Monday, October 29, 2012

Bored At Home? Vote For Your Favorite Blogs

The Sun has opened the 2012 voting for the Mobbies awards.

You can jump onto the Sun Web site and vote for all your favorite blogs.  The lists are crowded this year, but you'll find HoCo Rising, Tales of Two Cities, 2 Dudes Who Love Food, La Casa de Sweets, Sarah Says and more.  You can even vote for HowChow.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Link: Three Local Spots Praised On Wine List

The users of Open Table voted on restaurants will great wine lists, and the Top 100 in the country includes three restaurants from Howard County, reports Richard Gorelick in the Sun.

Iron Bridge Wine Co., Aida Bistro and Bistro Blanc all made the Open Table list of "most notable wine lists."  The lists covers the entire country, and Gorelick reports that Maryland had nine slots -- the most of any state except California.  Congrats.

Food Finds: Best Cooking Ingredients 2012

Mini-cheeses from Roots
Wegmans has come to Columbia and changed the scene.  You could make 1000 meals shopping just among the breads, cheeses, meats, and prepared food, and I have written about our fun there.  But great shopping remains spread across Howard County, and you can find wonderful food at ethnic, organic and other markets from Highland to Ellicott City.

Earlier this fall, I wrote about the revolution of great bread in Howard County.  That's my top story for 2012.  But there are so many great ideas that I can still suggest almost everything from the 2010 and 2011 lists -- while offering up these 10 beauties that you can grab and bring home.  
  • Make a cheese plate from the salad bar at Roots.  The cheese mongers at the Clarksville store sell small chunks of high-end selections at the salad bar.  One is a treat.  Three is a cheese plate.
  • Indulge in a box of macarons at Linda's Bakery in Columbia. The newest bakery has improved its recipe, and the French pastries are light and fruity.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New Restaurant - Gluten Free - Opens In E. City

A new restaurant has opened on Hillsborough Road -- with a twist that its an entirely gluten-free menu, reports the Ellicott City Patch.

The One Dish Cuisine Cafe is in a residential area north of Rte 103.  The Patch reports that the company started delivering gluten free food to hospitals, health food stores like David's Natural Market, and elsewhere.  Now, they've opened the restaurant.

One Dish Cuisine Cafe, Deli & Bakery
8001 Hillsborough Rd
Taylor Village Center, 
Ellicott City, MD

Food Experiences: Best of Howard County 2012

Challah from Bon Fresco and Great Harvest
HowChow is more about food than restaurants, so it always feels more natural to recommend a list of cool experiences where you can work food into a day.

On this list, I have tried to replace half the items between each list for 2009, 2010, and 2011.  But some stuff just must be repeated -- like Larriland's pick-your-own.  
The Breadery's croissant

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Links: Ale House Opens In Dec, Farmers Markets Stay Open To Nov, Beef Sandwiches, And More

The new Columbia Ale House will open in December, and some local farmers markets will stay open until November, according to some local blogs.

I love this new era where I can't link to every cool post about Howard County food.  Scan the blogroll in the right column and check in every once in a while.  If you do, you'll learn stuff like:
  • Waitresses at the Pratt Street Ale House are saying the new Columbia version -- off Dobbin Road just south of Rte 175 -- will open in December, says Wordbones on Tales of Two Cities.
  • Three of Howard County's five farmers markets will extend their season until just before Thanksgiving, reports AnnieRie on AnnieRie Unplugged.  Scan down.  She does great posts about local vegetables and meats.
  • You can make your own beef sandwiches with Adam -- who talked up a hamburger recipe and Wegmans' weck rolls on Option Pitch and Waffle Crisp.
Check out the other blogs listed there.  Kitchen Scribble has been writing about their CSA and baby food.  The Soffritto has applesauce and soup recipes.  And there's more.

Has Red Pearl Closed?

Red Pearl in Columbia has closed and had the locks changed, reports Wordbones on the Tales of Two Cities blog.

I hadn't heard, but I confirmed that the phone isn't being answered.

Oh, no!  This was good Chinese.  I'd been there nights when it was packed and nights when it was empty.  But the food was really good.

News 2012: Wegmans, What Did It Mean?

