Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Where Will You Eat The Super Bowl? (And Have You Tried The Phoenix's Crab Dip Sandwich?)

Super fried chicken at Bon Chon
Anyone can watch the Super Bowl, but you need to think ahead if you're going to eat well while you watch the Ravens win.

The real risk:  You could eat something healthy.  You can't let that happen.  You need to find something delicious worthy of a once-a-decade night of football.

Luckily, folks are here to help.  Chicken wings are the obvious thought, and I'll look for wing recommendations tomorrow.  But let's start with creative ideas -- and some of the creative Howard County folks who blog or comment on HowChow:

Jackie from La Casa De Sweets kicks off with Mexican takeout -- sopes from R&R Taqueria in Elkridge: "The combination of the corn cake, frijoles, crema and red sauce is second to none when it comes to a great bite!"

Monday, January 28, 2013

Why Ed Levine Must Die (Or "At Least Smack Us Down With A Writer Who Has Eaten In Baltimore")

I'm all for unsubstantiated opinions, but someone has to tell Ed Levine how to identify an interstate highway -- and maybe teach him a few things about food in Baltimore.

Levine's normally-wonderful Serious Eats site just shelled Baltimore in an article comparing the foods in Baltimore and San Francisco.  Over-wrought outrage being a fine ingredient for food blogging, we can't just let the insult lie.

Bottom line:  Second place is honorable against San Francisco's food, but I'd rather a comparison written by someone who appears to have eaten in Baltimore.

What makes me think Levine hasn't eaten here?  My first hint was that only the San Francisco sections are excited and detailed about what he's eaten.  In contrast, the Baltimore sections are tired leftovers -- the spots that Food Network interns find on blogs and suggest to Guy Fieri.  (Trust me.  That's why they loved hearing about R&R Taqueria.)

Chaps?  Obrycki's?  Faidley's?  Pitango?  That's all Levine knows?  In San Francisco, the team gets credit for picnics on a beach in Marin County.  In Baltimore, he picks a crab house that closed.  He cites nine sandwiches in California.  He can only think of two around here.  What's next, is Levine going to have Alice Water referee Sunday's game?

But I'm knew that Levine was just fronting on Baltimore when I re-read the first-quarter analysis of sandwiches:
Baltimore Ravens: Pit Beef is Baltimore's sandwich legacy. Roadside stands all over Baltimore county charcoal-grill hunks of well-seasoned meat, achieving a nice char and a rosy pink interior. Out on Pulaski Highway, Chaps is a longstanding favorite near the city for their tender, thin-sliced beef sandwiches. Set out on the rolling hills of the county roads in Woodlawn, Pioneer Pit Beef uses a wood-fire to cook their meat, infusing the moist slices with an intense smokiness. The pit beef sandwiches are pretty swell, and we can't forget the excellent tea sandwiches at the Women's Industrial Exchange or the fine crab cake sandwich at Faidley's (though why would anyone put a crab cake on a sandwich?).
"Rolling hills of the county roads in Woodlawn?"  Really, Ed?  Pioneer Pit Beef backs against a two-story embankment carrying I-70 out to Oregon.  That's probably 14 lanes above Pioneer, which in my reality sits in a relative-rough slice of suburbia.  It's the best pit beef.  It's just nowhere near rolling hills or county roads.  Too bad Levine didn't describe the quaint, small-town feel of the Security Square Mall.

Of course, that's just the most-egregious evidence.  Levine's bias shows in each quarter as he picks a different food and lauds the stuff that he ate in San Francisco.  What he really needs is Kathy & Neal Patterson's new book Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore.  But for now, we can use Levine's cute four-quarter format to write a cheat sheet for his first visit to eat in Baltimore.
  • Q1 Sandwiches:  Attman's.  Seriously, if I could assume by name that Ed Levine is one of my people, you didn't give us a few points for spectacular corned beef?  I'm actually with Ed that I don't see bread improving a crab cake, but Pioneer, Attman's, and Bon Fresco's London broil have to warrant three field goals.  Real score:  SF 14, B 9.
  • Q2 Shellfish:  Baltimore was awash in crabs when San Francisco was Mexico.  Levine named one place to eat oysters and claims the Californians almost squeaked out a tie.  No way.  Crab cakes are shellfish, so we'll take Bo Brooks for the hard shells, pile on the Pattersons' top crab cakes at Pierpoint and Koco's Pub & Grill, then drive out to the Eastern Shore for oysters and crabs sitting on someone's pier.  SF 7 B 20.
  • Q3 Pizza:  Okay, I have to give him one.  I like Joe Squared, but the San Francisco places sound awesome so 14-3 may be defendable.  (At least until the Pizzablogger gets his spot open in Hamden.)
  • Q4 Ice Cream And Gelato: Taharka Brothers.  Awesome ice cream.  You'd know if you had been here.  That's one, plus we just bury Levine in snowballs.  I'm not saying they're gourmet.  I'm saying that a city that pours syrup and marshmallow over ice on street corners will just beat down a town whose ice cream Levine says is "fanciful" "whimsical" and a "great local producer" -- unless we get, say, a two-point safety for my local stand that offers combinations based on nearby high school colors.  SF 17.  B 12.
In the end, we're going to let Ed Levine live.  (After all, Serious Eats has great stuff like a report on maggot cheese.)  Even with revised scores, San Francisco still wins, but it's an honest 52-44 instead of the original biased ref 32-point victory.  We need to get him the Pattersons' book -- and maybe some crab cakes -- so he can Amtrak from New York for food down here.

