In California, we look for signs of spring in the farmers' markets: a continuously growing pile of green, bright bunches of flowers, the season's first strawberries. For pastry chef Laura Cronin, the changing farmers' market bounty means it's time to roll up her sleeves and start experimenting.
Cronin, the dessert chef at San Francisco's lauded Italian mainstay Perbacco, relishes in finding the balance between savory and sweet and fruity and herbaceous. Her new spring dessert menu emphasizes these carefully tuned contrasts, while showcasing the best of the Ferry Building farmers' market's seasonal produce.
Sweet, ripe strawberries play a starring role in many of Cronin's dishes—lightly caramelized to enhance the fruit's freshness or laced with hints of lavender and rose. "I love to use lavender with berries. They elevate it beyond that potpourri flavor," she said.
Less obvious spring touches are showcased on Cronin's menu, too. Green strawberries, with their tart, almost kiwi-like flavor, are served straight up and pureed as filling in her riff on bomboloni or Italian doughnuts. Those same doughnuts are dusted with sugar that's been infused with foraged candy cap mushrooms.
Perbacco's Italian pedigree still guides the dessert menu, with dishes like panna cotta and gelato getting their due. We tasted six of Perbacco's new dessert offerings, with chefs Cronin and Terje on hand to explain the inspiration, and process, behind each. Check out the dishes and our tasting notes in the slideshow above.