LON’s at the Hermosa; Dinner with Jeremy Pacheco
Chef Jeremy Pacheco is more than just a chef, more than just a conductor in the kitchen. He’s a team player. Several days a week, you’ll find him cooking on the line in his kitchen, submerged in the simple day-to-day tasks that some might consider trivial for an executive chef of his stature. Since his start at Lon’s at the Hermosa in 2012, Chef Jeremy has created a seasonal menu of artful cuisine all whilst inspiring his crew to develop a real connection with the food that enters and leaves their kitchen.
Pacheco’s farm-to-table approach wasn’t stimulated from a ‘trend.’ For Chef Jeremy, there is no other way of cooking and eating as the farm-to-table thought was an everyday occurrence as he grew up on his family’s farm in Marana. There were nights when they would take sweet corn and white corn right from the field and transform them into fresh masa for tamales. Today, he still sources from his father’s farm (he uses its durum wheat for LON’s house-made gnocchi).
Chef Jeremy emphasizes on using local products for his kitchen’s pantry. The Hermosa features many Arizona wines and they source their goat cheese from Crow’s Dairy in Buckeye and dairy goat products from Fossel Creek Creamery in Strawberry. He uses McClendon Select Organics and Duncan Family Farms for local produce though most comes from his own half-acre on-site garden just outside the kitchen. Lettuce, pumpkins, arugula, basil, coriander, fennel, onions, peppermint, chiles, strawberries, English lavender, baby oak leaf, Bloomsdale spinach, heirloom tomatoes, squash, melon… you name it and you can probably find it among the seasonal reaping. But the all-organic garden’s function isn’t limited to only the seeds that are sown. Chef Jeremy uses it as a natural training ground for his culinary staff, teaching them by example to connect with the food when they carefully and intently plant, water, weed and harvest. “There’s an intense sense of pride and accomplishment when we serve our own delicious food to our guests,” says Pacheco. “It just doesn’t get any fresher and tastier anywhere.”
The Hermosa is adorned by the renowned original art of Lon Megargee, cowboy artist and builder of the original Hermosa Inn in the 30s. To pay homage to the Inn’s rich history and founder, Chef Jeremy aspires to create plates that are (truly… you have my word!) works of art, worthy of praise from Lon himself.
Taryn and I recently experienced his cuisine for ourselves at a hosted dinner. Read our individual comments of our samplings below. Though the Inn’s picture-perfect patio is gorgeously lit at night, we sat inside in the equally stunning library and gazed at the shelves of books outlining its walls. The room’s dark wooden features, high ceilings, candlelight, and crackling fireplace made us feel at home, warm and cozy.
While we selected our own entrees, the rest of the evening’s items were chosen for us and shared amongst our table. Chef Jeremy gave our group a quick overview of his plans for the evening while Sommelier Rick Fizz chose our wine pairings. All wines poured on our visit were product of Sam Pillsbury’s label, Pillsbury Wines from Cochise Country in southeast Arizona.
For our starters, we were presented the Himalayan Salt Seared Ahi Tuna with cilantro, pickled onion and ceviche sauce.
Amy: The sushi-grade ahi tuna was a favorite of mine. We were given a take-home bag at the end of the evening that included a brick of Himalayan Salt and the recipe for this appetizer. I’m so excited to recreate this dish at home for company! The tuna arrives at your table raw, sizzling on the hot salt brick, allowing diners to let the tuna cook to their preference. The ‘ceviche sauce’ with lime, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, soy sauce and additions added a hint of welcomed spicy heat.
Taryn: I am always a sucker for presentation and ahi tuna. I adore that this dish is served on the Himalayan Salt brick (and was even happier that I got to leave with my own so I can try to duplicate this at home – though I know it will never measure up to Chef’s version!). I also quite like the fact that the diner can sort of be the driving force behind the ‘doneness’ of this dish. While I enjoy ahi tuna barely seared, I know and respect the fact that people have different tastes than me. With the dish being presented this way, you can decide when to take the tuna off to serve your personal preference.
Alongside the Tuna, we also enjoyed the Aji Pepper Marinated Royal Red Shrimp with garden citrus, avocado, shaved vegetables and yuzu vinaigrette.
Amy: The lightly marinated shrimp from Florida’s Gulf Coast was finished with yuzu vinaigrette that was absolutely lovely with the citrus, veggies and avocado. A light, refreshing treat.
