Cherry of our Eye

Sour cherries might be even better in winter

Pine all you want–it's a good five months until stone fruit season.

But for the singular jolt of sour cherries, it's easier to get your fix now than in the height of summer. The cherries–the varieties of which include Morello and Montmorency–have a frustratingly short season of only a few weeks.

Lucky for their fans, jarred sour cherries are a grand substitute, as the fruit's mouthwatering piquancy and toothsome pop blossoms during the preserving process.

Here, a sweet-tart guide to the region's best uses of the fleeting fruit:

Cinderella Bakery and Café Our favorite of this Inner Richmond café's boiled dumplings are the sour-cherry ones ($6). The pliant, chewy dough is made by hand, and the vareniki arrive drenched in sour-cherry juice with the sharp addition of sour cream. 436 Balboa St. (at 5th Ave.); 415-751-9690 or cinderellabakery.com

Crixa Cakes This civilized Eastern European bakery goes, er, bananas for sour cherries in the summer. But at the moment, the fruit anchors what may be the finest rendition of Black Forest cake ($5, pictured) we've ever had. Morello cherries are bound with custard and sandwiched between layers of delirium-inducing, kirsch-soaked chocolate sponge cake. 2748 Adeline St. (at Stuart St.), Berkeley; 510-548-0421 or crixacakes.com

Mission Beach Café Pastry chef Alan Carter is a lauded pie genius. So it's no surprise that his sour cherry pie ($7) is a stunner. It offers no distractions–merely a multiple-inch layer of lively sour cherries flanked by Carter's peerless crust. 198 Guerrero St. (at 14th St.); 415-861-1098 or missionbeachcafesf.com