Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Jolly Pig Will Make You Happy, Reports Jeff As We Motor On With His Food Truck Series

Tacos from The Jolly Pig truck
Tacos seem to be the heart-and-soul of the current food truck revival -- traditional, Korean, exotic, almost any variety of meats that you can put inside a tortilla.

Jeff Givens of Southern Skies Coffee Roasters continues his guest series posting about food trucks that hit up Howard County, including the National Business Park when he was working there.  Today's, it's the Jolly Pig truck:
The Calwells
Tad and Joann Calwell offer a variety of tacos with most of them using inspiration from flavors worldwide. When they first began, they started with Korean-style tacos. They now offer around 10 varieties at any one time, with others offered on a seasonal basis.

Like many other food truck operators, Joann and her husband Tad didn't start out in the restaurant industry.  hey used to be in the mortgage business as title searchers, but when the mortgage crisis hit, they decided to start a food truck.  Joann had always thrown big parties for her family and friends so preparing food and hosting meals came naturally.  They searched around for more than a year to find the perfect truck and opened for business in early 2012.  By August of that year, they had already garnered enough recognition to be rated one of the top 10 food trucks in Baltimore by the Baltimore Sun.

Joann is always experimenting with new flavors and intimated to me that she’s developing a Moroccan-spiced taco right now.

I had the Korean, the al pastor and the Thai tacos. Wrapped in a flour tortilla, the ingredients were very fresh, and the flavor profiles captured the essence of their inspiration.
As always, Twitter and Facebook are the best way to track these trucks.  You can see when the Jolly Pig will be near you by watching its Twitter feed.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Blue Sand Seafood & Grill Brings A Seafood Riff To Korean Food On Rte 40: Raw, Grilled, Soup

Seafood dolset
As I'm getting better at understanding Korean food, I feel like the Korean food is getting better in Ellicott City.

The newest find:  Blue Sand Seafood and Grill, which opened in the back of the Bethany 40 shopping center and served a delicious dinner -- fresh, flavorful seafood that tasted authentic, but would also welcome folks looking to try Korean food.

Now, it's just one meal.  But I'm incredibly optimistic.  We had a kid-friendly noodle soup, grilled fish and a seafood rice bowl.  Everyone left happy, even though we hadn't touched the flashy stuff at the heart of the menu.

I say flashy stuff because the restaurant and the menu put the sushi bar and the enormous platters front and center.  We watched hand rolls go past us.  We saw enormous platters -- primarily of sashimi on the night that we visited, but ranging from broiled fish to shellfish to thin-sliced beef on the menu.

Grilled mackerel
We started simple.  Grilled mackerel, seaweed noodle soup, and a dolset seafood.  The dolset is a hot stone bowl filled with rice, vegetables, squid and a shrimp.  This is an ocean version of the dolset bi bim bap that I recommend in my Korean 101 post.

This was really good food.  Mackerel comes split and grilled.  The meat is firm and meaty.  The flavor a step stronger than salmon, but that keeps the meat moist even cooked through.  We pulled the backbone and the fish came off in chunks even with chop sticks.

We alternated with the seafood dolset.  I'm a huge fan of squid, and this was cooked perfectly, firm but not chewy.  Some greens, scallions and other vegetables made the bowl filling but light.  I added some of the spicy sauce served with the dolset, maybe a tablespoon too much for Mrs. HowChow.

In contrast, Blue Sand's seaweed soup was mild.  It was perfect for Lil' Chow, who loves soup, noodles and seaweed.  I'd recommend it, although I may stick him with miso next time and try the spicy seafood noodle soup myself.

I'd actually love advice on other things to order.  I have posted many times about Korean food, but I'm an amateur.  Can anyone leave a comment with suggestions for Blue Sand or for Korean seafood in general?  A group could have a ball ordering those platters or maybe filling a table with grilled fish, soup, a dolset and some sushi.  I also see that Blue Sands could be a spot for people with adventurous tastes like sea squirt and live sashimi.

But I'd recommend our three dishes even for someone just learning about Korean food.  Or consider swapping out the soup for a sushi order or hwae dup bap -- a rice and sashimi mixture that I posted about last year.  That's all accessible and obvious.  Plus, you'll get a good introduction, especially because the small dishes served with the meal -- called panchan -- were really good.  The cabbage kimchi had a crunchy and a warm, but not sour flavor.  The stuffed cucumber kimchi was crisp and refreshing, a terrific taste after some grilled mackerel.

