Sunday, April 13, 2014

On the Homefront: DC Cherry Blossom Festival Table


The annual Cherry Blossom Festival in our nation's capital is winding down today, so I thought I would set a table in honor of this lovely tradition.  I recently purchased a set of four cherry blossoms dessert plates from the Smithsonian Store, and I bought a beautiful knit scarf with a cherry blossom design from the Willard InterContinental Hotel gift shop when we were in DC for an awards dinner last April.  I do not own much pink tableware, but these two items, along with some in white and light green, provided just the right amount of spring color on my table.  A simple white teapot and bamboo flatware hint at the Japanese origins of this celebration.  The cherry blossoms in our yard are long gone, but pretty pink Loropetalum is in bloom at the moment, so I pruned a branch and placed it in a slender clear glass vase also brought back from DC last year.

Dark brown wooden bead placemat from Target years ago; white dinner plate, teacup, and saucer (Tivoli by Studio Nova); Cherry Blossoms Dessert Plate from Smithsonian Store; faux bamboo flatware; spring green napkin; tall water glass with a vaguely bamboo-like shape.

A closer look at the cherry blossoms plate.

A birch candleholder surrounded by clear glass beads makes for
a simple woodsy centerpiece, and pairs well with the cherry
blossom scarf used as a table runner.

This simple contemporary white teapot is one of my husband's
favorites from his extensive collection.

Green tea will be served with the Japanese-inspired menu.

Instead of cherry blossoms, which have long since
faded here, a tall branch of pink Loropetalum
flowers graces the table.

A spring green soy sauce dispenser is flanked by white bird salt
 and pepper shakers from Pier 1 (you can't have trees without
birds, right?); a larger birch candleholder sits behind them.

Since many of the cherry trees in Washington, DC, were a gift from Japan, my menu for this table includes Japanese foods (or at least my best interpretation!).  Yakisoba ("fried noodles") is a popular street food in Japan which actually originated in China.  It is easy to make and just about everyone loves this dish, even children.  While I am not normally a fan of cucumbers, the marinade for the salad makes them palatable for me.  The cake is not Japanese, of course, but does bring cherries to the table, and is a good choice to serve with tea.

DC Cherry Blossom Festival Menu:

Green Tea
Japanese Cucumber Salad*
Chicken Yakisoba**


*Japanese Cucumber Salad

1/3 C. rice vinegar
1 tsp. light soy sauce
1 1/2 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1 English cucumber, very thinly sliced
1/2 T. toasted sesame seeds

Whisk together the first four ingredients.  Soak the cucumber slices in salt water for a few minutes, then rinse and drain.  Pour the marinade over the cucumber slices and let stand for at least 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with the sesame seeds before serving.  Serves 4.


**Chicken Yakisoba

1/3 C. soy sauce
1/3 C. rice or white wine
1 1/2 T. sugar
3 T. vegetable oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 bags (1 lb. each) tricolor slaw mix
1 T. minced ginger
1 lb. boneless chicken, thinly sliced (white or dark meat, or a combination)
12 oz. ramen noodles*, cooked, rinsed, and drained
2 scallions, sliced

In a small bowl, whisk together the first 3 ingredients.  Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes.  Stir in the slaw mix and ginger.  Cook until the cabbage is softened, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes more.  Top with the noodles and pour the sauce over.  Reduce heat to medium, cover the skillet, and cook for 3-5 minutes, then remove the cover and toss everything together until well combined.  Pour the mixture into a serving platter and garnish with the scallions.  Serves 4.

*I used four packets (3 oz. each) of ramen noodle soup, flavor packets discarded (they are mostly salt anyway).  Spaghetti or even linguine would also work.

In addition to the Cherry Preserves Cake Squares (above), more sweets are on the table in the form of toffee-like Whole Almond Candies, brought back by my husband from one of his many trips to Asia.  Some of the treats he brings home from his travels are a bit odd-tasting, to say the least, but these candies are really quite good.

We may not have been able to get to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival this year, but my table will make us feel as if we were there!

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