Thursday, May 31, 2012

HowChow Commandos Now Living In Wegmans

Two weeks to Wegmans, and it's getting pretty exciting here at HowChow.

True Wegmans lovers won't be able to wait in the lines at the opening on June 17.  That's why the first team of HowChow commandos snuck into the building using a stolen Imperial shuttle.  They are living secretly beneath the cheese department.

At dawn this morning, General Solo snuck out of hiding to snap this photo of Wegmans.  You can see that it is cleverly disguised now as a supermarket.  In the normal Wegmans construction process, they pave the aisles with gold and install the celestial choir in just the final few days.

Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.

Sweet Japanese Dessert At La Boulangerie

Daifuku mochi from La Boulangerie
I think that I'm eating daifuku mochi, but I'm actually happy either way.

The La Boulangerie bakery in Ellicott City has a fun display of cakes, cookies and other sweets, but I stopped by last weekend for fresh mochi based on Gabrielle's suggestion on a prior post.

Daifuku mochi is a Japanese dessert with a sweet pastry made from rice wrapped around a filling of even-sweeter red bean filling.  That rice-cake mochi does many duties in Asian desserts, including as a topping on the tart frozen yogurt places that have popped up recently.

In La Boulangerie's daifuku, the mochi is almost floating away.  It's a mild flavor and a light, almost fluffy texture.  Imagine the texture of a steamed bun or a super-gourmet marshmallow.  It's the fresh taste of just-baked pastry, and it is wrapped around a sweet, rich filling.  Gabrielle is right that these are exceptional.  Mochi can be an acquired taste, but this is the place to seek it out.  Slice up the pieces, and serve them with fruit for a summer dessert.

Check out the photo above.  I confirmed with Wikipedia, so I'm confident that I bought daifuku mochi.  But the folks at La Boulangerie didn't recognize that name.  I asked by name and even showed them the written-out word.  They showed me "donuts" and "mochi."  The mochi was the right choice -- although they're priced like other fresh-based pastries at more than $5 for four large pieces.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Another Taqueria: Tere's Latin Market Gives An Option For Tacos In Ellicott City, But No Gas

Beef and chorizo tacos at Tere's Latin Market
The beauty of a food blog is that it almost justifies getting a taco on the way to dinner with friends.

I had noticed recent comments about Tere's Latin Market talking about tacos and other specialities that I don't remember from a visit in 2008.  So I detoured there on Rte 40 one night on the way to Korean at Shin Chon Garden.

Back in the day, Tere's was just a small market.  Now, there's a taqueria in the back.  It's counter service with tacos, sandwiches, and some other dishes.  For $2.50, I picked up a snack -- and found a great little place for Mexican food.

Start with the flavor.  The first taco was al pastor.  Diced pork on two fresh corn tortillas came through moist, fresh and spicy with chopped cilantro on top.  Even the takeout packet came with sliced radish and cucumber, which crunched nicely in contrast.

Tacos al pastor
Then come around the butchering.  Mrs. HowChow -- who doesn't snack on the way to dinner -- talks about the meat at R&R Taqueria at the Shell station in Elkridge.  It comes beautifully even from a tiny kitchen.  No gristle.  No chewy pieces.  Tere's Latin Market pulls off the same trick.  The pork was just better than anything I can dice out on my own.

So I had to go back.  Like the next day for lunch.  I ordered up two tacos -- chorizo and beef.  Again, moist, flavorful meat with spices.  Chorizo was rich and greasy.  (In a good way.)  Beef was butchered right again and went great with squeezes of lime.  There is a small bar of fresh salsas and chopped peppers and other vegetables.  You can doctor them in the fashion that works for you.

Seriously folks, these were delicious tacos, and Tere's pairs them up with horchata -- the creamy, refreshing Mexican soft drink that makes a special meal.  R&R Taqueria makes a magical meal in a gas station.  Now, there is an Ellicott City option as well.

