable coming here.

The food was good. Real Mexican, not Tex-Mex, though they say they'll have some Tex-Mex on the menu for people's comfort zones.

The tacos are excellent, just like Lilly's [Mexican] Market (mother-in-law of the owner) or one of the US 1 taco trucks. I tried the sopas de tortilla, expecting a chicken-soup type dish. Instead I got an intensely flavored tomato based soup with chicken in it. It was delicious and surprising. We also tried the crab empenadas which I liked but the kids didn't.

They have two salsas, one mild but very flavorful and the other one spicy with decent flavor and a nice long tail.

Definitely worth checking out. We'll go back when more of the menu is available.

Dutch Country Farmers Market in Laurel

The Dutch Country Farmers Market has re-opened in Laurel, and it is still worth a drive by anyone interested in exploring food -- it's just a drive on Rte 198.

This market was a Burtonsville landmark for years, and, as I said about that location, you could go to Laurel just for the spectacle and the pretzels. Dutch Country is the size of a small supermarket with a dozen vendors selling everything from meat to candy, fresh-squeezed juice to ribs you can carry out. The new market has shopping carts and wide aisles. But it is still chaotic. It's still friendly. It's still a well-stocked middle ground in a world where so many stores specialize in organic or cheap.

Start your trip with a $2 hot pretzel from Lydianne's Soft Pretzels, which is right at the front door. They're literally right out of the oven, and you can't beat that kind of treat. Personally, I ask for a pretzel that hasn't been dipped in butter. They dip everything in quarts of melted butter. That's delicious, but I prefer a little more crisp and little less butter.

Then, take a walk. As far as I can tell, the vendors are all people from Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Obviously, this is a perfect place if you like Pennsylvania Dutch food. Think pasta and potato salads, sweet desserts like cheesecake, fudge and pies, and canned items like jams, pickled vegetables (brussel sprouts!) and pickled eggs. Don't expect a "Whole Foods" array of ethnic items. The meat counter has three different kinds of bologna, but doesn't sell pastrami. The prepared foods sells lots of fried chicken and ribs, but you're not going to get Asian-flavored grilled chicken breasts.

Sample your way around the Dutch Market to see what catches your eye. I have found great ingredients to cook and many little treats. The Laurel market has a machine that stamps rice cakes similar to the popped rice bowls at H Mart. They blow out of the machine every nine seconds, which would be a little show if you shop with kids. Usually, I'm in the midst of errands, and the full selection of vegetables -- clearly not grown in Pennsylvania -- always makes me wonder whether they're really "farmers market" special or just nice-looking stuff from a wholesale market. But you should definitely check out the central stall with bulk candies, spices, and baking items. (This weekend, I saw the wafers/cookies that you use to make ice cream sandwiches. You could make your own with your favorite ice cream.) You should also check out the restaurant, which had lines out the door from 8:30 past 9 am.

You should also read the comments. The first reports from other people are here, and TVMom posted photos on A Million Things I Love. I hope that other people will comment on this post about why they drive to the Dutch Country Market. These are my current favorites:

  • The hot pretzels, including the breakfast "bacon, egg, and cheese" pretzel log. (I'm not kidding.)
  • The fresh-squeeze orange juice and lemonade at a stand that is in the center across from the BBQ and meat stands. Juice can run $7.89 and $3.59 for a half-gallon respectively, but it's delicious. You can buy smaller bottles as well ($4.29 and $1.99).
  • The dairy products -- including Trickling Springs Creamery regular or organic milk in glass bottles -- in a dairy section across the aisle from the juice stand. It is right next to a machine that makes rice cakes.
  • The Beiler's Meats counter with a broad selection of steaks, veal, pork, interesting sausages, organic meats, and butcher-store specialties like ham hocks, cow feet, and goat meat. Beiler's sells three levels of meat -- USDA grain fed, a "natural grain fed" free of steroids, hormones and antibiotics, and a certified organic. One tip: Grab a number from the middle of the long counter. If you just stand around, they won't help you.
  • Bacon. Six slices of thick-cut bacon beat a pound of plastic-wrapped stuff at the grocery store. Beiler's sells pepper, smoked or regular bacon.
  • The baked goods, including all kinds of dinner rolls, sweet breads, cakes and even loaves from the Breadery in Ellicott City. But read the ingredients. This is a business, not just home baking. Some of the items are packed full of of potassium sorbate, polysorbate 60, and other not-so-country ingredients.

