Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Victoria Gastropub Family Plans A Restaurant For Clarksville, No Timing, Says Her Mind Mag

The Marriner family that owns Victoria Gastropub has plans to open a restaurant in Clarksville -- including a name (FoodPlenty), but no timing, reports Carol Sorgen in Her Mind magazine.

No huge details in the article, which is a nice profile of the family and their plans for a brewery.  But Victoria is such a Howard County mainstay -- Mrs. HowChow ate with friends there on Sunday -- that another restaurant seems like news.

Who knows more?  Where?  When?  What is the plan for FoodPlenty?  Hat tip to Cindy, who spotted the article and posted on the HowChow Facebook page.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ananda Breaks Into The County's Best Restaurants, Gets Raved By The Sun's Gorelick

The shrimp dish jinga kararii at Ananda
I tamped down my excitement when I first wrote about Ananda.

The Fulton restaurant is the closest food to my house, serving a cuisine that I love.  And I'm just a hobby blogger, which makes me reticent to act like I know exceptional food after a meal or two.

But the professionals love Ananda, so I'm letting myself wax poetic.  It's a new restaurant, but I think it already matches the best restaurants in Howard County.

We had another amazing dinner last night.  Great cocktails.  Spectacularly flavorful shrimp, chicken and dessert.  The class of white tablecloths and subtle waiters, paired with the friendliness of a veranda full of families and kids.  All as the cool evening rolled in through open walls.

It's a magical combination, and it's getting notice.  Todd Kliman of the Washingtonian mentioned Ananda on-line a few weeks ago -- distilling the observation that the kitchen fuses Indian cuisine with a local seasonal vibe of a city bistro.  Then Kathy Patterson of Minx Eats enjoyed both the drinks and food.  Then yesterday Richard Gorelick gave Ananda four stars in the Sun:
Ananda strives to evoke something of the same nostalgic feeling, and it succeeds. The atmosphere is sophisticated but not stuffy. . . The food — in particular, the items listed as house specials — is elegant, too.
Boom.  Now I can say that I love the food without feeling like I'm infected with amateur-writer puppy love.  We have eaten three meals at Ananda, each better than the last.  This time, I ate the shrimp dish jingha karari and used rice and bread  to lap up every drop of the sauce rich with ginger and garlic.  Mrs. HowChow ate a chicken kabob that was juicy white meat chunks, cooked perfectly and then served with an herb sauce.  We finished with a special peach crumble that rivaled our favorite seasonal desserts at Woodberry Kitchen.

Read the professional reviews.  They all capture the place -- and Gorelick goes respectful when he describes the Maple Lawn development.  I'm amazed that Ananda's kitchen is serving recognizable -- even traditional -- Indian food in ways that seem unique.  It's a bit in the food itself.  A bit in their offering plated entrees.  My shrimp came with a choice of lentils or spinach as a side dish.  A bit in the local and seasonal specials like the watermelon salad that we ate on an early visit and that Gorelick raved about.

We're not the only ones raving.  The table next to us last night ordered three watermelon salads for three diners.  It's so good that they didn't share.  We have neighbors who have gone with their toddler every Sunday night since Ananda opened.  They love the food, and they're making a family tradition.

As I wrote in my "first thoughts' post, Ananda has an atmosphere that welcomes toddlers in t-shirts and women in date-night dresses.  You should try dinner on the veranda on a fall evening.  But I can see that Ananda will covert into a cozy, warm winter spot once they bring down those glass walls and turn up the fireplaces.  The bar and the interior dining rooms will give you all kinds of options.  Gorelick's review got a laugh in our house because he called out Ananda's three televisions.  It's a discordant sight here and in other really good restaurants.  You'll just need to look the other way.

7421 Maple Lawn Blvd
Fulton, MD 20759
 (301) 725-4800

NEAR:  Ananda is in the Maple Lawn development just south of Columbia.   It's on Maple Lawn Boulevard, which connects Rte 216 and Johns Hopkins Road just west of Rte 29.  Ananda is a stand-alone building.  As of September, it had no sign.  It is across the parking lot from a Suntrust bank.

