Cherry blossoms are so last season. Right now, it’s all about the squash. Yesterday marked the first day of Oyamel’s third annual Squash Blossom Festival, which will take place through August 8th at the downtown Mexican restaurant. The event celebrates the summertime harvest of squash’s delicate edible flower, a defining ingredient of Mexican cooking. Six new dishes and one specialty cocktail will be available throughout the two-week period, each incorporating squash blossoms into its mélange of flavors and textures.
Much to the chagrin of my belt, the full festival menu was sampled at a special tasting session yesterday evening. Ranging from $7 to $11, each dish was a masterpiece – bold, innovative and perfectly balanced. A chilled tomato and watermelon soup was made rich with Mexican cream and punctuated with salty little gifts of salmon roe. The chalupa de chorizo verde was akin to magical Mexican bruschetta, where sweet corn masa cakes were topped with savory requeson cheese, green chorizo and squash blossom picadillo. Also on the menu were fried squash blossoms oozing with Oaxaca cheese, and a tomato and blossom salad spiced with the smoky flavors of chile pasilla. If you dined during the festival last year, you might recognize the squash blossoms stuffed with goat cheese, an item so popular it was brought back for 2010.
By the time the event is through, Chef Joe Raffa will have used more than 10,000 of the delicate orange blooms in his exquisite new creations. The particular blossoms used this year have been harvested from Hubbard squash grown in Burstonsville, Maryland, a variety whose flowers offer heightened aroma and flavor. Using local ingredients for its cross-cultural celebration, Oyamel has found the perfect recipe for a meal of universal appeal.
Squash blossom specials will be available for lunch and dinner throughout the festival’s duration.
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana
401 7th Street NW Washington, DC 20004