"Push button" -- Lil' Chow
If you work near Rte 40, Blue Sand offers several lunch specials for $11-14, including bento boxes headlined by sashimi, sushi, kalbi and salmon.  Blue Sand replaced the Kimco Seafood restaurant, which I don't remember having as an interesting or as tasty a menu.

If you go to Blue Sands, look for the numbered button near your table.  Many are on the walls at Blue Sands, but they can be on the table at other restaurants.  When you want something, push the button.  Often, the staff in a Korean restaurant doesn't check back with a table.  They wait for a ring, then come to assist.

Don't seat your children next to the button.  Lil' Chow spent a significant part of our meal alternating between singing "ding dong, ding dong" and asking me to push the button.  I was just glad it was out of his reach.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Roots Celebrating A Renovated Grocery -- Specials, Samples To Sell My Wife Spices

La Pasta's ravioli pan-fried by Mrs. HowChow
Roots Market in Clarksville is celebrated a renovated store with a "re-grand opening" that runs all week.

They packed the place with specials and samples, reports Mrs. HowChow.  She often jokes that she'll buy anything that she samples.  Yesterday, it was pan-fried ravioli made by La Pasta in Silver Spring.

Her shopping list
Mrs. HowChow watched a demonstration, crunched some ravioli and came with pasta, garlic sauce and rosemary.  We chowed for dinner last night -- double-chowed because I had also picked up a pizza dough with Lil' Chow as we wandered around after a long stint at the Korean Society of Maryland festival.

Roots has grown on Mrs. HowChow.  She didn't feel it when we first started hanging around Clarksville.  Mostly, she went for Roots' guacamole.  But now she loves it for snacks, drinks, fruit and prepared foods. 

I think Roots does a really nice job.  We seem to end up at Whole Foods often these days, often because we love the lakefront and grass to run Lil' Chow.  But I  enjoy Roots for everything that Mrs. HowChow buys plus produce, cheeses, and interesting brands of crackers, spreads, etc.  When I need help on dinner, I need to think more about Roots' expanded prepared foods.  Anyone in the western part of the county should give the store a shot.

Click here for all of the Roots specials that run through September 27.  They also posted the list of samples and tastings, which run all week but group today and next weekend.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Drive-Through Starbucks Has Opened On Rte 108; Now You Don't Have To Stop For Caffeine

A drive-through Starbucks has open on Rte 108 near Coal Fire Pizza in Columbia.

(This post has been updated early Thursday morning with photos.)

Dave and I were emailing about the Starbucks in the Shipley's Grant development.  This is on Rte 108 just west of Snowden River Parkway and just off Rte 100.  Earlier in the week, there were signs that said the Starbucks would move across the parking lot to a new space with a drive-through.  Now, it looks like coffee is being poured.

Dave's wife now has a standing job offer to be the nighttime photographer for the HowChow blog.  She stopped last night after I posted and snapped a few shots.  Dave and I were both properly impressed:
I’ll give credit to my wife, she happened to be driving back late tonight and I asked her to stop by a take a few pictures of the new Starbucks when I saw your email. Selfishly, we are excited in that it is located about 1 mile from our house and frankly, much easier to get in and out of than fighting the traffic/intersection into Dobbin Center at that Starbucks drive thru.
On a related topic, Urban BBQ has announced plans to open in the same shopping center.   Dave and I were wondering if they'll replace the old Starbucks or go in next door to the new one.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pizza di Joey Starts Our Parade Of Food Trucks; Jeff Reports Lunch From Annapolis Junction

Joey Vanoni of Pizza di Joey
Food trucks aren't just for cities anymore, and I want to get in on the ones that make the trek out to Howard County.

I have posted about food trucks in the past, but Jeff Givens starts off what we hope will be a series of posts about other options -- focused on trucks that visited the National Business Park in Annapolis Junction where Jeff used to work.

