Friday, October 31, 2014

Pit Beef From Upslide Down Dave, And Taqueria Los Primos Gets A Profile In Howard Magazine

Pit beef from Upslide Down Dave
Next week, I'm going to try get myself back to U.S. 1 for a multi-food-truck lunch.

Allison Eatough has a nice article in Howard Magazine about Hugo and Manuel Sanchez and their food truck the Taqueria Los Primos in Jessup.

The Sanchezes are now on the top of my list -- along with Milita's Tacos on U.S. 1 near Rte 100 that people have talked up for years.  Eatough's profile outlines the Mexican food that they're cooking and the 14-hour days, seven days a week that they're working to run their business.

The U.S. 1 corridor is a great place to hit up roadside barbecue and Mexican.  Many of those trucks are stationary and reliable.  You get a picnic table and good grub. There are some other set-location trucks like Gourmet Grilling in Columbia, David Welch in Savage, and Thomas Waffles Saturdays in Clarksville.

But there are also some food trucks that work a moving circuit of lunch stops and special events. I got pit beef from Upslide Down Dave at the Maple Lawn fall festival.  Nice beef charred on the edge and tender inside, sliced to order from a grill station set up beside the truck.  For their regular business, they do sliders -- often in Maple Lawn.

A Korean food truck at the Maple Lawn fest
One of the best ways to check out the moving trucks in Twitter where they often post their locations. Upslide Down Dave, La Pearl Waffle and Cookie Ride all post regularly.

I'm sure there are more because there are also several newer barbecue trucks that I haven't tried yet.  Bullhead Pitbeef has been serving meat and tweeting both locations and photos of their new truck.  Madame BBQ is working out their truck with the health department.

I have posted about other trucks in the past.   I'm always impressed with folks who strike out on their own like the Sanchezes and the owners of these other trucks, and they really add zest to the dining scene -- whether you're dining on US. 1 or hitting up a truck at a festival.  I assume they're even-better for folks who regularly eat out lunch in Howard County and like some variety.

Does anyone track Howard County food trucks like the Washingtonian does on Food Truck Fiesta?  Are there any regular days at local businesses? I have seen that the University of Maryland has begun promoting a Thursday event in West Baltimore. Is there something like that at APL or any of the office parks?

If you run a food truck or would consider a food business, check out the county's idea of a food incubator.  They're currently asking people to take a survey about what help they could use.

Thanks for Jessie X for flagging the new food trucks on Twitter. Jessie does a great job promoting local businesses, local bloggers, and both on social media.

Howard County Weighing A Kitchen Incubator For New Good Businesses, Looking For Input

If you run a food business or are considering one, then take a few minutes to let Howard County know whether you could use the help of a centralized place to cook, store and meet other entrepreneurs.

The county is running a survey to gauge interest in a kitchen incubator.  Basically, an incubator would be a space that provides low-cost access to licensed kitchens and professional equipment so that people could start their own small businesses.

Navigating the health regulations are tough.  Getting space to cook and store ingredients can be tough.  The county is basically gauging whether there would be enough interest to warrant setting up some type of facility where people could cook and also get help with official processes.

You can answer the questions through Survey Monkey.  You can answer anonymously, but they do ask for contact information so that they could follow up or get back in touch if an incubator becomes a reality.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gourmet Ice Cream Now At Le Comptoir: Delicious Treat, Adult And Toddler Approved

Salted caramel ice cream at Le Comptoir
New parent lesson for the day: It can be hard to pull a toddler away from a pint of ice cream, especially if it is rich, intense caramel on a warm afternoon.

Lil' Chow threw one of his first full fusses Sunday when we tried to cap the pint of salted caramel ice cream at Le Comptoir on the Columbia lakefront.

That's house-made ice cream and sorbet that they're selling $6 for a shareable 13 ounces.Just $4 for a single serving.

Restaurant-quality dessert served in a plain paper pint. It is another reason to make the Columbia lakefront a destination for dates, family night and general fun

We had stumbled to the lakefront after an abbreviated nap.  I ran Lil' Chow up and down the hill outside Clyde's.  Then Mrs. HowChow wanted to check out Le Comptoir's ice cream. Salted caramel, spiced chocolate and two sorbets.  One minute we were wondering if a 17-month-old would like salted caramel.  The next, he was dragging Mrs. HowChow's hand to his mouth to get a steady stream of sweet.

I has to feed her from my spoon so she could keep up the baby bites.  We thought it was terrific ice cream.  Worth eating there or even stopping to carry a pint home.

I'm a huge fan of Le Comptoir -- both for the food and sweets and for the chance to enjoy the lakefront even if you don't want a full meal.  Clyde's, Sushi Sono, Tomato Palace and Petit Louis all serve fine lunches and dinners, but there is almost a city vibe to a coffee or dessert at Le Comptoir's cafe tables.  Go enjoy.

