Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Comments on Azul 17, Frisco Tap Room, And A Host Of Other Places That Got People Excited

Comments are a great part of HowChow because people report news and provided detailed reports or sugestions about what you might want to try.

Chicken Stirfry w/ Cumin at Red Pearl
Jade's Mama suggests the E2 Sliced Lamb Stirfry at Red Pearl in Columbia -- and reported that they'll soon add authentic Cantonese and Mandarin dishes to the Sichuan menu. Michelle, Laura, Jagsters and others have given their early comments about the new Frisco Tap Room in Columbia, Bon Appetit Cafe in Ellicott City, and El Hidalgo in Elkridge.

But many great comments fall on old posts. For example, Bboyneko wrote a long review of dinner at Azul 17 in Columbia -- an ambitious restaurant where I had some mixed experiences. Bboyneko says the prices are fair for unusual goods like the bar drinks:
For example, the Mojito is made with Mexican ingredients for a very unique take on the classic drink. Then there are other surprises like using very hard to find Colombian juices for their drinks. (read, colOmbian, NOT ColUmbian.) Ever had Maracuya, Lulo or Guanabana juice? Well those use it in their Margaritas with very good effect. . .
I try to collect comments regularly so you get to hear from more than one mouth.  This is just a blog about food, and everyone has different taste and a different voice.  Here is a sample of the recent thoughts:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Link: El Hidalgo In Howard County Times

El Hidalgo gets a Howard County Times writeup in a review that appears online in Explore Howard.  Donna Ellis ate dinner at the Elkridge restaurant, and she interviewed the owner so we get the interesting fact that he used to own Zapata in Columbia.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Link: Fatburger On Technology & MSG

Fatburger in Elkridge gets a write-up on Technology & MSG, and Alex finds the food doesn't match up to the burgers and fries at Five Guys in Columbia or Laurel.  He also mentions onion rings at "Second Chance" -- which I take to mean Second Chance Saloon, a place that where I still want to try the Old Bay wings.

I have to agree with Alex on Fatburger, although my burger eating has dropped enormously over the past few years.  I haven't had an urge for a second lunch at Fatburger since my January 2009 visit.  I'd try Five Guys, or I'd hold out for Victoria Gastropub or my own burgers made with Laurel Meat Market's ground chuck.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nut Mixes And Blue Soda At Caspian Market

Fresh nuts are an easy way to introduce yourself to the Caspian Market -- a guaranteed find and an excuse to check out the yogurt, grains, meats and other Middle Eastern items at the Ellicott City grocery.

Right in the center of the store, Caspian sells two bulk nut mixes.  You scoop as much as you want into a plastic bag.  The mixes beat out any packaged mixes that I have bought at places like Trader Joe's -- and I love TJ's.

Caspian's nuts are so fresh.  Huge nuts in a mix that has a half doen varieties including pistachios, almonds, pecans, dried fruit and more.  Normally, I avoid walnuts because they can be bitter, but Caspian's mix was sweet from the walnuts to the Turkish delight.  That's right -- one of the mixes comes with a few bursts of candy among the nuts.  It's a delicious snack, but it is classy enough that you could fill a bowl for a party.

If you go to Caspian, you must try the Fard pistachio nougat.  Those candies remain one of my favorite HowChow discoveries.  Also check out the saffron ice cream.

And does anyone recommend Fanta Shokata?  It's a shockingly blue soft drink that Wikipedia says is flavored with elderflower blossoms.  They say its available in Romania, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia.  Cool bottle shape.  Worth buying?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sweet Bakery Moving From Ellicott City

The Sweet bakery will move from its Main Street, Ellicott City location into Baltimore, as noted on its blog and on Dining at Large.

The Sweet baked goods are still for sale at the Six Mile Coffee in Catonsville, and Sweet is working on a way to pick up custom cakes there as well.  (Hat tip to Adam for nudging me to post.)

What New Tex-Mex Restaurant Is For Sale?

A commentor pointed out this Craigslist advertisement that offers to sell a three-month-old Tex-Mex restaurant in Howard County:

Jump on this opportunity to take over this profitable Tex Mex restaurant in up-and-coming neighborhood. All new owned equipment comes with the sale. Plenty of parking in shopping center. Restaurant has been open 3 months and is already showing great income. 
The asking price is $380,000. The revenues are $550,000. The annual profit is $180,000. This business is located in Howard County. 
If you are interested in receiving more information about this business, please contact me and include your phone number. 

Mark asked in the comment if this was El Hidalgo in Elkridge.  I think El Hidalgo has been opened a little more than three months, so this could be another place.  El Hidalgo has gotten nice comments from people on old posts. Basically, people the service is spotty to bad, but the food was delicious.  The Sun's Rob Kaspar talked up a Mexican dish called tlcolyos, and it has been on my list of places to try.

(Update: That first ad appears to have been deleted.  But you could also buy this restaurant site on U.S. 1 in Elkridge -- whose name may be the Buttermilk Hill Tavern.  Anyone know more?)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Still A Great Takeout Dinner At Lotte Market

The Lotte Supermarket has reorganized its takeout section since I first wrote about it in 2008, but it's still a great place for an easy takeout dinner.

Lotte in Ellicott City sells marinated beef and pork -- including my favorite, the sliced ribs called kalbi -- by the pound, and it sells a small but tasty variety of Korean side dishes.  Those range from a mild pickled cucumber salad to some more exotic items like tiny fish and oysters.

Ask to sample.  Generally, a Lotte employee stands at the display and weighs your packages.  They're happy to let you try each dish, and I recommend the juliened white radishes, any of the seaweed salads, and (if you like spicy food) any of the vegetables covered with the red-pepper paste. You can quickly put together a great meal with some kalbi and a few sides.  I cook the kalbi in a cast iron pan, although you could grill them as well.

If you're looking for more, look for the containers of soup to the right of the kalbi and panchan display.  Spicy beef soup is delicious on a cold night.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lighthouse Tofu BBQ in Ellicott City

Korean restaurants continue to pop up on Rte 40 in Ellicott City, and the new Lighthouse Tofu BBQ offers a casual, focused menu perfect for a weeknight or people learning about Korean food.

Lighthouse Tofu is a branch from an established Rockville restaurant just like Honey Pig came from a Virginia original.  It's a deceptive storefront -- a tiny sign at the end of a shopping center with a Jerry's subs.    The door opens into a bright, spacious restaurant that was packed last Saturday night.

The menu -- at least the one that I saw -- was only three pages long.  There are many variations, but you basically choose between savory pancakes as an appetizer and between tofu stews, grilled meats and octopus/noodle dishes for the main courses.

