Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Southern Skies Rates With Food Republic

The local Southern Skies coffee company got a "cups up" from the Food Republic site, which listed owner Jeff Givens on its seasonal list of 10 important people in coffee.

The Food Republic list runs from Web sites to coffee-machine-makers to coffee roasters like Jeff.  Southern Skies roasts in Carroll County, but we claim all kinds of areas near Howard County and really enjoyed Jeff's coffee.  Check out all the posts about Southern Skies, including a link to their site.

Link: Local Jelly Company Started In Flea Market

A Fulton woman and her daughter have created a jelly company -- starting with a family recipe for sweet pepper jelly, reports Sarah Hogue in Explore Howard.

The Pepper Jelly Heaven company started selling at an Ellicott City flea market, expanded into David's Natural Market in Columbia and now sell in four states.  Check out Sarah's story about Suzanne Glover O'Melia and Bailey Glover Johnson.

Grace Garden, A Kitchen That Never Disappoints

Pork and tofu with eggplants in the bowl behind
We have gone a little restaurant crazy in the past few weeks, and it just reminds me that few kitchens can compete with Grace Garden in Odenton.

The tiny Chinese restaurant sits across from Fort Meade, and it has zero ambiance.  But it has all the great meals that you could ever want.  We ate some fancy celebration meals over the past month, but I had just as much fun exploring a bit at Grace Garden.

Of course, I started with a known dish -- fish noodles, actual ground fish formed into sweet, long noodles.  But then we stretched out with an eggplant in plum sauce and a pork with dried tofu.  The eggplant was delicious.  Vegetable cooked perfectly tender, then a sweet and spicy sauce.

But the pork was a new reason to drive all the way out Rte 32.  Crisp pork and thin-cut pressed tofu offer contrasting texture.  A light char flavor from the pork.  Bright color and taste from green onions.  Most of the dish is tofu, which has a meaty texture and a light coating of oil that adds richness without grease.

The sauces make Grace Garden my favorite Chinese restaurant.  I can saute vegetables, but I can't make the dishes where a sheen of oil coats everything in flavor without ever tasting oily.  Every dish at Grace Garden tastes unique.  From XO sauce to seasonal vegetables to braised pork, the single chef turns out variation and surprise.  Honestly, the food was as much fun as our big-ticket dinners.  It's the only place where we consciously order more than we can eat -- three dishes feed two with lunches for tomorrow.

(Update: Grace Garden is on Rte 175 in Odenton.  We drive out Rte 32 and then turn north on Rte 175.  If you're farther north, then note the first comment below that it's probably faster to drive direct on Rte 175.)

Grace Garden is a great place to bring friends for a feast.  You can't order wrong.  But you can find what you like by reading all my Grace Garden posts to make a list of dishes that sound good to you -- and follow the links to Chowhound and Yelp for more-expert advice.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Bon Chon Is Open: Korean Fried Chicken Soft Opens, Offers Up Crisp, Juicy, And Tons Of Fun

Fried chicken at Bon Chon
Bon Chon has fired up the fryers for chicken and Korean food, soft opening in Ellicott City and bringing a trend from Seoul to Howard County.

This is Korean fried chicken -- a real variation on even the great bird you can buy at Chick n' Friends.  Moist meat with a thin crust.  Crunchy, even after it's been coated in a salty or spicy sauce.  This is a treat -- or a diet cheat -- worth checking out.  Henry Hong nailed the description a few years ago, and I quote rather than plagiarize:

Its product is pretty typical, with an aroma that slaps you in the face with garlic (definitely powder and fresh, in my opinion); a glaze that possesses a pretty straightforward combo of salty, sweet, and in the case of the “spicy,” a fast-acting, mouth-filling heat; and an exterior that although is often described as “shatteringly crispy” is more accurately somewhere between crispy and crunchy, with just a tiny hint of chew. The meat itself is unseasoned, but extremely moist, protected from drying by its cornstarch cocoon.

The bottom line is that you need to go try this chicken now.  Don't wait for the "grand opening" in a few weeks.  We already had the Korean fried chicken at Tian Chinese Cuisine, which does great chicken and offers black bean noodles and other dishes.  Those house-made noodles pair beautifully with Tian's crunchy chicken.  But Bon Chon really kicks it up.

