And strawberry and black pepper ice cream is a popular spring-summer dessert.
The restaurant makes a strawberry ice cream base, grinds in just the right amount of black pepper and spins the mixture in the ice cream machine for a treat Whigham describes as “creamy with little bit of spice.”
At Absinthe, one of Hollinger’s specialties is a drink he concocted while in culinary school — sangre de fresa or blood of the strawberry.
He made a dessert for a pastry class in which he soaked strawberries with some balsamic vinegar and a touch of sugar and served it with a layered napoleon, dusted with thyme and powdered sugar.
“I wanted to take that and turn it into cocktail,” he said, and reproduce it in a glass.
He starts with fresh strawberries and basil “and muddles that together in a pint glass” with a reduction he makes by cooking sugar into a caramel then adding warm balsamic vinegar and cooking it into a syrup.
Then he adds a bit of lime juice and cachaca — a Brazilian rum made from sugar cane — shakes it up, strains it and tops it off with soda water.
“People love it,” he says. “I wanted to use strawberries because they were in season, and I really wanted the fruit to shine through.”
It was the first time he used vinegar in a drink, and people were skeptical about the combination at first.
“But I have people coming back and asking for it every year when berry season rolls around,” he said.
Diners also enjoy his monk’s berry flip made by shaking together strawberry syrup, green chartreuse liqueur, gin and an egg white and straining the mixture into a champagne flute.
“It makes a beautiful pink cocktail,” he said. “You get a nice combination of the essence of the strawberries and the herbal qualities that come from chartreuse.”