On my first visit to Venice in northern Italy, I discovered fragolini di bosco, the tiny, aromatic wild strawberries. They’re also prized in France, where they’re known as fraises des bois. Adored for their unique perfumed aroma and curious crunchy texture, these berries once grew wild in the woods. Now they’re carefully cultivated by discerning farmers, including the ones at Chino Farm in Rancho Santa Fe.
Visiting Europe in late spring, I always try to get my wild strawberry fix. I got a taste in Paris when I walked over to the Ile Ste. Louis on an extraordinarily hot day for an an ice cream cone from the famous Berthillon. The passion fruit sorbet was exquisite, but the main event was the soft pink fraise de bois sorbet that had a fragrant almost nutty flavor, and was studded with frozen berries. But since it was an extraordinarily hot day, the line for ice cream was extraordinarily long, so I didn’t go back again. And then when I got to Puglia in southern Italy, I couldn’t find my little strawberries at all; it was already cherry season.
So I was delighted back here in San Diego to discover the Strawberry Fields cocktail at the W Hotel San Diego downtown. The simple libation stars Fragoli, an imported Italian liqueur made with wild strawberries. It captured their taste perfectly and in fact, has little freeze-dried wild strawberries floating in the bottle.
To make a Strawberry Fields at home, mix 1-1/2 ounces of Fragoli with 4 ounces of chilled Veuve Clicquot champagne. The sweet, low-alcohol liqueur from Emilia -Romagna would be delicious with the Italian sparkling wine prosecco, or even over berries or ice cream.
Since it’s kind of a boutique item, Fragoli can be hard to find in retail stores. It can, however be ordered from the Toschi company’s Fragoli web site; the best price I found on it was at New York state mail-order liquor stores Mid Valley Wine and Market View Liquor that sell Fragoli for about $24.