Cheese, glorious cheese!
The funniest food moment of 2012 was realizing that Mrs. HowChow was slightly disappointed as she walked around a supermarket.

Wegmans opened in Columbia, and it changed the scope of food in Howard County.  But, in my house, Wegmans did the impossible and turned Mrs. HowChow into someone excited to grocery shop.  What did it?  Variety, flavor, and samples, samples, samples.

Until this year, food was my job.  I cooked, so I shopped.  But then Wegmans arrived and started hitting on my wife.  Across the store, they'd scatter people with pickup lines like "Do you want to taste the mozzarella?"  Mrs. HowChow drove there alone for yogurt, and she came home with three loaves of bread, two cheeses, and a 12-inch apple pie.

That's why she actually felt disappointed when we shopped late on a Sunday night.  At 9 pm, they're restocking and cleaning up.  No crowds, but no samples.  No one offers to pair a slice of apple cider bread with the perfect soft brie.  Mrs. HowChow arrived in great spirits, but slowly deflated when she realized that she was just walking around a grocery store.

Of course, Wegmans is the big news of 2012 because it's more than a grocery store.  Detractors complain about price or size or employee pay, but no one can deny that the right half of the store is a revelation -- breads, bakery, prepared food, seafood, deli, cheeses and produce.  The food is delicious.  The offerings are vast and seasonal.  The people want to help.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Restaurants: Best of Howard County 2012

Maiwand Kabob's gyro
I have been eating in and around Howard County for seven years, and I can assure anyone that they can eat well even in the suburbs.

What's going to be your favorite?  Well, that I can't predict.  Tastes differ.  Restaurants change.  We have beaten down the stupid lines about how everyone in Columbia eats at chain restaurants, but we haven't reached some boring consensus about the best places to eat.

This is my "Best Of" list.  These are places where I'd tell you to start if you want something delicious.  Earlier this year, I literally wrote "where to go" advice for someone just moving to Howard County.  This post is more of an annual writing exercise where I think about new stuff I have found and try to spark a little conversation from other folks eating their way along.

I don't know if your best restaurants are on my list.  That's why you can write comments!  Tell me the three places that you would recommend to someone who just started eating in Howard County.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Apple Fritters And Fun At Larriland Farm

Apple fritters
Start planning now.  Last weekend was perfect, and the perfect place to be was Larriland Farm in Woodbine.

Now, you need to hope for beautiful weather next week and start planning your trip for apples, pumpkins and Halloween fun.

Enterprise apples -- sweet, all purpose
The apple fritters alone are worth the drive.  The irregular cousins of donuts pop out of the fryer filled with apple chunks and then shower in powdered sugar.  Get a hot cider and munch down watching the crowd.

The October visits still focus on the big three:  apples, pumpkins and hay rides.  On Saturday, we walked across two hills of pumpkins, just having fun with the views until we realized that the best pumpkins were the first few that we had found.

But no problem.  We had an equally beautiful walk to fill two bags of apples, then returned to the farm where Larriland gets better every year.  They bulked up on food this year.  Those apple fritters plus separate stands with kettle corn and barbecue.  The barbecue comes from Town Grill is Lisbon, so we highly recommend it.  (Great sandwich: Pulled pork.  Awesome visual:  Kids chomping turkey legs.)

Plus, the Larriland folks actually make the farm better as well.  The stand stocks all kinds of product, along with apple cider, canning supplies and candy.  They expanded the parking and added a second road past the farm out to the apples.  Even with a packed house Saturday, the traffic flowed.  People smiled in line.  Go this weekend.  You can't have this much outdoors until April.

Larriland has also added fields of broccoli, cauliflower, beets, and spinach to go with the standby pumpkins.  Cool to me, but no one clicks when I post about "Pick-Your-Own Vegetables." So I'll tart this up with apple fritters and lure down here to know you can select your own brassica.

Pumpkin fields

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cobbler And Hot Sauces At Smokin' Hot -- And Apparently Good BBQ To Go WIth Them

Hot sauces at Smokin' Hot
My friend DonkeyKong went to Larriland Farms last weekend for apple-picking, hay-riding, pumpkin-choosing, and cider-drinking and found lunch in Glenwood by stumbling on Smokin' Hot off of Route 97.