Ananda on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Blog Party Today At Nottingham's

Come blow off some steam this evening with HoCoBlogs next blog party -- hosted this time by Nottingham's in Columbia.

HoCoBlogs runs these casual events for people who write and people who read.  My schedule doesn't let me come often, but they're fun and relaxed.  Check out the details -- and sign up for free -- through their posting.

A Great Breakfast Sandwich With Breakfast Sausage From Laurel Meat Or Boarman's

I should have known that I already had the key to a great breakfast sandwich.

A few weeks ago, I asked for suggestions after trying the egg-cheddar-and-sausage croissant from Touche Touchet.  Folks recommended their favorites in the comments, but the '34 Act Gourmet came to my house with the answer.

Breakfast sausage from Laurel Meat Market.

I have extolled sausage as the gateway drug to try your local ethnic butchers.  Laurel Meat Market's loose breakfast sausage -- like the similar sausage that people love from Boarman's in Highland -- is the easiest gateway around.  Basic pork sausage flavored with sage and other spices.

We pressed out two patties.  I cooked them in a cast iron pan while two eggs fried in a skillet and some Wegmans bread toasted nearby.  Wegmans' bakery will slice any loaf, and the thin, even slices have made this a staple that I keep in the freezer for sandwiches or toast.

Simple and superb.  I try to find delicious meat because I'd rather eat a small amount of the great stuff than a daily ration of the mediocre.  Laurel Meat and Boarman's grind their own sausages, and they give a full-flavored mix that just tastes fresher and better every time.

We had superb breakfast sandwiches in minutes, then went on about our day.

If you're intrigued, check out a line of HowChow posts about meat and local butchers.  I did a survey of butchers a few years ago in a longer post about places to shop, and I try to code posts when they're about barbecue or grilling.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Leelyn's Makes The Unmanly Chef Sing About His Supper; His E.C. Spot For Soup, Salad, More

The "Seasonal Salad"
The Unmanly Chef cooks up a storm on his own blog -- including a great series of "Five Lunches, Five Days" where he recommends a recipe you can cook Sunday and then pack good food all week.

But the Chef is a Howard County local, and he graciously offered to write up a joint that we haven't visited in years.  Leelynn's is an Ellicott City spot just off Rte 108.  It's an American kitchen with a menu that changes and offers everything from drinks to small plates to big entrees.  As I remember, they have some nice outdoor seating, which will just get more cozy as we move into fall.

The Chef has lived in Howard County for 27 years, so he remembers Lee Stumpf back from the years at G.L. Shacks, a local hangout.  Once they parted ways, Stumpf opened Leelyn's, and the Chef said it quickly became of his family's "go to" spots:
There are so many things that I like about Leelynn’s, but I’ll rattle a few off before I get to my review.

The first -- and I think most important -- is the sense of community you feel when you go there.  I dare you to go and not recognize someone.  You feel at home or like the Cheers theme song said,”You wanna go where everybody knows your name.” 
The pork belly
Second, it lacks any sort of pretentious, over the top salesmanship which I can’t stand. Their staff knows the menu well enough to give recommendations but they’re not going to hit you over the head with the menu, which I like. Finally, Leelynn’s has an adventurous kitchen which has always been fearless to try new menu items.

A menu feature that I love about Leelynn’s is that they have a small plates menu.  For the crowd that doesn’t want a huge plate of food, this is a great feature.  This is the portion of the menu that changes often, so it’s hard to get sick of an item.  I am sad that they don’t do mac & cheese anymore, because it was unreal. Their chips are made in house and are stellar.

They have unreal cream of crab soup.  It’s one of my favorites in Maryland.  I’ve eaten this soup all over the state, and Leelynn's tastes just as good as the soup at the Inn at Perry Cabin, one of the highest rated restaurants in the state.  It has plenty of jumbo lump crab meat to go long with a great cream soup.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Here Come Brews #2 And #3, Updates The Sun

With Jailbreak Brewing in Laurel, Howard County got its first brewery this year.

