A Culinary Escape
Writer Lynette Carrington
Food Photography by Debby Wolvos
Resort Photography by David B. Moore
The Hermosa Inn has been a cherished boutique hotel in Paradise Valley for decades. Its signature AAA Four Diamond restaurant, LON’s at the Hermosa Inn, is also part of the property’s luxurious appeal. What Arizona residents and visitors may not know is that LON’s has a way to enjoy a unique dining experience in its elegant wine cellar.
Anybody wanting to escape the Valley’s typical dining scene can do so in a way that applauds the spirit and pluck of the original owner of Hermosa Inn, Lon Megargee. What is now a spacious wine cellar used to be a Prohibition-era escape route for Megargee’s rumored gambling gatherings when Hermosa Inn was his personal ranch. Tunnels dug from his main house led to horse stables, so that guests could make a quick getaway and ride off into the desert night if authorities materialized at the spacious ranch.
Now, guests have use of the underground space that was fully excavated and renovated in the early 2000s when then-owners of the property, Fred and Jennifer Unger, had the vision to restore Hermosa Inn to its former cowboy glory. Vintage photographs of the tunnels were utilized in bringing the wine cellar to life.
After much construction and toiling, the private wine cellar is now a popular and hidden destination where a constant 57-degree Fahrenheit temperature is a welcome respite. During most of the year, the wine cellar is only available for private parties. During summer, guests can dine on a prix fixe menu orchestrated by Executive Chef Jeremy Pacheco, who oversees the culinary program at Hermosa Inn, LON’s and the property’s watering hole and bar, LON’s Last Drop.
Pacheco’s Arizona roots reach back nine generations. He graduated from Scottsdale Culinary Institute and previously worked as a chef at The Phoenician and for Wynn and Encore in Las Vegas. His farm-to-table focus is perfectly suited to Hermosa Inn and LON’s, where he first served as the executive chef in 2010 before working for a few years in Las Vegas. He has now been back at Hermosa Inn for almost three years.
“We have new owners, so they’ve added some new space with the expanded bar at LON’s Last Drop. That was the first challenge,” says Pacheco, “This time was definitely an easier go-around knowing what I was walking into, and because I had done it for three-and-a-half years previously.”
The chef returned to Hermosa Inn around the time latest owner, Ron Allred took over the property. Pacheco has rebuilt his management and chef team and has been thrilling guests with the culinary program ever since.
Now through September 16, reservations can be made for groups of two or more to dine in the private wine cellar. The prix fixe dinner is available with our without a selection of LON’s award-winning wine selection.
“Going into summer, it’s tricky because it slows down, but we want to keep it interesting for our guests,” Pacheco explains. “Taking the foods I know are coming into season, I choose what’s going to work for our summer clientele.”
The wine cellar dinner menu begins with a choice of three unique items: fresh squash blossom stuffed with crab, cucumber gazpacho, melon and lime olive oil; Abby Lee Farms heirloom tomatoes with Crow’s Dairy goat cheese curds, herb salad, noble croutons and a splash of balsamic; or smoked duroc pork belly with a corn cake and peach jam.
Next, guests enjoy a ricotta gnudi with charred corn, smoked almond butter and parmesan, followed by a seasonal sorbet. Then, guests have a choice of entrée.
The first main entrée choice is the Alaskan halibut with English pea puree, sugar snap peas, baby carrots, spring onions and Meyer lemon foam. The second choice is the pecan grilled filet mignon with creamed greens, a crisp potato cake, Nueske bacon and a red wine demi. The final entrée choice is the dry-aged duroc pork chop with purple barley risotto, picked peach-chicharon salad and a Romesco sauce.
“I didn’t want this to be a run-of-the-mill five-course meal,” says Pacheco. “I want people to come in and see what we’re all about, and not just come in for a choice of chicken or salmon.”
Each entrée is thoughtfully prepared utilizing as many local ingredients as possible and in a way that also imparts the beauty of its ingredients.
Finally, guests will revel in the decadence that is LON’s cowboy candy bar. The sinful creation that can only be enjoyed at Hermosa Inn includes Marcona almonds, spiced ganache, salted caramel and a caramelia ice cream. It is an unforgettable way to end a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
Local farms and ingredient sources used at the property include McClendon’s Select Organic Farm, Hayden Flour Mills, Crow’s Dairy, Abby Lee Farms and Rovey Dairy. Lamb cheeses and other lamb products including delicious house-made lamb bacon come from the Glendale’s Rovey Dairy.
“People really enjoy this rare opportunity to come have dinner in a room like this,” says Pacheco. “It’s a cool experience and it’s a bit secluded.”
Wine cellar dinner reservations are available for Thursday through Sunday dining. The Summer in Paradise Getaway with special pricing at The Hermosa Inn is also available through September 30.