Spring marks the beginning of summer ingredients, with Northern California-grown berries leading the way. They’re delicious eaten straight, or dipped in plain yogurt, or atop that classic favorite, shortcake.
Yet Bay area chefs work unexpected wonders, as well. Plan a meal at these top restaurants, and be sure to make the beautiful berries a highlight.
Zazu, Santa Rosa
Chef Duskie Estes loves to serve the fruit as crème fraiche panna cotta with balsamic strawberries, cornmeal crespelle, strawberry rhubarb marmelata and crèma; or as strawberry rhubarb crostata with rose geranium gelato. She harvests the beauties from her own garden for daily changing recipes, and shows how spectacular even the most simple presentation can be, with delights like her County Line Rosé & Strawberry Sorbetto of berries, sugar and rosé wine crafted into a refreshing chiller.
3535 Guerneville Rd., Santa Rosa, 707-523-4814, zazurestaurant.com.
The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, Livermore
Executive Chef Matt Greco has added a sweet surprise to the dessert menu this spring, as a strawberry rhubarb galette with candied orange peel and lavender ice cream.
5050 Arroyo Rd., Livermore, 925-456-2450, wentevineyards.com.
Pican Restaurant, Oakland
This upscale eatery specializes in Old South-California fusion cuisine, and executive chef Sophie Uong features a savory pork belly with pickled blueberries that speaks of fine country living.
2295 Broadway, Oakland, 510-834-1000, picanrestaurant.com.
Schooners Coastal Kitchen at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, Monterey
Chef James Waller celebrates spring bounty with a new, warm mixed berry and walnut crisp, topped in vanilla ice cream, shaved chocolate Frangipane and caramel sauce.
400 Cannery Row, Monterey, 831-372-2628, schoonersmonterey.com.
luella, San Francisco
This Russian Hill eatery features a sweet new recipe this spring, of a buttermilk panna cotta with huckleberries and an almond cookie.
1896 Hyde St., San Francisco, 415-674-4343, luellasf.com.
FIVE Restaurant, Berkeley
Celebrate the berries of summer with the Braeburn apple and cranberry crostada dolloped in whipped Laura Chenel goat cheese.
2086 Allston Way, Berkeley, 510-225-6055, five-berkeley.com.
E&O Asian Kitchen, San Francisco
How’s this for a different approach: condensed milk pound cake with fresh strawberries, black pepper and Thai basil. It’s part of a new menu called “Travel the Spice Route,” where each month, chef Sharon Nahm and mixologist Carlos Yturria will highlight a specific spice in the form of a savory dish, a sweet treat and a delectable cocktail.
314 Sutter St., San Francisco, 415-693-0303, eosanfrancisco.com.
Baker & Banker, San Francisco
Husband/wife duo Jeff Banker and Lori Baker rock their Pacific Heights restaurant with seasonal desserts such as strawberry crisp with brown sugar oatmeal streusel and white chocolate ginger ice cream, a white chocolate raspberry truffle cupcake, and a strawberry cupcake.
1701 Octavia St., San Francisco, 415-351-2500, bakerandbanker.com.
Aurea, San Francisco
Get a berry good start to the day at this bistro in the Renaissance San Francisco Stanford Court Hotel on Nob Hill, with lemon soufflé pancakes smothered in fresh raspberries, pine nuts and raspberry syrup.
905 California St., San Francisco, 415-732-4004, aureasf.com.
Tip: Make the meal even sweeter with a private car and driver to whisk you door-to-door. Pure Luxury will even stock the luxury vehicle with strawberries and sparkling wine.