Bon Chon's chicken comes in spicy or a soy-garlic.  Order radishes and maybe white rice.  You'll get a bowl of pickled white radish cubes.  Pop one after a spicy bite.  The crunchy vegetable cools your mouth.  We ordered wings and "strips" -- which are thin slices of white meat.  Those are my favorite ratios of meat to crunch.

Bon Chon is a Korean chain with franchises in near New York, Boston and the Virginia suburbs.  Reading around the Web suggests some variation between locations.  On Yelp, Edward suggested the sauce was spicier and the servings were smaller than the Chantilly location.  We ordered two small orders, and we left stuffed.

The restaurant has a modern, clean design.  Most tables, some high tops, some seats at the bar.  At even the first dinner service, it was bouncing with a 20s crowd -- salted with a few tables of salt-and-pepper hair.  It's a casual vibe.  Noisy enough that kids are clearly welcome, and Bon Chon an enormous projector that will make this a spectacular spot for wings and Ravens games when fall Sundays come around.

On top of the chicken, they have a small menu of Korean dishes.  You could alternative chicken with bulgogi, bibimbob, or scallion-seafood pancakes.  We gorged on chicken on the first visit, so w can't report.  Expect an official grand opening in a few weeks.  But they're serving the full menu now so nothing should hold you back.

Do any Bon Chon regulars know if is it possible to get a middle sauce?  I loved both the spicy and the soy-garlic, but the hot was just too hot for Mrs. HowChow.  She likes the salty soy.  But she'd love a spicy option too.

Bon Chon
3419 Plum Tree Drive
Ellicott City, MD 21042

NEAR: Bon Chon is a block south of Rte 40 and just west of Rte 29.  Turn south onto Plum Tree Drive, and Bon Chon is in a shopping center perpendicular to Plum Tree.  It is next to Serafino's.

Crabs And Peaches - The Summer's Best Stuff With Short Drives Around Howard County

Crabs from Frank's Seafood

Summer makes for big food, and you can make short drives to get the best stuff.

The '34 Act Gourmet bought crabs to celebrate his birthday, and Frank's Seafood in Jessup steamed a spectacular bushel and a half.  I ate far more than my share.  Most people are such amateurs.  They knock off after two or three crabs.  The pros power through.

Peaches at Gorman
Frank's crabs were heavy and sweet.  Their spice mixture had flavor without being too salty.  I was super-impressed.

To continue on the summer flavors, drive down to Gorman Produce Farm in Laurel for peaches, basil, and vegetables.  Gorman farms most of the produce, and they sell boxes of tomatoes, herbs, onions, potatoes, beets, and more.  They also bring in peaches from Baugher Farm -- along with the first summer apples and other fruit.

WKitchen's summer cocktail
Gorman is a short drive from Columbia -- just east of Rte 29 on Gorman Road.  Like Frank's crabs, the Gorman produce is special and fresh.  You won't get these flavors from your mid-winter fruit.  I'm especially waiting until the tomatoes really arrive and Gorman sells crates of "seconds" to turn into sauce.

What other specialties of summer do you suggest? Any special shopping?  Special dishes at local restaurants?

It's a farther drive, but we went to Woodberry Kitchen that has the most-amazing summer items -- a like peach desserts and a warm cherry tomato salad with pancetta and rocket. But my absolute favorite was a non-alcoholic cocktail made from watermelon, cucumber juice, hot sauce, and sour mix. It alternatively sounds crazy and simple, but it tastes complex and delicious. I need to start experimenting with cocktails made with the blueberries that I preserved with wine.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Wegmans Liquor: Follow Round 3 On Twitter

The battle over Wegmans' liquor store re-engages at 6 pm Monday in front of the county liquor board.

Expect lots of arguments about free enterprise, children and other cover issues.  The real point is that Wegmans thinks it found a way around Maryland's laws designed to keep grocery chains from owning liquor stores.  We'll see what the liquor board says.

If you want instant updates, follow @ColumbiaPatch on Twitter.  Andrew Metcalf and others have added the hashtag #wegmansliquor to tweets on the issue.  Last I heard, Andrew planned to "live teweet" the meeting.