One question:  Does anyone know the story about why the lake path doesn't go all the way around the lake?  I'm suddenly focused on stroller paths.  The lakefront path just ends on the far side.  Why?  Part of Rouse's master plan?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Apple Picking And Pulled Pork -- It Would Be Tradition If It Weren't All New This Time

Apple picking at Larriland Farm
I have been to Larriland Farm in many roles, and you should really check it out this week as some gorgeous weather offers you apples, pumpkins and carnival fun.

Larriland -- in Woodbine -- a true Howard County gem.  Pick-your-own fruits and vegetables all summer, then a fall festival with apple fritters, hay rides, barbecue and more through this season.

We picked apples Saturday with a family who first met me at Larriland.  That was years ago when I went as "guy who Ms. HowChow is dating."  I have gone as a couple.  I have gone in groups.  I have gone as "guy who has bought a diamond ring."   I went Saturday as Dad.

Every trip was wonderful, and I can't suggest it enough. Sun-warmed peaches are so delicious that you should put them now on your calendar for next summer. But the pumpkin-apple season takes a splendid second place, and Larriland augments with all kinds of kid-friendly activities like animals to check out and a hay bale maze to run through. On weekends, they have hay rides and food like apple fritters and hamburgers.

Lil' Chow just wanted an apple. I have been serving him diced apple since he came home. A few times, I went wild by making two-bite apple sticks.  So this rookie Dad had to laugh when Lil' Chow took a small apple from a tree and proceeded to chomp off bites. Apparently not the choking hazard that I had expected -- although he did feed me the skin.  I think it is too tough for his teeth.

Sweet potato fries and pork at Town Grill
One lesson for 2014:  Larriland's pumpkins are growing on another farm that they manage.  It's on the right side of the road before the main Larriland complex.  So drive a little slow and turn right into that farm when you see a field of pumpkins.

After our apple picking, we squeezed into a table at Town Grill in Lisbon for a lunch.  The pulled pork sandwich continues to be one of my favorites, and Mrs. HowChow pulled off a new hit by ordering sweet potato fries.

Town Grill is just off the traffic circle between I-70 and Larriland.  It's a barbecue joint inside a gas station, and it's really worth checking out -- as I have written many times in the past.

One more lesson from our folly:  You don't need to squeeze into an indoor table like we did.  Town Grille has enclosed their patio with screens and a plastic that should keep it comfortable even with a slight chill in the air.  They have several tables out there, and we could have spread out.

Monday, October 27, 2014

David's Natural Market Appears To Be Getting Its New Home This Week In Wilde Lake's Center

David's Natural Market's new home in Wilde Lake
David's Natural Market is moving on up to the east side of the new Wilde Lake shopping center.

Moving day appears to be Thursday or Friday according to signs and talk at the organic grocery store in Columbia.

David's is a Howard County institution.  It is one of the centerpiece of the new Wilde Lake development. I hadn't been there in a while so I was stunned to see how much had been torn down and how much had been built.

The "old" market
The new store looks big, and I assume there have been all kinds of innovations in grocery store design since David's last renovated its old space.

From the signs, it looks like the Today's Catch seafood market will also get a new store in Wilde Lake. Does anyone know that timing or location? With Frank's closing in Jessup, Today's Catch is one of the few independent seafood options.

Congrats to David's. Lil' Chow and I came through for miso, and they were preparing for the move. I assume the Wegmans and Whole Foods have shaken up the local organic chains -- David's in Columbia, Roots in Clarksville, and Mom's in Jessup -- and I would love to see them all succeed.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Beer Spots Expanding From Howard County East

The beer expansion continues -- this time out of Howard County into the east.

Look for a new spot from the Alehouse Columbia folks to soft open in Anne Arundel County as early as this weekend.  I don't know the exact place.  I got a nice tip, and I have this new reason why I can't track down all the details.  I'm hoping someone will add the address as a comment below.

Also, the Frisco Tap House folks are opening a second location in Gambrills.  It's the Village at Waugh Chapel development, according to a report in the Capital Gazette.  I haven't blogged about Frisco in years, but it's a really great spot -- one of the original locations for craft beers in Howard County.  The Columbia location is definitely worth checking out for beer and food.  The latest talk was that the Gambrills location is aiming to open in November.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The HowChow Blog Now Has Competition -- A Small Body Whose Gravity Will Change Our Orbit

And the blog now has competition
A blog like HowChow is brilliantly fun, wonderfully rewarding, and shockingly time-consuming to maintain and keep in working condition.

A few weeks ago, I might have continued that paragraph with "like a baby."

But the HowChows now have a baby, and I'm no longer so cavalier about comparing anything to the fun, the rewards, or the time consumption of a two-foot-tall human.

