Fernanda's International Market, a treasure trove of rare ingredients and made-to-order gourmet sandwiches, bakes robust breads and fine pastries. Among a troop of hearty sandwiches, the Martorano ($8.99) stands out for its spicy temper and muscular blend of sopressata and cappacola meats. The Churchill ($8.99) loads its taste gun with Branston pickle relish and fights hunger pangs on ham-coated beaches, cheddar cheese fields, and hot mustard streets. Fernanda's also sells prepared food by the pound and hard-to-find international groceries like Thai lemon grass.
Montreal native Tony Bianco teamed up with executive chef Enzo Addario to create Hot Tomatoe, a traditional Italian bistro boasting a menu that brims with house-made, cooked-to-order pastas, flavorful meat dishes, and full- and light-bodied Italian wines. Their regional cuisine typically integrates up to seven essential ingredients—oil, garlic, basil, tomatoes, pasta, and olives—from which Snow White’s seven dwarves drew their names. In addition, the staff goes shopping for fresh ingredients three to four days a week to supplement both seasonal compositions and year-round dishes, which include veal parmigiana, filet mignon, and penne norma.
At Decor Art'z Wine & Café Boutique, the smell of lightly fried sandwiches mingles with the taste of fresh vegetables, fruit juices, and rich coffee. In the kitchen, chefs brown the sides of croque-monsieurs—grilled sandwiches that pair fruit, meat, and seafood with various cheeses—serve up a multitude of cold wraps and sandwiches, and create entrees of chicken breasts and beef tenderloin smothered in cheese and mushrooms. Decor Art'z also brews its own fine wines and encourages customers to do the same. Using the café's equipment, patrons choose blends of fruit and spend time brewing the mixture at the store, then return for bottling once the wine accepts the fact that yeast has changed it forever. After eating or brewing, guests can peruse the eatery's boutique and florist for something to give to the kitchen as a peace offering for not using its appliances.
Maison Gourmet's culinary artists channel French cooking techniques to craft cuisine cataloged on an extensive menu. Saturday and Sunday brunch rewards early-rising appetites with delectables such as Maison's omelet stuffed with ham, mushrooms, and swiss cheese ($7). Limber chomping muscles with sweet and savory crêpes, or munch on meal-prefacing portions of ham and cheese croissants ($3.95). A glass of Cotes de Rhone red wine from France pairs well with escargots en persillade ($10.95)—snails under a blanket of garlic-parsley sauce—and hearty helpings of beef bourguignon ($15.95) erase hunger pangs faster than the speed of light: 28 mph. Postmeal cool downs begin with crème brûlée, rich custard cream cloaked in a layer of crispy, warm caramel that sneaks into mouths to goose unsuspecting sweet teeth ($6.95).
Since 1938, the keepers of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden have cultivated more than 85 acres of floral displays with a mixture of science and art. The gardens are lush with plants valuable to scientists and educators, and the tropical landscapes designed by William Lyman Phillips are like ever-evolving canvases, blooming and fading as the seasons change. Most of the palms, cycads, flowering trees, and vines were collected from the wild, but the grounds also harbor endangered plant species.
Guides give English and Spanish tram tours as well as walking tours through specific parts of the gardens, or visitors can explore the displays at their leisure, wandering through the 16,428-square foot two-level Tropical Plant Conservatory exhibit, which blooms with orchids, fruit trees, and rare palms. Cascading waterfalls punctuate the stream flowing through the 2-acre Richard H. Simons Rainforest, where visitors admire the diverse plant life and reflect on the worldwide threat of rapidly vanishing rainforests. The Wings of the Tropics exhibit features thousands of exotic butterflies with tropical fish and rare plant life. Butterflies are released twice daily and the Butterfly Metamorphosis Lab lets kids experience them up close. The water gardens combine tranquility pools with waterfalls, sculpture, and lily pads to evoke a sense of calm.
Founded in 1912, Gardner's Market brought fine foods, gourmet groceries, and the services of skilled chefs to the public for over a century. While the grocer's store recently changed ownership, the mission and much of the market's renowned staff has endured. Executive Pastry Chef Luis Dorado still creates the same sinfully delicious sweet treats that have graced the cases during his 19-year tenure, whipping up everything from flourless chocolate tortes to crème brûlée. Other culinary artists spend their days crafting hot carrot bisque, Maryland mini crab cakes, and tres leches cake, cooked fresh and packed to go. They also whip up hot lunches, which vary in price from day to day due to the incorporation of market-price seafood and garnishes of freshly minted dollar bills. In the meat department, the team serves up certified angus beef, hormone-free chicken, naturally-raised lamb, and more.