Shilla Bakery – Ellicott City, MD – 05/24/20

When I was out and about earlier today, I decided to stop by Shilla Bakery. It’s another place that I’ve passed more times than I can count, but never stopped in.

The display case had some really cute cakes. The bread based treats reminded me of a couple of other places that I’ve been to in the past. Although it took me some time to finally decide what to get, I was able to limit myself to two dessert-type treats.

They also had South Korean Iced Coffee on the menu, so I thought I would give it a try. I’m a frappe person, but I didn’t mind giving it a try. They told me it was very sweet, and they were right. I’m not sure if there was honey in there or simple syrup, but there was a nice sweetness to it. It also had a pretty bold coffee flavor. One of my sisters enjoys iced coffees, and I could see her liking this.

The first treat that I ate was a chocolate croissant twist. This was a nice snack. The bread was a little flaky, but really soft. There was a custardy mixture in there along with the chocolate chips. Eating this put a smile on my face.

The other treat that I bought was Shilla’s Whoopie Pie. The cake was more similar to a cakey brownie. A little dry, but nice chocolate flavor. The cream on the inside was nice and light, with the right amount of sweetness. The best part of this was the dipped chocolate. It was all around the the exterior of the whoopie pie. I think I would have loved it if it was completely surrounded in chocolate, but not everyone would enjoy that. This was still a nice treat.

I didn’t have any expectations going in, but I’m glad that I was able to try both of the treats as well as the iced coffee. I will be stopping in this place again in the not so distant future. It was another great experience!

Bonchon – Ellicott City, MD – 05/24/20

Today was a really nice day. The weather was good, it was slightly overcast, and was perfect for me to go driving around for a couple of hours with my radio playing and my windows slightly down to let me breathe in the fresh air. While I was at one of my stops, I was trying to decide what I would be eating for lunch. I saw that there was a Bonchon (Chicken) close by, and decided to go there. I have passed by a couple of these in Maryland in the past, but never stopped in.

Bonchon Chicken is a South Korean fried chicken restaurant franchise. I plan on having a hamburger tomorrow, so I wanted something other than a sandwich for lunch. This sounded like a perfect opportunity. Since there is social distancing and no sitting in the restaurants, I just browsed the menu briefly and picked the first thing that sounded really good to me. I decided to go with half and half chicken strips, and I chose to have soy garlic and sweet sticky. I chose to have Cole slaw as my side.

I started with the Cole slaw. This was really good. It had a nice kick to it. I enjoyed the fresh taste of the ingredients – they were still crispy and not soggy. This was a really good Cole slaw, so I was also looking forward to the chicken.

The chicken strips were bigger than I expected. You can’t tell by the picture, but eating half the order still filled me up. The sweet sticky were very sweet. There was a nice crispy exterior, and the chicken was cooked to perfection on the inside. The soy garlic had the same texture, but the flavor was much better. I could smell it in my car on the drive home, and the flavor did not disappoint. I think these would have been better if I had eaten them in restaurant instead of 25 minutes later, but they were still good. I was wishing that I had more of the soy garlic sauce, since it was really good.

I like the packaging for this as well. Although the ventilation meant that the heat would escape, it also meant that it would not be steaming in a sealed container. There were a few people who just sat next to their car eating, and I understand why they did it. I decided to look up their menu on-line, and they have a lot of good options. This is a place that I will be trying again, and I’m sure I will have another great food experience!

New Win Long – Eldersburg, MD – May 2020

Prior to the shutdown, I had been craving Chinese food. A lot of the stores temporarily closed down, so I had to wait as those cravings continued. I have been trying to keep an eye on a couple of local places that I’ve enjoyed visiting, so I was happy when I discovered that one of them had recently re-opened.

New Win Long is just a few miles from home. They aren’t delivering right now, so I waited until I was able to make my way over there, which happened to be this past Friday night after work.

I decided to order two items. I went with the Vegetable Spring Rolls and the Sesame Chicken. I ate both spring rolls and they were fantastic. There was a nice, crunchy exterior and a juicy shredded veggie interior. I added a little duck sauce and hot mustard, and my appetizer was gone before I knew it.

