*Full disclosure, I was invited by Turn House to a Thanksgiving event to try their latest creations, all thoughts and opinions are my own.*
Turn House in Columbia is a never-ending innovation factory that pumps out delicious culinary dishes on a regular basis. When it first opened last year, Chef Tom was set out to be a trend-setter in Howard County. Aware of the stigma attached to the suburbs, Turn House’s executive chef wanted to turn that idea on its head by providing fresh, innovative dishes that could be mistaken for dishes found in New York City or San Francisco. In order to do that he had to buck the social pressure of the surrounding area, calls for classics like wings, chicken fingers, and burgers had to be ignored. Rather he had to push forward with his vision, one year later it looks like Chef Tom is being rewarded for his vision.
As I walked into the Turn House I noticed immediately that their bar area was brimming with clientele, meanwhile diners were also beginning to shuffle in for a cozy weeknight dinner. Turn House has managed to convert many of its older clientele, many of whom were probably regulars to the previous establishment where the Turn House currently resides. The great thing about the Turn House is that it has an ever changing seasonal menu that tries as much as it can to source its ingredients from local farms and vendors. The end result is usually always a delicious and satisfying meal that leaves you wanting to come back for more.
Turn House’s rise has not been without its bumps along the way. I’ve heard from numerous diners that some times the service can be excruciatingly slow which can leave diners feeling frustrated and impatient. Moreover while the food is expertly crafted, some have bemoaned that the “foodie” dishes maybe too “foodie” for some leading to complaints that it was overpriced. Inconsistent service can be expected in the first year of a restaurant as it can take a while for the entire machine to start humming. Meanwhile, in regards to the perhaps “too innovative” dishes I say to each their own, the Turn House menu has plenty of traditional options that can satisfy your hunger. If you order a dish that you’re unsure about and you still order it after the waiter/ress described it to you then you also have to bare some responsibility for your ordering skills. That’s not a cop out or an excuse for bad food, but knowing Chef Tom I would wager that it was a matter of preference than execution.
Despite the bumps in their path to culinary glory, the Turn House team is once again creating an amazing Fall/Winter menu that you definitely need to try out. Our Thanksgiving family-style dinner was a two course meal that included a wide range of appetizers, sides, and one locally sourced protein as our main dish. The appetizers featured some of Turn House’s classic options including their cheese board and their house-made sourdough bread. Just the cheeseboard and sourdough bread alone is enough for me to want to come back to Turn House for more. The cheeses are fantastic and they’re paired with a variety of charcuterie that makes the entire appetizer a rustic feast. If cheese plates aren’t your thing (go away I don’t want to know…just kidding! but seriously what’s wrong with you?) You can opt to try their delicious Wagyu Beef Carpaccio, which I loved. I’m usually not a beef carpaccio person, but the Asian inspired flavors along with the cabbage and peanuts were perfect additions that made this dish a true treat.
The sides featured the feast included tempura fried broccoli served with a Romesco sauce, the house Caesar which featured bitter greens,and the mac and cheese which was the star of the evening according to everyone’s ,”Oh my god” statements. The fried broccoli was a touch over the top for me due to the way it was served which was large florets making for a really rich bite of fried broccoli. If tempura fried veggies are your thing you’ll enjoy it, but it wasn’t for me. The same could be said for the bitter greens Caesar, it was very well thought out and executed but I’m just not a bitter greens person. I am however, a mac and cheese person and oh my god it was delicious. From the perfect baked on crust to the magical cheese sauce intermingled through the matrix of the noodles, this entire side was perfection personified.
Moving to the main course, Chef Tom started with the tale of piglets at a local farm who ate the compost of a local restaurant. Just kidding there was no tale, but the other part is true, Turn House composts all its veggie/fruit scraps and gives them to a local pig farm for their pigs to eat. Well it just so happened that Chef Tom was serving us smoked pork loin from said pig farm, so in actuality we were eating pork that had consumed Turn House food! That’s either really cool or really grim depending on how you see it, I think I stand somewhere in the middle of that. Regardless of the backstory the pork loin itself was divine, perfectly smoked and cooked to just the right internal temperature, the loin was tender and juicy. Meanwhile the coffee BBQ rub/glaze created a truly decadent and delicious experience in ones mouth. I don’t know if I’d classify it as a Thanksgiving dish, but when the universe gives you pork you gotta do what you gotta do.
As the night concluded and the merry food bloggers went their separate ways I couldn’t help but think how fortunate Howard County is to have a restaurant like this. The suburbs need places like this, that force people out of their comfort zone so they try new things. Without them, we’ll be destined to going back to boring bar-style restaurants that just serve the same old boring food that people have been eating for decades. So if you find yourself wondering where to eat this Fall/Winter, I definitely recommend trying out Turn House. For good or worse, there’s not another restaurant like it in Howard County.