The prime dishes are the stews called soon doo boo.  They're tofu stews.  You pick your level of spiciness and whether you want beef, oysters, others seafood or kimchi as the flavoring.  The stew comes out still simmering from the kitchen, and the waitress cracks an egg that you stir into the stew where it basically disappears among the other ingredients.  The medium soon doo boo with beef and pork made a perfect winter dinner, warm and luscious in way that filled us up but didn't leave us stuffed at all.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Link: Two Mexican Restaurants Are Prospects For Columbia's Long Reach Village Center

Two Mexican restaurants -- including one from the owners of the Mari Luna restaurants in Pikesville -- are prospects for Columbia's Long Reach Village Center, says the Columbia Flier.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Link: Weekly Food Posts On Swim Write Run Blog

The bulgogi panini
For a new voice about food in Howard County, check out the Food v. Food posts on Swim Write Run.  Maureen writes an ongoing series of Friday posts that pits local food against each other -- like the bulgogi panini at Riverside Coffee against the London broil sandwich at Bon Fresco in Columbia.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chen Hibachi Has Opened In Ellicott City

Chen Hibachi has opened in Ellicott City.  From the outside, it looks like a Japanese places with the standard menu of table-side cooking and sushi.

Of course, it's a circle of life.  So Chen's arrival came at the expense of Panda Buffet, which left behind survivors such as Michelle's husband was reported to be broken-hearted and thinking about crab rangoons.

This is the Lotte shopping center.  I walked by too early for Chen Hibachi to be open, but it is next to Shin Chon Garden.  Anyone know more?

Spike Mendelsohn: The HowChow Interview

NOT Mrs. HowChow & Spike Mendelson
Spike Mendelsohn has no idea where you live.

Spike is a Top Chef All-Star.  He is a gracious guy, a tasty chef, and a restaurant owner.  But he is no geographer of Howard County, although he says he will stop for gas station tacos.  More about that later.

Spike did a round of interviews yesterday from his Capitol Hill restaurants to promote the MasterCard MarketPlace Web site with Suntrust -- a deal in which Spike got $5,000 in toys to donate to his favorite charity, my friend and I got to talk to Spike, and MasterCard/Suntrust get link after link to their Web site.  For the blog, we'll call my friend "Brooklyn" because, well, she has a professional reputation to protect.

The tidbit of news is that Spike plans to open a restaurant in Baltimore.  They don't have a site yet, but he has been driving up to look for space.  (What kind of restaurant, asks Mrs. HowChow? Whoops.  I didn't ask.  I'm 15 years out of practice for journalism.)  I pitched hard for him to look in Columbia.  I even had some Google maps of the area around Rte 175, but more about that later as well.

The HowChow interview happened on the top floor of Spike's Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill.  My co-worker Brooklyn and I ate lunch at We The Pizza next door.  Then we had a half hour to kill so I got a bag of fries and a vanilla shake at Good Stuff.  Spike sells high-quality comfort food, and it works.  The place was so packed that we went upstairs for quiet in the business office.  Spike's sister and mother were working at desks while we talked.

The interview will be shocking if you know absolutely nothing about television.  They edit Top Chef.  Like, wow, it's not live.  If that's news to you, then you're going to be stunned by this interview.  Otherwise, I hope you'll be mildly amused because that's success on a blog or reality TV.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kolache Kreations in Ellicott City

New bakeries are popping up along the western run of Rte 40 in Ellicott City, and Treetop Tom turned me onto one hoping to import the kolache from Texas to our area.

I had already been thinking about a trip to the new Bon Appetit when Tom emailed me a photo and a report about Kolache Kreations:
A kolache (also known as kolacky, kolach or kolace and don't even get started on how it's supposed to be pronounced: Ko-LATCH, Ko-LAHTCH-see, Ko-LOCK-eh etc., ad infinitum) is a Czech pastry consisting of a light bread roll/biscuit hybrid either topped with fruit and sweets (apple, cherry, cream cheese etc.) or surrounding a sausage/pepper filling like a miniature pepperoni roll. They are especially popular in Texas, Oklahoma and parts of the midwest where eastern European families settled. 
I had read about them, but until this last week had never tried them. A young couple (Ileana Fernandez and her husband, whose name I didn't catch) from Texas have opened a small bakery specializing in the toothsome treats on Frederick Road at the old consignment shop at Kiwanis-Wallas fields in Ellicott City. They also sell other confections including cinnamon rolls, cakes by the slice, coffee, bubble teas, smoothies and ice cream. 
The kolaches are much denser than an ordinary flaky danish and not as sweet, and still warm from the oven on a Saturday morning they are a little round bite of heaven (they also reheat well in the microwave). If you're a hungry expatriate Texan or just a lover of good baked goods I heartily recommend this place. 
Sunday morning I rushed out to confirm Tom's report.  Kolache Kreations is a small building about a half-block off Rte 40.  In one room, they have set up a casual bakery.  In the other, they're selling a mix of jewelry, candles, toys and other gift items.  They even have a heater on the porch so you could warm yourself with coffee and a treat on a brisk day.

The kolaches are definitely worth a wait on the porch right out of the oven.  They're a light white dough with yeasty bite.  So yeasty that the woman who ordered before me asked if there was beer in the batter.  No beer.  It's all yeast, and that flavor went great with the sausage stuffed in the savory kolache that I ordered.  I'm down on cheese in breakfast sandwiches.  The Kolache kolache overflows with cheese, which would work for people don't want breakfast sandwiches limited to "egg and bacon on a roll."

Next time, I'll go sweet.  Tom wrote that the fruit-topped kolache were delicious and even reheated well. The blueberry ones looked luscious, and they were right out of the oven on Sunday morning.  I only passed because I had already eaten a red bean donut at Bon Appetit.  Kolache Kreations had other breakfast pastries, along with bubble teas and ice cream.  So they'll be cozy in this season, then refreshing when the heat returns.  Please let the heat return one day.

(Update:  See the comments below about the many varieties -- and about special orders.)

Kolache Kreations 
10455 Frederick Road 
Ellicott City, MD 21042 

NEAR: Kolache Kreations is just off Rte 40 west of Bethany Lane.  Frederick Road intersects with Rte 40 twice, so there are actually two traffic lights where you can turn onto Frederick Road.  Kolache sits just north of the western intersection.  It's in sight from the turn lane if you're coming west from Rte 29.

Kolache Kreations on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 13, 2010

Saving The Bees In Howard County

Now is the time to call your county council member and support the bees of Howard County.

County code inspectors recently started to enforce the rules that characterize bees as livestock.  On December 20, the council will consider a zoning change to reduce the setbacks that beekeepers need to follow.

The bees have a support group with all the information about the hearing.  The bees have a Twitter account.  They even have a page where you can email your council member.

Overall, concerns about beekeeping seem overblown.  I have seen even some Howard County supporters say they want hives in single family homes, but they couldn't imagine them in townhouses.  Seriously?  People raise bees in Brooklyn.  Dogs seem way more dangerous than bees.

Narita Sushi Closed In Columbia's Hickory Ridge

Morty put a comment on a prior post that confirmed bad news that someone else had mentioned:
Narita Sushi, the tiny sushi place in Hickory Ridge shopping center, has closed. Presumably the much larger Maruha managed to drive them out of business just as Maruha itself was tanking. Peking Chef is the Chinese restaurant that surrounded the much smaller Narita on three sides. I stopped by Peking Chef and asked what was up; the guy behind the counter didn't know the history, but said that they would be expanding into Narita's old space. 
Hickory Ridge has developed a nice cluster of restaurants beyond Peking Chef -- Chick'n Pollo for Peruvian chicken, Luna Bella for pizza, Hickory Ridge Grill for lots of item, including gyros.  You can even get frozen custard and coffee drinks at Meadows Custard.

