Walking through the Santa Monica farmers market early one recent morning, I noticed Sherry Yard, executive pastry chef of Spago, carrying a flat of strawberries that looked oddly different than any I had seen there before. Even from 10 feet away, they seemed smaller and rounder than conventional strawberries, with prominent seeds and an unusual carmine-orange color. As I wondered what they might be, suddenly the breeze shifted my way, wafting an intense aroma of wild strawberries, and I knew.
"They're …" I started to say, my mouth agape, hardly believing.
"… Mara des Bois!" said Yard in the exultant tone of one who has just scored. From the name, one might think that Mara des Bois is a variety of wild strawberry, called fraises des bois in French, or perhaps a hybrid of wild and garden strawberry, given that its size is between the two. Actually,