Versus: Short(cake) & Sweet at Anthony's and the Kingfish

The Dish: Strawberry shortcake captures the simplicity and flavor of summer at its peak. This dessert is an artful, rustic creation made with homemade whipped cream, fresh strawberries, and a warm biscuit. What this dessert is not is a gloppy mess strewn with store-bought whipped topping, angel food cake, and out-of-season berries. It is also not meant to mask the succulent strawberry, the basis for every inch of this classic creation. An appetizing shortcake features deep red juice from macerated local berries plucked that very day. So who has the best strawberry shortcake and who comes up short?The Rivals: Anthony's Pier 66, 2201 Alaskan Way, 448-6688. Former Gourmet magazine contributing editor and self-proclaimed "professional dreamer" Jon Rowley helped design Anthony's version back in 1992. "As an outside consultant, my job was to provide the vision and to work with the Anthony's team to get the right result," says Rowley. "Getting the shortcake right was important, so I went into a deep research phase, collecting strawberry-shortcake information and recipes from anywhere and everywhere, especially from old cookbooks and rural strawberry festivals that had their own shortcake recipes. One day we tried a recipe found in a thin booklet of Shaker recipes, and voila, with a few twinks, there was our biscuit." The Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake ($6.95) is made with sweet local strawberries from Picha Farms in Puyallup, set atop a warm and tender homemade biscuit and served with freshly whipped Chantilly cream. The taste and textures are balanced, the biscuit is still warm when served, and the berries are steeped with a little sugar and cut into irregular chunks for a rustic look.Kingfish Cafe, 602 19th Ave. E., 320-8757. To say that the Kingfish's strawberry shortcake is filling is an understatement. It's absolutely overwhelming. This shortcake ($10) couldn't be more different from Anthony's. To start, when we approached one of the owners about the dish's ingredients, we got the stink eye, as if we were trying to crack some sort of Southern pastry code. What we do know: The biscuits are homemade, the strawberries are from Charlie's Produce, and caramel is drizzled on top. Don't get us wrong, this dessert is good. The problem lies in its freshness and execution. The berries' color was dulled, and they seemed a bit haggard. We doubt they'd been picked that day or even the day prior. The biscuits tasted stale, and would barely break apart with the help of a forkā€”flaky and buttery they were not. But the biggest problem was the caramel sauce. The ample amount used wrought havoc on this dessert; butterscotch was the overriding flavor of the entire dish. The Kingfish's strawberry shortcake is a dessert whose appearance is awe-inspiring, creating an audible ruckus when ordered. Chances are when you order this dish, so will the table next to you, and the table next to them, and so on. It's a towering work of art, but one that tries to win approval with pure volume, not flavor.The Champ: We're going to keep this short and sweet: Anthony's strawberry shortcake is fresher and more flavorful. The berries are bright-red and juicy, the biscuit is flaky and buttery, and the strawberries are allowed to shine through everything piled on top of them. It's no easy task not to overcomplicate the delicate strawberry with sugar and pastry, but Anthony's does it with a refined touch.jperry@seattleweekly.com

 
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