Now Julekha Dash of the Sun has written an update on the two other groups looking to open competitors -- Black-Eyed Susan Brewing slated now to open this fall in Columbia and Manor Hill Brewing Company in Ellicott City in 2015.

I've visited Jailbreak, and this is a fun concept.  These breweries will sell most of their beer to restaurants and liquor stores, but they can run tasting rooms -- without kitchens -- where people can hang out and sample the beer.

Jailbreak pairs with food trucks who operate in the parking lot.  It's a fun scene, and I assume both of the new places will aim for something similar.

Check out Dash's article for Howard Magazine.  And also check out an April 2014 article by Sarah Meehan in the Baltimore Business Journal.  Both articles say Manor Hill will not have a retail scene like Jailbreak.  It says there may be private parties, but no tours because of traffic issues.

Please comment below with any advice about Jailbreak's beers or any other news about plans by Black-Eyed Susan or Manor Hill.  Manor Hill is run by the folks who own Victoria Gastro Pub, which makes me doubly interesting in how they'll mix food and drink even if it is just at the restaurant.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ali Baba And The 40 Donuts, A Story Of Sweets To End A Chinese Feast At Grace Garden

Grace Garden's donuts
This is what you get for being stereotypical:  Forty donuts.

There were three of us, including one Chinese speaker at Grace Garden in Odenton, and we were pretty stuffed from three entrees from the best Chinese restaurant in the area.  But we were enjoying the afternoon and finishing off our tea when our friend recommended the donuts.

We looked at the menu, and, for about $5, there was a line for "40 donuts."  That can't be right, we all agreed.  You know how Chinese restaurants have language issues.  I've seen stir-fried "prok."  I've seen "shimp."  That must be an order with four little donuts.  That would be perfect.  We just need four.

Out came 40 donuts, maybe more.  They're each the size of a donut hole from one of the national chains.  Beautifully fried, warm and crisp but not oily.  Dusted with a large-flake sugar that created sweet crunch.  These are a terrific dessert.  Probably smarter if you have four or six people to eat 40 donuts, but we hoovered most of them.  I concentrated on the section with the most sugar.

I can't recommend Grace Garden's food enough.  It's one of my best restaurants of Howard County even though it is across the border in Odenton.  It's well worth the drive our Rte 32, and now it comes with a sweet ending.

For more about Grace Garden, check out Lisbeth's post on Lisbeth Eats.  As always, she has terrific photos, and she suggests her favorite dishes at what I consider the best Chinese food near Howard County.  Read all my posts about Grace Garden to see what inspires you. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Special Monthly Buffet At Mango Grove -- Drawing The No-Meat Crowd, Plus Cool Kids

Big plates from Mango Grove's vegan buffet
Anyone can love Mango Grove because it serves some of the best food in Howard County, but they're breaking out the welcome mat for a niche market -- that's still a welcome adventure for everyone.

Okay, they're breaking out the dinner buffet, not the welcome mat.

Mango Grove does a lunch buffet most days with both vegetarian and non-veg options.  But the Columbia restaurant is adding a monthly dinner buffet with all vegan food and attracting a young, cool crowd in the process.  It's a partnership with the Humane League, which advertises the event and gets a donation as well.

We stumbled on August's vegan buffet in mid-month, and it's a feast for about $20.  The buffet shows off what Mango Grove does best -- a mix of straight Indian food like spinach and chickpeas with Chinese-Indian dishes like "broccoli 65" and a noodle dish that is their version of chow mein.

That broccoli 65 is a treat.  Deep-fried and spicy, it's a dish that will please even folks who don't normally like the green vegetable.  But the best dish was jackfruit and potatoes, a savory curry that shows off the jackfruit's sweetness.  A guy at the buffet compared the consistency to pulled pork.  Not exactly, but it is a substantial dish that is really unique.

The monthly buffet is clearly a treat for vegans.  But it's no compromise for anyone.  The food is really good, and you can always order off the menu if you need a dosa or some other dishes.  (Mrs. HowChow got a lassi, then hid it behind the wine list so that she could fit into the vegan crowd, but still have her yogurt shake.)

