Strawberry Shortcake at Durant's

When a reader recently suggested checking out Durant's Strawberry Shortcake, our first reaction was skepticism. After all, classic strawberry shortcake is so simple that it's hard to imagine an especially spectacular version. However, there's quite a buzz about this dessert online, and since Durant's has been a local hit since the '50s, it's safe to say that the restaurant is doing quite a few things right. After cozying up in a red leather booth designed just for two and being served a stiff, no-nonsense drink, it started to become clear why this might be a great dessert destination after all.

As the server brought the Strawberry Shortcake to the table, the first sight of it was a huge shock. The menu lists the dessert as being "for two," but it's a three-tiered cake that could easily feed three or four people. It's so impressive that the man dining next to us jumped up from his table to snap a photo of our dessert with his smartphone.

The presentation and shock value mean nothing unless the taste can match, of course. While this dessert isn't an inventive pastry chef's masterpiece, it is really hard to stop eating it once you get started. Shortcake is technically a kind of sweet biscuit, but the classic American dessert that's called "strawberry shortcake" comes in many varieties, often including sponge cake instead. Durant's serves it up with angel food cake, which is definitely what makes this dessert so addictive. The cake is light and fluffy with a nice vanilla flavor - and there are three generous tiers of it to enjoy.

The strawberry sauce isn't sickeningly sweet, but it could be bursting with more of a fresh strawberry flavor. However, that's the only bad thing that can be said about this dessert's flavor. Although the sauce might not be a 10, the cake is, and it's assembled with a simple, tasty whipped cream and topped off with chocolate curls. The chocolate isn't noticeable in every bite, but every now and then it mixes in to taste like a chocolate-covered strawberry. And while most desserts don't travel home too well, this Strawberry Shortcake makes pretty good leftovers. It's not as pretty in a to-go box with the sauce and whipped cream soaked into the cake, but it tastes just as good.

Don't forget: Valentine's Day is four short days away. If you haven't made plans yet (you slacker), cross your fingers that Durant's isn't fully booked and give them a call at 602-264-5967.

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