Great Food For The Super Bowl: Let's Start With Housemade Potato Chips at Kloby's Smokehouse

Housemade potato chips at Kloby's
We're celebrating the Super Bowl by eliminating healthy food this week at HowChow.  It's all fun through Sunday.  We can be nutritious for the rest of the year.

Let's start with a snack:  My find during the Denver game were the housemade potato chips at Kloby's Smokehouse on Johns Hopkins Road.  They're on the appetizer list.  You get a bowl of potatoes -- sliced on a mandoline (or by a savant), fried to a crisp, and ready for the spice mixes that they'll bring along.  One was Old Bay.  One was the dry rub that Kloby's puts on pork.

The chips are an excellent snack and a fine starter before ribs, wings, pulled pork, jarbecue, or any of Kloby's meat dinners.  With walls of televisions and great smoked meats, Kloby's will be a fun place to watch the game.  You can also take out meals or meats by the pound.  Just order early because I assume they'll be busy.

For the rest of the week, I'll share Super Bowl suggestions and ask for your own.  So start to think about how you can mix televisions and great food.

Kloby's is just off Rte 29 on Johns Hopkins Road.  This is the area where HowChow defies the postal service and that HowChow has declared to be Tribeco.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sushi Tendou (sp?) Coming To Maple Lawn

The new sushi restaurant in Maple Lawn is getting closer to reality.  The sign is up, although Perrik emailed to say it might need to be adjusted.

On the front of the spot facing Harris Teeter in Fulton, the sign says Sushi Tendou.  I haven't looked, but Perrik said that the sign on the back -- facing traffic coming from Rte 216 -- says Sushi Teudou.

You say Tendou.  I say Teudou.  Let's call the whole thing off and eat sushi.  (And Perrik says the sign permit says "Tendou" as well.)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Xitomate: New Mexican Comes To Columbia With Real Ambition, Delicious Food, And Fungus

Guacamole at Xitomate (by Jackie)
Xitomate has brought new Mexican to Columbia, and your local food bloggers put on an unintended double-team to get you a first look.

Jackie of La Casa De Sweets actually hit first and enjoyed her meal.  While she was drafting a guest post, burger-mania sent me and Mrs. HowChow to Victoria Gastropub where they had a 25-minute wait on a Monday night.  Those burgers are worth the wait, but we dashed to Xitomate and figured on a burger later this winter.

Xitomate is a sleek modern space that replaced the Donna's on Rte 108 near the intersection with Snowden River Parkway.  Cool lighting.  Striking mural.  A focused, but interesting menu.  And big windows to watch the traffic on Rte 108.  It's early (and the servers are learning), but this could be a new entry into the zone where you get casual vibe, cool decor, a bar, and $12-20 entrees -- the zone like Victoria, Facci, or Royal Taj where you could bring a date or bring the kids.

Jackie actually got the big news from the Xitomate manager:  An Ellicott City location aims to open in September in the shopping center behind Turf Valley.  The owners, who also own Azul 17 in Columbia, plan an Annapolis location as well.

But what about the food?  This almost qualifies as a real restaurant review since Jackie and we lucked out into eating completely different meals.  So let's hear about dinner from La Familia De Sweets, then back to Mrs. HowChow and me eating fungus.
Coming from a Puerto Rican family, we’ve had our share of authentic Latin American cuisine, but it’s pretty hard to find that kind of food when you feel like dining out. Fortunately for us, we decided to try Xitomate, the latest Mexican restaurant to open in Howard County.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Home Anthology -- Get A Cool Kitchen Gift (Or Buy Chairs Like We've Done Long Past Reason)

Do you need a gift for a modern cook? (Or a molded plywood chair?)
Home Anthology in Catonsville is one of the coolest places that you'll ever find -- if you're into used stuff with a sense of style.

