Sunday, October 19, 2014

H Mart - Catonsville, Maryland

 Located on the corner of Rolling Road & Rt. 40 in Catonsville, Maryland, H Mart is an Asian inspired grocery store that according to its web site takes pride in offering customers "the freshest ingredients" with the "best value".

Since opening in Queens, New York in 1982, H Mart has grown to 40 locations in the US, Canada and recently London, England. 

H Mart (short for Han Ah Reum, a Korean phrase meaning "arm full of groceries") carries a wide selection of fresh produce, seafood and asian products. Surprisingly, it also has a Hispanic food section too. 

Hidden on the far right side of the store, tucked away in a corner, we discovered a sit-in eatery and sushi counter. 

Charles, Grandpa and me 

A row of large flatscreens displayed the eatery menu items identified by photo, numbers and dish name.

The eatery is small with about five tables and counter seating. Although a half-wall partisan separates the eatery from the supermarket, I could still easily see and hear the shoppers - which we thought was cool.

After we selected our dishes, we placed our order at the cash register.

Once our meals were ready, the nice lady at the cash register called us up to the counter to retrieve the entrees. Our meals came with a complimentary bowl of white rice, kimchi, and miso soup. The rice  and kimchi was given to us with our entree, however, we were told the soup was self serve from a large hot caldron (that was fun to do).

Apparently there are people who forget the miso soup is only complimentary with a entree, because there was a huge "Not Free $1.00" sign posted on the pot.

I selected the KanPoongGi (#21). Although the chicken was moist and plentiful, the "garlic and pepper sauce" was a little too spicy for my liking. One  bite wasn't inherently spicy, but after a couple of mouthfuls, I was grateful for my water bottle. However, my grandpa, who likes spicy cuisine, thought the dish was great! I'd say this dish resembles Sesame Chicken but with a giant kick.

My brother Charles ordered the Chicken Broccoli (#52). The best part of the dish was the fresh broccoli. The bad part was the rest of the dish - the chicken was rubbery, bland, and chewy with a monotonous brown "special sauce".  Charles was quite surprised since the dish looked so good on the menu board photo and on the actual plate.  After my Grandpa and I tried a bite of his dish, we both concurred with his assessment. We left most of his dish untouched.

In addition to the hot food in the cafe, there is a sushi section run by a few men who were busy making sushi to order. While we didn't try the sushi on this visit, it looked terrific - and most importantly it looked very fresh. The prices for the sushi carry-out items seemed less expensive than other grocery stores like Giant and Safeway. For example, a California Roll was priced at $3.50.

Although our voyage to the H Mart eatery wasn't all that great, we would still consider returning to try other dishes. Plus, we'd like to spend more time exploring the grocery part of the store.

-Thomas Regnante

Hanahreum Asian Mart on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mike's Crab House - Riva, Maryland

Mike's Crab House, near Annapolis in Riva, Maryland, is our family's local place for crabs. The location on the South River allows customers to arrive by car or boat.

It's an understatement to say that Mike's knows crabs. For almost six decades, this crab house has been serving Maryland style crabs and seafood to happy customers.

                                                                                                                                                                Mike's is a great seafood restaurant year-round but it's really awesome on a warm day when the deck is open and customers can eat outside with a waterfront view.

Me and Thomas 

This is my grandfather and me sitting at an
umbrella table on the outside
On the day we ate at Mike's recently, my family and I were originally seated on the outside deck at an umbrella table. The view was breathtaking, but after 15 minutes, the sun shifted and a few of us became the victims of the sun's harsh rays.

We told our server and she offered us another table either inside or on the covered outside deck. We decided that we had enough of the sun and wanted to sit  on the covered deck (it was also a bigger table and that's a bonus when you're eating crabs).

While we generally order jumbo size crabs, they only had the large size on our visit. The majority of our party (8 people) ordered large sized crabs and two ordered the crab cake entree.

Thomas and my mom ordered the two crab cake entree (comes either broiled or fried) with a choice of salad or coleslaw and baked potato or fries sides. They both chose broiled with a baked potato and a salad.

My brother said that the crab cake was tender and delicate. There was a little amount of mayo (acts like glue) that held the lump crab meat together. It made this cake heavy on the crab, very light on the fillers, but still very moist and dense.

My grandfather, who is the crab cake connoisseur in the family, thinks this is the best crab cake in Maryland. My mom  liked it but not as much as my grandfather. Her favorite is still G & M's crab cake. 