Next was the sesame chicken. The image above was only half the order. New Win Long offers very generous portions at a great price. The rice was sticky and moist, not dry at all. The chicken pieces were huge chunks, and very meaty. They had a slightly crisp exterior, but were nice and juicy on the inside. The flavor of the sauce was incredible. The broccoli absorbed the flavor of the sauce, which made it taste much better. The entire meal was great, and I’m glad they are back open and the quality of their food is still great. The leftovers were still delicious. It’s easy to start the weekend on a positive note when you have great food like this!

Staying Local – May 16, 2020

Today I decided to stay close to home when going out and about. We still have limited openings, and it was going to be a hot day (close to 80), so I didn’t want to wander too far from home.

I read some good news earlier in the week. One of my local favorites, The French Twist Cafe, re-opened on May 13th with limited hours. They were going to be open at 8AM this morning, so I wanted to get there as close to opening time as possible. I’m glad that I did. There were only three people in front of me when I got there, but there was a line that was starting to accumulate before I left.

Tempting as it might have been to get a crepe, I decided to go with an almond croissant and a Mocha Frappe. I missed this place, and they still have a great focus on quality. When I walked into the store, they had areas taped off for distancing as well as partitions. They wiped down the credit cards and all machines in between customer orders, so they were diligent with keeping with the current recommendations. The food is the main focus. Although I had been considering a crepe, the almond croissant looked too good to pass up. It was a really good croissant. The exterior was nice and crunchy, then you got some flakiness when biting through the croissant, and you ended up with the mild almond flavor. It was a very good almond croissant. The mocha frappe was delicious. I really enjoy their drinks, so I’m glad I was finally able to go back. The flavor and consistency were on point, as always, so they did not skip a beat in terms of quality.

Since it was still in the low to mid 70s in the morning, I decided to take a drive in the countryside and took a few moments to enjoy nature (from a relative distance). Sometimes we focus too much on what is behind us and what is directly in front of us, but we never consider to look a bit beyond and take an appreciation for what else is out there.

When it was time for lunch, I decided to stay close to home again and made my way back over to the Big Belly Deli.

I decided to go with the Italian Cold Cut sandwich. Bologna, ham, pepperoni, salami, lettuce, tomato, hots, red onions, Italian dressing and Provolone cheese on sourdough bread. This was a huge sandwich (it filled me up so much that I didn’t need to eat dinner. The combination of everything in this sandwich was just incredible. I especially like the hots, since they had a little bit of sweet heat to each bite. I didn’t just stop with the sandwich, though.

I also decided to go with a chocolate chip lava cake. If you think it looks good just like that, it was even better once I cut into it.

The liquid chocolate flowing out of this was truly a delight. The cake itself was really good, but having the liquid chocolate made those bites even better.

I was happy to stay local for breakfast and lunch (both within a mile from my house). I’m not sure if I’ll be venturing too far tomorrow, but today was definitely a good way to start the weekend and stay positive.

Fresh Bakery – Owings Mills, MD – 04/25/20

Although I was up in Westminster in the morning, I decided to go in a different direction at lunch time. It had been awhile since I had been to Fresh Bakery, and they were still open, so I decided to make my way to Owings Mills. They still had plenty of good options available, and it was just a matter of narrowing my choices down and then making my selections.

I decided to go with the Appalachian Cookies and Cream cupcake. I didn’t realize that this was only available on Saturdays, so I’m glad I was there. The cupcake was light, and moist. Perfect cupcake flavor and consistency. The icing was really good and was also the perfect portion. The cupcake was easy to bite through, was not too messy, and did not leave a bunch of crumbs all over the place.

I also ordered their Death By Chocolate Mousse. I’ve had this before, and I’ll have it again. It’s delicious. There is a chocolate baked layer, a mousse layer, another chocolate baked layer, another chocolate mousse layer, and then the topping. When biting through all three of these components, it is a happy feeling. Wonderful flavor without being too sweet. Each component on their own are good, but combined, they are even better. This was definitely a great way to end my day on a positive note!

Molli’s Cafe – Westminster, MD – 04/25/20

While I was up in Westminster, I not only got my coffee drink from Birdie’s, but I wanted to get something to eat. I have walked by Molli’s Cafe several times, but never actually went inside. I had decided last week that I wanted to go here, and I was able to do it today.

