A concrete walkway guides you to the resort's Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen. As you approach, one of the staff is lighting fire pits outside the restaurant. Inside, you'll find mid-century modern decor in wood and leather, as well as an open kitchen encased in glass. The clean lines and rectangular shapes bring a sense of calm; it's luxury without the stuffiness. Smooth jazz plays in the background, and works of art from local artists add color to the walls.
This is what inspires Morgan Malzahn, lead pastry chef at Weft & Warp.
The menu includes five desserts. Of those, three stood out: Chocolate Cube, Persimmon Me This, and Arizona Winter Citrus. All were presented as clean and colorful geometric designs set against plates in varying hues of blue and gray.
Persimmon Me This was a rectangle of almond cake dipped in caramelized white chocolate and Marcona almonds, then topped with a piped ribbon of caramelized white chocolate ganache and sprinkles of more almonds. The sweet structure was crowned by two brightly colored persimmon chips and served with a persimmon chutney made with cayenne, honey, and pomegranate.
The first bite revealed Malzahn's knack for balancing flavors and textures. The cake’s mellow sweetness was offset by the zing of the chutney, and the chips crunched lightly to release a soft persimmon taste.
The Chocolate Cube was a marriage of chocolate and blackberries. Berries and hazelnuts rested atop and around a velvety chocolate cube, with bits of pink cake (blackberry microwave cake) strewn about. Sablé Breton formed the base of the cube and part of one wall. Malzahn used Manjari, which is Valrhona chocolate with fruity notes. In the center of the cube was a sphere of blackberry mousse, resulting in a perfect bite that included a little of everything. This dessert leaned sweeter than the first, but the hazelnuts added a hint of savory crunch.
The star of the trio was the Arizona Winter Citrus. A shallow white dome of airy cheesecake rested in the center of the plate, puffed quinoa dotting one side. Supremes of pink and orange citrus lay alongside, with fresh basil providing a splash of green. The cheesecake surprised with bright citrus flavors, the puffed quinoa adding the perfect crunch against its softness. Light and bright, it made for a sublime juxtaposition.
Malzahn is an Austin native who was raised in Detroit. She's always had a sweet tooth.
“Growing up, my mom always baked her heart out,” she says. “We had a very Norman Rockwell family — dinner at the table every night, desserts a lot of times, either cake or pie.”
The chef has been whipping up pastries for the past 15 years, with stints at T. Cook's at Royal Palms Resort and Spa, Food Network star Keegan Gerhard's D Bar in Denver, Enchantment Resort in Sedona, and luxury resort L'Auberge de Sedona.
The Weft & Warp chef bakes "organically from the heart," she says. Rather than rely on cookbooks, recipes are transcribed by an assistant as Malzahn adds handfuls of ingredients to the bowl. Her style is a playful twist on comfort food.
“Instead of having a paint-by-numbers, which I think people think pastry is, I’m more of a blank canvas,” she explains. “I decide the flavors and sketch what I think I want it to look like, but allow myself the freedom to change direction when necessary.”
Her sons, ages 7, 9, and 12, are the source of her playfulness; the Midwest, a love of comfort food, and Arizona inspire her ingredients.
“We’re also going to start making our own cinnamon rolls and stuffed croissants, changing things up," she says. "The department is growing, and we're excited."