Monday, February 28, 2011

Lost In Translation: Bingsoo In February

I'd like to say that I thought that ice would be less frigid in Korean.

The truth is that I wasn't thinking at all.

We ate Chinese-Korean for dinner on Saturday night.  (More on that another day.)  We saved room for frozen yogurt, but when we walked outside, we knew it was too cold.  So we headed to Bon Appetit Bakery on Rte 40 for something that wasn't ice cream.

Somehow, I ended up with a bowl of ice.

We grabbed a bag of cookies to take home.  For dessert on the spot, we looked at all the cakes.  Then I got overly excited and remembered that Bon Appetit serves bingsoo.  Bingsoo is a Korean dessert made with shaved ice, milk, and fruit.  I ordered my first red bean bingsoo without really thinking, and we ended up at a table waiting for our dessert.

I got a bowl of ice bigger than the dinner that I had just eaten.  The young woman delivered it with two spoons and a quizzical look.  She poured a little chocolate sauce.  When we started to spoon up raw ice with chocolate powder, she suggested that everything be mixed together.  (Duh!!)  You mix from the botton, and up comes mochi, red beans, a syrup, fruit, ice and milk.

Within minutes, I had basically a sweet soup.  The flavor was sweet like chocolate. The texture was a big more exotic.  It's actually red beans, ice, mochi and canned fruit.  Nothing weird, but not exactly a banana split.  You get the chocolate flavor with the chewy mochi and shaved ice.  Canned fruit isn't my favorite, but it worked.  One bingsoo would serve two or three people.

Within minutes, it had me shivering in my chair.  Bon Appetit sells beautiful cakes, and the room filled with people eating cake and drinking hot coffee.  Coffee because it was a late February night.  Everyone in the room had a cup of coffee.  I was spooning ice into my mouth.

About this point, we started to laugh.  We imagined the young woman wondering why we'd ordered bingsoo in the cold and why we didn't know to mix it up.  We imagined these guys sipping coffee wondering why I was eating a summer dessert.  It seemed rude to leave a half-full dessert, so I kept eating.  We kept giggling.  It was only afterwards that I checked Wikipedia:
Patbingsu or patbingsoo (팥빙수) is a very popular snack/dessert in South Korea, especially during the sweltering and humid summer season.
"Sweltering and humid summer season."  Read that again?  Put Bon Appetit on your summer calendar to try your own bingsoo.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Link: David's Natural Market Central To On-Going Plan To Raze And Renovate Wilde Lake Center

David's Natural Market would be the featured store in a razed and rebuilt Wilde Lake village center, according to a plan discussed in the Sun's Sunday edition.

The article discusses a hearing about the owner's plans to knock down the shuttered Giant and rebuild the shopping center.  Larry Carson wrote about local residents who want a supermarket, but the owner says the current space is too small for modern grocery stores.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Link: R&R Tacos In Wall Street Journal (Really!)

R&R Taqueria made the Wall Street Journal -- the last entry in a "Food and Drink" summary of tacos in gas stations.

Katy McLaughlin wrote up tacos from Texas, Georgia, Portland and Elridge.  Whoops.  Elkridge.  You need to hit up R&R at the Shell Station at U.S. 1 and Rte 175 in Elkridge.  Click for all the HowChow posts on R&R Taqueria.

Thanks to Marty Katz who posted a link on the HowChow Facebook page.

Athar Khan ("Columbia Bike Guy") on HoCo360

If you live in Howard County, take a few minutes to enjoy HoCo360's post about Athar Khan -- the "Columbia Bike Guy."

This kind of creation is journalism, and it's difficult.  It takes skill with a camera and words.  It also takes time -- hours to create and (I'd argue) years of living to understand the full story.  If you want to write about a place, this should be your goal.  A stream of opinions makes us bloggers; telling someone else's stories makes us useful.

Friday, February 25, 2011

CSAs In Howard County 2011: You Need To Love Your Community Supported Agriculture

You need to love your CSA because it's more than food -- it's a relationship.

