Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Best Food To Be Served In A Parking Lot?

Taco trucks go well with beer
We need to think about the best food that Howard County can serve in a parking lot.

Yesterday, I posted about the two breweries that plan to open this spring.  The trick of a brewery -- not a brew pub -- is that it has no kitchen.  So Jailbreak Brewing and Black Eyed Susan Brewing both plan to partner with food trucks and restaurants to feed folks who come to drink some beer.

Food trucks are fun.  I have posted about them many times.  The breweries may be able to attract trucks form DC or Baltimore, but the local choices make some good ideas:
  • Barbecue from David Welch, who usually sets up in Savage.  He is a pro, and the pulled pork, kielbasa, ribs and more could make terrific drinking food.
  • Tacos and Mexican sandwiches.  There are several trucks along U.S. 1.  I haven't been to many since I discovered R&R Taqueria, but the breweries could roll in folks like Pupuseria Lorenita or Pupusieria Los Pinos
  • Sweet and savory from the waffle trucks -- La Pearl or Thomas Waffles.  Dessert is obvious, and La Pearl does catering.  But Thomas does some sausage sandwiches that I could have used on some late nights.
  • Then there are cookies.  CookieRide may not seem like the obvious choice for tipsy folks.  But the Jailbreak folks are specializing in "culinary" beers -- recipes made with fruits and other items more common with chefs than brewers.  I wonder if there are ways to partner with CookieRide or even CrunchDaddy's popcorn.  I'm imagining mini-bags of some savory popcorn paired with special beer.
But I was thinking about other fun.  Nathan Sowers runs out River House Pizza on the Second Sunday markets on Main Street in Ellicott City.  That pizza oven looks tough to move, but those pizzas are absolutely spectacular.  I can't think of better food if these breweries can attract crowds that make it worth pulling that oven.

What else can you recommend for Jailbreak and Black Eyed Susan to check out?  They can pass out cards at the food truck round-ups.  But there must be creative partnerships to make -- especially where these folks want to brew interesting beer that pairs with food.  They have space.  They need food for their folks.

What restaurants might want to show up?  I don't know the economics of restaurants or the logistics of delivering food to a parking lot.  But there are good places to start the conversation:
  • RG's BBQ Cafe?  These folks might want to meet Robert Gadsby.  He has a new high-end place in Columbia with an aspiration for a creative bar, and his casual Laurel barbecue joint just down U.S. 1 could do great wings, ribs, and more.
  • Town Grill in Lisbon runs a great stand at Larriland's October weekends.  Pit beef, barbecue sundaes, and burgers.  It's a drive from Lisbon, but their food would go great with a beer.
  • Bulk pizzas?  Justin and I talked at Jailbreak about whether a pizza place might deliver.  I don't know that Coal Fire Pizza delivers, but maybe there is a way to connect them.  Are there any good pizza joints near Jailbreak in Laurel or Black Eyed Susan in Columbia?
  • Can restaurants deliver if they don't normally cater?  I think of great food that works as take-out.   If it could travel, it could be great fun to have Peruvian chicken or Hawaiian roast pork or kalbi or Korean tacos from Annas or Mexican tacos on Lily's house-made tortillas.
What can you suggest to Jailbreak and Black Eyed Susan?  They'll want something delicious.  I know that I'm an oddball, and I'd love Maiwand's kabobs or Mango Grove's chicken tikka with my beer.  But I'd love to know what you'd recommend.  Who else could cater to a parking lot?

It's serious that any truck, restaurant or catering folks should reach out to the breweries if they want to work together.  These seem like serious folks who want to find good food.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Is An Indian Restaurant Closing In Maple Lawn Before It Even Opens? New Place For Rent?

For more than a year, people have been talking about a new Indian restaurant in Maple Lawn called first the Polo Club and later Ananda.

Are they closing before they even opened?

The building looks beautiful inside, and it seems close to completion.  The business even applied for a liquor license.  But Keller Williams has a listing on Craigslist offering to [update: rent, I think,] the building -- saying it would be great for a retail store or a "barista bar."  Giulia spotted the ad and posted on a Facebook group.

Does anyone know what's up?  The Maple Lawn developers definitely thought an Indian restaurant was opening here at their last annual meeting.

Here Come The Brews: New Howard County Breweries Will Want You To Taste Their Wares

Where the magic happens at Jailbreak Brewing Co.
I'm pretty sure that I drank a decade of beer before I ever realized that beer came from somewhere -- let alone worried about where it came from.

Those were the dark days when Killian's Irish Red was an exotic flavor and when American bars almost disappeared down the horrifying path towards Zima.  There was beer and light beer.  At our classiest, we tried to impress folks by drinking Irish pints -- without realizing that our Harp was imported from Canada.

But beer has made great strides in the past 20 years, and you'll soon be able to buy more beer that comes from here.  Comes from commercial breweries here in Howard County.

Two breweries are aiming to open in 2014 -- Jailbreak in Laurel and Black Eyed Susan in Columbia.  They're both small businesses aiming to sell kegs to restaurants and bars, but hoping to carve out a retail niche with tasting rooms where you'll be able to try the wares.

In the tasting room, looking into the brewery
And eat at food trucks.

I sort of buried the lede here.

Both Jailbreak and Black Eyed Susan plan to park food trucks in the parking lot.  They would also like to partner with local restaurants.

So you'll be able to sit, sip beer, and eat tacos or barbecue or whatever other foods are available that night.  Just the thought of grilled meats in a summertime parking lot will help me survive this January freeze.

Breweries differ under the law from brew pubs like Frisco Tap House in Columbia because those have kitchens and primarily make beer for the folks eating their food.  Howard County just legalized this kind of brewery last year.

Luke Lavoie profiled both companies and the legal change in the Sun last September.  Andrew Metcalf's Patch article about Black Eyed Susan from December describes a business plan similar to the one that I heard Monday when I walked the Jailbreak location with one of the owners, Justin Bonner.

Justin and his friend Kasey Turner brought on Ryan Harvey as their brewer.  Harvey had been the head brewer at Dogfish after working at Empire, Keegan's and Alaskan breweries before.

They hope to open the first week of April.  They are in the midst of converting an empty warehouse into an industrial zone.  Brewing requires a complex of boilers, pipes, and fermenting equipment.  Much of the shiny machinery is in place.  They've laid a tile brewing floor.

When they're done, you'll be able to see it all from stone-walled tasting room in front.  They'll have tables and a giant television.  Justin said that they'll do some regular beers like IPAs, but they're trying to emphasize a "culinary" style.  They want to use ingredients like chefs -- a jalapeno IPA, a honey-apple ale, a pineapple-agave wheat . . .

You get the idea.  They're already brewing . . .  at Justin's house.  He said they have equipment firing outside his house where Ryan is already working out the recipes.

Beer is a big job.  Jailbreak will grind its own grains.  They'll have augers moving that overhead, steam lines, machinery to brew and store multiple varieties, and even casks to age it.  I can see why Black Eyed Susan's Web site says that they plan weekend tours.

