Remember that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where disgusting gum-chewing champion Violet Beauregarde gets her choppers on a piece of gum that tastes like a roast beef dinner, complete with tomato soup and blueberry pie? According to the Institute of Food Research, we're not far off from a similar lazy man's dinner in a capsule. Just think, all of the flavors of your family's Thanksgiving feast with none of the pesky blaoting, tryptophan coma and inevitable holiday weight gain. Wheeeee!
Until then, we'll have to settle for the next best thing -- wraps, filled pastries and other crazy concoctions that pack an entire Thanksgiving Day meal into every bite. Warning: If you need an inch between food items on your plate or retch at the idea of peas and mashed potatoes co-mingling, read at your own risk!!
If you haven't been to the Tempe or Mesa branches of Dean Thomas' Cornish Pasty Co., pause your reading, grab your keys and drive over there now. Seriously, it's that good. Few people dislike this place, judging by the near 5-star average of the whopping 287 current ratings on Yelp. The Urbanspooners love it too, as does everyone I've introduced to the place.
The original Cornish Party Co. in Tempe is a tiny one-room joint with a pub counter overlooking the galley kitchen. Black-and-white photos on the walls highlight the story of the restaurant's signature dish: the pasty. Pronounced "PASS-tee" (because "PACE-tees" go on your nipples, not in your mouth), the dish was reportedly created as a way for Cornish miners to enjoy lunch without accidentally ingesting the toxic crap on their hands. What do they taste like? "Imagine a pot pie and a hot pocket had a baby," writes LikeMe user Jessica Hill. Translation = seriously effing yummy.
In addition to the traditional beef and root veggie filled Oggie, Cornish Pasty Co. carries everything from Tikka Masala and Bangers & Mash pasties to vegetarian versions and ones stuffed with PB&J for the kids. My partner and I ordered The Pilgrim, which basically crams all of the essentials of Thanksgiving dinner into one pastry pocket. Gastrointestinal distress, here we come!
The crust was buttery and crisp, browned to perfection. It made me feel sorry for the miners who were forced to discard the braided "handle" part of their pasties. Biting in, we were immediately overwhelmed by two ingredients: grilled onions and sweet potatoes. "The onions leave a really bitter taste in my mouth," voiced my disappointed companion. Fresh as they were, huge chunks of onion were way too much for the subtle flavor of turkey meat.
Lightly spiced sweet potatoes were delightful on their own, but as a component of the dish there were far too many of them. Poor little turkey. I could barely taste any meat above the richness of the potatoes, crust, pungent onions and super-sweet cranberry dipping sauce. A handful of stuffing cubes added starchy filler to the already carb-heavy dish, moistened well by scrumptious red wine gravy.
Balancing the ingredients with more meat, no onions, and less potatoes would've helped this pasty to truly imitate a good Turkey Day meal. If your favorite part is Aunt Sally's marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole, you might like The Pilgrim. Otherwise, stick with the tastier Rosemary Chicken, Oggie or Tikka Masala versions.
In the Other Corner: All Wrapped Up
503 W. Thomas Rd. in Phoenix
Like its competition, All Wrapped Up doesn't look like much from the outside. But this lunch-only spot is surprisingly charming, with parquet floors, granite high-top tables and colorful puppy dog paintings splashed over all of the available wall space. The staff is amazingly friendly and the place manages to be sparsely populated even during the lunch rush, as many staffers from St. Joseph's hospital across the street order their wraps to-go.
Stuck solo for a while, I ordered the Thanksgiving Turkey wrap with roasted turkey, cheese, stuffing, cranberry relish and mayo and a side of fresh fruit. The wrap arrived quickly, slightly warmed and cut in half to display the overflowing fillings. I bit in to the flour tortilla and immediately tasted home. Seriously, it was like the holiday feasts of my childhood compacted into a flour shell -- which could mean that the stuffing came out of a box and the cranberry from a can (my mom wasn't exactly a gourmet cook). But who cares? It was delicious.
Chunks of white meat turkey were a little dry, but had a pleasant flavor I could taste over the cornbread stuffing. The stuffing was chunky and savory, with a nice saltiness that contrasted well with the sweet cranberry relish. The condiment was used sparingly, leaving just a touch of sweetness on the tongue after the wrap was consumed.
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Mild white cheese seemed like an afterthought, though it helped to glue the meal together. Raw red onions were removed, as they were too pungent and off-putting for the rest of this traditional Turkey Day meal. The best part? The Thanksgiving wrap is better the second time around -- and no, I don't mean we vomited after pigging out too much.
I brought the second half of my good-sized wrap home and shared it, only to discover that it was tastier reheated in the toaster oven. The trick was the wrap, which was doughy and unappealing at the shop but took on a flavor reminiscent of fresh-baked rolls when crisped at home. A last-minute toasting at All Wrapped Up might have really sealed this dish's fate.!
I adore a tasty pasty, but All Wrapped Up's homestyle Thanksgiving wrap made us gobble with glee!