Friday, October 26, 2012

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.
  • Stock your freezer with clams from Today's Catch in Columbia.  They're enormous and make decadent chowder whenever you want.
    Fajita meat from Lily's

  • Cook up fajitas from the butcher at Lily's Mexican Market.  They sell chorizo and a bunch of pork and beef.  I'm still looking for advice about what to buy.
  • Purchase a turkey from Maple Lawn Farm in Fulton.  (Okay.  This is a repeat.)  Go beyond a Thanksgiving beast and consider buying their smoked turkey, ground turkey or their dark-meat "saddles" for stock.
  • Grab the easiest dessert -- cotton candy from the Columbia Mall.  It's made fresh.  It makes people smile even before you open the bag.  Hand out to kids or put on a pretty dish for a dinner party.
  • Go whole hog with half a cow from Wagon Wheel Ranch.  They'll actually sell you meat by the box.  The Wagon Wheel sells its own pasture-fed animals for folks who want to eat local.
  • Sweeten your vegetable buying by also picking up a bottle of Gorman Farm's honey.  The bees work the fields, then their honey ends up in the stand with the tomatoes, peppers, greens and other produce.
  • Start checking out the Asian grocery stores like H Mart and Lotte.  An easy start: the udon, soba and somen noodles that could make a dish right out of your pantry.
  • Spice up your cooking by driving to Penzeys in Rockville.  That's a run from Howard County, but you can buy so many different spices and mixes.  It's an inspiration to spend $30 on small packages and throw away all those dried out herbs that have lived for yours in your drawer.
(One bummer:  The Estrellita Market at the top of the 2011 list has closed.)

This week, I'm posting a series of "best of" posts starting with best restaurants and best food experiences.  Then some posts about finds at stores.  You can click for all the "best of posts" going back.

If you're looking for more, there are several long series.  First, check out the two weeks of 2012 posts with recommendations for people new to Howard County.  Then, look at two prior series of posts -- a "tour of Howard County" describing restaurants and markets in specific areas or my 2009 guide to what I've learned about Howard County from "best Chinese" and "best takeout" to "best BBQ" and "best burgers."


Elizabeth @ The Bare Midriff said...

I've been meaning to make a pilgrimage to Penzey's for a long time now. Everyone who's been there and knows me and my love of food can't believe I haven't been there yet! I'm a little worried that once I get there, I won't want to leave!

Zigzagiando said...

Next best thing to a trip to Penzey's is their catalog. It's got histories, stories, and recipies.

Metta said...

Penzey's is an addiction. Luckily you can also order online.