But, mostly, you'll want to come to drink -- and get food in the parking lot.

Look for both Black Eyed Susan and Jailbreak in Spring 2014.  Tomorrow, I will post about the food that should partner with these breweries.  They need tasty food trucks or local restaurants that would want to deliver or partner with the breweries.  This is your chance to help connect some locals.

For more about the breweries, check out articles by Ryan Sharrow and Sarah Meehan from last summer in the Baltimore Business Journal.

Jailbreak Brewing Company
9445 Washington Boulevard North, Suite F
Laurel MD 20723

NEAR:  Jailbreak will be in a light industrial development on the east side of Rte 1 in Laurel.  It is just south and across the street from the Carmax.  You turn off Rte 1, then turn left into the industrial area.  Jailbreak has a big sign overlooking the parking lot.

Black Eyed Susan Brewing Company
9570 Berger Road
Columbia, MD 21046

NEAR: Black Eyed Susan will be just off Snowden River Parkway near Broken Land Parkway.  They're tucked back on Berger in the same general neighborhood as Daedalus Books.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Three Cup Chicken At Noodles Corner Brings A Taste Of Taiwan To Your Chinese Dinner

With the loss of Red Pearl, Noodles Corner has turned into our local spot for Chinese food, and we loved a Taiwanese dish called "Three Cup Chicken" over the holidays.

Noodles Corner is in Columbia in the same shopping center as Mango Grove and Pub Dog.  It's a casual place with a regular Chinese restaurant menu, but it also offers a second menu of "authentic" dishes that we have absolutely loved.

"Three Cup Chicken" or sanbeiji appears to be a bedrock Taiwanese dish cooked with soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil -- thus the "three cups" that make the sauce.  We got tender chunks of chicken coated in an amber sauce lively with ginger, basil, salt and maybe lemongrass.

The chicken dish is all meat, so it pairs perfectly with the "Basil Eggplant."  That plate comes to the table in a cloud of Thai basil.  It smells delicious, and the eggplant has been perfect -- firm enough to stay together, soft enough to cut with a fork.  We actually drove to Noodles Corner for the eggplant dish.  It is worth every mile.

Do you have any restaurant-dish recommendations for other Chinese restaurants around Howard County?  We are due for a trip to Odenton for Grace Garden, which remains my #1 favorite.  I'd love any other recommendations about where you go and what you order.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

White Oak Tavern Is Now Open On Rte 40

White Oak Tavern has opened on Rte 40 -- farm-to-table dining with lots of beer taps.

I'm going to cook dinner for 30 people, so I gotta keep this short.  Please comment if you go.

Drop What You're Doing! Go Have Coffee And Pastries At Le Comptoir, The New Walk Up

"Cinnamon bun," chocolate croissants, croissants
Petit Louis hasn't even opened, but the small walk-up counter next door has already kicked off a brand new experience for Howard County food.

Le Comptoir is a casual counter service area next to the space that will open next week as the latest Foreman-Wolf restaurant.  You can get casual lunch items, but it's worth dropping whatever you're doing right now to just get coffee and pastries.

The best croissant Mrs. HowChow has ever had.  Lemon poppy cakes.  A chocolate-pistachio pastry.  Two flavors of macarons.    Something described as a cinnamon bun, which I carried out and is waiting to be eaten as a little snack.

Everything that we ate was perfect.  A small, crispy croissant that was simultaneously light and flaky, but left a luscious impression of butter on my tongue.  A cake moist with a strong lemon flavor and a slight crunchy crust for contrast.  You know that I love the local bakeries, but you can't beat these pastries overlooking the lake.  We split a French press of coffee, and we had the best time.

Even before the coffee rush, I was pretty hyped up for this group's first restaurant in Howard County.  I can't say that I dream of French dining, but the Foreman-Wolf restaurants have this amazing feeling where people are obviously serious about the food, but not about themselves.  They're so nice.  The flavors and the people make me want to go back immediately.

At Le Comptoir, you can take out or sit at one of the cafe tables overlooking the Columbia lakefront.  Gorgeous now -- and great to get out of our house after these frigid weeks.  I can imagine that it will be even better in five to seven months when you could eat outside, walk around the lake, and let little feet run on the grass.

Petit Louis appears to be opening next week.  They're doing "friends and family" meals to work out the kinks and hosting a few charity lunches and dinners this week.

Check with Le Comptoir about their hours this week.  Eventually, they're planning on breakfast and lunch.  Maybe into the night.  But the restaurant is still opening, so I don't know their hours this week.  Hat tip to Clayton who stopped for an espresso and croissant on the first day Saturday.

Le Comptoir (inside Le Petit Louis)
10215 Wincopin Circle
Columbia, MD 21044

NEAR:  This is on the Columbia lakefront next to Sushi Sono and just down from the Tomato Palace and Clyde's.  You park in the parking garage fronting Little Patuxent Parkway, then walk down to the lakefront.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Petit Louis To Open Next With Charity Meals

Petit Louis -- the new Foreman-Wolf restaurant on the Columbia lakefront -- will open next week with a series of special lunches and dinners to raise money for charities.

Andrew Metcalfe has the full story in the Patch -- including menu items and talk of brunch.  The special meals will be January 28-31, then the restaurant will open for real in February.

Looking For Favorite Dishes -- Especially Unique Ones -- At Howard County's Indian Restaurants

Dosa -- a little one from lunch -- at Mango Grove
Can I get your "deep cuts" for Indian restaurants in Howard County?

When we go for Indian, we love the comfortable feeling of dishes that we eat again and again.  The mashed eggplant of baingan bartha.  A lentil dish.  A chicken tikka masala or chicken korma.  That is guaranteed pleasure without even opening the menu -- and way more than a meal for two of us.  So we haven't branched out as much as we could.

I was thinking about this a few weeks ago when Diana lamented the shuttered Akbar's by saying that its kitchen had turned out her favorite non-standard Indian dish -- lamb xiacutti, a dish from the town of Goa.  I had never heard of the dish.  I never knew Akbar offered it.  Now, I'm on Wikipedia reading about lamb or chicken cooked with poppy seeds, coconut, and red chilis, and I wish that I could find xiacutti (or "xacuti" as spelled by Wikipedia).

What other special dishes should I check out?

This feels like a good time to talk about special Indian dishes because Ananda -- formerly to be called The Polo Club -- will open soon on Maple Lawn Boulevard in Fulton.  Then Chutney appears to filling the former Akbar in Columbia, maybe with some former chefs from House of India.  I hope they both offers something unique.

For now, I always talk up dosas, the thin crepe-like dish from southern India that normally comes wrapped around a filling of mashed vegetables.  Mango Grove does several varieties.  Flavors of India does as well.  They're wonderfully exotic, but they're completely accessible -- and very friendly for children or people who don't like curries -- because simple dosas just boil down to crisp batter wrapped around tasty mashed potatoes.