Oh, yes.  Two-feet tall.  We didn't start with one of those beginner babies who just sit around.  Lil' Chow came home with us on Friday from Korea.  We are complete beginners, but Lil' Chow is a veteran with 17 months of experience, a taste for noodles, and a shocking burst of speed at short distances.

Obviously, the blog will change. Mrs. HowChow and I love the writing and the connections.  A bunch of local bloggers were nice enough to guest post for one of the weeks when we were travelling.  But Lil' Chow will certainly change our life -- how often we eat out, how often I post, how quickly I can respond to emails.

I hope to keep posting local food news and local food recommendations.  I hope folks will continue to be amused.  I considered just adding a toddler to our posts and letting folks figure it out.  But Lil' Chow seems worth a post on his own.  We will see where this goes from here.

Thanks agin to Lisbeth, Sara, Lisa and the Unmanly Chef who guest-posted last week to help cover our trip to Korea.  Check out their posts of Korean soup, eating with toddlers, Caspian Market, and cooking with kids if you didn't have a chance.  I giggled as the "eating with toddlers" post went up on our first full day with Lil' Chow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Your Next New Food: Spicy Mysore Dosa At Mango Grove Brings Heat To The Crunch

Mysore dosa at Mango Grove
The next new food that you should try are dosas -- the dish that brings the crunch of a crepe and the flavors of Indian food.

I first ate dosas at Mango Grove here in Columbia.  They're a southern Indian dish, so they're not ubiquitous at restaurants that do northern Indian tandoori dishes.

But they're completely innocuous and accessible to anyone.  The regular masala dosa is a platter-sized crepe rolled around a filling of mashed potatoes.  You break off pieces of dosa and scoop up the spiced potatoes inside.  You dip them in the chutney and the vegetable soup served alongside.  It's filling, but light.  It's crunchy.  It's vegetarian, so you don't need to worry about surprise ingredients.

Now, we have branched into spicy dosas like the mysore dosa at Mango Grove.  it's a regular dosa with the inside brushed with a spicy red sauce.  That's real heat, although nothing fiery like spicy Thai or Tandoor Grill's chili naan.  It's a great contrast with lentils or the jackfruit dish called kathal korma.

I recommend the broad menu at Mango Grove.  They have two kitchens, one veg and one non-veg.   Plus, they have a dosa station right at the entrance where you can watch a chef pour batter and peel off crispy crepes.  Consider a table with a dosa, some Indian curries, and one of the Chinese-Indian specialities.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Asian Court's Dim Sum Brings Us Back, Makes Me Wonder What To Order On A Dinner Visit

Dim sum at Asian Court
The rolling carts at Asian Court bring around my favorite brunch in Howard County.  Now, I'm wondering what to check out at night.

With the loss of our beloved Red Pearl two years ago, Asian Court in Ellicott City is the dim sum options for Howard County.  That's not too shabby since it is probably the best dim sum option in the Baltimore region.

They do a good job, and they attract a crowd that looks like they know dim sum.  We work through dumplings, sticky rice, steamed pork buns, Chinese broccoli and another half-dozen standards.  I am still trying to figure out all the other options -- like soups, maybe congee, and the noodles dishes that I didn't see until I was full.

On our last trip, we brought my parents and filled a table with terrific items.  I love all the dumplings, especially the shrimp shu mai with sweet huge shrimp in a translucent wrapper.  I always order a vegetable plate to balance out the meat and dough.  The only disappointment were spare ribs that were just too dried and not flavorful enough.  I wish we had ordered the duck or roast pork instead.
Required dessert: Sesame balls

Can anyone suggest dishes to order off Asian Court's regular menu?

I have never eat there for dinner, but the quality of the dim sum -- and the flow of Chinese spoken by diners -- suggests that Asian Court should have something interesting on its regular menu.  Anything authentic?  Anything delicious?  I'd love any recommendations.

If you go for dim sum, don't be frightened away by a line at the entrance.  Asian Court is big, and it moves parties along.  No one studies the menu at dim sum.  They eat right away.  They turn tables.  On our last visit, the entry was packed, but we sat in 10-15 minutes.  You eat almost immediately.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How To Make A Young Chef! Lisa's Girls Go From Picky To Primary Producers In The Kitchen

Acorn squash!!
The only thing better than having fun in the kitchen is teaching other folks to have fun there themselves.

Lisa blogs at Lisa B, Mrs. S about a range of life -- usually about Howard County, sometimes about food.  She has a daughter with a love of composting, always close to my heart, and she has great posts about fun that she has had with her kids around here.

This is part of a series of guest posts by Howard County bloggers.  For local food blogs, check out the HocoBlogs food page.

Lisa has a family of good eaters, and they're big on Gorman Farm's CSA and local shopping.  And now she is building an entire house of chefs as well -- with her daughters cooking up dinner on their own:
Roots Market posted picture of parsnips on Facebook, and that’s all it took for me to realize how much my kids have grown to become the foodies they are today.

