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.

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.

Roggenart – Columbia, MD – 04/11/20

This morning, I had some errands to run down in Columbia, and I knew that I wanted to make my way back over to Roggenart. I didn’t check to make sure they were still open, but luckily they were.

Fortunately for me, they still had plenty of items to choose from. Not pictured on here, they also had chicken pot pies and a few different types of quiche. All looked really good, but I had a craving for something sweet, so I decided to get the Brioche Nutella and the Pain Au Chocolate.

I decided to eat the Brioche Nutella for breakfast. The pastry was nice and soft on the outside, and had a really smooth texture to bite through. The Nutella flavor worked well with the pastry, and the bites where you got the nice, creamy texture and solid chocolate/hazelnut flavor of the Nutella were truly wonderful. It was a great start to the morning.

I saved the Pain au Chocolate for later, and it was worth the wait. I didn’t want to wait until tomorrow to eat it, since it might dry out a bit. This was great. The crunchy exterior, the flaky and moist interior, and then the bites that had the chocolate all made for an outstanding treat. Each bite tasted good, whether there was chocolate in there or not. This is not the first time I’ve gotten the Pain Au Chocolate from Roggenart, and it will not be the last. This weekend was off to a much more positive start than last weekend, so I’m glad I was able to go out and support the local small business.

Old Mill Cafe – Ellicott City, MD – 03/29/20

I had a plan throughout the week to make my way back down to Ellicott City and to go to Old Mill Cafe. They are still open for carry out, and I was able to stop in.

I started with a frozen coffee drink. I opted for a frozen espresso this morning, just to switch things up. This had the right consistency, and the flavor was mildly sweet. Not bitter, not overly sweet, but a nice balance of the espresso flavor and sugar. They did a really nice job with this drink.

For breakfast, I decided to go for sausage, egg and cheese on an English muffin. It was made fresh, which is always a plus. The muffin was slightly toasted, and there were some bites where I was able to get that nice, familiar English muffin flavor. The eggs were fried perfectly, the sausage had great flavor, and the cheese was melty and flavorful. The combination of all the components together made this a truly delicious breakfast experience. This is definitely one I could see myself going back for again and again. This was a wonderful way to start my morning and a great way for me to stay positive!

Bon Appetit Cafe & Bakery – Ellicott CIty, MD – 03/28/20

After picking up some lunch at Beef Brothers, I decided to pick up dessert at Bon Appetit Cafe & Bakery, which is about three stores down. I wasn’t sure exactly what I would end up getting, but they did have quite a few good options.

These are just some of the more traditional dessert treats that they had. They also had plenty of breads and Asian specialty foods, so there was no shortage of options. When all was said and done, I went with my usual option – chocolate.

I ordered the chocolate cake. The frosting on this was delicious, especially the parts where it was a little bit thicker. The cake itself was really good. I just forgot that it wouldn’t be as sweet as I’m used to. It had good flavor, and it worked really well with the bites that included frosting. There were some other desserts I would want to try the next time I visit, but I would still want to get this one again in the future as well. Overall, another great food eating experience for me.

Beef Brothers Deli – Ellicott City, MD – 03/28/20

Yesterday morning, I kept myself busy in Westminster and was able to go to a few places. When it came time for lunch, I knew that I wanted to branch out and grab a bite to eat, I just wasn’t sure exactly where I would end up. I went out and started going with where the wind would take me. It was after about five minutes that I pinpointed where I wanted to eat. And that place was Beef Brothers Deli. When I lived in Ellicott City, I visited every couple of months, but since I moved to Sykesville, it’s been more of a once or twice a year stop.

It took me about a minute to decide. I’ve had a few different sandwiches and I was going to pick the Cloak & Dagger, but as soon as I saw the description of “The Beef Brother”, I knew I had to get that one. I haven’t tried it before, but it definitely was calling out to me. Hot smoked BBQ brisket with horseradish sauce, BBQ sauce, and onions on a Kaiser roll. They have a 1/4 pound option and a 1/2 pound option. I went with the 1/4 pound, which was huge, so I’m glad I had some self control.

The brisket was cooked nice and tender, and it had a juicy, smoky flavor to it. I didn’t have to struggle to bite through the meat, it was the perfect texture. The barbecue sauce was smoky and sweet, which was a nice contrast to the horseradish sauce, which was outstanding. I had those moments where it hit my sinuses in just the right way, and it was perfect. The onions were very thinly sliced and they picked up the flavors of both the barbecue sauce and the horseradish sauce, and they added a really nice finishing touch to the sandwich. The bread had good flavor and held itself together very well.

This was a great food experience. I’ll be going back there again, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to wait another six months to experience the quality (and quantity) of food eating here. It was an easy way for me to stay positive on an already great Saturday.

Bullock’s Country Meats & Farm Market – Westminster, MD – 03/28/20

The final stop during my morning up in Westminster was to go to Bullock’s. The grocery stores have very limited meat availability later in the day, and I thought that going to a fresh meat market would provide me with better opportunities to find some meat.

I was right! There were plenty of options, and as a result I was just walking back and forth in the store for about 10 minutes before I decided on what I was going to get. I ended up getting some ham ends, ground chuck (90/10), bacon, and loose sausage. I’m not sure exactly what I will be cooking with the different meats, but I have some ideas, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to share that tomorrow.

This store has even more to choose from than the pictures I shared. I almost got some chicken, but didn’t want to go overboard with everything that I was already buying.

This ended my morning excursion in Westminster, and it was a great finish to the morning. I am looking forward to doing some cooking tomorrow and maybe creating something really flavorful, which will hopefully bring out some of the unique characteristics of each meat that I purchased.