I also loved the whole fish at House of India when we ate it several years ago.  We were served a whole rockfish cooked in the tandoor oven, served beautifully with charred skin and a delicious sauce laced with ginger.  For vegetarians, I'd ask for the jackfruit curry at Mango Grove.  They use unripened fruit to make a curry with a delicious flavor and a texture that could make you think you were eating chicken.

These are the dishes that would make me drive past all the great Indian restaurants to eat from a specific kitchen.  I also crave the Nepalese dumplings called momos that you can get at Curry & Kabob in Columbia.  Royal Taj makes us love our regular orders, so they must have specials that are just as excellent.

What are your favorite dishes at Indian restaurants?  What are the specials or the unusual dishes that make a certain restaurant stand out?  Any regional dishes?  Any fusions?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

EC Tasting Gallery -- Our Secret Agent Enjoys Howard County's Pop-Up Dinner And Reports

Kevin Brothers and Tom Coale -- snapped by Nicole's secret "fake button" camera
I think my friend Tom Coale will make a fine state legislator, and he was an excellent secret agent.  But he has too much class to be a food blogger.

Tom and his wife Nicole attend Sunday's truffle dinner by the EC Tasting Gallery.  That's the new operation run by some local chefs to put on "pop up" dinners with exotic foods and unusual locations.  They're single-night shows.

Tom -- who is running for state delegate in a district that runs on the north side of Rte 108 and Rte 100  -- came home raving.  They spent the night eating in the dining room that the EC Tasting folks borrowed from Portalli's on Main Street.  It was cool food, but, even more, Tom loved that the night was a complete experience -- the only time that you'll ever have this meal, the chance to hear chefs Colin Bickley and Kevin Brothers and sommelier Brandon Thornton describe the food and wines.

The only thing that our secret agent couldn't do was snap pictures of the food.  I completely understand.  It's the most awkward part of blogging.  One of my greatest laughs was the night that Mrs. HowChow stopped cringing and asked for my phone so that she could take a better picture.  But Tom came home with a course-by-course report that will keep me watching their Facebook page for future events:
It really is cool to have each wine explained regarding why it was selected for that dish, where it was produced, and, in some cases, why this is completely different from what a run of the mill "wine app" would recommend. Plus, the passion and focus Colin and Kevin have put into the food is apparent. They put everything they have into this meal
Smoked quail egg + fried thyme + shaved Italian truffle 
Tuna tartare + jalepeno + meyer lemon + shaved Burgundy truffle  
Wine Pairing:  Chiarli Lambrussco Vecchia Modena – Emilia-Romagna, Italy  
So here we go.  I went with the quail egg first, followed by the tartare. Quite frankly, it didn’t matter.  The table went quiet, only broken up by sporadic references to the Almighty.  The quail egg was perfectly cooked, with a “just-loose-enough” yolk, perfectly complimented by the meaty accents of the truffle.  The tartare was refreshing and light.  As with all of these dishes, the wine was spot on.  Lambrussco may have a bad rap, and may not be what someone would think of when preparing to eat quail egg and tuna tartare, but it was perfect.  It brought out the savory flavors of the dishes without overpowering with tannins.    

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Race On Rte 40: White Oak Versus Sonic

More incremental news on some of the restaurants coming to Ellicott City.

White Oak Tavern posted on its Facebook page that they had an inspection cancelled today, so they're hoping to do that tomorrow and then open in a week or sooner.  This is the farm-to-table restaurant coming to the Enchanted Forest shopping center.

Earlier this month, the Sonic coming a little farther west on Rte 40 posted on its Facebook page that they're hoping to start site work in February and open over the summer.

(Update:  Did Chutney open in Columbia?  This is the Indian place replacing Akbar's.  Jeff commented on the HowChow Facebook page that Chutney's Web site says that it opened on the 17th.)

On White Oak's page, Tony joked by asking which one would open sooner.  Opening any restaurant is an enormous job.  So I'll take them when they arrive -- but I think we're still waiting for Petit Louis in Columbia, Ananda in Fulton and a bunch of other new joints.  Hat tip to Gina, who noted the Sonic post.

Yet Nal House: Takeout Dumplings Make A Great Meal, Blow Away The Bags From The Frozen Aisle

Scrumptious convenience.  Yet Nal House's meat or kimchi dumplings.
Now you can have your convenience and eat it too.

Yet Nal House is a Korean restaurant on Rte 40 in Ellicott City that has captivated my imagination with casual stews, soups and other dishes.  Our tipster Min just told me about the newest dish that I have to try -- beef and octopus hot pot to warm away the winter chill.  She said it was sweet from the bulgogi meat, but so spicy that her husband to take some deep breaths from time to time.

Bulgogi & octopus hot pot
I recognize that octopus hot pot may be adventurous, but Yel Nal offers a perfect convenience food for almost anyone -- house-made meat or kimchi dumplings sold in plastic bags from the white freezer right inside the door.

These are Korean mandoo.  Way better than even the good frozen dumplings that I have enjoyed from Lotte, H Mart or similar stores.  Buy them at the cash register in the back -- after you also check out the takeout soups and rice cakes in the refrigerators.

Yet Nal's freezer
A tipster turned me onto the mandoo, saying that they're made in Yel Nal House.  They certainly have a thinner, more delicate wrapper than the ones that I make, and they have a cleaner, fresher taste than the supermarket bags.  They're an easy staple because you want them to stay frozen.  Grab dumplings from your freezer for an instant meal.

For $10, you get a bag with 20 dumplings.  It's not cheap, but it's a steal where you can turn that bag into a meal for four to five.  Those dumplings can be steamed, boiled or pan-fried.  Then served up with kimchi or any number of vegetable side dishes.

I have tried all kinds of cucumber, eggplant and other vegetable side dishes out of my beloved cookbook Growing Up In A Korean Kitchen.  You can borrow that from the Howard County library.  With kimchi and another vegetable, we have been satisfied with four Yet Nal dumplings each.  I think they could anchor all kinds of meals if you play around.

Bagged dumplings
The dumplings are absolutely convenience food.  You can steam them for six to eight minutes in any steamer and end up with a perfect snack or dinner.

My recent discovery has been pan frying.  You heat a thick sheen of vegetable oil in a pan and add frozen dumplings.  Right from the freezer, this is real convenience.  Let them sputter over a medium heat without moving until the bottoms turn golden brown.  

Then pour a half-inch of water into the pan and cover.  Usually I lower the heat.  I let them steam for maybe six minutes.  Then I uncover and turn the heat higher.  I evaporate the water until the dumplings start to sputter and crisp again.  You get a cooked-through dumpling that is crisp on the bottom and soft on the top.