Bon Appetit Bakery & Cafe In Ellicott City

Bon Appetit Bakery & Cafe has burst on the scene with sweets, bread and sandwiches, although it is all but hidden from Rte 40 in Ellicott City.

The new bakery offers up a Korean-tinged variety accessible to anyone.  Sweets for a snack.  Cakes for a special occasions. Sandwiches for breakfast or lunch.

And there are red bean donuts.  Oh, I love red bean sweets, and Bon Appetit's rice donuts are bulked-up donut holes -- a really nice balance between the filing and the surrounding fried dough.

Check out Bon Appetit because you can't go wrong.  The sweets are terrific.  Madelines, donuts, mnju, and three kinds of castella.  The last two are Japanese pastries, although I only learned that on Wikipedia.  Bon Appetit could use some explanations -- a few lines about each variety to tell you what you can buy.

The cakes are obvious.  An entire case is filled with formal-looking cakes and tortes.  I assume they're a Korean style because I have seen similar ones at La Boulangerie and the bakery at the front of H Mart.  Those would make a birthday or an office party.  Mrs. HowChow doesn't like cake, so I have never bought one yet.

But the rest of the place is definitely a chance to explore.  On Sunday, they were offering green tea donuts.  Not my favorites, but certainly something to try.  Much of the items are individually wrapped, so you can grab one to try.  This time, I tried lightly-salted bread sticks that were crisp and perfect with soup,  Next time, I'm going to get the cookies that look like smiley faces.

On top of all the sweets, you can also get sandwiches or bubble tea.   You can also get breakfast sandwiches, and the egg sandwiches were cheap.  From the effort put into the pastries, I assume that they're paying attention to all tose items as well.  I'd love to hear if you lunch there.

(Update:  Check out the comments below.  I have to be honest that you can go wrong with some of the savory breads.  They were tasting a "pizza baguette" that didn't thrill me.  Not terrible, but you should eat sweets at Bon Appetit and get your pizza elsewhere.)

(Update 2: In 2011, the Ellicott City Patch also wrote about Bon Appetit.)

If you're driving out to Bon Appetit, consider stopped by the Caspian Market on the same trip.  It's in the same shopping center as the Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt shop on the south side of Rte 40.  If you drive from Bon Appetit to Rte 29, you pass Caspian on the right.  Absolutely worth checking out for a range of Middle Eastern food.

Bon Appetit Bakery & Cafe 
10155 Baltimore National Pike 
Ellicott City, MD 21042-3669
(410) 203-2071 

NEAR:  Bon Appetit is in a brick building on the south side of Rte 40.  It's just west of Bethany Lane.  The building sits perpendicular to the main road.  You need to be driving eastbound to turn into the building so you need to go past and U-turn if you're coming from Rte 29.

Bon Appetit Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Link: Aida Bistro AND WINE BAR In The Sun

Aida Bistro's new location is open, and Richard Gorelick focused on the wine bar aspect, including wines on tap in his Sun restaurant roundup.  (Hat tip to HoCo Rising.)

Aida Bistro & WIne Bar
6741 Columbia Gateway Drive
Columbia, MD

NEAR:  This is off Colonel Gateway Drive.  (Seriously, I thought that the signs on Rte 175 were saying "Colonel" Gateway for years.  The abbreviation "Col" means "colonel.")  You get there from Rte 175 just west of I-95.  It's very easy to reach.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Half-Smokes At The Laurel Meat Market

Okay, so I said that I stopped buying pork sausages in favor of Harris Teeter's chicken links.  But I lied just a little bit.

I experimented recently with half-smokes from Laurel Meat Market because, well, it seems like the local thing to do.

They're lightly spicy.  Firmer than the chicken sausage, and we ate them in sandwiches.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Coconut Macaroon at Bonaparte in Savage

Among the intricate French pastries at Bonaparte Bread, I picked out the coconut macaroon because it looked so simple.

The bakery in Savage Mill sells terrific breads and a line of sweets like tarts, opera cake and scones.  They're wonderful, and the macaroon lived up to the reputation -- dense and sweet, but with coconut way out in front.  The flavor overcomes the sugar, and the moist texture closer to a marizipan than cake.

Bonaparte and Touche Touchet in Columbia fulfil everything that you would want from a bakery.  Settle at a table for a sweet and an escape from the cold outside.  Or carry out a special dessert to enjoy at home.

The coconut macaroon is large enough to split.  You could buy a few for a dinner party -- or mix it up with selections from the case.  You also eat one alone in your car -- but that's a big dessert.  Get a cup of coffee to go along.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Link: Lighthouse Tofu On HoCo Rising

The beauty of blogging is that you can have a sense of humor.  HoCo Rising writes about dinner at the new Lighthouse Tofu in Ellicott City, and the post encourages you to go -- without making the same mistakes.

Frisco Tap House To Open Tuesday Or Wednesday

The new Frisco Tap House in Columbia looks to be opening Tuesday or Wednesday.

That's what the sign says, according to Lanny who posted a picture.  The former Frisco Grille is getting the final inspections done on its new Dobbin Road location.  For up-to-the-minute updates, check out the Baltimore Beer Guys tweets.

Link: Big T-Bonz Event On Baltimore Beer Guy

Are you looking for a day-long event with craft beers and a whole-roasted pig?

The Baltimore Beer Guys has news of an event for you -- December 11 at T-Bonz in Ellicott City.  It's "Beers & Steers" with steaks, pit beef and oysters as well.  Check out the BBG for the list of beers.

Trade Peace Hammered Out In Columbia

U.S. and Korean negotiators could agree:
House of India is delicious.
Korea and the United States hammered out a trade deal last week -- in Columbia.

My friend Josh and I propose that it's the Howard County magic that brought people together.  Plus, they negotiated non-stop for days.  What local food could have lead people to come together?  Josh's theory:
Personally, I'd get takeout from House of India.  I'd also take our international deligations for tacos at R&R Taqueria in Elkridge.  What Korean government official could believe that we eat Mexican food from a gas station?

Anyone know where these trade negotiations were held?  A conference center in Columbia?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Link: Touche Touchet On The Columbia Patch

Touche Touchet gets a business profile in the Columbia Patch.  Lisa lets the owner and the star cake decorators tell their story.  The Columbia bakery is one of the great local spots for sweets -- and a beautiful place to hole up for coffee or hot chocolate on a cold day.  Click here for all my Touche Touchet posts.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Link: A "Must Try Places In HoCo" List From Yaka H.

Check out a list of "must try places" in Howard County that Yaka H. created on Yelp.

Yaka recommends a lot of places that I love like Bon Fresco and House of India.  She suggests some specific items from R&R Taqueria that sound terrific.  She also has created a "to do" list for me of Korean places on Rte 40 in Ellicott City -- Lighthouse Tofu & BBQ, Soeul Soondae, and Manna Korean.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Back For Porterhouse At J.W. Trueth In Oella

We're not huge beef people, but the drive to J.W. Trueth in Oella is worthwhile for anyone who wants a great steak.

A porterhouse serves us perfectly -- a little filet for Mrs. HowChow, a little strip for me.  And Trueth serves perfectly.  Butchering the beef themselves.  Answering any questions.  Happy to check the back for a porterhouse with a more-equal split between filet and strip.

