Dessert First

Empanadas for Dessert at Republica Empanada in Mesa

This week we ventured to downtown Mesa to sample some sweet empanadas at Republica Empanada.

We really liked the clean, open interior, but on a beautiful Arizona day it's hard to resist the outdoors. The patio at Republica Empanada is small with just a couple picnic tables, but with a community garden behind it and the occasional rooster crowing, it made for a nice, quirky atmosphere.

See also: Dessert First at Pizzeria Bianco in Metro Phoenix

We tried several dessert empanadas; Nutella and peanut butter was our least favorite. The Nutella was completely lost in that little pocket of wonderful dough. We could visually see the Nutella on the plate, but due to the abundance of peanut butter filling, it was lost on the taste buds. There was a long discussion at the table about how to make it more palatable, and the overall consensus was less peanut butter and more Nutella. Even the peanut butter lover in the group thought it was too overwhelming.

Guava and cream cheese came in second. We really enjoyed the fruit flavor of the preserve with the cream cheese. It was a well matched combination and the interior filling was never in competition with the dough. Republica has nailed this pastry. It's light, airy, and perfectly flaky, much lighter than any other stuffed dough I have ever had.

The overall and unanimous win went to the fig, cheese and caramel. We all loved it. It really is hard to go wrong with dulce de leche wrapped in a pocket of light dough, but they managed to elevate the dessert with the addition of fig and mozzarella. All of the flavors melded together beautifully with not one ingredient overpowering the others.

While my recommendation is for the fig, cheese and caramel empanada, I look forward to going back and trying the Nutella and banana, or maybe the plantain and cheese, or maybe even change up the fig by adding ice cream -- since you can add ice cream, whip cream, and chocolate sauce to any empanada for a mere $3.

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