If you don't order the cheesecake at this historic Phoenix mansion, you're doing it wrong
Congrats! You found The Good Stuff, a column where we share our hottest finds, best recommendations and secret tips.
My first introduction to pastry chef Jolie Skwiercz's decadent work was as part of a tasting menu at Christopher's at the Wrigley Mansion. The chocolate mousse birthday cake was shaped like a Rubik's cube, but with half spheres on the surfaces, and topped with gold foil and a shaving of chocolate. The luscious toffee and caramel filling had me at first bite.
So, I decided to go back for more. It turns out that although her pastries make appearances at Christopher's alongside other chefs' sweet handiwork, the sweets at Geordie's are all hers. And available a la carte.
At the Wrigley Mansion, Geordie's serves as a slightly more casual counterpart to the fine dining, prix fixe experience of Christopher's. Aside from a la carte dinner and brunch, it also offers high tea during the cooler months.
You don't have to make the visit a big to-do. Just stop at the bar and request to be seated at a booth adjacent to the window for after-dinner drinks and desserts.
It was on one such after dinner sweets bender that I ordered the pineapple coconut cheesecake — a dessert I haven't stopped thinking about since.
A dessert as beautiful as the setting
While waiting, we watched the sunset splash the sky with its tangerine rays and took in the classic stylings of the historic bar, all royal blue chairs and mahogany wood.
The cake arrived on a round gray plate. At first glance, the cheesecake was reminiscent of a white Religieuse seated atop a thin round crust. A flattened pineapple flower was sandwiched between the coconut sorbet layer and a piping of whipped cream. A lacy butter cookie crowned the dessert.
The filigree pattern of the cookie mirrored the metal casings of the two-tiered drum chandeliers that hung above us.
"I'll wait if you want to film," our server said. I took out my camera as he poured a moat of pineapple coulis around the cheesecake, all the while thinking, when can I start eating?
Burgers, cider and macarons: These new restaurants are coming soon to Gilbert
What makes this cheesecake so good?
A piña colada lover during my college years, I imagined this dessert would have similar flavors. But I was wrong.
It was better.
When I think of cheesecake, I think about the density that usually prevents me from finishing it. But I took one bite of this cheesecake and wondered if I ate the wrong layer or misread the menu.
The cake was gossamer, a vanilla cloud. I wondered how Skwiercz created this delight from 'the corpse of milk,' as James Joyce called cheese.
Though she didn’t start her career in baking, a culinary arts class in college launched her career.
“Mom was a baker and from a very young age, she’d take us to the library to get books and do arts and crafts,” said Skwiercz. “Even as young as 8 years old I remember making homemade lollipops and chocolate fudge for the holidays.”
After moving to Phoenix in 2013 to care for her grandmother, she earned a reputation for her creative desserts while working through some of the most notable kitchens in the Valley including the Wigwam, Ember at We-Ko-Pan Casino Resort, as head pastry chef at Sheraton in Downtown Phoenix and Café Monarch before joining Wrigley Mansion in 2021.
“(Creating pastries) just comes to me easily,” said Skwiercz. "Baking makes me happy."
But first, dessert: A dessert fanatic's guide to 5 must-try treats in Scottsdale
It's all in the details
Her creations for Geordies are ever-changing and always delicious with an attention to detail that helps her pack an intense amount of flavor into relatively small bites.
For the pineapple coconut cheesecake, everything is homemade, from the graham cracker crust and the coconut sorbet to the crown of whipped cream and lacy cookie.
To truly appreciate the craftsmanship, you need to compose a perfect bite on your fork, one in which you can taste a bit of everything.
The warm buttery essence of the cookies and the crunch of the crust contrast beautifully with the fluffy vanilla cheesecake and coconut sorbet in between.
Not overly sweet, the result is mellow, floral and utterly airy. Ephemeral. And far too soon, just like the sunset, gone.
Details: Pineapple Coconut Cheesecake ($15) at Geordie's at the Wrigley Mansion, 2501 E. Telawa Trail, Phoenix. 602-955-4079, wrigleymansion.com.
A taste of Milan: Award-winning San Diego pizzaiolo brings a taste of Milan to Phoenix