In the hills of Paradise Valley there is a historic hand-built adobe building surrounded by gorgeous courtyards, flagstone patios and stunning desert vistas. Once the art studio of cowboy artist Lon Megargee, this peaceful, respite in the middle of Phoenix is now the AAA Four Diamond Hermosa Inn. The heart of the Inn is LON’s, the restaurant that is under the guidance of Executive Chef Jeremy Pacheco. We got the chance to catch up with him about his exciting vision for LON’s and enjoy fare from his inspirational menu that combines local and global flavors.
Susan and I went together, but not before I enjoyed a delightful, lively artist in residence dinner with Adriana Trigiani. Hermosa Inn and LON’s host curated events where guest can dine with an artist in residence covering topics from wine to fashion to classical artists. Adriana was a delightful speaker, the wine was flowing and the food was perfect. I am not sure exactly how much wine I had but I do know that the roasted apple & kabocha squash soup left quite the impression. In fact, I definitely talked about this soup, with its sweetness balanced with perfectly prepared Kauai shrimp and just enough pumpkin seed, for the next week to anyone that would listen.
Only ten days passed before Susan and I attended a hosted dinner together. We were seated on the patio that is surrounded by beautiful mature trees and had a gorgeous fire burning in the fireplace in the corner. We started our evening with cocktails, of course, and we joke that there are two types of women: champagne women and bourbon women. I seriously recommend the prickly bourbon, a perfect salute to Arizona.
Susan's note: I'll always be a champagne girl. I feel very lucky that I have an assistant and a daughter-in-law who is a pleasure to dine with and that we had such a lovely setting. As two Gemini women, we do love our yin and yang. I'm running with the champagne and bourbon theme.
Soon we were welcomed by Chef Jeremey Pacheco, who returned to LON’s last year. He told us a bit about his vision for the future, the Arizona raised Pacheco who has a deep farming history in his family, is placing his focus on local source, sustainable menus with globally inspired flavors.
When asked what we thought looked good, we decided that the best way to experience this amazing menu would be to let Chef Pacheco take us on a journey. Each dish he served was as delicious as it was beautifully arranged. We started out with a long time LON's favorite—Himalayan salt seared ahi tuna.
Susan's note: This has been one of my favorite dishes at LON's over the years. I prefer my Ahi Tuna rare, so I take it off the sizzling block of salt right away. Others can leave it on the salt longer for a more seared tuna. It is fresh and delicious no matter how you prefer it. Plus, it's a gorgeous presentation.
After the tuna, we moved on to a duo of crisp calamari and baby octopus, served with chorizo over spicy greens.
Then we enjoyed the roasted apple & kabocha squash soup. I had told Chef Pacheco that I was raving about it and he laughed that he was a little worried. One spoonful and Susan was convinced that it was all the flavors of fall in one bowl. This was served beside smoked local beets, perfectly balanced with Oregon blue cheese, Wilcox apples, pistachios and a surprising chocolate vinaigrette.
Susan's note: The squash soup really was everything Kamilla had promised and more. Chef Pacheco served up a bowl of fall flavors that was my “wow moment” for the meal. I may have to go back just for this squash soup. To sit by the fire, a glass of red wine, a bowl of this soup…that is simply divine. I can't think of a much better way to make life better.
Up next were the show-stopping main dishes. Chef Pacheco first served sea bass that was resting on a bed of saffron faro risotto with a sautéed Kauai shrimp on top. The faro is from Arizona local Hayden Flour Mill and was perfectly prepared. The shrimp is wild caught off the coast of Hawaii and flown in especially for this menu. Susan was thrilled with the perfectly prepared sea bass and the flavorful yet simple shrimp. Susan's note: it really did take me to Hawaii for a moment, because the shrimp are sweeter there than anywhere else in the world.
Next, Chef Pacheco had Maple Leaf Duck Breast delivered to our table. With mesquite-duck confit croquettes and coffee-roasted carrots and turnips served with a huckleberry jus, I felt my taste buds explode with delight—huckleberry is my favorite.
Finally, after a moment of rest, wine and reflection about the flavors and textures that we had just experienced, we were ready for dessert. Susan sampled LON’s signature cowboy candy bar. Covered in chili spiced ganache, drizzled with salted caramel sauce and paired with caramelia ice cream, this dessert is a signature dish for all the right reasons.
I had a hazelnut mousse wrapped in ganache, topped with hazelnuts and popcorn. This dessert was too good not to enjoy every last bite!
Food is so much more than just a way to sustain life. It is art, combining flavors and textures to produce an experience for the diner. Each dish at Lon’s is prepared with care. The Chef and his staff are excited to serve the guests with the hope for them to enjoy their meal and experience both the new and the familiar in every dish. Chef Pacheco’s vision for LON’s is exciting and we are thrilled to see what he has to share in the future.
Note: As is common, the writer was provided with a complimentary meal for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.