Now, I wonder if I just missed the taqueria when I walked through Tere's back in 2008.  Kevin added Tere's to Urbanspoon back in 2010.  What else have people enjoyed at Tere's?  Do you know when the tacos started?

Tere's Latin Market
8525A Baltimore National Pike (Rte 40)
Ellicott City, MD 21043

NEAR: Tere's is on the east-bound side of the Rte 40.  It's just east of Rte 29 and just before the traffic light with the Normandy shopping center.  Look for the Quizno's.  Tere's is on the end of the same shopping row.  There is parking around back.

Tere's Latin Market on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Changes In Laurel - Mango's Grill And Irene's Moving From U.S. 1 To Make Way For Walgreens

Quick update on downtown Laurel -- Mango's Grill and Irene's have both closed on U.S. 1 and aim to open just a little farther from Howard County, reports Kevin Rector on Explore Howard.

Mango's is a nice Mexican place that used to be just south of Main Street near the Rte 198 intersection.  Irene's was a place that did Mexican and Salvadoran next door.  They closed to make way for a Walgreens, according to a March column by Jeff Dudley.

Rector reported that Mango's has signed a lease a little farther south on U.S. 1.  Dudley says that Irene's is moving a little east to Rte 198 near the Home Depot.

It's Rambutan Season At The H Mart

Rambutan at the H Mart

Rambutan has burst on the scene at the H Mart in Catonsville, and you could hit up the spiny Asian fruit for some adventure and good eating.

Rambutan are sort of like hairy, brightly-painted grapes.  A moist firm fruit inside a stiff red shell covered with bristles.  They're not sharp.  They're actually fun to cut open and pop out the fruit.

This is fun for a foodie dinner.  It's fun to pop a few for kids game to try something new.  They're fragile and expensive to ship, which means that they're available most of the time but really plentiful and fresh in high season.  A few years ago, I paid $7 a pound.  They were about $4 a pound this weekend.

Pick fruit that are relatively heavy and don't have any soft spots.  Just a few make a fun dessert if you pair them with some cookies or candy.

If you go the H Mart, check out all the H Mart posts, especially about the ToreOre fried chicken that you can buy there.  If you go to Catonsville, check out the shopping center -- Mangoberry for yogurt, the Golden Krust for takeout Jamaican, and the houseware store in the basement area down from H Mart -- especially for bento boxes.

H Mart800 N. Rolling RoadCatonsville, MD 21228443-612-9020

NEAR: Rte 40 just west of I-695. If you are driving east on Rte 40 from HoCo, you'll see a Starbucks and a FedEx at the end of the shopping center. Turn right immediately after the Starbucks. If you miss it, just turn right at the next intersection.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Link: Aida Bistro On The Bare Midriff Blog

Aida Bistro and Wine Bar gets a detailed, glowing write-up on the Bare Midriff blog where Elizabeth appreciated the food and the vibe.

The Columbia restaurant filled Elizabeth's desire for a trendy, loungey spot with good food.  They ate at the bar, and I loved the sound of the smoked duck flatbread.

Soft Stuff's Last Summer As An Ice Cream Stand; Will Re-Open In 2013 As An Ice Cream Parlor

The Soft Stuff ice cream stand will offer up soft-serve ice cream all summer -- and then will be reborn in 2013 as an ice cream parlor, reports Karen Nitkin in the Sun.

Amid the explosion of frozen yogurt places, Soft Stuff is throwback -- a wooden stand overlooking Rte 40 that sells good soft-serve ice cream and the chance to enjoy your cones as you lean against your car.  Soft Stuff was one of the first places that I blogged about, and it's a center-piece for the "ice cream on a summer night" post that I need to update for 2012.

I'm sure the parlor will be fun too, but you should definitely enjoy Soft Stuff on one of these hot summer nights.  As much as it pains me to identify anything that opened in 1984 as "historic," I am pretty sure that you won't see a stand like this on Rte 40 in the future.

Nitkin also has a second story about the closing of the Forest Diner next to Soft Stuff.