Taryn: The presentation of this dish was masterful. It was so gorgeous on the plate you almost didn’t want to disturb it…almost.
Both starters were paired with a 2010 Pillsbury Viognier, like a Sauvignon Blanc, but with more fruit characteristics (think starfruit) and a tiny hint of banana and spice.
Both of us were plated different soup/salad combos for the salad course. I had the Southwest Tortilla Soup with the Local Gem Lettuce Wedge and Taryn had the Roasted Cauliflower Soup with a Roasted McClendon Beets Salad.
Amy: The spicy Southwest tortilla soup with roasted chicken was “cooled off” with the addition of avocado and topped with crispy strips of tortillas. Perfect for those cool nights this time of year. My salad was a mix of local greens, some bitter (though not negatively) with crisp bacon bits made in house, heirloom tomatoes from the garden, and brought together with smoky blue cheese dressing. A suitable match for that spicy soup!
Taryn: The cauliflower flavor was so robust and almost a little smoky. I positively adored the roasted beet salad and the homemade burrata was a perfect accompaniment.
The soup/salad course was paired with the 2009 Pillsbury Diva, a blend predominantly of Syrah with Mourvedre and Petite Syrah. This wine was described to us as “very fruit forward… like a spicy Pinot Noir” and had some spicy notes I loved, with some blackberry notes and subtle orange flavor. Although it is meant to be paired with food, I could easily go against the norm and drink this alone.
Then came the entrees: I chose the Mesquite Glazed Duck Breast while Taryn opted for a meat-less dish, the Whole Roasted Yellowtail Snapper.
Amy: The Mesquite Glazed Duck Breast was served atop duck confit filled mesquite crepes (TO DIE FOR); crisp garden broccoli, and a decadent blood orange sauce. Oh, those crepes. Those delicate, smoky, filled-with-all-that-is-good-in-the-world crepes! You must try this on your next visit… must!
Taryn: I opted to have our server, Alex, select my entrée as I could not decide between the Crispy Seared Scottish Salmon and the Whole Roasted Yellowtail Snapper. I have to say, although I did not try the salmon, I was perfectly delighted with Alex’s choice for me. It was perfectly seasoned and beautifully presented. I was barely tempted with all the delectable sides we were offered as I wanted nothing to taint the perfection of this dish. Delicious!!
Our table was brought one of each of the menu’s side dishes to share. Among the favorites, the Truffle Goat Cheese Macaroni, Confit Peewee Potatoes, and the A-1 Beer Battered Maitake Mushroom with soy ketchup. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of the sides.
The entrée course was paired with Pillsbury’s Wild Child Red Blend, predominately Cabernet with Cab Franc and Merlot, a dark wine ideal for a meat course. The addition of the merlot helped to smooth out the wine, so that it was not so tannic.
Each dessert offering was passed around the table for sampling. Without a doubt, the Organic Apple Fritter with crisp fried organic apples, spicy ginger ice cream and bourbon caramel won the most praise. The Mexican “Tiramisu” (Ibarra Chocolate, mascarpone cream, patron cafe anglaise and Kahlua ice cream) and Lon’s Cowboy Candy Bar (Salted caramel, spiced chocolate, marcona almonds and coco nib ice cream) were also favorites.
Taryn: I was so pleased that there were multiple servings of the Organic Apple Fritter as after one taste I had no intention or desire to share with anyone, not even Amy!! At Chef’s urging I tried a few bites of the other offerings but I must say that, hands down, the fritter was the big winner for me. This goes to the top of my list for all-time favorite desserts, for sure!
Overall, absolutely no complaints or grimaces. Not even any ‘meh’s. If you haven’t been up to LON’s yet or if it’s been awhile since your last visit, get yourself there. You don’t regret it. Visit hermosainn.com/lons/ to learn more about the restaurant.
Also, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming launch of The Last Drop, named for the resort’s namesake’s own famous painting.
Make your reservations by calling 602-955-7878.
LON’s at the Hermosa | 5332 N. Palo Cristi Rd. | Paradise Valley, AZ | 85253
*This meal was provided to us complimentary as a part of a media invitation. However, this has no effect on our opinions and comments regarding our experience. View our Disclosure Policy for further explanation.