Mrs. HowChow and I were amused because the Mango Grove crowd definitely took on a different look.  It's always fun to be in a restaurant full of happy chatter.  We're just not used to a crowd of tattooed 20-somethings in an Indian restaurant.  A few older folks, a few kids.  But it felt more like Fells Point than Columbia.  Bravo!

I think the monthly vegan buffet will be the fourth Monday of every month.  That's what I wrote down, although I realize that doesn't match August 11.  Check out the Human League's Facebook page for Maryland.  They posted about the August event, and they say the September one will be on the 22d.  I assume they're publicize future ones.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Steamed Dumplings At Manna: Mandu To Almost Fill The Void Of The Late Honey Pig Dumplings

Steamed mandu from Manna in the Lotte food court
For those in search of steamed dumplings after the closing of Honey Pig Dumpling last year, the time has come to slake your hunger on Manna.

That's Manna's mandu -- $9 for a six-dumpling order -- in the photo above.  It's one of the stands in the food court next to Lotte in Ellicott City.

We got the pork variety, and they're a tasty snack.  A bit less filling and a bit more dough pressed together at the top than the Honey Pig variety on sale briefly at the new Lotte in Catonsville.  But they're a welcome find because we had loved the steamed mandu as a party food.  They re-heat beautifully in a steamer.

The Lotte food court has a series of restaurants, each with a pretty large menu.  Does anyone have specific recommendations?  I have looked a few times, but I don't know what you suggest.

(in the back of the Lotte food court)
8801 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21043

NEAR:  The Lotte in the Golden Triangle shopping center has a connected food court.  This is the shopping center on Rte 40 just east of Rte 29.  Manna is the stand all the way in the back.  They have a menu in signs above the register, including several ramen varieties.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hot, Hot, Hot: Why Nashville Laughs At Your Spiciest Fried Chicken Through Fiery Tears

The spiciest food that I have ever eaten
At some point -- as I finished eating the chicken wing -- my brain gave clear instructions that I should stand up and run away from the only people who I knew in Nashville.

I should have known there was trouble when the only local had said we had to visit Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish, then announced "I'll just have a soda."  Nashville has a "hot chicken" tradition where lethal quantities of cayenne and other spices are mixed into or spread onto fried chicken.  Bolton's is a concrete bunker of a restaurant where you take out or eat at one of the worn tables.  (See below.)

Overall, this is delicious chicken, well worth an adventure if you visit Nashville.  On the main part of the breast, the ratio of moist white meat balanced out the crazy spice in the breading.

Bon Chon's wings and pickled radish
But eating the wing first was murder.  The red-stained breading was as thick as the meat on a wing.  Spice overwhelmed everything and filled my mouth.  I puffed out breaths.  I drank down Diet Coke.  I ate the pickles and white bread.  I actually had the urge to run away, flee the chicken, find ice water to dunk my  head.

But I'm a guy.  The other two guys kept eating their chicken, so I kept going as well.  Our local stole a few slices, but it was the travelers who finished off the "sandwiches" and felt like they had their taste of Nashville.  I felt flames in my stomach for the rest of the day.  And that was Bolton's medium chicken.  I hadn't been crazy enough to start with the hot or the extra hot.

For local chicken, the spiciest probably comes from the kitchen at Bon Chon Chicken in Ellicott City.  That's a terrific spot.  They also serve pickled radish as a side dish.  Those cubes do wonders to cool off a fiery mouth  tongue.  The hottest local food is probably the chili naan at Tandoor Grill on Johns Hopkins Road, although a friend said that bread had been toned down a bit the last time that he ordered.

Hot chicken at Bolton's reminded me that I need to return for pit beef at Pioneer Pit Beef in Woodlawn.  That's our answer to a local delicacy cooked in shacks and concrete bunkers.  Ironically, I think my last lunch on Pioneer's picnic tables was with my Nashville buddy.  For the record, I ate exactly what I told him to eat.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Thai Sauces -- Lemongrass! -- Inspire My Shopping At The Saturday Farmers Market In Fulton

I thought that I would be good at CSAs and farmers markets, but I have never found myself making really good decisions about purchases or menus.

