Category Archives: Food and wine

The Domino Effect of the New Safeway on Rockville Pike

Former Safeway grocery store in the Twinbrook Shopping Center.

Former Safeway grocery store in the Twinbrook Shopping Center.

The new and larger 24-hour Safeway store that opened in December on Rockville Pike near the Twinbrook Metro in Rockville is having a domino effect on other businesses in the area.  When it opened, it made the Safeway in the Twinbrook Shopping Center at 2200 Viers Mills Road redundant, so it closed a couple months ago and left another empty store in the shopping center. Recent rumors suggest that it soon be filled by Lotte Mart, a South Korean market chain with more than 200 stores worldwide, including Gaithersburg and Wheaton, but its arrival won’t be welcomed by everyone—the nearby small Asian Market will close, leaving another hole in the shopping center.

As the owner of Asian Market explained, “between the increased rent and the new competition [Lotte Mart], I can’t stay in business. It’s already hard enough to make a profit while working 16 hour days, so I’ll be closing at the end of August and looking for a job working for someone else.”  Although it’s small store with just three aisles, it represented a wide range of culinary cultures, including Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Cambodian, Korean, Philipino, and Indonesian, that are not typically found in the larger Lotte Mart or Great Wall.  To clear out its inventory, it is selling its bottled, canned, and dry goods (except rice) at a 20 percent discount.  The soy sauce and sambals are all gone, but there still was plenty of Thai curry, coconut milk, and noodles on the shelves when I visited a couple days ago.

The former Safeway store, just like the Twinbrook Library, is on a parcel that is owned separately from the rest of the shopping center but serve as anchors that attract customers. The building is almost twenty years old but still serviceable, but too small for today’s major grocery, department, or hardware stores.  An Asian or Hispanic grocery store seems to be the most likely candidate, especially with the demographics of the neighborhood, and when it comes in, it too will have a domino effect on the rest of the shopping center.  Whether it will be good or bad remains to be seen. It’s pushed one business out but could attract others—and it badly needs to fill the half dozen stores that are empty.

 

Rockville’s Twin Valley Distillers Debuts at Olney Farmers Market

IMG_1350Twin Valley Distillers, the first distillery to operate in Montgomery County since Prohibition (that was nearly a century ago!), debuted four of its spirits today at the Olney Farmers and Artists Market thanks to a recent loosening of Prohibition Era regulations (when can we eliminate the county’s liquor department?).  They offered tastings of their 1812 Maryland Bourbon whiskey, Aged Wimsey gin, Dirty Apples cinnamon flavored whiskey, and Black Joe coffee liqueur, offering special discount prices of $25-35 per 750 ml.  They also produce rum, rye, and vodka, but didn’t bring them along for this debut.  Twinbrook neighbor Matt Von Hendy mentioned this place to me a couple months ago but I couldn’t fathom a serious distillery business was actually in operation in our hometown. Boy, was I wrong.  The owner is serious and the products are much better than expected.

IMG_1354The Bourbon whiskey and coffee liqueur were surprisingly good, so I picked up a bottle of each.  If you want to try some yourself, I suspect they’ll be returning to the Onley Farmers Market on Sunday mornings but you can also experience a tasting and a tour at the distillery on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday afternoons at 711 East Gude Drive, Bay D in Rockville.  This is in an industrial area, so you’ll need to watch the address numbers and be a little adventurous. To find it, look for Maaco and Abka Marble & Granite Countertops and pull into the parking lot.  At the back of the parking lot is a blue and white “White Flint Collision Center.”  Drive through the gates on the left and go around to the rear of the building to park and enter the distillery. Twin Valley has plenty of orange signs leading you there but that area is full of signs and they just get absorbed in the clutter.

For those of you that support “farm to table,” you can now expand your pantry to include liquor!  The spirits are not only made in Rockville, but the ingredients are sourced locally as much as possible. Local farmers supply all the grain for the spirits and Mayorga, which is also based in Rockville, provides the organic coffee.  On October 1, Montgomery County will allow Twin Valley and other distillers to sell directly to restaurants and bars, so you’ll see it appear more frequently (right now, there’s no place in Rockville to buy or drink these Rockville-made spirits except at the distillery. Ugh.).

