Restaurant Review: A Beautiful Brunch

Story and photos by Mark Sterling-Ogle, Dec. 18, 2014.

The idea of brunch originated in England in the late 1800s, and became popular in the United States in the 1930s. The Valley has no shortage of brunch offerings, from minute menus to full-on Sunday brunch buffets. And, on a gorgeous November morning, my husband and I invited a friend to hit the biggest and most bountiful brunch in town.

The Marriott Camelback Inn, the flagship of the Marriott family empire, sits nestled against Mummy Mountain, facing the dramatic projection of Camelback Mountain, just off of Lincoln Drive on the border of Paradise Valley and Scottsdale.

As we were led to our table on the expansive flagstone patio, we paused to take in the raised gardens, babbling brooks and desert flora. The dramatic looming of Camelback Mountain to the south provided the perfect backdrop to the lush grounds.

An effervescent server greeted us with one of my favorite sparkling wines, Pascual Toso Sparkling Brut, and a carafe of freshly squeezed orange juice.

I skipped the chocolate fountain, adorned with an array of dipping choices, for the time being and started with chilled shrimp and Alaskan crab claws, smoked salmon with capers, hardboiled egg and red onions and some rather tasty sushi rolls.

My dining companions returned with several types of artesian cheeses, pickled vegetables and hard salami, mortadella and prosciutto ham from the charcuterie board.

There is also a selection of cold cereals, pastries, made-to-order eggs, omelets and eggs Benedict as well as several breakfast meats, including sausage and different types of bacon.

The patio was well staffed with helpful servers who whisked away used plates and replaced used flatware in the blink of an eye, keeping our champagne flutes full, smiling all the while. Each time we returned from our hunt for something deliciously new, our napkins had been refolded and waters topped off.

Fluffy pancakes, crispy French toast and waffles made their way to our table, and we delighted in sampling each other’s flavor combinations of fresh fruit toppings, maple syrup and rich whipped cream.

For our next round, we each came back with more savory fare. The carving station offered tender pepper-crusted prime rib of beef, roasted rosemary garlic Colorado lamb leg, petit filet mignon and even some char-grilled and spice-rubbed chicken wings, all with a cornucopia of condiments.

Next to the carving station were chafing dishes filled with jumbo lump crab cakes and seared diver scallops cooked to perfection. These were followed by a large “plancha”, or flat iron grill, where they were turning out fresh chicken, carne asada and vegetarian soft tacos and quesadillas, or you may just pick up a couple of spicy beef empanadas.

We perused the station of grilled corn on the cob, assorted vegetables and creamy whipped potatoes. For those even more adventurous, the chef manning the station will make you gourmet mac and cheese to order. Selections such as smoked Gouda sauce can be ramped up with oven-roasted tomatoes, applewood-smoked bacon, jalapenos and more.

And there was no escaping the wrought iron dessert tree that appeared at our table with assorted petit fours. Carrot cake, tiramisu, sachertorte and pecan bars, as well as half a dozen other sweet treats in competition for each of us to have just one more bite and, of course, we obliged.

Rita’s Kitchen is the host restaurant for Sunday brunch at Marriott Camelback Inn. There is an a lá carte menu available; however, the steep prices reinforce that the brunch option – with endless sparkling wine – is well worth the $65 per person price tag.

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