I buy stuff, but I lose the energy and end up with something lost and rotting in the back of the produce drawer.  As I typed this, I remembered a clutch of Love Dove Farms carrots that I need to pickle today because we haven't touched them for 10 days.

At my last visit to the new Fulton farmers market, I found my inspiration in a jar.  A jar of lemongrass sauce sold by Thai Spices, a stand run by some folks who I think also run a Thai restaurant in Baltimore.

The mason jar of sauce came packed with flavor and ideas.  You could have picked any number of sauces, including a "sweet n sour" or rad pik.  Either way, the sauce became the key to my shopping.  Carrots, tomatoes, potatoes and green beans from Love Dove and TLV Tree farms.  Then chicken breasts from TLV.

I made two soups.  Slight variations where I made stock, then added tablespoons of lemongrass sauce. Poached one chopped chicken breast.  Then removed the meat and cooked the vegetables.  First the stiff ones like carrots, potatoes and chard.  Adding a little more sauce until the flavor was strong.  Then the soft vegetables like tomatoes and green beans with the chicken to reheat.

We got six bowls of soup from that chicken and sauce.  We even have some leftover sauce that could go into a stirfry.  I'm also inspired to try this again.

Check out the Thai Spices stand.  They were also selling takeout packages of spring rolls and mango sticky rice.  That could make a nice snack as you walk around or that you carry home for lunch.

The Fulton farmers market runs every other Saturday.  Check out the spicy pepper jelly and all my posts about the Howard County farmers markets.  For the real writing about seasonal cooking, check out the CSA and recipe reports on blogs like AnnRie Unplugged or Kitchen Scribble or  Three Beans On A String or Howard County Cook.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Age Tofu At Sushi Sono -- Outside the Fish

Age Tofu at Sushi Sono
No one beats the sushi at Sushi Sono in Columbia, but I recommend the age tofu appetizer if you want to step outside the fish.

This is the kind of dish that makes me never fry at home.

I look to professionals like the Sushi Sono kitchen that turns our perfect crisp blocks of silky firm tofu.  They're crunchy, but not oily.  Hot pieces that are easy to lift onto your  plate and then spoon over with the dashi broth at the bottom of the bowl.  The flavor -- earthy and warm -- comes from that broth and the large slices of dried fish that actually wave as the heat from the tofu.

Your first piece of tofu will be hot and crisp.  The second will have rested a few minutes in the broth and become a bit chewier and more flavorful.  It's a terrific treat and another lesson about how Sushi Sono worries about texture and subtle flavors, far more than fancy sauces or spices.

If you like age tofu, I also recommend the same appetizer at Shin Chon Garden in Ellicott City.  They're different dishes, but it's a testament to the flexibility that age tofu contrasts equally well with a plate of tofu or a grill full of Korean barbecue.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Drinking A Flower: Le Comptoir's Lavender Iced Latte Has Become A Mrs. HowChow Favorite

The Le Provencal iced latte and a chocolate cookie
Narrow-casting here for the lavender lovers in Howard County.  For everyone else, there are still cookies.

Le Comptoir in Columbia offers an iced latte flavored with lavender that has become one of Mrs. HowChow's favorite things.  Le Provencal is pricey at $6, but it's her treat as we sit on the lakefront.  Done right, it's a revelation. Perfectly iced coffee with a waft of lavender.

Not the flavor of soap, which is a common problem when you cook with lavender.  This is a hint of flavor, more of scent than something strong.  We assume they use a lavender simple syrup, but we're happy to enjoy without knowing the secret.

And then there are always cookies if you want a treat without flowery flavors.  Le Comptoir makes a variety of baked goods that have made it one of our favorite places.  But those chocolate cookies have become our favorites -- crunch on the outside, moist inside.  Not cakey (because we're not a cake family).