IMG_4231 small

 

MoCo Beat Podcast Launched

podcastRockville residents Tom Moore and Dana Tofig recently launched MoCo Beat, a podcast about “the news, the politics, and the life of Montgomery County.” Moore is an attorney with the Federal Elections Commission and recently concluded four years of service on the Rockville City Council. Tofig works in the research arm of the US Department of Education was formerly the Public Information Officer with Montgomery County Public Schools.  Their first episode looks at the Rockville Pike Plan, the recently adopted Montgomery County budget, places to buy beer, and new restaurants in downtown Rockville.  The first podcast is just short of 40 minutes and looks like it might be a weekly production.

With the demise of the Gazette newspaper and spartan coverage by the Washington Post, it is difficult to locate news about Rockville but here are the ones I know: Continue reading →

Hometown Holidays on Memorial Day Weekend Features 30 groups across 6 Blocks

More than 30 groups will take to four stages across six city blocks in Rockville Town Center for the city’s Hometown Holidays Music Fest on Saturday, May 28 and Sunday, May 29, 2016. The weekend will once again feature favorite food from local restaurants at the Taste of Rockville, kids amusements and the 72nd Annual Memorial Day Ceremony and Parade on Monday, May 30.

Two hometown area bands will headline the 28th annual festival on Sunday. Baltimore’s Kelly Bell Band will play at 6:30 p.m. and then join the original “Bad Boys of Bethesda,” The Nighthawks, at 8:30 p.m. in the headlining slot on the Bud Light Stage. Other artists on the Bud Light Stage include:

  • Alternative band Knox Hamilton at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
  • Soul/rock band Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
  • Flow Tribe, playing funk, rock and psychedelic at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
  • “BluesAmericanaRock” artist Ted Garber at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Additional acts include rock band Radio Birds, reggae favorite Jah Works, the roots rock of The Alternate Routes, and the U.S. Navy Band Country Current, playing country and bluegrass. Find a full schedule of performances at www.rockvillemd.gov/hometownholidays.

The festival is just a five-minute walk from the Rockville Metro station. Festival-goers who drive or bike will find parking in the City Hall lots, Montgomery County Council office building garage on Fleet Street and the Metro station lots.

Learn more at http://www.rockvillemd.gov/hometownholidays or at “City of Rockville Hometown Holidays” on Facebook.

Impromptu Mini Farmers Market on Feb. 20

Apples and pears at the impromptu farmers market in Rockville in January.

Apples and pears at the impromptu farmers market in Rockville in January.

Winter is rarely a time for a farmers market but a couple of farms have returned to the corner of Jefferson and Monroe in downtown Rockville on Saturday morning to share the produce they have available, such as apples and squash held over from fall or young root crops, such as beets or carrots, that are growing in greenhouses.  On January 9, a couple farmers arrived with little notice and yet most of their produce was gone by noon.  This Saturday, February 13 was planned for another informal market but I was just notified it will be postponed to next Saturday, February 20 due to the cold weather.  I’ll post an update if there’s a change in plans. If you’re looking for a larger winter market, visit the Olney Farmers and Artists Market on Sunday mornings.

Best Restaurants in Rockville 2016

 

2015-09-07 16.32.10

Peter Chang Restaurant in Rockville, one of the 100 Very Best Restaurants of 2016.

The February 2016 issue of Washingtonian magazine features their ever-popular list of the 100 very best restaurants in the region, which is led by Fiola Mare, Komi, and Little Serow. The full list—which is ranked from 1 to 100 and includes reviews, favorite dishes of the year, and more—is on newsstands now. It also includes several restaurants in or near Rockville, all moderately priced:

 

#97. Black Market Bistro, 4600 Waverly Avenue in Garrett Park. American. “Jeff and Barbara Black’s bistro isn’t far from Bethesda, but it has an out-in-the-country vibe. And though it’s a neighborhood gathering spot, it’s also a destination for those seeking a tete-a-tete rather than a scene, along with easy-to-like food. Crackly-crust pizzas (the mushroom-pecorino  is terrific) share space with Modern American plates such as a chew-in-a-good-way hanger steak with chimichurri. Cake lovers will find their happy place—especially if the blackout cake is on the menu. Even though it’s mated with Chantilly cream and chocolate sauce, we amp it up with ice cream.” If you miss Addie’s, here’s the next closest restaurant owned by the same family.

