Beyond the striped awning of Fern Street Gourmet lays a deli case, shelves of bottles, and a host of cardboard boxes and wooden crates. The culinary connoisseurs behind the counter want you to know where their goods come from, from fine Spanish wines at budget prices or hard-to-find European candies. Shoppers can browse hundreds of cheeses, meats, beers, and party snacks on their own or turn to staff, who can assemble towering custom gift baskets and point them toward the perfect hostess gift to say "Welcome to your new home" or "Sorry I ate that entire cheese platter last time."
The Curious Grape began as a wine shop?one so focused on acquainting customers with new flavors it was always quick to offer a sample. The owners' passion for complex aromas and painstaking quality control carries over into the restaurant, where executive chef Delian DiPietro serves dishes crafted from locally sourced ingredients. Because of seasonal availability of produce and seafood, all of the entrees?such as the duck, the cobia, the gnocchi with braised lamb, and the wagyu beef?find perfect mates with equally seasonal varietals from the rotating wine list. The Curious Grape's food and beverage menus have attracted plenty of accolades, among them a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence and Shirlington's only RAMMY Award nominated restaurant for 2014.
Each Capitol City Brewing Company location comes equipped with an in-house brewing system. It allows brewmaster Kristi Mathews Griner to monitor every step of her process and start serving her latest handcrafted batches within hours of completion. The system is a point of pride for Capitol City, whose Arlington eatery prominently displays its brewing technology for visitors.
Capitol City's set-up yields four signature beers year-round, including Amber Waves Ale, winner of the Great American Beer Festival's bronze, silver, and gold medals on three separate occasions. Inspired by English-, Belgian-, and German-style brews, Kristi also creates a rotating selection of seasonal beer such as golden ale made with real fruit, rather than the tempting fruit snacks she found in her lunchbox.
Beer not only fills up at least seven or eight Capitol City taps year-round, but also finds its way into the kitchen. Chefs marinate grilled breasts of organic chicken in Amber Waves Ale and flavor juicy bratwursts with Prohibition Porter. Though beer-free, other regional dishes—such as crab cake sandwiches served with house-made Old Bay tartar sauce—are specifically made to complement the bar's pours.
If you’re looking for a quick stop to pick up some cheese, Cheesetique is not the place. That’s because everything in the store—from the eye-catching cheese wheels to the aromas of uncorked wine—encourages guests to linger, creating an ambiance typical of a Parisian bistro. The shop functions as both a boutique and a café, with staff splitting their time between serving up their award-winning mac 'n' cheese and cutting wedges of cheese to order. The staff has curated a menu of 300 American and European cheeses, each of which are available for sampling. But the best way to sample the vast selection is with a cheese-tasting board, which, when paired with a complementary wine and smattering of charcuterie, creates a mouth explosion larger than that of demolition dentistry. Though their wine and beer list is as imposing as their cheese variety, the staff has segmented the list into easily identifiable categories such as malty bocks, bold reds, and sparkling rosés.
A 30-foot rock-climbing wall soars up through The Energy Fitness Club's two floors, towering over the 17,000 square feet of fitness facilities. Certified guides lead students up the custom-built routes during official climbing-certification classes. The presence of credentialed experts extends to private training studios, where nationally certified instructors lead a variety of innovative group fitness classes, along with boot camp, personal-training sessions, and nutrition consultations.
Below the climbing apparatus, rows of advanced cardio and strength-training equipment challenge guests. Once they retire from the club’s exercise arena, clients can revel in the elegant hardwood lockers that wrap the walls of the full-service changing rooms. Childcare facilities are also available. Throughout the month, the club hosts social events—from group hikes to happy hours with complimentary wine tastings—providing clients a chance to mingle and politely request permission to poke the bulging muscles of the buffest members.
Executive chef Paul Anthony Fario helms the kitchen at Extra Virgin, which appeases appetites with a menu of creative, sophisticated dishes sporting traditional Italian flavors. Start your edible odyssey with the 2-D temptations of a flat meatball slider sandwiched by grilled sourdough ($9), or cheer up a pouting palate with the grumpy gastronomy of angry mussels, which are partnered with pancetta, garlic, and crushed chilis ($10). A variety of hand-tossed pizzas presents pie partakers with options ranging from a tomato-sauced creation topped with fresh mozzarella, artichokes, ham, and olives ($14) to an unconventional concoction of mozzarella, pancetta, lettuce, tomato, and parmesan dressing ($15), all baked in a brick oven kept at a steamy 600 degrees, the temperature required to smelt raw pizza dough into crust. Noodle noshers can peruse pastas such as butternut-squash agnolotti ($16), carnivores can turf up on rack of lamb ($30), and rescued castaways can relive their extended vacations with nautical numbers such as sesame-crusted cod ($19). Lunch and brunch menus draw upon the dinner menu while adding a selection of sandwiches and other daytime dishes celebrating humanity’s sunlit reprieve from vampires.