Ale House in Columbia

The new Ale House in Columbia. Picture linked from the Pratt Street Ale House blog.

If you haven’t heard, there is a new pub opening in Columbia in the next week – the Ale House in Columbia. It is brought to you by the same fine folks at the Pratt Street Ale House in downtown Baltimore. Like the location in Baltimore, the Ale House in Columbia will carry a full range of Oliver Ales, which are some of my very favorite. They tend to combine the lovely maltiness and smoothness of a nice English Bitter with the hops and forward tastes that have come to characterize American brewing. The new pub will also carry great guest beers as well.

According to their blog, the soft opening is tonight, the public opening is on Tuesday the 11th, and the Grand Opening is this coming Friday the 14th. Here is a great blog post from Pratt Street Ale House that talks about the new pub’s lineup and equipment. See you there!

http://www.prattstreetalehouse.com/2012/11/gasp-the-friday-question/

Starbucks Reseve and the Clover Brewing System

It’s been a while since the last post (well, let’s be honest, it’s been forever), but I thought I would rip off the bandaid and start up again! What momentous food/beverage event could spawn such a desire to share with everyone? Oddly, Starbucks Coffee.

So let me be clear – I’m typically not a huge fan of Starbucks coffee. It’s usually over-roasted, bitter, too hot, and generally not my favorite. Don’t get me wrong, I still much prefer it over the likes of Maxwell House, etc., but if I get a choice I prefer to make my own at home (more on that in another post).

Then comes the Clover Brewing System at Starbucks. Somewhere over the last year, I read about this system in one of the blogs I read, and I made a mental note to check it out. Unfortunately, not every location carries the new system (the website and mobile app both allow you to search for these locations). The other day I happened to need some coffee and be near a location that has the Clover (on route 40 in Ellicott City).

Image

One cool thing about the Clover, is you get to watch your individual cup of coffee made right in front of you. From watching it, the system looked like a semi-automated French Press approach combined with some hand-stirring using really nice equipment and filters.

They don’t skimp on the coffee either. While you have the option of getting a Clover brewed cup of coffee using the normal Starbucks blends, they have a whole selection of Reserve coffees to choose from. I went with the Sun-Dried Ethiopia Sidamo, which was quite smooth, low bitterness, and had a touch of sweetness. I’m looking forward to trying the others.

As you can tell, I’m a bit of a coffee snob (shocker, I know) and as I said before I go through some fairly stringent exercises to make a really good cup of coffee at home. The Clover system comes pretty darn close – probably one of the best cups of coffee I’ve had from a coffee shop, and most definitely from a Starbucks.

HowChow Welcome Home Series

One of the crazy things about Howard County (and the BW area in general) is that if you don’t know where to find good food, it’s relatively hard to stumble upon it by accident. There aren’t a few great “food areas” (malls, downtown streets, etc.) like you find in other cities/suburbs – there are pockets of wonderful culinary fun nested all over the place. That’s why blogs like HowChow are so vital to finding and experiencing new restaurants right in your backyard. If you’re new to the Howard County area or just starting to explore the local restaurant scene, then HowChow’s Welcome Home Series is a treasure trove of information to get you started. He covers various cuisines, bakeries, beer establishments, etc. – it’s quite comprehensive and I’ve already picked up a few new ideas for our next eating adventure. Check it out!

Tandoori Nights in Bethesda

I love Indian food. A lot. Unfortunately, I have had a really hard time finding quality Indian food in this area. Sure, I’ve tried some of the local joints that you hear about, but overall I’ve been markedly underwhelmed by each of them (not enough spice, the service is abysmal, or the atmosphere is sterile). Then last week, one of my friends suggested we go to Tandoori Nights in Bethesda. Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Really? Tandoori Nights? How could a cheesy-sounding name like that be associated with quality Indian food?” I thought the same thing, but we gave it a shot anyway.

With paper menus and sparse decorations, the interior won’t win any awards, but it’s cozy enough to put you at ease when you walk in. The night we ate there it was packed, but they were still able to seat our party immediately (they’re not on Open Table). Our service was outstanding. Even though most of our party really enjoys Indian food, we’re by no means experts. Our waiter was patient, knew exactly how to interpret our questions about “spiciness”, and was spot-on in his recommendations.

We started off with some Tandoori Chicken wings (pic above is of the entree version Mrs. BWFD got) that were phenomenal. If you like Indian spices and hot chicken wings, then you’ll love these. We also got an order of Samosas and one of Pakora – I actually found both of these to be too bland for my tastes. While not on the menu, we were able to order papadums – they weren’t bad, but the sauces were slightly odd for papadums.

For the main course, I ordered Lamb Rogan Josh, a North Indian style dish. The flavor was complex and enjoyable. Since it wasn’t super spicy by default, our waiter brought some Vindaloo curry sauce to mix in. This was a perfect recommendation – it brought the heat up, but complemented the taste and spices already in the dish. Of course, we also ordered some Naan to go with the meal, and it was done just right. We all ordered different dishes and each one was excellent. Given the style of serving (as shown above), it would be quite easy to have a “family style” meal with each person ordering something different and sharing. (I sampled each dish, and was very impressed)

Given my affinity for beer, you might be wondering what I drank with this excellent Indian cuisine (or not, but I’m going to tell you anyway). Because I like a lot of spice, a strong or flavorful beer isn’t a good pairing with Indian food. I typically shy (far) away from mild lagers, but beers like Kingfisher actually provide a nice counterbalance to the spice without affecting the overall flavor.

To date, Tandoori Nights has taken the top spot as my favorite Indian Cuisine in the area.

Tandoori Nights is located in downtown Bethesda, about a block away from RiRa and Georgetown Cupcake.