Each spring for the past 100 years, throngs of visitors have flocked to Washington to celebrate the National Cherry Blossom Festival. And local chefs and mixologists get in on the game, using it as an opportunity to show off their creativity. These 20 restaurants and bars will offer festival-themed specials, from inventive cocktails to full menus.
If you're in the market for a sweet treat, Againn's new pastry chef, Rory Kraus (formerly of Ris), will create a lattice-topped cherry pie with house-made rose ice cream for $8.
Agora is pouring a special cocktail during the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Priced at $9, the Kiraz Cicegi ("cherry blossom" in Turkish) is made from Southern Comfort, Yeni Raki (anise liqueur), cherry juice, mint, and agave nectar and garnished with a lime wedge.
In honor of the festival, Art and Soul will offer an Old Fashioned with a twist. The Fundraiser will be made with rum-infused sour cherries, rye whiskey, and orange slices.
Through April 30, Assaggi Osteria in McLean and Mozzarella Bar in Bethesda will be offering a special menu including venison carpaccio with fresh cherries and pumpkin seeds, and stewed cherries in Chinato wine with bitter chocolate ice.
Bangkok Joe's will offer a full cherry-inspired menu at both lunch at dinner service, and individual food items and cocktails will also be available à la carte. Highlights include a cherry-miso-glazed salmon and cherry-duck dumplings.
Buddha Bar will discount its Japanese Cherry Blossom signature cocktail to $6 for the length of the festival. The rest of the menu will be regular price.
Carmine's will offer a cherry-inspired specialty cocktail and dessert in addition to its normal menu. The Cherries Jubilee will mix Cruzan rum, Myers dark rum, Graham's Six Grape port, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, cranberry juice, and garnishes of brandied cherries and fresh cherry juice ($12); and the dessert menu will be fortified by a vanilla-and-almond panna cotta with preserved cherries and aged balsamic vinegar ($10).
Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar has created two cherry dishes in addition to its regular à-la-carte menu, available during dinner service. Thesalmón con salsa de guindas (cherry-barbecue-glazed grilled salmon fillet with roasted sweet potato mash and fennel and cherry blossom salad) will join other entrées at $23, and the pastel rustico de cerezas (warm cherry clafoutis with white chocolate ice cream) will be added to the dessert menu for $8. For the perfect pairing, a cherry blossom cocktail will also be available. Priced at $9, the Vanilla-Cherry Coke is made from a combination of Cuba Libre rum (aged five years) infused with cherry brandy and topped with Coca-Cola Classic.
Dino's offerings will include a duck breast with cardamom-spiced cherry sauce ($24) and a drink dubbed the Gingered Cherry, made from house-infused black cherry tequila, house ginger syrup, and Luxardo bitters ($10).
Sustainable, local favorite Founding Farmers will add a scratch-made cherry chocolate bread pudding with crème anglaise to its dessert menu for $8. The cocktail menu will also feature an addition: the Sour Cherry Smash ($12), which will showcase Founding Farmers Rye Whisky, pairing it with freshly muddled, fermented sour cherries, lemon, bitters, and simple syrup.
Garden Cafe Italia at the National Gallery of Art will make special additions to its buffet and à-la-carte menus beginning March 30. New items will include a grilled pork chop with cherry relish and arugula salad, a cherry-pomegranate gelato, and a cherry frangipane tart. A new signature cocktail, the Disaronno Cherry Sour, will also be created for the occasion, made with amaretto, sweet and sour, and a hint of cherry.
Hank's Oyster Bar will serve two specialty cherry libations and a fresh salad during the festival, in addition to its standard menu. The cherry salad is made with Bibb lettuce, Gorgonzola, cherries, and cherry vinegar, for $11. The limited-edition cocktails, also $11, will be a Cherry Stone Blossom, made from vodka, sake, fresh-squeezed lemon, and a splash of tart cherry juice; and a cherry Coke, made with Coca-Cola and rye infused with sour cherries and toasted walnuts.
J&G Steakhouse will supplement its standard menu with specialty dessert and drink options. The cherry-pistachio coupe glacé--a cherry compote served with pistachio ice cream, candied pistachios, and a Champagne sabayon--will be $9, and the Gin Cherry Blossom, made with Hendrick's gin, cherry yuzu, club soda, and Thai basil leaves, will go for $13.
Legal Sea Foods is offering four cherry-inpsired dishes exclusively at its Chinatown location. Highlights include a cherry-glazed salmon with potato gaufrettes ($24.95) and a cava-splashed cocktail with Fee Brothers cherry bitters ($9.95).
Mie N Yu will offer a cherry picks menu, including three to four courses and drink pairings, highlighted by a pepper-seared scallop, served with braised short-rib hash and a sour cherry yaki jus.
Oya will offer a Michigan cherry wine sangria ($12 a glass), made from Traverse City cherry wine, which comes from a part of Michigan best known for its cherry production.
After taking in a festival event, unwind at nearby Oval Room with a Cherry Blossom Breeze ($15), a specialty cocktail inspired by the blooms on the Mall. The concoction combines cherry brandy, vodka, elderflower liqueur, and a splash of cranberry.
Paolo's Ristorante will offer cherry blossom specials in addition to its regular menu for the six-week duration of the Festival, including starter, entrée, dessert, and cocktail options. Highlights will include an appetizer of spiced seared tuna and cherry slaw, a cherry chocolate crostada dessert, and a Champagne cocktail.
Park Hyatt Washington is offering up a special Sakura cocktail that will be available in the Park Hyatt Lounge and Blue Duck Tavern during the Festival. Priced at $14, the Sakura cocktail is made from Prairie organic vodka, cherry purée, cherry syrup, cherry bitters, and Va de Vi sparkling wine and garnished with a cherry.
At 1789 Restaurant, you'll find two special creations for the 100th anniversary of the cherry blossom festival. Executive chef Anthony Lombardo is planning a dish of pan-roasted duck breast, cherry quinoa, crispy duck confit, and duck consommé ($36). For dessert, try a fried cherry pie ($9). Valet parking is always complimentary.
Smith Commons will add a dessert to its menu in honor of the festival: The cherry flan ($9) will be served with cherry chutney and white chocolate crumbs.
Station 4 will offer a cherry-inspired three-course menu, priced at $35 per person (tax and gratuity not included). Menu highlights include seared foie gras with Marcona almond powder and dried cherry jelly and a rosemary-crusted lamb strip loin with potato, bordelaise syrup, and sous vide cherries. To finish off the meal, Chef Amaro will be serving up cherry essence chocolate lava cake with cherry-Cabernet sorbet. Valet parking will be available for $10.
Zentan will create both food and drink specialties for the Festival, including charred scallops with pickled cherries, almonds, and ponzu sauce ($14), and a cocktail, the Zen Blossom, which mixes vanilla vodka, Cointreau, coconut vodka, muddled cherries, cherry purée, St. Germain, fresh citrus, and Karen Coy sake.
See our Cherry Blossom Festival 2012 Guide here.