Jeff is a long-time friend of the blog.  He runs Southern Skies Coffee Roasters from his home in Carroll County.  He writes and photographs about food on the side, and he took notes about the food trucks at National Business Park when he was working there.  As Jeff says, the Annapolis Junction office park is massive, but offers little in brick-and-mortar lunch options.

To fill the gap, the building management turned to food trucks.  Office workers often line up more than 20 deep in the parking lot at National Business Parkway and Technology Drive, and Jeff explored his way out there.

Jeff followed the trucks' schedules on Twitter, but he has written profiles for HowChow -- starting off with the Pizza di Joey (update: who I hear also stops at the Applied Physics Labs on some days):
Monster slices
Joey Vanoni has baked pizza everywhere from the cramped quarters of fast-attack submarines to the mountains of Afghanistan. He spent 7 years on active duty in the Navy. During the long, arduous tours aboard a submarine, he helped to keep up morale by baking artisan pizzas - a skill he learned while working in a coal fire, brick oven pizzeria during his youth in New Jersey.

After leaving active duty, he spent time in Afghanistan as a contractor, where he continued to make pizzas during his off time. Joey's pizzas were so popular that his coworkers pitched together and built a brick oven.

When he returned to the U.S., Joey's retirement dream of starting a mobile pizzeria was put into high gear when the government sequestration occurred. He and his partner, Tomas Ruperto, had a truck outfitted with a brick pizza oven which can bake up to 4 pies at a time at temperatures of 700 degrees Fahrenheit. The oven weighs 4000 lbs, so the truck had to be custom built in a specialty shop in upstate NY.

About the pizza:

Joey makes his NY style pizza in true artisan fashion with high-quality ingredients. He buys hormone-free beef from a farm near Westminster, MD and the pork sausage is made locally from Duroc pork to a recipe by Rich Shore of Sausage Barons. The slices are HUGE and made simply. Even "The Works" pie has only pepperoni, garlic, onions, peppers and mushrooms. Most of the other varieties only have 1 or 2 toppings, allowing the quality of each ingredient to shine through.

The pizza was really delicious. The crust had the perfect amount of chew and was slightly crispy on the bottom. The sausage that Joey has made to his recipe was well-seasoned and fresh. One slice is more than enough for someone who sits behind a keyboard all day.

On the side of his truck it says "Serving those who have served." It's not just branding, as Pizza di Joey donates a portion of his revenue to different charities, including the Wounded Warrior Project and House of Ruth. Active and retired military are also offered a discount on their purchase.
To find Pizza di Joey, watch for updates on Joe's his Twitter feed @PizzadiJoey.  Or check their Facebook page.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Who Is Getting Atwaters To Open In Howard County? Sandwiches Break Tradition, Still Excel

A Cuban sandwich that doesn't look like a Cuban, but tastes delicious
Who is working on getting Atwater's to open in Howard County?

The Baltimore bakery chain has a location in Catonsville.  I annexed Catonsville a while ago -- along with Sykesville and the AA and PG areas near our Laurel.  But I hadn't eaten in Catonsville recently until we stopped again at Home Anthology to nose around for modern furniture.

First lesson of the day:  Furniture shopping changes when you bring a toddler.  Like, it cuts to 15 minutes and out.

Second lesson: A few blocks north of the store, Atwater's makes delicious sandwiches -- and some jams that would make beautiful holiday gifts.

Atwater's sandwiches stood out even though they were on the wrong bread.  Mrs. HowChow and I split a Cuban.  We have finally learned that Lil' Chow isn't going to eat much of a grilled cheese sandwich so we each got a slice of that as well.

A traditional Cuban sandwich comes on length of split crusty bread, normally squashed by a hot press to make a crispy top and a heated sandwich.  Atwaters substituted slices of their own white bread that were probably pressed on something like a hot skillet.  But they made up for variation by hitting it out of the park with the ingredients.

Really good pork loin, ham, cheese and pickles.  The menu says pickled jicama.  It's a take on a Cuban sandwich, not a Miami local, and I'll take one any day.  That was a fresh, meaty sandwich that had the hallmark of "I couldn't do that at home" -- down to the pickles that at least tasted like they were made in house.

