Second Helpings

Brunch Tips: The number of high-class resorts in the Valley makes this one of the country's great brunch sites. If Marquesa and Latilla Room are booked, here are a few other Mother's Day brunch alternatives:

Terrace Dining Room (Phoenician resort): The Sheraton folks have recently taken over the operation of Charlie Keating's resort Xanadu, but I imagine they won't be tampering with the quality of this gorgeous champagne brunch. The lovely patio setting, blooming with flowers, is as appealing as the fare. Don't pass by the pasta station, especially if it's dishing out lobster-and-crab-stuffed ravioli. There's something here for every taste: California rolls, blintzes, crepes, grilled meats and homemade ice cream. The Restaurant (Ritz-Carlton): Bring Mom here and leave the little ones home. This is probably the Valley's most civilized brunch room: rich floral arrangements, brocade chairs, cut-glass chandeliers and pianist tinkling out the sophisticated melodies of Kern and Ellington. The food is just as elegant. Blintzes may not sound fancy, but the ones I had here, drizzled with passion-fruit sauce, were remarkable. The hot entrees are particularly good: If veal scaloppine and crepes filled with smoked chicken and sun-dried tomatoes are available, don't hesitate. Golden Swan (Hyatt Regency at Gainey Ranch): An oasis in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. Ask for outdoor seating and gaze at a lagoon, koi pond and colorful hibiscus. Come here if you want an informal but high-quality meal.

The Golden Swan has its special brunch shtick: Everything but dessert is laid out in the kitchen, where brunchers jostle pleasantly and toque-clad helpers stand by to help you navigate. There's a wonderful seafood section, superb pts and excellent prime rib accompanied by a luscious jalapeo gravy. Top of the Rock (the Buttes): Perched at the top of a Tempe butte, this stunning circular room offers the Valley's best brunch-and-view combo. If Mom grew up on the Midwestern plains, a May morning's panoramic view will make her glad she lives here. The food will make her doubly glad. Shrimp lovers can sample their favorite crustacean in several forms. Mom should also appreciate the beef Wellington and stuffed pheasant, items she probably doesn't prepare at home. Rack of lamb is expertly done. And make sure to sample the innocuous-looking egg torta, a scrumptious blend of cheese, chorizo and spinach. Charlie's (Crescent Hotel): Probably the Valley's best brunch value. The Crescent Hotel is the plainer-Jane sister of the regal Phoenician, catering to businesspeople, not well-heeled vacationers. But you'd never suspect it from the brunch offerings. Everything here shouts quality, from the crab legs and oysters to the cold, Chinese noodle salad. And desserts rise high above the institutional level. If Mom's in a homey mood, check out the homemade cookies or make-your-own ice-cream sundae. Otherwise, head directly for the rich, chocolate pecan pie, chocolate raspberry mousse and cräme caramel.

 
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