Caspian Food Market17040 North Scottsdale Road, #108, Scottsdale
Caspian Food Market is a treasure trove of groceries and prepared food from the Middle East and other largely Islamic lands once part of the Persian Empire. The market's flavor apex, though, is dessert. Caspian Food Market sells two kinds of sugary fritters, both made of wheat-flour dough fried and soaked in flavored syrup. The first, called zolobia bamie, is shaped like a date with furrows. When you bite in, so explosive is the surge that the fritter's middle seems to be hollow and filled with syrup. The other fritter is jalebi, which looks like a tiny, thin funnel cake. It's a little hypnotic to peer at a tray of jalebi with its interwoven, bird’s-nest laces of fried dough. The dough, fried to hardness, shatters to your bite, brown laces saturated with sweet syrup and heavy with almost meaty, oily decadence. Both fritters boost the argument that Arab desserts are the world’s best.
Andreoli Italian Grocer8880 East Vía Linda, Scottsdale
When you think of great Italian desserts, your mind probably zips to sweet staples like gelato or tiramisu, or maybe something more obscure like semifreddo or zabaglione. But if you’re in the mood for something cool, delicate, and a little more offbeat, don't overlook sfogliatelle. These humble clamshell-shaped pastries are about the size of a baseball, vaguely triangle-shaped, and piped full of lightly sweetened ricotta. Some sfogliatelle in America are filled with a more éclair-style cream, but not at Andreoli Italian Grocer. Here, they remain impressive but modest, stuffed with ricotta and candied citron that adds a wildly fragrant and elusive flavor to this unsung Italian pastry.
Verdura5555 North Seventh Street, #108
There’s been a lot of hype about the Goth Waffle at Verdura, and a lot of that has been coming from us, but this dessert is a must-try. A big plate is laid on the table, along with a much-needed second spoon. You’re now looking at a Japanese-style bubble waffle, black in color because of the activated charcoal. It’s topped with raspberry sorbet, sprinkled with shaved coconut, and drizzled with raspberry sauce. As with any a la mode dish, coupling the teeth-aching cold of the raspberry sorbet with the fresh warmth of the bubble waffle is ... well, it can only be described as a yummy sound. The waffle is airy, chewy, and the raspberry sorbet is simultaneously tart and sweet. You find yourself taking forever to eat it, just because you want a little bit of each element in every bit.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on January 27, 2018. It was updated on October 9, 2019.