Just between you, me and your general contractor, the article notes that the owners hope to have the first building constructed in time to open a Soft Stuff parlor for 2013.  No one should count on construction timetables.

Local Restaurants Get Some Pricey Real Estate On Washingtonian's 2012 Cheap Eats List

Bon Fresco makes Washingtonian's Cheap Eats list
Local restaurants represent a serious slice of new Washingtonian's Cheap Eats edition -- getting the nod for everything from Mexican to Cuban to sandwiches.

The list includes praise for Red Pearl and Bon Fresco in Columbia, Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsvile, and R&R Taqueria in Elkridge.  It also highlights a few local restaurant chains without noting the Howard County locations, including BGR The Burger Joint in Columbia and Honey Pig Gooldaegee Korean Barbecue and Lighthouse Tofu BBQ in Ellicott City.

The Washingtonian critics write short blurbs about each place, and they give practical suggestions -- lots of ideas about what to order and what makes a place special -- like the chilaquiles that they recommend at R&R.

One spot that I'd love to be considered for this list would be Mango Grove in Columbia.  They were closed while this list was being assembled, but I think the Indian there and spots like House of India compete with any "cheap eats" level Indian that I have every had.

The June 2012 edition is really worth your $5 to pick up at a grocery store.  It's not on line so far, and I think it's great to have around.  You could definitely flip through to see what inspires you.  There are some great-looking places within striking distance like Rockville, Beltsville, and Silver Spring.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Keep An Eye On Maiwand Kabob, Which Looks Close To Opening The New Location Near Rte 175

The new Maiwand Kabob off Rte 175 looks like it could open any day.  Let me know if you hear that they have fired up the grills and bread oven.

We looked in the windows last week, and the tables and chairs piled inside suggested that they were close to opening.  Of course, there were still ladders and other construction equipment so work is still being done.

S. left a comment on a prior post with a similar discussion.  This will be a restaurant with a feel closer to Nordstrom Cafe than the existing counter-service restaurants, according to a comment by MK.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Critical Mass In The Local Food Blog Scene

There was a point when I would link to almost every food post in a local blog.  Now, there is so much that I need to send you to the food section of HocoBlogs.

The 2 Dudes and Bakkich! write about restaurants like me.  But several folks -- including Soffrito and Coriander Dreams -- are posting recipes.  And the food section doesn't even include AnnieRie's posts about local food.

As always, I have tried to capture food bloggers from Howard County in my list in the right column.  Check them out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Indian Restaurant (Read: Ambassador) Progressing At Maple Lawn In Fulton

The Indian restaurant planned for the Maple Lawn development is progressing, the developer told people at the community's annual meeting tonight.

In February, I wrote that the folks behind the Ambassador in Baltimore were buying a piece of land just off Johns Hopkins Road on Maple Lawn Boulevard.  That's the back side of the development near the Applied Physics Lab.  The developer didn't offer any more details.

He did say that they expect to have another deli open in the spot where Pita & Rye closed.  One of the developer's employees said he heard Tutti Fruitti in Maple Lawn was aiming to open in mid-June.

Progressive Dinners -- Guacamole To WIngs To Nutella Pizza, And That's Just The Beginning

Nutella pizza for dessert
Last week, I pushed the idea of shopping centers so chuck full of food that you could eat course-by-course at different restaurants.

I only thought of three locations, but folks filled the comments with other places -- like the inspired walk from soup at Bangkok Delight to meatballs at Tino's to dumplings at Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro and then to dessert at Cafe de Paris.

Chips at La Palapa
But I have only eaten at one.

Friday night, a group of us took out a neighbor moving to Bethesda.  I can't claim it was a meal with a theme -- chips and guacamole at La Palapa Too, wings, jarbecue, and more at Kloby's and then nutella pizza at the bar at Facci.

The exclamation point was the chili naan.  One of us ordered an "extra hot" version of the spicy bread as takeout.  We carried it into Kloby's and split it up.  Somehow half the bread ended up in one person's mouth -- folded four times to get extra hot pepper in a single mouthful.


