PRODUCE GALORE 5430 Lynx Lane (Wilde Lake Village Center), Columbia. Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. (301) 596-5745.
Don't be fooled by the name. You will indeed find bushels of broccoli here, but Produce Galore also has one of the best takeout selections around -- and it's all homemade.
Most of the carryout is found at two "salad bars," though "salad bar" hardly does justice to such a wide range of choices, which change every day.
One recent night I decided to graze and quickly assembled a dinner of fresh salad fixings, West African peanut soup with chopped scallions, deliciously rich beef stew, crusty au gratin potatoes, grilled chicken pasta salad, asparagus vinaigrette and creamy pasta primavera. A "healthy" slab of moist carrot cake with cream-cheese icing completed the meal.
Sometimes I use Produce Galore's salad bars to fill out a dinner, stopping in just for a salad, a vegetable dish or a soup when I already have the main course set.
As you might expect, the vegetable dishes here are especially good -- and very fresh -- and there is usually at least one vegetarian main dish on the salad bar, such as vegetarian lasagna. But that doesn't mean that the meat dishes aren't just as delicious. The beef stew had large chunks of moist, lean meat, and the grilled flavor of the chicken in the pasta salad worked well.
In fact, everything here works well. And perhaps most appealing of all is that you can select as much or as little as you like. Just remember -- especially with the carrot cake -- that you pay by the pound.