Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Christmas at the Wentworth

( Christmas Day 2010 - White Mountains, NH )

Earlier in the year Margot asked me what the plan with my family for Christmas was. Since we first got together in 1995 we have tried to switch off the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with our families. Some years we are home and everyone comes to our place, and some years we end up travelling for both. This year we would spend Christmas with my parents, but where? We hosted Margot’s family for Christmas the week before and as a result didn’t HAVE to be at home for the holiday. Margot suggested we go away. Margot floated this idea to my mother who thought it was a fantastic plan, and asked Margot to find a place and send along the details.

Margot hit the jackpot with this idea! She found the Wentworth Inn in Jackson, NH right up in the heart of the White Mountains we are so famous in NH for. They had a Christmas package which included two nights, two dinners and two breakfasts for a reasonable rate. We booked it right away and then got back to other things. The week before we were to leave Margot found they had posted the Christmas dinner menu and sent it along so we could all see what we would be in store for. I saved both the seasonal dinner menu served on Christmas Eve and the special Christmas Dinner menu to PDFs so you all could see the full menus.

Margot surprised me and booked us into a suite with an outdoor hot tub. We got rid of our hot tub at home a few years back and I do miss it from time to time. Margot was amped up to sit in the hot tub and watch A Christmas Story on Christmas Eve. And we did.

The inn was decorated beautifully for Christmas. It dates back to 1869 and was one of the Grand Hotels in New England at the turn of the 20th century. The main building has been maintained as true to its origins, with the lobby fireplace as the centerpiece when you first arrive. It was cold outside and the fire wall kept well stoked all weekend.

As I ventured around I found holiday decorations in all sorts of places. There were also lighted cases containing period pieces that are lovely any time of year! They had ingeniously placed decorations (with light for nighttime of course!) outside the back windows of the dining room and lounges. It felt so festive!

The skating rink out back wasn’t seeing much use, but I did get lucky enough to snap a few photos of some skaters enjoying it on Christmas Day. I don’t skate and Margot forgot her skates, which was probably for the best on a holiday weekend!

On Christmas Eve we joined my parents in their room for happy hour. We cracked open a bottle of Pinnacle Iced Cider from Queubec and a bottle of our homemade Riesling Ice Wine. Laughs and smiles floated us to dinner where knew we were in for a treat.

( me, mom, dad )

The dining room was dimly lit and when the menus came with blue backlighting behind the opposing pages I remarked at the genius of it. The pictures I took of the menu didn’t catch the lighting so they aren’t worth sharing. Except for my Christmas Day dessert I opted not to take pictures in the dining room. I didn’t feel like the interruption would be appropriate on Christmas. Believe me I wanted to!

For a starter Margot had the Duck Confit Dumplings with an Acorn Squash Puree. I had the Boneless Pork Ribs, my mother the Smoked Salmon Flan and my dad the Steamed Mussels. The ribs were soft and lightly covered in a sweet and smoky sauce. I had a taste of the Smoked Salmon Flan and couldn’t believe how creamy and light it was.

For a wine pairing I went with the 2009 Robert Michelle Vouvray. I was surprised at how much residual sweetness was perceptible, but that worked to be an asset for enjoyment amongst the four of us. I have already acquired several bottles of the 2008 vintage from my local NH Liquor Store.

Margot and mom went with the Harvest Salad for the second course, dad with the Baby Iceberg Salad and I opted for the Bacon & Beluga Lentil Soup. The Harvest Salads had poached cranberries, pistachio nuts and a Ice Wine vinaigrette. Margot raved about it. The soup was smoky and salty and I am pretty sure I could pick up the Beluga influence, not a flavor I am familiar with. For dinner Margot went with the Mushroom, Spinach & Fontina Ravioli, mom with the New England Fisherman’s Stew, dad with the Pepper Beef Sirloin and I chose the Pork Tenderloin. Margot’s ravioli and the wine were the perfect pairing. A great balance of flavors with enough acidity to bring out the flavors in cheese being backed up by the earthiness in the mushrooms. My mother was coveting the broth/sauce from her stew and my pork with the cider reduction was tender and flavorful. My dad didn’t say much about the beef, but it was gone so I suspect he enjoyed it very much.

Ahhh, dessert. Margot had the Chocolate Bomb (surprised?) and mom & dad ordered the same. I opted for the Warm Apple Gallette with vanilla ice cream and a Calvados caramel sauce. Margot also ordered the NH Maple Liqueur which she ended up passing off to me. The liqueur went great with the warm slice apples, pastry and ice cream. The Chocolate Bomb got rave reviews. I am sure I had a piece, but I don’t recall it now.

On Christmas Day we got a lazy start, had breakfast and proceeded to camp out near the fire. Margot mom, and I were reading and dad was dozing off. My brother called to say Merry Christmas and let us know that some kind of stomach bug his wife had was pretty much killing his Christmas. That and the storm we ended up getting the next day ensured their prior plans were completely wiped out. Not fun! In the early afternoon we took drive up route 16 towards Pinkham Notch, Mount Washington and Tuckerman’s Ravine. The contrast of the snow, mostly at elevation, and the green of the pines down below made for some great views. I snapped a lot of photos, including the one of the four of us with the mountains behind us. We couldn’t think of a better way to spend Christmas Day.