Just off the main drag in Catonsville, Home Anthology is a spot to buy furniture that runs from mid-century modern through 1970s Scandinavian.  Owned by a couple.  Open only Saturdays and Sundays.  This is a place to look around for iconic chairs, vintage sofas, and sleek-lined tables or storage pieces.

Over the past year or so, Rob and Nini have expanded into housewares -- cups, pots, fondue sets, tea kettles and other items that will be charming if you're into modern design and nostalgic if you grew up in a 1970s kitchen.  They're great for your kitchen or as a unique gift for someone else.

Like all of Home Anthology's stock, the housewares are used but good condition.  Rob and Nini will tell you what they know about the items.  They'll point out the history and any wear, and they'll show you how to care for it.  They charge fair prices aimed at folks who want to use this stuff -- not ridiculous price aimed at collectors.

Housewares give me a HowChow angle, but I actually recommend Home Anthology as a weekend adventure for anyone who likes modern furniture.  Beds.  Desks.  Dining room pieces right out of Scan circa 1972.  And, of course, chairs.  Chairs made of plywood, molded plastic, cantilevered metal, or the imagination of Charles and Ray Eames.  Just click on their "sold" section to sample cool stuff that got away -- and that might come back another weekend.

As I write this, I'm sitting in a desk chair at we bought there.  There is a green leather rocker behind me that we rushed up to get one Saturday.  Over years, Mrs. HowChow and I have slowly outfitted our house with chairs -- a few slightly chipped, one almost pristine, and mostly just chairs that look like they've been used for years.  (It's more chairs that you'd ever think reasonable.)

Checking Home Anthology's Web page for new arrivals has become late-week fun for us.  Sometimes we stop in Catonsville to nose around.  Sometimes, we're standing outside before the doors open because we've decided to splurge on something beautiful.  Talk to Rob and Nini.  They're friendly, knowledgable, and approachable.  You can truly find something unique, and you'll have fun while you're there.

Home Anthology
91 Mellor Avenue
Catonsville, MD 21228
Open 12-5 on Saturdays and Sundays

NEAR:  Home Anthology is in a commercial building a few blocks south of Frederick Road.  There are three ways to get to Catonsville.  Use a map to find your best way -- and pick something cool to eat along the way.  First, you can take I-95 to I-695 and then go west on Frederick Road into Catonsville.   Second, you can go through Main Street in Ellicott City and then up Frederick Road.  Third, you can go east on Rte 40 and use Rolling Road to connect to Frederick Road.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Restaurant? Bean And Burgundy Kitchen?

TripKlaus has noticed a sign on Rte 40 in Ellicott City that says "Bean and Burgundy Kitchen" No other words. We're hoping it's a new restaurant. Does anyone know?

Look at the former Blockbuster near the intersection with Arcadia Drive. Let us know what you see.

Tamales At Chapala in Burtonsville

Two plain corn tamales
Three years in Los Angeles will leave a person with short patience for mosquitos and a longing for Mexican food like she used to get right outside her office.

Mrs. HowChow's long search is over.  For years, she has talked about the corn tamales that she used to eat at the farmer's market in Westwood.  Last weekend, we found them at Chapala in Burtonsville.

We just wanted a light lunch because we were late and already planning to meet friends for dinner in Baltimore.  So we ducked into the casual Chapala on the advice of our friend Scott, a professional chef who talked up the Tex-Mex food.

Yucca and chicharron
The corn tamales were spectacular.  They're steamed corn cakes, lightly sweet and served with a cream.  Imagine the lightest corn bread that you have ever eaten.  Now get a lighter texture and the full, mild flavor of corn.  Chapala serves them as an appetizer, either plain or filled with pork or chicken.  We paired them with a plate of fried yuca and chicharron -- chunks of boneless pork quickly fried and contrasted with a vinegary cole slaw.

Chapala seems like a serious restaurant, and our small lunch suggests that they're doing way more than standard Tex-Mex.  The menu has basics like burritos, enchiladas, tacos and fajitas.  But the kitchen was also doing fresh guacamole, a pan-fried rockfish, and a bunch of interesting-looking dishes with grilled steak and shrimp.  They have some $7 lunch combos, including a tamale special with meat, rice and beans.

We'll go back to Chapala, but we hit the new Xitomate in Columbia last night on a whim.  (Victoria had a 25-minute wait on a Monday night!)  Xitomate was very good.  Post to come.