"Community supported agriculture" is basically farms that pre-sell a season of vegetables.  It's for people who want to something more than food.  They want local food or organic food or just the adventure of a "surprise me" box of food each week.

In Howard County, you have a huge variety of local options.  You sign up.  You pick up through the season.  You get what ripened that week.   The beauty of CSAs is that the food is constantly different.

The challenge of CSAs is that all CSAs are different as well.  Some are expensive.   Some are veggie-only.  Some add breads and even meats.   Some have great food.  Some don't.  Last year, we split a share with RDAdoc that didn't really work out.  This year, we're going to try Gorman Farms in Laurel.  We're hoping for a more-exotic mix and a little adventure.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gino's New Franchisees Live In Howard County, But They're Aiming To Open In Balt. County First

The guys bringing Gino's Burgers & Chicken back to the Baltimore suburbs are from Woodbine -- but they're aiming to open first in Baltimore County, reports Richard Gorelick on Dining at Large.

How about some Howard County loyalty?  We have so much burger love to share!  Think close to home!  Oh, well.  They own their home county too, so those onion rings should be here eventually.

Hand-Torn Noodle Soup At Han Joon Kwan

Another bowl of soup for my "to do list" -- and I haven't gotten to the hot pot that Min wrote about earlier this month.

Now she has returned to the Korean restaurants on Rte 40, particularly to Han Joong Kwan at the end of a shopping center west of Rte 29:
Windy days call for comfort foods. 
We went to Han Joong Kwan for steamy hot noodle soups. I ordered #36 Sam Sun Jam Bong (Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup), and our house guest was thrilled to see a special off-menu item posted on the wall -- Oyster Sujebi (hand torn noodles) for $10.55. Exactly what he was craving for. Also ordered was #32 plain Ja Jang Myun . All were good.  
The service was nice and fast. Though it was past 1pm on a Saturday, the place was half full but still considerably quiet. Most of the tables occupied were families with children. It's a very family friendly spot. We will certainly go back. HJK is now on my list of noodle soup places.
If you want to check out the Korean restaurants on Rte 40, you should click on my outsiders summaries or Kevin's hilarious insider post.  If you're trying to stay warn, definitely try the soon doo boo stew at Lighthouse Tofu.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sushi Sono Switches Out The Sunshine Roll For A Secret #14 Roll -- Similar, But BBQ Sauce

Sushi Sono continues to alter its roll line-up -- this time replacing my favorite sunshine roll that arrived in 2010 with a similar (but secret) #14 roll.

The #14 has the same roll ingredients, but the mango sauce has been replaced by BBQ sauce and green onions, reports Kyle's Secret Agent.  The sushi nugget roll that arrived with the sunshine roll has disappeared from the menu, but it is still available by request.

Penzeys In Rockville: Why 355 Is The Spice Road

Penzeys spices.  I lost all my photos to a
cracked phone.  Luckily, I had Kyle's
photo from his guest post about "freekah."
Five hundred years ago, people caravaned across Asia for less spice than Penzeys offers in a strip mall in Rockville.  All you need to do is cut west on Rte 28.

I went to Penzey's with low expectations.  People raved about it, but I think I imagined some snobby joint with snobby prices.  Actually, I went to Penzeys by accident.  We just saw the storefront on Rockville Pike, and I thought, "It's on Rockville Pike?  This must be different than I expected."

It is different than any store that I have ever shopped.

Penzy's fills a room with spices.  Some mixes.  Tons of individual spices.  You can smell and sample everything, so the room billows with scents and flavors that should excite anyone who likes to cook good food.

Frankly, the selection overwhelmed me.  You see powder spices, whole spices, entire dried peppers, and extracts like vanilla, lemon or orange.  I couldn't decide what to buy -- whether to get my everyday stuff like cumin and pepper or get exotics like kala jeera and espazote.  So I bought too much.  Curry powder, rosemary, cardamon, two kinds of cinnamon . . . .

