Strawberry season rivals Christmastime in terms of rampant merriment. Celebrate accordingly by eating and drinking your way through the sea of strawberry creations sweeping Chicago menus right now.
Strawberries are a naturally sweet counterpoint to a myriad of savory dishes nowadays, juxtaposing everything from prosciutto to mahi mahi with their innate saccharine sensations. Start your strawberry spree with the La Quercia prosciutto plate at Cicchetti, flecked with rhubarb, strawberry and fresh fava beans. At Fountainhead, chef Cleetus Friedman rounds out a rapini and mizuna salad with strawberries, fresh chèvre and strawberry balsamic. And at Yusho, one of the most novel preparations of strawberries this season is their strawberry tare-brushed mahi mahi with lemon sake Manila clams, snap peas, roasted beets, pickled beet and strawberry-shiso mignonette.
When it comes to strawberry sweets, options go so much deeper than shortcake. Though a good shortcake - like the brown butter/strawberry jam version at Scofflaw - is always a pleasantry, there's lots more to save room for as well. Like the strawberry-mascarpone doughnut at Firecakes Donuts, the strawberry mousse with oatmeal brioche and aloe sorbet at Cafe des Architectes, and the warm strawberry-rhubarb hand pies at Sable Kitchen & Bar.
But that's far from the extent. Jellyfish is getting crafty with dessert sushi featuring jasmine coconut rice, fresh strawberries, fresh banana, fresh pineapple, and fresh mango drizzled with mango puree and dark and white chocolates. The Winchester starts the day on a sweet note with liege waffles adorned with rhubarb puree, amaretto strawberries, toasted almonds, and whipped cream, while Acadia offers an offbeat interpretation of "strawberries and cream" with pickled green strawberries, compressed strawberries, rhubarb, white chocolate "noodle," fennel pollen, celery, strawberry-rhubarb gel, and black olive soil.
At soon to come FIG & OLIVE, opening later this month in the Gold Coast, strawberries take the stage as part of a dessert "crostini" with strawberries, balsamic, mascarpone and micro basil on shortbread. Blackbird is always a reliable destination for outré seasonal stunners, as evidenced by the new cinnamon concha with roasted strawberries, goat's milk sorbet, Okinawan black sugar and shiso.
All those strawberry dishes demand something refreshing to wash it down with, such as the Assault & Pepper at Headquaters Beercade made with house-infused strawberry-jalapeno tequila, fresh lime, and housemade citrus chili salt garnished with fresh strawberry. The adorably named Creepy Uncle Nate cocktail at Bangers & Lace gets a boost of seasonality from strawberry-sage compote, mixed with lemon and Letherbee gin. Bistro Campagne currently has two strawberry libations, one made with Daron Calvados, Cointreau, lemon juice, soda, and strawberry-rhubarb shrub, and another comprised of Rittenhouse Rye, Lillet Rouge, and more of that strawberry-rhubarb shrub goodness.
Perfect fodder for the World Cup, Mercadito's Brazilian Revolver contains Leblon Cachaca, lime and strawberries. For something fizzy and invigorating, head to tesori for their bubbly Prosecco-splashed cocktail made with Bombay Sapphire, St-Germaine, pink peppercorn-strawberry-habanero syrup, and summer sour; or visit Lone Wolf for their Sgroppino #2, a frozen fizzy cocktail infused with strawberries, hibiscus and tequila.
Photos: Cicchetti, Blackbird, Bangers & Lace