Chapala Restaurant
15530 Old Columbia Pike (Rte 198)
Burtonsville, MD 20866

NEAR: This is on Rte 198 just west of Rte 29.  It's really easy to reach from Howard County.  You get off at the exit for Rte 198, then go through a traffic circle and drive along the old road past a garden center and the new Giant.  Turn right at the traffic light onto Rte 198, and Chapala is on the right.  Look for the new Roy Rogers at the intersection, and check out other restaurants along there, including a Maiwand Kabob outpost, Soretti's Ethiopian Cuisine, and Cuba de Ayer.

Chapala Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 21, 2013

'Tis The Season To Think Summer Vegetables

The CSA board at Gorman Farm
The cold still hasn't really arrived, but now is the time to think about summer vegetables and sign up for a CSA.

Community Supported Agriculture is a fancy term for season-long plans where you pay a farmer now and pick up vegetables all season long.  We signed up to split a third year with RDAdoc, but you have options around here -- farms from Laurel to West Friendship, pickups in Columbia, Elkridge, and Fulton.

To start, check out AnnieRie's posts about CSAs on AnnieRie Unplugged.  Scan down for great information about local farms and AnnieRie's analysis of costs and benefits.  Plus, she blogs about her cooking.  She shows what she got -- mostly from the Sandy Spring CSA.  Similarly, Kat blogs on Kitchen Scribble with photos and story about what she got from Breezy Willow farm.

My big question is whether you're amused by the idea of getting a box of vegetables every week.  CSAs are about giving up control.  You depend on the season, the weather, and the farmer's choice of products.  It's fun for people who want to look into the box and break out a cookbook to see what they can make.

If that's you, then check local options like this:
  • Gorman Farm in Laurel runs a CSA. They're signing up returning members now and will open to everyone soon.  We've done this for two years, and the vegetables are delicious and long-lasting -- although Gorman doesn't do the exotic vegetables that bigger programs sometimes offer.  Gorman also sells fruits and vegetables from a farm stand just south of Columbia.
  • Breezy Willow Farm runs an almost-year-round series of CSAs -- early bird, main season, etc.  They go past vegetables into bread, eggs, jams and more.  They also sell meat and -- new for 2013 -- artisan ice cream.  They have drop-offs at libraries and schools from Elkridge to Fulton to Columbia and more.
  • Sandy Spring CSA runs pickups around the Washington area, including one in Columbia.  AnnieRie has bought from Sandy Spring, so I really suggest that you see her posts for what she has received and the fun that she has had.
  • South Mountain Veggies is a variation where they deliver vegetables from local farms.  You pick the size of your bag, and you can have some control over what you get.  This family brought you South Mountain Creamery, which delivers dairy products and sold its milk, cream and cheese at the Saturday farmers market in Cooksville.
  • The Zahradka Farm in Baltimore County appears to deliver to offices and homes.  Their CSA has run drop-off points like at an Ellicott City school in 2012.  I don't know the details, but AnnieRie has dealt with them too.
  • (Update:  Friends & Farms in Columbia appears to be a company that does meat, fish, vegetables and more.  Anonymous recommended them in the comments, and it seems like a cool option.  Anyone know more about them?)
Anyone else have experience with CSAs in or near Howard County?  Any other options?  Any other advice for someone considering a 2013 sign-up?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Need A Place To Take Your Baby For Valentine's?

And by "baby," I mean literally your baby.

Brenton asked on the Facebook page whether anyone could recommend a restaurant where he and his wife could celebrate Valentine's Day and take their baby.  I threw it out for advice, and people gave great suggestions.

Check it out for thoughts on Facci, Turf Valley, the new Ale House Columbia -- and for the vomit that inspired Brenton to eat Italian.

Chinese Food And A Lion Show: Make Plans Now To See New Year's Shows By Jow Ga Team

The lion dances tonight! Or at least for two weekends in February.
Who wants to see lions and dragons dance across Columbia -- and get some Chinese food as well?

