Dessert First

Cheesecake with Rosemary Caramel at Tarbell's in Metro Phoenix

It's hard to not like a place when you are treated well. Showing up in t-shirts and flipflops to a white tablecloth establishment is a big no no, even in Phoenix, but we did it unknowingly. When Mark Tarbell, the owner/chef/mastermind of Tarbell's, stops by your table to make sure everything is going well, and you apologize for the inappropriate attire, and he sweetly points to his jeans and says, "Oh, please. We aren't fancy here. I'm wearing jeans!" You have to kind of love him. The dessert? It was good.

See also: Empanadas for Dessert at Republica Empanada in Mesa

Don't get me wrong. The desserts are good. They are even better when you order one to share, and they bring out three. Seriously, the customer service at Tarbell's is spot on. They know when to check on you, and when to leave you alone. Mark (we are on a first name basis now) shows up a couple times to make sure you are treated well. The staff is all smiles, and it leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling inside like when you are feeling under the weather and your Grandma sneaks you a bowl of orange sherbert because it's "good for you."

As for the desserts we tried, the vanilla cheesecake with rosemary caramel was good. Tarbell's knows how to make a cheesecake. It was dense and pretty with flecks of vanilla bean throughout, but somehow still managed to melt in your mouth. The dessert was what you would expect in a cheesecake. The rosemary flavor was subtle in the caramel, but not overpowering.

The two extra desserts brought to the table to try were nice, too.The vanilla gelato was, well, vanilla. It's getting Vanilla Ice when you were hoping for Flava Flav. Not mindblowing. The Beloved Chocolate Mousse with Guittard Chocolate was our favorite. It had depth and texture. It was chocolate the way chocolate should taste. Not too sweet but not dark and bitter either.

You have to appreciate the non-trend following dessert menu at Tarbell's. We asked each other, "Where is the fig preserve?" "Why doesn't anything have candied bacon on it?" "What, no matcha?"

Tarbell's is offering well executed classics served with a side of excellent customer service.

Was dessert at Tarbell's life changing? No. Would we go back? Yes. Would we do anything differently? Maybe put on real shoes.

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Jenny Zink
Contact: Jenny Zink