Those sandwiches make me confident that the rest of the menu -- from salads to cool-looking "tiffin" lunch combos -- would be worth exploring.  Plus, Atwater's is a friendly little joint.  Tons of seating upstairs with art by local high school students.  Our niece ordered a salad.  She complimented the dish, although I didn't take enough notes to remember why.

A few doors down from Atwater's are several dessert options.  including a candy store and You Scream Ice cream.  I'd always recommend a weekend visit to Home Anthology and then lunch on Frederick Road. You could even go for the food alone.

Seriously, Catonsville is an easy drive from most of Howard County, and it's worth the visit to check out food like Linsy's tacos and Hang Ari's noodle soup.  I still haven't had time to shop at the Chinese grocery store Great Wall.  Click here for all the Catonsville reviews.

815 Frederick Road
Catonsville, Maryland 21228

NEAR: Atwater's is on Frederick Road just west of I-695. This is downtown Catonsville. There are a few blocks of stores and restaurants to stroll and window shop.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Comments: Black Flag Brewing Is Coming; Wild Seafood Has Made The Grade; And More

Fried dumplings at Tian
Black Flag Brewing is coming to Columbia.  The Black Flag folks and I surprised each other -- a liquor board hearing notice was my first word about the brewery, and my post was their first word about the hearing.

Black Flag is leasing space in a new building under construction next to Lincoln Tech on Snowden River Parkway.  They're getting licensed as a brewery, which means that they'll make beer and host people to come drink and eat.  But it will be "carry in" eating or food trucks, not a kitchen in the brewery.  Brian emailed me to say they'll announce more news as they get closer and talked about the name:
We will be all over the map with our beers. The name Black Flag (which appears to be hotly contested in the comments section haha) comes from way back when ships or other groups of people would fly the flag to show no allegiance or affiliation to any group or country. That's what we intend to do with the beers we make - no specific focus. We think that the local area could use some more hoppy IPA options - the new craft breweries seem to have avoided them slightly. We also intend to have some culinary focus (have a great breakfast stout with coffee/oats/chocolate) and would love to be the first in the area to offer a true sour. It makes ingredient logistics a bit of a mess but should keep things interesting for the customers.
Mrs. HowChow and I have our eye on the swimming school that I think will open in the same building.  Here is hoping that we will eventually be able to have Lil' Chow swim lessons, then lunch and a beer at Black Flag.

Think mid-winter for Black Flag to open.

What else has been going on?  Marcia emailed me Saturday about Wild Seafood -- the retail successor to Frank's Seafood in the Jessup seafood market.  That was my local place for crabs, which are getting into the great fall season now.  I need to check it out after Marcia's rave:
We've been to Wild Seafood twice recently, and it's better than ever.  I am now seeing many of the former Frank's employees, and they tell me business is getting close to previous numbers. They have rearranged things slightly, you no longer hand money over top of the prepared seafood. That always bugged me. 
Today the whole fish, especially snapper, looked exceptionally fresh.  They will still clean whole fish for free.  They have Maryland crabmeat, today they also had North Carolina crabmeat which was slightly less expensive. On both visits they also had the $1 steamed crabs!
It was good before as Frank's, it is even better now as Wild.
Thanks to Marcia and everyone else who emails or leaves comments.  I'm a bit disappointed to learn that some of y'all have been going for weekend ramen at Matcha Time in Ellicott City without telling me.  LOL.  Look at their Facebook page from August!! But if you'll promise to mention when you see the next ramen weekend, I'll pass along these other comments and tidbits:
  • Beef Brothers is opening on Rte 40 in Ellicott City, reports Brianscrazytalk and an email from Lisa.  This looks like a Baltimore joint doing deli, sandwiches, and salads.  They're going into the shopping center with Bon Appetit.
  • Joe Squared may still be bringing its pizza to Main Street in Ellicott City, according to a Facebook post that Lisa copied into a comment.  It looks like Joe Squared is focused on the original Baltimore location, but still has plans for Ellicott City.
  • I need to organize another black-bean dinner at Tian Chinese Cuisine in Ellicott City.  The photo above is the fried dumplings.  They're excellent split among a large group.  I'm going through old photos, and my toddler-addled memory has lost the details of dinners that I had planned to post about.  But I love the black bean noodles at Tian and recommend filling a table to try Korea's Chinese food.
  • Wondergirl recommends the eggplant Parmesan at Luna Bella in Columbia.  A bunch of people chimed in with thoughts on Facci -- both the original and the new one in Turf Valley.
  • Does anyone know about Los Compadres in Woodstock?  I saw a liquor license transferring from Sedona Cafe & Grill to Los Compadres on the September 1, 2015 liquor board hearing agenda.  I see a few Web sites that mention a Mexican and American restaurant.  Has anyone been?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pizza Time At Luna Bella -- Crisp Crust, Fresh Toppings, And All-The-Parmesan A Kid Could Eat

