Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Strawberry Reveries

smackdown 1 fig. a: who's that girl?

For those of you who just can't get enough, we've got still more summer strawberries for you--this time in the form of a "strawberry smackdown" hosted by Lesley Chesterman of the Montreal Gazette. The idea was to pit two local chefs in a friendly strawberry-centric competition. Michelle jumped at the opportunity. So did our good friend Stéphanie, of Pâtisserie Rhubarbe fame.

Michelle's entry was her latest strawberry dessert from Laloux, a deceptively simple-looking strawberry fantasy that's come to be known as her "Bohemian Rhapsody" around these parts.

smackdown 2 fig. b: Michelle's Bohemian Rhapsody

If you haven't had the pleasure of hearing Michelle describe the dessert herself, it all started with stories her mother used to tell her about summertime in Czechoslovakia. It seems that instead of summer camp, Czech kids used to be carted off to these summer work camps where they'd spend a couple of weeks picking hops as part of the national beer-making effort.

Summer work camps? Nationalized industries? Doesn't sound like a lot of fun, does it? Except that apparently it was.

The kids were out of the city and in the countryside, they were camping, and they were relatively unsupervised. There was music every night, there were songs and dancing, and there was no shortage of summer intrigue, and a fair bit of summer romance, too. There were also strawberries--lots and lots of wild strawberries--and flowers.

Michelle loved hearing these stories (she still does!), especially because her mother would get so animated when she told them (she still does!). They were/are clearly among her mother's fondest memories.

Anyway, earlier this year, before strawberry season even began, Michelle came up with the idea of creating a dessert that would capture elements of these remembrances of Czech summers past. There would definitely be hops, of course--the most floral she could find. There would also be strawberries and flowers--an homage to the wild strawberries and the wildflowers that grew alongside the hops in the Czech countryside. There would be malt--another nod to the art of making beer. And there would by rye--Michelle imagined rye crumbs mingling with the hops and the strawberries and the wildflowers after the Czech youngsters had had their lunches in the fields.

Beyond just a nice story with a lot of vivid visuals, Michelle saw the potential for a great strawberry dessert--and thus the Bohemian Rhapsody was composed.

You really have to stop by Laloux to experience Michelle's strawberry fantasy exactly the way she envisioned it, but if you don't live in the Montreal area, or if you'd prefer to try making it yourself, you can find Michelle's recipe here, along with Stéphanie's utterly gorgeous fraisier

smackdown 3 fig. c: Stéphanie's fraisier

and the rest of the "strawberry smackdown" story.



Sharon Wilensky said...

Congratulations to Michelle!

asta said...

triple WOO!
1- the dessert
2- the win
3- the previous commenter

Mark Slutsky said...


aj kinik said...

Hi, Sharon,
you totally made Michelle's day with your comment--thank you!

hi, Asta,
agreed--triple WOO!

hi, Mark,
what's so darned funny, wise guy?