Branching Out

March 22, 2012

Ceiba's "cherry blossom apertivo"

You won’t find me gawking at the cherry blossoms on the Tourist Basin, at least not during prime daylight hours. There are better ways to celebrate the centennial of our iconic flowering trees, including visiting one of the 100-plus restaurants that are marking the occasion with blossom-inspired “Cherry Picks,” specials running through April 27 (see them at Restaurantweekmetrodc.org).

I have a major sweet tooth, so the mere mention of “cherry” anything makes me crave a sugary snack, dessert or cocktail. And that’s what many of these specials are (hello, cherry pop-tart at Ted’s Bulletin, an affordable Cherry Pick at $3!). But savory dishes involving cherries — such as the Cherry Blossom Aperitivo ($11, above) at Ceiba (701 14th St. NW; 202-393-3983) — intrigue me much more.

Ceiba’s appetizer, available at lunch or dinner, takes two disparate savory-and-sweet treats and unites them with a cherry-accented salsa. It includes an empanada stuffed with squash blossom, butternut squash, queso fresco, cocoa powder and house-made pickled cherries — a refreshing change from typical meaty or cheesy fillings. Its mate — thin-sliced, subtly smoky duck — balances out the empanada’s lightness and sweetness.

The best Cherry Picks, like this creative combo, deserve to stick around longer than a month. Or, hey, maybe they can make a comeback this summer — when cherries are actually in season.

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