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Hot Chocolate takes advantage of berry season

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The end of July means one thing for local pastry chefs: It's berry season.

And while strawberries may be on the way out, there are plenty of other delicious options, most of which are coming from Michigan.

The early spring frost decimated Michigan stone fruits and apples. But it hasn't seemed to slow down the berry crop. Most of the city's pastry chefs are using blackberries, blueberries and raspberries this time of year, including one chef, who has them all over her menu.

Their colors speak volumes. This is the heart of berry season, and at Hot Chocolate, a Bucktown restaurant featuring the handiwork of recent James Beard Award winner Mindy Segal, local berries are the true stars. For instance, even though the strawberry season is ending...

"I usually stock strawberries in my freezer, and we make a broth with the strawberries and Pinot Noir and it's beautiful," said Segal.

Segal slices copious amounts of berries into pinot noir then gently heats it on the stovetop, eventually using it to dress up a carrot cake and creme fraiche cheesecake sandwich, topped with some strawberry ice cream; she serves the broth on the side then pours it tableside.

"I usually do carrot cake at the end of strawberry season. I like the flavors of carrot, ginger, and then that strawberry broth," she said.

Michigan blueberries are embedded into her fluffy, buttermilk pancakes, which always arrive with whipped honey butter and blueberry syrup. Then there is her creme brulee, a study in contrasts, really, since she serves two versions of it on the same plate.

"When I think of berries I think of crème brulee. I think of something that's citrus scented or something that's a little more feminine, if you will," she said.

On one side, the traditional custard, torched with a sugar cap, then topped with an assortment of fresh berries; on the other, a sundae glass filled with barely-cooked berries in a compote, fortified with a Belgian lambic beer that's made from fruit. Topping it off is a scoop of creme brulee ice cream.

"I thought of taking the berries and slightly cooking them in some sort of flavored liquid and then making creme brulee ice cream, which I thought was fun, 'cause I like ice cream," said Segal.

Hot Chocolate
1747 N. Damen Ave.
(773) 489-1747
http://www.hotchocolatechicago.com

Also mentioned:
Delightful Pastries
5927 W. Lawrence
(773) 545-7215
www.delightfulpastries.com

1710 N. Wells St
(312) 255-0724

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