Columbia Whole Foods - A RoundUp With Recommendations From Mrs. HowChow

The Whole Foods in Columbia looks a like a reality -- although one that we won't see until 2014.

The supermarket will go across from the Columbia Mall at 10275 Little Patuxent Parkway.   It's the low-slung office building along the lake -- midway or so between Copeland's restaurant and the main Howard County library.

For the official word, check out stories from Andrew Metcalf in the Columbia Patch and Luke Lavoie in Explore Howard.  For other thoughts, check out posts on HoCo Rising and Tales of Two Cities.  More than anything, this is a real estate event -- a store that offers food, but frankly makes an entire neighborhood more exciting to people who want to live near one.

Amusingly, the store already had a Twitter account where someone at Whole Foods is writing about Columbia.

There will be lots to write about Whole Foods -- when it will open, what it will offer, how it will affect others.  For now, I'll defer to Mrs. HowChow, who was a Whole Foods regular when she lived in Los Angeles.  She was bummed when the Howard Hughes folks said their negotiations had stalled.  She was so excited when I emailed her last week that she worried that I might be joking:
I'm super exited.  To me, Whole Foods' prepared foods section is the best.  In LA, I would buy one serving and often split it into two meals.  Lasagna, different pastas.  I'd get fish like prepared salmon. 
When I go to Whole Foods now, I often get the bean and cheese burritos to bring for lunch.  I get cornichons, olives, crackers and cheeses.  I'm almost an antipasta eater.  I love the fruits as well.  The fresh orange juice is the best.  On special occasions, I get fresh squeezed tangerine or blood orange juice.
It is hard to put my finger on it, but I feel like this is complimentary.  It is a different niche than Wegmans or any other local places.  Oh, and I forgot -- Mr. HowChow laughs a lot because I bring home a lot of the baked goods and candies.  I especially like the candy fruit slices that I got at Silver Spring and the pies that they have in Baltimore.  I have served the vegan pies to unknowing guests when Whole Foods was out of the regular pies, and they're actually quite good.  (Shhhhhh.)  
Mrs. HowChow plans a countdown clock once we get a little closer -- or know a more-accurate time for opening.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Whole Foods Will Open A Columbia Store In 2014

Whole Foods announced this afternoon that they have signed a lease in Columbia, Maryland.

They'll go into the former Rouse Company headquarters near the mall.  That's the low building on Lake Kittamaqundi between the central library and the restaurant area with Clyde's, Red Pearl and Sushi Sono.

More details to come. 

(Update: Think 2014 for your Whole Foods shopping, according to a company press release.  Check out that release on Explore Howard or the Columbia Patch.  And keep an eye on the Tales of Two Cities blog for updates by Wordbones.  He has been in front of this story from the start.)

(Update 2: The store is set for 45,000 square feet.  For comparison, old press releases say the new Rockville Whole Foods is 51,000 square feet.  The new Columbia Wegmans is 145,000 square feet.)

(Update 3: Wordbones has renderings of the soon-to-be Whole Foods.  He also has news that Clyde's has renewed its lease in Columbia.  He says they'll be remodeling.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cayenne Pumpkin Seed Brittle At Sweet Cascades

Candy is hard.  You'd think that sugar and butter and nuts would always turn out something delicious, but Mrs. HowChow knows that you need skills (or a good cookbook).

The cayenne pumpkin seed brittle at Sweet Cascades makes the grade with our house's candy chef.  The brittle -- up on the counter at the candy store on Main Street in Ellicott City  -- comes crunchy and sweet.  That's crunch from the brittle, which makes all the difference because bad candy comes off sticky on the teeth.  Then extra crunchiness from the seeds.

Then comes a real punch from the hot pepper.  It's a good amount, but it's serious.  A spiciness that rises in the aftertaste, but doesn't come too strong.  That's adult candy -- or at least a candy meant for kids with serious taste.  Go crunch.  It's worth it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

India, Italy And Korean-Topped Sushi: CrunchDaddy Recommends All Kinds Of Flavor

Trattoria Amore in Ellicott City
CrunchDaddy is about more than just popcorn.

