Story and photos by Rachel Verbits, September 2017 Issue.
The Valley is home to countless luxury resorts that beckon visitors from all over the country, and the world. One of the best things about calling this desert oasis home is having all these amenities at our fingertips year-round – but the summer staycation rates and discounts for locals don’t hurt either.
Complementing (or exchanging) your summer travel with some local hotel hopping is the best way to beat the heat, pamper yourself, try something new and enjoy a change of scenery all at once.
And with Mountain Shadows opening in the heart of Paradise Valley earlier this year, we’ve been excited to check out the resort’s resident restaurant, Hearth ’61.
Having already emerged as one of the area’s elite dining destinations, Hearth ’61 offers a nod to the year Paradise Valley officially became an incorporated town (May 24, 1961) and serves as “a place to unite around tradition.”
Hearth ’61 honors the town’s origins by encouraging the community to gather around delicious food and good times. Here, visitors are invited in for “ingredient-driven cuisine made with time-honored flavor pairings and cooking styles rich in tradition” around the giant hearth at the center of the exhibition kitchen as well as one-of-a-kind views of the surrounding desert scenery.
Located just inside the entrance to Mountain Shadows, Hearth ’61 is open and airy, and radiates an opulent, welcoming atmosphere for its guests. It’s upscale without being stuffy. And the floor-to-ceiling windows that line the entire back wall of the resort offer an unbeatable vantage point of Paradise Valley’s mountain views.
As the most-ideal meal to put you in vacation mode, we set out to experience Sunday brunch at Hearth ’61 as part of an Echo-inspired staycation. Presumably, most of the guests were still slumbering and preparing for a rough day of lying by the sparkling pool, because we nearly had the place to ourselves at around 9:30 a.m.
After being seated at a table with a breathtaking view of Camelback Mountain, and in true Sunday Funday fashion, the cocktail menu was our first stop. It’s no surprise that I opted for a Bloody Mary, my favorite brunch cocktail. To my delight, it was crafted specifically to my taste thanks to my waiter’s attentiveness. There’s something to be said for a perfectly mixed bloody, and the Hearth ’61 bartenders absolutely delivered.
If you’re not in the mood for the hair of the dog, Hearth ’61 offers stellar coffee drinks to get you through your long day of vacationing. The espresso and cappuccino are more than strong enough to get you going, but the silky vanilla café latté is a perfect choice if you don’t need quite as big of a morning jolt.
While we explored the menu, we were surprised with a plate of cranberry chocolate chip scones, fresh from the resort’s bakery. Light and crumbly, the scones were the perfect way to whet our appetites while we sipped our drinks and watched guests make their way to the pool.
Along with such traditional breakfast classics as eggs benedict and waffles, Hearth ’61’s renowned executive chef Charles Wiley – named “One of the Best Hotel Chefs of America” by the James Beard Foundation – also serves up seasonal fare that’s inspired from the flavors of local and organic ingredients to crafting food that is delightful in its simplicity. The delectable choices change often, which gives diners a chance to try different creative combinations each time.
For example, green chili pork may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to brunch, but here it’s paired with spring vegetables, seasoned potatoes and topped with a poached egg. Just like that, a new brunch star is born! This bowl of verde goodness is savory, flavorful and hearty enough to fuel your morning (and afternoon) activities. It’s perfect if you’re not big on breakfast flavors but still want some traditional components, thanks to the delicate egg and classic potatoes.
Personally, I can’t pass up a good stack of pancakes, and thankfully Hearth ’61 not only offers up the time-honored breakfast staple, but they’ve elevated their take to another level when they created their (soon-to-be-famous) banana ricotta pancakes.
Imagine bananas foster, pancakes and so much more. Here, unique textures and flavors are incorporated into the quintessential dish which, in my opinion, is key in crafting the perfect brunch entrée. The ricotta wasn’t simply smeared on top or in between the pancakes, but cooked right into them for a creamy bite that maintained the fluffiness we all crave (until it melted in my mouth). Crisp, savory bacon balanced the bananas and the sinfully sweet caramel pistachio compote, which was drizzled atop the stack.
Despite the complexity of this combination, these ingredients came together in perfect harmony without any overpowering another. Of course, butter and syrup are served on alongside this dish, but honestly, are (gasp!) completely unnecessary additions to this plate of heaven.
Our entrées were more than enough to satisfy on their own, but I’m of the philosophy that no brunch is complete without a true blend of flavors. To remedy this, we wanted to add a fresh element to the table for sharing. Thankfully, the heirloom tomato salad – heirloom tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, basil, crunchy bread and a sweet, tangy balsamic reduction – provided the light, fragrant flavor we were missing from our heavier (yet heavenly) dishes! While each ingredient stood out while working together in simple elegance, the star of this dish was the collection of perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes tossed in homemade pesto.
For the record, my dining companion finished this salad off, which was perhaps the first time they had consumed tomatoes with such gusto. But don’t take my word for it; it’s a great option to share alongside your brunch entrées or to split as a starter, but it’s certainly hearty enough to satisfy all on its own.
If you’re like us, and find yourself in a blissful food coma after your meal, take some time to make yourself at home in the adjacent living room and take advantage of the desert vistas and even more incredible mountain views.
Don’t forget that there are also full lunch and dinner menus waiting to be discovered. So, if you’re on vacation, or just want to feel like you are, visit Mountain Shadows and let Hearth ’61 take your taste buds on a trip you won’t soon forget.
Hearth ’61 at Mountain Shadows
5445 E. Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley
5-9:30 p.m. Sun-Thurs
5-10 p.m. Fri & Sat
6 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. Sat & Sun