Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Link: Sun Profiles Food Trucks In Howard County

Explore Howard has posted a run-down on food trucks across Howard County, including pit beef, tacos and bulgogi.

Amanda Yeagar also profiled the family that sells waffles from a truck every Saturday in the parking lot of Kendall Hardware in Clarksville.  It's headlined by a high school senior saving money for college and his pastry chef father.  Definitely something to check out.

I'm trying to capture posts about food trucks with the "Trucks" label below.  But you should also check the right column for labels on each truck individually.

Italian Volcano Lemon Juice At Mom's

Simple things, great flavor, especially when you're low on everything else.

I'm becoming a fan of expensive lemon juice as a way to keep things cheap when I want something easy.  A dash in a glass of water.  A few tablespoons in a recipe.  The stuff lasts forever in the fridge, which makes it easy to keep a bottle for everything that I need.

Mom's Organic Market in Jessup sells a brand called Italian Volcano.  Roots in Clarksville sells Santa Cruz.  They're both pricey by the bottle, but cheap if you avoid buying lemons or get to make dinner when you don't have fruit on hand.

Mouth-puckering straight, the juice punches up anything.  I made red beans with lemons from Mark Bittman's cookbook this weekend.  You could make salad dressing with a dash of juice and olive oil or make pasta with nothing more than juice, parsley and parmesan.  Easy buy -- give them a grab.

If you go to Mom's, check out the watermelon radishes in the produce aisle.  They're expensive at $5 a pound, but they're delicious.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Clam Chowder a la Today's Catch -- The Secret Ingredient Is Clams That They Freeze In House

Okay, the secret ingredient in clam chowder can't actually be clams, but who knew that Today's Catch gets Chesapeake clams that it freezes in house?

I only ended up in Today's Catch's freezer because I couldn't find large clams at the local seafood markets.  I had a recipe that called for six pounds of clams and steaming them to start.

Why bother?  The market in Wilde Lake village center sells $10 containers of enormous clams -- shucked and raw, ready to make whatever interests you, and ready to store a bit in your freezer if you take them straight home.  They buy them fresh, then package and freeze them in the Columbia shop.

Last weekend, I had a car full of chowder ingredients like cream, bacon and potatoes, but no clams at Frank's Seafood Market in Jessup.  I had to take a risk, and it paid off in a flavor strong with salt water and clams.  No grit.  No fishiness.  I augmented with a can of Chincoteague sea clam juice, and I adapted a recipe from The New Best Recipes.  Basically, I cooked the clams in a tiny pot, then followed most of the recipe along the way.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Korean Fried Chicken At Tian Has Brought The Crunch -- And The Spice -- To Ellicott City

The Korean fried chicken at Tian Chinese Cuisine brings a unique crunch and some serious heat if you're looking for that high-cholesterol, high-flavor treat that you can't make at home.

Tian now offers chicken from a Mad for Chicken franchise inside the Ellicott City restaurant known before for its Korean-Chinese menu and especially for the house-made noodles.

The crunch comes from the Mad for Chicken coating that has a unique crispness.  It's a thin, almost-brittle layer over moist chicken underneath.  The meat isn't particularly spicy, but the glaze on the outside delivers all the flavor that you'd want -- salty/sweet for the regular and mouth-numbing for the spicy.

Seriously, the spice was almost too much for me, and Mrs. HowChow happily traded hot pieces for the regular when we ordered a mixed set.

The magic of Korean fried chicken is that the glaze delivers that flavor without soaking down the crisp coating.  It's a delicious dinner, definitely worth a drive to the Lotte shopping center on Rte 40 and definitely a worthy alternative to Chick 'n Friends in Columbia or Harvest Fried Chicken in Woodbine.

My advice is that two people split an order of chicken and an order of the black beans with noodles -- jjajangmyun or #1 on Tian's menu.  Personally, I'd order the wings or white meat.  The ratio of crunch to meat was perfect in the wings.

If you want more on Korean fried chicken, start with Henry Hong's review of a Virginia Bon Chon franchise.  Such the right description that I link often for fear that I'm unwittingly plagiarizing Hong's language.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanks To Everyone

Thanks to everyone who voted for HowChow in the Mobbies!  I'm a bit belated here, but I want to thank everyone who voted and pushed the blog to the top of the food category.