When they were witty bitty, they were pretty picky. Not extremely picky, just normal picky, but it was a real drag nonetheless. I can’t speak for fathers or even for all mothers, but I do know I’m not alone in having physical pain and distress at the prospect of my child going underfed. So it would make me quite cranky when a five-year-old Prima would crinkle her nose at the dinner I made, and it would push my last button when a three-year-old Seconda gagged at the table.

I’m so glad those days are over.

The turning point, I think, began with parsnips. Jamie Oliver made herby pork chops with parsnips, apples, and onions on a Food Network show. Oh my goodness. As if his adorable accent hadn’t already won me over, the dish looked amazing. I believed I could smell it through the TV. I made it the next night, having never even seen a parsnip before that show.

A few weeks earlier, I had an idea about how to put the nose-crinkling, toddler-gagging, Mama-stressing dinner behavior to an end. You see, I trusted the experts that said young children will, on balance, not over-eat nor under-eat. I trusted that a night without dinner would not cause them harm, but all my angst and lost patience might put us all in a bad place. So, I wondered what would happen if I kept on cooking what I cooked and just served the kids a spoonful of each dish. That’s it, a teaspoonful of each food would be required, then they could have as much of only the things they liked from the table as they wanted. We began with herby pork chops with parsnips.

Hey Mikey! They liked it!

Fast forward seven years and my children - Prima, Seconda, and Terza - have incredible palates. Recently, they’ve stepped up their game by taking on the cooking duties. Prima, especially, loves to play a version of Chopped on the weekends. Weeknights are full of homework and activities, so we need dinner to be a sure-thing at a sure-time. Last night, Prima and Terza rose to that occasion with a delicious meal of chicken sausage, sautéed greens, and baked acorn squash.

If you’re like us and belong to a local CSA, then you know that this is greens season again. Collards and kale are staples, but the Gorman Farm CSA to which we belong grows other interesting greens, as well. Last night, Prima followed my stand-by greens recipe, but added her own twist. She softened some yellow onions in olive oil over medium heat before adding the chopped pac choi and tat soi from our CSA share. When I noticed the volume of greens was a little low for our family of five, she remembered the sweet potato leaves I cooked up last week. A little chicken broth, a sprinkle of steak rub and a few minutes later we were dining on delicious greens.

Terza used Martha Stewart’s classic Baked Acorn Squash recipe to cook the squash (also from Gorman Farm). I sliced it up, then she took it from there. Butter, salt, pepper, brown sugar, 350-degrees and 15 minutes was all it took. 
You may be wondering where the rest of us were in all this. Seconda was doing homework, I was setting up computers for the kids’ first session of online language classes, and The Man of the House was running Terza back and forth between home and dance. We didn’t sit down to eat as a family, but cooking together, even in the jumbled way we did that night, still made it feel like a Family Dinner, which tastes better than frozen pizza any night.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Chef Goes Shopping: Finding Persian Delicacies In Caspian Market On Rte 40

As Bill Parcells once said, "They want you to cook the dinner -- at least they should let you shop for the groceries."

The Unmanly Chef blog has been a new, steady source for posts about cooking, especially Persian food.  But the local blogger offered to shop for some groceries at Caspian Supermarket on Rte 40 in Ellicott City -- and to make practical suggestions about things that you could check out in the store or at Pars Market in Columbia.

This is part of a series of guest posts by some new Howard County bloggers.  For local food blogs, check out the HocoBlogs food page.

Caspian is on the south side of Rte 40 just behind the Burger King and Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt.  As an Iranian-American and Howard County local, the Unmanly Chef frequently shops there for essentials of Persian cuisine.  I have been a few times for past posts on saffron ice cream and other delicious items, but the Unmanly Chef offers a comprehensive tour of items that you could ask about there and then cook using recipes on his blog:
The owners of Caspian, Ali Nazarian & Roya Radfar, are a husband and wife that have been fixtures in the local Iranian American community since they opened in 2006.
An international grocery store can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know what is what in the store. I’m here to give you a nice guide from the Persian perspective. 
Roya Radfar or “Roya Khanoom” as I call her was gracious enough to give me a tour as she highlighted items that many of her non-Persian customers often miss.   They are always willing to help you should you have any questions.
Butcher Shop: Caspian has halal lamb, organic beef, and organic chicken. They will also do custom ground blends for you, if you want to make a special kofte or Koobideh kabob they will blend lamb and ground beef for you. I highly recommend using them for any lamb dish you plan on doing.  (I went to get some lamb shanks and tongues.)
Breads: Persian breads are underrated; they go way beyond your standard pita (which isn’t Persian at all) or naan (Indian/Pakistani). I really recommend trying some of their Barbari bread or Lavash. And if they have some in stock, Sangak Bread (Noon-e-Sangak in Farsi, meaning bread of little stones as it is prepared on little pebbles). 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Eating With Toddlers: Sara Picks Good Places For Good Food; A Call For Your Suggestions

Jason's Deli -- with toddler fingers
It's shocking how little experience that I have eating with children.  That's why Sara has stepped in for a guest post to kick of talk about toddler eating.

