Brunch at the Princess

Now THAT’S a meal to remember!

We spent Saturday night in Tucson after my Apple store appearance. We had a 9:05 AM flight from Phoenix to Boston and it seemed silly to drive all the way back to Wickenburg just to drive back to Phoenix in the morning.

We were actually on line for security at Sky Harbor when we decided to look at our boarding passes. That’s when we discovered that America West had changed our flight to one departing at about 1:30 PM. We were four and a half hours early for our new flight.

I hate when that happens.

Fortunately, we had a car at the airport and it was Sunday morning. Sunday morning in Phoenix means brunch to Mike and me. We normally go to the Biltmore, but we’ve been there so many times that we were interested in trying something new. I suggested the Scottsdale Princess. The information booth near baggage claim had the number. I called and made a reservation for 10 AM.

I should have been suspicious when they told me they wanted a credit card number to hold the reservation. But I just rattled it off — I use my American Express card so often the number is memorized — and hung up.

I never asked about price. After all, how much could it be? The most we’d ever spent on brunch was $55 per person at the Biltmore some years ago, when it was a very good brunch. It’s not quite as good now, but I think it’s cheaper.

We had sticker shock when we saw the sign at the restaurant’s door: $70 per person. Ouch! No wonder they get your credit card number and have a 24-hour cancellation policy. They don’t want to lose potential customers who faint away when they see what they’ll be paying. Silly people like us who don’t ask first.

But they were pouring Taitinger champagne — not the cheap junk most restaurants try to get away with at Sunday brunch. And everything looked good. I mean really good. So we went in.

Oh, how I needed an experience like this! Excellent service, from the moment we stepped up to the door. We were seated by a maitre d’ wearing a crisp, clean suit who didn’t seem the least bit put off by our ultra casual attire. He put us at a table by the window, where we could look out at the gardens. Our waiter appeared almost immediately, offering bottled water and then champagne. He offered to give us a tour of the buffet area, which extended from the restaurant’s interior out to a beautifully decorated Mediterranean looking courtyard. We decided to explore for ourselves and wandered outside.

I have never seen a brunch with as many options as this one. There were smoked and grilled meats with accompanying relishes and sauces. All kinds of smoked fish. Three kinds of caviar with all the fixin’s. Grilled vegetables. Tapas. Plain and exotic fruits. An omelet station, a crepe station, a pasta station, and a carving station — which also offered freshly grilled filet mignon, pork chops, lamb chops, salmon, and trout. Giant, pre-peeled shrimp and steamed crab legs. At least 10 kinds of cheeses. At least 20 kinds of desserts.

Everything was of unquestionable quality, prepared to perfection, and displayed attractively. The staff was knowledgeable and friendly.

We made four trips to the buffet. Although the place filled right up, there was never a line for anything we wanted to eat. Each time we returned with a new plate, our old plate and silverware was gone and new silverware was in its place. Our napkins were neatly folded at our place. Our waiter returned frequently to refresh our champagne. One time, we finished our champagne before going to the buffet for more food and returned to find our glasses still empty. I was surprised that our waiter had apparently slipped. But he appeared with the champagne bottle right after we returned and poured, explaining that he didn’t want the champagne to sit and get warm in our glasses while we were gone.

Was I dreaming? Pinch me!

Oh, how I needed this experience! I’d begun to think that service and quality was something I could no longer expect when dining out. This set me straight again. Thank heaven our flight plans were changed!

After an hour and a half, we asked for our check. When the waiter brought it, he told us that we’d eaten quickly, that people usually stayed an average of three hours. We told him about our flight and he understood.

Brunch cost over $170 for two, including tip. But was it worth it? You bet! I’ll be back again — when other plans don’t “rush” me through my meal.

And one more thing. Our new flight to Boston stopped in Las Vegas and didn’t get to Boston until midnight local time. Our brunch may have been expensive, but it lasted the whole day — we weren’t the least bit hungry on the flight.

What do you think?