I'm better with a castiron pan than putting a steak on the grill.  More light in my kitchen.  More control with the fire under a pan.  I make a sauce with ginger, soy sauce and water.  The steak needs nothing special.  It's delicious with just the right marbling to keep the meat moist.  If you actually have grill skills, you can make a masterpiece.

In fact, J.W. Trueth would be priceless if you wanted to serve a special meal, and you just drive a few minutes east of downtown Ellicott City.  Check out the dry-packed scallops and the huge tuna chunks.  But the place makes its name on meat.  Porterhouse, sirloins, filets, and thick lamb chops.  Pick your favorite and fire up.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Links: Kloby's Smoker And Meats On HoCo360 And Farmers Markets On The Elkridge Patch

The Elkridge Patch went outside the borders to write about the JFX Farmer's Market, which was packed the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  TJ maneuvered the family around for produce and snacks.

HoCo360 stayed closer to home with an awesome photo inside the smoker at Kloby's Smokehouse on Johns Hopkins Road just off Rte 29.  I join the recommendation that you try any of the smoked items -- wings, chicken, ribs, etc. -- with sauce on the side.  They're delicious, and you can see which sauces you prefer.

Who Serves Great Christmas Dinner - Especially Buffet

Any suggestions for Christmas brunch or dinner?

On the HowChow Facebook page, Kay asked for people's advice.  It's really not my speciality.  I have gone for Chinese food on Christmas, but never an impressive family meal.

Kay's 90-year-old mother likes to treat the family to a Christmas meal.  They need some gluten-free options for one of her brothers.  Buffets work well, she said.  They used to like the Waterside in Columbia, but they'd prefer a new option.  My thought -- Victoria Gastropub -- is closed.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Link: Smokin Hot On Grub Grade

Smokin Hot in Glenwood provided Adam of GrubGrade with a feast a day after his Thanksgiving feast -- and Adam recommends the barbecue and the kale with smoked turkey.  Adam talks up the pit club sandwich -- with some humor that makes GrubGrade worth checking out for local posts.  He would like some improvements on the in-house feel and the sweet potato fries, but he recommends Smokin Hot as one of greater Baltimore's better spots for barbecue.

Mrs. HowChow Loves Jasmine Bubble Tea -- Why Not Boba? -- At Ichiban Cafe In Columbia

It's Mrs. HowChow here putting in my two cents about a new place in Columbia:

I don’t know about you, but I try to ration the amount of holiday coffee drinks I get from Starbucks. Don’t get me wrong, I love the high-calorie “snacks” as I like to think of them and often reward myself (almost like a small child) with a Peppermint Mocha, Pumpkin Spice Latte or other whipped-cream-laden-sweet chocolate-with-a-bit-of-coffee creation while doing errands or as a break at work.

However, Monday, I decided that my morning coffee intake had already caused my blood to run a little too high on the caffeine meter, so when I needed a little break and snack while doing errands in Columbia, the Ichiban CafĂ© provided a yummy alternative. It was also at least 50 degrees – too cold to put the top down on the car, but warm enough to forgo the toasty Starbucks treat.

Ichiban lured me in with the words, “bubble tea” engraved along a border on their storefront, and Mr. HowChow had already mentioned this place to me as a new “to try” restaurant when we felt up for going out to eat sometime soon. I entered Ichiban to be greeted with an overwhelming number of items on their menu, both posted above the counter, as well as provided as a take-out version that I brought home later. The first thing that drew me in was the long lists of “Specialty Drinks”, which included Bubble Teas, Smoothies, and Milkshakes. Although the milkshakes looked especially good, the 50 degree weather swayed me to save that for another day. It also turned out that the Jasmine smoothie may have been a mistake on the takeout menu (the folks who work there said that maybe it was due to some changes on the menu since they opened a few weeks ago).

I tend to pick the unusual things on menus like this, so it was no difficulty to decide on the Jasmine Bubble Tea. (By the way, can anyone help me with this name – I swear that when I lived in LA, everyone, including the stores where I bought this, called it Boba Tea…..is Bubble Tea an east coast thing?). Anyway, there are a large variety of offerings, from the more common coffee, mango, and chocolate to the more unusual Taro, Bubble Milk, and Papaya. I have to admit that you need to like both the flavor of jasmine (floral and light, though distinctive) as well as those tapioca Bubbles (Boba) to make this a hit.

While I waited for my take-out-Jasmine Bubble Tea, I read the rest of the menu and watched a few people pick up an early dinner (or late lunch) to go. The items looked quite tasty as they were being packed up (you can eat in, by the way, but it was about 4 0’clock, so a little early for eat-in diners). There is even a small sushi bar to pull up a stool and eat in as well. The menu items were diverse – ranging from sushi, sashimi and bento boxes to a very long list of Chinese and Japanese items sure to please many palates (including those who may not care for Jasmine).

The flavor of the tea was lovely and as always, I love the weird little Bubble things that I eat during the drink as well as suck up afterwards with the straw on steroids.

I brought the take-out menu home and definitely plan to bring Mr. HowChow back to try their other offerings.

Ichiban Cafe
6250 Columbia Crossing Circle
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: Ichiban is in the Columbia Crossing shopping center. This is off Rte 175 at Dobbin Road. There is near the Joseph A. Banks and across from the Dick's sporting goods.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Restaurant News Update: November 2010

Restaurants are opening, closing and moving all over Howard County.  It's impossible for me to truly catch up, but I can at least collect the basics here:

  • Openings: Bon Appetit Bakery opened last week on Rte 40 in Ellicott City.
  • Movings: Aida Bistro was scheduled to open in its new Columbia home on December 2.  The new Frisco Tap Room in Columbia was scheduled for an early December opening as well.
  • Expansions: Facci and Kloby's Smokehouse have both announced expansion plans for the same shopping center on Johns Hopkins Road just off Rte 29.
  • And there is massive shifting on the Indian food front.  Bombay Peacock closed in Columbia.  But a new Indian restaurant is opening tomorrow in Ellicott City, says Suzanne on the HowChow Facebook page.  She says it's in the Taylor Village shopping center.
  • At the same time, a new Indian restaurant specializing in southern Indian food will replace Aida Bistro in Columbia, according to Kalpesh on the HowChow Facebook page.  He says the new place will be owned by the folks behind House of India.
  • There is talk that a new Mexican restaurant may replace the coffee shop in the Waverly Woods shopping center.  Todd emailed to say there is talk that the new restaurant owners already have two Mexican places in the area.
Anyone know any other details -- about the new Indian or Mexican especially?  Or other news on the horizon?

What The Heck Is Freekeh? Or "How To Find Ingredients When The Grocer Doesn't Know Them"

I'm not the only one who loves Nazar Market in Columbia.  Since the Turkish market opened this year, I have found myself a regular for meat, breads, snacks and lots of ingredients.  (Click here for all the Nazar posts.)