Le Comptoir is a terrific place to stop before checking out the new Whole Foods on the lakefront.  Walk from the grocery down towards the lake and Clyde's.  Le Comptoir, Petit Louis and Sushi Sono are all perpendicular to Clyde's overlooking the lake.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sometimes You Have To Get Out of Town To Find Something You Love; Cuban Coffee To Share

The colada at the Miami Dade College snack bar
Sometimes you have to get out of town to find something you love.

Cuban coffee culture has created the perfect mix of caffeine and friendship, value and flavor -- and I don't understand why I can't buy them all over America.

Behold above:  The colada, a huge shot of Cuban coffee served everywhere in Miami in a styrofoam cup with a half-dozen tiny plastic thimbles on the side.  Dark, sweet, espresso-like coffee.  Served so that you can share with your friends by filling thimbles and snapping them back.

What could be better than a cheap way to drink coffee all day?  I bought the colada above at a snackbar at Miami Dade College.  Truth be told, I used it as jet fuel.  I drank about two-thirds alone so that I didn't nod off during a morning spent listening to lawyers.  Huge caffeine boost, but small enough liquid that I wouldn't need the bathroom breaks that come with a venti-largo-grandi cup of coffee.

But the real fun comes from spacing them through the day.  I buy one for the group's morning coffee break.  You bring one back when you go pick up lunch.

These cost a little more than a dollar in Miami.  I assume they're making money, so I don't understand why the colada -- and Cuban coffee generally -- has never become a trend in American cities.  A Miami coffee bar serves espresso shots, the big colada, and then sipping drinks like a cafe con leche.  Come on people!  Someone should start the colada revolution around here.

The best Cuban coffee near Howard County is a Cuba de Ayer in Burtonsville, and I'm a big fan, especially of the pork chop and the Cuban sandwich.  They serve nice cafe con leche as well.  I have seen that Le Comptoir offers a "cordata" with espresso and steamed half-and-half, but I haven't tried it yet.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Comments About Whole Foods, Ananda, New Italian On Rte 40 And Breakfast Suggestions

The crab appetizer at Ananda
It has been a big week for Howard County food.  Just a new Whole Foods would be a banner event, and people have been comments about that grocery and a bunch of other news.

Andrew Mak, StevenC, Bren and others wrote detailed reports on the opening days.  I would love hear little things that people have found.  My main purchase was a rockfish that I did roast successfully.  I made a few other finds that I'll pepper in posts.  There should be many, many trips of fun eating.

Checking on other new joints, The Minx, SHZ, and several other people wrote their first thoughts about Ananda.  I'm a huge fan of the new restaurant in Fulton, and I love Todd Kliman's description as an fusion between Indian and a local-learning bistro.  In my original post, I forgot to highlight the crab appetizer, which is small cakes that hold their own against any others that I ate this summer.

Adam reports that a Squisito will also open next to Soft Stuff in the new construction on Rte 40.  It's apparently an Italian restaurant from Anne Arundel.

My rockfish
And there is more!  People are nice enough to share opinions about all kinds of places, including these below:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Buy Crabs On Rte 40 Directly From The Eastern Shore Waterman Who Caught Them This Week

You can buy real Maryland crabs today from the folks who caught them this week if you head up to Rte 40 today in Ellicott City.

The photo above is Captain Bunky catching crabs Sunday.  He sends a truck up to the Normandy Crown gas station just east of Rte 29.

I had planned to be buying them right now.  But I hadn't emphasized at home that they're live crabs.  A bargain compared to other local sources and truly fresh from the Chesapeake Bay.

Then I learned that Mrs. HowChow really didn't want to steam live crabs in our house.  It's been a change over time.  She thinks she can eat them, so I'm going to buy hot crabs from Frank's Seafood in Jessup.  But she just couldn't have live crabs stored in the house and then cooked in our place.

More crabs for you.  If you can steam them, then this is the ultimate in local eating.  You're buying right from the waterman.  You get top-notch product for less than I'm going to pay at Frank's.  Maryland seafood matters if you like the idea of having a local industry, so it's a huge win for everyone.

