Article By Christina Barrueta / Photos by Michell Jonas Photography
Lon would be proud. Lon’s at the Hermosa sits on the site of what was cowboy artist Alonzo “Lon” Megargee’s adobe studio in the late 1920s, which later expanded to become his Casa Hermosa and guest ranch. A builder and designer, illustrator and painter, Lon led a colorful life that included hosting clandestine poker games and plenty of house guests, and Lon’s at the Hermosa retains this Southwestern aura. After a devastating fire in 1987, great care was taken to restore the main building, salvaging hand-hewn ceiling beams and other vestiges of the original Hacienda. Now its elegant historical charm, influenced by the architecture Lon studied in Mexico and Spain and decorated with his original artwork, can be enjoyed by all who visit the Hermosa Inn.
Lon’s beautiful patio has earned well-deserved accolades. Day or night (breakfast, lunch and dinner are served), there are few places as lovely in Arizona. Surrounded by lush gardens and canopied by a century-old lysiloma tree, during the day sunlight glances off the sparkling fountain, and in the evening wrought-iron lanterns glow. It’s the perfect setting to enjoy a glass of wine or a unique signature cocktail, such as the Mesquite Sour, while deciding on dinner. Sommelier Rick Fizz will be happy to guide you through the 5000-bottle wine collection, and “spirit guide” Travis Nass is adept at using locally made and historical spirits to create inventive cocktails.
Chef Jeremy Pacheco takes full advantage of Lon’s focus on “artful American” cuisine, using local, seasonal ingredients, harvesting from the on-site one-acre garden, and curing his
own charcuterie. One of my favorite starters exemplifies all of this – the crispy squash blossoms. Stuffed with creamy mascarpone and Crow’s Dairy goat cheese, the airy blossoms are cloaked in a shell of A-1 Beer batter, a nod to Lon, who painted a series of A-1 Beer advertisements for the Arizona Brewing Company. Gussied up with housemade smoky chorizo, shishito peppers, radish coins from the garden, and a flurry of sunflower sprouts, it’s a must-order. Chef Pacheco, along with Chef de Cuisine James Ducas and Sous Chef Carl Rossi, make their own charcuterie. In addition to chorizo, one may find lomo, coppa, fennel salami, or prosciutto (from pigs fed on whey from Black Mesa Ranch) aging in the cool temperatures of the wine cellar. A pretty jade-hued bowl of cucumber gazpacho is accentuated with sweet crabmeat, fennel, and shimmering drops of lime oil. Summer announces itself with juicy heirloom tomatoes adorning pulled-to order mozzarella, draped over black olive crostini and showered with herbs and a drizzle of balsamic and basil oil. A striking presentation, jewel-red slices of ahi tuna arrive sizzling on a heated block of Himalayan salt to be seared to your liking. Clean and pure, the dish is enhanced with pickled red onions, a ceviche sauce brightened with Queen Creek Mexican lime-infused olive oil, and a drift of red chile threads.
A repeat entrée order is the pristine filet of pan-seared halibut that nestw on a bed of slender haricot verts and wild mushrooms in a delicate fish fumet with a hint of citrus from yuzu. Another standout is the Three Little Pigs, three incarnations of Berkshire pork – tender pork loin, crispy belly, and fabulous house bacon – laid out with ripe grilled peaches and crisp asparagus on a cushion of Hayden Mills polenta. Steak and potatoes here bring you a filet grilled over pecan wood, layered Lyonnaise potatoes embellished with San Joaquin Gold cheese, creamed kale, and deep red wine jus.
Pastry Chef Trevor Tucker’s desserts show their south-of-the border and regional inspirations. Mexican Tiramisu melds mascarpone cream with Kahlua ice cream and Patron Café anglaise, while Lon’s signature Cowboy Candy Bar is a decadent treat of salted caramel with chile-spiced chocolate, Marcona almonds and ice cream flecked with cocoa nibs. This menu also changes seasonally. It’s hard for me to turn down a fresh fruit cobbler, and a recent Peaches and Cream showcased local peaches with peach beignets and vanilla-scented pudding.
Nightly tasting menus are available (I’m still thinking of an abalone, uni, and spot prawn starter on one special visit) and there are frequent specials and events. Relax on a Sunday at the Chuckwagon Barbecue which may be dishing out smoked prime rib with native Tepary beans and
Mexican corn, or book a jazz brunch on a sunny afternoon to clink mimosas over mesquite flour pancakes and Arizona honey, or huevos rancheros with fry bread and black beans.
A sheer delight on my last visit was attending Lon’s first cocktail pairing dinner. Set in the library, four tables of convivial diners savored five courses created by Chef Pacheco, balanced by Travis’ unique cocktails. I especially loved the pairing of a dish of wild salmon (cured with sea salt, sugar, mint and tarragon) and cucumber soba noodles with “Herbal Notes,” a libation made with Norwegian Linie Aquavit, cucumber juice, Cardamaro, tarragon syrup, and lime.
“Cool Summer in the Cellar” offered an opportunity recently to enjoy the cozy and luxurious wine cellar, usually closed to private events. Surrounded by flickering candlelight reflecting off bottles of wine, we dined on trestle tables in a room of stone, reclaimed brick arches, and rustic weathered surfaces. Wine or cocktail pairings are also an option. The choice of dishes included a pasta course, one of many highlights. Agnolotti plumped with sweet Arizona corn were complemented by bite-sized rock shrimp, dainty patty-pan squash, and feathery fennel graced with a deeply flavorful roasted vegetable broth. Showing attention to detail, the tender pasta was made with grain milled from durum wheat from Chef Pacheco’s family farm in Marana.
This commitment to Arizona-made products extends to the extensive variety of Arizona wines, and locally brewed beer. In fact, Chef Pacheco collaborated with Sonoran Brewing to create a small-batch brew called “7 Wives Saison”, an homage to Lon, who married seven times. Seasoned with fresh fennel, fennel pollen, and green peppercorns from local purveyors, it’s another example of the philosophy found at Lon’s at the Hermosa.
When visiting, be sure to ask your knowledgeable waitstaff about the lore and history found here. If you’re lucky and it’s not too busy, a tour may even be suggested. For a taste of history and a memorable dining experience, Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn is a special spot that awaits in Paradise Valley.