You can’t escape strawberries this time of year. April starts peak time for the the sweet fruit, and since about 80 percent of the nation’s bounty is produced in California, it’s all over the state’s spring menus.
Even more exciting: You don’t have to order strawberry shortcake or strawberry cheesecake. Not that we’re knocking those two super delicious strawberry dessert staples. We’re just excited to enjoy creative preparations for the season’s most delicious crop. Thankfully, there is a lot to choose from, ranging from some superb sweets to some surprising savory dishes.
Yountville and Beverly Hills
People have been drooling over famed chef Thomas Keller’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Mille-Feuille, a puff pastry tart that streamlines the much more complicated—but no more delicious—French dessert of “one thousand leaves,” for years. You can get the recipe on Elle Décor, or you can head to Bouchon Bistro on either end of the state, where it’s now on the Spring menu, and have it served it you.
It’s been named one of the best Mexican food restaurants in San Francisco, and the Jicama y Fruta salad, pairing a jicama-frisee salad with strawberries, candied pecans, queso cotija, and a citrus-agave vinaigrette, is one very good reason why foodies flock here. If you’re looking for something with a little more meat to it (literally) try their Pato a la Plancha tacos, with duck leg carnitas, refried black beans, chicory salad, and a strawberry-chipotle marmalade.
Alton Brown of the Food Network is an admitted soufflé connoisseur, so when he went on The Best Thing I Ever Ate and gushed over Café Jacqueline’s Strawberry Soufflé, it was high praise. The San Francisco restaurant offers an array of made-to-order savory and sweet options, but when they add the strawberry soufflé to the seasonal menu, YOU NEED TO RUN.
Would you ever expect to see strawberries on the menu of a Central California healthy Thai and Asian fusion restaurant? That’s what makes Bunn Thai Bistro so intriguing. Case in point: The Strawberry Fresh Roll, a spring roll layered with carrots, cabbage, mint leaves, cucumber, ginger, strawberry, and either shrimp or organic tofu, and then blessed with a sprinkle of toasted coconut flakes.
You can’t go wrong with any of the flavors at Crushcakes Cupcakery & Café, a quaint little bakery on Anacapa in Santa Barbara (with additional outlets in Carpentaria and Goleta), but trust us and get the strawberry. Remember. You don’t have to call it desert if you eat it before the meal. Then it’s just an amuse bouche.
Hit this downtown L.A. hotspot opened last year by former Mozza sommelier David King and Pizza Antica chef Duke Gervais, and the Strawberry & Arugula Salad with organic strawberries, wild arugula, fennel, pecorino, and balsamic dressing might have you sold. Or, go for the Los Angeles Times’ recommendation and order the Sweet Mary pizza, which pairs chicken breast with organic strawberries, fontina cheese, smoked bacon, Cipollini onions, and aged balsamic. Strawberries on a pizza? Oh, yes.
You don’t get to be Yelp’s #1 Rated French Bakery without having delectable sweets, and that’s just one of the many accolades for this patisserie and café. La Provence’s Beverly Hills location is well-known for its macarons, but their strawberry tart, filled with vanilla bean custard and a layer of chocolate truffle and then topped with ruby red strawberry slices, has an equally rabid fan base.
Sometimes, it’s not lunch, dinner, or a sweet snack you’re seeking, but rather a handcrafted beverage. Strawberry Blitzed, with Strawberry Bruto Americano, St. Germain, Right Gin, Strawberry Giffard Liquor, bitters, and champagne, will more than suffice your sweet tooth, and your desire for an evening (or afternoon) pick-me-up.