If you are looking for butchers, check out my post about meat markets in Howard County. If you're driving to shop in Laurel, consider checking out Panam Supermarket for Latin groceries, Eastern Bazar for Indian, or Aladdin Market for Middle Eastern.

Dutch Country Farmers Market
9701 Fort Meade Road (Rte 198)
Laurel, MD 20707

NEAR: The market is on Rte 198 just east of U.S. 1. It is very convenient from downtown Laurel or I-95. Watch for the Home Depot and then turn right at the next light. There is a Jerry's Subs in the center -- along with a Filipino market.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Eastern Columbia: Cantaloop, Food Fantasia

Ladies and gentlemen, as you know, we have something special here in Columbia this evening -- a tour of great food in eastern Columbia.

This is the fifth 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. Or flip over to the "What I Learned" series.

This is a winding drive aimed to help a newcomer -- or maybe a not-so-new comer -- connect the major east-west routes through Columbia. There is little great food on Rte 32 or Rte 175, so you need to swerve among shopping centers on Snowden River, Dobbin and the other roads that connect one of Columbia's major commercial areas.
  1. Start on Rte 29 and take Exit 17 towards the east on Seneca Drive. (This is an exit north of Rte 32.) Immediately, turn RIGHT on Shaker Drive.
  2. Drive south on Shaker and look to the left for a shopping center with a post office and the Touche Touchet Bakery. Grab some coffee and something sweet. Maybe a cupcake?
  3. Return to Shaker Drive and turn LEFT to continue the way you were going. The road curves around, then crosses over Rte 32. At that point, it changes name to Eden Brook Drive.
  4. Notice -- but go through -- the first light after Rte 32. That intersection is Old Columbia Road. If you turn right, Old Columbia curves around, crosses a one-lane bridge and eventually deadends in Gorman Road -- part of the "South County" leg of this tour.
  5. Go through the second traffic light at Guilford Road. Then turn LEFT into the King's Contrivance Village Center. Park and stretch your legs.
  6. The Harris Teeter is obvious. (Consider the exotic fruit.) Walk into the village center, and you'll find a quiet spot with a summertime fountain to enjoy frozen custard at Rita's, a bagel from the Bagel Bin, or pizza at Trattoria E Pizzeria Da Enrico. King's Contrivance also has a restaurant / bar Michael's Pub that I have not tried yet, and the center's Web site says there is a Burrito Brothers, which I never noticed before.
  7. Go back to your car and exit the way that you entered. Turn RIGHT on Eden Brook, then RIGHT at the light onto Guilford Road.
  8. Turn LEFT onto Broken Land Parkway. Broken Land starts at Guilford, so you can only turn left. Cross over Rte 32 and notice the commuter bus parking on the right.
  9. Turn RIGHT at the light for Snowden River Parkway. Then drive for a while. You're passing all kinds of good food on the left, but we'll loop back.
  10. Turn LEFT at the light for Oakland Mills Road. Then turn RIGHT into the first shopping center. Turn RIGHT again from the main driveway, and you'll see Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery in an building that faces Oakland Mills. Stop for great sandwiches and bread. This center also has a Ledo's Pizza, a bike store facing Snowden, and a bird feeding store tucked at the end across the parking lot from Bon Fresco.
  11. Return to Oakland Mills Road and turn RIGHT to continue the way you were going. If you want a summertime treat, check out the detour below to Pete's Snowball Stand.
  12. Turn RIGHT at the traffic light for Dobbin Road.
  13. Look left for Oh, What A Cake bakery in a little shopping center with a big sign for Dobbin Pizza. Turn LEFT into the center and try another cupcake.
  14. Go back to your car and turn LEFT to continue on Dobbin Road.
  15. Turn RIGHT at the first traffic light on McGaw Road and then turn LEFT just before the APL Credit Union into the shopping center with India Delight, Cha Ya Thai, Smoothie King, The Greene Turtle and Cheeburger, Cheeburger. Walk around for menus.
  16. Go back to your car and turn LEFT to continue on McGaw Road. Just go down a little way. On the right, that construction is the site of the planned Wegman's. On the left is Apple Ford. The light in front of you is Snowden River. If you went to that light and turned right, you would be at the Home Depot. U-TURN on McGaw and return to Dobbin Road.