Except the crabs.

Ask when you visit, but I understood that they'll send a truck to the Normandy Crown at least through Labor Day. I don't exactly which days. Crabs are delicious and heavy in September and October, but demand drops once people think that summer has ended.  The Normandy Crown gas station is 8505 Baltimore National Pike -- just east of Rte 29 on Rte 40.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Kliman Loves Ananda; That's Great, But I May Need To Post About 14th Street's Hooker History

Watermelon salad in the middle of nowhere
Todd Kliman actually drives to Howard County to try restaurants.  So we love him and won't need to have him flogged.

The restaurant critic for the Washingtonian wrote a rave about the new Ananda in an on-line chat this week.  Kliman is really good.  I have a vague smart idea, then I see that Kliman turned a similar idea into a concrete, descriptive passage that says everything that I thought and more:
Add to that the quality of the meats and fishes, which is several notches above that of the curry house, and you have a brand of cooking that is lighter and fresher than any Indian restaurant in the area not named Rasika. Given this emphasis, you might expect the dishes to experiment a little, to rethink traditional dishes in whimsical or dramatic ways. But for the most part Ananda is attempting a different, less obvious kind of fusion — the fusion of the local-leaning bistro with the conventional Indian restaurant.
Fusion of Indian with "local-leaning bistro" is a perfect description of Ananda.  You'll get some Indian dishes and some modern creations with true Indian flavors.  I think even an on-line chat by Klim will influence people to try the Fulton restaurant.

But then Kliman had to muddy my warm feelings with the kind of worn-out "slag the suburbs" barb that I thought had been abandoned by even the newbies at the Baltimore City Paper:
The restaurant itself is a showpiece. From outside, it looks a little like a castle and a little like a bank, and sits in the middle of nowhere, amid a still-evolving development of townhouses in Fulton, Md.
Seriously?  Middle of nowhere?  That doesn't seem necessary.  Especially because Ananda is just off Rte 29.  It is in sight of APL's new space sciences office building, and it's actually in the decade-old Maple Lawn development that includes more office buildings.

I can walk to Ananda.  So I'm allowed to josh Howard County by using a corn field as my Twitter icon.  But even that corn field became houses two years ago, and I don't slag Washington by constantly reminding folks that their hippest cuisine is served on blocks that were full of hookers when I was growing up.

But then again, maybe I should.

Seriously, you should keep an eye on Kliman's chats on the Washingtonian Web site.  He finds cool places.  He writes about all kinds of food.  And he has both terrific suggestions and well-turned ways to describe what he has eaten.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Shophouse Asian Kitchen Looks To Open Monday

The Columbia Mall is getting another new restaurant -- Shophouse that looks to be opening Monday, according to the mall Web site.

I don't know the restaurant.  Looks like ShopHouse is a Southeast Asian version of Chipotle -- brought to you by some of the people who started that chain.  It seems to follow Maggiano's and Seasons 52 as upscale chains with real aspirations in their kitchen.  I won't be able to check it out for a while, so please add comments if you give it a try.

Hat tip to Charles who emailed me the link.

Whole Foods Has Opened; The First Visit Left Me Overwhelmed, But I Finally Caught My Rockfish

The patio overlooking the Columbia lakefront
The couple was just behind me looking at the fish display.  Whole Foods opened in Columbia this morning, and we were in the lunchtime crowd.

They pointed.  They talked varieties.  They were clearly excited by just the idea of seafood because they were dressed for the office and clearly couldn't carry a fish with them.

Then the woman turned to the guy.  "Oh, wow," she said.  "We're in trouble."  He nodded.  "Yes, we are."

The pickle bar
If you're a Whole Food kind of shopper, then you are in trouble with the new store that opened in Columbia.  It's beautiful.  It's huge.  It's exactly the pricey temple to eating that you've seen in other towns, but now it's calling you from nearby

I barely looked at the central aisles today.  My first visit was a long circle around the edges where Whole Foods serves all kinds of convenience -- from ingredients like fish, sausages and meats to takeout like salads, fresh pasta, and olives to full meals like pizzas, bi bim bap, and sandwiches.

