A passel of tasty pasties

Thank goodness for diversity. We all benefit from a multicultural gastronomic world. The latest evidence: Cornish Pasty Co.

It’s the work of Dean Thomas, a transplanted Englishman from Cornwall who brought his region’s famous pasties (pronounced “pass-tees”) to the Sonoran Desert earlier this year.

These luscious baked pastry turnovers have been around since medieval times, when they were stuffed with everything from joints of meat to whole birds. Pasties reached their height of glory in Cornwall, where they sustained tin miners during their grueling workdays.

The walls of Cornish Pasty Co. are lined with striking vintage photos of these men, who look like they jumped off the pages of a D.H. Lawrence novel. What’s even more striking are the pasties. This being America, land of infinite choices, you can select among 30 kinds, which is 29 more than the average Cornish miner had to choose from. I guarantee there’s at least one for you. They range in price from $5 to $7.

They all start with the same pastry dough exterior, moist, flaky, oily, but not too, and baked to a crisp. There is no stinting on the fillings. You won’t find any empty pockets of air in these hefty beauties; they are packed tight. The only way you’ll need more is if you’re pulling a double shift at the local mine. (A bonus: You can buy them half-baked and finish the cooking at home.)

Cornwallians would recognize only one pasty here. That’s the oggie (in Cornish dialect, “oggy” means pasty), stuffed with bits of steak, cubed potatoes, onions and rutabaga (a milder version of turnip). My oggie was too salty, but because none of the other eight pasties I sampled had this defect, let’s charitably assume that the sodium overload in this instance was an anomaly.

My favorite pasties may not be authentic, but why nitpick when they’re so good? Take the terrific carne adovada, filled with tender pork brightly simmered with red chiles. The Mexican, put together with seasoned ground beef, cheese, potato and egg, is almost as good. If these ever made it south of the border, tortillas might disappear. Two poultry pasties – vibrant pesto chicken and curry-kickin’ chicken tikka masala – were bursting with flavor. So was the spicy lamb vindaloo, a take-no-prisoners mix of lamb and potatoes.

Still, forced to choose only one pasty (thank goodness, merely a hypothetical scenario), I’d probably go for the garlicky Greek, which brings rays of Aegean sunshine to the gloomy Cornwall coast. It’s a lively blend of spinach, mozzarella, feta, sun-dried tomato, artichokes and mushrooms.

With so many pasties, not every model will be everyone’s taste. I suppose someone might find the meatball and mozzarella intriguing, but I think meatballs and mozzarella go better in crusty Italian bread. The balsamic-soaked Portobello simply doesn’t work; it’s way too one-dimensionally vinegary.

What do work are the two desserts ($4). One is the apple-caramel pasty, which is like apple strudel. The other is banafee pie, a Graham-cracker crust coated with caramel sauce, whipped cream and sliced bananas. What’s not to like?

Wash everything down with one of six outstanding European beers on tap. Once you’ve quaffed a Kronenbourg 1664, a terrific French brew or Hoegaarden White, a glorious Belgian wheat beer, you may never drink anything else again.

By Howard Seftel of The Arizona Republic