The Lunar New Year comes February 10, and you can make reservations for special lunches and dinners where a local dance team will perform with firecrackers, drums, cymbals and colorful costumes.  Chinese restaurants hire the Jow Ga Kung Fu Athletic Association, and I've been emailing with Ed from the team to publicize the current dates (even the ones outside Howard County):

  • Hunan Manor in Columbia, 1 pm, February 10 (410-381-1134)
  • China Gourmet in Kensington, 6:30 pm on February 10 (301-946-9400)
  • Jack's Fortune in Annapolis, 1 pm on February 16 (410-267-7731)
  • Hunan Legend in Columbia, 5:15 pm and 8:15 pm, February 16 (410-884-3888)
  • Mandarin House in Laurel, 6:15 pm, February 17 (301-604-7234)
Ed from the Jow Ga team said that the team -- lead by Sifu Derek Johnson -- has danced at local restaurants for more than a decade.  Johnson has run a Columbia school for years where students learn martial arts.  The dance team sprang out of the school, Ed said:
Members of the team
The Lion and Dragon Dance Team will be bringing luck, prosperity, and good fortune to the establishments they visit. The team members consist of students who study the traditional martial arts style of Jow Ga Kung Fu. Most of the performers are teens and young adults, but their ages range from eight to fifty-plus years old! Not only does the team perform at restaurants, but they also participate in weddings, parties, parades, and cultural festivals.

The lions will be bowing at the restaurant entrances and performing the custom of plucking auspicious greens and fruit offered by the restaurant owner. Firecrackers, loud drums, cymbals, and lucky red envelopes add the the boisterous festivities. Performances usually last about half an hour, depending on the crowd and venue. If restaurant patrons are having fun and are in good spirits, a lucky lion may come up to your table and get to know you a little better!
The team's dragon
Let me know if you're aware of any similar events.  I'm happy to post if there are other restaurants running similar dinners with lions and dragons.

For updated dates and times, check out the list of appearances on the Jow Ga Facebook page.  Notice that Facebook used the Jow Ga studio's address for the events.  All those restaurants aren't in Columbia.  For more photos, check out other photos on the Facebook page.

Monday, January 14, 2013

New Lunch Buffet At Bangkok Delight

Bangkok Delight now offers a weekday lunch buffet
A new lunch option comes under the spotlight thanks to David Hobby, the local behind the Strobist Web site.

Bangkok Delight in Columbia is a casual Thai spot that was one of our regular when we lived off Rte 108.  We keep forgetting the place when we are planning dinner.  We really need to go back.  I miss the green curry.

But you should hit the place for lunch because David reports they're introduced a Thai buffet -- $9.50 for six or so entrees, including curries, lo mein, pad thai chicken, etc.  Plus, you get salad, rice, wonton soup, and vegetarian spring rolls with a cherry/chili sauce that David recommends:
It's pretty much a buffet of many of the lunch specials they have always offered, so you can choose as you go. The food is very good, IMO.

The addition of pad thai is nice, as that is almost never on the lunch special menu. The lunch specials are still there. That's nice if you normally have them and bring home a doggie bag, which you obviously can't do from a buffet. 
But HoCo now has fast, decent Thai food for people who do not have much time for lunch. And being two blocks from a Rte. 100 on-ramp will make it convenient for many. 
The attendant said not a lot of people know about it, so they kind of let it wind itself down after 2pm to avoid wasting lots of food. She suggested getting there between 12p and 1p for best quality and selection.
Bangkok Delight
8825 Centre Park Drive #A
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: Bangkok Delight is just up from the Giant off Rte 108 west of Howard High School and east of Rte 29. Bangkok Delight is in the shopping area just north of Giant. Look for the Burger King on the corner.  Centre Park Drive connects to Rte 100, so this is really easy to reach.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Restaurant Weeks Are Here - Make Reservations

Howard County Restaurant Weeks start next Monday and run for two weeks of specials at 20+ spots from old standards to new kitchens.

Check out the official Web page for participating kitchens and the specials that they've announced.  The options include high end kitchens like Aida Bistro and Iron Bridge Wine Co. through casual spots like Diamondback Tavern and the Melting Pot.  Find yourself the place that you want to try and a night that you'll enjoy.

If you're looking for a new place, check out my list of best restaurants in Howard County.  Then just noodle around.  On the right column are a search box that just searches HowChow and then a long list of cuisines and restaurants where you can click for all the posts about a certain place.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Eggs Worth The Drive: Victoria's Brunch Wins Us Over With Poached, Scrambled And Bacon

Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon
The eggs are so good at Victoria Gasto Pub that they will lure me back on the road for brunch.

My big brunch years are behind me.  It was a fine decade across three cities when single folk and a few couples would leave their tiny apartments and gather on weekend mornings.

Poached eggs
I've got a house now . . . and a steady date.  Most of my friends aren't free on Sunday morning.  And I can cook eggs way better than the greasy diner plates that are my favorite memories of college.  Most weekends, we stay home with the papers, and we're happy.

But we took a niece to Victoria Gastro Pub last weekend, and the eggs are absolutely work the drive.  This is restaurant brunch.  Poached eggs with a lemony hollandaise sauce, prosciutto, kale and crab meat.  That's light, balanced.  It's perched on what I think was one of the biscuits that Victoria serves with dinner.  It's a rich dish, but a light meal that's just better than anything I'm scrambling at my own stove.