The meals seem as important to me as the grocery store.  Like Wegmans, Whole Foods offers tables after table of seating.  They want you to buy and sit.  They even have a deck and an indoor space that look over the lakefront.

I've said that this makes the Columbia lakefront a broad magnet.  People can shop.  They can just buy a meal.  In good weather, they can picnic outside.  Maybe stroll for a drink at Clyde's or our favorite cookie at Le Comptoir.

The cheeses
Today, I circled for things that I already know.  Some produce, a cheese, flowers, and the chicken sausage that will become a freezer staple for grilling, pasta sauces and more.   I planned to return for fresh pasta.  I gasped at the pickle bar.  A dozen kinds of pickled cucumbers.  Four kinds of kimchi.  A scattering of other cured vegetables.

I took my leap at that seafood counter.  I had two great fishing trips that both ended as fish-catching failures.  But Steve Vilnit talked up rockfish and showed me how they're caught in Chesapeake Bay traps.  I took the plunge on a small one that the fishmonger scaled, gutted and butterflied.  That's sitting now in the fridge with olive oil, roasted garlic, basil and lemon juice smeared inside.  Ready for the grill.

Does anyone else have stories from the Whole Foods opening day?  I'm sure that I'll post more as I try new items.  (Four kinds of kimchi!)  I'd love to hear about the actual meals -- the pizza, the lunch counter. . . .  Welcome to Whole Foods -- especially to the folks who moved to Columbia to work at the store.  I met a cheese guy who left California and felt duty-bound to warn him that this isn't the August heat that he should expect next year.

For more on the Whole Foods, check out the Two Dudes Who Love Food.  The teenaged bloggers made a short video about the store and making two healthy school lunches.  Just don't believe them about "wraps."  I love whole grains.  I love tortillas.  But America has ruined too many great sandwich ideas by switching bread for whole grain tortillas.

Great Takeout Salad: The Seasonal Hwae Dup Bop You Can Carry Out From Catonsville Lotte

Hwae dup bop from Rainbow Sushi inside the Catonsville Lotte
We have a new option for easy, healthy takeout now that we have learned about hwae dup bop carryout at the new Lotte in Catonsville.

This is a salad of shredded lettuce and vegetables served with sliced sashimi-style fish, rice and a spicy sauce.  We ate it at Yetnal House last month, but we enjoyed it again last night when the Cordis Couple invited us over for impromptu dinner.

It's super easy dinner in minutes.  You get a takeout container packed with shredded lettuce, carrots, cucumber and other vegetables along with bite-sized slices of tuna and other fish.  You also get a package of cooked rice and a dollop of spicy red pepper sauce.  Mix to taste with a dash of sesame oil, and we ate beautifully.

The Cordis couple buy the "sashimi salad" at the Rainbow Sushi stand in the back right corner of the new Lotte in Catonsville.  Order.  Then shop for 10 minutes while the sushi chefs slice the fish for you.

The package serves three adults, they said.  With a little more cooked rice, they mixed up a bowl that served four us comfortably.  That's a deal at about $11.
Apparently, Rainbow Sushi only sells hwae dup bop in the summer and fall.  So go try now.  I thought the ingredients were delicious.  Crisp vegetables.  Tasty fish.  They stirred until everything mixed, and the sesame oil made a light dressing with the spicy sauce and some of that orange roe.

Honestly, I enjoyed this as much or more than the Yetnal House version.  I don't think we mixed our first hwae dup bop well, and the shredded vegetables made it easier to ensure that everything was coated with dressing and that every mouthful came with fish and vegetables.  Lisbeth had posted about her favorite version, extolling the shredded iceberg lettuce at Han Sung.  She is onto something, and the Rainbow Sushi version mixed several kinds of lettuce with radicchio and other vegetables.

I really recommend the Lotte in Catonsville.  The Ellicott City branch work great for quick shopping, but the new Lotte is worth the drive because it's bigger and has enormous selections of Indian, Korean and other ethnic items.