The one dessert was a keeper: a rich cheesecake with a chocolate-cookie crust, covered with nuts and a chocolate sauce. The coffee, however, tasted like it had been first brewed aboard the Mayflower.

On a sparkling, Valley spring Sunday, the Desert Princess package--food and cruise--is enormous fun. Here's looking at you, Mom.

Pinon Grill, Inn at Regal McCormick Ranch, 7401 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 948-5050. Hours: Sunday brunch, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Location Info

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Pinon Grill at Scottsdale Millenium Resort

7401 N. Scottsdale Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85258

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: North Scottsdale

What motive could anyone have for taking Mom to Sunday brunch at Pinon Grill? Love? Respect? Gratitude?

Nope. There's only one reason to drag Mom here--revenge. Sure, you could complain to your therapist about all the damage Mom has inflicted upon you over the years. But that will cost you 50 bucks an hour. If you really want to get even with Mom, you can bring her here and get vengeance for only $15.95.

Pinon Grill's brunch isn't merely downright awful, it's downright disappointing, too. After all, over the past few years, this kitchen has been turning out some of the best Southwestern food in town, winning several Best of Phoenix accolades. So after the restaurant added a Sunday brunch earlier this year, I looked forward to the same sort of quality. Too bad management didn't.

If you could eat the setting, Pinon Grill would be sitting pretty. The place is gorgeous, overlooking swaying palm trees, a golf course and a big lake. Ducks occasionally march out of the water and onto the trellised, misted patio. Inside, the airy room looks like a Southwestern lodge, swirling with regional colors.

Unfortunately, gastronomically speaking, you'll do about as well sticking a knife and fork into the scenery as you will stabbing the brunch offerings.

Actually, problems start even before you take a bite. The messy brunch display is not very appealing. It seems to have been thrown together with the same care as a convention breakfast. I didn't see any employees tidying it up, either.

It's only a guess, but I imagine that the resort's honchos priced the meal at $15.95 in order to woo folks who didn't feel like paying twice as much for an elaborate Sunday brunch. I understand the reasoning. The problem? You don't get what you don't pay for.

What's not here? No fresh breads. No cheese. No salads. No greenery. No waffles. No pancakes. No pasta. No pate. No bowls of shrimp. No lox. No smoked fish. No seafood of any kind. No carved meats. No fancy desserts.

Now, this is not necessarily a bad tactic, if what you do serve is interesting and high-quality. But these aren't the adjectives that will spring to anyone's mind.

Can you feel yourself getting excited about the plastic containers filled with breakfast cereals? How about the containers of Yoplait yogurt, or the small pile of fruit?

Do you think Mom will smother you with grateful thanks when she beholds the sorry-looking bagels, muffins and Danish? Will she bubble with delight after she peeps into the four--count 'em--chafing dishes: scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage (cold), sliced potatoes and cheese blintzes? I needed a reality check. Was I brunching at a high-end Valley resort, or breakfasting at a sleep-away camp?

Thank goodness there was an omelet station. Whoever said hunger is the best sauce knew what he was talking about. I doubt whether this was the best omelet I've ever had. But it sure seemed so at the time.

Instead of putting out a dazzling array of main-dish items, Pinon Grill lets you choose one entree from a list of five. The two dishes we sampled tasted like they had been left over from a Saturday-night hotel banquet. Whatever charms the "pesto-encrusted prime rib" may have had, they lay permanently concealed under a layer of gristle. The side of garlicky mashed potatoes would have been bearable had it reached room temperature. The salmon entree was just as forgettable, done in by a "chipotle-hollandaise sauce" fashioned principally from salt.

Desserts? The selection had been pretty well picked over by 12:30, and no one had done anything about replacing the missing items. I got a server to bring out some apple pie, which, next to leaving, was the highlight of my visit. It was terrific--buttery and not too sweet, in a lovely creme anglaise.

And, though it may seem churlish to heap on any more critical displeasure, I can't let the incredibly weak coffee pass unnoticed. Someone should have replaced it with Folger's crystals.

Pinon Grill has just lured back a former chef who brought good notices during his last stint here. Judging from what I encountered at brunch, he's got his work cut out for him.

Desert Princess:
Lunch
cruise
$37.00
Dinner
cruise
58.00

Pinon Grill:
Sunday
brunch
$15.95

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