I'd just mentioned that Smokin' Hot was expanding in its location near Bushy Park Elementary and the Glenwood Library.  The Kong family ordered up, and they were so pleased that they took two pictures and knocked off a guest post.  But DonkeyKong was so excited by the hot sauces and dessert that I didn't even mention what meats he had.

Like every other place worth dining at in Howard County, Smokin' Hot was in a non-descript strip mall, but what wasn't non-descript was the great selection of house-smoked pit meats, phenomenal cobblers, and 12 original barbeque hot sauces delivered to the table for mixing and matching with your order.  
Sweet potato cobbler for dessert!
I'm a hot sauce junkie -- once even eating a peanut butter and salsa sandwich in college -- and there is no greater joy in my dining out than being presented with an array of sauces and testing them out on my index finger before a meal.  I probably could order just Smokin' Hot's condiments as a side and be satisfied.  The sauces range from a mayo-based "Alabama White" to a two vinegar-based sauces (one hot, one sweet) to honey-flavored smokiness to straight up peppery heat.  If I were a hot sauce mixologist (and there's no reason I can't be), this place would be my bar.  The only problem: The sandwiches and platters (while large) were too small for all my mixing and matching.

For dessert, we decided to devour a sweet potato cobbler.  The menu had an apple cobbler, a peach one, and a Dr. Pepper Chocolate cake.  All of them seemed to be straight out of a Southern cookbook, one where ham is a spice and soda is a necessary ingredient.  That means the desserts are great and non-non-fattening.  We discussed that for Thanksgiving we'd be taking an array of Smokin' Hot cobblers home to present as our own rather than try to create something far more pedestrian and certainly less pleasing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tongnamoo House in Ellicott City: We're Eating Well, But We Still Need Teaching To Know More

Seafood bibimbap at Tongnamoo House

We're touring new spots on Rte 40, and it's tasty -- although it's a bit like the blind leading the blind.

We really like Korean food, and we're learning it one table at a time.  We took our beginner palates to Tongnamoo House, and we left with more dishes under our belt.

Tongnamoo is a large restaurant that runs from sushi to soups to barbecue.  The waiter told us they specialize in goat dishes, but that's not Mrs. HowChow's first choice.  We went entirely new with a spicy beef soup and one variation on a favorite in seafood bibimbap.

Beef rib soup
That soup will keep you warm all winter.  The rib meat comes on the bone, and I loved the chew and flavor.  The noodles on the bottom will fill you up.  Similarly, the bibimbap was a cool alternative with squid, crab stick and other seafood.

Can anyone with expertise contrast Tongnamoo with the other Korean places?  I can't read the signs on the wall, so I certainly can't pick up the nuance of special soups or sushi offerings.  We love Shin Chon Garden.  The menus overlap somewhat, and Shin Chon's freshness and flavors make it easy to just drive to our original spot.

I'm up for any suggestions to steer us back to Tongnamoo House or any of the other places on Rte 40.  Mirocjo has been renovated since we ate there last.  Plus, there are new places all along the way.  Any great dishes?  Any new spots to try?

Definitely check out the Yelp reviews about Tongnamoo House.  

Tongnamoo House
9445 Baltimore National Pike (Rte 40)
Ellicott City, MD 21042

NEAR:  Tongnamoo House is on the south side of Rte 40 just west of Plum Tree Road.  From Rte 29, you may need to go past and U-turn back to Tongnamoo.  It's a large building with the letters "TNM" on the front.  It shares a driveway with a burger joint.

Tongnamoo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Link: Columbia Cookie Scooter Delivering Sweets

Strip down a food truck, and you end up with a cookie scooter.  It's the next big trend!!

Andrew Metcalf in the Patch has a nice story about a Columbia woman who has started a new business delivering $2 cookies to parks and office buildings.  Casey Dyson told the Patch about her scooter, her company CookieRide and about her former role working at the Columbia bakery Touche Touchet.

Watch for the cookie scooter, and Casey will deliver for parties as well.  She has Facebook and Twitter accounts, linked from the Patch.

