It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Charles Dickens
It was time for J. to return to Orange County. It was the time I was hoping I could stave off a bit longer. Unfortunately, the trappings of a long-distance relationship are never easy. It was, as we headed out to brunch, the best of times and the worst of times.
I wanted to wrap up J.s birthday weekend with something fantastic, although I wasnt sure how I could top Voltaire. We were still ruminating about our French meal as we drove into Paradise Valley. We took in all the huge homes that dotted Stanford Road, also noticing the joggers along the canal. I always love driving aimlessly through Paradise Valley because the desert landscaping is always so beautiful to a desert rat like me.
I made a quick left and J. and I found ourselves waiting in line for the valet at The Hermosa Inn. Oddly, this small, quaint resort was smack dab in the middle of a residential area in Paradise Valley. We handed the Seth-mobile over to the valet and J. and I walked into Lons, the resorts restaurant. Like J., I had never been to Lons so this would be a surprise for both of us. The entrance to the restaurant was gorgeous. A copper and bronze sign was surrounded by a plethora of beautiful flowers. We walked around the sign and into another world. The courtyard was populated with numerous tables and lots of umbrellas to keep the sun at bay.
J. and I headed to the host station in the interior portion of the restaurant. We gave our name and our host perked up after seeing our name on the computer. Unbeknownst to J., I had contacted the manager of Lons several days earlier and told them that my fiancé was having a birthday and requested a nice table.
We were escorted to a table in the center of the action with a huge umbrella providing generous shade. Our table was covered with a crisp, white table cloth and also covered with some of the tiny leaves from the tree over our table. We didnt mind the leaves at all as the breeze was keeping us cool from the warming sun.
Within a few moments, our waiter arrived with menus and also with glasses of water. He noted J.s birthday and gave the appropriate congratulations. He took our drink order. I had a Diet Coke and J. had an Iced Tea. As we reviewed the menus, we also took in the scenery. It was amazingly beautiful. Flowers were in full bloom, the cacti were positioned everywhere, desert trees and grasses were in abundance. It was a perfect day for an outdoor brunch.
Our waiter returned with a wooden bowl of yummy pastries. I am not sure what they were called, but they were puff pastry squares that had been filled with a sweetened mixture of cream cheese and either mascarpone or ricotta. The puff pastry was soft and didnt completey crumble apart when touched or bitten into. We topped ours with butter and the pastries were rich and delicious. The filling wasnt overly sweet and this turned out to be a tasty way to start our brunch.
Our waiter had departed to grab a water pitcher and returned filling our glasses and then taking our order. Like most of the people at Lons on Sunday, we went for the Hacienda Brunch ($20.00 per person). This included a choice of a brunch entrée, a plate of fresh fruit, a plate of breakfast meats and a non-alcoholic drink. Looking over the selections, I was immediately was taken in by the Eggs Megargee while J. thought the Stuffed French Toast would be a hit. Our waiter quickly disappeared and we just sat back and enjoyed the desert air.
Only moments passed and a staff member brought us a plate with fresh fruit. The plate was a mix of cantaloupe, honey dew melon, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and pineapple. All of the fruits were very fresh and ice cold which made them crisp and pleasing. J. and I had no problems finishing that off rather quickly. The combination of the fruit with the pastries was also excellent.
Again, we returned to soaking in the desert air and admiring the grounds. I mentioned to J. that the Hermosa is a small resort and we pledged to get a room here one weekend when J. was in town.
About 10 minutes passed and our waiter brought us our brunch entrees. J.s Stuffed French Toast was brimming with ham, cheese and sliced pears. At first glance, I thought it was a Monte Cristo Sandwich, which, in essence, it probably was, except this rendition was served with Vermont maple syrup instead of strawberry preserves and incorporated the sliced pears. J. was hooked on the first bite, noting that the creation was a great mix of savory (ham), sweet (pears and syrup), and salty (cheese). J. said the pears had been lightly grilled, which only enhanced their flavors. This was a home run for J.
My Eggs Megargee (named after Lou Megargee whose home and art studio is the foundation for the Hermosa Inn) was a large plate with two English muffins topped with tomato, poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce. A small steak and some spears of asparagus were served along side Lons version of Eggs Benedict. I was pleased that the eggs were poached medium and a bit of the yolk ran down the rest of the dish when I punctured it with my fork. The English muffin was crisp and light and, thankfully, actually toasted instead of just being heated through. The Hollandaise sauce was silky and smooth with a great tang from the incorporated lemon juice. The big standouts on the Eggs Megargee, however, were the tomatoes. The slices were thick, lightly salted and had a clean, fresh taste. They were so bold in their red color, they visually jumped off the plate at you. Even J. remarked at how red the tomatoes were.
The steak was cooked medium and was seasoned with a bit of garlic salt or powder and had a nice char on the outside. Since asparagus and I dont see eye-to-eye, I was unable to give a fair assessment of the spears. All in all, this dish was a great treat as I adore Eggs Benedict and love it even more when it is competently prepared.
During out meal, our waiter also brought out a plate of assorted meats. On a white platter, we were served two more pieces of the steak, two strips of bacon, two link sausages and two slices of ham. All of the meats were excellent, but the standout, for me, was the bacon. It was crisp, meaty and had a slight sweetness to it. J. seemed to be partial to the sausages, but was still more enthralled with the stuffed French toast.
We finished our meals and enjoyed another round of beverages, noting that we were very full. Suddenly, our waiter arrived with a dessert plate for J. One of the restaurants Chocolate Fantasy desserts was sitting on a white plate. Around the edge of the plate, the chef had written Happy Birthday in chocolate syrup. The Chocolate Fantasy was a piece of dense chocolate cake with a thick fudge icing. A dollop of chocolate mousse was nestled next to the cake and large drops of raspberry coulis had been placed on the plate as well. The whole thing was finished with a few fresh raspberries and two profiteroles filled with white chocolate. J. dove in and then offered me a taste. It was decadent. The chocolate was exceptionally rich and the raspberries made the dish a winner for both of us. I wasnt sure we were going to be able to finish it off considering how full we were and how rich the dessert was, but we managed.
J. had also received a personalized birthday card from Lons that was signed by the manager and the executive chef. Classy, professional, unexpected and a wonderful treat. I think J. and I were both rather bowled over by the card. It was a gesture that wouldnt be forgotten for some time to come. Interesting how just a little something like that makes such a dramatic impression.
We finished the dessert, polished off the rest of our drinks and got our bill. The total was $43.18, which included tax. Service was attentive and personable.
J. and I slowly walked to the exit of the courtyard admiring one last view of the courtyard. As I turned to my left, I saw a sidewalk lined with flowers leading to a small door.
I love living in the desert. Certainly, the best of times.
J. and I retrieved our car and drove home. J. finished up the rest of the packing and I loaded the suitcase into the back of J.s Saturn, we said our goodbyes, and J. departed.
It was, suddenly, the worst of times.
As I walked back into the house, I only hoped that it was a memorable weekend for J. Overall, I would rate the weekend a success, but only J. knows for sure if it was.
I hope you had a great birthday weekend, my love.
I miss you.
Lons at the Hermosa
5532 North Palo Cristi Drive
Paradise Valley, AZ 85253
Dress: Business Casual
Notes: Reservations are highly suggested. Get a table on the patio, if possible.