#44. Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana, 12207 Darnestown Road in Gaithersburg. Italian. “What’s a three-star chef doing running a pizza joint in a Gaithersburg shopping plaza? Having a blast. Tony Conte may have abandoned Continue reading →

New 24-hour Safeway Opens in Twinbrook

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A new Safeway grocery store opened this past week at 1800 Rockville Pike across the street from the Twinbrook Metro and part of the Galvan at Twinbrook Apartments. It will soon be joined by Smashburger, Shobha (hair salon), Floyd’s 99 Barbershop, Dunkin Donuts, Pie 360 (pizza), Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, and Ethan Allen.  The new Safeway enriches a corridor of grocery stores within a half-mile of each other, including Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s, Target, Giant, and My Organic Market (MOM).

On-street parking is limited and metered (free on weekends) so most people will prefer parking in the underground garage via Bouic Avenue, where the first two hours are free (this location is adjacent to Metro, so nearby parking is always restrictive).  There’s another entrance for underground parking on Chapman, but that’s for the apartment residents.

There’s usually not much to say about the opening of a new Safeway store because they’re so common across America with the usual produce, meat, seafood, bakery, deli, pharmacy, florist, salad bar, sushi, and Starbucks but this one has a few differences that might interest you:

  • open 24-hours every day. Security guards were posted at the entrance and in the garage this morning; not sure if this is temporary or permanent.
  • a new layout with fresh produce along the entire front of the store. I understand they want to have the fresh stuff up front but it’s not an efficient circulation pattern for customers.
  • special sections for Kosher, gluten-free, and organic foods. A Kosher Chocolate Factory will be at the store on Sunday, December 13 at 3:30 p.m., suggesting they may be offering special events throughout the year.
  • bulk sale of nuts, seeds, grains, and more. Available loose so you can buy as much or little as you need.
  • some aisles, particularly those with small items like medicines, have lighting on individual shelves to increase visibility.
  • a room with tables and chairs near the entrance for customers to talk over coffee or use wifi. Not sure why it’s called the Hungerford Room–it’s no where near Hungerford. Halpine, Montrose, or Twinbrook would have been more appropriate.
  • a Team Room selling shirts, mugs, and souvenirs from local professional sport teams.
  • no beer or wine sales, due to the crazy restrictions of Montgomery County.  You’ll have to go to Olney if you want to buy beer and wine in a Safeway.

It seems that the half of the employees have been re-assigned from other Safeway stores and the rest are new.  And while this Safeway store has just opened, the store on Randolph Road and Parklawn recently closed and the one on Veirs Mill in Twinbrook will close soon.

For other related news, see:

 

Great Cheap Places to Eat in Rockville

Washingtonian 2015 JuneThe June 2015 issue of Washingtonian lists the top 100 places to “eat great cheap,” where all meals are under $25.  Nearly a dozen are in or near Rockville:

  1. A&J Restaurant, 1319 Rockville Pike (Chinese, Taiwanese dim sum)
  2. Bob’s Shanghai 66, 305 N. Washington Street (Chinese, Taiwanese) [note the street address because there’s a Bob’s Noodle 66 nearby and it’s a different restaurant]
  3. Bonchon, 107 Gibbs Street (Korean fried chicken)
  4. China Bistro, 755 Hungerford Drive (Chinese)
  5. China Jade, 1608 Crabbs Branch Way (Chinese)
  6. Honey Pig, Germantown (Korean)
  7. La Limeña, 765 Rockville Pike (Peruvian)
  8. Moa, 12300 Wilkins Avenue (Korean)
  9. Peter Chang, 20-A Maryland Avenue (Chinese)
  10. Tortacos, 9629 Lost Knife Road, Gaithersburg (Mexican)

Notice a pattern? Yup, it’s dominated by Asian restaurants.  Along with specialized grocery stores, Rockville is becoming the place for Asian food in greater DC.  The best Thai and Vietnamese restaurants seem to be in Wheaton and Falls Church, so perhaps ours will make the cut next year.

A couple restaurants merited special mention by the Washingtonian:

Favorite across-the-board Chinese:  Bob’s Shanghai 66: “Though slow to find its form, the high-volume, cash-only kitchen has been impressive of late, rendering its long list of Chinese and Taiwanese standards with a clarity and depth that most of its competitors can’t touch. The saucing is, almost without exception, clean and tight, making even a simple stir-fry—bean curd and pork, for instance, with long, thin bands of curd that have the slipperiness and chew of egg noodles, or tiny shrimp in a surprisingly balanced sweet-and-sour chili sauce—a memorable order.”

