Sunday, February 24, 2013

“It’s Your Birthday,”

I said to Chuck. “Where would you like to go for lunch?”

“This will be a good time to go to Hacienda del Sol,” he replied. And that is how we found ourselves celebrating on Terraza Garden Patio one beautiful day in early February. For those of you in more northerly climes, I don’t want to gloat, but the temps were in the low 70’s, the sky was brilliant blue, and there was just a hint of breeze. A perfect day for dining outside.

La Terraza is one of two restaurants at Hacienda del Sol.The other—The Grill—is fine dining and is open for breakfast and dinner. (The Grill will be the subject of a future blog.) La Terraza is “One of those rare places that focuses equally on bar and restaurant…an excellent, affordable option for getting that resort feel without the resort prices…. Terraza has an amazing garden patio, the kind of comfy place where you'll want to just sit…” (

“…A garden dining experience in the heart of the Foothills, Terraza Garden Patio & Lounge (is) surrounded by Joesler-designed architecture and blossoming gardens. Guests can nosh on appetizers in an alfresco setting–arguably the best patio dining in Tucson…. Terraza’s menu features appetizers, salads and specialties influenced by the flavors of the Southwest. Many of the ingredients are locally and regionally grown, including herbs and vegetables that are grown at Hacienda del Sol…” (

We were too early for the gardens to be blossoming, but I can imagine how beautiful the patio will be come spring. Since temperatures drop—sometimes rapidly—at night in the desert, a large fireplace stands in one corner to provide warmth when the weather is chilly. We learned from the young man serving as maître d'/manager that the fireplace originally burned wood but had recently been converted to gas. He was not pleased with the change.

The same menu serves for lunch and dinner and includes a reasonable number of appetizers, salads, and sandwiches. Since this was Chuck’s birthday, I let him choose the menu. Among the items that sounded interesting, but not ordered, were the Duck Rillette (“a preparation of meat similar to pâté…. (T)he meat is cubed or chopped, salted heavily and cooked slowly in fat until it is tender enough to be easily shredded, and then cooled with enough of the fat to form a paste” [].) that came with grilled crostini, gherkins, pickled onions, and whole grain mustard and the Salmon Cakes served with cured lemons, mint, tomato, Israeli cous-cous, olives, and tzatziki.

Instead, from the appetizers list, we chose the Sweet & Spicy Calamari served on a bed on cabbage with radishes, scallions, carrots, and sweet Thai chile sauce. While not visible in this photo, the shredded cabbage reminded both of us of the bed of crispy rice noodles that form the base of the Asian Shrimp served at Asian Noodle Bar in Albuquerque. And that was not the only reminder. The Thai chile sauce was also evocative of the Asian Shrimp, since a similar sauce is used in the latter’s preparation. And, as a surprise, nestled among the other components were some thin battered and fried jalapeno strips. And I should mention that the calamari were lightly battered, tender, and a mix of rings and tentacle pieces.

Now it may seem strange to be celebrating one’s birthday with salads, but that is just what we did. The first was the Chicken Topopo with chicken (obviously), romaine, tomato, red onion, black beans all sitting on a nest of tortilla chips and very lightly tossed with roasted tomato-cilantro vinaigrette.

The second was the Haricots Verts (thin French green beans) Salad with potatoes, egg, grape tomato halves, micro greens, and green and black olives again tossed in a light sherry-mustard vinaigrette.

Now if you like a lot of dressing on your salad, La Terraza is not the place for you. The dressing on both salads was so lightly applied that only a faint film was visible on the bottom of each plate when we finished. We like this, but others might be disappointed. And both dressings were low on the vinegar/acid scale. Do you ever watch Top Chef on Bravo? The three regular judges—Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, and Gail Simmons—are always crying out for more acid in the dishes they judge. No thanks. Make mine low acid, please.

We finished the meal with birthday cake—or cinnamon apple cheesecake, to be precise. This was delicious. Not overly sweet and the apples in the topping still retained a bit of crispness. The density of this cheesecake reminded me of the Italian-style that is made with both cream cheese and ricotta, but our server went to check with the kitchen for me and returned to say that it was made with cream cheese and crème fraîche. My only regret is that I forgot to bring along a birthday candle.

As we were finishing a 5.0 Addie lunch, we were talking with the maître d'/manager and he mentioned that his favorite dish on all of the Hacienda’s menus is the house-made buffalo chorizo eggs Benedict. Now I am a sucker for variations on eggs Benedict, so we immediately made plans for a return visit—this time to The Grill.

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