So has Kyle.  The regular HowChow contributor has been working through some Turkish food, and he finds -- as I have -- that the guys who sell ethnic groceries rarely actually cook with the ethnic groceries.  They're shopkeepers, not cooks.  But Kyle has kitchen skills, so he went from recipe to freekeh to pilaf:
Back in September, the Washington Post food section did a front-page article with back-page recipes on Turkish cooking. So I naturally thought of Nazar. Even though I already had a lot of Turkish ingredients, there were some I did not have. So off to Nazar I went with paper in hand. I wanted to make the Post's green wheat pilaf.
The recipe called for some unique ingredients:  freekeh, Aleppo pepper, red pepper paste and coarse bulgur. I already had Aleppo pepper from Penzeys (internet or trip to Rockville), which was good because Nazar didn't stock it.  It's slightly chewy and oily with a nice burn. I think the Maras pepper is the best substitute to be found at Nazar's.  Both Nazar and I have coarse bulgur (also known as bulgur #3 or #4), so my search was for red pepper paste and freekeh.
At Nazar, my usual guy wasn't working, but two new ones were. I told them I was looking for roasted green wheat, freekeh. You gotta love an ingredient that has "freak" in the name plus a smokey taste. First stumbling block: These Turkish guys had no idea what I was talking about.  I had to show them the recipe. They ended up recommending peeled wheat based on the picture. I was pretty sure that was wrong and picked up a bag labeled "firik bulgur (firik wheat)." They weren't sure what that was but again recommended the peeled wheat. They had no problem finding the red pepper paste. It's called "Biber Salcasi (mild pepper paste)."
When I got home, I looked up freekeh  and, lo and behold, the Turkish name for freekeh is firik. Apparently freekeh is the Arabic word -- a still more interesting than "firik." Back to Nazar I went later that week. My usual guy (I really should learn his name) was there, and I told him about my quest for freekeh aka firik. All he said was basically that he carries firik, people buy it, but he has no idea how you use it. I told him you make green wheat pilaf. He said that the Post was good for business since  he had three people buy red pepper paste in a single day.  They were making another recipe, green lentil soup with noodles and mint. Even though the Post recipes recommend Iranian markets, I had less luck at Pars Market down Snowden River Parkway.  I love the attitude of the guy who works there but they just don't have the variety of Nazar.
I guess Turkey is like America; one region may not know anything about ingredients in another region. Try looking for okra in New England. The green wheat pilaf was good. You could really taste the smoke. I didn't return the peeled wheat, I can make something  called noah's pudding with it. And you can make the green wheat pilaf recipe for yourself.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A&W Pit Beef At Duvall's Marketplace in Jessup

Pit beef just tastes better on the side of the road.

All summer, Duvall's Marketplace in Jessup sold produce on Rte 175 in Jessup, and the A&W Pit Beef trailer has offered sandwiches to eat at some outdoor tables.

Don't think the cold will chase A&W away.  They plan on serving up pit beef Monday to Saturday -- for lunch until about 4 pm.  It's a handmade sandwich.  The owner cuts up the meat and cooks it himself.  He reheats servings for each sandwich.

It's not Pioneer's slices right off the roast, but that Woodlawn institution is one of the best sandwiches around.  A&W's is a meaty, solid sandwich, almost a BBQ-style with shredded meat.  Ask for light sauce because the beef stands on its own -- and stands up to the horseradish that I require on a pit beef sandwich.

At this time of year, Duvall's is shifting from vegetables to Christmas trees.  So it's a fine outing to buy your tree and get a sandwich.  It's also a great place for lunch if you're doing errands, going to Arundel Mills Mall or driving home from the airport.

Call ahead around Christmas week.  The owner was talking about taking some time off around the holiday.

A&W Pit Beef at Duvall's Marketplace
2846 Jessup Road (Rte 175)
Jessup, MD  20794

NEAR:  A&W is on Rte 175 between the railroad tracks and the BW Parkway.  It is on the north side of the road.

A&W Pit Beef at Duvall's Marketplace on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bon Appetit Bakery Opens in Ellicott City

The Bon Appetit bakery has opened on Rte 40 in Ellicott City after six months of waiting. The early reports sound like a mix of Asian and American pastries, and Treetop Tom sent in this report this morning:
I went to the long-awaited grand opening of Bon Appetit in Ellicott City yesterday and was very impressed. I got a sampling of various donuts, breads and cakes. The two stand-outs were the Soporo Bread (like a small coffee cake about the size of your palm) and the red bean donut (not sickeningly sweet like many others I've tried.) The baked goods are individually portioned and wrapped and run the whole gamut from the common (pound cake) to the exotic (green bean buns.) Nice selection, more diverse than the offerings at some of the other Asian bakeries around. Another fun touch - with every purchase on opening day you got to pick a fortune cookie that revealed another free goodie. The cafe side of the business was empty and dark - not sure if it was open yet or not and I didn't see any menus. The display cases had gorgeous cakes, tortes and gateauxs. Between this new bakery and Kolache Creations (which I still need to visit) at the old consignment shop at Kiwanis-Wallis ballfields it looks like my days of griping about the lack of quality local bakeries here in in my corner of EC may be over.
I love red bean donuts. In fact, I love all red bean desserts. I need to check out Bon Appetit on my next run on Rte 40. If you're looking for other bakeries, check out my 2009 post aboutbakeries in Howard County, which lists several other Korean bakeries in Ellicott City.
Thanks to Eric and everyone else who sent emails or left comments about the opening. Please add reports below and feel free to email me a photo.

Bon Appetit Bakery & Cafe
10155 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21042-3669
(410) 203-2071

NEAR: The bakery is on Rte 40 near the intersection with Bethany Lane.  This is west of Rte 29.

Friday, November 26, 2010

You Gorged. Now Go Eat Vegetables

You gorged at Thanksgiving -- meat, wine, stuffing and dessert.  Now, go eat some vegetables, but don't compromise.

You can eat delicious food while balancing your diet and enjoying flavors far from the leftover turkey and cranberries in your fridge.  Get out of the house.  Three suggestions:

  • Soretti's Ethiopian Cuisine in Burtonsville.  Order the vegetable combo plate for lentils, greens, cabbage, carrots and other vegetable dishes.  I love the injera bread.  It's filling, and the vegetables will leave you full and refreshed.
  • Mango Grove in Columbia.  Get a dosa and maybe baigan bartha.  The dosas are large crepes filled with potato and other fare.  Try the Mysore masala dosa for a variation.  All the lentils and curries are good.  I crave the eggplant in the baigan bartha -- and always keep my eyes out for the jack fruit special.  (If you just want lentils and curries, you could hit up any of Howard County's high-quality Indian restaurants.)
  • The veggie sandwich at Sidamo Coffee & Tea in Fulton.  A thoughtful sandwich with avocado, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, lentils and pesto.  Enjoy a coffee or buy some beans to brew at home.  Sidamo should be on your list for breakfasts and lunch.
If these don't spark your interest, consider the cafe at David's Natural Market in Columbia or, of course, the vegan menu at Great Sage in Clarksville.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Facci Has A Sign Announcing Expansion, I Hear

Facci in Laurel has a sign annoucning plans to expand their restaurant to the adjoining space next spring, according to an anonymous comment on a prior post.

I had heard chatter about an expansion in October.  There are some wildly divergent reviews of Facci, and I have had some bad experiences with the people who work there.  But there is no question that it's a valuable part of the restaurant scene.  An expansion that allows for takeout will be great -- except for the fact that the parking lot is already full most nights.