Salad Bar 

Certain entrees come complementary with a side salad via the all-you-can-eat salad bar. I look forward to this salad bar with its well stocked fresh vegetables and toppings such as mushrooms, spinach, beets, eggs, bean salad, pasta salad, croutons, nuts and more.

I, along with my grandparents, dad, aunt and friend, ordered 2 dozen large crabs to share. These Maryland crabs were full of meat, radiating with sweetness and showered with Old Bay Seasoning (you can never have too much Old Bay, right?).

Our grandmother giving us crab claw cracking advice  

The wait staff was constantly checking with us. Crabs are a messy venture -especially with the Old Bay seasoning. We appreciated the wait staff's attentiveness. Inevitably, we needed extra napkins, more melted butter, more drinks and hand wipes - and it all arrived with great speed.
Can you see the ducks?  

The view from our car
the Riva Bridge

                      Don't fret if you think you missed your chance to eat crabs at Mike's this summer - the restaurant serves crabs year-round.

The fact that Mike's Crab House has consistently served great crabs and seafood for almost 60 years - that alone is worth a trip. I know, I'll be back.

- Charles

Mike's Bar & Crab House on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 14, 2014

T & J Waffles - Clarksville, MD.

My friend Sean told me that every Saturday morning from 8 a.m to 2 p.m, T & J Waffles truck is parked in the Kendall Hardware parking lot on Route 108 in Clarksville, Maryland.

His family graciously invited me to join them on a recent Saturday morning.
Me and my friend Sean who introduced
me to the waffle truck  

The van that hauls the waffle truck.

T & J Waffles' origins is a very interesting story. The waffle truck was started by a Howard County high school senior Thomas Reboullet who needed money for college. He co-founded the waffle truck with his dad Thierry Rebouleet, a french pastry chef with over 30 years of experience. It's so cool to see teenagers interested in food.

This truck is so popular that I suggest you get there early to avoid big lines. Luckily we only had a moderate line considering it was 10:30 a.m.

The breakfast menu is visible on the counter as you wait in line to be served. There was another menu on the side of the truck, however it seems to list only a few of the items on the counter menu. 
Waffle with whipped cream and powdered sugar topping 

My friend Sean ordered the plain waffle with whipped cream and powdered sugar. The waffle was crisp on the outside and fluffy as you bit into it. The smooth whipped cream made it a sweet and cold contrast from the warm waffle.
Breakfast sandwich waffle 

Have you ever seen eggs and bacon on a waffle?  Sean's brother ordered the breakfast sandwich. Very cool combo. The bacon was very crisp - just the way he likes it.  At times, the sandwich could be hard to hold. However, it is worth it for such a creative and unique sandwich.

Waffle with cinnamon and apples

     I selected the waffle with cinnamon and apples. The apples were very fresh, sweet, and ripe.  I could tell that they use high quality ingredients. The cinnamon added a nice burst of flavor - almost like an open faced apple pie. With the added powdered sugar sprinkled on the waffle - this is as good as it gets!

Waffle with fresh strawberries and powdered sugar

Sean's sister ordered a waffle with fresh strawberries. This reminded me of eating strawberries dipped in sugar? Add the waffle and you'll understand this dish.

The menu also list some other cool items such as a variety of French quiches and crepes, pepperberry chicken asiago waffle, smoke salmon waffle, a grilled cheese waffle sandwich with tomato basil soup and chicken salad waffle.  

T & J Waffles is definitely worth the trip. It's fun to wake up, roll out of bed to something different. I really liked eating outside for a change.

Thank you Mrs. Hennessey and family for introducing  (and treating) me to T & J waffles.

- Thomas

Monday, August 18, 2014

Healthy School Lunch ideas - Whole Foods Market, Columbia

Whole Foods Market Columbia, Md bag

It's almost here... 

... the August 20 grand opening of the new Whole Foods Market, located in the iconic, Frank Gehry designed building (former Rouse Company headquarters), overlooking Lake Kittamaqundi and across from the The Mall,  in downtown Columbia. 

Today, we got a sneak peak of the store from Ms. Malloy of Whole Foods.  

It's hard to find words to describe how awesome this store is.  We knew we'd love it, but it's even better than we envisioned. 

