The folks at Ah Love Oil & Vinegar (2910 District Ave., Suite 165; 703-992-7000) are as obsessive about pantry staples as wine connoisseurs are about their cellars, and custom-ers are encouraged to sniff and taste with abandon. There are small-batch olive oils from Greece, France, South Africa, and even Palestine. Some oils are infused with accents such as truffle or roasted chilies, and dessert-drizzling balsamics come in flavors ranging from dark chocolate to espresso.
Old Town shoppers will recognize Bellacara (2910 District Ave., Suite 150; 703-992-0850), a girly beauty boutique that just opened its second store at the new Mosaic development. A large counter of hard-to-find Kevyn Aucoin makeup is the biggest draw. Other high-end cosmetic and skin-care labels such as Dermalogica, Smashbox, and the locally founded Alchimie Forever fill the shelves alongside candles by Acquiesse and trendy nail polishes by Butter.
Five years ago, Bernie Socha sold his share of ownership in DC's Wagshal's Deli and headed to the burbs, opening Bernie's Delicatessen (4328 Chain Bridge Rd.; 703-691-1269), a friendly sandwich shop and market. We go for corned beef piled onto rye and enriched with creamy-sweet coleslaw and Russian dressing or an Italian cold-cut sub perked up with sweet peppers and vinaigrette. While you wait, browse the shelves of wine or fill a bottle with Greek olive oil from a tap.
In addition to a clean, 1,500-square-foot studio space, Bikram Yoga Fairfax (3950 University Dr.; 571-572-9583) provides chilled, lavender-scented towels at the end of each class—the perfect close to a detoxifying sweat session. In the lobby, you can purchase mats and yoga clothing by such brands as Om Shanti.
Although the izakaya trend has only recently taken off in Washington, Blue Ocean (9440 Main St.; 703-425-7555) has been serving Japanese-style snacks and sushi for 17 years. Graze on the daily raw-fish specials, then move on to grilled, terikayi-glazed skewers of chicken and, if the kitchen has it that night, tender and sweet yellowtail collar.
Olive-flecked raita, pomegranate guacamole, and fried chicken "lollipops" are among the surprises on the menu at cozy, paprika-red Bollywood Bistro (3955 Chain Bridge Rd.; 703-273-0031), a nice spot for an impromptu weeknight date. Those whimsical touches are fun, but it's the aromatic curries—tender goat masala, fiery lamb-shank vindaloo—that keep us coming back. You'll want plenty of bread to soak up the spicy flavors, whether cheddar-laced naanor a traditional mint paratha.
It's hard to find a taste of the islands in these parts. Luckily, the bare-bones but cheery mom-and-pop carryout Caribbean Corner (4008-A University Dr.; 703-246-9040) fills the void, ladling out generous helpings of blazing-hot jerk chicken, deeply flavored "brown stew chicken," and sides of peas and rice.
There's a great mix of high and low at the consignment shop Chic Envy (11895 Grand Commons Ave.; 703-268-5228), where you'll find shoes by Jimmy Choo and Tory Burch as well as furs from Chanel, Escada, and Armani. More practical options are in back: J. Crew tweed jackets, flats by Kate Spade, and sweaters by Ralph Lauren.
Shimmery tiles and vivid shades of red and orange spiff up the dining room at Curry Mantra (9984 Main St.; 703-218-8128), and the plates are just as artfully presented. The menu features good versions of old favorites, from mulligatawny soup to chicken tikka masala. More unusual: Balti-style goat, redolent of ginger and chilies, and split yellow peppers stuffed with paneer (fresh cheese) and potatoes and blistered in the tandoor.
With its diverse lineup, George Mason University's Center for the Arts (4400 University Dr.; 888-945-2468) is a good source of entertainment for all ages. Events—many of which are free—range from student art exhibits to book talks, standup comedy, and classical music. The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, the Mason Dance Company, and the kid-friendly productions Seussical and Ramona Quimby are on the schedule this spring.
Building on the success of her Bethesda women's boutique, Gretchen Hitchner chose Mosaic to open her second Ginger (2905 District Ave., Suite 125; 703-992-7372). Shoppers will be happy to find a lot of the same looks—from stylish office-ready ensembles to pretty cocktail dresses. In addition to clothing by such brands as Joie, Calypso, and Red Engine, the store stocks colorful home goods and lots of handcrafted gold jewelry.
