The exact time of floral blooms can be hard to predict due to March weather in Washington, D.C. That, however, does not stop the season from starting early at the Ritz Carlton!
Welcome to the Ritz
As soon as I walked through the elegant lobby, the scent of cherry blossoms embodies me with happiness. The hotel’s signature scent, Sakura (meaning cherry blossom in Japanese) subtly fills the air, as cherry blossom flower arrangements brighten the public spaces. Downstairs in the conference area is an incredible hand-painted mural. The mural depicts a wind-blown cherry blossom tree set against a metallic gold background. This is perhaps the most photographed location at the hotel! When visitors come to D.C., they want to take home a memorable moment with the backdrop of the blossoms, even if they didn’t get to see them in bloom.
The Westend Bistro
Located off the main lobby is Westend Bistro, a vibrant modern bar that serves lunch and dinner. I was told that it took the mixologist months of perfection to create the house drink, Sakura cocktail. A pale red colored gin-infused drink arrives in a cold martini glass. It has layers of flavors starting with the sweetness of cherries, the boldness of Sakura tea, to dryness of the gin and bitterness of grapefruits. It is flavorful in a way that one could drink a few glasses and only later realize the alcohol content.
Westend Bistro under the supervision of Chef de Cuisine Adam Barnett was named Washingtonian’s Top 100 Restaurants for 2015, so I have to try the food. The Kabocha Squash Salad arrives as a hearty, healthy treat with baby kales and spinach, grilled Honeycrisp apples, pumpkin seed granola, and hazelnut vinaigrette.
Book a Room, Plant a Tree
When I arrived in my room, I found a card made with recycled paper at the desk. It says “a cherry tree has been planted in your honor.” The Ritz Carlton Washington, D.C. partners with the National Arbor Day Foundation‘s Cherry Blossom Give-A-Tree program. Guests can purchase an overnight room package that includes the tree donation.
Afternoon Tea Time
The afternoon is a time to experience high tea at the Lobby Lounge. Over Cherry Blossom Festival, they offer a lovely Sakura blend tea that is specially designed for the hotel. Notes of bergamot, black currant, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, soft vanilla, and white musk are complimented with, well, of course, cherry blossom flowers. The tea is served in a traditional Japanese cast iron teapot (tetsubin) and cups, with sliced lemons and rose petals on the side. It is refreshing and deep, without an overwhelming floral presence.
Tea comes with a surprise dessert amenity that is not listed on the menu. Homemade little cherry tart square and chocolate-covered cookie sticks resembling tree barks with cherry flowers, placed in a Japanese vase look too beautiful to eat. This presentation is worth taking photos of, even if you are not a dessert person.
Exploring the Festival
After enjoying all the cherry blossom themes at the Ritz Carlton, it was time to explore the festival-related events in the area. The hotel’s concierge guides me to a list of events including parades, runs, and banquets organized by the National Cherry Blossom Festival.