Ms. Malloy introduced us to a Whole Foods Healthy Foods Specialist who we worked with to create two great school lunches - a turkey & hummus wrap and a peanut & chocolate butter with fresh strawberries sandwich - just in time for the start of school.  

Whole Foods ROCKS! 

 - Charles and Thomas 

Check out our video.

Monday, August 4, 2014

DiPasquale's Italian Marketplace - Baltimore, MD

100 years ago, Luigi DiPasquale Sr. opened an Italian corner grocery store in Batlimore's Highlandtown neighborhood.


Over the years, DiPasquale's has blossomed into an Italian market and eatery. Today, the family owned and operated store still offers the same high quality Italian items that locals love. Like many others, my grandparents have been customers for years, but some people come from far away to stock up on Italian goodies.

In fact, DiPasquale's is known nationally. It's been featured not once but TWICE on the Food Network  Guy Fieri's show (click here for video) and on Lidia's Italy in America show (see minute 14). Both celebrities were blown away by the authentic Italian food. It's impressive when two cooking legends come for a visit.

We couldn't wait to visit DiPasquale's.  From the outside, the building doesn't look like it could house a famous Italian Marketplace with such a big reputation.  However, you'll be surprised how big it actually is inside.

When I walked in, my eyes almost popped out of my head. Everywhere I looked there were mouthwatering authentic Italian items - seemingly endless varieties of olives, fresh mozzarella, imported cheese, stunning homemade prepared food and hanging cured meats at the deli counter.

In refrigerated and freezer cases there were an assortment of fresh pasta, pasta sauces, cookies, cakes and cannoli. On the grocery shelves there were dried pastas in all shapes and sizes, imported Italian goods....really anything and everything Italian is in this store.

 Looking at the food made me crazy hungry, but it was the aroma
 of the freshly baked bread that really made my mouth water.

Sicilian rice ball with meat and fresh mozzarella center 

My family headed to the deli counter where we ordered our food for lunch.

Roasted red and yellow peppers 

Cubanella sandwich


For appetizers, we ordered an Arancini and a side of yellow and red roasted peppers. The Sicilian rice ball was incredible. How could something so simple taste so good!
We ate the peppers -  melt in your mouth, garlicky roasted goodness - using the homemade bread to soaking up all the delicious juices.

I ordered the Cubanella sandwich. Mamma mia was it good! Ham, prosciutto, sautéed onions, lettuce, tomato, hots, and dijion mustard were the framework of this sandwich. The blend of sweet sautéed onions, well seasoned, moist pork with the crunchy bread was heaven in my mouth.  I was only sad that this sandwich was a daily special when it should be a staple on the everyday menu - it's that good.

Eggplant Lasagna
My grandma ordered the Chicken Parmigiana sandwich.  A seasoned breaded chicken cutlet covered with marinara sauce and melted provolone cheese. A classic that didn't disappoint.

My grandpa ordered a dish of Gnocchi with marinara sauce - one of the daily specials. The thick, but delicate and soft pasta paired with a sweet tomato sauce was delicious.

My mom is a huge eggplant fan. So, it was no surprise she ordered the eggplant lasagna. She was in heaven - couldn't get enough of the thinly sliced layers of eggplant melded together to form a dense but fork tender mile high lasagna. Oh, yeah, she wants to come just for this dish.
Large Meatball Sub 

Charles's needed a forklift to eat his large meatball sub. This is not just a big sub, it is the BIGGEST sub we have ever seen. The picture doesn't do it justice. It could literially feed a small village. He lost count on how many tender meatballs with sweet tomato sauce and melted cheese were stuffed into a ginormous half loaf of bread. Charles ate this sandwich with a fork.  Even his mouth was too small for the mighty meatball sub. In the end, Charles took home half of the sub - and that was after a few of us had a taste.

For dessert, we all split the Panettone Bread Pudding. Panettone is a classic Italian style sweet bread that is eaten all year long but most popular at Christmastime.  I liked this twist on traditional bread pudding.  Served cold, with a generous portion of whipped cream on top of it, I loved it. In fact, I think I ate more than my share of it.

I wish this restaurant was in my neighborhood because I would go there all the time. But regardless of how long it takes me to get to the Highlandtown store, DiPasquale's is worth the drive.

Bravo DiPasquale's!!!!!  Cent'anni (Italian saying for wishing you another 100 years)

- Thomas

Di Pasquale's Italian Marketplace on Urbanspoon