We get strawberries year round in California, but the winter berries are nothing like the locally grown strawberries we get starting in March. I first tried strawberries with balsamic vinegar about 13 years ago on a trip to the Napa Valley. It seemed odd at the time, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked, especially since the berries were spooned over vanilla ice cream. The use of balsamic with strawberries is no longer unusual, and the recipe that follows uses mascarpone instead of ice cream.
Boil 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar with 2 tablespoons honey, one bay leaf and a pinch of salt until thick, 4 minutes. Discard the bay leaf; let the syrup cool. Beat 1 cup mascarpone, 1/2 cup heavy cream, one tablespoon sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla with a mixer until soft peaks form. Toss 3 pints quartered strawberries with half of the balsamic syrup. Serve with the mascarpone mixture and the remaining syrup.