Bon Nöel Appétit

Here Are Some Christmas Feasts That'll Really Roast Your Chestnuts.

By Rebecca Cook

THE PRESENTS ARE opened, the stockings emptied and parents everywhere have crumbled into a post-all-night heap of "some assembly required" exhaustion. The house is full of visiting relatives, and you're starting to feel as though you and the kitchen stove are becoming one.

Ah, yes. It's the holidays once more, that special time of year with the unspoken refrain, "Will it never end?"

Chow Why not give yourself a break and let Aunt Bertha take the family out for Christmas dinner? There are 364 other days in the year to showcase your culinary prowess; in the meantime, shouldn't you be enjoying the season as well?

Several Christmas Day dining options are available, most in local resorts and hotels where many fine restaurants have emerged. Since the need for lodging is at a peak during the holiday season, these establishments are fired up and well-rehearsed to offer Christmas dinner without fuss (though not, unfortunately, without cost).

Ventana Canyon Loews Resort (7000 N. Resort Drive) offers the hungry Christmas celebrant a host of dining options throughout the day. A buffet will be served in the Grand Ballroom from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with several "stations" featuring seafood, carved meats (ham, turkey and prime rib), chaffing dish specialties (including a braised lamb shank casserole) and omelets made to order with various ingredients. About 20 different appetizers and salads will be available for nibbling, as well as 25 dessert offerings. The Martha Reed Band will be playing light jazz throughout the day.

A similar buffet, without the addition of live music, will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the more casual Canyon Café. Cost for the buffets is $32.95 per adult, $16 for children ages 5 to 12, and free for children under 5. In addition, the Ventana Room, the crème de la crème of fine dining at Ventana Canyon, will be serving a fixed menu (as yet to be determined at press time) from 4 to 10 p.m. Yet another Ventana possibility is the Flying-V Bar & Grill, which will feature a set menu of Southwestern specialties from 3 to 10 p.m. Surely, there's something to please every palate here in the foothills. Call 299-2020 for reservations.

The Grill at Hacienda del Sol (5601 N. Hacienda del Sol Road) will feature a limited menu from noon to 6 p.m. Christmas Day, which will be parceled out in five delectable portions. Choices on appetizers (ranging from oysters on the half-shell to a black-buck antelope plate) and entrees (roast goose, grilled Alaskan salmon, prime rib or Virginia-sliced ham) will be offered along with salad, assorted holiday relishes and a tray of miniature dessert items. Cost is set at $26.95 per person. Call 529-3500 for reservations.

The Gold Room at Westward Look Resort (245 E. Ina Road) starts things off right with a Christmas Day brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Choosing from a limited menu of breakfast and luncheon dishes, brunch costs will range from $24 to $32 per person, depending on entrée selection. From 5 to 9 p.m. the Gold Room will feature a four-course menu with choice of roast turkey, ham, veal, leg of lamb, prime rib or grilled marlin. Costs range from $28 to $36. A Christmas buffet ($26 per person) decks the ballroom from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Call 297-1151 for reservations.

La Vista Restaurant at the Sheraton El Conquistador Country Club (10000 N. Oracle Road) will be serving Christmas brunch as well, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Starting with a heavenly sounding cream of crab and basil soup, this sumptuous meal is marked by a holy trinity of entrees: roast pork loin stuffed with dried cranberries and hazelnuts; English-style roast goose; and shallot-poached trout Florentine. Choose from three desserts to close the meal sweetly. At $18.95 per person, this may be the best deal of the holiday. Call 544-1980 for reservations.

The Cactus Rose at the Tucson Doubletree Hotel (445 S. Alvernon Way), already established as a brunch Mecca, will feature a holiday champagne-version of this usual Sunday event with all tables heaped to overflowing with carved meats, egg dishes, salads, fruits and pastries. Cost for the brunch is $22.95 adults, $19.95 seniors, and $10 for children 5 to 10 years of age. Dinner, with a limited, fixed menu will be served from 5 to 9 p.m. At this early date, however, the particulars of selection and cost have not been determined. Call 881-4200 for reservations and information.

Vistas Restaurant at the Tucson East Hilton (7600 E. Broadway) will do Christmas dinner with all the trimmings from noon to 8 p.m., serving a set menu including prime rib, pork loin, roast turkey, ham and steak. Dessert is particularly intriguing here, with choices ranging from a simple and comforting carrot cake to a chocolate mousse cake with fresh raspberries. In true Dickensian fashion, a steamed Christmas pudding with sugared brandy sauce will also be offered. Depending on the entrée selected, cost will range from $17.95 to $21.95 per person. Call 721-5666 for reservations.

The Rancher's Club-Hotel Park Tucson (5151 E. Grant Road) has yet to nail down the exact menu for Christmas Day, but promises it will indeed be in keeping with the season. Featured entrees in the past have included beef tenderloin, roast duck and salmon. Dinner will be served from noon until 6 p.m. Call 321-7621 for reservations and information.

The Tack Room Restaurant (2800 N. Sabino Canyon Road) is the resort-alternative, offering the greatest extravagance on our list. If you want to go all out, by all means check out Christmas at one of Tucson's oldest and finest premier eating establishments. Diners may order from the Tack Room's regular menu or, at $46 per person, opt for the three-course prix fixe presentation, which this year features a roast leg of lamb with wild rice. Dinner will be served from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Call 722-2800 for reservations.

For those visited by culinary ghosts of Christmas past: Yes, the Arizona Inn is serving Christmas dinner, but (surprise, surprise) they're completely booked; and no, Café Poca Cosa in the Clarion Santa Rita Hotel will not be open on December 25.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of other possibilities. With a little discretionary cash at your disposal, there are many delicious ways to survive the holidays without lifting a finger. TW

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