Sugar Rush

Dessert in the Desert: Gertrude's at the Botanical Garden

I have a pastry chef crush on Marisa Lown of Gertrude's, the new(ish) cafe at the Desert Botanical Garden. Her pastry is straightforward, creative, and thoughtful. Marisa is bringing a unique touch and an expert hand to sweets here in the Valley, and I can't wait to see what she does next.

See also: - Sugar Rush: Confessions of a Wild West Pastry Chef, and the Launch of a New Column

My favorite desserts create a three-way tie:

Garden Parfait -- Light, refreshing. After all the good food from dinner and with the impending heat, I want lighter dessert fare. The chocolate pudding had an airier texture than the heft of a pudding. I couldn't taste the basil in the ganache, but the mint whipped cream was prominent. Chocolate graham crumbs had a part brownie/part cookie crumble.

Sorbet -- Nectarine Cilantro sorbet was delicious. Crisp flavor. Very fresh punch of the nectarine, the cilantro gives a citrus-y hint, and not too sweet as it melts across the tongue. I could not stop eating this. We found out later that this sorbet was not meant to be served as the sorbet of the day, and was to be used in a chilled soup special. Whoops! Very delicious and I sincerely hope that the nectarine cilantro or something equally as addictive makes it to the summer dessert menu.

Strawberry Tart with Mascarpone Gelato -- This dessert is summer captured on a dessert plate. Perfect strawberry to pie crust ratio. The pie crust has crystal sugar crunch on top, but it is flaky and gives at the bite. The strawberries are ripe, rich ruby colored, and flawlessly baked. The zing of the mascarpone gelato balances the sweet of the tart.

The other desserts had interesting ideas and pieces that I would love to see more of in each of these desserts.

Milk and Cookies -- Normally, this is not something I would order. It's pedestrian. Cookies. I make cookies. But I was intrigued by the cookie flavors. A Darjeeling and grapefruit juice shortbread. A whole wheat chocolate chip cookie. And a gluten free ginger snap.

I loved the Darjeeling and grapefruit juice shortbread. Mellow from the tea, zip from the grapefruit juice balances the butter and sugar of the cookie.

The whole wheat chocolate chip cookie was good. It has a hearty taste, but it wasn't overly dense like I thought it would be given that it's made with whole wheat.

The gluten free ginger snap was a tasty spicy cookie, but didn't rock my socks off. Dark chocolate milk with a colorful paper straw was a richer chocolate milk, however, the milk wasn't something I would come back for. I could get behind an option for an adult chocolate milk, or cocktail pairing in that same vein, that allows for a unique combination with the different flavors of the cookies.

Doughnuts with Warm Hot Fudge, Lemon Curd, and Strawberry Jam -- Ricotta doughnut holes tossed with cinnamon sugar, accompanied by three sauces: warm hot fudge, lemon curd, and strawberry jam. They are moist and perfectly cooked, but next to all the other desserts on the menu, I think these pale in comparison. I'd like to see a unique spin on this dessert, as with my favorite items on the dessert menu.

Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake -- If you read my last post, you know how I feel about these little buggers. That said, I loved the accompaniments that came with the chocolate cake. A semi-sweet chocolate semi-freddo was so aerated and cool and yet had such a vivid chocolate flavor. Paired with the malted milk chocolate truffle whipped white chocolate ganache and salted peanut brittle powder. I loved the textures paired together and the variations on chocolate, minus the cake.

Last was the vanilla gelato. It was creamy and cold, served with my favorite Darjeeling -- grapefruit juice shortbread, the perfect option for those who like a truly humble sweet finish.

Gertrude's Restaurant, Desert Botanical Garden 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix 480-719-8600

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