Link: Voltaggio Opening Second, Casual Spot?

The Fred Foodie blog says that he has heard about plans for a "Volt Jr." -- a casual restaurant in Middletown by Bryan Voltaggio.

(Update: People who have tried to confirm this post have heard denials from Voltaggio's people.)

If you're a Top Chef fan, you should check out the All Top Chef site run by Baltimore's own TheMinx.  She has the perfect tone to cover a reality show -- informative, but not too serious.

Tiny Lamb Chops At Nazar - Tell Me About Them

Nazar Market in Columbia offers tiny lamb chops for about $6 a pound.  They're butchered on site, and they look like "product" that could become a delicious dinner.

Just not at Casa de HowChow.  It turns out that everyone here isn't up on eating lambs.  Something about Mary and images of frolicking pet-sized sheep.

So I'm working through Steven Raichlen's Planet Barbecue, but I'm skipping the recipes for lamb chops.  Instead, I point them out for you because Nazar's butchering seems to leave them ready for a quick grill or some other preparation.  And I'd love to hear a report if you try them out.

At the far end from these tiny chops, you can buy thick loin lamb chops at J.W. Treuth in Oella.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Link: Tersiguel's on 1000 Words Blog

Tersiguel's sits near the top of Howard County dining, but it is still on my "to do" list so I was interested in the review by TeeJay on the 1000 Words blog.

TeeJay compared Tersiguel's to Volt, which is a tough one for any restaurant.  But he really appreciated the ambiance and service, and talks up dishes like duck and flourless chocolate cake.  It is really tough to serve high-end food when you're sitting between two cities where people can drive to splurge -- what I have called the "Woodberry Kitchen Problem."

Trolling: Cooking Resources From Columbia Foodies

Nothing fits a food blog better than enthusiast amateurs, and today's Trolling comes from George, who has helped create an entire group of food-loving locals in the Columbia Foodies.

The Columbia Foodies are 14 people who meet once a month, alternating between hosting dinners and dining out.  There are a few professional cooks, but the rest are, as George says, "amateur but dedicated cooks of varying skill levels."

In October, the group showed off those skills by cooking for 24 people at the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge.  The lodge provides free housing for cancer patients undergoing long-term treatment at Baltimore hospitals.  They don't provide food, but they have a large kitchen where the Columbia Foodies cooked up squash soups, beef lentil soup, glazed chicken breasts, two kinds of lasagna and fresh-based breads.  They finished up with a crepe bar outfitted with ice creams and homemade fudge and caramel sauces.

I asked George to recommend some resources for local chefs.  He went beyond the Howard County line for a few places that I haven't visited -- and straight to U.S. 1 for the Sysco basics:
The European Market at 7428 Muncaster Mill Rd, in Derwood (near Gaithersburg), Md.  This grocery store specializes in Portuguese and Brazilian products as well as some Mediterranean foods.  They have fresh Portuguese breads and pastries, Portuguese sausages and clay cooking pots as well as a full line of Portuguese and Brazilian groceries.  They also have some terrific prices on olives.  Kalamata olives are $3.99 a pound.
Penzeys Spices at 1048 Rockville Pike in Rockville is an entire store devoted to spices and herbs.  They have an amazing selection in a variety of sizes at good prices.  I have been very happy with the quality and freshness of there products.  They also do catalogue and online sales.
Sysco Discount Food Store at 7540 Washington Blvd. in Elkridge has some good values in meats and canned goods and decent prices on commercial cooking utensils.  In the back of the store they often have merchandise from broken cases that are very good value.Co
The Columbia Foodies are trying to keep their group small, but they occasionally consider new members.  For more information, contact George at 410-290-8380 or gershonr at comcast dot net.

Trolling on Tuesday is my attempt at a series where readers would share three things with other HowChow readers -- favorite restaurant dishes, food to buy, food experiences, etc.  Click here for all the Trolling posts.  Click here for the explanation and the rules.  Anyone can submit.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Aida Bistro Moving To Its New Home This Week

Aida Bistro moves to its new, larger location the weekend after Thanksgiving, so Wednesday night is their last night of service at the existing place.

The plan is to open for dinner on Thursday, December 2 with lunch starting the next Tuesday, according to the last email that I saw.  But they're subject to the final inspections and permits.  So check their Web page for details.

HowChow Holiday Guide 2010: Food Gift Ideas

Are you making a list? Are you checking twice for someone who likes food?

HowChow has gift ideas -- some great cookbooks and some local spots for cooking items.  Start off with some cookbooks.  I pull tons of cookbooks from the library, but there are three that worked their way down to my first shelf this year.
  • Andrea Nguyen's Asian Dumplings.  The most-thoughtful cookbook that I have ever seen.  Delicious dumplings -- from simple to complex.  The flavors are delicious.  The techniques are explained clearly, and you can cheat with some store-bought dumpling skins -- although Nguyen's handmade dumplings are worth the effort.
  • Steven Raichlen's Planet Barbecue.  I bought a hardcover copy because I knew that I'd wear out the paperback review copy.  Imaginative additions to your repertoire -- ground lamb, whole chickens, vegetables, and more.  It's the perfect gift to someone who would want to explore the local ethnic markets -- as I blogged about using the recipes to check out Nazar, Lily's Mexican, and the Asian supermarkets.
  • Kimiko Barber's The Japanese Kitchen.  I keep returning to this book and Barber's The Chopstick Diet.  It's light food, simple recipes.  It's a great guide to checking out the Asian supermarkets.
Beyond the ideas, you need some stuff to turn out great food.  Williams Sonoma exists for kitchen splurges.  We love the brittles, the cool vinegars, and the gadgets.  Even in a cold season, the Zoku popsicle maker is a terrific gift.  Easy, delicious and kid-friendly.  But you can leave the mall for some offbeat ideas:
  • Buy a chef's jacket at Sysco Discount Food Center in Elkridge.  They sell white, black and red.  They also sell basics like measuring cups, knives, bowls, etc.  Mark Bittman says these supply stores can outfit a kitchen for $200.
  • Buy some Asian items at Hanoori Home Plaza in Catonsville.  They sell knives, chopsticks and other kitchen items.  Consider pairing a two-level steamer with the Asian Dumpling book or a sushi-rolling mat with The Japanese Kitchen.  But they also sell some cool Asian stuff -- bento boxes to pack a lunch, molds to turn hard-boiled eggs into cow faces, etc.
  • Cool chocolate bars.  You can browse for sweets at a bunch of places -- Salazon salted chocolate at the organic markets, sea salt Lindt at Target, or several brands at i.m. Wine in Fulton.  You can even get Old Bay chocolates at Sweet Cascades in Ellicott City.
Think about your own little basket.  A book, some gadgets, some chocolate or a Williams Sonoma vinegar.  Remember that I get a cut if you buy from Amazon -- either the items above or the other cookbooks that I recommend.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Link: Sushi Sono Reviewed In The Sun

Sushi Sono gets a writeup from Richard Gorelick in the Sun that has to make them smile:
If you've ever worried that you might not be able to tell the difference between very good sushi and excellent sushi, then you owe yourself a trip to Sushi Sono. Order something you've had before at your perfectly fine neighborhood sushi joint — say, the hamachi (yellowtail) — take a bite, and you'll know. You can tell the difference. It's better here.
 I have said that Sushi Sono was one of the best.  And I love the two new rolls!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Some Perks Of The Blogging World

I do enjoy some of the perks of an established blog.  CSN has approachd me to promote bar tables and stools.  The new Wegmans In Lanham wants to promote a Coca-Cola fountain that has 109 flavors.  Feel free to send me pitches or offers.  I shy away from restaurant specials and just announcing events, but I'm always open to cookbooks to try!