I was thinking along the lines of something portable, so I decided to go with their Biggins’ Breakfast. Egg, sausage and cheese on my choice of bread, and I decided to go with whole wheat. This was sort of a double sandwich. The sausage was sandwiched between two eggs, as well as the bread. So it was a nice surprise for me. The whole wheat bread was a nice change of pace for me, and it worked well with this sandwich. This was a good first visit to Molli’s Cafe, and I look forward to going back there again. They have some Waffle Sandwiches on their breakfast menu, and I would definitely want to give those a try. This was another continuation to a great Saturday morning and it continued to keep me in a positive frame of mind.

Birdie’s Cafe – Westminster, MD – 04/25/20

This morning I decided to make my way back up to Westminster, Maryland to support a couple of local small businesses. My first trip was to Birdie’s Cafe. I’ve been here several times before. It was nice to get there early in the morning, but it’s a very different experience when I’m the only one there. When the social aspect is taken away, people can’t sit and enjoy a coffee drink and breakfast.

I decided to go with a S’more Snowbird. The Snowbird is their ice blended coffee drink. The S’more is one of their specialty flavors, and it includes mocha, gingerbread, and toasted marshmallow. This was a sweet treat and it had a nice consistency to it. They always do a good job with their coffee drinks, and today was no exception. It was a happy way for me to start my day.

New York J & P Pizza – Eldersburg, MD – 04/21/20

Well, today was the day that I decided to place an order for delivery. I was trying to decide between a couple of pizza places that deliver to me, and I ended up ordering New York J & P Pizza.

While looking over the menu a couple of times, the one thing that stood out to me most is the thing that I ended up ordering – Creamy Chicken Spinach pizza. This is their white pizza with chicken and spinach Alfredo on top. I’ll start with the pizza crust. I really enjoyed the flavor and the texture. It wasn’t too chewy , but it still had the nice crunch to it. As far as the toppings go, I was very happy. The spinach had a nice, fresh flavor to it. The chicken was good. But the Alfredo sauce really took it over the top. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. It did make for a messier slice of pizza, but it was worth it. I’m definitely looking forward to these leftovers for the next day and a half.

I asked them about their desserts, and they indicated that they had chocolate cake, so I went with that. The cake was moist, which is a definite plus. Whenever I order slices of cake, there is always the risk that the sides will be crusty and hard, but that was not the case with this at all. It was soft all the way through. It wasn’t overly sweet, and the frosting was lighter and more delicate than I expected. This was a good way to finish tonight’s meal.

Today was the perfect day to order pizza. I’ve got late meetings tomorrow, so not having to think about what to make and not having to spend a lot of time putting something together is a good way to set my mind at ease. I think this was a good way to still support the local small businesses. This pizza place may have a few locations, but it’s still a small business with local owners. And the employees are still able to work, so it’s good to support them as well. All in all, it was a very positive end to my day. Enjoy the week!

A Weekend of Appreciation for the Local Small Businesses

This past weekend, I went to quite a few of the local small businesses. These were all local to me, either in Sykesville or Eldersburg. There are other places I considered visiting, but last weekend involved the implementation of the face covering requirements here in Maryland, so I wanted to limit my interactions.

I was able to make a few basic masks for myself, which were better than using the bandana with an ever loosening knot. I purchased some socks and some gauze pads, cut the socks lengthwise, cut some earholes and used some safety pins to hold in the gauze pads. I’ll be trying those out next weekend, just to see how they hold up to the elements.

More importantly, on to the food.

My weekend started on Friday morning. As part of my new routine, I go to Kismet Cafe. They open at 6 AM, so I get there as close to opening as possible. There are no other people there, I can get my food and have plenty of time to eat before I start working. This past Friday, I ordered a Kismeccino, which is always good. I also ordered an egg and cheese sandwich on an asiago bagel, which was a really good way to start the morning.

When my work day ended on Friday, I decided to make the short trip to Big Belly Deli. I ordered the Rachel, which is turkey, Cole slaw, Swiss cheese, and thousand island on their toasted sourdough bread. Absolutely delicious. I would like to say that I can’t believe that I ate the whole thing, but I do it every time. It’s too good to stop eating.