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

AYCE Sushi And Korean At The Kimko Buffet

Kyle tried the Korean sushi lunch buffet at Kimko after reading Min's report on the all-you-can-eat option.  That was part of a two-post discussion of Korean joints along Rte 40 in Ellicott City.  Kyle hit Kimko, and he was impressed.
My other Korean sushi buffet place is Gah Rham in Beltsville. They're both similar and worth doing, but I appreciated the Kimko spread better.  I think I was the only non-Korean there but they seemed to take a little better care of me. I was asked several times if everything was ok or if I needed anything. My main server was raised in HoCo.
Korean sushi buffets seem to follow the same layout. The previous Korean Howchow post did a good job of explaining the Korean food part of the kimko buffet. But how do you eat fried rice with chopsticks? This is not the kind of place you ask for a fork, though I'm pretty sure they would of given me one.  This day's buffet was light on noodle dishes. The only one was a salad noodle combo that was very good. The spicy food was not very spicy except for the killer raw green hot pepper half in one of the dishes.
The sushi component consisted of four different trays of raw fish on rice at the top level and over a dozen and a half sliced rolls  on shelves below.   There were vegetarian, raw fish, and cooked fish rolls. Several were in the fancy category with or without a tempura component. They were all labeled, but the fancy rolls were just labeled special. You have to guess at the contents. You use tongs supplied in a container at the beginning to select individual slices. The variety is overwhelming.  It's fun to watch how many slices a person  can stack on one plate. Personally I go lighter on the sushi (one layer not touching) and heavy on Korean food (it can touch).  This isn't Sushi King or Sushi Sono, but it's decent.  
I'm not a good person to judge quality. I don't even know the names of this stuff but I did like everything. The Korean food was not labeled.  I'll go back again and I'll keep recommending the buffet. 

Kimko's buffet is $11.95 and runs 11-3 weekdays.   Kimko's is on Rte 40 at Bethany Lane.  It used to be called Bethany Seafood.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Crisis Question: Where Is The Best Takeout 2011? My Week-Long List Without Pizza Or Chinese

Where do you get the best takeout in Howard County?  It is a crisis question for Lyss who posted that she is renovating her kitchen and can't cook at all.  Below is a week of suggestions, not religiously the best but certainly a delicious week:

A Meat Manifesto (Care of HoCoVittles) And Questions About Wagon Wheel Ranch

If you're the type of person who wants to eat local, then you have to love Twitter and HocoVittles -- who joined a recent Twitter conversation on the subject with a link to a 44-page pamphlet about Maryland meat producers.

The University of Maryland publishes the listing, which provides an animal-by-animal breakdown of farms.  You get a few words about their methods and then contact information.  The local joints include lamb, beef, pork, and more at Smallsville in Clarksville, Clark's Never Sell The Land Farm in Ellicott City and Woodcamp Farm and Wagon Wheel Ranch in Mt. Airy.

Does anyone know the Wagon Wheel Ranch?  It is listed as selling all kinds of meat.  The Web site suggests that you place an order in the spring, then wait until they raise and butcher the animal.  Anyone done this?

(Update: Check out the comments, including a link to Eat Wild that includes more information.)

Mom's Organic Market: Your Place To Bring Bittman's Book And Add New Stuff To Your Plate

I'm not a natural follower of the natural markets -- too suspicious of supplements and packaged food to flock to the organic joints.

But I'm being converted to Mom's Organic Market in Jessup -- by the selections and by its location in the midst of good food.

Anyone willing to make an effort for food in Howard County should know the organic markets -- David's Natural in Columbia, Roots in Clarksville, and Mom's (formerly My Organic Market) in Jessup.  Yet for years, they weren't places that I visited in depth.  So many aisles dedicated to vitamins, expensive packaged brands, and what I'll call "no" foods -- no gluten, no sugar, no meat . . .

I want "yes" food.  Delicious food.  Happy food, and I was pushed to open my eyes at Mom's by Mark Bittman and Frank's Seafood.