Luna Bella's pizza -- with parmesan topper
When the woman leaned over and busted me as HowChow, she said it was the Parmesan cheese that had given us away.

Luna Bella is a long-established Columbia restaurant, and I figured that Lil' Chow and I could slip inside on a weeknight.  Luna Bella does a full Italian menu from salads to fish, pastas to chicken parm, but I've always gone for pizza.  That was the choice that I gave Lil' Chow as we stepped from the parking lot into the Hickory Ridge village center -- "Chicken or pizza?"

He went pizza, so I'll see next time if he'll explore yucca fries and Peruvian chicken.

Lil' Chow got his own kid's-size pie.  I went with a vegetable stromboli.  I wanted the bite of provolone instead of mozzarella, and I wanted veggies over meatballs because I lack the discipline to eat only half.

I really recommend Luna Bella, especially because the Hickory Ridge village center lets you hang out after dinner near the fountain or run a toddler around with a cup of chocolate ice cream from Meadows Frozen Custard.  Amid a white-table-cloth joint full of adults, the Luna Bella folks treated me and Lil' Chow perfectly -- immediate ordering, quick delivery, and really nice food.

Our crusts had the crispness that you get from a wood-fired oven.  I think it's a step above most pizza around Howard County, even if it isn't a match for the charred crust and specialized ingredients on a Facci pie.  I saw several salads that looked delicious, and folks next to us had a calamari appetizer that made me wonder if I could get Lil's Chow to eat fried squid.

My stroboli came stuffed with squash, mushrooms and onions.  I dipped up the entire side of marinara.  Lil' Chow's pizza worked for me, but he felt that it didn't have enough cheese.  By which I  mean, that he removed the mozzarella and replaced it with shredded Parmesan.  Two deliveries.

That was when the woman at the next table asked if I wrote the blog.  She said she had suspected, but become convinced when she saw Lil' Chow's love of cheese.  The recent Facci post had discussed Lil' Chow's all-you-can-eat love for Parmesan.  Plus, we're a matching pair of middle-aged white guy and two-year-old Korean immigrant.  I laughed and fessed up.

Next time, I'm going to sit outside and try Luna Bella's meats.  They put sausage and pepperoni right at the front of the list of ingredients you can add to a calzone.  I'll promise myself to save half for lunch, and I'll go full glutton with sausage, pepperoni and caramelized onions.  But then, there are also meatballs . . . . .

Has anyone had Luna Bella's sandwiches?  I hadn't realized that they did sandwiches, but their menu on-line talks about some heavy-duty options like a meatball hoagie, a chicken parm sub, and a chicken cheese steak.  I love them all.  But I only want exceptional because a bad chicken parm sub would be a softball in your stomach.  I'm included to try Luna Bella's sandwiches one day for lunch.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Matcha Time Cafe Is A Small Spot With Big Reasons To Stop, Including Onigiri For Me

Miso soup and onigiri at Matcha Time Cafe
It's a small spot with a small menu, but there are big reasons to stop into Matcha Time Cafe off Main Street in Ellicott City.

Matcha Time is a two-room Japanese restaurant at the top of the public parking lot at Hamilton Street.  They mostly serve sushi, teas and ice cream.  For each, it's unusual options.  These are unique varieties of tea, ice cream concoctions from Japan, and sushi that range from basic rolls to make-your-own hand rolls.

I went for onigiri -- an Asian snack or light meal made with palm-sized rice balls.  The rice is flavored with or wrapped around fish or other ingredients.  Lil' Chow and I had just finished biking the Trollery Line #9 trail up to the Breadery, so I ordered two onigiri -- one salmon and one another spicy fish.  I forget which fish.

