Strawberries Romanoff

It is almost strawberry season in Southern Illinois and my family can hardly wait!  Sometimes we pick our own and other years we just buy them from our favorite orchard stand.

When I chose the topic of Strawberries Romanoff for my blog post, I figured I’d be writing about the historic Russian Romanov family and how some famous chef named this dish after them.  Not!

The first thing we need to know is that Strawberries Romanoff sounds like something extravagant and elegant.  It looks pretty, but it is really just fresh strawberries macerated in sugar and topped with a combination of ice cream and whipped cream … or sour cream and whipped cream … spiked with orange liqueur or brandy.  The famous chef, Escoffier created the recipe.  He served it at the Carlton Hotel in London and called it “Strawberries Americaine Style”.   It was a character named Hershel Geguzin who named the famous dessert after a restaurant in Beverly Hills, California!

Geguzin was born in Lithuania in 1890.  He went to Hollywood and changed his name to Michael Romanoff.  While he claimed to be a member of Russia’s royalty, he was a con man who immigrated to New York City when he was 10 years old.  He first changed his name to Harry F. Gerguson.  Sometimes he pretended to be a Count and other times a Prince and nephew of Tsar Nicholas II.  He was neither.

In the 1940s and 50s, he owned “Romanoff’s”, a restaurant that was very popular with Hollywood stars.  It was at this establishment that he copied Escoffier’s strawberries.

Romanoff dining with his dogs.  Photo credit: Wikipedia

Romanoff’s restaurant served good food.  It was popular for having well trained waiters and beautiful cigarette girls!  The restaurant was popular, but not  because of the owner/host’s personality.  Instead of mingling with his patrons, he had meals with his dogs. 

Michael Romanoff was also an actor.  He was in several movies and sometimes his role was that of Prince Romanoff!  What a character!

To make Strawberries Romanoff following one of the vintage recipes, combine 1/2 cup of sour cream with 3 Tablespoons of brown sugar.  Add a Tablespoon of brandy and if you don’t imbibe, use the same amount of vanilla.  Stir this in to 2 cups of whipped cream (real is best, but you can use whipped topping).  Macerate 4 cups of quartered strawberries with 1/4 cup of white sugar and a drizzle of brandy.  Top each serving of strawberries with a portion of the whipped cream.

I want to share a couple variations of this beautiful dessert.  I bought these cute miniature angel food cakes at a bakery.  I brushed them with a combination of Grand Marnier and orange zest.  Because I wanted the shape of the cake to be visible, I put the whipped cream/sour cream combination under the cake.

This trifle is a bit more complicated, but not too much!  I macerated the berries in sugar and brandy.  The whipped cream on top is spiked with a little brandy.  The vanilla pudding is instant, but I whipped in a cup of sour cream after I made it according to the box directions.  This is just as good using chocolate pudding or tapioca pudding.  If you are really busy, don’t hesitate to buy a bucket of pudding from the dairy counter. How easy? 

I'm posting this as part of my 2021 foodie project, Foods Named after Famous People!  I'll share with a couple blog parties, too ... so check out my short list on my sidebar.

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