Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Cava Grill Comes to Columbia, Maryland!

I’m so happy that one of my favorite restaurants has opened up a new location in Howard County! Cava Grill is a Mediterranean and Greek restaurant chain (essentially the mediterranean version of Chipotle) with locations in Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C, California, and soon to be New York on August 25th. Cava Grill in Columbia had its grand opening yesterday at 11 am. The restaurant chain does a special deal where from a designated time (11 am - 2 pm) on opening day, the new restaurant location gives out one free meal to customers. Who could refuse a deal like this?

The line extended from Cava to the next store over

When Charles and I arrived at around 12 pm, the place was mobbed. You can see from the picture that the line to get food spanned from Cava to the next store. After waiting for more than 40 minutes in the sweltering heat, we arrived at the counter and ordered our long anticipated free meal.
map with all East Coast locations

Compared to the Cava location we always go to in Tenleytown, Washington D.C, this one is way more spacious; a variety of seating options including booths, tables, and high tops are spread out and organized so that you don’t feel crowded or cramped. In addition, I like the organic vibe to this restaurant. From the pictures of veggies and fruits on the wall to the sign that highlights how Cava’s items are, “whenever possible”, sourced from local farms, the emphasis here is healthy eating.
You place your order here and move down the food "assembly line"

Mixed greens salad with a huge range of ingredients
I ordered a mixed greens salad (super greens, arugula, spinach, romaine, and mesclun) with tzatziki, hummus, crazy feta (costs extra normally), roasted red pepper hummus, chicken, braised lamb (costs extra normally), cabbage slaw, tomato and onion, diced cucumbers, tomato and cucumber, kalamata olives, pickled onions, crumbled feta, and gordy's pickled banana peppers with yogurt dill dressing and a side of lemon herb tahini dressing. From its immense size to its aesthetically pleasing appearance, simply put, the meal was divine. All of these different flavors and combinations, from the smooth and thick hummus to the spicy and creamy crazy feta, mixing together was like having a party in my mouth.There is one caveat about this dish you should know: it’s extremely addicting and you won’t be able to stop eating it.

Charles' mixed greens salad
Charles ordered the mixed greens salad (super greens, arugula, spinach, romaine, and mesclun) with lentils (costs extra normally), tzatziki, hummus, roasted red pepper hummus, braised lamb (costs extra normally), cabbage slaw, tomato and onion, diced cucumbers, tomato and cucumber, pickled onions, crumbled feta, and gordy's pickled banana peppers with a side of yogurt dill dressing. Likewise, Charles praised the heavenly dish. His only wish is that they mix all the ingredients in the salad together instead of just putting the glob of hummus in one spot and the tzatziki in another. However, you can mix up the salad yourself with your fork so this really isn’t a concern.

Watermelon mint
These 3 are Cava's more sweet selection of housemade drinks

The watermelon mint beverage (simple syrup, watermelon, water, and lime/limeade) has a unique taste. One word perfectly describes this drink: funky. As one of their sweeter selection of summer housemade drinks, it had an initial sugary and distinct watermelon flavor but the aftertaste changed to a sharp lime/limeade flavor. 

Yes, indeed flavor is

I absolutely love every single piece about Cava: the interior decorations, food, and everything else. For just around $9, you can get such a large salad portion that you might not even be hungry for the next meal; the pita is also filling but doesn’t come close to the amount of food you get with the salad. Cava is meant for people who love to load up their plate with an eclectic array of food items. If this sounds like you, you’ll get the most out of Cava’s huge variety of healthy options.

- Thomas

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Kogiyaki Korean BBQ - Ellicott City, Maryland

Does Kogiyaki Korean BBQ look familiar to you? If it does, then you must remember Bean and Burgundy Bread (formerly occupied the same building). The difference between the two is that Kogiyaki focuses more on Korean and Asian cuisine than having a variety of American and Asian food items like Bean and Burgundy.
Even though the restaurant went through some rebranding, the interior is more or less the same - a large spacious room with a multitude of seating options and several televisions. It's a nice environment because it's never loud or noisy; the eatery has a relaxed and peaceful vibe.