  17. Turn RIGHT on Dobbin Road. On the right, you'll see a shopping center up above the road. You'll also see a sign for "County Offices" and a street sign that says "Stanford Blvd."
  18. Turn RIGHT at the Stanford Blvd. sign and turn into the shopping center. This is a bonanza -- coffee at Riverside Coffee, great beer and southwestern food at Frisco Grille, sushi at Hanamura, Asian noodles at Noodles Corner, and beer, pizza and more at Pub Dog.
  19. Return to Dobbin Road. Turn RIGHT. At the next traffic light, turn LEFT into the shopping center with a DMV. Once you pull in, look to the left, and you'll see two of my favorites: Sushi King and Lily's Mexican Market. Definitely get out and check out the market for take-out tacos, horchata, cactus, store-made tortillas, the butcher, and more.
  20. Return to Dobbin Road. I hear Five Guys is coming to the former Party Party store next to the Blockbuster right in front of you. But, for now, turn LEFT on Dobbin.
  21. Turn RIGHT at the next light into the Wal-Mart shopping center and then take the immediate LEFT next to McDonald's. Past McDonald's, look on the left for Mango Grove and Mirchi Wok -- a pair of great Indian restaurants. Mrs. HowChow's favorite Chik-fil-A is there as well.
  22. Return to Dobbin Road. Notice the Starbucks across the street. Turn RIGHT on Dobbin. Cross Rte 175 and just follow Dobbin. On your right, you pass the back of the Target. On the left, you pass a shopping center with a Chipotle and then a Red Robin and Longhorn Steakhouse.
  23. Dobbin deadends into Snowden River Parkway. If you turn left, you'll go past the closed Krispy Kreme and then Victoria's Gastropub at Rte 108 -- which was the first tour in this series. Turn RIGHT on Snowden River. Cross back under Rte 175.
  24. Just after the underpass, turn LEFT into the entrance ramp for Rte 175. Stay in the right lane and don't get on Rte 175. Instead, BEAR RIGHT onto Columbia Gateway Drive. This road is a loop so you actually turn RIGHT onto Columbia Gateway Drive, then turn RIGHT into a shopping center with Aida Bistro for upscale Italian. (Thanks to anonymous who suggested this detour in the comments. Please check this set of directions because I'm writing it from a map, not experience.)
  25. Return to Columbia Gateway from the shopping center. Turn RIGHT to continue the way that you had been going. Then turn RIGHT onto Robert Fulton Drive. This runs next to the movie theater and Home Depot. Follow the signs for Snowden River SOUTH, which will take you under Snowden and then curving up a ramp.
  26. You have entered Snowden just south of Apple Ford, the future Wegman's, and Home Depot. Pass through the light at Oakland Mills Boulevard.
  27. Turn RIGHT into the next shopping center. The NY Deli on the corner is new. The House of India is one of Columbia's best restaurants.
  28. Return to Snowden River southbound. Then turn RIGHT into the next shopping center -- with a Mattress Warehouse on the end. This one includes the new Azul 17 Mexican Cuisine & Tequila Lounge along with Akbar's for Indian, Nichi Bei Kai for Japanese, and Pho Dat Trahn for Vietnamese.
  29. Return to Snowden River. Turn RIGHT. Then turn RIGHT at the light onto Carved Stone Road. There is a Three Brothers Italian restaurant on that corner. A block ahead is the red roof of Hunan Manor, a Columbia institution for Chinese.
  30. And once more, return to Snowden River. Turn RIGHT. Then turn RIGHT at the light with a KFC. Go to the shopping center on the right up the hill, and you'll find An Loi for Vietnamese.
  31. Return to Snowden River. Turn RIGHT. Then turn RIGHT when Snowden deadends into Broken Land, then RIGHT onto Cradlerock Way. On the left will be the Owen Mills village center with Sonoma's Bar & Grille, a nice bar and restaurant with live music. (Thanks to the anonymous comment for reminding me.) If you had kept going on Cradlerock and turned right on Homespun Lane, you would hit Oakland Mills Road just north of Dobbin.)
  32. To find your way home, return to Broken Land. A right takes you to Rte 29. A left takes you to Rte 32.
There is one bonus detour if you're driving in the summer heat. At Step 9, just keep going on Oakland Mills. Eventually, you'll hit a point where your road deadends. Oakland Mills actually turns to the left, but the house right in front of you is Pete's Snowball Stand -- great for snowballs and sometimes honey and fruit grown right there. You turn right and then immediately into the driveway. Check out Hayduke's map here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Meet "Venegas Prime Filet" - The New Maple Lawn Steakhouse

