Battle of the Irish Bread Puddings

When you hear the word "pudding," you likely think of a creamy, milk-based dessert. Over in the British Isles they have different meanings for the same word, some of which aren't quite as pleasant. There's blood pudding, a sausage made with congealed animal blood. Black and white pudding is blood sausage paired with a pork fat sausage. And then there's bread pudding, a sweet dessert cake traditionally made with day-old bread revived with cinnamon, eggs, milk and a liquor-based sauce.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I tested the bread pudding at two local Irish pubs to see if either would turn out to be a pot o' gold.

In One Corner: D'Arcy McGee's
2000 E. Rio Salado Pkwy in Tempe


When D'Arcy McGee's opened in 2008 at the Tempe Marketplace, regulars at the nearby Rula Bula on Mill Avenue were threatened. With the two Irish pubs so close, would the original lose business to this shiny new chain? They needn't have worried, as the two restaurants are very different.

​D'Arcy's sports the dark wood furniture and Irish ephemera of a typical Americanized Irish bar. The dining area is large and open, with an adjoining front patio overlooking the parking lot. The bar area, which includes a lovely mahogany bar, is partitioned off by pretty stained glass dividers.

The food at D'Arcy's ranges from fried pub grub and salads to British Isles specialties like cottage pie and scotch eggs. Their dessert menu includes chocolate bread pudding. It seemed inconceivable that you could go wrong with that, as...

A. Bread pudding is delicious.

B. Chocolate makes everything taste better.

Therefore, C. This dessert should be out of this world.

Apparently A+B does not equal C at D'Arcy McGee's. The bread pudding arrived warm, accompanied by a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a pretty dollop of whipped cream topped with a mint leaf. The pudding itself looked more like a cinnamon roll, round-ish with spiral layers. But there was something amiss at the first bite.

The bottom was burnt. Even though the bread had barely scorched, my friend and I could taste the char in every spoonful. Ugh. Too bad. The bread was spongy, more like a cake than actual bread, and way too dry. On a positive note, D'Arcy's achieved the perfect balance of sweetness. And the vanilla ice cream was flavorful, not bland like some grocery store versions.   

"Wait...did you say there's chocolate in this?" questioned my dining companion as he dug into my leftovers. "I don't taste any."

Neither did I. Looking back at the pictures, there's clearly a small ooze of chocolate syrup coming from the top of the bread. Maybe it soaked in, but all we tasted was burnt cinnamon bread, vanilla bean (from the ice cream) and the caramel syrup that was drizzled on the plate. Definitely not a happy ending to the meal. 

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