( Tuckerman's ravine )

Christmas Day dinner was preceded by happy hour at our place which included a viewing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. We opened a bottle of Muscat Canelli from Chateau Ste Michelle and had some cheese & crackers. Once again lots of laughs got us primed up for a fun evening.

( Merry Christmas Mom & Dad! )

There were carolers in the lobby and with our reservation at the middle of dinner service there were lots of people around enjoying holiday cheer. The dining room was more lively and louder than the night before. Having to serve many more guests meant that the service was not as attentive as the night before, and the food felt like it may not have gotten as much love either. Nothing was bad, and we did not feel underserved. It was just something we noticed. Ultimately we were all enjoying a gourmet meal and a relaxing night away!

I true the Maine oysters on the half shell for my appetizer. This is a first for me. Finally coming around to this later in life is simply an issue of not liking fish when I was kid and passing up most everything that came from the sea. I also ordered a glass of the house sparkling wine (Mumm Prestige, Napa) and a bottle of 2009 Marie Antoinette Vincent Pouilly-Fuisse for enjoyment with dinner. I can’t say I figured out what the big deal with oysters is. They were good and the sparkling wine made for a great palate cleanser between oysters. All that said, I was left thinking that they weren’t so overwhelming that I have to have them all the time though! Margot, mom and dad all went with the Lobster Dumplings which I heard wonderful things about. I was so focused on unlocking some secret about oysters that I didn’t pay much attention during this course.

( reporting live! )

( who's that cute chick? )

For our second course dad went with the Smoky Tomato and Shrimp bisque and the rest of the salad. I didn’t collect comments here as we were deep in conversation about the intricacies of our families. That’s real Christmas conversation!

( looks like Mom was hitting the wine. not really. )

( wearing Clark's Christmas tie!! )

For dinner Margot, mom and I went with the Turkey Dinner. This selection is always hard for me to turn down and at the last minute I opted for it over the steak. My father did have the steak and remarked that he preferred the cut and preparation from the night before. A study in steak! The turkey dinner was wonderfully prepared. There aren’t often many surprises with this dish (we all know it so well) but when the turkey is moist and flavorful, the potatoes are light & fluffy and the stuffing has great flavor you know it wasn’t just thrown together. All three of us slowly made our way through it. The wine wasn’t a top match, and wasn’t as heralded as the prior night’s bottle, but I am the primary red wine drinker so picking a safe selection worked out well all the way around.

Between us we ended up trying all three of the desserts on the menu, all of which were exceptional. The Yule Log looked to be carefully prepared and tasted exceptional, the Lintzer Berry Tart had immense berry flavors and the Dark Chocolate and Chestnut Torte was layers of chocolate edged in nuts. The Crème Anglaise brought the whole thing together.

( my only food pic. Dark Chocolate Chestnut Torte. )

As we talked on the ride home, and since, we all agreed that the food was definitely some of the best we had ever had, and the quiet dinner on Christmas Eve was the highlight. My mother has since raved about the weekend (both the food and location) to friends whom I suspect will be looking at the package come next Christmas!

Margot and I felt relaxed when we got home, despite having to pack up and leave the inn in a rush due to an impending blizzard. With a couple of additional days off we had time to reminisce about the relaxing times and great food. My parents had never spent Christmas away like this before and said that while they wouldn’t do it all the time that it was a nice change of pace. Margot and I have been in Jamaica for Christmas before and truly believe that every few years spending the holiday in a new location keeps it exciting.

We hope you all enjoyed your holidays with family, friends and lots of food & drink. From the many Christmas and New Year's posts I have read it would seem so.




Anonymous said...

I would be lying if I said I didn't have the urge to lick the screen. The torte looks amazing.

Dana said...

I would be lying if I said I didn't have the urge to lick the screen. The torte looks amazing.

Tastemonials said...

It sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas trip. We never go away for Christmas, but maybe we should try it some time. I'm usually the one doing all the cooking. A gourmet dinner on someone else's time might be a good treat to explore.

All That's Left Are The Crumbs said...

What a beautiful place. It just looks so peaceful. I love the photo with the ice skates as I just think there is something magical about skating out in the open air. That chocolate torte is a work of art that wouldn't last long around me. Btw, I am sure you have heard this before, but I can't resist adding that your dad looks like a slighter older version of Sean Penn.

Kate @ said...

That place looks magical! So Christmas-y! :) Your photos are beautiful and that torte is yummy gorgeous!

Lisa | Authentic Suburban Gourmet said...

Happy New Year! What a stunning place and your photos really captured the essence of the Inn. My husband and I love B&B's and I have never been to New Hampshire. My bucket list is to hit all 50 states. I bet that torte was just divine!!

kathy gori said...

Looks like the perfect fantasy White Christmas..except it's real! Lovely.

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Megan @ Foodalution said...

Way cool! I love that Margot just booked it! Awesome - Amazing food with the family - and it looks like the scenery was spectacular as well! I want to go away for Christmas too - great idea, glad you did it! - megan

Meghan said...

That looks like such a lovely time! Very New England-y :) We have never gone away for Christmas, but it sounds like it would be nice, especially at a place like the Wentworth and with all of that wine.