Our niece and I each ordered scrambled eggs.  Hers had leeks and mushrooms.  Mine had smoked salmon and gruyere.  They came on top of potato cakes, shredded potato crisped on the edges and perfect to dip in the bright herby sauces.  They're all interesting.  They're fun.  (Even more fun with the side of pepper-edged bacon that I added to mine.)

Here's the best part:  If someone at your table doesn't want breakfast, they can jump right to the burger for brunch.  Victoria's burger reigns as my Howard County champ -- although I hear there are competitors at the Ale House Columbia.  The Victoria brunch menu has a charcuterie plate, the lobster grilled cheese, and lots of other options.

Next time, Mrs. HowChow is going for the mascarpone-stuffed French toast.  Since we'd never had brunch at Victoria before, she'd shied away for fear that she'd get a platter of greasy, sweet bread.  With the skill in the eggs, she's anxious try the other offerings.

Where else do people recommend for a weekend brunch?  They're great for dates, great to entertain house guests.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Getting Tigi With It: New Ethiopian Restaurant And Market Coming To Rte 40 In Ellicott City

Ethiopian food is coming to Howard County -- at least according to a sign for Tigi's Ethiopian Restaurant and Market spotted on Rte 40 in Ellicott City.

Until now, the the closest Ethiopian restaurant has been Soretti's in Burtonsville or takeout from the refrigerated case in Roots in Clarksville.

But today Jessie X spotted the sign for Tigi's.  The sign was on Rte 40 near Rte 29.  I have to admit that we're exchanging quick emails so I didn't confirm whether that's east or west of Rte 29.  Jessie noted that it's "behind the Dunkin Donuts" -- but there is one Dunkin' Donuts just east of Rte 29 and one just west!

(Update:  That's east of Rte. 29.  Erin comments below, plus Jessie X confirmed using landmarks for the locals.)

I'll update with more, and feel free to add a comment if you've seen the sign.  Quick searches didn't find anything on the Web.

This Is How You Can Help The Ravens Win: Blackberry-Chipotle Wings At Town Grill

Blackberry-chipotle wings -- Guaranteed lucky for the Ravens
Put aside your crazy superstitions and put your belly forward to help the Ravens beat the Broncos next weekend.

Fill your belly with purple chicken wings.

That's the new blackberry-chipotle wings at the Town Grill in Lisbon.  I haven't had them, but I have guaranteed scientifically with Howard from the Town Grill that each order of these purple wings increases the chance of a Ravens win.  They're making the sauce in-house.  Howard says it's fruity and spicy, but not that hot.

The Town Grill is a great casual barbecue spot.  Check out all the prior posts about Town Grill.  Pile into the car for dinner this week.  I always recommend picking up some smoked fish to bring home and break into pasta sauce and other recipes.

(Update:  THIS WORKED in Denver!  Howard and I guarantee victory over the Patriots if you eat enough of these wings.)

(Update II: This really worked.  Can the Super Bowl win be credited to anything other than the Town Grill's wings?)

Does anyone else have specials or deals to celebrate the Ravens this week?  More purple food?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Chorizo And Cactus Tacos At R&R Taqueria

Nopales and chorizo tacos at R&R Taqueira
All the talk about the new Xitomate coming to Columbia encouraged me to try a little Mexican.

And the R&R Taqueria salsas encouraged me to try some Mexican soda.

Spicy!  There is a cactus taco special right now.  Nopales -- which you can make at home -- served fresh and most with the meat of your choice.  I took a recommendation and ordered the chorizo.  Three tacos for $7, coming with another lesson that R&R makes complex food from that simple kitchen.

R&R's chicken tacos with our barley salad
It's all good.  Fresh, pliable corn tortillas make an earthy base.  The zesty chorizo cooked with tomatoes and the slightly sour chopped cactus.  Then lime and fresh salsas.  A standard red and then a small cup of a habanero salsa that one of the folks offered me as well.  Each ingredient is outstanding, and the kitchen turns out a perfect meal.

The salsas were really hot though.  Hotter than normal.  I rush back to  the counter to buy a tamarind soda.

I need to go back for tacos at Azul 17 and Xitomate.  Until then, check out all the posts about R&R Taqueria.  Watch out for the parking -- as noted by Kevlar51 and Dan.  I carried out two tacos for Mts. HowChow.  They're pretty good even reheated in the microwave, although the salsa was too much.  You can buy nopales at Lily's Mexican Market and at most of the Asian grocery stores, and they're easy to cook at home.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Food Lovers Guide To Baltimore Is Hot Off Press

Food Lover's Guide To Baltimore
If you're looking for good eats around Baltimore, check out the new Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore by Kathy and Neil Patterson of the Minxeats blog.