This is part of a series of guest posts by Howard County bloggers.  For local food blogs, check out the HocoBlogs food page.

Sara blogs at Sunshine Whispers, and she mixes posts on religion, food, kids' activities and more.  She has even created a resource page with links to all kids of toddler activities.  She also plays violin in the Columbia Orchestra.  That community group has its first concert of the season on October 11, and Sara will both play and post about the group as the season unfolds.

But Sara is here now for food. Specifically, her recommendations about good places to take toddlers for good food.  Sara and I want your recommendations as well.  She is experienced enough to mix her recommendations with delicious food, healthy options, and extras like table service and crayons.

Take it away Sara:
It can be incredibly traumatic to go to a restaurant with a toddler. Gone are the days when baby would sleep in the carrier while Mom and Dad enjoyed a nice quiet meal out. Gone are the days when baby was content to sit in a high chair, falling for the old ‘airplane in the hangar’ trick. Nope, you are in the jungle now Mom and Dad. At the crossroads of ‘I want to do it!’ and ‘I’m done. Get me out of here!’ Proceed with caution. Fortunately, there are a few restaurants in Howard County that could be considered ‘safe zones.’ Restaurants that provide healthy, tasty menus for both parents and toddlers are essential. Restaurants that include some added ‘nice touches’ are amazing. 
Here is a list of my top picks for toddler-friendly restaurants in Howard County: 
Jason’s Deli: 8874 McGaw Road, Columbia, MD (right across from Wegmans),
As a Mom, I cannot say enough good things about Jason’s Deli. First of all, everything on their menu is free of trans-fat and high fructose corn syrup. This is a chain but the menu options are surprisingly healthy, including a healthy, all-you-can-eat salad bar. There are plenty of kid friendly options, and everyone gets ice cream at the end of the meal. The best part for families with toddlers? Servers bring the food to you. 
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers: 8640 Snowden River Parkway, Columbia, MD,
I did an unscientific survey of parents and Red Robin was a consistent winner in the ‘good for toddler’ category. The kid menu has many picky eater pleasers like grilled cheese, pizza, and mac ‘n cheese. Kids get crayons while you wait and seriously, this is a family favorite. That means it is loud… so your little firecracker can be loud too! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cold Soup For You: Naeng Myun To Remember Next Summer At Bu Du Mak And Other Spots

Naeng myun -- cold buckwheat noodle soup -- at Bu Du Mak in Hanoori Town
I'm out of season, but I can't wait for the summer heat to talk up one of our discoveries of 2014.

One basic Korean dish is a cold buckwheat noodle soup called naeng myun that makes a terrific entry into Korean cuisine or a new frontier for folks who already love the barbecue and tofu soups.

This is part of a series of guest posts by Howard County bloggers.  For local food blogs, check out the HocoBlogs food page.

Lisbeth of the Lisbeth Eats blog was nice enough to talk up naeng myun -- specifically the soup at one of the restaurants in the Hanoori Town food court area down from H Mart in Catonsville.  That's Bu Du Mak, the restaurant just to the left as you walk into the Hanoori Town area and right next to the new Hangari Noodle.  Prices start at $9 for the basic bowls or $12 for samples of two varieties.

Naeng myun is often a great summer food.  But you could follow Lisbeth's advice and eat off-season.  We ordered naeng myun last month with barbecue at Honey Pig, and I'll post about that meal later:
Every summer there are two dishes that I just have to have, Maryland crabs and naeng myun.  And when I say I have to have it, I’m talking multiple times.  Maryland crabs are world famous!  But what in the world is naeng myun?
Naeng myun is a Korean cold buckwheat noodle dish and is typically served in two styles, as Mool Naeng Myun or Bibim Naeng Myun. 
Mool Naeng Myun literally means ‘water cold noodles.’  This version is served in a cold broth made from beef or Dong Chi Mi (white radish water kimchi) and topped with sliced pickled radish, julienne cucumbers, sliced pear, sliced boiled beef brisket and a hard boiled egg.  The soup is often slushy or served with ice cubes.  You adjust the seasoning of the broth with vinegar, Korean style hot mustard or mustard oil before eating.  
Bibim means ‘mixed,’ like in bibimbop. W ith this version the cold buckwheat noodles are topped with the same ingredients, but instead of being served in a cold broth, it is served with a spicy go chu jang, Korean red-pepper-paste-based sauce that you mix together with the noodles.  Sure does sound strange, doesn’t it?  I agree that it does, but it really is quite delicious. 
I mean, who would’ve thought kimchi, a super stinky fermented Korean pickled cabbage, would be so popular and widely accepted around the world. They even offer four different varieties of kimchi on the pickle bar in Whole Foods.  So don’t be afraid to try out naeng myun  no matter how strange it sounds. 
Mool naeng myun

