Friday, May 15, 2015

Pizza And Ice Cream In Downtown Ellicott City; Top Of My To-Do List -- If I Can Work Around Nap

The folks who brought weekend outdoor pizza to downtown Ellicott City have re-opened the nearby ice cream shop to make a dangerous duo -- to your waistline.

River House Pizza is Nathan Sowers' mobile wood-fired oven that turns the courtyard near the Main Street parking lot into an outdoor pizza restaurant.  For several years, they have served one of the highlights of the monthly market.

Now, that monthly market has become the weekly Ellicott City Old Town Market -- every Saturday offering music, farmers stands and more.  Check out their Facebook page for hours and details.

At the same time, Sowers has expanded River House to Friday lunchtime (11:30-2) and all day Saturday and Sunday (11:30-7).   He has also re-opened the ScoopAHHdeedo ice cream shop that operated down the row for a few years, but I think was shuttered for the last one or two.  The scoop shop will be open Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 7 pm.

I've been remiss writing up the expansion.  I keep wanting to go.  We really loved the BrickNFire mobile pizza oven that operates across the river at the Breadery in Oella.  Now you can get pizza and the Taharka Brothers ice cream.

Have people been to the weekly Old Town Market?  What do you recommend?  This is now on my list -- waiting for a Saturday when I can get Lil' Chow down there before or after nap.  For a real report, check out Katie's post updated in 2014 on the Cupcake RN blog.

You can make real fun all weekend in downtown Ellicott City.  On top of the pizza and the Saturday market, one of the highlights is the weekly movies shown outdoors by the Wine Bin.  Check out their schedule on their site to see titles starting on May 22.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chutney Restaurant Raising Money For Nepal Relief; Julia Hit The Buffet For A Good Cause

The folks who run the Chutney restaurant in Columbia  have family connections in Nepal, and they're holding a fundraiser this week to support relief efforts.

Julia of the Village Green / Town Squared blog hit up the Chutney lunch buffet to help the cause  This is the restaurant on Snowden River Parkway that replaced Akbar's.  As I wrote in 2012, Indian is one of Howard County's deepest cuisines -- from House of India to Mango Grove to Royal Taj.  Julia and her hon HoCoHouseHon enjoyed Chutney, and she wrote up a guest report:
Chutney is decorated in a sunny yellow and feels airy and spacious.  HoCoHouseHon and I were greeted right away and our service throughout was friendly and helpful. Once we got our food from the buffet, we were brought the a basket of warm naan, and they kept our water glasses filled without any uncomfortable lags. I drink a lot of water.

There are three buffet tables laid out. I didn't photograph the one with main course items because someone was serving himself and I didn't want to breathe down his neck. There was plenty to choose from: vegetable samosas, rice, vegetable dishes at the first table; salads, chutney, and raita plus desserts at the second; and vegetable biryani, chicken tikka masala, tandoori chicken and something with goat in it. (I don't eat goat.)
The buffet was immaculate, and all the menu items were well-stocked. The food was tasty and fresh. No feeling of warmed-over or tired out anything. For $11.95 it is an extremely good deal. And from now through the 17th, 30 per cent of your buffet check goes to Nepal. Don't want the buffet but still want to help out? They have a box at the bar for your donations.

My husband and I love House of India and Flavors of India, so although we know Chutney is there and have enjoyed it, we don't get back as much as I'd like. I would definitely go again, even after the fundraiser is over.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Make A Plan For Your Local Veggies Using Advice From AnnieRie, Plus More Local Food Writing

If you care about food in Howard County, you should be reading the AnnieRie Unplugged blog -- especially its coverage of CSAs, the Food and Friends company, and other options for sourcing produce, meats and more.

Last week, Annie gave an update on how she is using Friends and Farms, farmers markets and other sources to push for good-tasting, often-local food.  If you like that, click around on the tags at the bottom of her posts -- like all her posts about CSAs.  Or check out the Kitchen Scribble blog's CSA posts.

Beyond Annie, there are a bunch of people writing about local food.  Links feel more important as I have less time to write and as all the newspapers and magazines seem to shrink their local coverage:
As always, HoCo Blogs is a great place to start if you're looking around for local writing.  The local food blogging appears on the HoCo Blogs page about food.