Thanks to Karen for sending me the Patch link.  I could have missed it!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Light, Spiced Dessert To Try At Mango Grove

Again, October is the cruelest month because cell phones need day light.
Let's be honest that I usually don't order dessert because I overeat from the start of the meal.

Indian and Chinese foods both reheat well, so we often justify ordering a third entree by factoring in the savings from two lunches that we'll box up for later in the week.  At Mango Grove, I need only the weakest justification so that I can get a crispy dosa, a vegetable curry and then either a meat or a lentil dish.

But now, I will have to weigh a nice samosa appetizer against a scrumptious, lightly-sweet dessert.

On our last visit to Mango Grove, the folks offered us dessert on the house so we could try the sheera -- which they described as being made from semolina and almonds.  Again, it was dark enough that I couldn't snap a photo of the dish.  But again, you should take a look yourself.

Imagine a bowl with a drier, lighter cousin to rice pudding.  Okay, distant cousin.  The tiny beads of wheat have a chewy texture, more like the oats from the top of an apple crumble than the soft mass of pudding.  They have been cooked into a rich flavor with milk, almonds and butter, then given a heady flavor and perfume with spices.

It's a beautifully light dessert.  Sweet, but flavor from far more than just sugar.  We spooned up the bowl even stuffed with masala dosa and paneer tikka masala.  It's hilarious to me how foreign desserts are sometimes hard to translate in words, but they're so accessible on the spoon.  "Semolina and almonds" created no picture to me.  One minutes eating the bowl of sheera, and I could imagine it finishing off any dinner in the world.

A quick Web search shows that sheera also goes by the names "halwa" and "sooji."  Dozens of recipes vary the spices and nuts, but I bet a night at Mango Grove will inspire you to try to warm yourself again with one of these variations.

If you'd like some weekend entertainment, keep an eye on Mango Grove's Facebook page.  They're trying to set up live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights, maybe alternating between an American band and Bollywood shows.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Quick Trip To California: Prosciutto And Cheese Plates Sitting Outdoors On Facci's Stone Patio

In the Sun, this would be a classy photo of prosciutto and cheese
We had dinner last week in California, or at least that's what I feel like whenever I'm sitting under one of those gas heaters on a patio.

Facci Ristorante on Johns Hopkins Road has created an entire covered patio with a stone floor, canvas walls and heaters to keep the place working into the fall.  They also added a special bar with Italian meats and cheeses that they're offering on make-your-own plates.  We enjoyed both tucked under the warm patio.

The problem with fall is the crisp air comes with early sundowns, and amateurs can't snap good pictures after dark.  At least not with a cell phone in a nice place with low lighting.  So I don't have photos of the prosciutto or the goat cheese that we paired with a mushroom pizza.  

But they're absolutely worth going to see yourself.  About five dollars per item gets your choice of something delicious and unusual -- for us, a few slices of rich dry-cured ham and a rectangle of a mild, but flavorful cheese contrasted with small condiments.  (The low light is tough on the waitstaff too.  Our waiter set down our plate and pointed out the cheese, blueberries and olive oil.  Olive oil?  Actually, it was cherries and honey.)

I understand why people fret about Facci's uncaring or even unfriendly service.  I just think the kitchen sources great ingredients and often uses them really well.  The cheese-cherries-honey was interesting and paired nicely.  They're putting whole clams on pizza.  They're making pasta in house. They're putting a wood-oven char on pizzas.  It's not cheap, but I appreciate that it's my choice what to order -- and I can do what I want.  (Although I'd have to concede that the marinated vegetables with the prosciutto had little flavor.)

You can still carry out at Facci.  The eliminated the dedicated takeout counter to install that special bar with the cured meats hanging behind it.  Now, you use the main entrance and walk right back to the register in the open kitchen.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

HowChow Investigates: Mexican Restaurant To Replace Shuttered Donna's In Columbia

A new Mexican restaurant appears to be coming to Columbia near Rte 108 -- replacing the shuttered Donna's, according to extensive investigation conducted by HowChow's new investigative team for investigations.

Okay, fine.  Mrs. HowChow read the liquor board ads in the Sunday Sun.

It looks like Xitomate Cocina Mexicana wants a liquor license for the Waterloo Road location that used to be Donna's.  The space has a restaurant with a patio.  That run of Rte 108 is becoming a nice restaurant row with places like Victoria Gastro Pub, Coal Fire Pizza, and Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro.

