Class Act: Stung by a negative review, restaurant proprietors react the same way most people do when criticized: They get angry, defensive and hostile. Not Derick Macdonald, general manager at Red Lion's swanky La Posada resort.

After I bashed brunch there, Macdonald wrote me a letter responding to the review. Here's the gist:

"I was attending a company meeting in California [the day the review came out]. I suspect the timing was an act of divine intervention, as had I been motoring to work, I might have lost control of the car and taken out a phone pole, or worse, a potential La Posada customer. Such is the impact of a Seftel review.

"I know your displeasure was warranted. We have operated for several months without a sous chef and without an assistant restaurant manager due to our inability to find the right candidates in this challenging labor market. In consolidating our efforts, we neglected brunch and were unfortunate enough to have you visit during our time of transition.

"Happily, we have hired a sous chef and an assistant manager, so I am confident we will restore the brunch to a much higher standard than you experienced."

Evidently, I caught the Red Lion at a bad time. Even the best places have unavoidable lapses, although that's not much consolation to brunchers who shelled out full fare while the restaurant was getting its act together.

I'm looking forward to revisiting the place this fall and finding evidence of improvement.

Our Daily Bread: How can you tell that you live in a civilized place? One of the surest signs is the number of bakeries where you can get fresh bread.

Using that standard, Phoenix has gone from barbarism to civilization in record time. When I got here about six years ago, bread that didn't come wrapped in plastic was harder to find than juvenile delinquents in Sun City.

Things have changed. A few months ago, I alerted readers to the wonderful Arizona Bread Company, 7000 East Shea. Now a worthy competitor has moved in not too far away.

It's BreadCrafters Bakery and Cafe, on Tatum just north of Cactus, across from the mall. Look for about a dozen kinds of bread, including the nutty Alsatian loaf, flecked with sesame and sunflower seeds; pungent olive and thyme bread; dense, sweet raisin walnut bread; and a first-rate French baguette. Good cookies, too.

BreadCrafters is at 12635 North Tatum, and it's open every day. Call 494-4442.

Eat and Sleep: There are lots of local dining and hotel bargains during the summer, as restaurant and hotel owners look for people to fill their empty rooms.

One of the best deals is the Uptown Dine Around. Beginning July 21, participants will start dinner with appetizers at Christopher's Bistro, move on to entrees at RoxSand's, and finish up with dessert, champagne and a room at the Ritz-Carlton. The program runs weekends through September 9.

The cost for the three-course dinner and overnight hotel stay is $189 per couple, plus tax. For more info, call 468-0700.


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