Andaz Scottsdale Resort is a modern affair, with bungalows set amid a manicured desert landscape, the brushed-pink desert sky towering above.
A concrete walkway guides you to the resort’s Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen. As you approach, one of the staff lights fire pits outside the restaurant. Inside, you’ll find mid-century modern decor in wood and leather, and an open kitchen surrounded by glass. Clean lines and rectangular shapes bring a sense of calm; it’s luxury without the stuffiness. Soft jazz plays in the background, and artwork by local artists adds color to the walls.
That’s what inspires Morgan Malzahn, pastry chef at Weft & Warp.
The menu includes five desserts. Of these, three stood out: Chocolate Cube, Persimmon Me This and Arizona Winter Citrus. All were presented as clean, colorful geometric patterns on plates in varying shades of blue and gray.
Persimmon Me This was a rectangle of almond cake dipped in caramelized white chocolate and Marcona almonds, then topped with a piped ribbon of caramelized white chocolate ganache and sprinkled with more almonds. The sweet structure was topped off with two brightly colored persimmon chips and served with a persimmon chutney made with cayenne pepper, honey and pomegranate.
The first bite revealed Malzahn’s talent for balancing flavors and textures. The chewy sweetness of the cake was offset by the zing of the chutney, and the fries crunched lightly to release a sweet persimmon flavor.
The Chocolate Cube was a marriage of chocolate and blackberries. Berries and nuts lay on and around a cube of velvety chocolate, with bits of pink cake (blackberry microwave cake) strewn about. Sablé Breton formed the base of the cube and part of a wall. Malzahn used Manjari, which is Valrhona chocolate with fruity notes. In the center of the cube was a sphere of blackberry mousse, resulting in a perfect bite that included a bit of everything. This dessert was sweeter than the first, but the hazelnuts added a hint of salty crunch.
The star of the trio was the Arizona Winter Citrus. A shallow white dome of airy cheesecake sat in the center of the plate, puffed quinoa dotting one side. Pink and orange citrus supremes rubbed shoulders, with fresh basil providing a hint of green. The cheesecake surprises with its bright citrus flavors, with the puffed quinoa adding the perfect crunch against its sweetness. Light and bright, it made a sublime juxtaposition.
Malzahn is an Austin native who grew up in Detroit. She always had a sweet tooth.
“Growing up, my mom always baked her heart out,” she says. “We had a very Norman Rockwell family – dinner at the table every night, desserts often, either cakes or pies.”
The chef has been baking pastries for 15 years, with stints at T. Cook’s at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa, Food Network star Keegan Gerhard’s D Bar in Denver, the Enchantment Resort in Sedona and the luxury resort L ‘Sedona Inn.
She moved to Denver in 2007, where she juggled marriage and, later, motherhood and work. “I would deliver cakes a week before work started,” she recalls. She returned to Arizona in 2015.
“A lot of people who visit Arizona think it’s a gigantic dust bowl, and it’s not,” she notes. “It’s so diverse. I like this state. You go up north and you are in the mountains. You come here and you are in the desert. People can survive on what grows here.
The West & Warp chef cooks “organically with heart,” she says. Rather than relying on cookbooks, recipes are transcribed by an assistant as Malzahn adds handfuls of ingredients to the bowl. Her style is a playful twist on comfort food.
“Instead of having paint by numbers, which I think people think of baking, I’m more of a blank canvas,” she explains. “I decide on the flavors and draw what I think I want it to look like, but I allow myself the freedom to change direction if necessary.”
His sons, aged 7, 9 and 12, are the source of his playfulness; the Midwest, a love of comfort food, and Arizona inspire its ingredients.
Malzhan’s menu changes seasonally. In collaboration with the spa, she will offer truffle classes and incorporate indigenous ingredients.
“We’re also going to start making our own stuffed cinnamon rolls and croissants, switching things up,” she says. “The department is growing and we are delighted.”