by Alison Bailin Batz
Desserts – albeit back then in the form of fruits and honey – can be traced back to ancient civilizations thousands of years ago. When sugarcane began making its way across the globe more than 1,500 years ago, using it in desserts became a symbol of wealth and status, especially to royalty.
Though the first apple pie recipe was published in the 1300s, it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s and 1800s that desserts were able to be mass-produced, preserved and canned for Americans-at-large to enjoy.
And since then, we’ve continued to enjoy sweet indulgences, especially during special meals with those we love. So, what better time than February to share some of our favorite Valley desserts?
Doughbird Pizza & Rotisserie
Ah, the Almond Joy. For those unfamiliar with the classic candy bar by Hershey’s, it features a sweet, coconut-based center topped with one or two almonds and is covered in a layer of milk chocolate. At Doughbird, they deliver all of those beloved flavors, but ramp it up a notch, layering rich chocolate mousse with coconut, Magic Shell and heavenly almond-infused toffee. $7. www.eatdoughbird.com.
The Dressing Room
The bad news: there is only one dessert on the menu at The Dressing Room. The good news: it is darned near perfect. It starts with Tahitian vanilla bean gelato, which is made locally. A heaping scoop is sandwiched between two piping hot churros, dusted with a perfect portion of cinnamon and sugar. It is flaky, chewy, gooey and melts in your mouth with every bite. $5. www.conceptuallysocial.com/the-dressing-room.
Dust Cutter at Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel
Almost everything on the Dust Cutter menu is in homage to the Old West or authentic Arizona flavors, and its desserts are no different. Take, for example, its locally focused version of a baked Alaska, which is ice cream and cake topped with browned meringue. Dust Cutter’s desert dessert starts with an olive oil cake made from local Queen Creek Olive Oil as well as syrup made from a saguaro cactus. It also features saguaro cactus seeds and burnt meringue to elicit the smells and flavors in our own backyard. $6. www.marriott.com.
The Phoenix Ale Brewery Central Kitchen
You can’t go wrong with this decadent brownie, which is made with real Ghirardelli chocolate and Phoenix Ale’s malty Ironwood Porter. The Porter is stronger than most with prominent cocoa and coffee flavors, which only adds to the richness of the brownie. It’s baked in a cast-iron skillet to ensure crispy edges and a gooey center. The brownie is topped with salted caramel gelato from Grateful Spool and a milk chocolate sauce. $7. www.centralkitchenaz.com.
The name may not be fancy, but it gets to the point. Both a perfect breakfast and a perfect dessert, you can never go wrong with a doughnut. These doughnut holes are served warm and layered in hand-tossed cinnamon and sugar. They come with three tasting sauces for the table: smoked hot fudge, salted caramel, and house prickly pear jam. There are even gluten-free versions available on request. $9. www.gertrudesrestaurant.net.
Nook Kitchen Downtown
Thanks to a partnership with famed local dessert designer Tracey Dempsey, both the Nook Downtown and Nook Arcadia are sneaky great places for desserts. Each location boasts its own custom-developed options. One of our favorites, available only at the downtown location, is this cake made from cream cheese. It is topped with a bright blueberry compote and graham cracker ganache and served with both a scoop of ice cream and mini graham cracker for dunking. $10. www.nookkitchen.com.
Baked in a cast-iron skillet with poppy seeds and butterscotch chips, this dazzling butterscotch cake is infused with a secret ingredient: a maple glaze made with a hefty helping of whiskey. It not only brings out the butterscotch flavor, but adds a savory dimension to the entire dish. The skillet is topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and even more glaze before its served. $10. www.thevig.us.
Peanut butter lovers, this dessert is especially for you. It is a gooey, warm molten chocolate cake kicked up about 10 notches, infused with peanut butter goodness throughout. The cake is topped with candied peanuts and caramel, and served with a scoop of banana gelato on the side to balance the richness and enhance the overall sweetness of the dish. $8. www.thehenryrestaurant.com.
Can’t decide on just one dessert? At Seasons 52, you don’t have to decide, or feel guilty for having more than one. That’s because the eatery offers half a dozen mini desserts – ranging from just 220 to 350 calories individually – each perfectly portioned in a shot glass. Flavors range from a poached pear cheesecake option with a pecan crust and almond crisp to a Belgian chocolate s’more flavor explosion with chocolate cake, rocky road mousse, toasted marshmallow and a chocolate-dipped graham cracker. $3 each. www.seasons52.com.
Cibo Urban Pizzeria
There are six sweet reasons to stay for dessert at Cibo, and they are all crepes. Each of these light, sweet, thin pancakes is filled with different decadent ingredients including the Suzette, which is a warm crepe filled with Grand Marnier and orange marmalade then topped with granulated sugar, and Nutella e Mascarpone, a warm crepe filled with Nutella and mascarpone cheese, topped with powdered sugar and chocolate sauce. Prices range from $6.50 to $8.50. www.cibophoenix.com.