Serve with a dipping sauce.  I mix equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar, then add about a half part of sesame oil.  Maybe a dash of hot sauce.  Maybe some sliced green onions.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Easiest Great Local Food To Add To Your Life; Lily's Tortillas Make Any Number Of Meals

Corn tortillas and Mi Canton hard white cheese
The easiest way to add great local food to your life is to stop for the fresh corn tortillas at Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia.

Lily's is just off Rte 175 on Dobbin Road.  It's a small market with Latin baked goods, staples, basic produce and even a butcher.  But the far right section is a taqueria with pretty great tacos and a tortilla machine that stamps out warm tortillas most days.

Fresh corn tortillas have way more flavor than anything you can buy in a supermarket.  A plastic bag holds several dozen, and they'll make any number of meals for you -- from the simplest tacos to the most-ornate dishes from Rick Bayless' Everyday Mexican.  It's an easy stop -- especially if you go to the Wegmans around the corner on McGaw Road -- and a cheap way to eat something authentic and delicious.

Fast quesadilla with everything from Lily's
For New Year's Eve, I brought a bag to a friend's house to complement the chili that he had cooked.  I used my own bag to make a hearty quesadilla with almost zero work.

Heat some Goya's refried black beans.  Grate some Mi Canton hard white cheese from Lily's fridge.  Chop some cilantro, an avocado, and jalapeño peppers.  Then layer them between the corn tortillas.  I use three tortillas, and I brush a tiny bit of corn oil on the outer tortillas.  Then I heat the quesadillas in a cast-iron pan until the cheese melts and the tortillas crisp.

I have been eating variations all month.  Crisp tortillas and that white cheese make almost anything taste delicious. I actually made quesadillas one afternoon by oiling two tortillas, then filling them with mashed roasted butternut squash, the white cheese, and some chopped jalapeños.  Simple, crazy, but delicious.

Lily's is really a place that you should check out if you want to explore food.  The tortillas, Latin cheeses and canned goods give you a guaranteed delicious dinner, and I always recommend a taco lunch.  But you should also check out the baked goods, the cool Latin sodas, and all the beans, salsas, pickled vegetables, and other ingredients.  

I recommend trying the fresh cactus in the produce cooler because you can make awesome tacos, and I know there are great things to buy from the butcher.  I just don't know meat, and my Spanish isn't good enough to explore a subject where I don't know vocabulary.  I can see that they sell chorizo, lamb, beef, fajita meat, and other cuts.  I'd love any advice if you buy from Lily's or some other Latin butcher.  Check out all my posts about Lily's.  If you go, you can also check out the used books and vinyl at Second Edition Books down the row.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Weekend Plans: Bake It Up Baby, Now; Get Out Or Get Delivery From Momma's Kitchen

Pastries from Bonaparte in Jessup
Bundle up and head down to one of the great bakeries around Howard County where you can warm yourself and pick up sweets for your weekend.

I'm trying to start an occasional Friday series to suggest places for you to explore.  We'll start with dessert.

If you can't get out, you may want to start with a new company called From Momma's Kitchen.  Honestly, I can't figure out the Web site exactly.  But it looks like a new family-run business that offers cookies, cakes and other items by mail and at local events.  I don't see a retail site, but I think they're Howard County.  Follow Momma on Twitter.

But there is something great about getting out on the weekend and trying something new.  Roust your kids.  Meet your friends.  Bakeries are a perfect excuse to explore, and this is a sample of the places where you can get cakes, cookies, sweet drinks and more if you're looking for fun.  I'll run them roughly from north to south:
Shilla Bakery
  • The Breadery in Oella.  Absolutely worth the drive.  They do both crusty and loaf breads.  They do sweets.  I think they have even expanded into cheeses, and they have coffee from Zeke's.  In the cold, drive.  Once it gets warmer, consider walking the trail that connects The Breadery with downtown Ellicott City.
  • Bon Appetit and Shilla Bakery in Ellicott City.  My Korean friends say that Seoul is packed with French-inspired bakeries, and that idea has been exported to Ellicott City with bakeries that bring the flavors of both countries.  Cakes.  Donuts.  Breads.  Coffee drinks.  Super friendly to kids.
  • Kolache Kreations in Ellicott City.  Specialists in a Czech pastry famous in Texas.  Go sweet or savory fillings stuffed into yeasty rolls.
  • Kupcakes & Co. in Elkridge and Oh, What A Cake! in Columbia.  These are the cupcake folks.  Great for snacks.  Also hoping to sell you fancy cakes and ornate cupcake arrangements.
  • Linda's Bakery in Columbia.  A sweet generalist.  Some cupcakes and cakes, but they also great cookies, macarons, and other items.  I don't know if they're serving coffee there, but you could always walk down to the New York Deli to warm up.
  • Touche Touchet in Columbia.  The gold standard for local bakeries.  No bread, but beautiful cakes, iced cookies, croissants, cookies and more.  They serve strong coffee, and they have a few tables indoors and out.
  • Bonaparate Bakery in Savage.  Excellent breads and sweets.  One of the only full service savory and sweet bakeries in the county.  It's in the Savage Mill development, and it offers ornate French pastries and lunch sandwiches -- along with crusty loaves to carry home.
What others sweets do you recommend?  I tried to pick places where you could carry out or stay around for a warming drink and a sweet snack.  But there are other great options like CookieRide's cookie deliveries, and I'm sure that I have omitted many good places.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Indian Restaurant in Maple Lawn Will Be Ananda

The new Indian restaurant in Maple Lawn appears to be called Ananda, not "The Polo Club" as people had discussed before.

You can see both names on the Howard County liquor board's agenda.  But it looks like Polo Club is the legal name, and the restaurant will be Ananda.  I saw that first on a tweet by TaylorLegal, and I'm throwing up a post because I had mentioned "Polo Club" so often in the past.

The Ananda building looks beautiful.  They have landscaped and started added lights.  I previously noted that they installed awesome garage doors so that one dining room will convert into a covered patio in good weather.

#15 Roll At Sushi Sono; It's Delicious, But Just Not What I Had Told You About Last November

The actual #15 Roll
On a recent night at Sushi Sono, the blog's name was taken in vain.  The photo above is the #15 Roll.  It has smoked salmon, crunchy seaweed, and crab on top with flakes of dried tuna.  And it needs the protection of the Sono staff who told diners that HowChow had gotten that wrong.

In November, we had eaten a delicious new roll with green tea noodles, and I swear that we had ordered the #15 Roll special that night.  Either way, I posted a rave describing that as the #15 Roll.  This month, people ordered the #15 at Sono and then asked whether the recipe had changed -- maybe green tea noodles had been removed?

No, the Sono folks said, with grace and patience.  That roll with green tea noodles has a name that translates like Green Tea Noodle Roll.  It's another special that the kitchen is working to perfect.

Then the killer:  "I know HowChow says that was the #15.  But it wasn't."

How embarrassing.