I was enticed to eat at Kogiyaki by their lunch sushi buffet - sushi, Korean food, and a salad bar. For someone who is as hungry as I am, buffets are always worth the money.

I was pleasantly surprised with all the options I had to choose from:
California roll (far left) 

fried rice (bottom right)

Out of all these choices, I loaded up on just sushi and fried rice (way to be adventurous, right?). After all, it is called the lunch sushi buffet, so the sushi must be good.

The California roll consisted of imitation crab meat, avocado, cucumber, and fish eggs (tobiko). Some Asian restaurants don't put the fish eggs on the California roll, so I appreciate them using it here; it's 10 times more aesthetically pleasing with it than without it. Also, I loved how the subtle flavors and soft textures of each ingredient produced a delicious combination. Even though each individual roll was slightly thin and smaller than usual, the size of it didn't bother me because I could always get more rolls if I wasn't satiated.

The fried rice includes carrots, fried eggs, onions, and peas. The dish reminded me of the same type of fried rice from a Benihana or Sakura as opposed to that of a Chinese restaurant. Although the rice was filling, I would have liked the dish to have an abundance of different types of vegetables (the flavor would be more potent).

The miso soup came with the lunch buffet. The soup was served hot and didn't fail to disappoint. 

Overall, the massive lunch buffet didn't have any items that were a home run but didn't have anything subpar. If the lunch buffet isn't for you, they also have a dinner buffet and supposedly amazing Korean fried chicken. If anyone has tried these, let me know how they are in the comments.

- Thomas

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Ellicott City Flood - Relief Efforts

Historic Ellicott City before the flood
It has been a week since the historic area of my town, Ellicott City, was devastated by a hideous flood. The storm destroyed much of the town, demolished sidewalks and the foundation of buildings.

Founded in 1772, the history of  Ellicott City pre-dates the Civil War - click here for more information.

We take great pride that many of the historic buildings are meticulous cared for and give our downtown its charm.

These streets housed a vibrant business district, including restaurants that we visited often.

It's really awful to see all the places you grew up with just obliterated. In just a blink of an eye, businesses, homes and two people, just gone.  It's really hard to even wrap our heads around that.

The road to recovery will be long but Ellicott City will #RiseAboveTheWater.

To help people and businesses get back on their feet, we are publicizing the following gofundme.com pages for the affected restaurants in the historic district (HT to Floria Volynskaya's Facebook page). Please help if you can.

Every penny helps to get these restaurants back on main street. So, let's all do our part in restoring the town we love back to its former glory.

Judge's Bench - https://www.gofundme.com/judgesbench

Ellicott Mills Brewing Company - https://www.gofundme.com/2hhhex8

La Palapa Mexican Grill & Cantina - https://www.gofundme.com/lapalapagrill

Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant -https://www.gofundme.com/2hkn2j94

Little French Market - https://www.gofundme.com/2hqefbg

Pure Wine Cafe - https://www.gofundme.com/2htkeac

Johnny's Bistro on Main (blog post here) - https://www.gofundme.com/2hvtrws

Sweet Cascades Chocolatier - https://www.gofundme.com/2hm8cwws

Tea on the Tiber - https://www.gofundme.com/teaonthetiber

The Rumor Mill Fusion Bar & Restaurant -https://www.gofundme.com/therumormillec

Cacao Lane Restaurant - https://www.gofundme.com/2hhmpbcc

Portalli's - https://www.gofundme.com/supportportallis

Bean Hollow Roastery & Espresso (blog post here) - https://www.youcaring.com/gretchen-shuey-614117

The Phoenix Emporium - https://www.gofundme.com/2hmcgtdg

Charles and Thomas at The Trolley Stop

Even though main street is closed, The Trolley Stop (read our 2015 blog post here) is one of the few restaurants still open in historic Ellicott City. Charles and I decided to show our support by dining there last night.

We will continue to share news and fundraisers about our town. Please contact us with information so we can get it out.

We are #ECStrong

- Thomas and Charles