Versus: Short(cake) and Sweet

The Dish

It's the simplicity and flavor of summer at its peak -- the strawberry shortcake. This homey 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. This dessert is also not meant to mask the succulent strawberry which is the basis for every inch of this classic creation . An appetizing shortcake has ample deep red juice from macerated, local berries plucked that very day. Prepared correctly, the strawberry shortcake tastes better than the strawberries, whipped cream and biscuit let on. With local berries in ample supply around this region, who has the best strawberry shortcake and who comes up short?

Anthony's shortcake recipe is older than Google.
The Rivals

Anthony's Pier 66

2201 Alaskan Way, 448-6688

Former Contributing Editor of Gourmet magazine and self-proclaimed "professional dreamer" Jon Rowley helped design the original archetype for this Anthony's dessert 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 recipe. 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 atop a warm and tender homemade drop cream biscuit served with fresh 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.

If you have enough room for dessert at Kingfish, then you didn't eat dinner.
Kingfish Cafe

602 19th Ave. E., 320-8757

To say that the Kingfish Cafe'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, we couldn't get much information about its origins from the staff. 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 ridiculous southern pastry code. What we do know: the biscuits are homemade, the strawberries are sourced from Charlie's Produce and there is caramel drizzled on top of the shortcake. That's all, folks! Don't get us wrong, this dessert is good. The problem lies in its freshness and execution. The color of the berries were dulled and they seemed a bit haggard. We doubt they were picked that day or even the day prior. The biscuits tasted stale and would barely break apart with the help of a fork. Flaky and buttery they were not. The biggest problem? The caramel sauce. The ample amount used wreaked havoc on this dessert; the butterscotch taste was the overriding flavor of the entire dish. This is one of those desserts that is awe inspiring because of its appearance. It creates 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 and so on. It's a towering work of art, but one that tries to win approval with pure volume, not taste.

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 that's piled on top of it. It's no easy task to not overcomplicate the delicate strawberry with sugar and pastry, but Anthony's does it with a refined touch.

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