The best way to cool off those hot Indian dishes:  white Russians.  That's a lesson from HowChow.

I actually love the other recommendations about progressive dinners.  The Rumor Mill-Pure Wine-Bean Hollow trio sounds terrific.  And I need to try that "best daifuku mochi at La Boulangerie."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Homemade Popsicles At Bon Appetit Bakery

Fruit and red bean popsicles at Bon Appetit in Ellicott City
Homemade popsicles should be part of your summer if you are running around with kids or acting like a kid yourself.

Check out the "Icebar" freezer at Bon Appetit Bakery on Rte 40 in Ellicott City.  The Korean bakery does all kinds of cakes, pastries and cookies.  Now, they're making popsicles in house, and the fruity, creamy treats are well-worth the visit.

Coffee popsicles at Bon Appetit
On Saturday, I grabbed a mango popsicle.  It's the fresh taste of fruit with a creamy consistency.  They're making the right mix, getting a mango flavor and a slightly softer feel than the juice popsicles that I still enjoy out of our Zoku machine.  I should have grabbed more napkins.  I ended up with drips down my shirt as we drove down Rte 40.

Bon Appetit also sells popsicles in coffee, red bean, green apple, grape, and "milky."  They're a perfect treat for $1.75.  Fun if you're looking for something to do with some kids -- although I might eat them sitting at the bakery's tables.  Or fun if you're on Rte 40 and just need to cool down yourself.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Small Cheeses At Roots Market -- Special Chunks On The Salad Bar Make An Easy Cheese Plate

Cheeses from Roots, paired with green tomato pickles and spicy tomato jam
I went into Roots Market Saturday looking for vegetables, but I came out with an entire cheese plate of surprises.

Walking past the salad bar, I saw a section filled with small pieces of cheese wrapped in plastic.  Roots in Clarksville has long been one of my favorite places for cheese, but this innovation changed my plans for dinner.  Each piece was $2-4, and I quickly sorted out three varieties that seemed to go together.

Small cheeses on the salad bar
I actually got advice from Roots' cheese specialist who was going off work, but stopped to recommend varieties.  She talked up one that had mustard.  She said she had cut pieces so that people could sample.

I'm in!  Three small cheeses meant big, easy fun.  I put them on a platter with spicy tomato jam that I canned last fall and thin-sliced green tomato pickles.  Three of us sat on the patio with crackers and enjoyed the warm, dry evening while the vegetables grilled.  That's Somederale Red Dragon, Petit Basque and Cotswold -- all winners.

The small cheeses will bring me back to Roots' salad bar.  I'm happy to spend money on great cheese, but you could drop $20 on three cheeses -- and then have way more than you could eat in any reasonable time.  The small cheeses were perfect for a single plate -- and keep an eye out for the Un Mondo chorizo at Roots as well. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Donna's In Columbia Is Closing On Sunday

The Donna's restaurant in Columbia will close on Sunday.

For years, one of the Donna's in Baltimore was a lunchtime staple for Mrs. HowChow, so it wasn't our place to go back for dinner.  But it was a popular place with a nice menu, so it's a bummer to see them close.

Mark emailed me after hearing Friday from the staff that they had just been told that the restaurant would close this weekend.  I called tonight and confirmed the news.  Anyone know if something will replace the Donna's in the office building right near Rte 108 and Snowden River Parkway?  Mark works in the building and wants a solid lunch with outdoor seating like Donna's.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Another Vote For Rudy's Doner Kebab -- And News About The Menu And Upcoming Falafel

