Prickly pear has made its way onto drink and dessert menus in a growing number of restaurants. And you should be glad they it has. Prickly pears are the fruits on what are commonly referred to as prickly pear cactus, or nopales in Spanish.
Taco Guild and Gertrude's at the Desert Botanical Garden both serve up their own rendition of prickly pear sorbet. We learned that no two prickly pear sorbets are alike, and pinned the two in opposing corners to see whose we will be devouring over the summer.
In This Corner: Taco Guild
The Setting: Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill opened up Taco Guild in what used to be a 19th century church with glass-stained windows, a high sealing, some original pews and a biblical paintings on the wall. The bar, with an extensive tequila menu, now occupies what used to be the altar of the church. Taking in the sight of the restaurant is half the fun of eating there.
The Good: Bright purple scoops of sorbet come in a bowl surrounded by fresh strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. Prickly pear has a unique taste that is a cross between bubblegum and watermelon, but not overwhelmingly bubblegum. The beautiful thing about this sorbet is that it doesn't take a lot of added sugar to make it so sweet, and it almost feels like you're eating a fresh fruit bowl. The serving size is enough for two to share, with four scoops under the fruit.
The Bad: Taco Guild doesn't list the desserts on the menu, so be sure to ask for a serving. We like secret menus, but some guest are probably missing out on the sweet bowl of sorbet.
In The Other Corner: Gertrude's
The Setting: Gertrude's sits at the entrance of the Desert Botanical Garden and is a delicious escape from the sun in the summer months. Their menu features many ingredients that are grown locally in Arizona and the Southwest. Prickly pear is one of the many. Gertrude's is not your typical museum or special attraction eatery. The presentation and care that goes into each dish is enough to make any guest feel welcome and satisfied when that time comes.
The Good: Sorbet selections are based on what is in season, and although the prickly pear season has not yet started, that is not holding the restaurant back from creating their prickly pear and Sriracha sorbet. Yes, Sriracha. The boldness of the prickly pear flavor is more pronounced compared to Taco Guild. It starts out sweet, then the spiciness of the Sriracha makes its way in. Anyone who has had Lucas Mexican-style candy, or a tamarind, will recognize the mixture of the sweet and spicy. The dessert comes with three bright scoops of purple sorbet and one snicker doodle cookie.
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The Bad: There is not really anything bad to say about the sorbet except we wish we had more.
The Winner: Gertrude's takes the prize in this battle for their creativity in mixing the sweet and savory and giving us best of both worlds in our dessert bowl.