The four new flavors came out last week at CrunchDaddy Popcorn, and Mrs. HowChow has converted fully to the peanut butter and jelly variety.  I was a bigger fan during the first sampling, but she defended the end of the sample bag last night.  She loved the flavor -- peanut better on the kernels and chopped grape jelly beans that made the sandwich flavor and give a chewy texture on top of the popcorn crunch.  Check out all the new flavors.

But man cannot live on candied popcorn alone, so CrunchDaddy has sampled file food around Howard County.  At my request, he has helped revive the "Trolling" posts that ran through last year.  People send me three paragraphs and a photograph -- recommending the dishes, restaurants or experiences that love in Howard County.  CrunchDaddy's first suggestions go around the world -- India, Italy and Japan:

House of India
If I worked close to House of India, I would probably be there for lunch at least once a week (or struggle to restrain myself).  Staples at the Columbia buffet include chicken tikka masala, palak (spinach) paneer, tandoori chicken, various vegetable curries (I prefer ones with cauliflower or chickpeas) and appetizers such as vegetable pakora, vada or samosas.  The naan bread is hot, fresh and tender, the food incredibly delicious and the wait staff attentive, especially with keeping drinks filled, which is appreciated when eating spicy food.  I suggest that you go hungry or even go on a weekend and make this buffet your main meal of the day.  You'll find it tremendously satisfying and a great value.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Link: Breadery's Special Sourdough On A New Blog

The sourdough starter at The Breadery has helped birth more that crusty bread.  It's the subject of the first post on a new blog by BMoreCupcake.

The A Baltimore Cupcake blog started up yesterday with a post about the Oella bakery's garlic potato sourdough loaf.  Bmorecupcake is a fun writer and a great observer.  She was one of the people who encouraged me to try The Breadery's new location for its crusty breads.  

Bmorecupcake has a Catonsville address, but we'll adopt her because that's close enough.  Now, you can follow all her finds.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Whole Foods Still Being Pursued For Downtown Columbia's Fmr. Rouse HQ, Says Wordbones

Whole Foods is still being pursued by downtown Columbia's major developer, even after negotiations were announced as "stalled" in March, reports Wordbones on the Tales of Two Cities blog.

Wordbones says a source told him a month ago that negotiations were continuing between Whole Foods and the Howard Hughes Corporation for a store in the former Rouse Company headquarters near the Columbia Mall.

Today, Wordbones writes that an HHC executive gave a slide presentation to the Columbia Council last week that included pictures of the building with the Whole Food logo gracing the facade.  Wordbones reads that as confirmation that the parties are at least talking.

Wordbones teases that Whole Foods may be lukewarm on Howard County because we haven't given enough love to the upscale market.  He says that sounds like a job for HowChow.

Oh, no.  That's a job for Mrs. HowChow -- who shimmied before her coffee this morning on hearing the advance word of Wordbones' post.  Whole Foods sells many amazing things, and it's quite a different place than Wegmans so I think they could both thrive amid all the local places that I enjoy.  We'll work to gin up local enthusiasm.

I'm sure this story will continue.  Click here for all the news about Whole Foods in Columbia.

Link: $5 Brewery Tour Next To Howard County

You can tour the Heavy Seas brewery in Halethorpe, and Wordbones joins HoCo Rising in recommending the $5 tour and sampling.  He has photos and a short description of a fun event just a short hop from Howard County.

The Best Hot Dog Bun You'll Find Anywhere

Challah rolls at The Breadery
You have until the weekend to find the perfect hot dog because you should hit up The Breadery for the perfect bun.

I stopped at the Oella bakery on Saturday and found challah rolls in the elongated shape perfect for hot dogs or sausages.

Both lunches this weekend were Harris Teeter chicken sausages cooked through, sliced in half, then served up on a toasted Breadery roll.  The bread is delicious -- the light flavor of challah with a shiny egg wash and the soft texture that really shines in a hot dog roll.

I am known to empress baguettes when my only other option is a supermarket hot dog roll.  They can be dry and tasteless.  But it's true that baguettes can overwhelm a sausage with too much bread and a crust that's too crisp for the purpose.

The Breadery's rolls were ideal in size and flavor.  They come in eight-packs, so freeze whatever you don't use.

Now I need some great sausages or hot dogs.  Both Laurel Meat Market and Boarman's in Highland make their own sausages. Wegmans sells a hot dog in the deli section that was peppery and unique.  Any other suggestions?