Bittman and friends got me back on a kick of whole grains and beans.  The organic markets offer bulk aisles of brown rice, amaranth, bulgar, quinoa and more.  I experimented by taking a few cups at a time and cooking my way through books like Super Natural Cooking and Whole Grains Everyday.  They're the entry drug for healthy cooking.

Then Frank's got me to really look around.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

P90 Noir: Another Food Voice For Howard County

If you're looking for local food blogs, check out the food posts on the new P90 Noir blog.  P90 writes generally -- touching on guitars, kids and music.  He has posted some recipes for pancakes and red pepper sauce, and he promises grilling as the weather warms.

If you haven't already, you should also click on the food posts from the Swim Write Run blog.  Latest installment was a head-to-head battle of enchiladas by guest-poster Jeff -- El Hidalgo vs. Azul 17 vs. El Nayar.

Wine In The Museum, Beer At Woodberry Kitchen, And Great Sage Wins On Public TV

Science Uncorked -- Wine and food for adults at the Maryland Science Center on February 24, 2011.  They're concentrating on syrah and punned a name "Que Syrah Shiraz."  Tickets are $50, $45 for members.

The Bitch At Woodberry Kitchen -- Beer from the Flying Dog brewery with a special menu from the Woodberry kitchen on March 7, 2011.  "Feasting-style."  Not sure what that means, but I'd eat anything from Woodberry Kitchen.  I love their Raging Bitch India Pale Ale, but you'll get seasonal and limited release beers.  Tickets are $95.

Maryland Public Television creates a "Viewer's Choice Dining Guide" to insert in its March program guide.  They list more than 800 restaurants, and Great Sage won for "Best Vegetarian."  For a copy of the guide, call MPT at 1-800-522-8915.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pudgies Opened Thursday In Clarksville

Pudgies Pizza and Subs opened Thursday in Clarksville, according to a comment from Rob.  This is a small New York and Pennsylvania chain.  Anyone been yet?

(Update: Hoco Rising has the first reviews -- pizza that he loved in college, described as garlicky and flavorful but not for people who demand a crisp crust.)

Tres Leches Cake At Cuba De Ayer

Mrs. HowChow doesn't like cake, but we both love the tres leches cake at Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsville.

Cuba de Ayer bakes their cakes and then bathes them (I assume) in the traditional mix of milk, condensed milk and evaporated milk.  The cake soaks up the liquid and cream.

There is a magic spot where you're moister than bread pudding or French toast, but not so wet that the dessert becomes soggy and collapses.  At Cuba de Ayer, nothing falls apart.  The tres leches cake just becomes moist and creamy, firm enough to stand but soft enough that a spoon scoops everything up.

Top that with whipped cream, and it's a decadent dessert even though it isn't as sweet as chocolate or many other options.  You're not going to do better than a simple meal of Cuban sandwiches and a tres leches cake.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Kosher Deli To Open In Maple Lawn

A new deli apparently called Pita & Rye will open this spring in the Maple Lawn development -- and I hear talk that it will be a kosher establishment.

The deli part came right from the Maple Lawn developer's newsletter that mentioned a deli with details to come.  After an early version of this post, an anonymous reader found a Web site for Pita & Rye, which advertises a "New York style deli and grill" coming to Maple Lawn in May.  The address suggests that it is replacing the closed Pizza Fresca.

Their menu lists deli sandwiches, gyros, falafel and more.  It even mentions potato, spinach and kasha knishes.  No mention of kosher on the Web site, but I have heard that twice.

Thanks for the comments and Web searches!  Please tell me more if you know more.  I'm excited by the thought that a kosher place will get interesting stuff -- either by making it or by bringing down good stuff from New York.

Fruit Tarts From Bonaparte Bread

The '34 Act Gourmet can bring home the bacon and roast it up in a pan.  But he also knows how to buy himself a gourmet dish -- especially a nice dessert.