Anyone know the details or timeline for Xitomate?  I see Web mentions of a Xitomate in Puerto Vallarta, but nothing local.

Also in the liquor ads:  It looks like Smokin' Hot in Glenwood is expanding.  Congrats to them.  I still haven't gotten out there to try the barbecue.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Food Coming: Sushi, Indian Coming To Fulton And A New Korean Bakery On Rte 40

Food marches on in Howard County.

Apparently, a new Korean bakery has a sign on Rte 40, reports Amelia.  She said she saw a sign for Shilla bakery between Jason's Wine and Kim Bob Nara.  That puts it on the southbound side west of Rte 29.

Separately, new Indian and sushi are coming to Fulton.  The Maple Lawn developers have signed a lease for a sushi restaurant across from the Harris Teeter, the developers said at last night's neighborhood meeting.  They also said work will start in the next month or so on the new Indian place from the folks who own the Ambassador.  That'll be on Maple Lawn Boulevard south of Johns Hopkins Road.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cochinita Pibil Tacos at R&R Taqueira

Three tacos from R&R Taqueria
Sometimes, a little knowledge can be highly dangerous.  Consider my ability to speak Spanish and recognize Mexican food.

On my last visit to R&R Taqueria in Elkridge, I overly impressed myself by recognizing the tacos called "cochinita pibil."  That's pork, I remembered.  And it involves cooking the meat in citrus juice, maybe orange juice.  You can't see that from the Spanish, but I remembered it ... from my experience ... because I'm awesome.

And I congratulated myself so heartily that I didn't focus on the word "habanero" written in the description.  That word has the same meaning in English and Spanish.  It means "really hot pepper that you had better respect."

Imagine the hottest dish you have ever eaten and enjoyed.  Because R&R isn't serving stupid hot dishes.  The meat is butchered perfectly.  Their sauces are fresh and bright.  When they use habaneros, they use just enough to hit you hard without overwhelming the pork.

The hit was just an awesome surprise.  I'd eaten the other tacos first -- chicken and al pastor, if I remember right.  They're each very well done.  I was reading at the counter as I picked up the third and bit down on what I expected to be citrus-infused and turned out to be enflamed.

R&R pulled off the habanero perfectly.  My tongue squeaked, and my eyes opened.  I drank down my melon agua fresca and then sucked the ice.  But the peppery zip was just part of the cochinita pibil flavor.  I think there were onions.  I know there was slow-roasted pork.  They were all wrapped in R&R's excellent corn tortilla.

At R&R, the tacos are really unique.  They're not just throwing your choice of meat on top of the same shredded lettuce and salsa like a chain.  Each salsa tastes different.  Each meat comes with a different marinade.  The habenero made cochinita pibil stand out, but it welcomed me to eat every last bite.   The R&R chefs know how to play with fire.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Banh Mi Has Come To Howard County

The new banh mi in Ellicott City
Vietnamese sandwiches have made their first entry into Howard County with banh mi on the menu at a cafe just off Rte 40.

Cafe au Lait is a relatively new counter-service shop doing breakfast and lunch with sandwiches and a soup of the day.  Lulu V turned me onto banh mi with a comment, and the '34 Act Gourmet and I were eating them less than three hours later.

These fill a gap that I wrote about in 2010.  Plus, they were good sandwiches for $8 -- fresh bread filled with meats and a mix of fresh and pickled vegetables.  Between us and the takeout that I got for Mrs. HowChow, we ate all three versions: "banh mi" with sliced ham and pork roll along with a "grilled pork" and "lemongrass chicken."  They had rich flavor and the contrasting bites of Vietnamese food -- sweet and savory, spicy and tart.

Do they have the full zest of banh mi at the Eden Center in Arlington?  No.  The bread isn't a baguette.  It's wider like a good roll, but still with a nice crust.   And the flavors could be dialed up.  More sweet, more savory, more spicy, more tart.  The meats were pretty basic, and that mix of assertive flavors is what makes something really taste Vietnamese.  Next time, I'll ask for extra pickled vegetables to try for extra "banh mi" punch.