Vinotrip Blog Hosts A November Happy Hour

Introduce yourself to the Pure Wine Cafe in Ellicott City and to the folks behind the Vinotrip blog at a happy hour on November 30.

HocoBlogs has promoted these happy hours for bloggers or people who just like reading blogs.  Matt from Vinotrip has planned a wine tasting and general hanging out from 6 to 8 pm.  Check out the details on Vinotrip.

Lunch Buffet At The Maiwand Burtonsville

Maiwand Kabob in Burtonsville now has a $9 weekday lunch buffet that they started in late October, reports Kyle.

Kyle and his wife were in an Afghan mood for lunch and were pleasantly surprised to find the buffet.  This is the Maiwand Kabob on Rte 198 in Burtonsville, just west of Rte 29 and right near Soretti's Ethiopian Cuisine and Cuba de Ayer.

The food hit the buffet between 11:30 and noon, Kyle reports:
Most of the food arrived by 11:45 with the last dish at noon. Don't arrive early, but the wait was worth it. We went on a Thursday, and the buffet included salad, chicken kabob, lamb curry, kofta (spicy ground beef) kebab, eggplant, pumpkin, white rice, brown rice, sweet white rice with carrots and raisins, tandoori bread and a dessert (tasty sweet orange colored cream of wheat?).
We liked it. Weekday lunch for us is a rarity but we would do this one again.
The Burtonsville Maiwand is somehow connected to the original Columbia restaurant.  It's casual Afghan food -- but there are exceptional items like the mantwo appetizer and the pumpkin.

(Update: See the comment below that Maiwand Kabob has put the buffet on hold.  But Soretti's is an Ethiopian place right next door.  That would be delicious.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Is There A New Restaurant In Savage Mill?

Is there a new restaurant in Savage Mill?

Bonaparte Bread used to run a restaurant in the upper part of Savage Mill, and I snapped a few photos there the last time that I was there.

Literally, I was running through the shopping areas to grab a Bonaparte baguette.  I snapped photos for some theoretical post.  So I only realized this week that the signs on the upper floor say "Whatchamacallit" and that it appears to be a new restaurant.

Does anyone know Whachamacallit?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pregaming Thanksgiving At Maple Lawn Farm

You can still get your local turkey from Maple Lawn Farm -- and you can go poultry-wild for sausage, ground meat, smoked meat and all the trimmings to make a great meat stock. 

Just listen to Kyle, a regular HowChow contributor and another person willing to check out new places for food.  Even while recovering from surgery last weekend, Kyle had his wife drive him to Maple Lawn for a pre-Thanksgiving pickup:

Every year I go to Maple lawn farm in Fulton the day before Thanksgiving and get everything I need for turkey and stock. This year I decided to check out things  early, sort of a pregaming Thanksgiving. According to the website, Maple Lawn farms opened on Nov 12, 2010 for the Thanksgiving holiday season. In addition to regular turkey, they advertise smoked turkey, ground turkey, turkey sausage, dark meat, wings and necks.

My wife and I parked in front of  barn and checked out the cows and turkeys as we walked to the official turkey building. Things were in full turkey production. I told them I was interested in "extra" items and was told they had everything but the turkey sausage. For dark turkey, they had turkey "saddles", a breast-less turkey for $5, shrink-wrapped. I got one of those, a pound of ground turkey in a plastic tub for $4 and a really pretty shrink-wrapped 5 pound ready to eat smoked turkey breast for $5.50/pound.The saddle and ground turkey were frozen but the smoked turkey was not..

I plan to start using the smoked turkey and ground turkey soon for pre-Thankgiving turkey meals. I'll defrost the saddle closer to Thanksgiving so I can make stock earlier. So this year, I can get into the Thanksgiving spirit early with local turkey stuff.
Check out my prior post about other local ideas to jazz up your Thanksgiving.  And watch for more posts from Kyle because he shares the HowChow spirit of trolling [for new food places] and pimping [them].

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Spicy Chicken Sausage at Harris Teeter

Good food takes time, so the quickest ways to inject flavor are ingredients where other people have already invested time like cured bacon, spiced sausage and pickled vegetables.

I don't remember where I read that thought.  Probably Michael Pollan.  But I do know that the next thing I read was the nutrition box on a package of pork sausage -- 10 grams of fat and 180 calories each.

That's how spicy chicken sausage from Harris Teeter became the new staple in my refrigerator.  They're a quarter the fat and all the flavor of standard sausage, and they have become the base for meal after meal.

Easiest, you just grill them.  On the grill or in a pan, the sausages cook up firm and make an easy dinner with a roll and a side dish.

But often, I press the sausage out of the casing for ad hoc recipes.  Loose, it browns beautifully.  Add a single link to greens like chard.  Add two links to jarred pasta sauce or to top a pizza.  A little fat makes food more rich, and the spicy sausage provides flavor without making anything greasy.  It's versatile.  I crumbled a pound into lasagna -- my go-to recipe when I'm dropping food off for friends.  It's way more flavor and even better texture than the white-meat chicken that had been my first choice in the dish.

You can come up your own outlets for Harris Teeter's chicken sausage.  Now, I keep a few links in the freezer.  With this discovery, I pass on the national-brand sausages because the pork ones have way more fat and the chicken ones are bland, sometimes even mealy.  If I understand right, Harris Teeter makes the sausage in-house and delivers them fresh, never frozen.

HowChow's Chicken Sausage Lasagna

Note: I make lasagna in two disposable aluminum 8x8 pans when I am dropping off food.  One can go straight in the oven, and the other can be frozen for the future.  You could layer a single 9x13 pan instead.  As you'll see below, the ratios are very forgiving so you can adjust.  A little more or less of any ingredient won't hurt.  And a little more spice might fit your tastes.  This is consciously simple.

1 lb. ricotta cheese (low-fat if you want)
1 c. mozzarella cheese
1 egg, beaten
10-16 oz frozen spinach, thawed and pressed to drain water
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp oregano (optional)
1 pound chicken sausage or 1 pound chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 jar (about 32 oz) spaghetti sauce
about 1 lb. uncooked lasagna noodles
1 c. water (split use)

Saute the sausage or the chicken (in a little olive oil, if using chicken) until just cooked through and starting to brown.  Break sausage up.  Take off the heat and set aside.

Mix ricotta, half of the mozzarella, beaten egg and spices.  Add spinach and mix.  Set aside.

Take two 8x8 baking pans and layer both at the same time:  1) one-third of the sauce and the meat, 2) enough noodles to cover the sauce (probably three in each pan with some broken ones to fill gaps), 3) one-half of the spinach/cheese mixture.

