As the most populous city in the world, Shanghai has been shaped by travelers and settlers from all over. This is particularly evident in the city's food, which has been influenced by the culinary styles from both the northern and southern regions of China, as well as dishes from throughout the entire continent of Asia. This cultural integration holds true at Shanghai Café, where the chefs use recipes the Hu family has spent the past half-century perfecting. These recipes follow various Shanghai cooking principles—for instance, the original flavors of meats and fish are allowed to shine through rather than being drowned out by heavy marinades or sauces that are too sweet or salty.
Though the recipes are traditional, they respect modern, healthful eating habits by incorporating natural broths and stocks and limiting the use of oil. Some of the restaurant's signature dishes include boiled dumplings, steamed pork buns, and dim sum—a Shanghai staple. In the spirit of Shanghai's pan-Asian tendencies, the menus also include Thai dishes, such as pad kee mao (drunken noodles), nigiri, sashimi, and maki.
Rockafellas eradicates hunger with exotic-yet-hearty sandwiches and classic pub-style eats in a lively, welcoming setting. After quieting belly rumblings with the restaurant's bevy of appetizers, diners can daintily slurp a soup du jour ($3.49 for a cup) or breadlessly feast upon entree-sized salads wearing chilled salmon ($9.99) or an array of zesty, confused taco accouterments ($7.99). The rollicking eatery specializes in signature burgers, with beef portions ranging from quaint quarter-pound ($6.39) to walloping whole-pound ($9.79) patties. Burgers arrive bedecked in festive disguises such as the Santa Fe, with its cloak of guacamole, bacon, and pepper-jack cheese concealing the fact that it's actually from Albuquerque, and the confoundingly chicken-less Cordon Bleu, with thinly sliced ham, mozzarella cheese, and dijon mustard. Turkey ($6.99), vegetarian ($7.99), and buffalo burgers ($8.99) are available for the beef-averse, as well as a suite of non-burger sandwiches and desserts.
At Quench, owner Michael Holstein and barman Matt Allred aim to live up to the hype stemming from the Favorite New Restaurant award they earned from the Restaurant Association of Maryland. They, along with their team of chefs, go beyond simply making food and mixing drinks—they prepare artful dinner specialties and unique, out-of-the-box cocktails. Though their meal creations arise out of seemingly simple ingredients—local produce, house-ground meats—the team crafts wildly creative send-ups of typical pub fare in addition to traditional comfort foods. Baby back ribs are braised for days in homemade cherry cola, and Natty Boh beer cheese, local crab, and nacho cheese chips add local flavor to mac 'n' cheese. Quench also plates healthy fare such as herb-roasted chickpeas and edamame hummus served with local cucumbers and apples, all complemented by inventive cocktails, and the seasonal dessert menu includes house-made donuts and gluten-free flourless chocolate cake. The drinks, with clever names such as Sex in the Burbs and Django Juice, draw on a palette of blood-orange juice, house-made foams, and uniquely infused spirits. Mixology classes prepare students to delight party guests, and Quench also hosts events such as Saturday and Sunday brunches scored by live music, and weekday lunches that feature 10 dishes priced at $10.
At Stella Restaurant, head chef Ray Niederhausen uses the techniques he honed at Stratford University's School of Culinary Arts to showcase a menu built around the use of fresh fish and local, seasonal ingredients. Seafood is the house specialty, making an appearance in everything from a signature lobster guacamole to a spinach-and-artichoke dip made richer with crab, and all fish arrives fresh each day and is never frozen or allowed to watch TV. While his grills sear savory lines into swordfish steaks or grouper fillets, Chef Ray is hard at work satisfying the meat-eating masses by braising tender lamb shanks or hand cutting steaks from slabs of certified Angus beef. To pair with their chef's culinary creations, owners George and Stratton Liapis have curated a collection of wines from around the world, and tastefully showcase many of the colorful empty bottles in elegant and whimsical wall sconces. Guests enjoy the artful plating of each selection in the streamlined waiting room, where silvery schools of painted fish dance by the light of hanging globe lamps and the sounds of the rapping wait staff.
For many children, an ice-cream cake was the only thing that could make up for not receiving a much-coveted grappling hook. Relive the triumphs and tribulations of celebrations past with today's Groupon: $12 gets you a large and luscious football-shaped ice-cream cake from Carvel in Muddy Branch Square, a $24 value. Layered with vanilla and chocolate ice cream and chocolate crunchies, this festive, sporty sweet feeds 8 to 12 hungry fans. Get up to two football cakes per visit until your Groupon expires on Super Bowl Sunday (February 7, 2010).
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.
On a hot summer day, the interior of Mr. Smoothie & Frozen Yogurt Bar looks a bit like paradise. Staff members man blenders whirring together non-fat yogurt and a choice of two fresh fruits into their signature smoothies, allowing customers to cool off with treats that are refreshing, healthy, and able to put out a very small fire. Everything made at Mr. Smoothie is customizable, and guests can opt to pare down the sweetness by only drinking freshly squeezed juice or creating fruity freezes from the same juices blended with chunks of real fruit. Eleven flavors of coffees are used to make frappes, with skinnier versions available for those desiring less calories and more protein. In fact, staff members can add a range of supplements and boosts to any smoothie or drink, adding ingredients that build muscle or nutrients that aim to improve hangovers.