Monday, July 16, 2012

New CrunchDaddy Flavors Go Sweet & Savory

Peanut Butter & Jelly Crunch popcorn from CrunchDaddy
Photo by Allie of Live Laugh Eat
The mind behind CrunchDaddy Popcorn has headed off in different directions -- and it's worth follow him for some special snacks.

The Columbia company started selling in January with a line of popcorns ranging from interesting basics like a butter crunch and caramels to exotic flavors like maple-bacon and sesame-ginger.  I raved about them in April, and I'm amused again because CrunchDaddy added four flavors last weekend.

Maryland Crab Feast Crunch
Photo by Allie of Live Laugh Eat
These are special popcorns.  As I've said before, they're thoughtful and fun like restaurant desserts.  They're unique flavors cooked up in small batches and heading off in opposite directions:
  • First, sweet.  The imaginative hit is the new "Peanut Butter and Jelly Crunch."  The popcorn comes coated in a peanut butter crunch and studded with diced grape jelly beans.  It's kid-friendly sweet.  It's hilariously imaginative because I swear that a handful tastes like Wonder bread, peanut butter and grape jelly.  A bag brought to the beach would disappear among friends.
  • Second, savory.  Get a beer and break open the new "Maryland Crab Feast Crunch."  Old Bay and vinegar give the popcorn a spicy punch.  Again, the flavor is so right that it's like you're eating hard shells.  It's local, and it's perfect sitting outside with a beer.  I could imagine this sold at a liquor store or as a gourmet nosh at a craft beer bar.  A bag would be fun if you had people over for drinks or poker.
Check out the CrunchDaddy Web site.  You can see these, along with the two other new flavors -- one made with cinnamon and one made with an Indian spice mix.  The Indian one is a riot.  That's not just dumped with curry powder.  CrunchDaddy uses an imported Indian spice mix, and the popcorn comes spicy -- but a steady heat, not something like a nutty hot pepper.  After a few handfuls, it leaves the aftertaste of a good meal at House of India.

The photos here are CrunchDaddy's.  I tried to snap a few shots of my bags while we talked in Mad City Coffee, but CrunchDaddy has real shots done by Allie, the blogger from Live Laugh Eat.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Any Coffee Fanatics Try The Clover Machine At The Starbucks On Rte 40 In Ellicott City?

Have any of you coffee fanatics tried the new Clover machine that Starbucks is using to make special brews on Rte 40 in Ellicott City?

CrunchDaddy and I were talking today, and he mentioned that the Starbucks just west of Rte 40 has one of these new Clover systems that make individual cups through a super-precise process.  Folks have told CrunchDaddy that the machines can run $15,000, which explains why the coffees are a bit more expensive than your regular cup.

Neither of us has tried the Clover system.  Friends had told him that the coffee is exquisite, and you can pick from any variety, including ones that the store isn't brewing for the regular folks.

Has anyone tried this?  Is it worth a visit?  Click here for Starbucks' pitch.  If you go to the Starbucks on Rte 40, walk down the shopping center and check out the Cooks 'n Cakes bakery.  Coffee and a sweet sounds like a nice way to relax.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Macarons Getting Even Better At Linda's Bakery

Strawberry macarons from Linda's Bakery
Macarons are a trick to pull off, and Linda's Bakery in Columbia just keeps getting better at pulling rabbits out of the hat.

I have written about these French pastries before -- basically sandwich cookies made with meringues and a cream filling.  Linda's are a crisp treat -- a light crunch and an intense flavor, which is what we want in a household that doesn't do much cake.

I'd said that Linda's meringues had air pockets that kept them from reaching the heights of the Macaron Cafe, where I run every time that I take a train home from Penn Station.  But I keep stopping because you can't beat a dessert treat for a couple of dollars, and Linda's keeps on making them better.

My last purchase was strawberry macarons a few weeks ago. Four perfect. (Three of which made it home to split with the wife.) One had air pockets, but we're arguing about details here.  Macaron are the bailiwick of professional bakers.  Most of you aren't knocking off meringues in the kitchen today.  So stop if you're doing errands anywhere near Snowden River.  Get a box if you work nearby.  I promise that you'll make friends if you bring those home.  If you know what I mean . . .