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Shanty Grille Closing At New Year's

The Shanty Grille in Ellicott City is closing at the end of the year.  The family who runs the restaurant will focus on the Sea King and Pig Pickers takeouts.  They cater and can do Shanty Grille menu items if you want. See their post --

Friday, October 10, 2014

Shrimp At Shin Chon: Grill Some Seafood Along With Your Meat At One Of My Favorite Places

Shrimp on the grill at Shin Chon Garden
You can never go wrong with grilling your own meats at Shin Chon Garden, but there are variations for regulars or seafood lovers at Korean barbecue.

Shrimp -- either mild or spicy -- are served in a tin-foil tray and then cooked in a bubbling sauce.  This has always been one of the choices on Shin Chon's barbecue menu, but we hadn't tried it even after years of ordering beef and pork.  We went a few months ago to celebrate a birthday, and the table of Shin Chon regulars wanted to branch out -- but didn't want to try octopus.

The shrimp turned out to be a terrific alternative.  Our spicy order had some serious kick, and most of the flavor came from the red-pepper-heavy sauce.

That's a bright, peppy flavor after we and friends had knocked off orders of brisket and pork belly.  We wrapped some shrimp in the same lettuce wraps that are part of Korean BBQ 101.  Then I just snatched shrimp with chopsticks and ate them alone.

Shin Chon is one of my top restaurants in Howard County.  I love the food, and I love the atmosphere.  It's incredibly social to sit with your friends and a table covered with panchan and barbecue that you can sample at will.  I posted Korean BBQ 101 instructions so that anyone can try.  Now the shrimp lets you try even more.

I still want to try the octopus and some other dishes that Andrew Zimmern and Richard Gorelick explored.  Although that sounds exotic, I promise that Korean is really accessible -- especially because you get a table of dishes that you can explore.  There are options for all kinds of palates  including vegetarians, although I think Shin Chon will be most-exciting to folks with some love for meat and spice.  Check out all the HowChow posts about Shin Chon.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Wegmans' Secret Service: They'll Count Coins

Wegmans coin-counting machine in the self-checkout
Wegmans food gives me a ton of reasons to shop there, but I also love that they provide a secret service:  They'll count your coins.

It's not that people will count your coins.  It's the self-checkout machines.  Unlike most similar machines, these just have a bowl where you can pour loose change.  The machine sorts them into pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.  No service charge.  No hassle pushing them coin-by-coin into a slot.

This may mean nothing to many people, but it can be great if you dump your change in a bowl like I do each night.  I don't want to pay a fee to CoinStar, and I cringe every time that I stall an entire line by trying to pay a human cashier with piles of dimes and nickels.

The solution:  I carry a bunch of coins into Wegmans and grab an item or two off the shelves.  Then a self-check by pouring all my change into the machine.  Seven dollars, 10 dollars, even more, they just get swallowed up, automatically counted, and then credited against my purchase.  I close out with a credit card or a few dollar bills.  At most, I trade a pocket heavy with metal for a few coins.

Then I wheel back into the store -- with my purchases bagged with the receipt -- lighter and a few dollars ahead of the game.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Salmon-Skin Rolls: Voted Least Likely To Be A HowChow Favorite, But Now A Crunchy Contrast

Salmon skin roll at Sushi Sono
Who would have ever expected to write rhapsodically about eating fish skin?

It sounds like a joke, but the salmon skin roll has become one of our favorites since I learned about them from a friend.

Almost every sushi restaurant offers their variation on this cooked roll.  Thin pieces of salmon skin with a little attached fish, broiled until crisp and then rolled sometimes with vegetables and the standard nori and rice.

Done right, it's a contrast with regular sushi rolls -- crunch and an unctuous char among dishes that can have a similar texture of rice-fish-nori-rice-fish-nori.  I think we tend to order salmon skin rolls when we have a few people around the table.  One or two pieces punctuate a meal.  We don't need half of the rolls to have skin.

Over the winter, we discovered that Sushi Sono does an exceptional salmon skin roll.  More meat than many other variations and cooked to the precise point where the skin crunches, but hasn't burned.  That version may even be better than our prior favorite at Yama Sushi in Ellicott City.

If you're looking for something fun, I really suggest getting 6-10 people together for one of the private rooms at Sushi Sono or Sushi King.  They both offer special tables where you sit on benches in an enclosed space.  Exotic fun for adults -- and surprising kid-friendly because we have had toddlers wander around the room without bothering anyone outside.  Check out my post about the Sushi Sono room, and call either place to reserve the roms.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sometimes You Don't Know When A New Era Of Life Is About To Begin; But Then Again . . .

