More than 150 varieties of wine, beer, and spirits flow freely into souvenir glasses, slaking thirsty throats with unlimited sips as guests nibble artisanal snacks at the National Harbor Wine and Food Festival's tasting stations. More than 100 international wines and local libations activate palates, and guests venture to the tasting theater to take in a seminar from wine pairers and gourmet chefs. Live steel-drum music sets the beachy airwaves quivering as attendees relax in the whiskey-and-bourbon lounge and experts demonstrate how to hand roll cigars, a skill that impresses friends and stops rival spies from secretly filling the cigar with live wolverines.
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.
Even though Portuguese explorers couldn't pronounce the Swahili name for the African bird's eye chili—pili-pili—the sailors fully embraced its flavor shortly after landing in the region known today as Mozambique. Intrigued by the small, fiery pepper, they combined it with aromatic doses of herbs, garlic, and lemon to create the first peri-peri sauce. That sauce eventually became a wildly popular marinade for poultry, and the tasty concoction made its way to South Africa over the next several centuries. There, in 1987, two friends decided to honor this culinary legacy by founding the first Nando's Peri-Peri restaurant. The eatery continued to remain true to its South African roots, even while expanding to encompass locations in 24 countries across four continents.
Beginning with fresh chickens that never see the inside of a kitchen freezer, the chefs furtively marinate the birds in a secret peri-peri sauce for 24 hours before grilling them over an open flame. Diners dictate the heat level of their order, requesting that the grilled chicken arrive relatively mild or that wings be slathered with even more incendiary spices. The succulent chicken can be plated with hearty side dishes—such as Portuguese-style rice with herbs and peppers or peas with mint—or served in the form of a sandwich, wrap, or pita. To complement the menus' African flavors, Nando's worldwide locations collectively feature more than 4,000 pieces of African artwork.
A product of longtime best friends and entrepreneurs Lonnie Moore and Mike Malin, whose The Dolce Group has launched successful eateries across the globe, Ketchup reinterprets childhood favorites in a sleek, contemporary atmosphere. Diners saunter through a space alive with a red, white, and black color scheme, relaxing in curvy, red banquettes or futuristic-looking chairs designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The tabletops and slatted room dividers boast comic-book-style pop art, ready to transfer onto any on hand Silly Putty, and the walls talk with whimsical portraits of ketchup and mustard bottles holding hands and Heinz bottles fading into clouds of pointillism.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, chefs spin memories of Shake ’n Bake and macaroni washed down with Kool-Aid, creating gourmet masterpieces. Lobster finds its way into mac ‘n’ cheese, and hot dogs benefit from Kobe beef—both in the dog itself and in the chili on top. And there are plenty of options when it comes time for french fry dipping. Ketchup flavors such as root beer, ranch, and chipotle pay homage to the restaurant’s moniker, livening up Angus burgers topped with market-fresh heirloom tomatoes and Irish cheddar cheese. Moore and Malin's jazzed-up comfort food has even caught on at a sister location in Saudi Arabia, and the duo is opening another site in Istanbul, Turkey.
Sowing the seeds of garden-fresh deli fare, Nature's Table Cafe has sprouted 75 locations in 10 states since its founding in 1977. Health-conscious menus bloom with vegetarian and gluten-free dishes alongside classic sandwiches filled with roast beef and grilled chicken breast. Cheesy paninis melt under the heat and meaningful glances emanating from a hot press, while more modest wraps conceal Mexican-, Mediterranean-, American-, and Thai-style fillings. Suffused with the essence of jasmine, rice bowls offer bellies a refreshing salad alternative, though Nature's Table Cafe's salad selection draws in loyal taste buds with fresh veggies and surprising combinations of grilled chicken, fruit, and chèvre cheese. Catering services unfailingly fill bellies at office parties, family get-togethers, and black-tie duck soirees.:
Flame-kiss the fresh-ingredientful menu and your fellow diners with a hot, saucy starter of the vegetable spring rolls (with Thai chili sauce, $9), and then dive into the meat of the menu with a full order of steamed pei mussels ($18). A trip to a grill is lacking without a skewer of meaty meat pieces, so have a combo skewer platter with impaled and roasted steak, shrimp, chicken, and vegetables ($28). Celebrate the waterfront views with an order of jumbo lump-crab cakes ($32) and a side of lobster macaroni ($10). All entrees come with a choice of two sauces, which range in intensity from sleepy baby to Al Pacino plays the Devil, including apricot tarragon, sweet Thai chili, blackberry demi, red-pepper aioli, green tomatillo, chipotle-mango chutney, and abominable snowman.