Friday, July 13, 2012

Candied Lime At Tere's Latin Market

Candied fruit from Tere's Latin Market
The truth is that I didn't go to Tere's Latin Market for the awesome tacos.

I actually returned to the Mexican market on Rte 40 because of a comment about candied fruit by Blith on a former post.  I miss the fruit that I used to buy at the shuttered Estrellita's in Elkridge.  So I snapped up candied limes and figs near the cash register.

The candied lime is exquisite.  The figs taste incredibly sweet.  Great if you want the rush, and somehow calling me to chop them as an ingredient for Christmas cookies.  But the lime is something special.  The flesh has dried, so slices of citrus rind cut off come tart and slightly sweet.  The rind has a pleasant, chewy texture like dried fruit.

I have been slicing pieces of lime as a treat.  They last for months.  (I think.)  But the candied limes are so valuable because, like sausages and good pickles, they're convenience food for us because someone already invested time to make them.  In 60 seconds, I could quarter them to jazz up a dessert plate.  They'd go great with chocolate.  I have been trying to think of a well-paired cheese for an offbeat cheese plate.  They could certainly be diced or sliced as a topping on sugar cookies -- a variation on the candied orange here.

Whatever you do, the limes and Tere's tacos make many reasons to stop by the market.

The one down side of candied fruit is that it kills my enthusiasm for our beloved Mike and Ikes.  The complex mix of bitter, sour and sweet just make fake fruit flavors seem wrong, at least temporarily.  When I visited, Tere's only had figs and limes.  Has anyone seem broader selections either at Tere's or somewhere else that sells candied fruit?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tacos At Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia

Tacos from Lily's Mexican Market
This was supposed to be the post where I told you that you can't find cactus at Wegmans.

Cactus makes great veggie tacos, and I recommend Lily's Mexican Market for the house-made tortillas and the chance to buy cactus, tomatillos, chorizo and other meat from the Mexican butcher.  I was going to make the point that you should go to Lily's because you can't buy catcus at Wegmans.

But you can buy cactus at Wegmans.  It's on the left wall near the scallions that I needed on Sunday.

Get some cactus too
So you should go to Lily's because you can't buy tacos anywhere else in Columbia like these.  Lily's Mexican Market is a small grocery with snacks and baked goods in the front, several rows of packaged and canned goods like chipotle peppers, then the butcher and taco counter in the back.  

The tacos are $2.50 each with a discount if you buy three with rice and beans.  Last Friday, there were six varieties at lunch time -- variations on slow-cooked pork, chicken, beef and lamb.  I went with pork and lamb.

The Lily's tacos are large and saucy.  I always split the meat between two tortillas.  The lamb sauce soaked through quickly, and I was grabbing napkins as quickly as I was eating the meat.  The toppings are onions, cilantro and a guacamole spread.  Overall, it's a grand lunch.  I can't say that it knocks off R&R Taqueria in Elkridge or Tere's Latin Market in Ellicott City, but it's definitely worth checking out, especially with a Mexican Coca-Cola or a tamarind soda right out of the fridge.

For a home version, check out the recipe for cactus tacos on this prior post.  Lily sells everything you need -- especially fresh tortillas.  Omit the chorizo to make it vegetarian.  Consider buying some tomatillos, cutting them in half, then cooking them on a hot pan until they soften.  Then blend or process with garlic and onion.  They make a great salsa.  For more, check out Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday.

Lily's Mexican Market
6490 Dobbin Center Way
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: The DMV off Dobbins Road just south of Rte 175. Look for the intersection with a Blockbuster. The shopping center with the DMV, Lily's and Sushi Kingrestaurant is across Dobbins from the Blockbuster.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Farm Stands and "Farm Stands" -- How Does Your Garden Grow? Plus News From Gorman & Jenny's

Vegetables from Gorman Produce Farm
I wish that the hardest thing I had to figure out about vegetables was what to do with the flying-saucer squash that Gorman Produce Farm keeps giving us every week.

I'm a vegetable fan.  Vegetable posts don't get big hits, but they're a big part of my cooking.  I'm a Mark Bittman acolyte.  I'm also a novice canner.

