First, the base isn't a biscuit or cake. It's half of a Mexican concha, the sweet bread decorated to look like a shell.
The berries aren't your usual supermarket berries either. They're Harry's Berries, the super sweet strawberries from Oxnard that I see at the Hollywood Farmers' Market or that upscale markets get from Melissa's Produce.
Harry's Berries are so sweet (and expensive) that it seemed ridiculous to sprinkle them with sugar, but I did this to draw out the juices so they could moisten the lightly toasted concha.
The berries came from a summer fruit presentation at Melissa's headquarters in Vernon. I drove from there to La Mascota on Whittier Boulevard to get the conchas.
The presentation gave me the only opportunity I have ever had to taste a peach that is even rarer than the strawberries. It was an organic Masumoto Flavor Crest peach. These would cost $3 to $4 each, according to Robert Schueller of Melissa's. Look for them in markets such as Gelson's and Bristol Farms.
Not so rare but equally surprising was tasting a fresh sugar plum (above). I know these as Italian prune plums, but it seems prunes have a negative connotation, and this makes sugar plum a better marketing title.
I buy prune plums in late August and September, because they are superb in pies and fruit crisps. I never tasted them raw because I thought the yellow flesh would be sour and inedible. I won't make that mistake again, because fresh raw prune (sugar) plums are as luscious as any plum.
I loved traveling in Thailand, where I could taste exotic fresh fruits such as rambutans (above), mangosteens and durian. It was a shock to come across a vendor selling rambutans in a small town in the south of Mexico and to learn that Melissa's gets them from Guatemala. At least that saves me the long flight across the Pacific. I can go on exotic fruit safaris right at home.
And what were pumpkins doing at Melissa's in the summer? Oh, not pumpkins. They're called squash at this time of year. These are FairyTale squash, an apt name because they'll turn into FairyTale pumpkins when it gets closer to Halloween.
This is smart marketing. In the summer no one thinks about pumpkins. In the fall everyone thinks about pumpkin pie and Jack O'Lanterns. Fittingly for this Cinderella-like transition, they're also known as Cinderella pumpkins.