Dessert First

Gâteau Marjolaine at Christopher's

Phoenix isn't exactly a culinary hub, and the Valley's restaurants don't always get the kind of attention as those in New York, L.A., and Seattle. But we have our fair share of star chefs, and if there was a leader of the pack, it might just have to be Chef Christopher Gross. He and his restaurants have earned countless awards, most notably the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest back in 1995. (He talks casually about his big win here.) He's worked and studied in top restaurants in France -- including a patisserie and a Michelin-starred restaurant -- so it's no wonder that he's earned a reputation as an expert in all things food.

Add in the fact that Chef Gross was a fellow judge at this year's Caramelpalooza (and is clearly a practiced sugar connoisseur), and what all of this boils down to is that my expectations for dessert at Christopher's were very high. It was a tough choice between a simple Warm Berry Tart and the Gâteau Marjolaine, but our server steered us toward the latter, which he described as a layered mousse cake enrobed in rich ganache. It's hard to say no to something that sounds so decadent.

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Dominique Chatterjee