La Hacienda Ushers in a New Era
On September 22nd, La Hacienda at The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess will officially open its doors and welcome guests to a new vision. La Hacienda by Richard Sandoval has garnered multiple Best Mexican Restaurant awards over the years with a kitchen helmed by Executive Chef Forest Hamrick, and now it’s poised to raise those accolades to a new level.
This summer, we were invited to La Hacienda for an exclusive behind-the-scenes preview of what’s in store. Our hosts were General Manager Miljan Vidovic, Director of Food & Beverage David Miller, Executive Chef Forest Hamrick, Director of Beverage Matt Doerr, and Tequila Goddess Katie Schnurr.
As we were welcomed with refreshing margaritas, David Miller spoke about the detailed renovation that was planned - from structural changes (look for a new entrance, 20-seat bar, and landscaped patio), furniture, and finishes, to the menu, beverage program, and dinnerware.
Throughout the afternoon, keywords such as refinement, sophistication, and inspiration were repeated, emphasizing that every part of the refresh was carefully chosen to maintain the warmth and charm of La Hacienda’s Mexican heritage and culture while integrating the contemporary southwest of today.
Along with a larger, U-shaped bar will be an elevated beverage program led by the resort’s Beverage Director, Matt Doerr. Look for an extensive craft cocktail menu featuring Smoked Cocktails poured tableside such as the Lavender, Port, and Rose (reposado tequila, lime, orgeat, rose water, and orange bitters in a smoked carafe), six signature Margaritas including Avocado with chartreuse and avocado foam and the Cabernet with a red wine float, Shandies (my favorite was the Apricot Shandy with sotol, apricot, grapefruit, and IPA), Agave Clásicos with a range from Honey (with reposado tequila, lemon, orange blossom honey and bitters) to Chocolate (añejo tequila, amaro and mole bitters), and Non-Agave including an excellent sangria.
“They’re all stylistically different,” said Matt, “and none of these drinks have more than five ingredients. If anyone is familiar with my style, it’s all about being simplistic and doing it perfectly.”
One of Scottsdale’s largest tequila selections will once again be led by lovely Tequila Goddess, Katie Schnurr, who also spoke about an expanded mezcal collection. They’re a natural pairing for the revamped menu, which will introduce all-new dishes in addition to fan favorites in refined presentations.
We were spoiled as Chef Forest described each wonderful dish we were to enjoy:
“The Sandia guacamole is made with seedless watermelon, queso fresco, candied hibiscus leaves, candied pepitas, pomegranate seeds, taijin, and a tequila-agave syrup poured over the top at the table for a little sweeteness, a little lime, and a tequila punch."
“The other I call Tres Cerditos, which means the three little piggies, so it’s basically three different kinds of pork. We have a crispy hickory-smoked bacon, carnitas tossed with shaved brussels sprouts and white cabbage in a piloncillo-sherry vinaigrette, and then it’s topped off with what I call chicharon panko. Flavor-wise, I think it’s one of the best ones I’ve ever made. “
“This is our chicken tinga quesadilla. Tinga is a Mexican braised chicken dish and in Puebla, you’ll see a lot mixed with pork, tomatillo, and other ingredients. Our chicken is roasted, pulled, and braised with onion, garlic, and chipotle sauce. We mix that with an herbaceous chorizo verde, which originates in Toluca. It’s a mix of beef and pork, spinach, cilantro, and spices and very different from a traditional chorizo; you don’t see it very often except in Mexico. We use blue corn masa, with salsa verde, curtido made with celery, red onion, sliced jalapenos and lime juice, and queso fresco on top.”
“Our sweet corn tamales are made in-house. We have an awesome team of about five women who make all the masa, tortillas, and salsas in the morning, and without them La Hacienda wouldn’t be La Hacienda. The tamales are served with three different moles. There’s a mole verde with almond, pistachio, pumpkin seeds, and lots of aromatics; in the middle is a very traditional Oaxacan mole amarillo with hoja santa and chile guajillo; and mole rojo, which is Chef Sandoval’s grandmother’s recipe which has been on the menu from day one.
“I wanted to put some tacos on the menu that were a little bit upscale. We have two different styles here on blue corn tortillas. One is very Mexico City, and one is very Baja.
In Mexico City, a lot of the taquerias do different cuts on tortillas - filet, strip, ribeye, skirt steak - with different salsas. We’re using a Cedar Rivers Farm prime ribeye, sliced very thin and grilled, with guacamole taqueria and salsa molcajete made with roasted tomatoes, tomatillos, chile de arbol, nopales pico de gallo and queso panela.
Then we’ll take you to Baja, where we go every summer. There’s a place that, in my opinion, does some of the best seafood in Baja. They do these shrimp tacos and on the table they have curtido, though it’s simpler than ours. So that’s on the bottom and the shrimp are fried in a traditional Ensenada batter of flour, mustard, beer and oregano, and topped with pico de gallo and our version of a remoulade.”
“This pollo adobo is one of my favorites. We start with a smoky brine overnight, cook it until almost done, and finish it on the grill with a chipotle BBQ sauce. On the plate is a mexican crema, pico de gallo, guacamole taqueria, radishes and micro cilantro.”
“We dry brine the barbacoa ribs with smoked salt, roast them in the oven low and slow for about four hours, and glaze with a tamarind and Dijon mustard BBQ sauce with piloncillo, different chiles, and honey. We take the meat off and present it with the bone, with a poblano crema and our version of gremolata made with cilantro, chives, parsley, fresh garlic, lemon and orange zest, and crushed tortillas for crunch. It’s topped off with freshly-grated horseradish, pomegranate seeds, and micro-greens.”
“I call this The Baller because it’s pretty over the top and not something you’ll find in the Valley. You’ll see this type of pork chop in Miami, and in Puerto Rico because that’s where this cut comes from. The pork chop itself is called can-can. There’s a skirt in Puerto Rico with slits in it and you’ll see the chicharones has slits and when it fries it opens up with that can-can look to it. Basically, you have the pork chop, the loin, the rib, and belly, and the chicharon. It’s a three to four-day process. It gets brined and sits overnight, then cooked and sits overnight, and then gets fried and comes to the table.”
“We’re serving this with our three moles - mole rojo, mole amarillo, and mole verde. The little dumplings are called chochoyotes and made with maiz, epazote, hoja santo and a little cilantro and are very traditional with mole amarillo, ”
For us, it’s important that we remain relevant for another decade,” explained Pam Gilbert, Director of Sales and Marketing. “We have a great team and it was time to give it a bit of an update. We want to make sure that 10, 20 years from now we can say we’re one of Arizona’s top-ranked Mexican restaurants.”
I can’t wait for this weekend’s unveiling to see this vision come to fruition (and once again enjoy Matt’s great cocktails and Chef Forest’s delicious food!). For a sneak peek, follow along on my Instagram this Friday as I attend a special media preview.