The thing that made me really happy was that they were also selling loaves of their sourdough. This picture is taken from my house on one of my cutting boards, it’s not how it was handed over to me. I used this bread for the onion dip I made on Saturday night, and I used it a few times since then. It is a really good bread, so I’m glad that they had some loaves available.

I did not stop on Friday, though. I went out Saturday just before noon, and had two places that I wanted to visit if they were open and not too busy.

The first stop was at Smoky’s BBQ. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to get prior to walking in the door, but when I saw beef ends on the menu, I knew that I had to get that. They give you a choice of barbecue sauce, and I went with mild. The beef ends had nice flavor, but they also had really good texture. They weren’t too hard to bite into and weren’t too chewy. They were the right consistency and the smoky flavor of the meat worked well with the barbecue sauce. I had some of it for lunch on Saturday night, but left the rest for a sandwich to be made later. I knew that I would be making the onion dip on Saturday night, and had the idea to make a sandwich with the sourdough bread, the beef ends, and the onion dip.

After picking up the food at Smoky’s, I stopped off at Dandelion Bakery. It’s really close to my house, so it was on the way. They had window service and there was no line. I was able to park right in front and ordered a chocolate chip cookie. They run out of things fast, so I was fortunate to get them while I could. These are really good chocolate chip cookies. They are nice and soft on the inside, and they use a good chocolate. It was a great dessert!

When Sunday came around, I was able to make the sandwich I had been dreaming up. It was a perfect sandwich for the weekend. I had the bread from Big Belly Deli, the beef ends from Smoky’s BBQ and my homemade onion dip. This sandwich worked out much better than expected. I toasted the bread a little and heated up the beef ends, but kept the onion dip cold. The flavors all came together really well.

I have a feeling I might be ordering delivery this week, but I’ll want it to be something local (either local small business, or local small franchise). I don’t know what the weekend will hold for me. I know how my Friday morning will start, but I’m not sure about the rest of the week. I will just have to see how things go.

Full disclosure: my initial title for this post was going to be Living La Vida Local, but I think quite a few people would probably be rolling their eyes at that. Stay positive!

Patapsco Valley State Park – Maryland – 04/11/20

I’ve been back in Maryland for almost five years, and I’ve lived close to Patapsco Valley State Park for all of those five years, but I’ve never actually visited. I decided to visit today. There weren’t many people around, and once I started walking on the trails, I didn’t see anyone. There were some moments where I couldn’t hear cars, planes or people. The only things I could hear were the birds chirping, the wind blowing, the leaves rustling and the dirt moving. It was a nice feeling, especially just being outside and enjoying the fresh air.

I hadn’t specifically planned on going to the Park today, so I didn’t have the proper footwear, but my sneakers did the job for where I went. After today’s visit, I plan on going again, so I will make sure to wear some trail shoes the next time, and I will also plan on walking for more than an hour, which is what I did today.

Spring is here, but the trees haven’t all been given the memo yet, so there was some nice scenery of leafless branches, and then there were some trees full of leaves, and some trees that were just starting to see signs of new life. I’m glad I went today, since it was colder, and there weren’t a noticeable amount of bugs around.

I started my walking by trying to get to some higher ground, which provided me with a nice view of trees upon trees upon trees.

Doing a 180 degree turn, and I went from seeing little or no leaves to some full trees.

I have no idea what the different types of trees are, what the different types of leaves are, or what the different types of flowers are. If I saw something that looked appealing to my eyes, I took a picture.

I went from seeing the nice shade of green to a nice pinkish hue.

I really liked this one. I don’t know what it looked like before this state or what it will look like after this state, but I’m glad I got to see how it looks at this moment.

For my first walk around the Park, this was really nice. I enjoyed not having a lot of people around. I don’t go out and about in nature all that often, but when I do, I would prefer that it be a more personal time for me. Not too many outside sounds, not too much commotion, just the essence of the moment with nature. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the feeling of the breeze as it hits my face.

It felt good to have a nice sense of calm and a momentary reminder that there is life outside of the bubble in which I live (figuratively speaking). It’s easy to stay positive in moments like this.