The insider's scoop on food, travel & southern culture
Spring has sprung. Well… kind of.
With the official turn of the season last week, I was expecting the sprouting of spring flowers and a flittering of little animals emerging from hibernation. Instead, the beginning of the week brought snow. More snow. Not exactly surprising for DC at this time of year, but it doesn’t mean it was welcome. (Keep in mind, I’m a Southern girl. Coping with this winter weather will always be hard for me.)
I guess I’m just getting antsy. (Aren’t we all?) I’m getting antsy for springtime and everything that it brings. Living in DC, there’s a unique event that marks the turn of the season. It signals the demise of winter weather and breathes new life into the city’s landscape and into Washingtonians. Our beloved cherry blossoms! Nothing quite coaxes me out of hiding like those pale pink blooms.
As many of you know, the cherry blossoms were a gift from the Japanese back in 1912, and they’ve since become an iconic part of our springtime topography. The National Cherry Blossom Festival spans a few weeks each year, marking the unofficial start of spring in Washington, DC. This year’s peak—that is, when 70% of the blossoms have bloomed—is projected to be between April 6 and April 10. Good timing for this year’s Cherry Blossom Run (April 7); nice to know I’ll have those beautiful blooms cheering me on!
If there’s one thing you should have learned by now about DC, it’s that everything’s a cause for celebration, particularly in the food world. So quite fittingly, a number of DC’s restaurants will be honoring the blooming of the cherry blossoms with various specials. I mean, hey… us Washingtonians have to stick to what we do best: politics, yes, but also food. And cocktails!
Speaking of cocktails, allow me to recommend the Sparkling Sakura, from Quill at the Jefferson. The bartender whips it up for you with Sake, Prosecco, cherry puree and a cherry blossom syrup (prepared with a cherry blossom tea infusion). I like their cherry blossom spirit.
Passion Food Hospitality’s downtown restaurants—Acadiana, Ceiba, DC Coast, District Commons—are all offering the Cherry Gin Rickey as a toast to spring. This classic dram is one of my favorites, made with Small’s Gin, Leopold’s Tart Cherry Liqueur, lime juice, soda and Fee Brothers’ Cherry Bitters. And of course, a cherry garnish!
After a few cocktails, you’re probably ready for some food. It’s quite lucky that Chef Robert Wiedmaier has rearranged the menu at Brasserie Beck into the ultimate cherry blossom tribute. His Grilled Gulf Shrimp in a Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette is served with baby arugula, toasted hazelnuts and barrel-aged feta. But be careful not to overlook the Slow Roasted Pork Tenderloin in a Sour Cherry Demi-Glace.
If you’re looking for something on the lighter side (or if you just happen to be loitering around the Courthouse Metro), Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery is serving up a Cherry & Arugula Salad—whole organic cherries (hydrated with fresh-squeezed orange juice), chick peas, toasted almonds, feta, honey and Trickling Streams Creamery Yogurt Dressing. Sounds like the lunchtime winner.
In addition to the Cherry Gin Rickey, Ceiba also has a festive cocktail + appetizer combo. The Cereza Bloom Cocktail is mixed from Veev Acaí Spirit, Leopold’s Cherry and sour mix, while the Cherry Blossom Aperitivo is a traditional Spanish comfort soup, served with duck meatballs and cherry ranchero salsa.
Alright, if for some reason you don’t cherries with your meat, how do you feel about cherries with your chocolate? That’s what I thought. How do you feel about cherries atop a traditional German chocolate cake? Might want to check out Brasserie Beck’s Black Forest Cake, served with cherries spiked in brandy and Chantilly Cream. This Chef Wiedmaier must be a real cherry-lover.
The only dessert that may rival is Plume’s Pistachio Crème Brulee with a cherry compote and Yuzu Japanese Lemon Ice Cream. You be the judge, I’m full.
I’m Simone. And this is what simonesez…