Anh-Mazing Banh Mi – Clarksville, MD

When I lived in Southern California, I would get Banh Mi every so often. Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich served on a baguette with various toppings. There were a couple of hole in the wall places I would go and could get a couple of big sandwiches for under $5 (total). The prices went up as the years went by, which is expected, but I still felt that I got more than my fair share of value.

Since I moved to Maryland, I have tried half-heartedly to find some places that served Banh Mi. Pho places are easy to find, and they might have one or two Banh Mi sandwiches on the menu, but I was hoping for some variety. I found about Anh-Mazing Banh Mi a few months ago and knew that I would make my way there eventually. I was out and about yesterday, and this place was on the way home from Gaithersburg, so I figured it would be the perfect opportunity.

When I arrived at the location (according to my GPS), there was a Farmer’s Market going on, and The Common Kitchen (along with some other shops and restaurants). The Common Kitchen is what I think of in my mind as a restaurant co-op. There are a lot of options, so I will be heading back there sooner rather than later, but I really wanted the Banh Mi.

I like their logo. It’s fun. I ordered a Pork Belly Banh Mi, and it came with a soup (chicken).

I started with the soup. Very basic, in terms of ingredients. Two nice sized chunks of chicken, a few pieces of vegetables, and cilantro. The flavor of the broth was really outstanding. The soup is something I could order by itself, and it would be satisfying, especially when the weather starts to get really cold. I then bit into the Pork Belly Banh Mi. My first bite took me back about 20 years, when I had my first bites of Banh Mi. The bread was perfect. Nice hard crunch to the outside, and soft on the inside without a lot of chewiness. The flavor of the pork belly is hard for me to describe, but I know I’ll get it again. There was a Vietnamese mayo pate on there. This is not going to be for everyone, but it really works with these sandwiches. There are some pickled carrots, daikon radish, sliced cucumbers and cilantro that go on the sandwich as well. They asked me if I wanted jalapeños on the side, which was an easy “yes” for me. When biting into the sandwich, the first thing is the crunch. Nice sounding, nice texture. Next comes the flavor. The richness of the pork belly hits, but then you also get the combination of flavors from the mayo pate and the vegetables.

Having eaten the soup first, I could say that I found it hard to believe that I ate the whole sandwich. But there is no way that any part of that sandwich could be left over. It was too good to put down and stop eating. The flavors of the sandwich hit me in the right spot yesterday, and as I reflect back today, I still enjoy the feeling I had while eating the sandwich.

The Common Kitchen does have other places to try, and I will. There is a Ramen Place, an Egyptian place, an Indian place, an Ice Cream place, a Bubble Waffle place, and more. So there is definitely enough to grab my attention and go back for more. Even though it was about 25 minutes to get home, the food was still at a good temperature. I might make my next meal a sit down, savor, and enjoy the ambiance type of experience. Definitely a positive part of my day yesterday.


Spring Mill Bread Co – Gaithersburg, MD

Yesterday, while I was out and about, I made a stop by Spring Mill Bread Company in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I usually visit there 3-5 times a year, and always get the same thing, their Pesto Asiago Bread. I know I should branch out and try some of their other breads, and I will eventually do it, but their Pesto Asiago Bread is just really good.

When you walk into the store, it’s just a small area for the customers. I think this works really well, since the real star of this place is the food. There is another area with sweets, but I didn’t take a picture of it yesterday. One of the things I really enjoy about this place is that the oven is right there, so you can see what is being baked. I’ve come in and watched as they were rolling out the bread, watched as they were taking things out of the oven. This is baked fresh on-site, so these aren’t being shipped in from somewhere else and then re-baked to “freshness”. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just think the fresh bread experience is really neat.

While I was perusing through the different options, I noticed some samples. I asked for a sample of an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie. I’m not a fan of raisins, so this sounded good. It also tasted good. Definitely a cookie I would get again. I also noticed that they had a pumpkin log, so I purchased a slice of that. The flavor was on point. The pumpkin roll had the flavor of pumpkin and spices together. It had a firmness with the pumpkin roll that worked well with the spongy interior. The cream cheese frosting was a nice additional touch. It may seem like a lot, but when paired with the pumpkin roll, it worked perfectly. The outside was dusted with powdered sugar, which was a nice finishing touch.

Now, onto the Pesto Asiago Bread. This was good, as is always the case. The crust is firm, but not solid. The inside bread part has the perfect squish to it. The swirl of pesto and asiago cheese gives it a nice flavor without being overpowering. I tend to heat these up in my toaster oven and then add a little bit of butter, unless I’m having pasta, in which case I’m just going to dip it into the sauce or eat it with the pasta. One of the things I really enjoy about this bread is that no two loaves are exactly alike. I can appreciate the bread you get in the grocery stores, where there is uniformity. But when you have a bread like this, I think having some variance is what makes it better. Each bite will not taste the same. Some will have more pesto than others, some more asiago cheese, some more bread. I enjoy multiple bites of happiness every time.

I look forward to my next visit down to Gaithersburg. Maybe I’ll try a different bread. Maybe I’ll stick with just the Pesto Asiago Bread. No matter what, it will be a good and positive experience.