Best Bet: Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake at Houston's.

Photo by Michael Donahue, MIchael Donahue/The Commercial Appeal // Buy this photo

Strawberry Shortcake at Houston's.

For the past few weeks, I've passed a sign on U.S. 72 inviting people to stop and pick their own strawberries. I want strawberries, but I want to pick them off a plate with a fork -- like, maybe, a plate with strawberry shortcake on it.

I heard Houston's had strawberry shortcake, so I decided to check it out. The first good sign was when Austin Nichols, one of the restaurant's greeters, described the dessert as "yummy." "It's extremely good," said server Spencer Farrar. And server Leslie Roby said the dessert is "divine."

They all were correct. The dessert, which sells for $8, was decadently good.

I don't know if I've ever had strawberries and literally "shortcake." When I was growing up, my mother served strawberries on a stiff meringue shell. The strawberries and juice would spill all over the shell. It tasted great.

Houston's doesn't use shortcake, either; they use a scone that includes lemon zest and poppy seeds. It's served with homemade whipped cream.

Houston's chef Eduardo Murillo was a member of the team that created Houston's strawberry shortcake five or six years ago. They used the scone because they "just wanted to give a Houston's signature," Murillo said. "We started with the round sweet biscuit, but it's pretty much what all the restaurants do. ... We decided to do something in a different shape."

The strawberries were large, plump and very sweet. Murillo prefers smaller strawberries, which he says are even sweeter. They just clean the strawberries and don't add any sugar. They just want the "natural sweetness of the strawberry."

Murillo likes to use locally grown fruit. You'll find him selecting strawberries at places like farmers market at Agricenter International.

They offer the dessert "only during strawberry season. ... We stop when the quality is not what we want to serve."

Don't look for strawberry shortcake on the menu; Houston's doesn't offer it every day, so ask.

I ordered coffee with my strawberry shortcake, but Houston's service manager J. R. Rinkes told me, "It's even better with a glass of champagne."

Houston's is at 5000 Poplar; (901) 683-0915.

-- Michael Donahue: (901) 529-2797; donahue@commercialappeal.com

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