Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Trolling: Iranian Kabobs, Exceptional Italian, And Vietnamese Soup From A New (Unmanly) Blogger

Pho at Pho Dat Trahn
It's great fun to welcome Howard County food bloggers, and it's even more fun to introduce one who can't stop writing.

The Unmanly Chef has started up his own blog with recipes on everything from roast pork to breakfast shakes to Persian crispy rice.  The Chef is a young guy from Howard County.  He learned to cook from his immigrant Iranian grandmother, but he has a fully modern array of recipes under his belt -- a manly Flyers' apron on the page where he introduces himself.

We chatted yesterday, and the Chef jumped at the idea of a Trolling post.  Most people say they'll do a Trolling post, then never email me again.  Three paragraphs and a cell phone photo are always welcome, but I understand that they can be too daunting to complete.

For the Unmanly Chef, three paragraphs was too limiting.  He wrote five.  The same afternoon.  Three sections talking up Howard County food that he really enjoys.  Two bonus sections about great Iranian food in Rockville and the farm-to-table of Woodberry Kitchen.

Check out the Unmanly Chef blog.  Follow him on Twitter.  Like the blog's page on Facebook.  Just generally welcome into the local conversation:
Friends & Farms -- a delivery service in Columbia
At first I was very apprehensive to joining Friends and Farms, because I thought it would be just another CSA that gives pounds of veggies.  Meanwhile we were spending way too much on groceries each week for just two people.  Friends and Farms delivers on both fronts.  It gives a variety of meat and produce, while cutting my food bill in half.  With Friends and Farms, you can customize your basket size to suit your needs.  I'd recommend doing a sample basket for one week to see if it's for you.  The quality of the food is excellent (especially the protein).  Everything is from local farms.  If you have any questions, you can engage with their staff via email,phone, or in person.  (I've done all three.)  It certainly is not for everyone, if you don't cook or can't handle changing seasonal ingredients, don't waste your time.  Pricing ranges from $53/week to $99/week depending on what size basket you receive.

Yekta Kabobi Restaurant & Market in Rockville
Amongst Iranians in the Maryland area, Yekta is regarded as the premier Kabobi (or Chelow Kabob) place in the area.  I'm fully aware of Nora's Kabob in Ellicott City or Maiwand Kabob in Columbia.  They are great people, but their ground beef kabob or Koobideh does not stack up, and that is the true marker of a great Kabobi restaurant. F or the best experience, go to Yekta in Rocville and order the following: ask for the Tahdig (Crispy Rice), Mahst-e-Moosir (Yogurt with Shallots), and then get the Yekta Special.  It's a lot of food, but this will give you the true Iranian Chelo Kabobi experience. 
The real draw is a combination of everything.  The consistency of the food is key. But juiciness of the meat and the larger variety of traditional Iranian side dishes make it great. For me, what makes it worth the drive is their Kabob Koobideh (ground beef kabob).  It's the perfect mixture of salty and savory.  Yekta also has daily specials, if you are there on a Tuesday or Friday, get the Baghali Polow Mahicheh (Lamb Shank with Fava Bean Rice), this is an authentic Iranian dish that is a true delicacy in Iran. After you've finished, you can go next door to their grocery store for some great treats.

Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore
Nestled away off I-83 lies a culinary oasis that brings rustic Chesapeake watershed cuisine to your table at a reasonable price.  Woodberry Kitchen sources all their ingredients from local farms and makes everything in house.  I first heard about it actually from Duff Goldman of Ace of Cakes fame) when he was on Food Network. You literally cannot make a wrong choice with their menu.  Select whatever you crave, and prepare to be thrilled.
I've had the chicken and biscuits, and they are incredible.  Cooked to perfection, they fry the skin, but not the whole chicken. T hey use a thigh instead of a breast so it's incredibly moist.  Another great dish there is the mac & cheese, Fried chicken and mac & cheese are my two favorite foods so I always seek them out at a high quality place.  Since it's a rustic American-style place, I base my choices off of my favorite American flavors -- savory and cheese.  Haha.
You have to make a reservation generally because it's too popular now to walk in. But make the trip.  It's worth it. They are open for breakfast/brunch on the weekends and dinner every night.

