The cherry blossoms are about to bloom and hanami mania is already bursting out all over D.C. with the official start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival and its month-long extravaganza of events and activities.
What follows are eight highlights, a mix of specific events happening in March, and a handful of offerings at area restaurants. In a couple of weeks, we’ll return to the subject with another list of highlights from the plethora of options on tap in April.
Visit www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org for more information on the following first three listings.
Blossoms at Eastern Market — For three weeks beginning Monday, March 20, Eastern Market (225 7th St. SE) will be decorated with 150 cherry blossom branches as a nod to the venue’s 150th Anniversary.
The popular market for food and culinary items and local arts and crafts will be hosting specific events, including lessons in two-step country dancing from the LGBTQ social group DC Rawhides (3/24 and 4/8), art tables, demonstrations, and performances led by the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (3/26), a Capitol Hill Restoration Society Lecture (3/30), and a Capital Art Book Fair with vendors and an installation by artist Carolina Mayorga (4/1-2).
URBNmarket — Next weekend, Union Market’s Main Hall will feature a handmade and vintage market pop-up featuring more than 60 makers from the D.C. area. Official 2023 National Cherry Blossom merchandise, including commemorative pieces and collectibles, will also be available. (3/24-26, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 50 Massachusetts Ave. NE)
Cherry Night — This annual one-night-only celebration of D.C. nightlife presented by the festival features special menus, decor, and live entertainment at exclusive venues, with this year’s lineup Wunder Garten, Hook Hall, Metro Bar, the VUE Rooftop at the W Hotel Washington, and Focus Social Nightclub. (3/31)
Cherry Picks at Ambar — To honor the cherry blossoms, all three locations of the “next level” Balkan restaurant chain, including the newly opened Ambar Shaw (1547 7th St. NW; www.ambarrestaurant.com), will be furnished in cherry blossom decor and featuring two menu specials: Shumadija Iced Tea ($14), made with cherry-infused rakia (fruit brandy), bourbon, housemade cherry purée, fresh lemon juice, and a berry-mint tea blend, and Svarcvald Cake ($11), Black Forest cake with dark chocolate layers and a cherry filling with whipped cream frosting.
Cherry Blossom-Inspired Afternoon Tea at Salamander — Enjoy a glass of celebratory bubbles, homemade scones, tea sandwiches, and pastries curated by guest Pastry Chef Lasheeda Perry served with a selection of premium loose-leaf teas, all overlooking the Garden Terrace of the Salamander Washington, D.C. (1330 Maryland Ave. SW, www.salamanderdc.com.), the luxury complex formerly known as the Mandarin Oriental. (3/24-4/16, with seatings at 1 and 3:30 p.m. daily for $95 per person)
Cherry Picks at Voltaggio Brothers Steakhouse — A few cherry-themed specials are available at this premium steakhouse in the MGM resort (101 MGM National Ave.; www.mgmnationalharbor.com), throughout the festival.
The menu includes a Braised 8-ounce Short Rib ($45) served with a sherried cherry sauce, pomme purée, and garlic crumble, Crispy Brussels Sprouts ($13) with plumped cherries and port glaze, and a Blossom Bliss ($19) cocktail of Kettle orange vodka, gin, and cointreau with lemon juice, tropical jam, and orange and angostura bitters.
Sake and Whisky Tastings Embassy Suites — Guests can enjoy sake and whisky tastings, and also choose from an assortment of gyoza and other small bites available from a variety of Asian-inspired chef stations, every Tuesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Embassy Suites by Hilton Washington DC Convention Center (900 10th St. NW; www.hilton.com).
The hotel’s Brickstones Kitchen & Bar will also serve two signature Japanese-inspired cocktails, the Tokyo Night cocktail with Shinju Wishky, Grand Marnier, and yuzu juice, and the Sakura Roku Martini with Suntory Roku gin, amarena syrup, and sakuras. (Through 4/11)
Cherry Picks at Cafe Riggs — Located in Penn Quarter’s grand Riggs Hotel, in the historic former Riggs National Bank building, this elegant restaurant (900 F St. NW; www.riggsdc.com) inspired by European brasseries offers a dessert special of Cherry Blossom Profiteroles ($21), a seasonal spin on the cream puff pastry topped with an exquisite Luxardo cherry and chocolate shavings. Meanwhile, the cafe’s elegant lower-level bar housed the original bank vault is serving two rather self-explanatory cocktails, a Cherry Negroni ($18) with a cherry on top and a Cherry Collins ($18) with cherry cordial. Throughout the festival.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!