I remember that it was a well-done lunch.  Filling but light.  Fresh rice and good fish.  That makes sense because Matcha Time's main savory offerings are sushi.   The menu had basic rolls, along with a shrimp tempera udon and hand roll sets where you get nori and sushi to roll your own.  Those are pretty unique -- and I assume authentically Japanese -- options for such a small restaurant.

If anything, Matcha Time will get better in the winter.  It's a cozy spot for lunch or for tea and dessert.  When the weather chills, Lil' Chow is going to demand indoor places to eat ice cream, and I could imagine taking a walk on Main Street and come back to Matcha Time for warming tea, filling sushi, and exciting ice cream.
Can anyone explain the Japanese ice cream options?  The do ice creams like green tea and black sesame (along with vanilla).  Then they do kakifori or "shave ice" -- both "western style" and "Japanese style."  What do people recommend?

Matcha Time Cafe
375 Hamilton Street
Historic Ellicott City, MD 21043

NEAR: Matcha Time Cafe is just off Main Street in downtown Ellicott City.  Matcha Time's address is Hamilton Street, but you should park in the public lot behind Tersiguel's.  Matcha Time is visible at the top of the parking lot next to La Palapa.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What Is Black Flag Brewery And Its Plans For Columbia? And What About Liquor At Wegmans?

Bananas and wine -- The devil's combo
Someone appears to be trying to open another brewery in Columbia called the Black Flag Brewery -- and I want to know what's coming to Snowden River Parkway.

I stumbled on the name on the Howard County liquor board's October 13 agenda.  I was looking around for information about the liquor store planned on the second floor of Wegmans.  I have posted before about the apparent application by The Loft Wine & Spirits to sell liquor at Wegmans, but I'd still welcome comments if anyone knows details.  

I focused on Wegmans again after walking through a Whole Foods in Chicago last week.  Civilization apparently survives in Illinois even though they stock bananas next to wine and Pabst Blue Ribbon near the salad bar.

This is Whole Foods, so I assume the PBR is ironic
Black Flag Brewing Company d/b/a Black Flag Brewery wants to a license to run a tavern at 9315 Snowden River Parkway.  I see random Web pages about the company --  like this on Bloomberg and this at the SEC -- but you can't count on the SEC and its forms to tell you anything useful.

What's up with Black Flag Brewery?  Is this a brewery or a restaurant?  The tavern license seems to suggest that they'll serve food.  But where?  The address on Google Maps falls somewhere between Lincoln Tech and Oakland Mills Parkway.  A bunch of buildings there face Snowden, but use the address of Berger or other cross streets  I'd love to know the location and the timeline if folks are in the know.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Labor Day Weekend: Popcorn And A Movie, New Pastries Now And Burgers In November

Renata's Is Open Now
Have a delicious Labor Day weekend.  If you're looking for fun, you can't beat the shady trolley trail from Wednesday's post or the Scoop and Paddle ice cream Sunday at River Hill Garden Center from Thursday's post.  But there is still more fun on the horizon:
  • Go explore Renata's Tasty Bites -- the new bakery in Columbia that will have a grand opening September 12 but is already serving up baked goods.  Steve sent the photo above and reported that he and his wife both liked their first visit -- a coconut cake and almond pastry
  • Check out a movie and CrunchDaddy popcorn at the Wine Bin in Ellicott City on Saturday night.  They're playing the Sound of Music outside.  Check CrunchDaddy's blog for details -- and for a Sunday invite to taste the popcorn at Boarman's Meat Market in Highland.
  • Look in a few months for a new burger chain in Columbia -- CaliBurger, an In-n-Out imitator that the Washington Post reports will open in November.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ice Cream Truck In The Western County -- Go Now For Handmade Cups And Sweet Sandwiches

Local ice cream at the Scoop & Paddle food truck
People often ask me where to find homemade ice cream in Howard County, and now I need to tell you to buy it on the road.

From a VW bus, that is.  From a new food truck working the western county selling cups and ice cream sandwiches filled with their own rich, creamy ice cream.

Mrs. HowChow saw the sign for Scoop & Paddle at their summer home, River Hill Garden Center in Clarksville.  It's a spectacularly outfitted VW bus where they offer about a dozen flavors from chocolates to fruits to an experimental "coffee and doughnuts."

