Chill out

In a city so sticky there’s an About.com section devoted to coping with its climate, and in an economy where keeping utility costs down is crucial, cold drinks and chilled foods might be the best way to beat the heat this summer.

A variety of foods and beverages around town can do that trick, from seafood rolls and ginger limeade in Penn Quarter to frozen yogurt in Dupont Circle and dulce de leche milkshakes on Capitol Hill. When strolling through the city on a sweltering night this summer, look for the following foods to get you through another August in Washington.


Time for Teaism

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Summer rolls have that name for a reason, with soft rice paper gently hugging crisp, refreshing herbs and veggies. Pacific Café on Capitol Hill, Nam Viet in Cleveland Park and Minh’s in Clarendon all serve up versions that range from good to exceptional, but at Penn Quarter’s Teaism, the shrimp rolls have become so popular that they always seem to be one of the first items to run out.

Luckily, the Japanese-inspired teahouse and restaurant boasts a menu of other satisfying foods that fit the summer season nicely. The cold-salmon bento box proves perfect, with a teriyaki glaze that’s sweet but not cloying, thinly sliced cucumbers dressed ever so lightly with soy and ginger, and brown rice dotted with peppy black sesame seeds. In another dish, a small side of sesame ginger dressing accents a nest of chilled green soba noodles and savory grilled chicken. Either choice makes for a light, energizing meal on a muggy day.

While you’re there, make sure to enjoy one of the establishment’s cold drinks. The tangy, fragrant ginger limeade is just sugary enough, acting as a sophisticated substitute for the elusive and geographically unavailable Sonic cherry limeade. On a more traditional note, the iced Moroccan mint tea has a subtle flavor that conjures up thoughts of poolside bliss. For a beverage with more of a kick, the Penn Quarter location offers mango and ginger margaritas.

Teaism has two other locations, in Lafayette Park and Dupont Circle.

Summertime liquor, ole!

Speaking of fruity drinks … If the Penn Quarter teahouse is too crowded, head across the street to Oyamel for a Piña y Salvia margarita, which blends bright pineapple and orange with strong tequila. If your stomach is gurgling for more than just a liquid meal, the shrimp and crab ceviche is a fresh summer splurge that sings of the sea. The marlin ceviche, with grapefruit and mint flavors, also evokes a beachfront tranquility.

If you are like the many of us who have kept tequila off limits since college, the nearby Brasserie Beck can swoop in to save the day. Lightness might not be a trademark of Belgian food and drink, but Brasserie Beck has an extensive beer menu that offers many alternatives for the drinker who’s looking for something less potent than liquor. The Kasteel Rouge beer, with its strong but not overpowering cherry flavors, has a fruity finish without being too sweet. A server recommends the St. Louis Framboise, a Lambic beer featuring a delightful tartness arising from its raspberry notes.

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Because great beer can be detrimental to the waistline, imbibers might want to consider a salad for dinner. Vapiano, with locations in Chinatown and Dupont Circle, has an insalata mista that might be the most flavorful and colorful vegetable mélange of the season. The dish is tossed to order with peppery arugula, crisp romaine, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, radishes, cucumbers, mushrooms, zucchini ... the list goes on, so suffice it to say that this offering truly does look and taste like summer in a bowl. Be sure to ask for sautéed shrimp with garlic on top and order a crusty slice of bread to scoop up the salad scraps.


Dessert oasis

For a sweet treat after dinner, Mr. Yogato in Dupont Circle serves both tangy and mild frozen yogurt in what is perhaps the most relaxed dessert shop around. An old-school Nintendo greets patrons; on one visit, several were huddled around a game of “The Legend of Zelda.” Pick the window seat and play a game of Boggle or Baltimore Orioles-themed checkers over yogurt topped with your choice of fresh fruit — strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, kiwi, pineapple — and some unconventional toppings, like Apple Jacks and Fruity Pebbles. We preferred the original soft variety; the tangy, while good, was too strong to finish an entire medium-sized cup of.

Frozen yogurt is not for everyone, and some foodies with more exotic taste preferences should look toward Dolcezza Gelato in Georgetown. Tiramisu and Thai coconut milk are standout flavors, though the strawberry tequila seems uninspired and orange honey cardamom almost has too much going on. The company also operates gelato stands at the Dupont Circle, Penn Quarter and U Street farmers markets.

If you really can’t tear yourself away from Capitol Hill for a cold treat, pop by Good Stuff Eatery. “Pulp Fiction’s” Vincent Vega may not be able to fathom paying $5 for a milkshake, but at Good Stuff, we don’t bat an eye — it’s just that good. The toasted marshmallow flavor seems the most popular, but its almost-cotton-candy sweetness is too robust for summer; dulce de leche fits the bill much better.

And if none of these options cools you down this summer, well, there’s always your freezer’s old standby: ice.