Repeat all three layers.  Then top with a third layer of noodles, the rest of the sauce and the remaining mozzarella.

At this point, you could freeze the lasagnas.  Defrost when you want to eat.

To cook, preheat an oven to 350 degrees.  Pour 1/2 c. water down the side of each the lasagna, cover tightly with foil, and bake for 60 to 75 minutes.  The ingredients are all cooked, so you're just waiting until the noodles have softened and the flavors have mixed.  Let stand 15 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sneak Peak of The New Frisco Grill On BBG Blog

The new Frisco Tap Room will be even-cooler than I expected.

The Baltimore Beer Guy posted a nine-minute video with an interview of Frisco's owner Adam and tour of the new Columbia restaurant -- 50-tap bar, pizza oven, on-site brewery, 21-foot community table, private dining room . . . .  It's still under-construction, but the latest word is that they'll open in early December.  Check out the video.

Trolling: The Cravings Of Out-Of-Town Visitors

Back to Trollings and back to suggestions from emkenton.  Em recently hosted another family visitor from Texas -- eight years after they left the Lone Star state -- and realized that she had an angle for another guest post:  What local dishes are requested by the out-of-town crew?  With all those holiday visitors on the way, these could be your go-to foods for come-her people:
  • Fact: Texans know Mexican food. So I'm not really sure what possessed us to take my father-in-law out to eat Maryland Mexican sometime years ago, but the man hasn't stopped talking since about the cheese enchiladas at Zapata's in the Harper's Choice Village Center.  He claims they're the best cheese enchiladas he's ever eaten, and seems to attribute this in great measure to the fact they're made with Oaxaca cheese.  Unlike a traditional Tex-Mex cheese enchilada that is covered in a red chili sauce, Zapata's version features a green tomatillo sauce along with a drizzle of sour cream, cilantro, and red onions.  Delicious.  A bit of a heads-up so you aren't surprised:  they serve their salsa warm.  Odd to me at first, I now find it addictive.  And their margaritas aren't too shabby, either!!
  • Trying to be as adventurous as possible on our honeymoon back in the day, we wandered into a Indian restaurant from our San Francisco hotel . . . . and fully adopted our official "married life" cuisine!   We are loyal fans of Mirchi Wok in Columbia, having been regulars at the owner's styrofoam-plate-and-plastic-utensil Curry & Spice years ago when it was in the strip off Dobbin where Qdoba is now.  We were thrilled when their new restaurant finally opened in the space with its sibling, Mango Grove, and it ranks at the top of the list when my family is in town.  (Upon deciding recently to come visit for Thanksgiving, my mom actually suggested that we do a big Mirchi Wok feast rather than "going to any trouble" with a turkey dinner!)   We've never had a curry dish we didn't like, but sometimes you just want something a wee bit less heavy, right?  Enter my favorite dish:  Hazarvi Tikka.  According to the menu, it's "juicy white chicken meat grilled on skewers with roasted garlic, cheese and very mild spices."  According to me, it's the perfect foil to the richer Indian dishes.  The succulent pieces of chicken are flavorful but not in any way spicy...and dare I say they could even be healthy?! 
  • And, finally, on the opposite end of the dining spectrum:  the Fruit and Nut Chicken Salad at Harris Teeter.  Did I really just suggest a grocery store prepared item (and not one from my beloved Wegmans)?  I know-- crazy!  But my mother asks for this every time after sampling it at her friend's house near the Teeter homebase of North Carolina.  Being a bit wary of deli goods behind the counter, I was suspicious-- until I tried it and found chunky meat surrounded by a dressing that is kept from being too creamy/blah by the massive bits of various dried fruits and nuts.  As much as I like to concoct dishes in my own kitchen, I would definitely serve this chicken salad in lieu of a homemade creation.  And of course, if your mother happens to be visiting on a Thursday, you can even score a deal: 5% off all groceries at Harris Teeter on Thursdays for those 60 and better!  
Trolling on Tuesday is my attempt at a series where readers would share three things with other HowChow readers -- favorite restaurant dishes, food to buy, food experiences, etc.  Click here for all the Trolling posts.  Click here for the explanation and the rules.  Anyone can submit.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Honey-Nut Sundaes WIth Nazar's Balli Cerez

Repurpose some Turkish nut spread by using it to create a honey-nut sundae with vanilla ice cream.

The Omak brand balli cerez is a thick spread made of crushed nuts soaked in honey.  Crushed pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts and more fill the small jars at Nazar Market in Columbia.  They're doused in honey, and I have no idea how Turkish people use them -- other than that they're a "snack," according to the guys at Nazar.

I used them as a sundae topping.  I spooned a few tablespoons over vanilla ice cream, then poured on a few tablespoons of honey because the balli cerez is more nut than sauce.  That made for an ice cream parlor dessert -- crunchy, sweet and way more natural than that Magic Shell that I loved as a kid.

Nazar Market has become a delicious source for unique items.  You get fresh meat -- including ground lamb -- from the halal butcher, along with many Turkish items that are great on their own or work well in recipes.  Plus, you can walk across the parking lot for a sandwich at Bon Fresco.  Check out all my Nazar posts.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Is Frisco Tap Room Still Set To Move Next Week?

Anyone know when the new Frisco Tap Room will open -- and usher in a new era for the craft beer and burrito scene that started at Frisco Grille & Cantina?

The word on Twitter in early November was that Frisco was targeting Thanksgiving for the move.  They're going to have more space and even more options for interesting beers and southwestern food.  People rave about everything from the brew to the children's menu.  Once they're open, I want to update the post about beers.

(Update: See the comments below.  The Baltimore Beer Guy says the latest word was that the current location will close in November and the new one will open in early December.  Check below for more.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Laurel Tavern Donuts in Laurel

The flavor in a donut comes from sugar and oil, but the magic comes from making fried food that tastes light.

The donuts at Laurel Tavern Donuts comes out soft and puffy, topped with the simplest cinnamon or frosting and easily the best part of a cold morning.  Even the cake donuts are light.  They have a sweet crust that supports the strawberry frosting, then gives way to airy cake inside.

If Laurel Tavern Donuts were owned by some 21-year-old college grads, it would have a marketing story about old-fashioned technique and artisan donuts.  They'd hit up a local farm for some berries, and they'd push a tale of locally-grown produce to get some of the love that food writers have blindly lavished on cupcakes and lawyers who quit to make food.

But this is Laurel.  The "tavern" sits on U.S.1, and its immigrant owners offer coffee and a dozen variations on fried dough.  You should go for a donut worth the calories.  Sweet, slightly oily, but still light enough to make Dunkin Donuts taste leaden and tired.  Check out the donut holes as well.

The Laurel Tavern is in the former location of the Little Tavern chain.  They also serve up breakfast sandwiches and mini-burgers along the lines of the Little Tavern speciality.  I haven't tried those yet.

Laurel Tavern Donuts
115 Washington Boulevard (U.S. 1)
Laurel, MD 20707

NEAR:  The donut shop is on the south-bound side of U.S. 1 where it separates in downtown Laurel.  It is a few stores south of the light at Main Street.  Look for a converted Little Tavern -- and thus a tiny white building with green trim -- on the right side of the road.

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