A side project of real-estate agents Rob Golden and Rick Dickson, Hollie-Rob Art & Collectible Gallery (10409 E. Main St.; 703-268-5815) doubles as an art gallery and antiques shop. On a recent visit, we found a vintage chess set, decades-old paintings, and rows of Asian pottery. The friendly owners have a partnership with the Corcoran College of Art & Design in which every other week they showcase work by students; on our visit, the front room was filled with colorful ceramic dinnerware.
Langford Market (2905 District Ave., Suite 135; 703-942-6879) is full of flirty dresses and flowy blouses made by Maude, an affordable clothing line rarely found elsewhere in the area. Built into the store is Addison, a shoe boutique featuring mostly Breckelle's boots, flats, and pumps in edgy shapes and hues. The overall aesthetic is youthful and chic. If mint-colored denim, colorful baubles, and studded clutches are your thing, you'll love this wallet-friendly shop.
With its shades of taupe and dove gray, the quiet dining room at the cottage-like restaurant Villa Mozart (4009 Chain Bridge Rd.; 703-691-4747) feels more Armani than abbondanza. Single red roses are set at each table, and chef/owner Andrea Pace continues the wooing with sublime olive-oil-baked breadsticks, silken pastas, and such hearty roasts as a Pecorino Romano-crusted rack of lamb.
The Great American Restaurants group—also behind neighboring Coastal Flats and nearby Artie's—channels Little Italy with its newest venture, Ozzie's Corner Italian (11880 Grand Commons Ave.; 571-321-8000). The dining room's crimson leather booths and banquettes are designed for big groups and bountiful meals. Start with a trio of meatball sliders on ultra-light brioche buns or a cracker-crisp flatbread scattered with pepperoni and mushrooms. Then tackle the heaping lasagna, laden with provolone and topped with another meatball. Still not stuffed? Go for the best dessert—a fluffy chocolate waffle.
Need a mid-shopping refuel? There are lots of worthy fast-lunch options. Our favorites: the fried-chicken-cutlet, provolone, and marinara hoagies at Taylor Gourmet (2905 District Ave., Suite 160; 703-462-9970); salads such as the Santorini—with feta, grapes, chickpeas, and shrimp—at Sweetgreen (2905 District Ave., Suite 185; 703-992-7892); and pitas with tzatziki, red-pepper hummus, and jalapeño-feta dip at Cava Mezze Grill (2905 District Ave., Suite 165; 703-988-4313).
Don't let the sparse shelves deter you from Victoria's Cakery (10430 Main St.; 703-273-0800). The shop specializes in custom cakes, not drop-in sweets. Still, it always has lovely layer cakes by the slice and cupcakes for those who want a quick sugar fix. The white-chocolate Heaven cake, layered with raspberry jam, is the place's signature, but we prefer the simpler lemon-frosted cake or the Brock's Heaven, layers of vanilla and chocolate cake alternating with the same flavors of icing.
The Nest Egg (11940 Grand Commons Ave.; 703-988-0944) is a pretty place to find fun accents for the home—from chic throw pillows to rugs in trendy ikat and geometric prints. It's clear that owner Ann O'Shields, who offers interior-design services, believes in the importance of details: One section is dedicated to baby gifts, and there are just as many throws, candle holders, and photo frames as there are larger furniture pieces.
There's not much to look at at the Peruvian polleria Wild Chicken (11039 Lee Hwy., 703-383-0266; 3900-B Pickett Rd., 703-323-6464), but the smell of charbroiling birds is a pleasant distraction. Chickens are the things to get, with spicy jalapeño sauce and cooling mayo dip; sides such as plantains were greasy and forgettable when we tried them. Besides, if you're at the Pickett Road branch, you can supplement your meal next door at Dulce's Bakery and Empanada Shop (3900-C Pickett Rd.; 703-978-8021), which turns out terrific, freshly fried beef and chorizo empanadas.
Although not part of Mosaic, furniture retailer Willem Smith (2809-I Merrilee Dr.; 703-348-8600) recently opened a showroom less than half a mile away. (It was formerly in DC's Washington Design Center.) The move means that the brand's environmentally conscious line of transitional wooden furnishings, previous-ly available only to the trade, can now be purchased by the public. Beautiful pieces by Ochre, Powell & Bonnell, and other high-end labels are also for sale.
This article appears in the April 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.