Twice over the last months, he has picked up fruit tarts at Bonaparte Bread in Savage, and they've been hits both on his table and when he brought them to our friend's house for dinner:
Generally speaking, I hate most fruit. I will eat it, but only reluctantly and after much nagging from the wife. The problem I have with fruit is not the taste but the texture; I just don't like it regardless of how organic or fresh the fruit may be.
Obviously, I'm not the first person you would think to rush out and buy a fruit tart. However, when I was short on ideas of what to bring for dessert to a dinner party, at the suggestion of a friend, that's exactly what I did.
The fruit tart came from Bonaparte Bread, which has locations in Baltimore and in the Savage Mills shopping center. The day before I needed the tart, I called to place the order. The staff was friendly and helped me select an appropriate size for the tart based on the number of guests at the party. The tart was ready when I went to pick it up after work the next day and looked wonderful.
Despite my aversion to most fruit, I thoroughly enjoyed the tart. The custard was firm and not too sweet. The crust was delicious, almost cookie-like, and the bakers had applied a thin layer of dark chocolate to the crust to prevent the custard from making it soggy. The fruit on the tart also were firmer than fresh fruit and didn't have the texture I normally dislike about fresh fruit. The only negative to the tart was figuring out how to cut it given the freshness and strength of the crust but trust me this is a very small negative. I've gotten the tart for a second dinner party since the first time and it was a big hit again.
It's the chocolate crust that makes Bonparte's tart such a smart dessert.  It's delicious, and the crust stays crisp.  It's like a shortbread and still crisp hours after it has been picked up, carried home, and sliced up.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Food Matters Cookbook By Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman has finally started to make things up, and he could change your life -- or least your pantry and freezer.

Three of Bittman's cookbooks are stalwards on my cookbook shelf, but it's his new Food Matters Cookbook where he invents dishes from scratch to change the way you eat.

Before we get serious, let's start with a basic pitch:  Buy -- or borrow -- the Food Matters Cookbook because it's delicious.  Straight-forward recipes to jazz up your weeknights.  Easy ideas about using your freezer to turn one afternoon of work into days of great food.  If you value fresh food, then you'll treasure this cookbook.

If nothing else, get Food Matters to break your rut of jarred pasta sauce.  Bittman does 60+ pages of noodles inspired by everything from classics to Mexican flavors, paired with everything from fennel to artichokes, from a basic lasagna to an inspired cabbage-oranges-and-chickpeas.  Flavors, imagination and enough 30-minute ideas that you'll add something to your repertoire.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

BGR The Burger Joint Aiming To Open April 15

BGR The Burger Joint is aiming to open its Columbia location on April 15, according to a post on their Facebook page.

BGR is coming to the shopping center at Rte 175 and Dobbin Road with Target, Ichiban Cafe and Rack Room Shoes.  Check out the guest post from Jason, a BGR fan.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Coffee Talk With The HowChows: What New Food Options Should Come To Howard County?

Reading the Sun, Mrs. HowChow found an advertisement that says the CalicoCorners in Fulton was closing.  Not a store that we frequent, but we're bummed for anyone that closes.  We started talking about who could use that relatively-large space in the Maple Lawn development.  Soon Mrs. HowChow was riffing about the food that could come to Howard County:
It could be a Lebanese Taverna.  The only problem is that one side looks out over the gas station.  I'd love one like the Lebanese Taverna in Baltimore because it can range from an elegant dinner to relatively casual, and it's family-friendly even though it is a white-table-cloth place.   
But we'd take the casual one like Rockville [that has counter service like Maiwand Kabob or Bon Fresco].  Even though it isn't elegant, it has the great food, and you could do takeout.  We've done take-out from Rockville, and it survived the trip well.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sedona Cafe & Grill Coming To Waverly Woods

The Waverly Woods shopping center in Woodstock is getting an Arizona-themed restaurant -- looks like it might a casual place with burgers, burritos and the like.

The western-themed paper covering the windows of the former coffee shop there says Sedona Cafe & Grill.  The writing on the door hints about the menu.  Anyone know more?

Thanks to Larry for the tip and the photo.