Ice cream outdoors just tastes better.  It's an event to go for a drive.  It's more delicious to spoon ice cream while you're watching traffic and feeling the weather outside.

Scoop & Paddle does a high-end update on cafeteria ice cream.  The $3.50 cups are white paper circles with white paper tops.  You grab a wooden paddle to use as your spoon.  The ice cream inside goes way beyond a cafeteria.  They make their own ice cream, apparently with a bunch of seasonal fruits at the front of the menu.

Lil' Chow went chocolate.  He loves salted caramel that we buy at Harris Teeter, but he has ordered chocolate when we're out.  He squatted happily on the River Hill parking lot and shared his chocolate.  I thought it was excellent.  Deep flavor.  Creamy, rich ice cream.  Mrs. HowChow went "coffee and doughnuts."  Again, an excellent ice cream.  She could have taken even stronger coffee flavor, and we're already thinking about when we can go back to try a $5.50 ice cream sandwich with house-made ice cream between house-made cookies.

You need to go get try Scoop & Paddle this week.  Go tonight.  Go this weekend.  You're reading a Howard County food blog.  How could you not want local ice cream from a refit VW bus?  Go on a date.  Take your kids.  Do whatever you need to soak up an ice cream experience while the days are still warm enough to warrant a frozen dessert.

Since late July, Scoop & Paddle has been parking at the garden center on Thursday to Saturday evenings.  They're switching soon to a fall schedule, and you'll be able to catch them at the Western Regional Park in Cooksville or a few options in Clarksville, including at River Hill football games.

Find Scoop & Paddle's schedule on their Twitter page or Facebook page.  Clarksville is an easy run from Fulton, Columbia and most of the western county.

Ice cream is a rough business because winter comes for so much of our year.  Many people have asked for shops that make their own ice cream.  I recommend a bunch of great frozen experiences, but I think they mostly sell chain ice cream like Hershey's or Baltimore brands like Taharka Brothers at Scoop Ah Dee Doo in Ellicott City.  Does anyone else know someone selling local ice cream like Scoop & Paddle?

The only thing missing from Scoop & Paddle is a few chairs.  The cups, sandwiches and $10.50 pints lend themselves to carrying away, and leaning against a car works fine if you don't have a toddler  But a few chairs -- think cheap and modern -- could help create a little scene outside the bus.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

While I've Been: The Bike And Breadery Make For A Perfect Excursion With Friends, Dog Or Toddler

Challah from The Breadery in Oella
The trolley trail from Ellicott City remains one of the great local adventures -- and the Breadery at the top of the hill in Oella remains its great payoff.

Lil' Chow and I spent three days together this month while his daycare shut down to organize for the new year.  One morning, we clipped on the new toddler bike seat and rode from Main Street up into the green shade of the Trolley Line #9 trail.

Down the shady Trolley Line #9 trail
I'd strolled the trail before.  I'd extolled it as a gorgeous excursion -- especially to beat the summer heat.  But this is the first time that I'd huffed and pedaled up the steep hill.

This is part of my "While I've Been Out" series to restart the blog.  Late last year, the blog got some serious competition.  I'm still working out how to keep writing while I'm doing so many other new things as well.  Thanks to everyone who has kept reading, emailing and commenting. 

Up is doable.  We went slow, and, when getting on the bike, I looked for fallen stumps that could help my short legs get up and around the toddler seat to the pedal.

Down is a joy.  Gravity swept us along past dog-walkers, green trees, and a squirrel that we compromised and called a "bunny."  I held the brakes to extend the free trip down, enjoyed an extended stop to climb down and explore the stream that runs along the path, then loved the dramatic final gorge with the metal bridge spanned above.

Lil' Chow loved the snacks.  Near the top of the trail is the Breadery, a bakery, wine and gourmet store whose parking lot literally touches the trail.  They have a few tables where you can lounge in the sun.  When we pulled into sight, Lil' Chow could smell the ovens, and he called out "Challah!"  (Thanks Bet Yeladim!)