Favorite dumplings by the dozen: China Bistro:   “The best reason to come is the speciality of the house—fresh-made dough hand-rolled and stuffed with any of 16 filings (we’re partial to the combinations, such as shrimp-and-chive or beef-and-celery) and steamed till they’re plump and juicy. Make dumplings the centerpiece of your meal (they come  12 to an order), and augment them with small plates—garlicky cucumbers, for instance, and a bowl of cold sesame noodles with its numbing chili sauce.”

Asian Retail Expands in Downtown Rockville

This just in from the JBG Companies:  they’ve fully leased their retail space at 275 North Washington Street, a new mixed-use building in downtown Rockville anchored by Bank of America (where the Giant Grocery store once stood).

Reflecting the growing international flavor of the surrounding area, four Asian-owned businesses have signed for the remaining retail spaces adjacent to Rockville Town Square. They are French-Asian cafe Lavande Patisserie, Kung Fu Tea, Quickway Hibachi Grill and Amber Door Day Spa. In addition to 12,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, JBG’s 275 North Washington Street includes 12,000 square feet of available Class A office space on a second level.

“This area offers a unique multi-ethnic dining and shopping experience that adds flavor and choices. It’s a draw for Rockville residents and for those living outside the city,” said Anthony Greenberg, a JBG principal. “There are several Asian markets and authentic Chinese restaurants near 275 North Washington Street, and we are pleased to be a part of an organically emerging district.”

Lily Qi, director of special projects for the Montgomery County executive, said Rockville is known as the Chinatown of Montgomery County because of its high concentration of ethnic Chinese residents and Asian businesses. Rockville’s central location and accessibility makes it a magnet for amenities that cater to the everyday living needs of this population, as well as to the tastes of the broader community who enjoy a diversity of cuisines and retail choices.

Retailers are moving into their spaces this month and expect to open this spring. Bob Liang, founder of regional Quickway Japanese Hibachi, said he chose the location because of the area’s diverse demographics and proximity to Rockville Town Center. The restaurant, which features fast casual Japanese, will be the 10th to open in the D.C. region.

Lavande Patisserie, owned by mother and son Julie Yi and Andrew Liang of Gaithersburg, is a farm-to-table café and will serve breakfast, lunch and French pastries with an Asian twist, such as kumquat fruit tarts. Lavande will butcher its meat in-house, mill its own flour, make its own creams. “Everything is fresh and purchased within 50 miles, nothing is store bought or pre-processed,” said Liang. Kung Fu Tea is a national franchise from New York that serves specialty tea drinks. The Rockville location will be the first in the Maryland, D.C., and Virginia area. Amber Door Day Spa is locally owned and will offer spa packages that include massages, facials, body treatments, makeup and more.

Continue reading →

Rockville Rated Highest Per Capita in Chinese Dumplings

xiao long bao chinese dumplingsDCist recently listed the best places to get dumplings in the DC region, with seven of the nine restaurants listed in Rockville.  Although restaurants in Rockville are barely considered by the Washington Post and Washingtonian magazine, the food scene is growing deeper and bigger, which is evidenced in part by this dumpling study.  Many Chinese restaurants include dumplings on their menus, but these restaurants focus their menus around them or serve an extraordinary version of them.

If you haven’t tried Chinese dumplings, there are many types of choose from but usually are ground pork or shrimp wrapped in dough and then steamed.  The portions are usually big (think 6-12 dumplings per order) and I always bring my own bottle of sweet chili sauce to add some zing (these are simple homey restaurants, so they’re not offended if you bring your own condiments).

Here’s the line up from DCist:

  1. A&J Restaurant: 1319 Rockville Pike (in the green and white Woodmont Station shopping center down below next to Hertz car rental; cash only)
  2. China Bistro:  755 Hungerford Drive (in the blue and white Flagship shopping center)
  3. East Dumpling House:  12 N. Washington Street (in the strip mall downtown with Apollo and Woodside Deli)
  4. Bob’s Shanghai 66:  305 N. Washington Street (near Dawson Avenue, not to be confused with Bob’s Noodle 66 up the street)
  5. Joe’s Noodle House:  1488 Rockville Pike (along the side of the strip mall with the Yekta and Mi Rancho restaurants)
  6. Shanghai Taste:  1121 Nelson Street (in the Woodley Gardens shopping center with Good Times Cafe and Carmen’s Ice Cream)
  7. Sichuan Jin River: 410 Hungerford Drive (at the back of the office building next to the fire station)

Happy eating!