The new steakhouse planned for November in Maple Lawn will be called Venegas Prime Filet.

When oZ Chophouse closed in August, there were talks about a new steakhouse from the owners of Jordan's in Ellicott City and Ranazul in Fulton across the street from oZ. Now, Jordan's is closed, and Ranazul's co-owner Carlos Venegas is opening the new steakhouse on his own.

The solo venture will be dubbed Venegas Prime Filet, according to the Maple Lawn newletter. The talk is still about opening in November.

Comments About India Delight, sushi, Bare Bones, and Dog House Pub

So many opinions. They're the best part of the comments that people leave on HowChow posts. I don't have time to link them all, but I like collecting some so that people go back and check them out.

But first some business. Alyssa emailed to ask whether anyone knows of restaurants that will honor Jordan's gift cards? Jordan's closed last month. Elizabeth Large posted that the planned Carlos' Steakhouse will honor them, but you might have heard about other places looking to attract new customers. (Update: Anonymous reports below that Bistro Blanc will honor them at 30.)

Now, to the opinions:
And one final comment from HowICook, who was the first person to tell me about Heyser's, which has an in-orchard fruit stand in Highland just off Rte 216:
Seasonally from July - early Fall, Heyser's of Colesville in Montgomery County runs a in-orchard location on Browns Bridge Rd in Highland. This is their local peach orchard. It's a shadow of it former self because of pending development but it's still open. They have a tent under a large tree right off the road.

They sell stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, plums etc), pears, corn, tomatoes and other stuff in season. Some of the varieties are hard to get in main stream markets. According to the help, the source of the produce is the on location orchard, Heyser's main farm, Heyser's Pennsylvania farm and some other local Maryland stuff. Sometimes they label the varieties but if they don't just ask and they'll tell you the variety and source. I generally go for the unbelievable white peaches. The juiciness, smell and sweet taste is a bit of peach heaven.

The stand is reachable by turning right off of 216 onto Browns Bridge road. The tent is a short drive down Browns Bridge on the left. Sometimes there's a sign with an arrow on 216 that says Peaches. There only open Tuesday thru Saturday.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Has Anyone Been To The New Dutch Country Farmers Market In Laurel?

The Dutch Country Farmers Markets opens today in Laurel -- after moving to a new space from Burtonsville. Have you been? What does it look like? Could you comment on this post?

(Update: Reports are coming in there!)

Mexican Pickles At Super Grand

Keep your eye on the Mexican goods at the Asian supermarkets because you can find little gems like the pickled vegetables ("verduras curtidas") at the Super Grand in Laurel.

The jar looks distressingly orange, but that is the stain of carrots, not artificial color, according to the ingredient list. Cauliflower, onion, carrots and jalapenos soaked in vinegar and merging their flavors of spice and sweet.

These aren't the delicate Asian pickles that you can make yourself with Yoricho vinegar. These are fiery vegetables that I have enjoyed in small quantities. A small bowl were a side dish with tacos. A few pieces jazzed up a brown-bag lunch. Chopped, they might make a fine relish. It is an exotic taste for about $4 if I remember correctly. And as easy as just pulling them into your cart.

Super Grand definitely has the widest Mexican selection of the Asian supermarkets. But you could look for these as well at Lotte in Ellicott City or H Mart in Catonsville -- or at Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia.