For the second year, RDAdoc split a Gorman membership with us, and we're getting much of our vegetables through the CSA or their farm stand.  I always thought that I'd be that blogger who posted each week about what I get and what I cook.  But it hasn't worked that way.  The vegetables just find their way quietly onto the table.

Instead, I'm the blogger who just thinks about farm stands.

First up, Gorman Farm news:  The Laurel farm has a new phone number 301-908-8063.  They have a new parking lot too, if you haven't visited this year.  The farm -- just east of Rte 29 on Gorman Road -- is an easy drive from anywhere in Columbia.  They sell their own vegetables, and they're delicious and last forever in the fridge.

Second, Jenny's Market in West Friendship.  Jenny's is a family-run business that has been selling produce from their front yard since at least when I first drove out Rte 32 in 2008.  They stock produce from all over.  They line Rte 32 with fun hand-written signs.  AnnieRie posted last week that Jenny's stand had been hit by trees.  She said they were upbeat and had moved to sell a little up the road.  I wanted to give them a shout-out and a wish for a quick recovery.

Finally, farm stands in general.  On the one extreme, you have Gorman where you go to the farm and buy vegetables from the farmer.  I enjoy it.  I enjoy having a farm nearby.  I enjoy meeting the folks and talking about what has ripened and what's coming.

Then you have the middle like Jenny's where they're clearly selling produce from all over -- bananas, peaches, etc. -- but with the normal claims that you'd see in a grocery story.  No one claimed my watermelon from Jenny's was local.  They just rejected the first one that Mrs. HowChow selected and found one that seemed better to them.  (And carted the reject out back and away from the stand.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Salamis, Speck And Exotic Slices At Wegmans

Charcuterie case at Wegmans
Everything about Wegmans is boiled down in the deli -- a long counter that runs from standard turkeys and hams down through exotic hot dogs, vaguely European sausages and a few feet of unusual salamis to a $100 piece of pig on the end.

The HowChow part of the Wegmans deli is the center-right.  I don't comment much about standard stuff, but I haven't passed the salamis without ordering a few slices.

The few slices is what makes this amazing. Mark Bittman is my master now, so I'm putting meat on the side of my plate -- Harris Teeter chicken sausage in pasta sauce, bacon from Laurel Meat Market, or a few slices of salami with vegetables and cheese.

Iberico ham
Wegmans sells a line of salamis and other deli meats by Columbus, and I haven't been able to keep track of all the Italian names. I just get six or 10 slices of whatever looks good. It's a great way to experiment for a few bucks. To date, my favorite has been a smokey speck. For $3, I got about 10 slices. Great on a pretzel roll. Great crisped up a bit in a pan, then added to scambled eggs.

To me, this is an innovation for Howard County. Roots sells some nice salamis -- including chorizo, but Wegmans offers a wider variety and makes sampling easier with pay-by-the-slice. The workers are really nice. They'll let you sample a slice of anything.

Now, you do need to keep an eye on the prices. At the far right, you'll see a super-gourmet Iberico ham. That's delicious, but it's also $98 a pound. In one of the early days of Wegmans, Rob ordered a half-pound of prosciutto and a half-pound of ham. He didn't realize the price until he had a $50 packet in his hands.

Meat plates
As a bonus, Wegmans assembles small charcuterie or cheese plates.  They're pretty cool for a small party, ready to unwrap and served on a cutting board.  You could buy and slice your own cheese.  But you'd need to ask for these sample-sized portions of cheese or meat.  (Or check the cheeses on the salad bar at Roots.)  RDAdoc used a cheese plate for a dinner party.  I liked the look of the meat plates during the grand opening.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Where Are We On New Restaurants? Anyone Know Timing For Bon Chon In Ellicott City?

The first rule of Restaurants That Haven't Opened Yet is never mention Restaurants That Haven't Opened Yet -- even to say it hasn't opened yet.

If you break this rule, you end up with a wife who says, "I really want Bon Chon.  You mentioned Bon Chon, and now I want fried chicken."