I have revised the November post to note that that was the "Green Tea Noodle Roll" or something similar.  And now, I come again to praise the #15.  This is another Sono success where the chefs play with flavors and textures.  The smoky flavor of the salmon against the sweetest of crab.  The crunch of seaweed with the papery flakes of dried fish.  Both the "Green Tea" and the #15 are worth checking out.

We have begun to order every visit off the white board of Sono specials.  If anything, that has made us more-interested in driving to Columbia.  We get new surprises, and everything is done right.  If only HowChow could produce as perfectly.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Chef Change At Bistro Blanc; Marc Dixon To Balt.

The original chef at Bistro Blanc has moved to a Baltimore restaurant -- that's Marc Dixon heading to Bond Street Social, reports Richard Gorelick in the Sun.  Gorelick says the new chef at Bistro Blanc is Janny Kim.

Tian Trio: Fried Chicken, Black Beans And Pork

Black bean noodles
This is the season for comfort food, and you can get a lot of comfort at Tian Chinese Cuisine trying Korea's Chinese food -- with a side order of spicy chicken.

Tian is a modern casual restaurant in the same shopping center as Shin Chon Garden, and it brought Korean fried chicken to the county several years ago.  But the main menu offers the dishes that you'd find in a "Chinese" restaurant if you were in Seoul.

Korean fried chicken
We have just tried the basics at Tian.  With several friends, we started with with our standards:  the chicken and black bean noodles.  Korean fried chicken comes twice-fried and really crispy.  Tian's is not particularly spicy, but it's scrumptious, especially with one of the Korean beers like Hite.

The black bean noodles are a real central point for Tian.  They hand-pull the noodles in the kitchen.  You can hear the thwack, thwack, thwack if they're making them while you eat.  The tender noodles come topped with a thick black bean sauce -- a deep and complex flavor that makes clear that it is as "simple" as a terrific Italian tomato sauce.  At $7, the bowl is one of the greatest bargains in the county.  At any price, they're one of our favorite meals.

Sweet and sour pork
We tried something new by ordering sweet-and-sour pork or "pork tangsuyuk."  That was deep-fried chunks of pork -- crisp, but still tender inside.  We got the spicy version with a sticky sauce that came with dried red peppers and pineapples.

That trio would be a terrific start to anyone who wants to try Tian.  I think we did two noodles, two pork and a platter of chicken for six adults and one child.  We probably could have had a single pork.  Tian has a compete menu -- all in English - that you can explore.  On other nights, I enjoyed the stir-fried squid over rice.  But this trio -- noodles, chicken and pork -- are really accesible flavors for anyone who likes American Chinese food.  It's a great idea for anyone who wants to eat warm and hearty.

I know other folks have really enjoyed Tian.  What else do you recommend there?  Or at the other local Korean-Chinese restaurant, Hanjoongkwan on Rte 40 in Ellicott City?  How do they compare?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Storm Water Dining: The Next Way For Howard County To Puts Its Stamp On The Dining Scene

The pond behind Mango Grove
With a new year, I'd like to open a new chapter in suburban eating.  I want Howard County to put its stamp on dining and claim the title for "Great Meals Eaten While Overlooking A Storm Water Pond."

"Storm Water Dining" was a category coined by the immeasurable Wordbones about two years ago.  In his memory, I hope that you'll reach beyond the county's classic "parking lot cafe" options to recommend restaurants that offer the most-beautiful, completely-man-made scenery around.

Others may scoff.  They may claim food tastes better overlooking the Pacific or with idyllic wooded views.  But we have what we have:  Commercial developments where someone graded down the land and dug out a pond so that the neighbors don't flood.

Be proud.  Eat outdoors.  Enjoy the view.  I started off thinking that I'd find a dozen "storm water dining" locales, but I came up with only a handful.  There must be more, but these are my nominations:
  • Eggspectations in Ellicott City.  This was Wordbones' inspiration.  They have outdoor seating, which seems like a plus, and the developer did truly create a water feature where many people would have just dug a hole in the ground.  Great for breakfast.
  • Mango Grove in Columbia.  You get a picture window over the pond, not outdoor seating.  But you also get a terrific Indian restaurant with options than run from northern Indian curries to southern Indian vegetarian to Chinese-Indian fusions.  These folks renovated that space and clearly paid attention to the view.  I don't think any of the other restaurants in that row have rear windows at all.
  • The Indian restaurant -- now maybe called Ananda -- coming to Fulton.  This new restaurant in Maple Lawn may take the cake.  The storm water pond is small, but Ananda (which people had been calling the Polo Club previously) has dug in dozens of bushes and trees.  And they installed enormous garage doors on their side room so that diners will have views and fresh air in good weather -- but toasty protection when it gets cold.
Where else can you recommend "storm water dining?"  Where else can you enjoy a meal while overlooking a man-made pond?  We have seen an egret hunting in the pond near our house.  Are there any restaurant overlooks that offer wildlife?

Of course, you should check out the parking lot cafe posts if you want to see the 2009 and 2010 posts that inspired this addition.  And if you didn't know Wordbones, you can see my post from last fall about how much I miss Dennis Lane and his Tales of Two Cities blog.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Yog Coffee & Crepes Coming To Hickory Ridge

There appears to be a new restaurant and coffee place coming to Hickory Ridge near the end of the winter.

Lochlann and Amber both emailed me photos of Yog Coffee and Crepes, which appears to be a storefront promising breakfast, lunch, coffee, Belgian waffles and desserts starting in March 2014.  Amber found a Web site that seems to be a similarly-named place in Baltimore that does frozen yogurt and crepes -- both sweet and savory.

Now, this is a shopping center bay between the Giant and Meadows Frozen Custard, a store that sells frozen custard, coffee and other desserts.  The yogurt-custard-coffee product lines seem so similar that I wonder if there is a joint ownership here.

The new Yog Coffee & Crepes is in the same shopping center as the Grille Chick N' Pollo that I wrote about this morning.  Hickory Ridge really does have a nice selection of food options.

Best Wry Comment About New Dining In Jessup

"Am I allowed to be excited about IHOP opening up at East Columbia Marketplace next to Advance Auto Parts?"
That's the best wry comment for recent HowChow.  Gayadnu made me laugh.  It's news to me that IHOP would be coming to the Jessup shopping area near Mom's Organic Market and Rte 175.  And folks can be excited for anyone and any place.

Also, Annie Rie reports on Twitter that the second Xitomate has opened in Turf Valley.

Go For The Chicken, Stay For The Fried Yucca, Plan For Grilled Beef Heart Next Time

Chicken, yucca and rice & beans at Grille Chick N' Pollo
You can buy roast chicken in so many places, but it is worth a drive to the Hickory Ridge village center  in Columbia for a Peruvian take -- and especially some Peruvian side dishes.

Grille Chick N' Pollo was one of the new restaurants for 2013, replacing a similarly-named restaurant that had occupied the space before.

This is casual, counter service.  They serve roasted chicken, and it's moist and cooked through.  Bones make such a difference.  Even the Chick N' Pollo white meat is a world better-tasting than the boneless, skinless breasts that I keep in the freezer.