Doner platter at Rudy's
When I eat meat, I want something special on the plate, and Rudy's Mediterranean Grill in Columbia roasts doner kebab that made my cut with its crisp edges and rich flavor.  HowChow reader Rob stopped by recently to enjoy a meal and chatted with Rudy himself.  Rob learned that Rudy has a Turkish brunch on Sundays.  He also got another lesson for eaters that discount sites are a complex issue for restaurants -- and some news about falafel:
I stopped in after having purchased a Groupon ($15 for $30 in food).  By the way, something to remember that I keep forgetting is that Groupons are usually for dine-in only.  I spoke with Rudy for a few minutes.  He is a little distressed about the Groupon deal.  He wanted Groupon to sell perhaps 50 per week, not the approximately 600 they sold for Rudy's all at once. According to Rudy, he can only recoup his food cost on the $30 Groupons, but he actually loses on the $60 Groupons, so he is concerned about the number sold. 
Rudy is a very energetic, engaging guy.  He was very happy to talk about how the place is developing.  He brought me a bowl of red lentil soup while we sat at the bar and talked.  On tI tried the spanakopita (spinach pie on the menu), the doner kebab, and the izgara kofte.   
Next time, I'll probably skip the spanakopita.  The filo was soggy and a tad burnt on top.  But the  the doner kebab was probably as good as you are going to find in this state.  The lamb was moist and had the taste you expect in a doner or gyro.  Rudy pays a special chef who prepares his doner for the spit and also serves as a line cook.  He does not allow his other cooks to do anything other than slice the lamb for serving. The izgara kofte is a little different than kofte I have tried before, but is very good.  He puts peppers in the meat, so the kofte has a kick.  Other places put the meat on a skewer so it comes out elongated when pulled off.  Rudy's kofte are like small hamburger patties.  I recommend it. 
I also talked to Rudy about the menu.  Seems I am not the only one who wants to see only Turkish dishes on it.  Rudy has American fare on the menu in order to capture as much of the lunch crowd as possible from the surrounding businesses.  I think he believes a Turkish-only menu would not do that for him.  However, as a result of comments from many customers, especially those who have visited Turkey or lived there, Rudy is going to split the menu.  In the mornings, the usual American breakfast dishes will be there.  At lunch, American and Turkish will be represented.  And Rudy will have a Turkish menu in the evening.  Rudy also plans to bring falafel to the menu in June due to numerous requests.
Rudy's is a place worth trying, but check out comments and Yelp to see what you think you would like.  Kevin wrote a comment this morning that discussed which dishes his family enjoyed and which dishes disappointed them.  Kevin's wife actually thought the doner was bland.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Liquor At Wegmans -- More Talk, Less Clarity

I am no longer a journalist or a serious drinker, so thank heavens that David Greisman of Explore Howard is on the story -- writing about the ongoing dispute over the license for a liquor store above the new Columbia Wegmans.

Bottom line: The liquor board meets again June 14, 2012 to continue hearing from the public.

The dispute: Is it cool for a guy whose wife runs Wegmans to own the liquor store and use a local lawyer as a minor partner to hold the license?

What I don't take seriously:  Any idea that the local lawyer is opening this store because of his passion for home-brewing.  Any idea that the opponents are trying to protect children from the evils of wine in the supermarket.

Basically, there is a law that favors liquor stores owned by individuals over those owned by grocery stores.  Wegmans says they met the requirements.  The opponents disagree.  This is about making money by selling liquor, and I don't have any opinion or prediction about who will win.  Luckily, I'm not a journalist so I don't have to quote the claptrap about how the liquor store owner is a venture capitalist who has nothing -- I see nothing, nothing! -- to do with Wegmans.

Hat tip to the HoCo Rising blog that linked to Greisman's story.

The Best Shopping Centers -- Progressive Dinners As You Walk Restaurant-To-Restaurant

La Palapa Too on Johns Hopkins Road -- that lot fills at night
I have an idea that's better my imagination.

The new Mango Grove made me think about shopping centers around Howard County that offer more than just a single bite.

Obviously, some of the best food is served in shopping centers.  But even more, some shopping plazas are becoming centers for food.  They have options.  They have outdoor seating.  Parking might be tight, but it's the crowded buzz of popular restaurants.

I want to imagine a progressive dinner.  I did this years ago with the original Maple Lawn restaurants -- appetizer at one restaurant, entres at a second, dessert at a third.  Mrs. HowChow doesn't really want to eat this way, so it's mostly a mental experiment.