(Update:  I fixed an error above where I had meant Friends and Farms and written Food and Friesnds.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Food Matters: Learning To Eat From A Toddler, Getting A Gift From This Blog And Jeff's Family

Every time that I feel the blog fizzling out under the weight of so much else to do, I remember that food matters -- even the humblest dishes.

Lil' Chow came from his foster family loving seaweed soup.  We knew that, but I couldn't make the soup.  I could buy seaweed.  I could put it in soup.  But Lil' Chow ate little and never seemed to be in love.

I learned from Jeff Givens' mother-in-law that I just had to make it right.

Jeff runs Southern Skies Coffee just over the county line in Finksburg.  We met through HowChow and have emailed for years. He flagged the French Twist Cafe in Sykesville.  But we probably had met only once or twice when Jeff volunteered late last year that his kids loved miyok guk -- seaweed soup -- and eat bowl after bowl cooked by his mother-in-law.  Then he hand-delivered frozen soup to our front door.  Twice.

Lil' Chow went nuts for Jeff's mother-in-law's soup.  This was real Korean soup.  Meat and seaweed in broth.  Lil' Chow had eaten mostly formula at his foster family's home, but he had an expert's hand to spoon rice into his soup and then scoop, scoop from the bowl into his mouth -- and onto his bib, shirt, pants, the floor and high chair.  It's the only vegetable that he seems to really want to eat.

That kept my hope alive until last month when Lil' Chow and I passed a woman sampling seaweed soup in the new H Mart in Ellicott City.  He drank three samples, then cried when I pushed the cart away.  I couldn't explain that I'd grabbed two bags of dried seaweed to cook the soup.

My payoff came the next night when I put down my seaweed soup.  Lil' Chow picked up his spoon and said "guk."  That's Korean for soup, and it's a word that he hadn't heard since October.  But it was there on his tongue.  Just waiting for someone to serve miyok guk and bring it out.

He still likes her soup more. 

I defrosted our final quart Monday because Lil' Chow was home with a fever.  I hyped him up by saying that we would "eat guk" for lunch.  "Eat," Lil' Chow said.  "Guk."  He ate rice and miyok guk.  So did I.  It's my first food introduced by Lil' Chow.  I'd eaten exceptional Korean soups at joints like Lighthouse Tofu in Ellicott City and Hang Ari in Catonsville, but not this homestyle soup thick with the reconstituted seaweed and the tastes of sesame oil and thin-sliced meat.  We ate quietly at lunch.  It was the only time of our nap-less day that Lil' Chow was quiet.  He used two spoons to accelerate his pace.

And I was grateful for this blog, which connected me to Jeff and his mother-in-law and to miyok guk.  A little food that matters.

So far, the other food that matters: Frozen waffles.  I'm a short-order cook in the morning.  I make pancakes.  I offer cereals, fruits, eggs.  But Lil' Chow's eyes open widest for frozen waffles with syrup.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Wine In The Woods Next Weekend: Assemble Your Crew For A Downtown Columbia Institution

Wine in the Woods kicks off this weekend, and it's worth assembling your crew to taste wine and join a Columbia institution.

The annual festival on May 16-17, 2015 is basically an adult carnival -- wine tasting, music, art to show, food to buy.

Check out the Wine in the Woods web site for all the details.  Mrs. HowChow and I went years ago on a date.  We're not in a wine-tasting stage of life at the moment, but I recommend the show if you can carry a few beach chairs to enjoy yourself with friends.

Can anyone share Wine in the Woods advice?  When to go?  Where to set up your chairs?  How to find the best wines to taste?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Signs? We Don't Need No Stinking Signs! Not When Ananda's Food Fills The Tables All Week

Ananda -- So you'll recognize it without a sign
I loved the food from the beginning, but for some reason, I now love Ananda's attitude as well.

The Indian restaurant opened in Fulton last year to terrific reviews.  Like a national magazine's list of the 25 most outstanding restaurants of 2015.  We have loved it from the beginning...

But Ananda's spot is unusual.

Duck dumplings
It's great for me.  It's the closest restaurant to my house.  But Ananda sits on Maple Lawn Boulevard out of sight from the main roads.  And it has no sign.  A striking open-windowed dining room in good weather, but no sign.

We always figured they were waiting on a sign delivery.  But then Mrs. HowChow asked owner Binda Singh this week, and Singh told her there won't be a sign.

He doesn't believe in them.

The Ambassador in Baltimore doesn't have a sign, he said.  And he doesn't think Ananda needs one either.