To me, the biggest point of the 2011 Mobbies was that they added "county by county" categories.  53 Beers On Tap won the Howard County section, and he had by far the most competition.  Other counties had 3-5 entries, which the HoCoBlogs crowd more than doubled.  Howard County goes to 11.

Blogging will start again after Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Green Valley Supermarket Opens In Elkridge; The Local Blog Scene Has The Opening Covered

The new Green Valley supermarket opened in Elkridge less than two hours ago, but the Swim Write Run blog has already posted a description and photos.  This market replaces the SuperFresh, and Mo has a quick price check and some musings on what people do with the giant scissors after the ribbon cutting.

Mo -- So sorry about the insomnia.

Worth A Drive: Mr. Rain's Fun House

Last month, we celebrated our anniversary at Mr. Rain's Fun House in Baltimore, and I walked away with a strong line to start the review.

Mr. Rain's is a terrific restaurant at the top of the American Visionary Arts Museum.  We had wonderful food.  Fun stuff like a twist on Hawaiian poke where a circle of raw tuna was topped with an avocado ice cream instead of missed with diced avocado.  Perfectly cooked stuff like scallops.  Delicious stuff like a plate where the meat, the vegetables and the sauces were each something special and nothing that I could make myself.

I had the idea to say that Mr. Rain's is the best restaurant that I never hear anyone talk about.  No one walks past.  No one could stumble on it.  But it's absolutely worth the drive from Howard County.  For some reason, that hadn't yet coalesced into a post for me, which is why you should go read what the professional thinks.  Richard Gorelick reviewed Mr. Rain's in the Sun and captured everything that I would have wanted to say -- plus writing with the cleverness of Mr. Rain's.  This is my favorite section:
This is an excellent restaurant that manages to be both part of a progressive culinary movement and its very own thing. The experienced staff members aren't shy about their sense of fashion, and Buszinski's kitchen isn't afraid of displaying flourishes of wit, just not at the expense of flavor.
Don't get me wrong. I love those wood-and-fire restaurants, where the spirits of the cow and the chicken hover over the plate. But Mr. Rain's is a chance to get out of your flannels, put on a puffy shirt and dine in a sophisticated and serene room where the predominant colors are orange and purple.
Consider stretching your evening by looking through the American Visionary Arts Museum.  It's a weird space, but it's fun art.  The museum gift shop is worth its own 45 minutes with books, art, and lots of crazy little items like colorful hats that we wore to answer the door on Halloween.  The one downside is that the museum closes early enough that our anniversary dinner was almost an early bird special.  So I could see going for dinner at a normal hour instead.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sugar Baby by Gesine Bullock-Prado

Peanut brittle
You cannot give someone a better gift than Gesine Bullock-Prado's cookbook Sugar Baby.

Trust me.  If you're generous to the cook in your life, then you could be eating taffy and marshmallows as well.  You could be comparing different batches of caramels, suggesting different nut mixes for crunchy brittles.

Sugar Baby is a cookbook of desserts that aren't cookies and cake.  It's candies, fudge, toffee and even lollipops.  Mrs. HowChow saw Gesine make macarons on the Today Show, and I bought the book because I saw good things happening.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Antichuchos at Chick'n Pollo in Columbia

If you just want to try some tasty grilled beef, you need to check out the special antichuchos on the menu at Chick'n Pollo in Columbia.

The restaurant in the Hickory Ridge village center does most of its business in Peruvian roast chicken, and I'm a fan of the chicken, sweet plantains and yuca fries.

But the new find is another Peruvian speciality, the antichuchos.  You get a plate with thin slices of marinated beef grilled on skewers.  It's a slightly chewy texture, but a rich beef flavor, a bit salty from the marinade and perfectly paired with the spicy tomato salsa served on the side.

The skewers come with a boiled potato that Chick'n Pollo drops in the flyer when you order.  The potato halves come out crisp, but not greasy.  Ask for an extra little container of the green sauce that they serve with the chicken.  That creamy, spicy sauce goes great with the potato.

That's it.  Go try the antichuchos.  You'll be happy.