Aida Bistro & Wine Bar in Columbia
Italian food is often a difficult dining out choice for me because I always feel I can make it better than wherever one would usually go for Italian food in Howard County.  Not with Aida Bistro & Wine Bar.  Everything is locally sourced and hand-made in the kitchen. I've been twice now; both times were excellent. They do a seasonal menu.  In the winter, I ordered a Lamb Shank Bolognese, and this past weekend we did an assortment of appetizers.  Their pork belly appetizer is great.  You think it's going to be somewhat chewy. But instead, it falls apart, and the crispy skin on the top makes it melt in your mouth.  They serve it as a thick square of pork belly rather than the traditional korean BBQ way.  It's almost like they braised the pork belly meat, but crisped the skin. It was awesome.   For dessert, their cannoli are outstanding, not to sweet, and they have a home-made shell.  The service is attentive and will offer their opinions if you ask.  Aida's is great for any occasion.

Pho Dat Tanh in Columbia
Good pho is hard to find.  Pho Dat Tanh in Columbia does exactly what you want.  No fuss, no frills. They have carry-out, but I would not recommend ordering the pho for carry-out.  It's not the same experience.  We always come here when we have a cold because their pho will clear your sinuses and provide that warm soup craving.  I always order the Pho Ga (Chicken Pho) instead of the Beef Pho. Mainly because I think it's healthier and it's a little less heavy. Their food is very reasonably priced and if you want pho, it's a great local source for it.
Trolling (sometimes on Tuesday) is my attempt at a series where readers share three things with other HowChow readers -- favorite restaurant dishes, food to buy, food experiences, etc.  Click here for all the Trolling posts.  Click here for the explanation and the rules.  Anyone can submit.


Anonymous said...

Two misspellings in one post. Google isn't hard. Pho Dat Thanh

The Unmanly Chef said...

Sorry in the rush of writing it, I must've made the mistake. Please oh powerful and glorious Anonymous forgive me for my sins.

Here is proof that I can spell

Pho Dat Thanh

HowChow said...

@Chef -- Don't rise to the bait.

Two spelling errors? That's all? Any long post with that few means that my wife was really busy and didn't have time to catch them. She finds mistakes all the time.

Let me explain again: This is a hobby blog. It's meant to tell people about cool food. It's meant to be a place that people can write and connect.

I welcome people who point out mistakes. Many people do it politely, and I fix mistakes (once I can get out of my office and its Explorer version so old that Blogger doesn't support it).

I don't worry about people who feel a need to add a dig. It's bad enough that I write a hobby blog. Thank heaven that I'm not a guy who gets off by being mean ... in an anonymous comment ... on a hobby blog.

Pho Dat I'm Thanh-k-ful.

Maryland McKennas said...

There are nicer ways to point out spelling errors without being snarky. As a Vietnamese person the best pho near Howard County is in Catonsville at Pho Pasteur. They have other noodle soups not offered in many other restaurants in the local area.

The Unmanly Chef said...

@Maryland, I had never heard of that place I will definitely have to go and try that place out. I'm in no way shape or form a Pho Aficionado, so I'll have to try Pho Pasteur

PSeto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PSeto said...

Pho Pasteur in Catonsville is good, but I prefer Pho Saigon around the corner. Their portions are bigger, broth tastes slightly better, and where else are you going to go to do a man vs pho challenge?!

I'd also recommend Yekta. Beef and ground beef kebobs are better prepared and juicier than Maiwand, but I prefer Maiwand's sides to Yekta. I know its comparing apples to oranges regarding the type of kebobs, but meat-for-meat, I'd go Yekta.

s. chou said...

I'm not the first Anon, but it seems like that first Anon misspelled the restaurant name too!
You're talking about Pho Dat Tranh in Columbia off Snowden Parkway, right?

I have yet to try Pho Pasteur, but Pho Saigon is pretty good. And An Loi is still my favorite, despite their recent changes in credit card/cash policy...