Bottom line: Definitely worth a drive to Rte 40 to enjoy lunch.  But still worth driving if you can find a great banh mi.  And still an opening in Howard County if anyone wants to dial up banh mi.  Bon Fresco?  Come on.  It seems perfect.

Cafe Au Lait
3290 N Ridge Rd #105
Ellicott City, MD 21043
(410) 313-8838

NEAR:  Cafe Au Lait is on Ridge Road just north of Rte 40 and just east of Rte 29.  If you're on Rte 40, you just turn north on Ridge Road and look in the second building on the right.  If you're on northbound Rte 29, you take the left fork of the Rte 40 exit ramp as if you're going into the Lotte shopping center and then drive until the ramp ends in a "T" at Ridge Road.  Turn left, then cross over Rte 40.  Cafe Au Lait is in an office building on the left.

Cafe Au Lait on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 8, 2012

Coming Soon: Huge Lotte In Catonsville

Just a reminder that Lotte is building a new, huge supermarket on Rte 40 in Catonsville.

I love the sign on the current Ellicott City Lotte, which I understand will stay open even after its big cousin opens down the road.  I love that they translated "grocery store" into seven languages.  That's the kind of place where I want to shop.

Anyone know the timeline?  The Sun reported in February that it would open in the summer.  I haven't driven past in a long time.  Is it already open?  Anyone know how the new store will be different?  I assume a larger store means a larger selection.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Howard Mag Hits The Web With 2012 "Best Of"

Thanks to Howard Magazine and everyone who voted for HowChow.

The 2012 "Best of Howard" edition of Howard Magazine is hitting your front steps, and the list has hit the Web.  This is separate from the dining edition, but there are some food-related topics like bakeries, caterers, places for a first date, place to buy seafood . . .

People also voted for the best blog, and people talked up HowChow along with HoCo Rising, Pawsitive Outlook and Tales of Two Cities.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What You Missed: Filipino Food Last Weekend

Lechon at the Tapulanga event
Last Sunday, the Tapulanga Foundation had its annual Filipino buffet in Columbia to raise money for its micro-lending activities in the Philippines.

I missed out on hyping the event beforehand.  I had wanted to recommend the specialties like the whole roasted pig.  Chicken adobo, lumpia, spring rolls, fried plantains . . .  We all missed a good spread -- and not food that you can get easily around Howard County.  Put this on your calendar for next fall.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Comfort: Bread - In Many Forms - With Meat Or Vegetables (And Potato Salad On The Side)

The vegetarian special at Soretti's
Bon Fresco Sandwich Bakery has begun charging 50 cents for its potato salad side dish, and you shouldn't think twice about picking up one or even two.

Fresh bread makes wonderful comfort food.  To me, no one makes a better sandwich than Bon Fresco's London broil.  But don't go cheap and miss out on the amazing potato salad -- smooth without being heavy, getting all the flavor from the basic potato without tarting up with cream and fat.

Fifty cents is a bargain.   It's better than any bag of chips -- and cheap at that price.

Bon Fresco's London broil and potato salad
But comforting bread can come in many forms.  The Bon Fresco sandwich makes for an easy grab.  Even after a drive home, the thin-sliced steak contrasts perfectly with the crisp greens and the slightly chewy loaf.

In contrast, Soretti Ethiopian Cuisine's vegetable special provides a homey, simple challenge.  You just eat everything. Eat the vegetables.  Eat the lentils.  Even eat the plate -- the injera bread spread out beneath the stews.

It's not literally the plate.  There is a plate under the injera.  I realize that Ethiopian vegetable platters may not be the most-standard comfort food.  But I last ended up in the Burtonsville restaurant on night where I had to feed myself and a cold.  I brought a paperback novel, and I sat quietly with dinner and a cup of sweet Ethiopian tea.  One of the lentils runs spicy, but mostly, the salads and stews just taste like vegetables.  Bright colors, earthy flavors, and healthy fuel for a healing body.