Red Pearl - And Its Salt-&-Pepper Lobster - On The Kojo Nnamdi Show And In The Washingtonian

The Kojo Nnamdi Show did an hour on local Chinese restaurants, and Washingtonian critic Todd Kliman raved about Red Pearl in Columbia.

Click on the show page and click "Listen" to hear the discussion, which highlights Chinese restaurants and how to order special items.  Kliman posted a recent chat where he talks about Red Pearl -- talking up an off-menu "salt-and-pepper" lobster dish, but disappointed by the weekend dim sum.  (Listen around the 35-minute point of the Kojo show for more on the lobster.)

Kliman said that he has a longer piece coming in the March edition.  Or check out my raves about the Red Pearl dim sum, which has always been top-notch to me.

Thanks for Lisa for the heads-up.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Caramel Corn at Kolache Kreations

Caramel corn can be as simple as Cracker Jacks, but you could pick up a Technicolor sweet at Kolache Kreations in Ellicott City.

It's high-end caramel corn.  That means no peanuts.  Just crisp popcorn and a buttery, sweet coating.  It's $5, so it's not cheap.  But it's special.  The basic caramel was buttery and sweet.  Then, there are child-friendly versions with fruit flavors and even a mixed bag that looks like colored toys.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Did The Dog House Pub Close In Columbia?

Did the Dog House Pub in Columbia close?

There is a comment from Junior Barnes on an old post saying that the Dog House Pub was closed last weekend, and I can't reach anyone through the phone number or Web site listed on Urbanspoon.  This is the pub in the Long Reach village center.

(Update: Check the comments.  It sounds like Dog House closed a while ago.  This isn't Pub Dog -- also in Columbia, but just off McGaw Road near Noodles Corner and Riverside Coffee.)

Comments About Turkshish Kebap, Pong's Orchard, And A Few Dozen Places To Buy Wings

So much to learn from all the comments and the emails that people send.  I appreciate them all and try to highlight a few in case you want to check them out.

For example, Rob emailed me about Turkshish Kebap House in Columbia.  He had eaten Turkish food in Europe, so he went with expectations.  On the first visit, he ordered lamb and got a sandwich that was a little bland -- and was beef.  But he called back for delivery --
We ordered a Doner Kebab platter, a falafel sandwich, sigara borek, and a Doner Kebab sandwich. I would say all were acceptable, but dry, well past serving. I am hopeful that they reach that critical mass that restaurants need to reach in order to stay in business. Right now, it seems they are forced by economics to keep product around too long to be fresh, which hurts their long-term prospects at gaining a good reputation. Delivery also took over one hour. Howard County residents seem to be a bit more worldly than some and can be unforgiving of a new restaurant's mistakes, so I hope they get it straight before going out of business. Turkshish could fill a culinary gap in town. 
Al Pong of Pong's Orchard posted a long comment about the unusual fruits and trees that they offer in Fulton. They do have calmonsi, lemons and kaffir limes. Pong also talked up Hunan China in Fulton.

Icolithic recommended the tamales at Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia. He likes the ones filled with seasoned chicken. They sell out. So he calls ahead and places an advanced order. Those sound wonderful, and they're just the start of people's recommendations:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chinese Fondue -- Cook Hot Pot At Hunan Taste With AYCE Meats And Vegetables In Two Broths

New to the HowChow "to do" list -- hot pot at Hunan Taste in Catonsville.

All-you-can-eat hot pot is something that I've spied at Chinese restaurants.  It looked like Asian fondue, but I didn't know how it worked or how to order.  

