Dessert First

Drunken Date Cake at Brat Haus

Brat Haus opened this past July in Old Town Scottsdale, bringing some much-needed amenities to the area: affordable yet gourmet food courtesy of chef Payton Curry, a laid back spot to drink beer, and a large outdoor patio area that's tucked away, feeling removed from the typical Scottsdale scene. Sound too good to be true? Whether you're looking for a spot to hang out with friends, for a quick bite, or for a beer garden to host a celebration, there's no bad time to check out this restaurant for yourself.

See also: - Payton Curry Dishes on the Maricopa County Health Department and His Vision for Brat Haus - 5 Ways to Survive the Twinkie Apocalypse

The menu has everything from stone-hearth baked pretzels and Jaeger stew to sausages and burgers. There's both simple food for the unadventurous, including the traditional sweet brat with smoked apple, onion, and fennel seed ($6), and more unique options for those who like their meals to be an exploration. Surprising selections include the Rabbit & Hops brat with huckleberries, tarragon, and mustard seed ($9) and the Duck & Dates with coriander, fennel seed, and orange zest ($8.50). The same is true for the sweet offerings, which range from a Belgian waffle and pretzel with Nutella to German chocolate cake ice cream and drunken date cake made with oatmeal stout ($5).

Vanilla ice cream is an optional add-on for the date cake, but it's not at all necessary. The serving is large enough for two people to feel like they indulged in dessert (or for four to enjoy several bites), and the cake is dense and filling. A whipped topping, which melts and dribbles down over the warm cake, provides a touch of cream to soften the robust flavors of the cake itself and the thick pool of sticky caramel sauce on the plate.

The composition of this simple dessert works wonders to transform the simple sponge cake. The whipped cream on top and caramel on the bottom, both of which soak in instead of standing alone, turn it into a kind of three-layer cake. At first it seemed like there was way too much caramel, but the fact that the plate was totally empty after the cake was devoured proved otherwise. The bottom is gooey and rich, a bit like sticky toffee pudding but with a more diverse flavor profile. The middle is the drunken date cake alone with lots of spice. The top with warm whipped cream is remarkably lighter than the rest but equally delicious. Without this layered effect, the cake could have become boring very quickly.

A generous helping of warm winter spices combined with the natural sweetness of dates and depth of oatmeal stout make this dessert perfect for the holiday season. And if you don't like beer, don't worry: the cake tastes nothing like oatmeal stout, but incorporates its smooth, nutty flavor. As stated above, this dessert is bit like sticky toffee pudding, but the cake's denseness also recalls traditional Christmas cakes such as panforte (the good kind of fruitcake). In fact, if the drunken date cake had walnuts and candied fruit, it would be a pretty damn good fruitcake. But still, it's definitely good enough to eat without any extras, and anyone in Old Town Scottsdale looking for a tasty wintry dessert would be remiss to pass this up.

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Dominique Chatterjee