Soretti is a friendly, relaxed place.  The women there treated me nicely, and I hung out to read and finish my tea.  They offered some extra lentils, which sounded smart until I realized that I was incredibly full.  They're delicious, but I realized eventually that I was scooping food to be polite -- not because I needed any more to eat.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Comfort: The Classiest Takeout Dinner Around

A takeout spread from Sushi Sono
It's always odd to realize that I get such comfort from a food that I didn't really eat until after college.

Takeout dinners are a wonderful comfort on busy days, and you can get delicious takeout at many places around Howard County.  But the classiest takeout comes from one of the best restaurants -- Sushi Sono.

Sushi Sono's fish and rolls make it one of my favorite restaurants in Howard County, and I'm always surprised at how well it makes the trip home in the car.  I steer away from rolls with tempura shrimp.  That's no problem because you can fill a platter with good ideas -- the vegetable roll, the #14, bridal, hurricane eye . . .

Fill a pretty platter, and you could run a dinner party with Sushi Sono's takeout.  Plop the takeout containers in front of the television, and you can just relax with delicious fish.  Either way, it's a winner.

Sushi has become ubiquitous so you don't need to drive to downtown Columbia for Sushi Sono.  I'm just saying it's beautiful, amazing food that you can carry home.  Where do you get takeout sushi?  What rolls or other dishes take home the best? Check here for all the posts about sushi.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Clyde's Columbia To Renovate, Close For 8 Weeks

The Columbia Clyde's will get a full renovation starting in January -- more of the changes coming to the Columbia waterfront, reports Luke Lavoie in the Sun.

The restaurant re-upped a new 10-year lease, so they're doing cosmetic and structural improvements.  They'll close during the renovations, probably for about eight weeks.  This is part of many changes coming to down Columbia, and Wordbones has the broader real estate view on Tales of Two Cities.

Sambar, Idli, And Deep-Fried, Old Bay Wings -- Comfort Food Just Like Grandma Used To Make

Sometimes, you just need to trust your instincts.

I drove all the way to Rte 40 in a cold-induced fog last night in search of dinner.  I had food in the house, but I'd been trapped inside for two days -- one without phone, Internet or television.  (A Verizon tech apparently unplugged us yesterday because he or she found us plugged into the wrong port in the company's hub.  Thanks Verizon!)

But somewhere around St. Johns Road, I decided that I couldn't face eating alone in a bright restaurant.

That's how I ended up at a cafe table outside Kloby's Smokehouse's takeout counter.  Warm night.  Weird fog.  And a weird pairing of food that just felt right: lentil soup with rice dumplings and chicken wings.

That's health food on Johns Hopkins Road: Sambar and idli from Tandoor Grill and "dirty and old" wings from Kloby's.  A slightly spicy soup.  Some mild steamed rice dumplings.  The crunchy chicken wings.  At the time, I passed on the chili naan as too much for my stomach, but now I wonder if that heat would have killed off my viruses.

Comfort: Royal Taj's Korma, Eggplant & Naan

Royal Taj when they took us in during the blackout
Comfort food doesn't make obvious blogging.

Work and a series of colds have kept me down -- and made us go back for food that we already know.  It's not new, but it's delicious and warm.

Royal Taj in Columbia was actually the place we fled during last summer's blackout.  We sat forever.  We would have been satisfied were just air conditioning, but they fed us well too.

Comfort food at Royal Taj generally means takeout.  Mrs. HowChow can drive home via Snowden River Parkway, so there is a choice of great Indian at House of India, Akbar, Mango Grove, etc.  That summer dinner converted her to Royal Taj.

Chicken korma and baigan barta.  They're mild dishes, full of the spices and flavors of Indian food, but not spicy in a hot pepper kind of way.  Sometimes, Mrs. HowChow mixes up the meat order by going with tandoor chicken.  At $14-20 an entree, Royal Taj isn't cheap, but we always get dinners and next-day lunches from two entrees and naan.

Naan really makes this a comfort dinner.  Warm bread makes everything seem better.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

AYCE Sushi At Kimko Seafood Restaurant

Not my plate. I skipped salad.
There are only two types of people in the world: Those who want all-you-can-eat sushi and those who don't.

Or is that just here in my house?

I took the '34 Act Gourmet for a weekday lunch at Kimko Sushi in Ellicott City.  This is the former Bethany Sushi.  It's a Korean restaurant with lots of seafood specials.  Many offered in Korean printed on the wall.