To me, the stars are the side dishes.  Plain yellow rice, but they work when you mix in the black beans. They're rich and earthy.  Then you add the green sauce.  That's fiery and fresh.  Chick N' Pollo charges extra for extra sauces, and they're worth every quarter.  I added sauce to the chicken, the rice, and then used the rest for dipping the fried yucca.

If you like french fries, then you'll love fried yucca.  Chunks of starchy vegetable fried crisp.  They're one of my favorite foods if you can get them hot and spice them up with sauce.  Chick N' Pollo has those fresh sauces, and they fry yucca so that it comes out light and tender.

Grille Chick N' Pollo wants to be more than fast food.  They have some cool fusion ideas like a Thai burrito made with their chicken and salsas.  They serve desserts like flan and alfajores, the cookies that I had enjoyed at the prior iteration of this restaurant.  Next time, I will try the grilled beef heart.  Again, I had enjoyed the antichucos under the prior management, and I hope the current folks make the chewy, beefy cut as deliciously.

Hickory Ridge can be an overlooked food option in Columbia.  They have several other good restaurants, including Hickory Ridge Grill and Luna Bella Ristorante.  They also have Meadows Custard for dessert if you want to eat chicken, then enjoy a sweet as you sit on the plaza.

Grille Chick N' Pollo
6470 Freetown Road
Columbia MD 21044

NEAR:  This is on the back side of the Hickory Ridge village center.  That's Cedar Lane between Rte 32 and Howard Hospital.  There is a Giant on the front side of the shopping center, and Chick N' Pollo is on the opposite side.  Park in back to be closest.

Grille Chick'n Pollo on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 11, 2014

You Should Get Fried Chicken At Chick N' Friends

Fried chicken from Chick 'n Friends
Howard County plans to take over the Long Reach village center -- part of a long-term change in the retail life of Columbia, according to Luke Lavoie's story in the Sun.

It's an interesting story that says a church is filling the space that was once a Safeway and then a Korean grocery store and that the county may move its arts group to the shopping center.

But I was aghast at the bottom to read that business has dropped off at Chick N' Friends in that shopping center.  Chick N' Friends makes terrific fried chicken, and Long Reach is really easy to reach just off Rte 175 and Dobbin Road.  The takeout also roasts chicken and cooks fish, so there is something for everyone.  It's a serious little place that is absolutely worth checking out.  Fried chicken is just delicious.  You do yourself a favor and help keep open a local option.

Also in Long Reach is Kuramo, a restaurant that serves Nigerian and other dishes.  I posted about the egusi, curry and fried plantain.  I'd recommend a visit there as well.  It's an easy, casual way to explore foods that are pretty unique around here.

Cool Free App Claims To Translate Chinese Menus

There is a free smartphone app that claims to translate Chinese characters on restaurant menus -- letting you understand the words even if you don't speak the language.

I haven't used the Waygo app.  Mena sent me a link to a Saveur article with a short description and link.  I'll give it a try, and I figure other folks might be interested -- after the fun a few years ago when a HowChow reader translated the Chinese menu at Hunan Manor.  After all, the idea might have stayed underground.

That's one of the fun and powerful parts of the new media.  You can get an idea from, say, a Web site or a blog.  Then -- even if you write up the story yourself -- you can link back or just give a "hat tip" if you saw the idea somewhere other than Facebook, their Web site or word of mouth.  Voices bolster each other.  It's fun, and I think it does help everyone.

Unless, of course, you work for a big media company.  Then, I guess there must be policies to make it seem the company discovered something on its own.  That's how it was 20 years ago when I worked in a newsroom.  I'm always amused by the big companies.  They are the most-valuable voices around because they do the original reporting, but I find it interesting that they -- and I'm sure it's management -- are so reticent to give even a nod to media that they don't control.  

Just teasing, you know.  I have noted the "old media"-"new media" differences before.  I'm glad real reporters work in Howard County, and I know that staff folks can't shake up the scene.  ;-)

(Update:  This may not actually be free.  iTunes suggests that it is free to download, but then $2 to use it for a week.  I'll wait to see more reviews before I pay for it.)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Secolari Slips Into The Columbia Mall With Flavors

Oils at Secolari in the Columbia Mall

The new Secolari store in the Columbia Mall is a deceptively simple-looking place.

A large store with containers on two walls.  They sell olive oils, vinegars and pastas.  That could sound ridiculously simple except that Secolari's offerings are creatively complex.

Walk the store and taste everything.  Pure olive oils at the front that show off the range of natural flavors -- from mild to peppery.  Flavored olive oils along both walls -- ranging from fruits like lemon or lime to herbs like basil, garlic or rosemary to "spice mixes" like tandoori masala.  Then vinegars -- both white and red -- with flavors than run from fruits through exotics like spicy peppers.

Taste everything.  The Secolari folks are proud of their products.  They're also charging more than $20 per bottle.  So you can taste anything by pouring a dash in a plastic container, and they have water and bread to clean your palate.  Mix and match.  Try a dash of the lime oil and a dash of the hot pepper vinegar.  Try that same lime oil with a blackberry vinegar.

On the one hand, Secolari offers products for serious cooks.  They can try all these flavor combinations and come up with great ideas.  On the other hand, flavored oils and vinegars are a wonderfully simple tool for people who don't have great time for cooking.  Secolari has recipes, and those flavor pairs make really simple marinades or salad dressings even if you just mix a pair that you like.  By just shaking them together, you could jazz up salads, roasted vegetables, chicken, fish and so much more.

Again, it's more than $20 a bottle.  That even slowed me down.  I bought one of each, and I marinated fish Sunday night for fish tacos.  I'm a huge believer that great flavor takes time.  That's why I think you can great value from ingredients where someone else has already invested great effort -- like sausages, olives, sauces and oils or vinegars like these.  A few years ago, I discovered that an expensive bottle of balsamic vinegar was worth the investment because a few teaspoons transformed a plate of sautéed chard.  That has been a staple for me, and I could imagine these Secolari oils and vinegars filling similar roles.

Secolari has a working display kitchen in the back.  I assume they'll do demonstrations or classes.  My one tip:  Don't drink the oil or vinegar.  Push a dash in the plastic cup and then just touch the mixture with your tongue.  We tried almost two dozen different items, and it would have been too much if we had actually drank a shot of each.

Columbia Mall
1300 Little Patuxent Parkway
Columbia, MD 21044

NEAR:  Secolari is in the new "outdoor" section of the mall.  This is a long outdoor corridor that connects the parking lot between Sears and the movies with the second floor of the mall near Lululemon and J Crew.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Comments About Hawaiian Food, New Peruvian, Grille 620, "Fat Friar" Cookies, And More

An October photo of the new Nichi Bei Kei 
Steffi made my day with a comment on the post about the new Hawaiian restaurant Taste of Aloha.  I love hearing that people use HowChow to find something that they enjoy.  That powers me through when the hobby sometimes seems like freaky way to spend time.

