Cherry blossom cured kompachi with warm buttered turnips and abalone mushrooms, served at Urban Farmer in Portland, Ore.
The Cherry Blossom Festival is well under way, and this year marks the 100th anniversary of the event. To celebrate, chefs all over the country are incorporating the delicate pink flowers and tart, fruity cherries in an array of delectable dishes and cocktails.
The opening of the first cherry blossom is called “kaika,” and at the California-based CHAYA restaurants, chef de cuisine Atsushi Kenjo celebrates this arrival of spring using picnic-style Japanese dishes laced with cherry. His beef carpaccio comes with an aged cherry balsamic, and his tai sakura sushi incorporates the edible blossoms. It can all be washed down with a sweet cherry Bellini, which comes with cherry sorbet.
Also on the drinks side, Lynnette Marrero, cocktail maven and the New York City chapter president of Ladies Unite for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails, has created a springtime version of the classic Blood and Sand. In this concoction, called Lady McB, Marrero utilizes a heaping spoonful of bright cherry jam (see the full recipe below).
Chef Matt Christianson loves using the fresh flowers to accent his cooking at the modern steakhouse Urban Farmer in Portland, Ore. “We use ornamental cherry tree blossoms, because they are more fragrant than the fruit bearing trees,” he said.
Christianson's star dish features cherry blossom-cured kampachi with warm buttered turnips and abalone mushrooms. Using fresh-picked cherry blossoms as a marinade gives the light fish slightly floral and sweet flavors that pair nicely with the mellow earthiness of the mushrooms and the starchy butter notes from the turnips.
Since Washington, D.C., has all those glorious cherry trees, it’s no surprise that local restaurant The Federalist incorporates the flowers in a special cherry blossom festival menu. Executive chef Harper McClure uses whole pickled cherries from last year’s harvest and employs them as an accoutrement to bergamot-steamed Atlantic flounder, which comes with an Italian cherry-infused balsamic vinegar as well. Also on the menu is a roasted duck that he drenches in a sauce made with cherry-infused brandy. For dessert, he makes cherries jubilee with pistachio cake and Tahitian-vanilla ice cream. As far as drinks go, McClure infuses sake and vodka in-house with cherry blossoms, and then use the liquors to create the Wild Blossom cocktail.
“The flavor of cherries is awesome,” said McClure. “It’s one of those ingredients that everyone can agree they can never get enough of.”
Want to get in on the celebration? Here are the recipes for the Lady McB cocktail and, just so you can enjoy the cherry blossom season all year, McClure’s pickled cherries.
Lady McB cocktail
Courtesy of Lynnette Marrero, LUPEC NYC chapter president
- 1 oz Great King Street Scotch
- 1/2 oz Orangerie Scotch
- 1/2 oz lemon juice
- 1/2 oz Lillet Rouge
- 1/2 oz Cio Ciaro
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- Bar spoon of cherry jam
Shake and double strain up into a glass.
Courtesy of Harper McClure of The Federalist
- 1 lb fresh, pitted cherries
- 1 cup port wine
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tbs allspice
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 star anise clove
- 3 cloves
Combine all ingredients except for cherries in a pot and bring to simmer. Fill one-quart mason jars with cherries, leaving about an inch of room on the top. Pour liquid over cherries, covering them completely.
Seal jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Cool at room temperature. Wait at least two weeks before eating.
More cherry recipes:
- Root beer brandy cherry-glazed pork osso buco
- Profiteroles with vanilla ice cream, bourbon peach jam and pickled sour cherries
- Apple-cherry cobbler