If you want to know more, then you need to read more.  But do you?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Restaurant Association Is Raffling Off An Audi

The Restaurant Association is raffling off an Audi A3 as part of its annual big-ticket raffle -- where you get a chance at a car, plus gift certificates to a bunch of restaurants.

I don't generally post about giveaways, but restaurants are the lifeblood for HowChow.  They're only selling 325 tickets at $300 each.  For that, you get a shot at the car.  Plus, you get a $25 gift certificate at a bunch of Maryland restaurants, including locals at Iron Bridge Wine Co., Victoria Gastro Pub, Second Chance Saloon and the Melting Pot.

The raffle raises money to support education, including a high school culinary curriculum that requires students to work in the industry.  If you're interested, check out their Web site.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Links: More Pizza And A Thought On East Moon

There are lots of good voices about food in Howard County.  If you're looking around, remember the reviews on Patch, where Jackie Gonzalez-Feezer just reviewed the new East Moon Asian Bistro on Rte 108 in Ellicott City.  And, of course, there are blogs -- like zachpund who was talking up Coal Fire and asking for favorite pizzas weeks before I got on the same kick!

As always, check HowChow's right column for blogs and Twitter feeds with local food content.  You'll find different opinions, like the 2 Dudes Who Love Food.  That young collective of reviewers just hit by Chevy's in Arundel Mills and Tutti Frutti in Ellicott City.  (If you're the one paying for these reviews, you better watch out when the boys want to go back for "by the ounce" frozen yogurt.  My brother and I could have broken a credit card socking away brownie-covered ice cream.)

While you're looking around, check out Jackie's La Casa de Sweets blog and its effort to raise money to fight famine in Africa.

Please email me with new blogs or Twitter feeds.  Sometimes, I can link to a blog if it uses tags to group the food posts.)

Get A Great Taco - With A Shot At Getting On TV

UPDATE:  The Diners, Dives and Drive-Ins schedule changed.  Sorry about that.  I deleted the original post.  Go get a taco at R&R anyway.

Thanks to Jeff for the emails.  For newcomers, R&R is in the Shell station at U.S. 1 and Rte 175 right on the Elkridge/Jessup line.  Click here for all the R&R posts.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Mango Grove Aiming For December Opening -- Including An Open Kitchen To Watch Dosa Making

Mango Grove and Mirchi Wok are re-opening off Dobbin Road in Columbia, and the owner says that they're aiming to fire up the Indian food by Christmas.

I stopped by the shopping center because La Casa De Sweets tweeted about a menu on the door of the former Mongolian Grill.  Rohit mistook me for someone coming to work on the space, and he came out to talk to me.  My cardinal rule is that I'm not a reporter, but I had to ask Rohit when I was going to get to eat a Mango Grove dosa again.  The giant crepes filled with vegetables make this one of my favorite kitchens in Howard County.

The new Mango Grove will be about the size of the combined restaurants from their old location, which was bulldozed to make way for a drive-through Starbucks.  They're building out two kitchens -- one vegetarian for the Mango Grove menu heavy on southern Indian items and one meat for Mirchi Wok's Indo-Chinese selections.

The veg section will include an open kitchen right at the entrance.  It's the space where Mongolian's chefs cooked the food, and it will let you watch the dosas as they crisp up.

Mango Grove & Mirchi Wok (aiming to open December 2011)
8865 Stanford Boulevard
Columbia, MD

NEAR: This is the shopping center that faces Dobbin Road south of Rte 175.  You enter by turning from Dobbin onto Standard Boulevard.  This has Pub Dog, Hanamura, Riverside Coffee and Noodles Corner.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Food Network Came To Elkridge, And All I Got Was Two Hours Enjoying The Sunshine

The stars of the show -- Chef Rodrigo and family
Guy Fieri and a team filming his Food Network show are working around Baltimore this week, and the star spent much of this morning at R&R Taqueria in Elkridge.

R&R had to close today and November 14 to accommodate the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives crew, but the owner Rodrigo Albarran-Torres was allowed to invite a few people to appear as customers.  I was honored to get the nod, and I had a great time even though I had to leave while the cameras were still working inside with Rodrigo, Fieri and his guest Joe Theismann.

