While you can trace humankind’s love of sweets back to ancient civilizations, we have the French to thank for dessert as we know it today. As far back as the 17th century, the French offered sweet small bites between courses during formal meals, but eventually added a final course to allow for larger dishes that stand on their own. Fast-forward to the present day, and desserts have practically become an art form, especially here in the Valley.
Take Zinqué, for example. The French-inspired bistro and wine bar offers a Flourless Chocolate Cake that has a perfect soufflé-like texture that feels as if you’re biting into a fluffy cloud of flavor. It is paired with Tahitian vanilla ice cream, which is known for being a bit more delicate on the palate than other vanillas, but with an ultra-creamy richness. Since too much is never enough, the cake and ice cream are topped with high-quality bittersweet chocolate, powdered sugar, and blueberries. LeZinque.com
Less delicate but just as addicting, the Signature Candy Bar at LON’s at The Hermosa Inn has earned acclaim nationwide for its elevated reimaging of a Snicker’s bar. To make, salted caramel sauce is combined with Marcona almonds—in place of traditional peanuts—and enveloped in a “candy shell” made using chili pepper-infused ganache versus milk chocolate. A brown butter ice cream is then made, with an infusion of bourbon for good measure, and scooped alongside the bar, acting as a chilled, ultra-rich take on nougat. HermosaInn.com
Speaking of rich, there is nothing quite like the velvety richness in every bite of an expertly crafted cheesecake. The Cheesecake at Tarbell’s is made using a recipe inspired by chef/owner Mark Tarbell’s own mother, and it is among the best in town. Of course, there is a base of graham cracker. But, in a surprise twist, Tabell also adds toasted almonds for contrasting texture and depth of flavor. To develop the actual filling, Tarbell first creates a layer of cream cheese with flecks of vanilla bean and hints of lemon peel, and then gently adds a second layer, this time with mascarpone, before smothering the entire cake with warm rosemary caramel sauce. Tarbells.com
Just as creamy and dreamy, but with a wholly different presentation and flavor profile, is the Foot-Long Cannoli at The Sicilian Baker. The authentic Sicilian dessert consists of a tube-shaped shell made from fried pastry dough. Guests are able to choose the shell as it is, or can have it hand-dipped in chocolate before it is filled with one or two of 12 sweet, creamy ricotta-based fillings, including cookies and cream, lemon, espresso, pistachio, strawberry, or hazelnut. Toppings—ranging from chocolate chips and sprinkles to nuts and cherries—may be added, as well. TheSicilianBaker.com
From a Sicilian classic to Southern comfort at its finest—and just as sinfully satisfying as the cheesecake or cannoli—is the Buttermilk Pie at Phoenix City Grille. Perhaps one of the most underrated indulgences in town, this mouth-watering marvel starts with a flaky and dense crust, and then really has only two other ingredients: sweet buttermilk custard and oodles of caramel sauce. Don’t let the simplicity fool you as there is a complexity to every bite, which is equal parts buttery, crispy, gooey, sweet, and salty all at once. PhoenixCityGrille.com
Prefer sweet and tart to buttery and gooey? To quell that craving, visit Renata’s Hearth at the Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Resort. The restaurant’s signature Renata’s Churros turn the south-of-the-border favorite on its head by filling each churro with margarita cream after frying. Each churro is also dusted with piloncillo-cinnamon bits for added spice before it arrives at the table. Warm and crispy at first, they melt in your mouth upon biting, tantalizing the taste buds again and again with the zesty cream. RenatasHearth.com
And finally, sometimes nothing will do but ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream. Get your fix at Toro Latin Rum Bar, courtesy of La Bomba, a mountain of seasonal sorbet, dulce de leche ice cream, pistachio ice cream, berries, cookie crumble, vanilla sauce, and candy pistachios hidden inside a chocolate candy sphere that is cracked tableside. ScottsdalePrincess.com