Pizza at Facci: Second course?
Two shopping centers come to mind.  First, the Johns Hopkins Road center with La Palapa Too, Tandoor Grill, Kloby's Smokehouse, Ginza of Tokyo , and Facci.  I can make meals -- ceviche at La Palapa then pizza at Facci then bread pudding at Kloby's or garam masala wings at Tandoor then sushi at Ginza then cannoli at Facci.

But I have to admit those aren't meals that naturally flow course to course.  (Garam masala-sushi-cannoli?)  So I thought about the Stanford Boulevard center in Columbia where Mango Grove and YogiPop have joined Riverside Coffee, Hanamura, Noodles Corner, and Pub Dog.

Ice cream makes the progression seem easier -- a dosa at Mango Grove, then authentic Chinese at Noodles Corner, then frozen yogurt at YogiPop.  Or maybe beer and pretzels at Pub Dog, then curries at Mango Grove, then green tea ice cream at Hanamura.  Fun idea, but still not an inspiration to make my date getting up three times for dinner.

Do you have a three-stop menu that sounds fun?  Recommend three dishes to eat at either of these shopping centers -- or recommend three that people could enjoy walking Main Street in Ellicott City.  Maybe Pure Wine Cafe to Johnny's Bistro to Portalli's?

Kloby's wings
I may play with this idea because you could do an Asian version among the restaurants at the Lotte center in Ellicott City.  Or a takeout version where you bring everything home -- wings from Kloby's, pizza from Facci, dessert from La Palapa Too or Tandoor Grill?

Has anyone actually done this -- walked from restaurant to restaurant over an evening?  Any other shopping centers with good food?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Link: Forest Diner Closing May 28, But The Staff Is Moving Across The Street To Jilly's Restaurant

The Forest Diner will close on May 28 to make room for construction along Rte 40, but it's staff will move across the road to Jilly's, reports Wordbones in the Tales of Two Cities blog.

This is part of a redevelopment plan announced in 2009 -- although that called for the Forest Diner to stay around five years.  Back then, people said Soft Stuff would be part of the redeveloped space.  Anyone know how the soft serve ice cream stand will be affected?

Bon Chon Fried Chichen Coming In June, But Without Liquor For Now, Reports Patch

The new Bon Chon fried chicken is aiming to open in early June, reports the Ellicott City Patch.

The Patch tweeted that news, and they had a link to Lisa Rossi's story about a liquor board meeting where they turned down Bon Chon's request for a license.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Link: Southern Skies Coffee On Balanced Salad

The new Balanced Salad blog wrote up the coffee from Southern Skies Coffee Roasters.  She talked up the local roaster and some kind of special brewing system.  Check it out.

Roots Is Opening A (Vegan?) Bakery

Roots Market in Clarksville appears to be opening a new bakery so they can make breads, cookies and other sweets for their markets.  There is a new Web page.  The page says they're developing vegan recipes, but I'm not sure whether to assume everything will be vegan.  Anyone know?

Hat tip to Anastasia who posted a link on the HowChow Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Who Has Advice About Italian Restaurants?

A bottle of white, a bottle of red
A bottle of rose instead.

When you want a table on the street, where is your Italian restaurant?

Pasta and pizza are my weeknight basics.  I don't claim to cook special Italian, but I can turn almost any pantry into spaghetti sauce.  Those nights make us look to other cuisines when we head out to a restaurant.

The Hoco360 blog just highlighted the three Trattoria restaurants -- Waverly, King's Contrivance, and Dorsey's Search.  Strobist pushes the pizzas and the ravioli aurora.  The King's Contrivance restaurant has served up some nice pizza for us, especially paired with a Rita's Italian ice.