This was fun like I had fun on a fishing trip where we caught nothing.  The sun was beautiful.  I talked to the folks behind the Strobist blog and Southern Skies Coffee Roasters.  I also chatted with Alberto Flores, who left the first comment about R&R two years ago.  (Alberto and his wife recommended a new dish at another spot for me to try -- which set Rodrigo teasing them that they were helping the competition.)

We watched Fieri and Theismann film a little piece with the show's signature Camaro at the Shell station's pumps.  My favorite moment was watching the two celebrities pose together so that they could each have someone snap a photo with their personal cell phones.  Then we stood around talking until I had to go back to work.  The crew is subtle enough people had no idea they were filming a show.  People kept trying to walk into the restaurant, and a guy had to walk over and explain why the doors were locked.

Let me know when anyone hears when DD&D will air the R&R episode.  I'd love to update.  This couldn't happen to a nicer guy -- or for better food.  This wasn't a PR event.  It was bunch of people standing outside because they really like Rodrigo and R&R.  Click here for all the posts about R&R and its delicious tacos, ceviche, agua fresco, etc.

Trattoria E Pizzeria de Enrico in Columbia

I'm still looking for pizza, so I went for a new look at an old favorite around Columbia, the pizza joint in King's Contrivance.

Trattoria E Pizzeria de Enrico is a casual institution around here.  It's part of a small group of Italian spots, and it was one of the first places that people recommended when they started to comment on HowChow.

Last week, we ordered a whole pizza because fresh always seems better than the slices that they sell individually.  Way too much for two -- especially because we split a calzone beforehand.  This is pizza with the basics -- cheese, sausage, and thin-sliced mushrooms.  We dug in.

No grease spots.  That's how you can tell Trattoria kicks out pizzas with more ambition than the chains.  Even cooling, the cheese stays delicious.  The crust stays crisp, but still chewy with a thick sauce and the right balance of all the ingredients.  With the calzone, you get an extra cup of sauce for dunking.  Trattoria doesn't sell new jack pies like Coal Fire or Facci, but I plowed through at least one slice too many because that made a great dinner.

Oddly, it made a totally different leftover.  After a day in the fridge, the dough flattens.  Reheated, it crisped into something thin and more like Coal Fire.  Delicious in round two as well.

What is your pizza place?  I can't enough pies to tour the entire county.  Amazing to think that I ate pizza five days a week through college.  I am shocked that I survived two in a week now.  I'm convinced that Facci and Coal Fire sell the gourmet pizza around here.  Trattoria does the best standard pies that I know.  Where else?

Trattoria E Pizzeria Da Enrico 
8630 Guilford Rd 
Columbia, MD 21046 

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

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pistachio Pizza At Facci Ristorante

Facci on Johns Hopkins Road has expanded the menu along with the space inside, and it just gets better.

The new find:  pistachio pizza.  That's Facci regular pie topped with great ricotta cheese and the flavors of the charred crust, paper-thin red onion, pistachios and rosemary.  It's unique, and it's delicious -- even after it's driven home.

As takeout, the pizza and an arugula salad made a great dinner.  They'll just be better when we can eat at the restaurant next time, ready to try risotto and the pastas that we hadn't seen on the menu before.  For some reason, Mrs. HowChow got in a pattern of house-made ravioli with pesto, so she hadn't looked for new items when she went with friends.

Has anyone tried the other new pizzas?  There is one listed with clams and other seafood?  And another topped with fries?  Really, fries?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mongolian Grill Closes In Columbia; The Spot Appears To Be Taken Over By Mango Grove

The Mongolian Grill has closed in the Columbia shopping center off Dobbin Road, and they told people that they lost their lease.

As far as I can tell, the spot is going to become the new home for Mango Grove and Mirchi Wok, which closed this fall.

Does anyone know more about Mango Grove's timeline?  Does anyone know if there is another place like Mongolian Grill?  It wasn't my joint, but Reed emailed to see if anyone knows where to find a similar buffet:

I loved the lunch buffet where you could get as much anything as you liked including steak, chicken and pork with a large variety of vegetables, noodles, sauces and seasonings.   They also had a delicious salad bar.   If I had know they were closing I would have eaten there a lot more often.  Do you know of any other Mongolian grill restaurants near by?  
Thanks to all the people who emailed me about Mongolian Grill!  Sorry for the delay in posting.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

R&R Taqueria Will Be On The Food Network

Our tacos at the gas station are ready for their closeup.

The Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives has selected R&R Taqueria as a spot to film on their current trip to Baltimore.

I'm personally excited because I lobbied for R&R (along with some other joints) when the show's production company talked to me a few weeks ago as they were scouting.  I said the food was delicious and that they were guaranteed great video because people eat their tacos looking over the gas pumps.  Then Tom Sietsema named R&R in his Fall Dining Guide, which let me say that they didn't have to rely on a blogger about the delicious part.

I hadn't mentioned anything because I didn't want the show to think R&R was trumpeting the event too early.  But Matt posted an R&R flyer on the HowChow Facebook page that announces the filming and notes that R&R will need to close for much of Nov. 8 and Nov. 14.

(Update:  See below Cara's comment that she emailed DD&D about R&R months ago.  People look out for R&R.)

In far away news, R&R's Web site has photos of new location in the White Marsh Mall.

Link: Columbia Wegmans To Open June 17, 2012

The new Wegmans in Columbia will open on June 17, 2012, reports the Columbia Patch and Explore Howard.

Explore Howard also reports that the new supermarket in the Long Reach village center will be called Family Foods.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Howard County To Get First Whole Foods In Gehry-Designed Headquarters: TOTC Blog

Howard County may gets its first Whole Foods, reports the Tales of Two Cities blog, which posted this morning about negotiations to turn the former Rouse Company headquarters into a ritzy grocer.

Wordbones works in commercial real estate so I take his word that Whole Foods is in the final stages of negotiating to convert the first floor of the Frank-Gehry-designed building.  This is the current Howard Hughes building at 10271 Little Patuxent Parkway, right across from the mall in Town Center.

Go to Tales of Two Cities for that news (and if you're a journalist, credit him for getting this first).

Then come back here for some thoughts on the food.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Link: First Thoughts On Corner Stable

Corner Stable has opened in the Kings Contrivance village center, and it was packed last week when we went past.

The P90Noir blog has an early review, and their table liked the crab cakes and the ribs.  Not so positive on the sides and aware of some chaos in a new place.  Sounds like the ribs are the Mrs. HowChow style -- fall off the bone.  We continue to have a divide over "tender" versus "toothsome and smokey."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Please Vote For HowChow In The Mobbies

The Baltimore Sun has brought back its Mobbies contest, so I would love if you could click on their site to vote for HowChow under "Best Food" and "Best Howard County."

The Mobbies is the Sun's "vote-each-day" contest where people can pick the local blogs that they read.  They added the "Best Howard County" category this year.  You have to sign on the Sun's site, then vote.  After that, you can vote for the grand prize "Best Overall."

Vote early and often through Nov. 10.  (Especially you Mom!)

Garam Masala Wings At Tandoor Grill

The folks at Tandoor Grill have converted a sandwich shop into a nice Indian restaurant / takeout, but they have kept much of old menu -- with some spiced up improvements.

The shop on Johns Hopkins Road near Rte 29 sells coffee, salads and sandwiches -- presumably to the APL crowd at lunch -- but it has pushed its own fusion taste into the chicken wings.

Garam masala chicken wings come six or eight to an order.  They're meaty with a mild spice and a real flavor of lemon.  Last Friday was "Girls Night Out" around here, so I ended up a friend's house where three of watched their kids and held a "Boys Wing Contest."

The Tandoor Grill wings held their own with my local favorite Kloby's Smokehouse.  They're equally delicious and interesting with the Indian spices standing up to Kloby's smoke and sauces.  It's definitely worth a head-to-head if you're buying some wings to take back to the office or home.  I suggest "gram masala" versus "dirty and old."  You'll have to have Kloby's explain that to you.

The Indian food at Tandoor Grill has actually been quite good.  I need to go again to get myself an inspired post.

Tandoor Grill
7500 Montpelier Road
Laurel, MD 20723

Near: Tandoor Grill is in the shopping center with Kloby's Smokehouse, La Palapa Too, Facci and a bunch of other restaurants.  It is on Johns Hopkins Road just west of Rte 29.  The post office calls that area Laurel.  In the only political statement on the HowChow blog, we keep pointing out that's not Laurel.