by Susan Able, Photos by Hannah Hudson, Styling by Ally Mumm
In Japanese culture, seasonal rituals are cherished and enthusiastically celebrated with ceremony, food, costume and drink. No holiday is more anticipated than hanami—cherry blossom viewing.
Hanami can mean just taking a stroll to enjoy cherry blossoms, but more often involves a picnic party with food and drinks. In this continuing tradition, for hundreds of years groups of family, friends or business colleagues have planned get-togethers under the cherry blossoms to have fun and share a bento box and some drinks, sometimes trapping fallen petals in cups of sake.
We may have not known the word, but clearly we have our own hanami going on in the District, even though we might call it a crowd scene. Seven hundred thousand people visit during Washington, DC’s, cherry blossom season, which all started with cherry tree plantings in the very early 1900s along the Potomac River and East Potomac Park and in Chevy Chase, some done by private individuals, others as gifts from Japan. The National Cherry Blossom Festival honors the 1912 gift of cherry trees from the Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo City. Now there are thousands of cherry trees in the DMV, with 1,700 at the Tidal Basin alone.
"In the cherry blossom’s shade there’s no such thing as a stranger." - Kobayashi Issa
Given the sheer number of flowering cherry trees and the impressive crowds at the Tidal Basin, here are some ideas for less crowded possible venues for your own hanami picnic. And if you really want to go to the Tidal Basin, because it is really that gorgeous—may we suggest a breakfast picnic to beat the crowds? We’re providing some #eatlocal inspiration for your own modern DC hanami breakfast celebration.
Edible Picks—Local Things We Love for a Hanami Picnic
Not your typical chocolate-covered Oreos, instead gorgeous intricate cherry blossoms course across the dark chocolate coating. Find these and other Capital Candy Jar treats at Smucker Farms, Glen’s Garden Market, Union Kitchen Grocery and online at thecapitalcandyjar.com.
JRINK Juicery adds a blast of flavor with their seasonal cherry blossom juice. A beautiful shade of pink, this lemon-based juice lends a perfect balance to your picnic. JRINK has locations in Foggy Bottom and Dupont Circle.
Ivy City Smokehouse smoked salmonA perfect bagel is never complete without a thick layer of smoked salmon. Ivy City Smokehouse’s recently opened retail storefront offers restaurant-quality fish to home cooks and chefs alike. Pair their smoked salmon with a Bullfrog Bagel, and you’ll not only make a perfect bagel, but capture the essence of DC’s fiery local food scene. Ivy City Smokehouse, 1356 Okie St. NE.
Bullfrog Bagels have become Washington’s authentic bagels: made with local tap water, rolled & boiled before the sun rises. Cream cheese also available in several classic flavors. Bullfrog Bagels, 1341 H St. NE.
Elegant rosé wine from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains has become an award-winner and local favorite. Early Mountain Vineyard will take your spring picnic to the next level. Visit their gorgeous tasting room and vineyards north of Charlottesville, VA. Early Mountain Vineyard, 6109 Wolftown-Hood Rd., Madison, VA 22727.com
Capital Kombucha loves working with seasonal flavors, and for this special kombucha, they combine their base kombucha with cherry purée, rose water and honey to make a detoxifying, refreshing, and sweet drink perfect for a spring picnic. Find it at Trader Joes, Sweetgreen, Yes! Organic Market, and beyond.
Nestled in Adams Morgan is one of DC’s only gluten-free bakeries: RISE Gluten Free Bakery, a haven for all the gluten-free diners out there. Pictured here are their plain and chocolate croissants, a wonderful addition to any picnic or coffee date. Rise Bakery, 2409 18th NW.
Rare Sweets reimagines portable breakfast as they take eggs and toast to the next level. You can find the Egg in a Basket and other breakfast hand pies and pastries at their shop in City Center. Rare Sweets, 963 Palmer Alley NW.
Astro Doughnuts brings their “A” game with their cherry blossom doughnuts, crowd favorite from last year. Best known for their decadent fried chicken doughnut sandwich, Astro Doughnuts knows how to capture essence of spring in their creamy cherry blossom doughnut. Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken, 1308 G St. NW.