We started simple -- walk in, order the buffet, and go to work with an empty plate.  We filled them fast.  Start with the sushi, of course.  Don't overfill the plate, but work down the line.  Fish is cut thin, but there is a lot of it.  Some sushi pieces with a single slice.  Many rolls with rice, vegetables and fish.

Kimko's sushi
On the second plate, look around.  Along with the sushi in the front, Kimko has a hot bar along the side.  That's some Korean food like barbecue beef, noodle dishes, and kimchi.

Don't miss the kimchi.  I was facing all-you-can-eat sushi, so I could pass on salad, rice, and tempura vegetables.  But the kimchi was delicious without being very spicy.  Other pickled vegetables were a refreshing contrast to the sushi on plates two and three.

I promise this is a good idea.  Some people don't want all-you-can-eat, and I can't claim Kimko has the pizzaz of Sushi Sono or Sushi King.  But it's fun.  Rolls are varied -- tuna, salmon, shrimp, roe, etc.  Rolls are creative.  Several had sliced beets, which were interesting and a little sweet.  The fish was delicious.  Even the tempura shrimp rolls held up on the bar.

(Update: I think the buffet was about $12.  I lost my notes.  And I'm pretty sure it was just Monday to Friday.)

For another report, check out Kyle's report from last year.  And if you don't want all-you-can-eat, you can still stuff yourself at Kimko.  The This Is Gonna Be Good blog wrote about a seafood feast of the regular menu -- including a meter-long wooden platter of sashimi.

Can anyone recommend other food at Kimko?  A bunch of specials are written up without English translations, but they're clearly focusing on seafood -- down to tanks full of live fish.

Kimko Seafood Restaurant
10176 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21042
(410) 480-1442

NEAR:  Pay attention.  This isn't hard, but I have screwed up the directions several times.  Kimko is on the north side of Rte 40 just west of Bethany Lane.  But it doesn't face Rte 40.  Turn right two driveways before the traffic lights at Pine Orchard Lane.  Kimko is all the way down at the end.  If you go too far, turn right anyway.  You'll drive into a parking lot with Mirocjo and other good food.  You can walk up the hill and into Kimko's back door.

Kimko Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 1, 2012

Lamb Burgers, Cheesesteaks, Food Trucks, And Awesome Spots To Eat While You Watch The NFL

Any timeline on The Ale House?
Thanks heavens that the comment crowd never gets busy or sick!  You get real news in the HowChow comments -- like the new weekend bake stand at Frank's Produce in Elkridge.  That's the report from Baltassoc:
The very nice Croatian lady running the stand said it's she's there on Saturdays. Her tomato-onion torts are amazing, and her assortment of breads and desserts are great. She's definitely worth a stop. Bring cash as she doesn't take cards. BTW, it looks like the last of the local tomatoes will soon be gone at Franks but they've got plenty of nice apples.
While we're talking news, can anyone share the timeline for the Alehouse going in on Dobbin Road?  They ripped the building back to the walls, and it looks like it will an entirely new place when it opens.  MaybeKathy asked for an update in July.  The sign says "Fall 2012."

On top of news, you get opinion.  Check out the dozen-plus suggestions for cheesesteaks in Howard County.  It vered into sausage sandwiches, but you can chime in about what makes a cheesesteak, what doesn't, and where to get your local fill.  Check out the questions as well.  Jennifer asks where to get falafel.  Morty recommends Rudy's in Columbia.  Anonymous asks where to buy injera.

That's all good because other work and infectious children have kept me from blogging much recently.  I'm still eating.  I'm hoping to try some of the "awesome hot dogs" that people recommended.  (First stop: Marcia's suggestion of Kielbasa from J.W. Trueth's.)  I'm just exhausted, and I need to tap out some posts in advance of the annual Best of Howard County.

But don't just take my opinion.  See what other readers suggest:
Hot bread at Maiwand Kabob

New Owner At im Wine -- What's The News?

The owners of im Wine in Fulton have sold the Fulton liquor store, according to an email that they sent customers.

Nothing specific in the email about the new owner.  They call him a "young man."  Not sure what the change will mean.  Anyone know the plans?