The charm and simplicity of the Maine lobster shack is heaved ashore at Georgetown's Tackle Box, which popped onto Bon Appétit's radar as one of the Best Seafood Restaurants of 2008. Just inside the door on a pocked brick wall, a weathered Old Glory greets diners as they stand before the counter's chalkboard menu to check on the day's fresh catch and wonder if sailors wear their ties in a figure-eight knot. Since Tackle Box shoulders a steadfast commitment to sustainability, each meal can vary, as cooks fry or grill the bounty of fishermen's nets that may swell with haddock or catfish.
Diners can choose smoked trout to pair with hand-cut fries or mac 'n' cheese, all of which they can enjoy at a fire-red picnic table. For an extra kick, fingers may dip fare or put out a burning dynamite fuse in a classic tartar or spicy marinara sauce.
To say Capital Teas’ founders, Manelle and Peter 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 1870s to present-day Sri Lanka, where he planted and managed the Diyagama Tea 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 boutique locations throughout the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia 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, Capital Teas 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 green teas, and knowledgeable employees drift around the store’s tasting stations to explain each flavor’s nuances.
Capital Teas also pairs customers with accompaniments such as teapots, infusers, treats, 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.
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.
Food and wine make for a great tag-team duo, assuaging stress while filling the belly with scrumptious sustenance. At GRAPE + BEAN, patrons can sample wines, small plates, and large plates to satisfy the pickiest of sippers and tasters. A knowledgeable staff helps customers pick out palate-soothing drinks and eats amid an inviting atmosphere that features original brick walls, exposed beams, and rustic wood finishes. Sample tasty bites off the lunch, brunch, or dinner menus, which offer selections such as the rosemary ham with melted aged gruyere ($11), truffled egg toast ($12.50), and duck confit with white-bean casserole ($22). Or, opt for smaller plates, such as artichoke with pecorino, fresh mint, and basil ($9) and organic heirloom tomato with serrano ham ($9).
Ask Pound The Hill owners where they get their organic fair-trade coffee beans, and the duo can tell you the actual names of the farmers. This attention to detail springs from a passion for serving high-quality, aromatic cups of joe that come from the award winning PT's Coffee Roasting Company. By day, the airy shop is a bustling cafe, where baristas blend handcrafted drinks and servers plate freshly baked breakfast croissants and pastries. They combine Nutella-based syrup with espresso to whip up their signature nutella latte, a creamy concoction lauded by reporters from Roll Call.
Come nightfall, the cafe transforms into an elegant bistro, where customers clink glasses of craft beer and fine wines amidst the soft lighting and exposed brick walls. Chefs whip up innovative dishes, such as organic crab-stuffed chicken with butter-brined corn or blackened ahi tuna with warm spring tomato jam. The portabella veggie stir fry ignites palates with its mix of lemon-poached fava beans and ginger soy reduction. Patio furniture speckles the private back outdoor seating area, where customers nibble homemade chocolate truffles beneath strings of hushed light.