Pilgrim's Progress

A Quick Roundup Of Thanksgiving Meal Possibilities At Local Resorts.

By Rebecca Cook

TRADITIONALLY, THIS TIME of year fosters notions of being "home for the holidays," family members gathering from near and far to sit at the same table once more and enjoy Mom's Thanksgiving dinner.

These days, however, the Norman Rockwell image frequently doesn't hold together. Mom more often than not has retired from the hearth-warming role and taken off for sunny Arizona or Florida, where she finally has ample time to improve her golf game and go birding with her pals.

Chow Spending long hours in the kitchen preparing groaning sideboards of food for the rest of the family to devour just doesn't always fit into Mom's schedule these days.

Fortunately, Tucson's resort scene starts to sizzle around mid-November, not only providing refuge for wayfaring travelers but for anyone looking for a new holiday routine. Lumping vacation and Thanksgiving all into one is going over big in many jet-setting circles.

Of course, it isn't necessary to fly in from the East Coast to partake of Tucson resort pleasures. Even those of us who seldom wander farther away than Eloy might want to consider having our Thanksgiving meal courtesy of one of our local accommodation specialists

The following Tucson-area resorts are planning major galas for Turkey Day, including the usual fowl beast with all the trimmings as well as a few elaborate variations on the theme. Whether you're giving yourself or your mom a break this year, you're certain to (cranberry) relish the possibilities.

For genuine Southwest grace, sophistication and style you can do no better than The Grill at Hacienda del Sol and Cielos Restaurant in the Lodge on the Desert. Both establishments are housed amidst historical lodging, which is amply reflected in the décor as well as in the gracious surroundings.

Cielos, 306 N. Alvernon Way, open barely a year, has become one of the highlights of a major renovation effort at the 65-year old Lodge on the Desert. New owners are endeavoring to give the restaurant and Lodge the same elite ambiance of Sedona's classy L'Auberge, where Cielos' master chef John Harings previously worked.

For Thanksgiving, Harings and company will offer a choice of a three-course meal (served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) featuring soup or salad, entrée or dessert or a four-course repast (served from 4:30 to 10 p.m.) with an appetizer added to the above courses. In addition to free-range roast turkey, Cielos will also be featuring grilled salmon, Chilean sea bass, roasted whole filet of beef and duck breast. Cost for the three course meal is $28, with the four-course $35. Reservations can be made by calling 325-3434.

Hacienda del Sol Resort, 5601 N. Hacienda del Sol Road, designed by celebrity architect Josiah Joesler, started out in 1929 as an exclusive private school for girls before finding new life as a dude ranch for the rich and famous. For much of the last few decades, the resort lay in a state of decline, but visionary investors have recently restored the facility to its former glory as well as incorporating an outstanding dining room known simple as The Grill. Amidst the Mexican tile and massive wood-beamed ceilings, it's easy to imagine the ghosts of another era linger on to enjoy the Southwestern hospitality.

The menu on Thanksgiving will be specially crafted with the significance of the day in mind and will feature tom turkey, standing rib roast, roast duckling, wood-fired grilled veal, salmon filet or a mixed grillade of elk, lamb and bob white quail. A choice of salads, including a decadent mixed-green collage with Maine lobster, pan-seared scallops and wild mushrooms tossed in a white truffle and brie cheese vinaigrette and sliced pears tumbled with Maytag blue cheese, will be offered with the main course or, if you prefer, you can indulge in a roasted butternut squash soup with cinnamon and shaved nutmeg. A few dessert options will be available, which are sure to include pumpkin and pecan pie as well as one or two other sweet surprises. Dinner, which ranges in price from $26 to $38 depending on entrée selection, will be served from noon to 7 p.m. Call 529-3500 for reservations.

The 68-year-old Arizona Inn (2200 E. Elm St.) would normally be included on this historical resort site list but, as is usually the case, they are already booked for Thanksgiving. A spokesman says the reservation book was opened October 26 (one month prior to the big day) and by the following day it was completely filled. Put it on the calendar for next year.

Right up there in terms of a longtime Tucson record for fine dining and gracious living is the Westward Look Resort, 245 E. Ina Road. With breathtaking panoramic views of the city from the Catalina foothills, the Gold Room is a popular dining spot no matter what the occasion. From 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, a three-course meal will be served here featuring an appetizer of shrimp in a puff pastry, soup or salad and an entrée choice including roast turkey and dressing, prime rib, rack of lamb, veal medallions or grilled salmon filet. Dinners range from $32 to $42 with dessert comprising an additional cost of about $5. The good news is that children eat at half price. In addition, a bounteous Thanksgiving buffet will be served in the Grand Ballroom from 11:30 to 6 p.m. with a cost of $29 per person. Again, kids under 12 munch at half this price. Call 297-1151 to make reservations for either seating.

If golf is your game, you may want to combine some links with your meal and try any number of resorts with world-class courses in every sense of the word.

Probably no vacation retreat in town has a more chichi reputation than Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, 7000 N. Resort Drive Many of the beautiful people deign to stay here for a night or two, enjoying not only the myriad recreational possibilities but also a slew of fine-dining choices from several onsite restaurants.

Not surprisingly, Thanksgiving is not exempt from this appetizing array of alternatives. In the Grand Ballroom a buffet brunch will be served from 11 to 3:30 p.m. at a cost of $32.95 per person (children under 12 $16.95). The Canyon Café, the modestly casual arm of the resort's dining choices, will serve from a limited Thanksgiving Day menu for lunch, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and for dinner, 5 to 10 p.m. The cost per head here is $32.95. Down at the Flying V, the best 19th-hole dining in town, a traditional southwestern turkey dinner is on the menu from 3 to 10 p.m. at $29.95 per person. And, if you really want to go top-flight, check out the Ventana Room where a Thanksgiving chef's tasting menu will be featured at $70 per person, $50 if you forego the wine. All the nuts and bolts of the various menus are still being worked out, but every indication is that tradition and innovation will meld in a host of delicious ways. Call 299-2020 for reservations.

At El Conquistador Resort, 10000 N. Oracle Road, a choice of three entrees, all of which will include a choice of soup or salad as well as a dessert, will be featured from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Turkey, salmon and prime rib will top the menu and, at a cost of $18 to $24 per person, may constitute the most economical fine dining available that day. Make reservations at La Vista Restaurant at El Conquistador by calling 544-1980.

The Doubletree Hotel, 445 S. Alvernon Way, is planning to roll out an expanded version of their usual colossal Sunday brunch on Thanksgiving Day, for all those who want to dine early and get on with it. Several stations will be set up from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., including carvings of turkey, ham and prime rib and a seafood bar that will include mussels, shrimp, crab legs and even fresh sushi. Of course there will be an abundance of egg dishes as well as basket upon basket of delicate pastries. Cost is $22.95 for adults and $11.95 for children five to 12.

Special plated Thanksgiving dinners will be served from 5 to 9 p.m. with a choice of turkey or one of three other entrees yet to be determined. Depending on the entrée selected, the cost will range from $14.95 to $21.95 per person, with a special menu being developed for the pediatric set. Call 881-4200 for reservations.

Although it posed some interesting possibilities, the Westin La Paloma will not have the services of Janos Wilder and his newest venture on Thanksgiving Day, as the master and his staff will be taking the day off.

It would seem that around Tucson, Thanksgiving has become a moveable feast. TW

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