Washington's first purveyor of Jelly Bellies only begins with 32 flavors of the recently famous jelly beans; its cheeses include 13 kinds of cheddar, six kinds of cream cheese, plus all the usuals and unusuals; its wines are no less varied.
To help weed out your choices, or to help you conjure up new wine and cheese combinations, the store has attached labels to much of its merchandise: cheeses come with cracker recommendations, wines with suggested eating accompaniments. Barrels of coffee beans line one corner, neat little packages of hard and soft candies line a countertop, salads are clearly and cleanly displayed.
The big disappointment in all this organization, though, is that the homemade food doesn't taste as appetizing as its display leads you to expect.
Pasta salads, made fresh daily, are dull; a penne salad with basil, mozzarella and black olives was over-oiled, its thick green noodles in need of salt or acidity. Other salads were faulty, too -- a vinegary German potato salad made of mushy potatoes, a chicken salad overdosed with mayonnaise and salt.
Pate selections here are numerous. Forestier pate, recommended as their best, were delegated to our pork-liver lovers (who ate it straight) or to others who had to drown out the strong liver taste by spreading it thinly on bread.
The quiche and muffins, along with the desserts, are made by Ms. Desserts in Baltimore, and the trip to D.C., unfortunately, shows. Spinach quiche was old and dry, as were the cranberry muffins. The cakes were moister, but not "the best we've ever tasted," as the carrot cake tag claimed.
Capitol Hill Wine & Cheese should pay less attention to its jelly bean reputation and more attention to livelier food preparation. Jelly Bellies may be out in four years; potato salad will always be in. Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mon. through Sat.; noon to 5 p.m., Sun. Inexpenseive to moderate.