Butternut Squash Squares and Pear Spice Cookies at The Café at MIM
For good dessert, a museum is probably the last place you'd think to go. After all, don't they just provide food so that visitors, hungry from walking around, don't have to leave, quickly pick up some fast food, and return to finish touring the exhibitions? That's far from the attitude at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), where Executive Chef Edward Farrow -- formerly of River Café in New York and Kai at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass -- oversees a daily menu that skillfully uses ingredients, at least 75% of which are locally sourced.
Dayvid LeMmon Far prettier than any homemade "square"
This lunch spot, open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, is available to everyone, so you don't need to be a museumgoer to take advantage of all the café has to offer. Although keep in mind that "café" is a little misleading since the restaurant is set up like a fancy cafeteria (with great service, I might add). At least while you enjoy lunch options like venison Carpaccio and Panamanian roasted pork shoulder you can look out the tall windows to view the museum's garden. That's all good to know, but what I wanted to find out is whether or not the daily dessert offerings, made in-house, are as buzz-worthy as the lunch menu.
The desserts available at The Café at MIM last weekend were butternut squash squares with mascarpone cheese and a pear-apple cobbler. Both looked pretty appetizing (and just pretty), but I was swayed toward the former since the table eating next to us at lunch seemed to enjoy it. One lady even commented that it tasted similar to pumpkin desserts, but I was hoping it would taste something like the butternut brûlée at The House at Secret Garden. The butternut squash square didn't quite reach that level of awesome, the unique flavor of the squash not nearly as pronounced, but it was still good and disappeared quickly.
The texture of the top layer, the butternut squash, was indeed very similar to pumpkin pie filling. However, it was a little bland and could have used more spice. The middle layer of the square was mascarpone cheese, which wasn't noteworthy on its own but did add a nice creaminess to the dish. The crust on the bottom was very soft and buttery, similar to the bottom of a lemon square but a tad richer. And the little dots on the plate? Blackberry jam -- and not nearly enough of it. Overall, this dessert was pretty good, but I was left wondering how the squash flavor could be brought out more to really steal the show. Despite that, my visit to The Café at MIM was far from a waste of time thanks to the treat I brought home with me.
4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix, AZ