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Dessert in the Desert:
Tohono Chul Garden Bistro

The seasonal, locally inspired dessert menu at Tohono Chul’s Garden Bistro will make your mouth water all year around.

October 10, 2017

Dessert in the Desert

A lot of restaurants use fresh, local ingredients. But most restaurants don’t do it like Tohono Chul’s Garden Bistro.

The Garden Bistro is tucked away in Tohono Chul Park, which offers an array of gardens, nature trails, birding tours, and art galleries. Sometimes, after a long day of visiting Tohono Chul’s many attractions, you need a good breakfast (or lunch… or dinner).

Or, maybe you just want a fancy dessert. In which case, the Garden Bistro can provide that, too.

The Garden Bistro’s pineapple upside-down fritters are topped with burnt lime gelato.

The best thing about the Garden Bistro’s dessert menu—or better yet, the entire menu in general—is that the ingredients are as local as local gets.

“A lot of the ingredients are grown right here on property,” Executive Chef Michael Montesano says. “We grow yellow watermelon. We can pull figs right off the tree. Not many places have 21 acres of food to source from. We’re as farm-to-table as it can get.”

The pumpkin creme-stuffed bunuelos are perfect for fall.

Because they source ingredients locally, the dessert menu changes about every three months, based on the season and what’s growing in the gardens. Montesano says that not only do the menu changes come from him, he also works with the property managers and botanists to.

But of course, like any good restaurant, some of the more popular items get left on the menu. “I don’t like to take away things that make people happy,” Montesano says.

Who would’ve thought that date pudding cake could look so beautiful?

The Garden Bistro is currently working on their fall menu, which Edible Baja Arizona got a sneak peek at.

Folks can look for the following dessert items in or before early November:

  • Wildflower Honey-Mesquite Cannoli with candied orange peel
  • Raspberry-Glazed Date Pudding Cake with seasonal berries
  • Roasted Local Pumpkin Creme-Stuffed Bunuelos with salted cajeta
  • Polenta Pineapple Upside-Down Fritters with burnt lime gelato
  • Chocolate Truffle Tart with pickled ginger and sugared blackberries
  • Rotating gelato flavors

The Chocolate Truffle Tart is one of the most popular dessert items on the Garden Bistro’s current menu.

Montesano says the gelato and the Chocolate Truffle Tart were the fan favorites on the current dessert menu, so they’re staying on the menu through the fall season.

And do you know what’s even better? All of the gelato is homemade. So are the sherbets. And the ice cream. And, well, all of the other desserts, too.

All of the Garden Bistro’s gelato is homemade. The above flavors are yellow watermelon, acai honey-blueberry, and Ibarra chocolate.

So, why are desserts so important? (Besides the fact that they taste so dang good.)

“I think desserts are a little more open to interpretation,” Montesano says. “You can really innovate with desserts.”

He says that when chefs put something a little different on the main menu, patrons can become intimidated. But with desserts, there’s more room to play.

“And everyone loves sugar,” he says. “Whether you’re on a diet or not, everyone loves a good dessert.”

Executive Chef Michael Montesano says cannoli are one of his all-time favorite desserts.

As for his favorite dessert, Montesano says he loves cannoli.

“I’m a sucker for Italian desserts,” he says. But he also loves the gelato.

“I’m an ice cream guy. I could eat ice cream for every meal.”

Tohono Chul Garden Bistro
7366 N. Paseo del Norte
Tucson, AZ 85704
520-742-6455


Dessert in the Desert is a series highlighting desserts in Tucson. The main courses at restaurants get all the rage, as they should, but what about desserts? They deserve a spotlight, too.

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