(Update: As noted below, my original text omitted Portalli's in Ellicott City and Aida Bistro & Wine Bar in Columbia.  Both kitchens have the ambition to be one of the best around, and they're upscale menus -- often with local produce -- that get raves.  I have to admit that we don't eat at that price point often.  I think I omitted them because I started with Hoco360's post about casual Italian and got focused there.  I'd love recommendations about what to order on a special night.)

Other Italian gets reader raves -- Pasta Plus in Laurel, Tino's Italian in Columbia, the Pasta Blitz on Rte 108.  Other Pasta Blitz's have turned into Anthony's in Clarksville and Vittorio in Glenwood.   Truly, Facci on Johns Hopkins Road is our local.  We tend to split a pizza with either a salad or a pasta.  They make several pastas in house, including ravioli and gnocchi.  When I like blistered pizzas like the mushroom or even the clam pie, it's tough to drive past to try somewhere else.

So what do you recommend?  I do want to try that ravioli aurora, and people should hear about the good Italian even if I haven't tried it.  I need suggestions about what to order at the other places -- favorite dishes, anything off the menu.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Link: El Hidalgo's Giant Burrito In The Sun

The Sun sent writers out to try a bunch of local food challenges -- including the $40, 8-pound burrito at El Hidalgo in Elkridge.

Wesley Case liked the burrito, especially the marinated steak.  Could he finish it?  To find out, click on the Sun's link and then check out photos #5 and #6.

Advice For Gorelick, Or "What Dishes Would I Suggest For Dinner At Mango Grove?"

Jackfruit curry at Mango Grove
I love getting advice about what to order in a restaurant -- even if they don't turn out to be my favorite dishes.

I don't eat out that often.  Certainly not as often as people seem to think from the blog.  So I never want to settle for boring standards at a restaurant, and I'm always up for advice about corners of the menu that hold something delicious, adventurous or just unique.

The Sun's Richard Gorelick wrote a positive review of Mango Grove, but he chided the staff for not giving him more advice.  I empathize.  I've felt frustrated when I couldn't get advice in Chinese restaurants.  So what's my advice about Mango Grove?

Pick all over the menus.  That's plural.  Mango Grove reopened with two menus, one vegetarian using Mango Grove's name and one non-veg using the Mirchi Wok name from the sibling restaurant that was next door to the old location.  Take four people.  Order a bunch of food:
  • Order a dosa.  These are the plate-sized crepes filled with spiced mashed potatoes and vegetables.  First visit:  Order regular masala dosa.  Second visit:  Order a bit more exotic, the Mango Grove Special Masala Dosa.
  • Build basics.  Gorelick is right to applaud the well-tempered curries.  These are vegetarian dishes cooked with great skill.  First visit: Baighan bartha is mashed eggplant, which I swear is smokier and more flavorful.  Second visit:  Dal makhani is lentils and beans.  Delicious, rich with flavor.
  • Add a meat if that's your thing.  First visit: Chicken tikki masala, cooked in the tandoor drill and served with a tomato-based sauce.  Next time:  Gun-powder roast chicken, our new find with a spicy complex sauce.  It's a flavor that I could never re-create.
  • Go unusual.  First visit: Nargissi aloo -- potatoes hollowed out and then stuffed back with vegetables and cheese simmered in the makhani sauce.  Second visit:  Jackfruit curry.  This was a special, but it's on the menu now.  Immature fruit, cooked down in a curry.  It's a hint of sweetness.  Sort of a meat texture, but it's a real texture, not fake chicken made form soy.  
My suggestions leave out so many other reasons to try Mango Grove -- the samosa chaat appetizers, the oothappam, the Chinese-Indian dishes, the lamb.  But you need to start somewhere.  Click here for all my posts about Mango Grove.

Any restaurants where you would suggest a certain table of food?  I would love to restart the Trolling posts -- three paragraphs and a cell phone photo.  Email me if you'd like to try.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Facci Is Installing An Ocean-Front Patio At Their Restaurant, And By "Ocean-Front," I Mean . . .

Cool round of couches at Facci
Facci is installing an ocean-front lounge on the side of their restaurant.

