Dessert First

Profiteroles with Roasted Banana Ice Cream at Café Bink

There's one chef in all of Arizona who's currently nominated for a James Beard Award. Up for Best Chef: Southwest, Kevin Binkley is making our state proud. But with entrees priced around $40, not everyone will be rushing to Binkley's to see what the buzz is all about. Luckily, the restaurant has a little sister, Café Bink, that has more affordably priced options. Diners won't exactly get the full experience of Binkley's, but they can hopefully get a taste of what makes Kevin Binkley's food so praise-worthy.

To make a sweet deal even sweeter, Café Bink recently began offering happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. We stopped by Carefree to check it out, and while there, we had to see if the dessert also matches up to Binkley's good reputation. My expectations faded a little when the happy hour burger was a disappointing medium-well rather than the medium-rare I ordered, but the French fries were addictive. Apparently the sloppy Joe is a better pick; another diner ordered a second after polishing off his first -- definitely a strong endorsement. Before dessert, the experience was a bit of a mixed bag, and oddly enough, it was the Profiteroles with Roasted Banana Ice Cream that really impressed.

It can seem impossible to find a restaurant dessert that's both satisfying and reasonably healthy, but this one fits the bill. When shared between two people, the Profiteroles with Roasted Banana Ice Cream is the perfect small serving size. And while the dessert isn't super rich, it still feels indulgent. You won't be left wondering if you should order a second dessert, or wanting to stop on the way home to buy cookies.

The dish is composed of three puff pastry spheres that are halved and stuffed with roasted banana ice cream. The ice cream actually doesn't have much banana flavor, but it has enough, especially since there are two pieces of caramelized and roasted banana on the plate, which are scrumptious enough to be the star element. The ice cream is soft and very creamy, and it made this a great summery dessert to enjoy on the patio.

Although profiteroles are typically super sweet, these weren't at all. Rather than being laced with sugar, this dessert has a subtle sweetness that's mostly subdued. Even though the bananas have caramelized sugar on top, the flavor is very natural and doesn't seem dressed up. Often just a few bites of a restaurant dessert can send a person into a sugar coma, but there was absolutely no icky sugar rush or overstuffed feeling after this surprisingly light dessert.

The one flaw on this plate was the pastry, and it felt like the pâte à choux dough might have contained one too many eggs or something. Regardless of the cause, the pastry shells were definitely on the tough side, making them really hard to cut with a spoon or fork. It was a messy experience that resulted in getting melted ice cream and chocolate on my hands, but the overall taste of the dessert more than made up for it.

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Dominique Chatterjee