Monday, March 23, 2015

Go Tour The World In Howard County; The CA Starts Stamping Their World Food Passport

If HowChow were a business, not a hobby, then I would try to do something as cool as Columbia Association's new "World Food Passport" program.

The CA has recruited a few dozen local restaurants to join a game that encourages you try new places.  You pick up a free passport.  You eat in participating restaurants.  You get your passport stamped when you pay your bill.

Some people will win a raffled gift certificate.  But I love the "World Food Passport" for encouraging folks to try something new -- an untried restaurant, a novel cuisine.  The CA wants to expose people to new cultures and wants to drum up new business for restaurants.  They reached out to all kinds of restaurants.  You can see the ones who volunteered to donate a gift certificate and buy a passport stamp on the program's Web site.

There are great spots on the list.  If it's mostly new to you, I would probably start with South Asian food.  Most of the county's Indian restaurants have joined, and many of those are exceptional.  But you could search HowChow for posts about many of the restaurants.  Look in right column for the search bar or for the list of links by restaurant name.

Personally, I think the CA folks need help.  I know how much effort Laura Smit and others put into the planning and outreach.  But they have a handful of Asian restaurants -- and no Korean ones -- in a county full of great Asian food.  Many restaurants have been hesitant about a novel idea.  Laura has an advisory board helping on multicultural programs, and I'd love for her to get help from a HowChow reader with connections to Chinese, Thai or Korean restaurants.  You can reach her at 410-715-3162 or

Check out the CA Website for details and instructions on picking up your passport.  You can get them at Columbia village centers and Howard County libraries, so they're convenient.  I'm optimistic that more restaurants will join now that the program is real and diners will be coming around.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Now The Hard Stuff Is Coming To Howard County! Plus Manor Hill Brewing Releasing Beer Monday

Small production liquor is just great fun, and Howard County gets to join the party some time this summer where Lost Ark Distilling will start making rum and whiskeys in Laurel.

You young people may find it hard to believe that there was an epoch when we thought "interesting, unique" alcohol included Killian's Irish Red.  It took me years to learn it was brewed by Coors

Now, you could drink well all summer on beer brewed just in Maryland.  You could go for several weekends just trying different beers made in Howard County -- now at Jailbreak Bewery in Laurel and coming tomorrow from Manor Hill Brewing.

At least that's the news about Manor Hill on Randy Marriner's Twitter feed.  Please add a comment if you know the plans for the release party or if you try any of their beer.  I assume the Manor Hill beers will first appear at the Marriner family's Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia.

(Update:  MoCoBeer tweeted me a link to the release party poster.  Looks like 10 Manor Hill beers!  I just realized that *I* linked yesterday to a poster that mentioned the release party.  I'm working fast here.  I can basically read and write for a third to half of a nap.)

The Lost Ark folks want to add some harder stuff to the mix.  They signed a lease on U.S. 1 in Laurel, and they're aiming to start distilling in Summer 2015.  I, for one, welcome our new hard liquor overlords, expecially for a local whiskey.  I've only discovered bourbon and rye in the past two years, but they're now my main drinks.  I'll celebrate with as local a Manhattan as I can make.  I also know that setting up a business comes with challenges that can slow a schedule.

Speaking of those challenges, does anyone know the prospects for Black Eyed Susan Brewing?  After some early articles, I don't think I have heard anything in almost a year.

Wild Seafood, Caffe Bene And The Reborn Bonaparte Bread Have All Opened

The new Caffe Benne (from Jessie X)
Quick hits before Lil' Chow and I head out in the food world this morning.  Sunday grocery shopping and maybe an adventure after:
I live in Columbia and regularly go to Strapazzas/Tino's.  Just wanted you to know that we were there today and it is under new ownership.  We spoke to the owner [in February]  He says they intend to keep the restaurant mostly the same with the same chef and only change some menu items that they considered weak points.  He said they intend to add "farm to table" options at a later date.

We carefully evaluated the Veal Marsala and the Fettuccine Bolognese and can confirm that it is unchanged. :)
  • AIDA Bistro has a new executive chef -- Chris Lewis -- and newly promoted sous chef -- Sylvia Choi.  AIDA is still on my list of places that I need to visit.  But people talk up their Italian food and their wine selections.  I don't post press releases from restaurants, but I like giving shout-outs to the folks who make kitchens run.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Drink Up! It's Howard County Beer Week! And Where Do You Suggest For Happy Hour?

Howard County Beer Week with Lil' Chow
Just as I sat down at this computer, someone left the following comment:  "I'm guessing this is the end of HowChow."

Oh, no!  I'm down, but I'm not out.  Except when I'm out drinking beer in the daytime.

That's right.  Mrs. HowChow's at work today.  Lil' Chow and I hit Kloby's Smokehouse for a red rye pale ale and an extremely healthy lunch of grilled cheese and "nachos" made with waffle fries, cheese, beans, and pulled pork.  It is really a friendly place with pulled pork and housemade sauces that stand out.