As I have said many times, the comments include lots of great information from HowChow readers.  Check out all the folks making recommendations about Taste of Aloha and even a bakery nearby.  They have loco moco.  The mac salad is great.  Etc.

Patapsco Mike provided some other options for folks who want an oyster knife.  I still love the cast-iron knife that I bought mail order, but Mike has specific knives that you can buy for under $10.  Jeffery emailed me months ago about Salazon Chocolate Co. in Sykesville.  Has anyone been there for local cheese, wine and chocolate?

Anonymous asked whether anyone knows when the Buffalo Wild Wings will open.  The Target shopping center has that under construction and a space that used to be Chicken Out.  Does anyone know the plan there?

Does anyone know the timetable on the new Nicki Bei Kei on Sterrett Place?  Chuck sent me the photo above months ago.  I hope they'll open soon.  What about a new breakfast/coffee place in the Hichory Ridge village center that Anonymous mentioned.  While we're at it, how about the restaurant that used to be Turkshish Kebab or Kabob House -- the little place off Little Patuxent Parkway near Princeton Sports?  David noticed in November that it was closed, and neither of us knew if that was permanent or if anything was replacing it.

As always, there are many good local food voices if you look around.  We have a new food blog called My Soup For You with recipes (including a "bacon bowl").  You can find all the local food blogs on HoCoBlogs -- or look in the comments on HowChow like this sampling from recent notes:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Try The Best BYOB In Howard County Before It Disappears (And I Hope That It Will)

Wings from the kitchen, beer carried from home
The best BYOB in Howard County could disappear next week if Bon Chon Chicken gets it liquor license.

I hope Bon Chon gets approved at its January 14 hearing before the county liquor board.  That's a great little restaurant just off Rte 40, and you will have a great time there eating fried chicken and beer.  There is a wall-sized projection screen for football.

But until they fill their own bar, you should rush to take advantage of the best BYOB option in the county.  Park outside Bon Chon.  Send one person into the restaurant to get a table and order up the Korean fried chicken.  Send another person to walk 50 feet to Rte 40 and then down the shopping center to Jason's Wine & Spirits to pick out your own wine or beer.

Because Bon Chon opened without a liquor license, they have been very cool about letting people carry their own.  We have picked from Jason's enormous selection.  I also once brought a soft cooler full of beer and cider.  Mike and I drank a selection while his son drank apple juice.  You have to love a two-year-old who chows on spicy chicken and hangs out in the booth.

Seriously, Bon Chon is worth the visit any time.  But the BYOB window should close soon.

Does anyone else know good BYOB options in Howard County?  It's a standard option in Philadelphia, where there are many great restaurants that don't have a liquor license.  Alcohol isn't my biggest draw, but I'd love to know if there are other BYOB options around here.

(Update: I may have been wrong about the "best" BYOB.  Check out the comments for a bunch of interesting places where you can bring your own beer or wine.)

Check out that liquor board agenda to see other food news coming to Howard County.  Seasons 52 is coming to the Columbia Mall.  Curry & Kabob in Columbia appears to be getting a liquor license.  And there is Jailbreak Brewery, which I still need to write about! 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Marquee Spot Will One Day Become A Restaurant

Sara Toth has a story in the Sun about businesses closing on Main Street in Ellicott City, and she has an interesting restaurant tidbit halfway down.

New landlords have bought the building that houses the Taylor Antique Mall, and they told Toth that they're closing the antique shopping area and renovating the building so they can rent it to a restaurant.

That's a huge space.  It's also incredibly visible right where Main Street hits Old Columbia Pike.  Right across the street is Pure Wine Cafe.  The new landlords told Toth that they're already working with a local restauranteur to come up with "a cool concept."

I understand why Toth needs to write the standard story -- just like I wrote 20 years ago -- quoting the current people questioning change.  But Main Street could be really terrific.  I think it has improved in the past eight years since I started walking there, wondering who goes into stores where the displays are covered in dust.   Those dusty windows have become fewer and fewer (and they were never at Taylor, which I enjoyed nosing around).  We loved the Second Sunday market.  We always tell people to walk the trail up to the Breadery.  We have enjoyed some restaurants, and we want to try others.  A big restaurant at that big intersection could just continue the improvements.

Does anyone know who is working to open a restaurant in the former Taylor Antique Mall?  Anyone know the timetable?

Highand Inn Is Open; Nine More To Go

The Highland Inn has opened -- as seen by the photo from last night sent by Chris and as noted in Richard Gorelick's blog.

The new restaurant on Rte 216 in Highland leads a parade of new dining for 2014.  I wrote last week about eight places slated to open.  But the list has at least nine more.  (Update: Ten more. I added Ananda / Polo Club.)
  • Tere's Latin Market -- really opened already, but I haven't been. 
  • White Oak Tavern -- second week of January? on Rte 40 in Ellicott City.
  • Petit Louis -- January? on the lakefront in Columbia.
  • A new Indian restaurant called Ananda or Polo Club -- maybe February or March in Fulton
  • Pisco in Elkridge -- Spring 2014. 
  • Chutney -- not sure, replacing Akbar in Columbia.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings -- not sure, coming to the Target shopping center in Columbia
  • Nichi Bei Kei -- not sure, moving near the mall.
  • "Japanese buffet" -- not sure, replacing Nichi Bei Kei in Columbia
  • Seasons 52 -- not sure, coming to the Columbia Mall

Indian Lunch Buffets: If Mango Grove Were Not This Delicious, Then This Could Be A Bad Idea

Plate One from Mango Grove's lunch buffet
I never need a second plate of food at lunch, but I would never walk away from Mango Grove without two -- and a dosa on the side.

I don't know how Indian restaurants decided to offer all-you-can-eat lunch buffets, but I know that they'd be a bad idea if they weren't so delicious.  A few years ago, I enjoyed the Royal Taj buffet when they had a chef on the line making the crepe-like dosas.  Last month, I took a break from errands to eat at Mango Grove, and I left just as stuffed and happy.

The Columbia restaurant fills a wall with food -- a salad bar, soups, a long line of vegetarian curries, then meat curries at the end.  There is just something fun in filling a plate with all kinds of flavors -- a fried appetizer, salty lentils, spicy eggplant, some tandoori chicken, a little lamb.  Then the waiter delivered hot naan and a personal-sized dosa stuffed with potato and spices.

Plate Two
Everything was tasty, but Mango Grove stands out even more because their buffet offered at least two dishes that I'd never tried before -- a pumpkin curry and a spicy "Chicken 65."  Really spicy.  They have a wall of options, so they don't need to cook for the lowest-common denominator.  Some dishes are mild, some are spicy.  Some are meat, some are veg.  I grazed more than a dozen items, but someone could happily eat just tandoori chicken, rice and hot bread.

