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New eatery uses miracle berry to skip sugar but stay sweet

Photo via Berrista on Facebook

If all your defenses against sweets crumble when you see the pastry case at your local coffee shop, chef Homaro Cantu wants to help you out.

Cantu, a Charlie Trotter protege and owner of the immensely inventive Moto and iNG restaurants, is cooking with a West African fruit called Synsepalum dulcificuma, better known as miracle berry, that has the power to turn sour and bitter things sweet — without any added sugar or sweetener.

Cantu has been preaching the wonders of the tiny red berry for years– he’s given a TED talk on it, hosted tastings using it and written a cookbook about it— but his latest venture will incorporate the berry into a coffee shop. Berrista, which opens Friday at 4219 W. Irving Park Rd., will feature donuts, scones, coffee cake, coffee, sodas, sandwiches and flatbreads, many of which are made without sugar.

When you eat the berry, which comes in a tablet form in many cases, it temporarily alters your tastebuds, so bitter and sour things can taste like sugar. So instead of a sweetener, things like lemon, lime, vinegar and sour cream can be used to make things sweet, according to Berrista’s website.

There are, however, still carbs and fat in his recipes.

A donut made without sugar might sound gross — but take a miracle berry tablet before trying it, and you’ll get the sweetness you’re looking for, according to Cantu. He calls his food “healthy junk food,” and his website invites you to “enjoy your vices.”