Mexican Pizza
I look back now at the "Mexican pizza" and realize that it was the start of my fun with cooking.

I had cooked before.  My mother still talks about the summer when I came home from college and cooked dinner every night.  But it was the Miami Herald's recipe for Mexican pizza that helped set me off on years of food exploration.

This was more than 20 years ago.  Cumin was exotic.  Dieters wanted carbs.  And Macy's sold pizza stones, but no one had imagined wood-fired ovens.

I moved into my first apartment and learned to cook solo froSundays at Moosewood Restaurant and the Herald's food section.  The food section editor was really old.  She was probably 35.  She came through our bureau sometimes, but only talked to her friends among the editors.  Once, I asked her a question.  She was so dismissive that the memory surfaced regularly later when I had to decide whether to be distant or friendly to younger folks.

But she did print the recipe for Mexican pizza.  Basically pizza with a sauce made of beans, oil, cumin, cilantro and salsa.  Top with cheddar.  It was completely exotic, and, in an era when my paycheck didn't justify much meat, it was a staple.  Eaten month after month for my own dinner.  Taken as leftovers to work.  Served the sauce with nacho chips at the first parties that I hosted.  Brought as two trays of mini-pizzas to a friend's event to the first time that I remember people being actually impressed.

It's still a great recipe.  Or at least a great idea because you can adjust any ratio.  Honestly, I don't make anything today like the recipe from 1992.  Last time, I got inspired on a trip to Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia, and I snapped up ingredients -- cilantro, beans, cumin, canned chipotle peppers.  I had tomatoes that I canned from Larriland.

But it really marks out an era.  Black bean pizza was on the menu for my first real independence.  Out of college.  Cashing a paycheck.  Paying my own bills.  Back then, it was just something that I ate.  Now, I realize it was a real start of an exploration of food as ran through years in the kitchen and years of this blog.

Sometimes you don't know when a new era of your life is about to begin.  And, then again, sometimes you do.

Mexican Pizza 2.0
The beauty of this recipe is that you can adjust the flavors.  The original recipe just called for salsa.  That works, but I have made fresh salsas by pulsing my own canned tomatoes with other ingredients.  You use the same blender it doesn't add to the clean up.  As a bonus, the black bean sauce is a spectacular dip.  It's beans and vegetables.  You could eat the whole bowl and be healthy.  Great with chips at a party or watching a game.

A pizza dough

Black Bean Sauce Ingredients
1 can of black beans, drained
1/2 to 1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 jalapeño or chipotle pepper, seeded if you use a jalapeño
1-2 tsp or more olive oil (unless used to make a fresh salsa)
1/4 cup or more cilantro (unless used to make a fresh salsa)
1/4 to 1/2 cup or more salsa or the fresh ingredients below
1/4 to 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
shredded cheddar cheese to taste
chopped cilantro to garnish

Fresh Salsa Alternative Ingredients
1/2 cup or more canned tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup or more cilantro
1/4 cup or more chopped onions
the oil from above

1) Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Spread out your dough and bake it.  A pizza stone is ideal, but a cookie tray works.  Bake it until it begins to brown.  You want a crisp dough before you pour on the toppings.

2) If you're making the fresh salsa, put the ingredients in a blender and pulse until chopped.  Add more vegetables according to your taste.  I like strong flavors with the cilantro and onion.  But don't puree smooth.

3) Put half of the black beans in a blender with the cumin, pepper, olive oil, half the cilantro, and half the salsa.  Puree until smooth.  Adjust the flavors by adding spices or vegetables.  Add the remaining beans and pulse once or twice.  You want a chunky texture.  Stir in the remaining salsa.

4) Spread the black bean sauce onto your partially-based pizza.  You may have extra.  It makes a great dip.  Sprinkle chopped onion and cheddar cheese.

5) Return the pizza to the oven and bake until the cheese melts and the toppings head through.  Remove.  Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Short Rib Pastrami At Whole Foods: House-Smoked Beef & Turkey Lured Me To Sandwiches

Short rib pastrami at Whole Foods
I'm still looking for the hidden gems at Whole Foods, and I'm trying to work the edge of store -- produce, cheeses, fish, and the like.

Generally, I'm not big on sandwiches, but the deli has me packing lunch with meats that they smoke and slice in house.  Smoked turkey is moist and full of flavor, and it's even better paired half-and-half with short rib pastrami.

I'd never heard of that before.  Look in the deli case.  The have pieces of smoked short rib.  Presumably, they brine and smoke the cut in the way that brisket or beef round becomes your normal pastrami.

The smoke amazes me.  A sandwich of smoked turkey and short rib pastrami tastes nothing like your generic sandwich.  The short rib is fatty.  I'm surprised how much I enjoy the meat because I normally ask for lean corned beef or pastrami.  But it's a dry texture, and the richness pairs nicely with turkey slices.  They both have that smokey flavor and a slightly crunchy edge.  Less than a quarter pound of meat has a "big sandwich" flavor.

