B y R e b e c c a C o o k
TAKE A MINUTE to scan your memories from any Christmas past and, chances are, you'll notice how prominently food figures into most of your recollections. Whether it's roast goose, cookies for Santa or oysters on the half shell, the season is festooned with gastronomic delights.
While many of us willingly spend hours in the kitchen preparing these foods we love (and our families have come to expect), wouldn't it be grand to escape for an evening and be pampered and nourished by someone else's cooking?
Thanks to many of Tucson's best restaurants, Christmas Eve may be the perfect time to begin a tradition of Cook's Night Off. On Christmas Morn the children will rise at the break of dawn and your family and friends will arrive at your doorstep ravenously ready to enjoy the fruits of your culinary labors.
But, hey, on Christmas Eve, let Santa do the hard work. While not comprehensive, here are a few dining options to consider:
VIVACE (4811 E. Grant Road. 795-7221): Open for dinner from 5 until 9 p.m. Diners can choose from the regular menu, which includes several pasta, fresh seafood and veal dishes with an Italian flair. Reservations are recommended.
VENTANA CANYON RESORT--THE CANYON CAFÉ, THE FLYING V and THE VENTANA ROOM (7000 N. Resort Drive. 299-2020): Ventana Canyon Resort offers Christmas Eve choices ranging from completely hamburger-casual (the Flying V) to dress-for-dinner elegance (the Ventana Room). The Flying V will be open from 4 until 10 p.m., the Canyon Café will be open all day until 10 p.m., and the Ventana Room will serve dinner from its regular menu from 6 to 10 p.m. Reservations strongly recommended.
CAFÉ TERRA COTTA (4310 N. Campbell Ave. 577-8100): Open from 11 a.m. with final seating at 8 p.m. Items from the regular menu, representing some outstanding examples of Southwest Nouvelle cuisine, will be available. Reservations are recommended.
LA FUENTE (1749 N. Oracle Road. 623-8659): Open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. with classic Mexican food that has become a favorite of many Tucson visitors. The regular menu will be offered and the strains of mariachi music will fill the air until around 8 p.m. Reservations are recommended.
ORIENTAL GARDEN RESTAURANT LOUNGE (15 N. Alvernon Way. 326-4700): Open from noon until 10 p.m. Christmas Eve and serving from their regular menu of Japanese and Korean specialties. If you have a large party you might want to call ahead.
KEATON'S RESTAURANT (6464 E. Tanque Verde Road. 721-1299): Open December 24 from 11 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. Sure to please every person in your party from young to old, Keaton's offers a diverse continental menu and a special children's menu. Reservations recommended.
CHARLES (6400 E. El Dorado Circle. 296-7173): Open from 4 until 10:30 p.m. with the last seating no later than 10 p.m. Items from the regular menu, representing classic continental and French cuisine, will be available. This particular evening is very busy at Charles, so call as soon as possible for reservations.
CASA MOLINA (6225 E. Speedway. 886-5468): Open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. A favorite Mexican food venue for residents and visitors alike, Casa Molina is a busy place during the holidays. Reservations are recommended.
BOCCATA (5605 E. River Road. 577-9309): Open from 5:30 until 8 p.m. and serving from a special holiday menu entitled "Boccata's Greatest Hits," which includes the 12 to 15 dishes that generated the most rave reviews over the past year. Boccata classics such as the fillet of salmon and the confit of duck will also be available. In case you miss Christmas Eve, keep the rest of the holiday break open--the Greatest Hits menu will be available from December 22 until January 1. Since Boccata has taken its customers dining around the European and North American continent during the year (somewhat vicariously, that is, and with the emphasis always skewed toward the cuisine of Italy) this special menu should offer a wide and delectable selection. Reservations definitely recommended.
THE TACK ROOM (2800 N. Sabino Canyon Road. 722-2800): Open from 6 until 10 p.m. Christmas Eve, with the last seating at 8:30 p.m. Dishes will be served from the regular à la carte menu. Call for reservations.
DANIEL'S (4340 N. Campbell Ave. 742-3400): Open from 5 until 10 p.m., with the last seating at 9 p.m. Daniel's will be serving from the regular menu of classic Italian dishes.
THE ARIZONA INN (2200 E. Elm St. 325-1541): Open from 5 until 8 p.m., with the last seating available at 8 p.m. The Arizona Inn will be offering a preset menu Christmas Eve that will be somewhat abbreviated from the usual array of choices. Warning: Apparently many Tucsonans have already made this place a part of their holiday traditions and space is already filling up. Call for reservations as soon as possible.
LE RENDEZ-VOUS (3844 E. Fort Lowell Road. 323-7373): Open from 6 until 10 p.m., with the last seating around 8:30 p.m. The regular menu of classic French dishes will be offered in addition to a few daily specials yet to be determined. Reservations definitely recommended.
CROSSROADS RESTAURANT (2602 S. Fourth Ave. 624-0395): Opens at 9 a.m. and closes around 10 p.m. All the usual Mexican food will be served in addition to some daily specials. No need to call for reservations, but if you're curious about the specials, call the Crossroads early that day for an update.
CITY GRILL (6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. 733-1111): Open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Christmas Eve. In addition to the creative regular menu, City Grill is planning some holiday specials yet to be announced. Reservations recommended.
WESTWARD LOOK RESORT--THE GOLD ROOM (245 E. Ina Road. 297-1151): Open from 5:30 until 9:30 p.m. with service from the regular menu featuring classic continental cuisine with the lights of the city twinkling below. Reservations recommended.
Best of the season to you, and bon appetit!
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