That's until I heard from Min about hot pot at Hunan Taste and got her how-to instructions about how to order several rounds of food.  Min starts with two types of soup base, then picks rounds of sliced meat, meat balls, fish, soybean products, and vegetables.  She has full instructions:
Hot pot is kinda like fondue where you cook your own food in the broth. We have a half/half soup base: half hot & spicy; half mild.  Over the night, they served plates of thinly shaved pork, beef, and lamb, a variety of meat balls, lots of soybean byproducts and veggie.
It takes some planning to put different types of foods into the pot in order. (This is very much to each one's personal preferences, and the variations are just unlimited). 
1) Mix your own dipping sauce.  At HT the waiter asked for what we'd like to have. Fermented tofu and sha cha paste were offered. I asked for minced garlic, white vinegar (to offset anticipated heat from the spicy pot). Other considerations would be chopped scallions, sesame paste, minced ginger, etc. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

ISO Photos / Mini-Reviews Of Super Bowl Takeout

Are you doing takeout from Howard County joints for your Super Bowl?

After getting lots of advice about where to buy wings, Melissa has promised to report back on her Super Bowl takeout.  But what else is out there?  Email me a photo and a one-paragraph review of wings, pizza or whatever you carried home from a Howard County restaurant.  I'll collect them later his week.

Link: Soretti's Ethiopian on Rida Allen's Blog

Soretti's Ethiopian Cuisine gets written up on Rida Allen's author-blog -- a positive review even from a diner who doesn't relish hot food or the taste of the Ethiopian bread injera.

I'm always impressed by people who find something that they like even when a restaurant's basics aren't in the their comfort zone.  Rida doesn't eat much spicy food, and she didn't love her first experience with the spongy injera.  But she enjoyed the lentil sambusas and sampled an enormous shared platter to discover that she loved the injera soaked with the mild chicken tibs.

That's the fun of new places, and I absolutely recommend Soretti's, which is a casual storefront on Rte 198 in Burtonsville.  Many people find injera to be either strange or unwelcoming.  But the stews -- especially for vegetarians who can eat well from lentils and vegs -- are a unique, delicious flavor.  Soretti's is a fine place to give yourself a chance to enjoy some part.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Flavors Of India Aiming To Open In Early March

Flavors of India is aiming to open in the second week of March, according to the folks behind the new south Indian restaurant opening in Columbia.

That was the word at House of India where I took out dinner.  The new Flavors of India will take the space that Aida Bistro vacated when it moved to its new location.

(Update: Flavors of India opened.)

Dreaming Up Food Fights - Tacos, Tandoori . . .

A tweet from another blogger sent me to El Nayar in Elkridge to think about what food battles I'd like to see in Howard County.

The Swim Write Run blog has been running a great series of "Food vs. Food" posts pitting two local restaurants against each other -- two flapjacks, two gnocchi, two kabobs, etc.   She tweeted about how there were so many good places in Howard County -- so much good food to research for her series.

What food would I recommend for future battles?  I thought about it in the parking lot of El Nayar in Elkridge -- one of the nice, casual Mexican places that have popped up along U.S. 1.  Simple place, but the kind that serves crisp vegetables, slow-cooked meat, and smoky, house-made salsas that make me wonder why anyone goes for fast food tacos.  El Nayar tacos are $2 each, and they're delicious.

A good battle needs two strong dishes, and it can't cost a fortune.  The beauty for Swim Write Run is that all of her swimming and running means she can eat and write for a long time.  My list of candidates:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Emergency: Melissa Needs Wings For Super Bowl

As we prepare for this weekend's national holiday, people need suggestions about where to buy wings for their Super Bowl parties.

First, Melissa needs "good, but reasonably priced" wings for 20 people that she can buy along the Rte 40 corridor in Ellicott City.  She'd go east in Catonsville.  She can go into Columbia if she must.  But she can't drive all over while she prepares for the party.  Anyone have thoughts on wings at Vocelli's or Solana's?

But while we're at it, can you recommend other wings?  Maybe great ones worth driving across the county?  Maybe good ones in other places like Laurel, Savage or Columbia?  Personally, I'm a fan of wings at Kloby's Smokehouse on Johns Hopkins Road, but I know the smoked flavor and the drier texture make them unusual.

Watch the HoCo Hangover blog to see if they collect Super Bowl specials/events from the bar scene.  Looney's is having a bull & oyster roast.  Kloby's Smokehouse is doing a pig roast.  I'm sure there are more.