And by ocean-front, I mean a lounge looking out over the ramp from Rte 29 to Johns Hopkins Road.

The permanent roof went up over the Facci patio in the last few days.  We looked around the corner to find a really cool slate patio with a U-shaped arrangement of outdoor couches.  They circle what looks like a fire pit.  It's really cool, especially if you close your eyes and imagine that the sound of that Honda Odyssey rushing down Johns Hopkins Road is actually the sound of surf.

Look, it's a car through those twisty shrubs
You know I'm a fan.  It's the natural progression of my beloved parking lot cafe and Wordbones' hilarious idea that we find the best dinners you can eat while overlooking a stormwater management pond.  My current thought:  The new Mango Grove overlooks a beautiful pond, but you can sit outside.

Hey, we need to enjoy the spaces that we have.  If we're eating the suburbs, I will be a fan of beautiful little places even if they overlook commuters.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sign At New Maiwand, Patio Roof At Facci

New covered patio going in at Facci.
Maiwand Kabob has put its sign up for a new restaurant off Rte 175 in Columbia.  It's going into the shopping center near Target that also has a Big Lots and Pier 1.

The sign apparently went up in the last few days and was spotted by Sarah of the Sarah Says blog.  On a prior post, MK had written that the new Maiwand Kabob would be more like Panera or Nordstrom Cafe than their current counter-service joints.  Anyone know when the new one will open?

Also going up appears to be a covered patio at Facci on Johns Hopkins Road.  They have installed a metal frame that looks like it will hold a pretty serious roof.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Link: Mango Grove Reviewed By The Sun

Mango Grove's new location warranted a review by the Sun's Richard Gorelick, who liked the food but wished that the staff had been more willing recommend items from the two menus that they had out.

I'll recommend the jackfruit at the Columbia restaurant in a post next week.  Until then, check out my prior Mango Grove posts.

Cinco de Mayo Party -- Celebrate Imported Beer

La Palapa Too Small To Accomodate The Crowds, so they got a tent
It's a fake holiday, but it looks like it is going to be a big party.

La Palapa Too has erected a tent to go with their dining rooms and patio.  By lunch, they had people there.  I saw similar flags at Looney's, so I assume that the beer companies have expanded their holiday beyond Mexican restaurants.

I wonder what Mexican folks think of debauchery committed in their name.  But fun is fun.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Coming Soon: Strawberries On The Farm, Fried Chicken At Bon Chon, and Potbelly's On Dobbin

Pick-your-own strawberries are coming to a farm near you.  Near Rte 29, that's the Gorman Produce Farm where strawberry season starts on Saturday.  Out on U.S. 70, Larriland Farm says their opening day will be May 15 to May 20.

The new Bon Fresco in Annapolis Junction will be near the &-11 at Guilford and Dorsey Run roads, reports Junior who spoke with the owner.

Potbelly's by Erik
The Bon Chon franchise in Ellicott City should be opening soon.  Keep an eye out for a soft open.  The restaurant's Facebook page said they were looking to hire employees three weeks ago.  I want to hear when we can try their fried chicken.

Until then, I'll have to go try the ice cream at Scoop Ah Dee Doo.  That's the new shop on Main Street in Ellicott City.  Adam hit it up for maple bacon ice cream and wrote it up on the Option Pitch and Waffle Crisp blog.  Too much bacon, he reports.

And finally, a Potbelly's sandwich shop is coming to Dobbin Road.  It will replace the Starbucks in the corner spot across from . . . well, the new Starbucks.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

If You're Interested In Liquor At Wegmans . . .

. . . you should check out some Twitter feeds.  The county liquor board is meeting tonight.

Andrew Metcalf of the Columbia Patch is live-tweeting and quoting comments from the speakers.  The biggest revelation is that the store would be 90% owned by the husband of Wegmans' president.  The guy who posted earlier would just own 10%.

(Update: Metcalf wrote about the meeting on the Patch.  You can also read David Greisman's piece in Explore Howard where he summarized the meeting -- which has been extended into June.)