Second Helpings

Brunch Cost Ratio: Everyone knows there isn't always a correlation between price and value. Is a Lexus three times better than a Camry? Maybe, but only if you're trying to impress an adolescent valet parker. Is a first-class ticket worth five times the cost of a discounted coach fare on the same airplane? Only if someone else is paying.

As for Valley brunches, however, price and value track pretty closely. Just about always, you get what you pay for.

What does that mean? That means the top-of-the-line brunch spreads laid out by the Valley's finest resorts give you your money's worth. You can find many brunches at half the cost--but, frankly, they won't be even half as good.

On special-occasion days, like Mother's Day, the high-end restaurants give you the best brunch value. Among the best: Terrace Dining Room (Phoenician resort), 423-2530. The most lavish, opulent, over-the-top Sunday brunch in the Valley, and maybe the whole Mountain Time Zone. The quality and variety are astonishing. Who else puts fresh (not canned) artichokes in its brunch salads these days? If Mom's got a sweet tooth, she'll find the desserts here particularly memorable.

Marquesa (Scottsdale Princess resort), 585-4848. How many brunches has Mom been to that offer tapas and paella? The Spanish-themed food here is gorgeous, especially the seafood. Look for crab legs, smoked trout, sable and poached salmon.

Golden Swan (Hyatt Regency Scottsdale at Gainey Ranch), 991-3388. Ask to sit on the patio, where you'll overlook lush greenery and a serene koi-filled lagoon. A unique brunch shtick adds to the fun: Under the eyes of watchful chefs, brunchers march through the kitchen to get their food.

Latilla Room (Boulders resort), 488-9009. A magnificent desert setting is almost enough to tempt you to look away from the food. The spread doesn't overwhelm you with variety, but the quality of everything here is topnotch. Slurp down fresh oysters, then ask the grill chef to prepare Chilean sea bass. For dessert, tell Mom to get a Grand Marnier-soaked crepe.

Charlie's (Sheraton Crescent hotel), 943-8200. Maybe the best brunch value in the Valley. Owned and operated by the same outfit that runs the Phoenician, Charlie's puts out an extravagant buffet at about two thirds the cost of the other top brunch spots. In between courses, check out the museum-quality tapestries that original proprietor Charlie Keating bought with the life savings of widows and orphans.

While top-of-the-line brunches will please Mom, I'm wary about suggesting restaurants for Mother's Day dinner. Mother's Day is the busiest restaurant day of the year. Kitchens are overextended, staff is strained, menus are jiggled and prices sometimes jacked up. The day after Mother's Day, my phone is always lit up with messages from diners who've had unhappy experiences. (The same thing happens after Valentine's Day.) If Mom wants dinner out, try to avoid having it on Sunday.

--Howard Seftel

Suggestions? Write me at hseftel@newtimes.com or New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix,

 
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