Columbia Wegmans: Still Aiming For Mid-2012

Wegmans still hopes to open the Columbia store in the late spring or early summer of 2012, the company spokesman told the Columbia Flier.

Wegmans submitting building permits last week to build the store and a two-story parking garage.

Challah Trial: Bon Fresco vs. Great Harvest

Challah A (Bon Fresco) & Challah B (Great Harvest)
Let's start by saying that none of the human subjects suffered in the Great Challah Trial of 2011.

The Jewish bread is a regular treat for RDAdoc, who guest-posted last week about challah from Great Harvest bakery in Columbia off Rte 108.  In the comments, Anonymous complimented the Great Harvest loaves, but said that even better were the challahs that were being sold on Fridays at Bon Fresco.

Bon Fresco?  That Columbia shop right off Snowden River Boulevard is one of my favorite restaurants -- both for sandwiches and loaves of chiabatta and baguettes.  But we had never heard about their challah.

That lead to a taste test and a geeky string of email humor as the scientists in my life proposed an experimental design, critiqued the statistical weaknesses, and joked about where to find a committee to approve the trial on human subjects.  It ended with me picking up two half-loaves of challah from RDAdoc last Friday night, knowing nothing more than that they were Challah A and Challah B.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Apricot Paste At Nazar, Super Grand, Etc.

I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with dried apricot paste, so I have been slicing off chunks and eating it by hand.

Imagine adult fruit leather.  Apricots, pureed and then dried into half-inch-thick sheets with a little sugar.  It's sweet, chewy, and a dessert that tastes like fruit not candy.

My first sheet came from my father's client who brought it home with him from Turkey.  That's how I noticed it for a few bucks at Nazar Market in Columbia and at the Super Grand in Laurel.  It lasts for weeks in the fridge, and I use a big knife to cut chunks that I eat by hand.

Now, I have to figure out some other uses.  Chowhound suggests rolling the paste into chicken dishes.  Another Web site says people make a drink by melting it into boiling water.  These folks talk about using it in French toast and hamantashan.

Whatever you do, it's definitely something to pick up if you check out Nazar, Super Grand or (I assume) Caspian Market in Ellicott City -- a little exotic, but basically a sweet staple that will lasts for weeks in your fridge.  They're bringing the world to your door, so cut yourself a piece.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Oysters At Frank's Seafood In Jessup

My drive for better ingredients keep taking me to Jessup where I buy fish at Frank's Seafood in the wholesale seafood market.

Last weekend, I went for shrimp to flavor a pasta dish, but I also picked up a dozen oysters.  They had four varieties, and I picked the Maryland locals ($9/dozen) because I was just making a treat to surprise my father.

Crabs dominate my Frank's trips in summertime, but they still have terrific whole fish, wild shrimp and shell fish now.  Shucking raw oysters intimidates me, especially because I don't have the knives to do it.  But a Frank's customer ordered them, and, after I asked, he explained that he was going to grill them at home.

Two minutes or so on the grill, and the oysters pop open.  I pulled them all once I could see that two or three had separated.  They don't cook enough to interest Mrs. HowChow, but the gap made them easy to pry onto a half-shell with a screwdriver that I had sterilized in a gas flame. The meat was firmer than straight raw, but they still had the clean ocean taste, the slightly salty bite that makes them so unique.

Remember the oysters get really hot on the grill.  I wore an oven mitt and tried to keep them steady as I pulled them off the fire.  I lost a little oyster juice into the flame, but it was a pretty simple operation.

Does anyone else have suggestions for Frank's?  Supermarket shrimp disappoint me, and I won't buy farmed ones anymore because I saw one too many description of how that's done.  I go to Frank's for crabs, shrimp and now oysters, but I'd like to branch into whole fish.  Anyone suggest a cookbook that teaches those techniques?

(Update: I went back and bought a shucking knife at Frank's with a second batch of oysters.  They were "salts" cultivated in Virginia.   It was an easy skill to pick up, and they were delicious -- a touch saltier than the locals.)