I haven't gotten my copy yet, but Kyle had the sense to pre-order on Amazon.  I had thought the book was coming out in the spring, but Kyle got his copy this week.  Here is his first look:
Even though I have lived in HoCo for 15 years and MoCo/PG for 20 years before that, I'm still Washington suburbs centric when it comes to food. With the help of HowChow, I feel I've mastered the HoCo food scene. However, I'm really not as  familiar with the Baltimore food scene as I should be. This is where the new book fits in. It arrived January 3, much earlier than I expected. 
The book starts with a list of the best foodie blogs in the Baltimore area, HowChow included. Lists the major food events then launches into all the different Baltimore regions. Each region gets a foodie faves, food landmarks and  specialty stores, markets and producer listing section. Baltimore County gets its own three sections, and HoCo is included in the 'worth the drive' section with other adjoining counties. Regrettably, market/specialty food stores are not included in this section.  Out of 25 entries, HoCo is represented in 16 of them. So if you follow HowChow, you won't see many HoCo surprises. However, Sushi Sono is there but Sushi King is not. I bet there will be some lively discussion about what made it and what didn't. The book concludes with wineries/breweries, food trucks and recipes from local restaurants including a recipe for raw beet ravioli from the vegan HoCo fav Great Sage. 
What I really like about the book is how comfortably written it is. Minxeats has a nice friendly informative style and includes a lot of local history about each region. I think the book will really help me crack into the Baltimore food scene especially the markets and specialty stores in Baltimore and Baltimore county. 
The link for the book goes to Amazon though an affiliates program.  They give me credit when people buy through the link.  So I encourage that!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Comments About The New Ale House, Shave Ice, Dumplings, Belgian Waffles, And The Best WIngs

Steamed dumpling from Honey Pig
You need to keep returning to HowChow posts because people leave great ideas and observations as the comments run along.

The great recent example has been several weeks of feedback about the new Ale House Columbia on Dobbin Road.  Dzoey, Alicyn, K8teebug, Rick B. and others t alked about the food, and they seemed to be generally having fun -- except with the parking.

As an email, I got an interesting thought from Mike, who noted that a comment to the original post cited Kobe sliders.  Mike linked to a Forbes article that pointed out that Japanese beef wasn't even imported until just recently and that most meat marketed as "Kobe" was all hat, no cattle:
I haven't been to the Ale House yet, but I think they ought to be called out for their "Kobe" sliders.  I doubt it is really Kobe beef or likely even Japanese-sourced beef.  Dishonest labeling/marketing would not a good way to draw clientele. Kobe, and the (relatively) more common Wagyu, beef is such a fractional presence in the market that using it for ground beef is very unlikely. 
From the link above: "In 2009, the last year Japanese beef was legally, we bought 72 tons of it. That may sound like a lot but in that same year we ate about 13.5 million tons of beef, according to the USDA. The imports from Japan did not even represent a significant fraction of one percent of our beef."
That said, I will still stop in to try it out, primarily for the beer selection and the novelty of a new restaurant that isn't a max-chain.
(Update: The Ale House tweeted about their beef.  (Or check their main page for two tweets around 10 am.)  We're really talking about the meaing of "Kobe."  The Ale House tweets that it's getting fresh, Kobe beef and that "Wagyu lineage" cows are available in the United States.  I'm not sure that actually satisfies folks like Mike.  In the end, I'm warned that I'm not getting Japanese beef, so the sliders -- like all sliders -- need to stand on the beef and bun.  Personally, I'd rather restaurants explain what they think the name brand beef adds.  In my experience, places that do great burgers called "Kobe" also do great with their regular grind -- probably because they're talented kitchens and demand premium beef in their regular burgers like Victoria Gastro Pub.)

You can get eat at all kinds of places that aren't max chains.  You can learn to cook your own food at classes by Ben Tehranian, reports Anonymous.  Or you can check around the comments to find new spots to enjoy:

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pit Beef At Smokin' Hot In Glenwood

Pit beef sandwich at Smokin' Hot
Is there a better reason to hit than the road than pit beef?

Smokin' Hot in Glenwood is a casual bar and restaurant.  They clearly pack the place with music and crowds during drinking hours, but they have a nice menu with barbecue for lunch and dinner.

