Ever bitten into a real strawberry?
I’m not talking about those giant orbs that are hard as a rock, mealy and white in the center. I’m talking about those strawberries that, every year around mid-May, make a brief but mighty appearance in Kansas City. They are delicate, juicy, ripe and red to their core.
Strawberries are also versatile, so I set out to find what locals do with strawberries this time of year and discovered five sweet and savory options.
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Novel, 815 W. 17th St.
5-9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
During the small window when local strawberries are available, Novel chef/owner Ryan Brazeal buys as many as possible from area farmers. Brazeal uses various preservation techniques in order to enjoy them for the duration of the summer.
His spring Hamachi Crudo ($15) features the sweet berries pickled in rice wine vinegar and sugar. The strawberries provide perfect contrast for the delicate fish and thinly sliced radishes.
Brazeal also roasts strawberries to concentrate the sugars and makes a sauce to incorporate into an $8 dessert with poppy seed shortcake, lemon-rhubarb ice cream and candied almonds.
In a pop tart
Heirloom Bakery, 401 E. 63rd St.
7 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
On any given weekend, Heirloom Bakery in Brookside has lines snaking out the door. Inevitably, popular food items sell out quickly. So get there early — or go on a weekday — to enjoy Heirloom’s pop tarts before they’re gone.
Fresh strawberries are sandwiched between flaky layers of pastry in the Strawberry Pop Tart ($4). The rich pastry and fresh berries perfectly balance the sweet icing and dusting of sprinkles. They’re a hit with kids (and the kid in all of us) and worth the wait.
As a float
Ça Va, 4149 Pennsylvania Ave.
4 p.m.-1 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
Rather than order dessert, I always prefer to order another cocktail. So cheers to Westport’s Ça Va, Kansas City’s only sparkling wine bar, where you truly can drink your dessert.
The Strawberry Prosecco Float ($7) is three scoops of house-made strawberry sorbet topped with prosecco, spritzed with rose water and accompanied by buttery shortbread cookies. Enjoy some sorbet on its own and leave some to melt into the sparkling wine so you can drink dessert straight from the glass.
In ice cream
Betty Rae’s Ice Cream, 7140 Wornall Road
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Despite being a relative newcomer to Kansas City, Betty Rae’s Ice Cream has already made its mark in the Waldo neighborhood. Located in a former frozen yogurt shop, Betty Rae’s turns out an impressive selection of house-made ice cream and baked goods.
The strawberry cheesecake ice cream ($2.75 for one scoop or $4.75 for two) is everything it should be — tangy and sweet with chunks of real strawberry and graham cracker crust. In the mood for an ice cream sandwich? Head to the freezer case to grab a sandwich ($4.50) made with green tea sugar cookies and strawberry ice cream.
Unforked, 7337 W. 119th St. in Overland Park
11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
If you’re expecting the strawberry shortcake sundae at Unforked to be like those standard strawberry sundaes with neon red sauce and soggy shortcake, think again. Because what Unforked serves is anything but standard.
The first thing that surprised me about the sundae ($5.13) was the warm cup. Warm, because that’s precisely how the shortcake is served. I was delighted to realize the strawberries on top were sweet and ripe and still resembled strawberries. Sandwiched between the berries and shortcake is frozen vanilla custard with very subtle tang.
I finished the sundae at an alarming speed and was not at all ashamed.
Welcome to Five Ways, a monthly column celebrating one thing in Kansas City’s culinary scene, five different ways. Do you have a timely topic for Andrea Shores to explore? Send ideas to email@example.com.