Now, I have to admit that I'm friendly with Singh.  I don't out myself normally in restaurants, but Singh is super-friendly and knew from emails that we were coming on his opening day.  It was a thin crowd.  So we said hello, and we have enjoyed ourselves ever since.  (Well, except for Lil' Chow's first nice restaurant meal when we tried to take him there at 6:30 on the Sunday daylight savings ended.  He was exhausted! That's another story.)

Singh doesn't believe in signs.

Citrus salad
Somehow, I love this.  It feels like a bad-ass rejection of the way most retail runs.  And it's working.  The place was packed on Tuesday when Mrs. HowChow took some students for dinner.  We're going back for Mother's Day.  We'll do dinner, but I heartily recommend the brunch.  One of the "lost" meals from my three months with few posts was a terrific March brunch with the Cordis Couple where I ate the perfect dumplings.

Those dumplings are pictured above.  My notes just say "duck, dumpling, chili sauce, sesame seeds, four, M."  I must have thought that I'd blog that afternoon. Some toddler madness must have gotten in the way.

Seriously, check out the Ananda menus if you haven't been yet.  Mother's Day looks like a buffet brunch.  That French toast casserole merits a visit all on its own.  Just keep your eyes peeled as your heading to eat -- because they're not putting up a sign.

You can see all my posts about Ananda.  You should also check out Jennifer Waldera's HerMind Magazine profile of the Kaur sisters, including Kinday Kaur who is the chef at Ananda.  Her sister is the chef at the "sister" restaurant The Ambassador in Baltimore.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Can You Buy Coffee And Quiet On A Weeknight?

Where can someone buy coffee and quiet on a weeknight?

Maria sent me an email weeks ago asking for suggestions about where folks might hang out on a weeknight -- open past eight, quiet enough to talk, maybe a coffee shop or diner.  Says Maria:
So a mom friend and I are looking for a good coffee spot that is open a little later during the week and wouldn't mind if we hung out for an hour or two. You know open past 8 and quiet. A diner would work also. Any ideas? Bonus points if it is close to King's Contrivance neighborhood. Mommies need time to catch up with their friends too.
For Columbia, I'm trying to think of a restaurant.  Most coffee shops here are breakfast and lunch joints.  The closest diners are probably on Rte 40. 

Hickory Ridge Grill was my first choice.  They're only open until 9 pm, but that's a friendly spot with coffee and room enough that they probably wouldn't mind you lingering over dessert or appetizers.  One of my "lost posts" from the past six months was a breakfast at Hickory Ridge where we got good eggs and a friendly vibe like Maria wants.

From there, I started to think about bars.  Not a packed joint like Looney's or the Green Turtle.  But an adult bar where a bartender might have enough empty stools to welcome coffee drinkers who tip. Ranazul and the Grille at Maple Lawn are both an easy drive south from King's Contrivance.  Their kitchens are open late.  They have bars that I can't imagine are packed on a weeknight.

Can anyone else recommend a local spot to get coffee and chat on a weeknight?  I was trying to think of Columbia restaurants that would welcome Maria.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Sushi Buffet Has Returned To Rte 40; Bean & Burgundy Is Adding Lots Of Fish To The Menu

Bean & Burgundy Bread has added fish to the menu -- an all-you-can-eat sushi lunch that started last month and runs on special through May.

Check out the Bean & Burgundy Facebook post.  I haven't tried the fish yet, but Chris was nice enough to highlight the buffet to me.

I mourned the loss of Kimko Seafood's lunch buffet when it closed on Rte 40 a while ago.  I have to admit that my sushi eating has tended more towards Sushi Sono than all-you-can-eat.  But there is fun in gorging, and it does make for a talkative, extended lunch if you check it out with friends.

Katie posted Tuesday on the CupcakeRN blog about her visit to Bean & Burgundy.  She reports that the buffet had everything from pasta and Korean food to the 20+ sushi options.  She says the fish to rice ratio was decent, and the sushi was tasty.

May promotion is $13 per person with a free drink.  After May, it will be $13 during the week and $15 on weekends.

What have people found at the Bean & Burgundy sushi buffet?  Any recommendations?  What else have people liked at Bean & Burgundy?  I have been infatuated with the new Tous Les Jours on my few recent trips to Rte 40, so I haven't stopped at Bean & Burgundy recently.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Celebrate Summer! Sonic Milkshakes -- Half Priced After 8 -- Cool You Down For Change

Sonic milkshake
Here comes the relief!!  Warm weather has freed us from the indoors, and you should be thinking about how you will celebrate summer.