It looks like we have gotten the new Columbia locations for Maiwand Kabob and Yogi Castle, but there don't appear to be chickens in the fryers yet at the Korean fried chicken place coming to Plum Tree Drive just off Rte 40 in Ellicott City.  At least, the store's Facebook page hasn't been opened 

I assume the power outage slowed everyone's construction.  But Bon Chon's Facebook page had mentioned the first week of July so let me know if you hear anything more.

People are leaving comments about the new Maiwand on prior posts like this one.  We actually haven't stopped there yet.

Love The Past: Check Out Years Of Food, Frozen On HowChow And Ready For You To Enjoy

The coolest drink in Howard County
Did you wake up this morning wondering where to get the best basil seed soft drink?

That's right -- a fruit soda that tastes refreshing and sweet, but looks like someone point a quarter cup of tiny eyeballs into the bottle.  Delicious with the flavor of honey and a hint of banana.  Perfect to amuse a kid or a foodie in your house.

The answer is DeDe basil seed soda at one of the Asian markets or Columbia Halal Meat.

Honey sticks at Larriland
There are four years of HowChow for anyone to explore.  Search the archives with the Google bar in the right column.  Or click on the tags farther below to read all the prior posts that mentioned a market or restaurant.

Wonder if I have tried the Cuban sandwich at Cuba de Ayer?  Yes.  Wonder if I wrote about Larriland Farm's pick-your-own?  Yes.  Wonder if I have any thoughts on fried chicken?  Yes -- just type that in the Google box for a list of posts.

(An aside:  When you go to Larriland, check out the sweets at the cash register in the barn.  We always get dried fruit candy.  We also like the flavored honey sticks.  Those aren't all-natural colors, but they're a small treat for the ride home -- or even to drop in a packed lunch.)

I try to link back on every post so that you could click through related ideas from the past.  I am experimenting with a widget that links to four random posts right below the advertisements.  But the easiest reads may be the "Cuisine" links:  one-click entry to all the posts about pizza or barbecue and meats. or whatever interests you.  Jump around.  Eat well.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

What Restaurants Are Open In Howard County?

People are probably looking for places to eat in Howard County.  We drove around yesterday, but our errands were farther south in Burtonsville (Starbucks: open) and Rockville (Joe's Noodle House: open and pretty delicious).

If you have a restaurant that's open, feel free to add a comment below.  If your local joints are open, please let people know.

Getting Down To The Essentials

Saturday morning's ice and essentials
Every once in a while, it's a good idea to clean the refrigerator -- get rid of the frozen food that you abandoned on the bottom, make sure that your meat and condiments haven't passed their expiration date.

This isn't my favorite way to do it.

We're still without power.  We're fine -- running water, gas stove, nice neighbors, cool basement, really friendly local firemen.

Vegs while still blackening peppers
Firemen?  Well, I got bored on Saturday late afternoon.  I'd bought cucumbers and hot peppers Thursday to try a few recipes from a pickling cookbook that I'd bought at Sweet Elizabeth Jane on Main Street.  You don't need power to can, so I fired up the burners, boiled a pot of water, and made two different brines for dill pickles, peppers, and a bag of snow peas from Gorman Produce Farm.

The problem was probably that I blackened the peppers indoors.  The grill was available.  But I was working inside, so I charred them on a cast iron pan.  A little smoke, a bunch of bubbling vinegar, an hour of high-flame gas under all those pots.  Then, the chicken sausage.

Because of the fire lieutenant's later comments about fat from the sausages, I want to emphasize that these were low-fat chicken sausages.  Very good.  (Not local.)  Either way, they were almost done when the carbon monoxide detector went off.

Bottom line, we tried to let the first floor clear out for an hour or so.  But the detector triggered again, and carbon monoxide demands you take it seriously.  We were sitting on the front steps when the fire engine rumbled up and lit the house with flood lights.  They were wonderful.  They used a professional detector.  They tracked the CO back to the stove.  It was dissipating and fine.

Hope that you're comfortable even if you're not powered at home.  Tonight, we'll eat the last of our supplies and fire up the grill for s'mores.  Tomorrow, I'll be officially tired of this.

Do you have any tales from your power-outage eating?  Just for the record, the dill pickles look delicious.  I still say canning makes complete sense -- and certainly looks better now than the peaches that I froze last year.  I need to figure out when pickles will be ready to eat.  The other stuff will be put away for winter.