What else have people discovered at the Whole Foods?  The fresh-squeezed orange juice is criminally expensive, but it's spectacularly delicious.  I enjoyed some fresh ravioli, and I'm very happy with all the fruit and vegetables that I've bought.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hang Ari Noodle Company Bringing Hand-Cut Noodles To Catonsville As Early As This Weekend

Hang Ari Noodle Company chef rolling out the noodles
Back with more news about Hang Ari Noodle Company, the new restaurant bringing hand-pulled noodles to Catonsville from Los Angeles and opening as early as this weekend

Lisbeth of the Lisbeth Eats blog had sent me a report that I posted last month.  Now, she is back with the name -- Hang Ari Noodle Company -- and some details about the house-made noodles at the center of the new place.  This will open in Hanoori Town, the cluster of restaurants a few doors down from the H Mart in Catonsville.

(Update:  I've gone back and forth on the capitalization of the restaurant -- Hangari or Hang Ari.  Either option is acceptable coming over from the Korean, but I'm trying to use Hang Ari because that is printed on their business cards.)

Lisbeth reports that the owner/chef has been in the restaurant business for more than 20 years in LA.  The new Hang Ari Noodle follows the concept of his current LA restaurant -- focusing on two types of noodles and serving them in a variety of broths and sauces.  This sounds like a cool addition to the Rte 40 corridor -- noodles that are rolled, cut and boiled only after you order.

As I hear (not from Lisbeth), the soft opening will be Friday.  So watch for a full opening as early as this weekend.

Please don't hold me to consistent Korean spelling.  Transliteration of Korean words can lead to multiple spellings.  Lisbeth and I use different versions at different times.  Just check out what she says:
The owner/chef owned and operated Curry Hyang in Korea Town in LA, a popular Japanese restaurant specializing in curry and Japanese style noodles. After many years there, he sold the business and went on to open a kalgooksoo restaurant, with a business partner, in Korea Town called “Hang Ari Kalgooksoo.” 
This talented chef used the training he acquired in Korea under veteran chefs from historically famous kalgooksoo restaurants to great success. Right now, The Korean Daily (Joong Ang Ilbo) newspaper in LA named Hangari Kalgooksoo as the busiest restaurant in LA with the longest lines. 
Photo from the tasting, I think
The chef is bringing the same concept to the East Coast with his new restaurant, Hang Ari Noodle Company. The restaurant will feature two distinct categories of noodle dishes – kalgooksoo and Mil Myun. 
Kalgooksoo (literally “knife noodle”) is a noodle soup that is made using fresh hand-cut wheat flour noodles. It is served in large bowls of delicious broth and topped with garnishes that enhance the dish. The kalgooksoo menu will feature various flavor options including chicken, clam, seafood, kimchi and beef.
Mil Myun is similar to naeng myun (literally “cold noodle”), but the incredibly thin noodles are made using the same dough used for kalgooksoo  The mil myun menu will feature various options such as Mul Mil Myun (noodles in a chilled broth), Bibim
Mil Myun (noodles in a spicy sauce), Kimchi Mil Myun and Hong Uh (Skate) Mil Myun. 
A unique business strategy that the chef is taking will be offering customers a traditional Korean appetizer of bori bop (brown rice), dwen jang (Bean Paste) and yul moo  kimchi (young radish stem kimchi) free of charge with each order of noodles.  Because the noodles will be rolled out, cut and boiled fresh to order, the appetizer will keep customers happy while they wait for their food. 
Hang Ari  Noodle Company is bringing a new concept to the area that I’m sure will be a hit! Koreans in the area with be delighted to finally have a kalgooksoo and mil myun speciality restaurant open in Maryland. And for non-Koreans, this restaurant will be a great new cuisine to try.  They are set to open very soon, with a tentative date for this weekend. 
I heard they had a secret tasting with the chef’s family over the weekend and everyone loved it.  I personally can’t wait to try their clam kalgooksoo!
For more about the LA restaurant and this cuisine, check out the One More Bite blog and Yelp reviews.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sonic Says It Will Open Oct. 16 In Ellicott City

The new Sonic on Rte 40 in Ellicott City will open on October 16, according to a Facebook post spotted by Adam.

This is on Rte 40 west of Rte 29.  It's definitely a joint with a loyal following.  Adam says he will aim for opening day:
I plan to be there. It's overrated, yes, but it's been a few years since I reminded myself of that.  Where else are you going to get a corn dog, tots, and a shake all at the same time without ever leaving for car?
The Sonic has been two-and-a-half years in the making.  The first report was May 2012 by Wordbones.  It may be a while before I can try the shakes -- which Mrs. HowChow says are the highlight -- but I'll pour a little out for Wordbones.