How about turning the change in your glove compartment for something delicious?  Adam has come through again with a HowChow guest post.  He hit up the relatively new Sonic on Rte 40, and he gives the full recommendation to their milkshakes, especially if you can hit up the half-priced promotion after 8 pm.  Take it Adam:
Look, I get it. It was only a few weeks ago we were dealing with snow and 20 degree days. Ice cream might be the last thing on your mind right now, and with the spring season ushering in its short-lived but no less attractive bounty of produce, you're looking to eat "farm to table," not "supply truck to chain."

Oh well, more for me, I guess.

In all seriousness though, the best milkshake in Howard County is is one you don't even have to leave your car to enjoy, and probably affordable enough to pay for with the change in your glove compartment. I'm talking, of course, about Sonic's half-priced milkshake promotion after 8 pm.

Don't believe me? Well consider for a second that Sonic isn't serving soft serve, they're serving "real" ice cream. If you're a fan of Alton Brown's classic Good Eats you'll recognize this is code for something with at least 10% milkfat. It's not just something you notice in the taste of Sonic's milkshakes, but in the texture. They give you a straw to drink these from, but it's about as helpful as chopsticks at a steakhouse. No, you'll want a spoon, because the indulgent and thick mixture of ice cream, whipped cream, and yes, that classic maraschino cherry, is built more like what the Midwesterners call a 'concrete.'

My personal go-tos are vanilla and fresh strawberry -- the former bursting with vanilla and sweet cream flavor, the latter plump with strawberry puree and pieces.  But Sonic advertises 25+ shakes complete with peanut butter flavors, cheesecake flavors, and even the option to add 'secret' additions like bacon, cookie dough, and turtle pecans. They're running the promotion through September, and damn if I don't break with tradition one of these nights and at least try tater tots in there. When you're running under a buck fifty for a premium shake, what have you got to lose?

Well, maybe your waistline. But everything in moderation I say!
Where else will you celebrate summer? Lil' Chow loves ice cream.  Luckily for us, he doesn't have enough body mass yet to pull open the freezer on his own.  I don't think we'll hit the late-night promotions with a toddler, but we want to get him soft serve and milkshakes and other summer fun.  I did "Ice Cream Summer" round-ups in 2009 and 2011.  I'd love to update the list. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Centre Park Grill Has Opened In The Former Cafe De Paris; Upscale Cousin To Mt. Airy Tavern

The new Centre Park Grill
Centre Park Grill has soft-opened in the former Columbia home of Cafe De Paris offering an upscale variation on their work at the Mt. Airy Tavern.

I haven't had a chance to stop at Centre Park yet.  I was chuckling recently when I remembered that I once had so much free time that I stopped at Gadsby's on opening day.
The bourbon that I'll try when I get there

Centre Park is run by Jim DiChiara and the folks behind the Mt. Airy Tavern.  They took over the space that used to be Cafe de Paris on Rte 108 near Rte 100.  They renovated, and Jim was aiming to stretch in his new kitchen -- a little more culinary flair, a little less bar food.

I had to laugh because the Centre Park folks sent me a few photos, including a bourbon that I really want to try on its own.  It was exactly the come-on that I need -- although I have to admit that our eating out has been just toddler quickies.

Check out Centre Park on their Web site or on Facebook.  I'd love folks to try to new place and leave comments with reactions and suggestions.

Azul 17 Closed In Columbia; Shuttered Mexican Leaves Two Slots Open On Snowden River

Several people have reported that Azul 17 has closed in Columbia. 

I am always bummed when a restaurant doesn't work out.  I know how much work that they take, and they disappear with people's jobs when they go.  Azul 17 closed down the row from where Korshi Buffet opened and closed quickly last year.

Azul 17 was a Mexican place that opened in 2009 as an upscale, unique option.  Mrs. HowChow and I had had great hopes, but it was one of those places that we passed by.  We never ate out as much as people seemed to think, and the Azul 17 prices meant that it had to compete with restaurants that always wowed us.

Does anyone know if restaurants will fill the Korshi and Azul 17 slots on Snowden River Parkway?

Thanks to Jim S. and other folks who left updates about restaurants.