We walked into Lon's at the Hermosa Tuesday evening just as the sun was setting and turning a bright orange -- while everything else on the horizon turned into one big black silhouette. Lucky us. We were there for a media dinner, a chance to meet Chef Jeremy Pacheco and learn more about Lon's, by way of an intimate sampling of the restaurant's menu surrounded by stacks of books and gilded framed cowboy art.
Lon's history as a cowboy artist's home is long (since the 1930s), but the hotel and restaurant as we know them have been around only since the late 90's. But this is definitely Old Arizona -- in a good way.
We were presented with a choice of entrees; the rest of the menu was served family-style, served with wine pairings from Arizona's own Pillsbury Wine Company.
Since becoming executive chef about a year ago, Jeremy Pacheco, who is a ninth generation (crazy, huh?!) Arizonan, grew up eating farm-to-table before it was oh-so-trendy, making fresh masa for tamales using fresh sweet corn on his family farm in Marana, near Tucson. In fact, Lon's sources wheat from Pacheco's father's farm to make Lon's house gnocchi. Lon's on-site chef's garden soon will be planted with the help of Singh Farms, which has wisely incorporated its compost/chef garden program at many restaurants around the Valley.
Our whole roasted snapper came with the tail and skin on, stuffed with whole fresh herb leaves and brightly flavored acidic additions of braised fennel, artichoke, peppers and black olives in a flavorful broth.
An order of every side was prepared and available for tasting at the table. All would be nice choices with a meal, but the standouts for us were the truffle goat cheese macaroni and the A-1 Beer-battered maitake mushroom with soy ketchup. The macaroni was light but left us begging for more bites, as you would expect from truffled anything. The mushroom had a unique form (maitake mushrooms have a thin, ruffled shape) that lent itself nicely to a crispy coating with the deeply flavored soy ketchup sauce.
Never too stuffed for dessert, we sampled offerings including tiramisu, huckleberry pie with creme fraiche ice cream, and apple fritters with ginger ice cream.
Lon's feels special without being fussy and Chef Pacheco clearly is taking the food seriously -- but he appears to really enjoy what he does and doesn't take himself too seriously. Guests took home a gift bag of infused chocolate (we imagine these might be placed on the guest room pillows), a take home Himalayan rock salt brick and bottle Queen Creek Olive Mill Mexican Lime Olive Oil and a recipe to recreate the dish at home.
Himalayan Salt Rock Curing Technique Chef Jeremy Pacheco, Lon's at the Hermosa Inn
Procedure Before using the salt rock for the first time its needs to be cured.
Place the salt on a baking pan in a cool oven. Turn the oven on to 200 degrees. Let salt sit at 200 degrees for 30 minutes; turn the oven up to 450 degrees and let it come to temperature for 45 minutes.
Salt is ready to cook on. Place raw fish on top and allow cooking to desired doneness.
Let salt cool down and rinse with cool water, using a brush to remove debris. Dry with towel. The salt can be used many times in hot or cold applications.
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Ceviche Sauce Chef Jeremy Pacheco, Lon's at the Hermosa Inn
Ingredients 2 limes, juiced and zested 1 t. sugar 1 ea. garlic 1/2 ea. jalapeno 1 T. cilantro, chopped 1 t. Dijon mustard 2 T. soy sauce 1 cup Mexican lime oil
Procedure Place all ingredients except the lime oil in a blender. Puree all ingredients until smooth; slowly pour in the lime oil to emulsify.