My first hit -- the pit beef piled high and served with Smokin' Hot's nine-pack of house-made hot sauce.  This isn't just "mild, medium, hot."  Smokin' Hot offers a real range of flavors -- from a mild mayo-base to vinegar barbecue to really smokey and spicy.

I broke down my sandwich and forked smoked meat into sauces that I had spread on my platter.  This is excellent meat.  Full of flavor, but still juicy and tender.  I'd love to hold a taste-test, but for now, I'll hold it against my favorite at Pioneer Pit Beef.  The choice of sauces isn't Baltimore traditional, but the meat is good enough to make its own way.

Keep Smokin' Hot in mind for when the weather warms.  The strawberries will ripen at Larriland Farm sooner than you expect, and Smokin' Hot make a perfect lunch stop.  People vouch for all the barbecue, and I want to try the ribs.

Smokin' Hot
2465 Route 97
Glenwood, MD 21738
(410) 489-6001

NEAR:  Smokin' Hot is in a shopping center on Rte 97.  It's just south of U.S. 70, which makes it an easy place to hit on the way back from Larriland.  From eastern Howard County, it's probably best to take Rte 32 or Rte 144 and then work over the Rte 97.

Smokin' Hot Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Check Out The New Mexican Menu At Xitomate

Check out the new menu for the Mexican restaurant that will replace the Donna's on Rte 108 in Columbia.  Lotsabogeys found Xitomate's Web site, and it has a pretty broad menu that generally runs under $10 for lunch and $13-20 for dinners with a bunch of interesting items.

Anybody know more about when it will open?  And the Web site suggests that they're planning a location for Ellicott City as well.

Asian Court: It's The Dim Sum We Have

Fried sesame balls for dessert
Say hello to our little friends at Asian Court in Ellicott City.

When Red Pearl closed in October, we worried about losing our dim sum outlet, but we hit up Asian Court on Christmas and pulled almost all of our favorite dumplings and treats from the passing carts.

Barbecue pork buns.  Shrimp dumplings and shrimp in rice noodle sheets.  The sesame balls that Mrs. HowChow needs for dessert.  Asian Court delivered them all, and we enjoyed a leisurely lunch with a friend, balancing the starch with a little Chinese broccoli but mostly eating dumpling after dumpling.

Steamed pork buns
It wasn't obvious that Asian Court would be so delicious, even though we had enjoyed it years ago.  New folks appear to have taken over two years ago, and restaurants change with time.

Time has been good to Asian Court.  We joined an energetic flow of people on Christmas Day, many filling large tables with 10 or 12 people and everyone picking dim sum off the circulating carts.

The dishes are routinely well-done -- the fried items crunch while the broccoli was the perfect tender-crisp, the dumplings come out fresh and hot and the shrimp are sweet.  We doubled down on the steamed shrimp dumplings because they were so good.  Nothing fancy.  Just sweet, tender and pulled off with talent.  The service was minimal, but they politely left us alone as we talked.

My one disappointment was that Asian Court didn't have the full range that Red Pearl used to offer.  I looked in vain for a duck, spare ribs, or vegetarian shu mai.  (Update: Dzoey comments below about the fry cart.  That was unusual.)  The place was so crowded that carts couldn't always get around, and I wonder if we just didn't see some of the options because they were snapped up in other parts of the room.  You should definitely grab an employee to request anything that you specifically want.

There are dim sum options just south of the county -- especially Wong Gee in Wheaton and Oriental East in Silver Spring.  Look for reviews on Yelp, or start with some of the comments on a 2011 post about Red Pearl.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year = New Restaurants, Starting With Peru

Amanda's photo of the Grille Chick N' Pollo
Peruvian roasted chicken should return to Columbia on Thursday when Grille Chick N' Pollo re-opens in the Hickory Ridge spot that had been dark for months.

Amanda posted a photo of signs announcing a January 3, 2013 reopening.  The space had been Chick N' Pollo, but they closed last year.  Folks have said to expect a similar menu of roasted chicken and other Peruvian foods similar to the old menu.  I'm holding out for the delicious cookies and the grilled beef heart.

In other news, a Mexican restaurant is slated to fill the Rte 108 slot that used to be Donna's.  Xitomate appears to be the name, and an anonymous commenter linked to a Craigslist post that seems to confirm that Xitomate will be a new menu from the folks who run Azul 17 in Columbia.  There are several, so it seems they're still hiring folks for the kitchen and the front of the house.

Let me know if try the chicken when Chick N' Pollo reopens, and let me know if you hear a timeline for the opening of Xitomate.  And what about the timing for the new Indian restaurant that broke ground in Fulton?