Kloby's nachos -- fries, cheese, beans, pork
My friend The Weather Man joined us for Kloby's lunch with his daughter.  Weather Girl is a two-year-old star -- downing a mac-and-cheese sandwich and applesauce and being patient with a little boy still learning to share toys.

It has been really tough to write posts.  We're still figuring out how to handle work and the toddler.  But good food keeps coming in Howard County.  This week, you should be checking out beers.  Chris Mabe of TBonz Grille is running the 2015 beer week with events through next weekend that feature both brewers and restaurants.  These are great places from White Oak Tavern to Ale House Columbia, The Wine Bin to Victoria Gastro Pub.

Kloby's offered lots of $4 drafts yesterday.  I assume there are other specials.  Of course, I had to bring it back here to change a diaper and get a boy to nap.  So now I need help answering a question for Nick.  What happy hours do you recommend in Howard County?  Nick was looking for good deals or especially good food.  Please help him in the comments below.  My DC job and Lil' Chow mean that I can just recommend good beer joints like the ones above -- but not the specific happy hour winners.

Please keep the comments, tips and emails coming.  We're getting more space in our lives.  I am trying to knock of some posts during this nap, and there will be more HowChow!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Mutiny Pirate Bar Coming To Downtown E.C.

Mutiny Pirate Bar appears to be opening its second location in downtown Ellicott City.

There is a sign up in a building next to the Diamondback Tavern, reports George.  Mutiny is a rum bar in Glen Burnie that George says has good food and drinks from the people behind Iron Bridge Wine Co.

Does anyone know the timing?  George's photo seems to show "Summer 2015."

I'm really behind on all the tips that people have sent me.  Regular readers know the reason, but I hope that we're getting our feet underneath ourselves enough that I can post more.

Tous les Jours Opens On Rte 40; A Top-Notch Bakery And Coffee Shop Mixing France And Korea

Excellent croissant and red bean donut
It's thanks to Lil' Chow that I can tell you that the new Tous les Jours looks and taste just like the top-end coffee shops in Korea.

Of course, Mrs. HowChow and I saw Seoul's coffee shops last year when we went to meet and then bring home our boisterous toddler.  But it was this morning's daycare closing that got me into Tous les Jours for opening day.

And it's worth getting in there even if you've never been to Korea.  This is a terrific coffee shop -- heavy on caffeine and sweet pastries rounded off with croissants, a few sandwiches, smoothies and bing soo.  Clean, modern design.  Big spaces with tables and easy chairs.

Lil's Chow and I split a croissant and a red bean donut.  I drank the espresso on my own.  These were delicious pastries -- as were the other samples that the Tous folks pressed on us.  A light, flaky croissant with a crisp outer shell that reminds me of jet lag in Seoul.  One of the best red bean donuts that I have ever had -- and I've been posting about them for six years.  Lighter and fresher than most local bakeries with a perfect scattering of sugar on top.

The Korean bakeries have really expanded along Rte 40.  First, La Boulangerie in Ellicott City.  Then Bon Appetit and Shilla.  Now, chains actually from Korea seem to be coming -- Caffe Benne that will open next to Soft Stuff and Tous les Jours.  The Tous is on the north side of Rte 40 west of Rte 29 in the shopping center with a Boston Market and Lighthouse Tofu.

You should definitely check out Tous les Jours  this weekend.  It's classy and delicious enough for adults to lounge, but the pastries are kid-friendly enough that you could break your cabin fever by letting your youngsters sugar up.  You could go for lunch or grab dessert after dinner at Lighthouse or fried chicken at Bon Chon.  Folks have wondered how Rte 40 can support all these coffee shops, but I have to say that Tous les Jours tops my list now -- exceptional food and a really nice space.

If you're interested in the Korean coffee shops, I absolutely recommend checking them out.  Pastries, drinks and desserts are a few dollars each.  Right now, Shilla and Tous Les Jours are my favorites, but you can read all the posts about Korean bakeries.

If you go to Tous les Jours, look in the corner for the display of trays and tongs.  Again, that's right out of Seoul coffee shops.  Pick up a set and select what you want from the pastry displays.  Then take them to the register to be boxed or carried to a table.  I love the modern trays.  I'd buy some for our house.

Hat tip to Min who saw an opening day advertisement in a Chinese newspaper.  That's how I knew that Lil Chow and I could check it out.  The Purim parade was postponed again today because someone fed our daycare stories of ice and snow.  Since Lil Chow couldn't have hamantashan, it seemed only fair to get him out of the house and feed him red bean donut.

Tous les Jours
9338 Baltimore National Pike (Rte 40)
Ellicott City, MD

NEAR: Tous les Jours is in a shopping center with Boston Market and Lighthouse Tofu on Rte 40 in Ellicott City.  It's on the north side of the road west of Rte 29.  Coming from Rte 29, you'll see signs for Asian Court, a Chinese restaurant with excellent dim sum.  Then watch for Tous on the right.  It is in the "back" of the shopping center so its windows look parallel to Rte 40, not onto the road.