A new restaurant is making its way onto the Howard County food scene with much fanfare. The Turn House is showcasing fresh local ingredients in recreated classic rustic dishes. I was invited to try this restaurant, and I’ll admit it that I was a bit skeptical. The reason being, everyone and their mom is doing a “farm to table” restaurant now and very few actually hit the mark.
When you live in the suburbs, you often curse the gods that there are not that many good places to eat. People will say that’s the trade off for moving out of the hustle and bustle of the big city, but as a food lover I hate that we have to be punished for living in the burbs with annoying chains with unoriginal menus. Howard County and the other suburbs do trounce Baltimore/DC in one category of food ( in my opinion) and that’s food from other cultures i.e. Indian, Thai, Chinese, Persian, Korean, etc. etc.. But that’s a story for another day.
When it comes to restaurants that serve more traditional fare, there’s a dearth of restaurants that have the courage and creativity to serve something new and exciting rather than pandering to the boring palettes of folks who just want to eat a hot dog or a sandwich. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to eat either of those items, but even those can be made fun and new again, simple food doesn’t have to be boring.
The Turn House is located at what used to be CoHo Grill , which had been a fixture in the Howard County community for decades due to its location right on the Hobbits Glenn golf course. Following the course/club house renovation, the CoHo Grill underwent its own facelift in hopes of attracting a different demographic to the restaurant. The menu revamp was welcome by yours truly, and it seemed like they were on the right path towards success.
However, for whatever reason the CoHo Grill is no longer, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes is The Turn House which is a completely new venture started by hometown chef Thomas Zippelli. Zippelli, 27, is a former River Hill High School Graduate (Boo.) who has worked under some of the giants of the culinary world such as Chef Daniel Humm and Chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame. The young executive chef has a magnetic personality that draws you in, not because he has some outlandish extra large personality, but rather because he has a humble sense of self that makes you want to sit down and have a beer with him. Zippelli’s first job in the kitchen was washing dishes and first job in general was working in the Pizza Hut down the street, that’s the kind of guy you want to cheer for.
The young executive chef is oozing with confidence and enthusiasm for what he is trying to do in Howard County. He brings a young fresh perspective to the Howard County food scene, and backs it up with experience in some of the country’s most prestigious kitchens. Chef Zippelli stated, ‘My dream was to return to Maryland and open a restaurant in my hometown,” said Zippelli. “70 percent of our menu is sourced locally within a 30-mile radius of the restaurant and I love partnering with local businesses in Howard County, such as Elioak Farm for produce and Triadelphia Lakeview Farms for its 100% grass-fed beef. My mission is to serve seasonal and sustainable food that our guests can trust and enjoy.’
Once we sat down for the meal, it was quickly apparent to me that Chef Zippelli is not messing around. The appetizers were a delicious array of treats, pimento cheese dip, chicken fried mushrooms, steak tartare, and Burrata. The pimento cheese dip is to die for, it’s so good, they serve it with the house-made sourdough bread and seriously I could eat it every day it’s that good. The other star of the show was the chicken fried mushrooms served with a soy emulsion, the crunchy flavorful fried mushrooms gave you the illusion of eating fried chicken tenders. The fried mushrooms are not always on the menu, so if you have to pick, go with the pimento cheese dip it’s the best.
After I stuffed my face with bread and cheese, per the usual, we moved on to the main course which was a whole leg of lamb that was deboned by Chef Zippelli himself and slow roasted over a bed of delicious root vegetables. Coming from a culture that’s all about cooking and eating lamb in every shape and form, I’m always hesitant when someone prepares lamb for me, but Chef Zippelli did it right. The lamb was prepared to a medium internal temp which allowed it to be juicy and flavorful without being too chewy. It was served alongside a yogurt sauce that resembled something my mom would make at home when she serves lamb. All in all it was a very satisfying dish that hit the spot; but since you can’t really get that on the normal menu I got to try a couple other treats off of the regular menu. First, the sweet potato soup is a must, it has a rich flavor that is perfect for the fall, moving to the main course the seared scallops or braised lamb are must haves.
The meal finished with a locally sourced apple crisp that was topped with cardamom ice cream and whiskey caramel. Apple crisp is one of my favorites and this is one of the better ones that I’ve had in a long time, the flavors are built with a deft touch and the whiskey caramel brings the entire thing together. Plus who doesn’t like a crumble topping?!
Overall, The Turn House is a welcomed addition to the often tired and boring Howard County food scene, while some may not enjoy the fact that Zippelli took some classic bar food type items off the menu, as a local foodie I applaud him for taking some risks to expand the culinary palette of a area that is far too comfortable eating boring chicken tenders and club sandwiches. (Which by the way he even found a way to spice that up by making house made ham sandwiches with ham that he smoked and prepared himself)
Final Grade: A