I escaped Chicago for a warm weekend in Sarasota this past weekend and had a blast. Eat. Drink. Spa. Beach. What a life! Somehow in the space of 48 hours, I managed to try three different, and equally delicious, renditions of strawberry (and blackberry) shortcake. If Sarasota were to have an official dessert, I’m nominating shortcake.
First up, at O’Brien Family Farms, where you can pick your own strawberries, is a moist homemade cake topped with heaps of fresh strawberries and whipped cream. A bowl three times as big as the portion above retails for just $3.50. So you can definitely have your cake and eat it too.
At Jack Dusty at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, Executive Chef Dwayne Edwards makes a parfait-style shortcake using seasonal fruit. I tried his blackberry rendition, with juicy berries complementing soft shortcake and plenty of whipped cream. Edwards serves his shortcake in a jar to ensure that guests can get the perfect amount of fruit, cake and cream in each bite. This was the lightest of the desserts at the Jack Dusty, and if I hadn’t also devoured a couple of ice cream sandwiches, I would have felt positively healthy with this light indulgence.
The next evening, I tried another strawberry shortcake at Mattison’s City Grille. They had the most delicate presentation of all, topping their circular version with a touch of mint. I guess when the strawberries are as good as they are in Florida, shortcake is the natural way to go. None of the chefs did anything crazy with the classic dessert, but when you start with great ingredients, you can keep the preparation simple and it never gets old.
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