Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Seasons Of Howard County: Hot And Cold

Summer: Peaches at Larriland
Larriland Farms is the single greatest place for food in Howard County.

In no small part, that's true because I'm writing this in mid-winter with dreams of peaches, blackberries, apples and long afternoons spent walking Larriland's fields in the sun.  Seasons matter, and Larriland is a magical place for half of the year -- from May strawberries through October pumpkins.

Howard County can be a fun place no matter the time of year.  If you're looking for adventure, you can tailor the day by the season.

This is part of HowChow's 2012 guide to Howard County -- "Welcome Home."  Ten posts to prove there are dozens of places worth your time, that you can find great food all across the county.  It's written for someone new to Howard County (maybe a link you send a friend thinking about moving here), but hopefully it's useful to anyone.

Winter: Tofu stew at Lighthouse
Winter -- Time for quiet, time for cozy.  You need some heat, and you can afford to chow down on some heavy food.  It's not an easy season like mid-summer, but you can still enjoy the appropriate fun.
Spring: First beers on Victoria's patio
Spring --  Good weather makes good food easier to find.  The Howard County farmers markets will open with produce, breads, flowers and more.  I hear the weekday ones are actually the largest.  But you can enjoy the sun right away.
  • As soon as it is warm, you need to eat outside.  My first suggestion is a seat on the patio at Victoria for the best burger and a beer sampler.  But we're famous for our "parking lot cafes" so you could sit outside at Facci, Pub Dog, Great Sage, Ranazul, and Maiwand Kabob.
  • Borrow a toddler and pick strawberries at Gorman Produce Farm in Laurel.  The farm runs a CSA and a produce stand that you should definitely check out, and they do pick-your-own strawberries so close to the barn that even the littlest kid can handle the ride and the walk.
  • Check the Web site to see if downtown Ellicott City revives the "Second Sunday" market.  The French Market and other businesses helped run a monthly market in 2010 and 2011 with food, produce and other goods for sale.  It's a great way to get a taste of downtown Ellicott City.
Summer -- Obviously, summer is the time to grill.  I wrote a series in 2010 recommending the Planet Barbecue cookbook as a way to grill your way through the local ethnic groceries.  Those are still wonderful adventures, but you don't have to do all the work.  You can buy summer special as well.
  • Picnic at Centennial Park.  The Columbia park offers kayaks and canoes at reasonable prices, or you can walk the 2.6-mile loop around.  Fuel yourself up with a picnic lunch.   There aren't many restaurants right nearby, and neither Yama Sushi nor Iron Bridge lends itself to an outdoor lunch. But you can find something good.  I brought lychees on a first date.  She swooned.
  • Ribs or barbecue near U.S. 1.  In warm weather and especially on weekends, there are folks grilling meat along U.S. 1 and Rte 175 in Jessup and Savage.  Most are $10 plates with meat, rice, beans and salad like the guys at Mel's Liquors in Jessup.  On weekdays, you could lunch at Dave's BBQ near the Savage MARC station.  Or check out all the posts about local food trucks.
  • Watermelon agua fresca at R&R Taqueria in Jessup.  It's fruit and ice blended into the refreshing drink that Slurpees wish they could be.  There are actually many great takeout drinks.  I did a week of "Cold Drink" posts in 2011 to suggest alternatives to a cool-down soda.  (Or consider a milkshake from The Duchess in Ellicott City.)
Fall: Crabs at Frank's
Fall -- Harvest time can be great fun at seasonal restaurants like Bistro Blanc and Woodberry Kitchen, and you can make your own feasts as well.  All the other produce spots -- the farmers markets, Gorman Produce Farm, etc. -- are still in high gear.  Plus, you'll get the fall specials.
  • Crabs at Frank's Seafood in Jessup.  The secret of Maryland crabs is that they improve as a chill hits the air.  Crabs fatten up to hibernate under the mud.  So fall crabs are heavy and sweet.  Frank's steams for you.  They often run great specials as well.
  • Larriland Farm in Woodbine.  I've said that it's the best place in Howard County for food.  It's actually great spring to fall with strawberries, peaches, blackberries, tomatoes and more.  Consider canning.  But it''s perfect in October when you pick apples and pumpkins and run around in their Halloween activities like a hay bale maze.  Whenever you go, remember to pair your picking with the barbecue at Town Grill in Lisbon or the fried chicken at Harvest Fried Chicken in Woodbine.
  • Local turkey from Maple Lawn Farm in Fulton.  The farm on Rte 216 brings baby chicks in every year, and it serves up turkeys every fall.  Full birds for your Thanksgiving table.  Saddles, sausage and other specialties if you shop at the farm.
What I Don't Know:  What are your seasonal favorites in Howard County?  Any places that you love in the winter?  Where do you go for soup?  Any other great pairings of "outdoor activity" with "restaurant where you can get a picnic lunch?" 


Alicyn DelZoppo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alicyn DelZoppo said...

I like Clyde's outdoor area by the lake or at night listening to outdoor music. One of the few, if only, places that is not a parking lot patio.

February 22, 2012 7:39 AM

Elizabeth @ The Bare Midriff said...

My husband and I are French onion soup enthusiasts, and ever since our favorite place in Annapolis closed, we've been searching for another great bowl. We finally found it at Looney's in Maple Lawn. If you can get over the loud sports bar theme, you can get a great bowl of soup and awesome fries.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all of the helpful information. Perfect timing as we are new to the area.

MichelleM said...

The french onion soup at Mimi's Cafe is also very good. I'll have to try the one at Looney's. Also, one of our favorite summertime rituals is to get snowballs at Kendall Hardware

AnnieRie said...

Snowballs or ice cream at the Woodstock Snowball stand on Rt. 99.

Friday night picnics at Black Ankle, just north of Mt. Airy. They have hot baguettes, cheeses, olives, salami and live music on Fridays. Get a rotisserie chicken and salads from any grocery store (I love Harris Teeters) and salads, a few chairs or a blanket and make a date night (weather permitting all year long).

The best take home soups used to be at Produce Galore, and I miss them. Haven't found any that come close except buying them at Roots.

We also get picnic goodies at Roots. Mushroom pate. Hummus. Their breads. Olives. We sometimes picnic on the reservoir.

Outdoor seating at Cacao Lane, when they are open.

I am putting together a longer list of local sources on one of my pages. Your series here has inspired me.

Brian said...

Snowball Stand on Rt. 99 as soon as it warms up!