Previously, I have posted about the Asian supermarkets and about "no cook" finds -- specifically at H Mart but probably available at Lotte and Super Grand as well. Or click for the starting page for my "What I Learned" guide to food in Howard County.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Azul 17: Hiring On Craigslist

Azul 17 Mexican Cuisine & Tequila lounge is advertising for part-time waiters with a Craiglist ad that is amusingly ambiguous about whether they have opened. (Update: Comment below says Azul 17 is open.) This is a modern-looking Mexican place that is opening on Snowden River Parkway. Anyone know if it opened? The ad says it is "newly opening," and it suggests that they're offering tequila to the public:
Azul 17 specializes in authentic Mexican cuisine and offers an immaculate collection of the finest Tequilas for tasting and presents an array of freshly prepared international cocktails. Our teams of passionate professionals are dedicated to consistently providing our clients with superior service and a memorable experience that will only leave you yearning for more!

Hanamura in Columbia

I have a new girlfriend -- a neighborhood gal with less flash, but just as much ambition as the stylish chicks I have been seeing.

I love Sushi King and Sushi Sono. Love the big rolls and private rooms. I have been loyal for years -- mostly because my few dalliances were expensive and not as fresh.

But I stepped out to Hanamura last week and discovered complex food in a joint stripped bare of the decor, the sauces -- and the $12-18 per roll price tags -- that dominate my sushi experience in Howard County. OK, dominate our sushi experience. That metaphor has gone far enough to test how regularly the wife reads the blog, and this post should be about fish, not girlfriends.

Mrs. HowChow and I stepped out to Hanamura with my aunt and mother after I wrote about wanting to try new places and noticed the Columbia restaurant mentioned again and again. We stepped in with trepidation because sushi disappoints if the fish or the price seem off, and the sparse, small restaurant off Dobbin Road doesn't look that different from places that have let us down.

Then, the fish started to arrive. Spicy shrimp roll picked by my aunt, spicy scallop by my mother, salmon skin by Mrs. HowChow, and on and on . . . . We filled a table with sushi for four on a budget just larger than dinner for two at Sushi King. We had a wonderful meal that started with edamame (ask if they'll salt the beans) and ran through mochi ice cream for dessert. Everything was delicious, and everything was different enough that we each had favorites. The Atlantic Roll's mackerel, ginger and scallions was my "new find," but the least of the rolls for my aunt. We all left satisfied, and Hanamura gets my family's ultimate prize -- my mother says the spicy scallops matched Niwano Hana, her gold standard in Rockville.

For me, the innovation at Hanamura is serving imaginative flavors even in $6 or $8 dishes. They have $16 rolls that echo the Sushi Ks', but I saw more small dishes that looked intriguing. For $8, we took a risk on tuna tartare, and the bowl of tuna, avocado and cucumber echoed the poke that we loved in Hawaii. For $3, we tried the pickled radishes. They weren't great, but they weren't pricey. Next time, I'll try the salmon and squid in the "tiger eye" appetizer or the salmon soup that commented about. You aren't sacrificing quality at Hanamura. You are just getting choice and a great change of pace -- tasty fish in a budget meal or tasty fish in an opulent banquet. It just depends on what you want to try.

And a parting thought for equality: On our visit, Hanamura was an all-woman show. Women manning the tables and the sushi bar. Mrs. HowChow pointed out the sushi chef as we left -- in part because we have seen more Latinos cutting sushi than women. Way to go girlfriend!

If you want more advice about sushi in Howard County, check out the posts on Sushi King and Sushi Sono and check out all the comments there and on my post about wanting to branch out to something new. People talk up Yamahana in Waverly Woods, Niko on Rte 40 in the Normany Shopping Center, and others.

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.

Thanks to everyone who pushed me to Hanamura, including Chris C., David P.,, Hal, Lisa, and Anonymous (who loves the Kevin Roll).

8865 Stanford Blvd
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: Hanamura is off Dobbin Road south of Rte 175 in a shopping center with Pub Dog, Riverside Coffee and Frisco Grille. From the north, take Rte 175 and turn south on Dobbin Road at the intersection with a Chik-fil-A on the corner. The shopping center is on the left after the second light. From the south, take Snowden River Parkway and turn left on McGaw Road at the light with Apple Ford. Turn right at the light with Dobbin, then look for the shopping center on the right.

Hanamura on Urbanspoon