There's something special about the ground at Good Life Farm. The fields—though now carpeted with veggies—were once home to an abundance of chestnut trees. Each autumn, the nuts would fall from the trees, decompose, and infuse the ground with carbon, nitrogen, and other minerals. While the mighty chestnuts died off in the 20th century, they left behind a powerful legacy: rich, potent soil.
Farmer Larry, the man behind Good Life Farm, uses this foundation to grow a changing bounty of fruits, veggies, herbs, and flowers. Larry plants favorites such as tomatoes and sweet corn, and he also scours over seed catalogs to find new things to grow. Farmer Larry's passion stems from a belief that locally grown food is healthier and better for the environment, humans, and the pack mules that transport us everywhere. To that end, Good Life practices community supported agriculture. Community members pledge financial support to the farm in exchange for a share of the weekly harvest. This system keeps members supplied with fresh, healthy foods, and it helps Good Life compete with nonlocal growers and people with high-tech food replicators.
Farmer Larry also works with the Montgomery County Food Council, which supports the creation of a sustainable local food system, and the Montgomery Countryside Alliance, which educates community members on local agriculture. Good Life Farm does its share to enlighten locals with tours, which teach about crops and farm animals.
In the dead of night in 1976, the Abi-Najm family boarded a cargo ship bringing only what they could carry; an escape from Civil War in Lebanon called for a quick getaway. They traveled across the ocean to safety in Arlington, Virginia, where they were able to open a small cafe in 1979. To save money, they changed the eatery’s name from “Athenian Taverna” to “Lebanese Taverna” so that they only had to update one word on the eatery’s marquee.
From these modest beginnings grew a series of eateries that today comprises of six cafes and four quick-service cafés, all still operated by the Abi-Najm clan. One look at the menu explains the success: chicken shawarma, spicy hummus, lamb tartare—all Lebanese staples that helped the restaurant earn a spot on Northern Virginia magazine's list of 25 Iconic Eats. There's even kibbeh, or stuffed meatballs, which blend ground beef, lamb, almonds, and pine nuts into fried spheres suitable for felling miniature bowling pins on top of the table before entrees arrive. The decor is as striking as the cuisine; inside the Bethesda location, light filters through the colored glass lanterns that decorate the dining room.
Melt Cafe and Gelato Bar grounds its recipes and preparation techniques in Italian tradition, creating desserts that are low in both fat and calories. The franchise encompasses brick-and-mortar storefronts and kiosks across five states. In each, staffers craft the classic whipped Italian ice cream, gelato, in more than 30 flavors such as cappuccino, pistachio, and swiss chocolate. Dessert cups also brim with silky-soft sorbetto, which is made entirely from sugar and fresh fruits. Though Melt focuses on frozen treats, it also lives up to the café portion of its name with hearty panini sandwiches and sweet or savory crepes. Tuscan-style espresso and drip coffee wash down bites of food and give you the energy to finish that screenplay about the lost dog who, by finding his owner, also finds himself.
Packed with produce, dairy, kosher foods, and Middle Eastern and Mediterranean ingredients, KosherMart ensures larders are stocked with affordable goods. Tomatoes ($.0.99 per lb.), Sabra Babaganoush (17-ounces, $5.49 each), and Ungar's Regular Gefilte Fish (22-ounces, $5.49 each) keep refrigerators happily humming mealtime melodies, while imported Israeli products including olive oils and cookies keep forlorn cupboards company. Kosher cheeses and wines add a sophisticated touch to dinner gatherings and a lively punch to afternoon coffee breaks. This greengrocer’s grotto also hosts a full glatt kosher butchery and a deli, dishing out fresh baked wares, soups, and sandwiches, as well as homemade Mediterranean and Middle Eastern salads for grazing on the go.
The shelves at MOM's Organic Market teem with certified-organic groceries and produce free of chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers. Fill a cart or 10-gallon hat with lunch fixings such as roasted turkey slices from Applegate Farms and Imagine low-sodium chicken broth. GT's Kombucha Gingerade joins assorted Chobani yogurts to create power-packed breakfasts, and Vitacoco coconut water soothes parched straws with electrolytes. Grocery carts may also be filled with a variety of gourmet cheeses, gluten-free food, sustainably farmed seafood, and local and organic dairy and meat products. The storefront, built with renewable materials, fume-fighting low-VOC paint, and energy-efficient skylights with LED bulbs, mirrors its eco-friendly offerings. Additionally, customers may bring old electronics to MOM's for recycling during February, before walking past two charging stations outside the market charging green vehicles such as electric cars and certified-organic mechanical bulls.
Utilizing 17 years of plant-rearing expertise, Farmhouse Flowers & Plants thrills discerning nostrils with an olfactory smorgasbord of locally grown blossoms, perennials, bedding plants, and herbs. Peruse one of the farm's four booths at area farmers' markets, and encounter year-round and seasonal offerings dazzling enough to brighten the day of the Harlem Globetrotters' perpetually doomed opponents. Seventy-five varieties of plants clamor for your green thumb's attention, from zinnias ($0.75/stem) to sunflowers ($1.50 each) and lilies ($4/stem). A mid-May peony harvest ($4 each) peppers chlorophyll-based arrangements with the kaleidoscopic buds, and potted rosemary ($3.75/4" pot) and basil ($2.75/3" pot) add a professional touch to home cooking without the hair-flattening effects of a chef's toque.