What's so impressive about this sweet buttermilk pie? Balance. The slice sits on top of a generous amount of no-nonsense caramel sauce, neither thick nor thin, and the buttery filling is rich without being as heavy as crème brûlée. The flavors may appear plain, but this pie is far from boring and fits into any holiday: Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Tuesday. Luckily, this pie can also be ordered directly from Shelley's Specialty Desserts in Old Towne Glendale, where pastry chef Shelley Au also bakes treats like Kentucky bourbon cheesecake, mocha fudge cake, and pumpkin bars.
James Beard Award winner Nobuo Fukuda is a master of flavors, technique, and presentation, and his expertise isn't limited to savory fare. Diners usually flock to this downtown Phoenix restaurant for pork buns, but the desserts are just as crave-worthy. It's a safe bet that nothing on the menu at Nobuo Teeter House will disappoint, but if you see almond fritters with azuki bean syrup, definitely order two. The soft, doughnut-like fritters are served warm and have a hint of orange blossom. Then they're drizzled with red bean syrup, which adds a similar note as maple syrup, and served with a palate-cleansing jasmine tea ice cream. It bears repeating: Order two (if not three).
There was a lot to enjoy about last year's Pie Social, but the most memorable of the bunch is definitely the Pink Diablo Pie from Virginia Senior, available at her cafe-slash-wine-bar. This wildly inventive creation starts with a savory walnut crust and is topped with lime curd, meringue, mint, and agave habanero sauce. But the real star is the filling, a just-sweet-enough prickly pear cheesecake. Desserts do not get more Southwestern than this -- and they don't get much more delicious either. The crazy flavor combo isn't for everyone, but if you have an adventurous sweet tooth, this is an absolute must-taste.