I love Mango Grove -- and pick it as one of my Top 10 -- because they have ambition and pull off exceptional food.  They will give you two menus: straight vegetarian under "Mango Grove" and a mix of Indian and Indo-Chinese dishes under "Mirchi Wok."  Dishes are bright and flavored with the variety of spices and herbs that makes Indian cuisine.  Plus, I ate lots of delicious vegetarian dishes, so I left feeling good even though you can see in the photos that I ate an enormous amount.

I recommend the local Indian lunches if you have some time and want to talk.  At Mango Grove and Royal Taj, I know you won't compromise on great food -- even while you eat off the buffet.  I haven't eaten at other buffets, but I have written that Indian is one of the county's three deepest cuisines for great food.

For dessert, Mango Grove served a terrific rice pudding.  A few spoons of that kheer was all the sweet that I needed, and it was probably all that I could have eaten as well.

Where do you recommend for Indian buffets?  Any specific dishes to recommend?  Any techniques for eating well without falling asleep in the afternoon?

I can think of five other Indian restaurants in Columbia -- House of IndiaMango GroveRoyal TajFlavors of India, and Nepalese-Indian Curry & Kabob -- plus the new Chutney that replaces Akbar and quick service Tandoor Grill on Johns Hopkins Road that I don't think does a buffet.  On top of those, Ananda should open soon in Fulton, and it appears that the shuttered Akbar's will be replaced by a restaurant called Chutney.

Monday, January 6, 2014

EC Tasting Gallery: Pop-Up Dinners Bring Big City Ambitions To The Local Scene

If you're looking for a food adventure, check out the pop-up dinners offered by the former chef at Pure Wine Cafe who wants to pop into your life and pop great food into your mouth.

EC Tasting Gallery is an irregular offering of high-end dinners cooked by Kevin Brothers, his partners, and guest chefs.  I don't know all the details, but their Web site talks about trying to create price-fixe dinners in unusual locations -- offering you something that you won't get anywhere else.

Next up:  A truffle dinner hosted upstairs at Portalli's in Ellicott City on January 19.  There are a few tickets left.  They're $150 each, which gets you wine pairings as well.  Other EC Tasting Gallery dinners will be more like $100.  You can see a five-course menu for an October dinner where they served three crudos, fresh pasta, roast lamb and more.  I got one report, which said that dinner was delicious and fun.

Check out the Web site and follow their Facebook page.  I'd love comments reporting on the EC Tasting Gallery if anyone attends.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Lakeside Deli Is Moving, Not Closing Forever

The Lakeside Deli is moving off the lake, but you won't lose it forever.

The deli across the parking lot from the Whole Foods construction site in Columbia closed on December 20, as reported by Luke Lavoie in the Sun.  They're moving to a new location near Broken Land Parkway and Little Patuxent Parkway.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Will The Highland Inn Open On Monday?

The Highland Inn may open on Monday, reports Dara Bunjon as "solid rumor" on Twitter.

I'm a bit miffed because I have an awesome niece arriving in a few hours, and we're going to get a rush of new restaurants right after she leaves town.  I posted Wednesday about the eight -- no, nine! -- new restaurants coming to Howard County in 2014.

I look forward to the new places, but I'm not holding anyone to a specific opening day.  It seems really hard to open a restaurant, and my hope is that they'll all be around for a long time.  So I'm happy to have them open as they can.

Oysters And The Tool That You Need To Buy, Then Bring To Frank's Seafood In Jessup

Oysters and Seafood Hardware's cast iron oyster knife
On a visit to a friend in Nashville, I discovered a cool new tool perfect for the oyster-lover in your life.

Oysters on the half shell are a huge treat, and I love Frank's Seafood at this time of year for their selection of top-notch oysters.  The Jessup market is inside the wholesale seafood market off Rte 175, but you can shop there for fish, crabs and shellfish.

Last week, they had five local varieties, ranging from a salty, salty Sewansescott variety to several Maryland sweets.  They pick you good oysters.  You can buy a handful or dozens by the bag.  The selection lets you make a plate -- even for one person -- that contrasts the different flavors from the sea.

Oysters at Frank's
And now all that can be so much easier to open.

Frank's taught me to shuck oysters, and they sold me a small knife that remains the best way to worm into an oyster shell if it's really tight.  But a Georgia company sells a cast iron oyster knife that makes all the difference.  Its tip forces between oyster shells -- with a slight start by my shucking knife in the crazy few where the shell has grown around the hinge.  Then, the Georgia knife pops open an oyster easier than a key in a lock.

Cast iron makes all the difference.  That knife will never snap, and you will never cut yourself.  It's forged so that you push with your palm and thumb.  I can press hard to get into the oyster, then separate the shells with a twist.  Once open, I slice the meat from the shell with the shucking knife.  In Nashville, I did a dozen oysters like clockwork.

The one problem is that we need a Chesapeake version.  You can buy the original oyster knife ($29 with shipping) with a plain metal bar connecting the two sides.  But the Georgia company Seafood Hardware makes personalized versions cut with the outlines of Georgia, Texas and other southern states.  At a minimum, we need a DelMarVa version with the outline of the bay.

Seriously, I recommend the Seafood Hardware knife.  They hand-forge them in Georgia.  They're a cool gift, and they made me much more confident that I could open any oyster.

This is a job for Steve Vilnit!!  A Chesapeake or a Maryland version of the oyster knife could be a fun partnership with some of our local oyster companies.  That's fishery marketing!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cool Kitchen Videos From Cha Ya Asian Bistro

For a look into a local restaurant kitchen, check out the string of videos that appear to be demonstrations from Cha Ya Asian Bistro in Columbia -- posted by "Siu's Cooking" on YouTube.

They're all straight-ahead videos with a chef demonstrating and talking -- although I rarely saw the chef or the filmmaker.  See him make pan-fried wonton, Hong Kong style lobster, beef chow fun, and more.  A few like General Tso's list the ingredients and have some quantities, but I also saw lots of work with a deep-fryer and a wok heated by a super-powerful gas jet.  These are restaurant dishes, not recipes for the home cook.

I did love the wonton-folding technique in the video above.  I never knew how to make the pinched shape, and the video does a nice job showing how they're folded, then seared and steamed.  I also love the gas jet under that wok.  That's awesome.

One warning:  Live shellfish are dismembered on camera.  You will want to skip seafood videos unless you're ready for those visuals.

Is anyone a regular at Cha Ya?  What do you recommend?  The lobster and wonton both looked delicious.  We ate there once on a holiday, and we probably didn't get the lead chef.  We ended up with a fried shrimp dish by mistake, so we would love any thoughts on lighter fare.

Hat tip to JessieX, who sent me last week's jalapeno orange chicken video, and the essential HoCoBlogs page.  You can also follow Siu's Cooking on Twitter for new episodes.  Cha Ya is on McGaw Road across from Wegmans.  It is in the same shopping center as Royal Taj, The Green Turtle and other restaurants.