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Cornish pasties: not tasty

 by Tara Brite
 published on Thursday, August 31, 2006


English food is bad.

I've heard this said by other people all my life, but for some reason, I never believed it. That is, until I ate a Cornish pasty.

The Cornish pasty (pronounced pass-tee) is a pocket of dough stuffed with a variety of ingredients and then fried. The pasty hails from Cornwall (in southwest England), where it was the perfect meal for miners - they held the pasty by its crimped edge, which they threw away after they were finished eating.

If you ask me, this calzone-like meal should have stayed in the mines where it belonged.

But about a year and a half ago, the Cornish Pasty Co. set up shop in Tempe (960 W. University Drive).

The small restaurant looks promising at first - the dim lighting and dark walls decorated with black and white photos of old miners create a sophisticated atmosphere. Then there's the extensive imported beer selections and distinctive cocktails (like the Bonoffee Pie Cocktail made from 99 Bananas liquor, caramel and whipped cream). And at first glance the menu, which includes more than 20 pasties and nine vegetarian options, seems impressive.

I ordered the vegetarian pesto chicken pasty stuffed full of fake chicken, artichokes, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. Since I'm a vegetarian, I invited SPM editor Stephanie Berger to be my carnivorous companion. She ordered the traditional pasty, the Oggie, which is stuffed with steak, potatoes, onion and rutabaga. We also ordered a vegetarian version of the Oggie to go.

After a hefty wait, we finally received our pasties wrapped in greasy white butcher paper. The first few bites were OK, until I realized our waitress gave me the Oggie we ordered to go, instead of the pasty I ordered for myself. Once I finally got my own veggie pesto chicken pasty, I was left wishing I still had the veggie Oggie. The ingredients were too spread out in the dough, and the taste grew tired after a few bites. Stephanie ate all of her Oggie, but later said she was bored with it about halfway through.

To try to redeem the meal, we ordered dessert - the Bonoffee Pie - what the menu described as a mix of bananas, caramel and whipped cream on a graham cracker crust. But the pie was really a kindergarten concoction of store-bought graham cracker with layers of caramel dip, not so sweet cream and sliced bananas.

If I ever think of eating English food again, I'm driving straight to the nearest pub and drowning myself in a pint of Newcastle.

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