So we bought challah.  Then he sampled Michelle's granola.  When he wanted seconds, it seemed polite and smart to buy a bag as well.  The Baltimore company has a seasonal granola made with apples.  You could buy a light lunch, a snack, coffee and other drinks.  You could also check out their selections of wine, oils and vinegars.  We ate granola and some packed snacks.  Then I carried the challah and granola down the hill in my backpack.

Challah buns
The Breadery is worth the travel whether you bike or drive.  They make challah buns that I have held out as the best hot dog bun available and are really good for burgers as well.  I recommend any of their crusty breads and the topped flat breads that make an easy lunch or dinner.  They also carry Zeke's coffee and several brands of jams and spreads.

The bike ride is pretty accessible as long as you expect to pedal uphill.  You can park at the bottom of the trail in a parking lot that is sort of behind the Trolley Stop on Oella Avenue.  Note that you have to carry the bike up stairs from that lot.  You can also follow our lead and park in one of the Main Street lots, then pedal down under the railroad bridge.  If you turn left on Westchester Avenue, there is a "no stairs" entrance onto the Trolley Line #9 path.

I heartily recommend the Trolley Line #9 trail for strolling or biking.  It's a long way up, so I'd have a stroller for little kids.  But kids get a huge payoff in puppy sightings, and it's a terrific long peaceful walk for friends, couples, or dog-walkers.  A bonus payoff would be to go on a day when the BrickNFire pizza folks are baking pies in the Breadery's parking lot.  Follow their Twitter feed to see where they're bringing their portable pizza oven.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

While I've Been: Tous Le Jours Has Become The Class Of Rte 40, A Great Bakery And Hangout

DOnut and latte at Tous Les Jours
All summer, I have found myself drawn back to Tous Les Jours -- the bakery that opened in a March snowstorm and has become the class of Rte 40 as far as I'm concerned.

Tous Les Jours is a Korean chain offering French pastries.  That is a common theme in Seoul, and it offers spectacular fusion items like red bean donuts when it's done well.  But it's also just a terrific bakery doing breads, cakes, pastries, coffee and drinks -- savory to sweet, grabbing take out to hanging out with friends.

This place does everything well.  It is our "new for 2015" option that quickly became a favorite stop.  We have gone for mid-day breaks and after-dinner desserts.  We enjoyed hot coffee and cold drinks.  We have barely scraped the menu, especially because the pastry selection seems to alternate more than many other Korean bakeries.

This is part of my "While I've Been Out" series to restart the blog.  Late last year, the blog got some serious competition.  I'm still working out how to keep writing while I'm doing so many other new things as well.  Yesterday, I talked up an old friend -- the Victoria burger.  Today's is this new coffee shop.  Tomorrow, I will suggest a great excursion from Main Street to great food.

I can't suggest Tour Le Jours enough if you haven't tried it yet.  Stop for coffee and a pastry.  Stop to buy classy desserts to serve at home.  Hang out for a whole afternoon in a comfy chair with a laptop or friends.  You can have it all -- and you can view this as just another friendly bakery with accessible sweets or as an authentic example of how young people are eating right now in Gangnam.

Start with the red bean donut.  I admit that my personal bias.  I posted about red bean among the first 10 HowChow posts in 2008.  But you won't go wrong.

Then check out whatever interests you.  Tous Le Jours does macarons, breads, croissants, and cakes.  They do coffee and bubble tea.  They do bing soo, the Korean dessert with shaved ice and fruit.  They do a variety of fruit "ades" like lemonade and strawberryade.

Most of the dishes have a classy Korean style, but they're more modern and international than specifically Korean.  I worry there are people turned off by the Rte 40 bakeries like Tous Les Jours or Shilla because they think they'll feel foreign.  Give them a try because the French base will make almost everything feel welcoming.

And the Tous Les Jours store adds to the welcome.  It's clean-lined and outfitted with cafe tables, easy chairs and long tables.  We have mostly sat after dinner with Lil' Jake.  But I've stopped in mid-day.  You can get in and carry out from the counter, but you can stay to work on a laptop, talk to your friends, or just soak in the scene.

The one authentic Seoul experience is how you pick your baked goods at Tous Les Jours.  Look to the left for the sleek wooden trays and metal tongs.  Take tongs and pick your baked goods from the displays.  Then take your tray to the counter to pay.  They'll bag takeout orders or let you sit down with your tray.