Thursday, March 29, 2012

DC Restaurants Celebrate Cherry Blossoms

by Samantha Grieder
Capital Cooking Contributor

It's the 100th Anniversary of the year Washington, DC received cherry blossoms from Japan, so this year is extra special. Besides the regular festival activities, like the parade, the Japanese street festival, and the kite festival, area restaurants are helping to celebrate the cherry blossoms, too.

The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington has once again paired with the National Cherry Blossom festival for Cherry Picks, a month-long affair of participating restaurants featuring at least one item inspired by the blossoms. Now in its 10th year, and it being such a hefty mark of a centennial celebration, there are now over 100 restaurants in the Cherry Picks library. This year, there's certainly enough cherry inspiration to go around. From cocktails and appetizers to entrees and desserts, it's all there.

Downtown, Carmine's DC brings a vanilla panna cotta with cherries and balsamic to the table. A sweet custard base to balance the tart and savory topping.

Ceiba Restaurant's duck and pickled cherry empanada.

Try Ceiba's smoked duck and squash blossom empanada. The minced, dark meat pairs with pickled cherry salsa inside within the little pastry filling that it's contained by. Order the Cherry Blossom Combo ($12) and get the empanada with a drink of rum, Saint Germaine, cherry juice, and sparkling rosé.

Have a craving for a pop tart? How about a cherry-filled one? Ted's Bulletin on Barracks Row is serving theirs up, complete with pink frosting and pink, white and red sprinkles. The thick, pastry crust contains a cherry compote. It's a much better version of anything your mom ever served you for breakfast as a kid.

Ted's Bulletin homemade cherry pop tart.

If you're feeling parched, there are plenty of options to quench your thirst. Zentan at the Donovan House is offering a fruity cocktail with infused vodkas. The Zen Blossom Cocktail includes vanilla vodka, cointreau, coconut vodka, cherry purée, a touch of Saint Germaine, and fresh citrus to finish it off. This cherry drink is not overpoweringly so; it's balanced in fruit flavor through the coconut infusion and elderflower additions.

And while most restaurants are serving dishes punctuated with the fruit, many are simply blossom inspired. During the month, there are plenty of options for those who haven't acquired the tart cherry taste.

Samples of blossom-inspired cocktails by Johnny's Half Shell restaurant.

Johnny's Half Shell, located on the Hill, is offering a pink cocktail with pineapple as the main ingredient. Made foamy with an egg white and topped with an edible flower with a watermelon undertone, it's a sweet and festive cocktail. 

With over 100 selections to choose from, District residents and tourists alike are sure to get their cherry fill and get into the spirit of this quintessentially-D.C. spring festival. The Cherry Blossom Festival is happening through April 27th, and there's no better way to celebrate than to eat your way through town.

For more information on all the participating restaurants, find the list on the Cherry Picks website. If you're on the go, download the free 2012 Cherry Festival App! It has all the information you need for all things blossom related.

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