For more than 25 years, French-born chef Jean-Louis Evennou has filled Café Normandie with Gallic cuisine peppered with flavors from the Eastern seaboard. A chef since the age of 13, Evennou seasons endive salad with strong roquefort cheese and rabbit with tangy dijon sauce and simmers beef bourguignon in another rich sauce. Dinners also include American-inspired recipes such as crab soup with Maryland vegetables, as well as housemade pastries and crème caramel.
In 2008, Café Normandie was certified as a sustainable steward by the city of Annapolis for its eco-friendly initiatives. The restaurant follows intensive composting and recycling guidelines; in addition, it stocks biodegradable carry-out gear and serves its meals on tabletops made of marble salvaged from the ruins of the Louvre.
Though people no longer have to cross continental boundaries to sample exotic flavors, the average spice rack still tends to lack diversity. At the Spice & Tea Exchange of Annapolis, a staff of flavor-seeking specialists stocks gourmet seasonings and spices, cooking herbs, sugars, and sea salts to expand their customers' cooking horizons. In addition to fresh herbs and flavorings, the team designs signature seasoning powders that infuse dishes with medleys of chili, savory hints of cheese, or the essence of smoke. They also carry an assortment of gourmet teas, which are good to keep around the house in case a local king decides to stop by.
To say Capital Teas’ proprietors, Peter and Manelle Martino, know tea might be a bit of an understatement. Fifth-generation tea merchant Manelle’s great-great-grandfather Francis Van Reyk was a Dutch tea planter who immigrated in the 1890s to present-day Sri Lanka, where he managed the Diyagama Estate, from which the Martinos now source their Great Grandfather’s tea. Manelle’s family has been in the tea trade ever since, a tradition she has carried to her own specialty tea business, which has several boutique locations throughout the D.C. and Maryland area. Additionally, Peter has become a popular speaker at World Tea Expos, where he frequently educates and inspires the tea world.
In addition to tea from Sri Lanka, the business carries more than 200 loose teas and herbal infusions from 18 countries including India, China, Japan, Malawi, and Kenya. A sniffing wall dispenses wafts of black, oolong, and mate teas, and knowledgeable employees drift around the store’s tasting stations to explain each flavor’s nuances and read the tea leaves in tasting cups.
Capital Teas also pairs customers with accompaniments such as teapots, brewers, tea-infused chocolate, and artisanal honey. In-store patrons may sample free tea samples—which are brewed fresh daily—, while online purchasers receive a free sample with every order.
The close-knit family culture that is so prevalent in India makes its way across the pond to India's, where the Kumar clan—mom and pop Suraj and Sudesh, son Raghu, and daughter Rozy—dish up flavorful curries, stews, and roasted meats created in the kitchen by nephew and chef Zeenat Bhanot. They work together to ply patrons with both meaty and vegetarian morsels scented with cardamom, ginger, and fenugreek.
Like the trail of raisins Marco Polo left to find his way back along the Silk Road, the bill of fare spans the subcontinent. South Indian mulligatawny soups and Goan chicken vindaloo mingle with Mughlai butter-based sauces and North Indian Khara Pasanda lamb. These fragrant dishes tantalize noses amid the dining area's impressive art collection of colorful paintings and gilded statues.
Kolache Kreations adapts generations-old eastern European recipes to bake up fresh, circular pastry bundles loaded with sweet and savory fillings complemented by a menu of coffee drinks and more. Kolache's Old World wizards start with slightly sweet dough and tuck the tender foundation around scrumptious stuffings of fresh fruit, meats, cheeses, or an infinite series of incrementally smaller kolaches.
1409 Playbill Café brings down the curtain on hunger with a highly eclectic menu of American and international edibles. Begin your mouth-powered exploration with the Mediterranean tapas for two, a collection of hummus, fried eggplant, pita bread, and Egyptian fava beans ($12.90), which can be stacked into the shape of pyramids to attract nearby sphinxes. Eight-ounce burgers served on grilled pita bread ($7.99) promote carnivorous creativity with a choice of 12 extras, including gravy, sauerkraut, jalapeños, and feta cheese ($1.25 each). Floravores can tackle grape leaves ($4.99) packed with the power of rice, kalamata olives, and pepperoncinis, as well as the spinach quesadilla ($6.50) and a leafy lineup of veggie salads. A 16-ounce pork chop and its complement of garlic mashed potatoes ($16.99) take down even the amplest of appetites, and the shrimp and crab pasta ($15.99) unites the sea's greatest crustaceanary powers to rule taste buds in a benevolent flavor kingdom.