Flowers are blooming all over the menus of local eateries -- brilliant yellow and orange squash blossoms, that is. The edible buds have long been popular in Italian, Mexican and Southern cuisine because of regional abundances of zucchini and squash. Interested in turning out your own squash blossom masterpiece? Look for unopened flowers at Whole Foods and ethnic markets, where packets of petals will cost you $1 to $3 a blossom. Or belly up to some of Washington's favorite kitchens, where the squash blossom is served stuffed, fried, sauteed, poached and as a garnish.
MAESTRO. 1700 Tysons Blvd., McLean. 703-821-1515. www.ritzcarlton.com. This upscale Italian restaurant in the Tysons Corner Ritz-Carlton puts a fresh spin on squash blossoms each day. Chef Fabio Trabocchi will serve up different incarnations through the end of July. Look for the buds as an appetizer stuffed with crabmeat or as an entree stuffed with caviar and fried over a piece of poached fish. Tuesdays through Thursdays, the restaurant offers a fixed-price meal of three courses for $85, four courses for $95 and five courses for $105. On weekends, options begin with a five-course menu for $120.
OYA. 777 Ninth St. NW. 202-393-1400. www.oyadc.com. Beginning this month, chef Kingsley John of this modern Penn Quarter eatery will dish up halibut served over a poached squash blossom stuffed with a scallop mousse and topped with a sunchoke sauce. The $27 entree is accompanied by a small fried squash blossom, also stuffed with scallop mousse.
OYAMEL. 2250B Crystal Dr., Arlington, 703-413-2288, www.oyamel.com. This Mexican restaurant specializing in small plates is celebrating the season with a Squash Blossom Festival throughout June. Sous chef Cristina Kiewek will dish up more than 10 options, including squash blossom quesadillas and squash blossoms stuffed with queso fresco and served over a tomato and capers sauce. Prices range from $6.50 to $7.95. Feeling inspired? Learn to prepare squash blossoms at weekly chef demos Thursday and Friday, 3:30 to 5 p.m. You also can pick up your own blossoms at the festival's farmer's market, in front of the restaurant Tuesdays through Fridays, 3:30 to 5 p.m.
PALETTE. 1177 15th St. NW. 202-587-2700. www.palettedc.com. Raised in the South, where squash blossoms are plentiful, Executive Chef James Clark calls the bud "nature's sausage casing." To that end, Clark has stuffed a lobster, mascarpone cheese and fennel pollen mixture into the blossom, dipped it in tempura and lightly fried it. Served with an heirloom tomato and leek relish, the $14 appetizer is on menus through the summer.
RISTORANTE TOSCA. 1112 F St. NW; 202-367-1990; www.toscadc.com. It wouldn't be Italian if it didn't involve pasta. So Chef Cesare Lanfranconi serves cavatelli with baby clams, rapini, zucchini blossoms and homemade pancetta at lunch for $16 or $9 as a half-portion. The dish is enough to make you say "molto bene!"