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Caramel Flan at El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano
If the perfect end to a heavy French meal is a light crème brûlée, than there’s nothing better than flan to top off a Mexican feast. And there’s no better flan in Sedona than the Caramel Flan at El Rincon Restaurante Mexicano. Restaurant owner Demetri Wagner says the dessert has been on the menu since the restaurant opened 35 years ago, and it’s a perennial favorite. The traditional Mexican dessert is made with sugar, vanilla, eggs, and sweetened and evaporated milk. The custard-like concoction is cooked in a pool of caramel, and then turned upside down to be served. The result is a little volcano of creamy goodness with caramel sauce slowly spilling over the edge like lava.
The flan is served cool and topped with whipped cream and slivered almonds. There is a hint of caramelized sugar in the flavor, but this isn’t sticky-sweet like other traditional Mexican desserts. Executive Chef Maria Ortiz says you’ll find flan at most restaurants in Mexico, but none taste quite like her dessert. “Ours is absolutely better than what you find in Mexico,” she says. “And I’m Mexican!”
Pastel de Elote at Elote Café
Fifteen years ago, Jeff Smedstad, owner and executive chef at Elote Café, came up with a recipe for Pastel de Elote, the sweet corn cake he discovered at a coffee shop in Veracruz City in Mexico. Jeff bakes the cake in an iron skillet and serves it warm with dulce de leche, vanilla-bean ice cream and whipped cream (all homemade). The cake is garnished with crunchy dried corn. It could easily feed a table of four. Jeff says it’s become the most popular dessert item on the menu, though that wasn’t always the case.
“For the first six months, it wasn’t popular,” says Jeff. “People thought it was strange to put corn in dessert. Now it’s our best-seller.” Pastel de Elote is baked to order, and the corn definitely works because it’s sweet. The concoction also melds together to become a very sensory experience. The ice cream slowly melts down into the cake, mingling warm with cold, and the thick dulce de leche is gooey and super sweet. The crunch of the dried-corn garnish gives the dessert a certain satisfaction. (“Texture is forgotten with dessert,” says Jeff. “I think I ate one too many Rice Krispies treats as a kid.”) And of course it all smells divine. If you have a sweet tooth, take note: The Pastel de Elote recipe is available in Jeff’s book, The Elote Café Cookbook.
Elote Café, 771 SR 179 at the Kings Ransom Sedona Hotel (928-203-0105)
Key Lime Pie at Hundred Rox Restaurant
If you read our restaurant spotlight last month, you already know we fell hard for Hundred Rox Restaurant’s Key Lime Pie. Executive Chef Paul Chandler says the creamy, tart concoction has been on the menu for about six months. “Some of our entrées are spicy or heavy,” says Paul. “I thought this would be a nice light, refreshing finish to a meal.”
He was right on the money. As we stated in our spotlight, this is the best Key lime pie we’ve tasted west of the Florida panhandle. Those who reside near the Florida Keys will tell you that authentic Key lime pie is not lime green in color but rather a yellowish-green hue, and we’re happy to report that Chef Paul’s pie follows suit. Paul makes the filling, the graham-cracker pie crust and the whipped-cream topping from scratch. The pie is served with caramel and chocolate sauce drizzled on the side of the large white plate, so you can kick your slice up a notch if you choose. “We bake these pies with love,” says Paul.
Hundred Rox Restaurant at Amara Resort Hotel & Spa, 100 Amara Lane in Uptown Sedona (928-282-4828)