Bright Lights, Winter Nights

Take a holiday at one the state’s many B&Bs, inns or grand hotels. The lights are bright, the décor is rich and the cocoa is piping hot. Many offer holiday packages to prime you for the season with shopping for gifts and trees nearby. For a full no-fuss season, spend your holiday time wrapped in the soft glow of an inn’s festive hospitality. Far enough away from shopping malls and outlet stores, just north of the Town of Bristol, New Hampshire, the night sky glows over Newfound Lake. Inquisitive travelers may find themselves pulled in its direction by an unspoken need for pleasure and pampering. Wise men will forgo MapQuest. Just follow Route 3A toward the light and before you can say “bling” you will be there. Welcome to the Inn on Newfound Lake, where for more than 14 years innkeepers Larry Delangis and Phelps Boyce have been brightening the winter for hundreds of guests and visitors. During the holidays, the Inn on Newfound Lake is like a gift tied up in ribbons of white lights waiting to be unwrapped by the weary holiday traveler. Once inside the inn, guests are swept into a world of Christmas fantasy, where toy trains chug through a snowy miniature village called Bristol, and rare Steinbach Nutcrackers stand guard over a mantel filled with hand-painted Polonaise ornaments. The decorating begins when the rest of the world is still carving pumpkins. Delangis and Boyce along with their staff begin putting up the outdoor lights at the end of October. By the first of December, every inch of the historic 1840s inn is wrapped in wattage. Whimsical holiday gnomes and other colorful packages take charge of the porch and holiday hospitality bubbles like a fine champagne. The innkeepers say it’s all about having fun and giving back to the community. Each year the inn runs a contest to guess the number of lights framing the inn. People pay a dollar per guess. All the money raised goes to a local charity. This year’s recipient is a local Alzheimer’s organization. Whoever guesses the right number of lights receives dinner for two at the inn’s restaurant. Here’s a clue: Last year, more than 39,000 lights were used to illuminate the historic inn, but the number of lights is always a safely guarded secret. “We keep pads of paper and write down how many we individually put up,” says Boyce, so that neither he nor Delangis knows the total. “We give them to Beverly, the manager, and she totals them.” Boyce says when the lights go on for the first time, the dining room fills up: “People from across the lake come in saying they have to eat here because they don’t have any electricity at home. They claim we use it all up.” Of course, dining at the inn’s restaurant is by no means a hardship. Last year their Pasquaney Restaurant was named by the Boston Globe as one of the five best restaurants in New Hampshire. Chef John Ricelli, who has been at the inn for 10 years, is known for his signature creations such as twice-baked goat cheese soufflé, house smoked filet of salmon and desserts that keep guests happily lingering in the dining room well into the evening. The inn’s bar, The Wild Hare Tavern, is a popular spot for locals and guests. Decked for the holidays, the bar features generously poured cocktails and specialty drinks, including apple martinis garnished with paper-thin slices of fresh apples. Boyce says the tavern is magical during a fresh snowfall. “It’s like you are in one of those snow globes. The windows are so big, the falling snow surrounds you and it’s amazing.” When it comes to staying the night, there is plenty of room at the inn. Out of the 19 rooms, 11 have their own private baths. Guests will find fluffy down comforters on each bed and some may even find terry cloth robes, a pleasant perk if one is inclined to head out to the private Jacuzzi in the adjacent renovated barn. Larry Delangis and Phelps Boyce both love the holidays, but even more, they love running their inn and meeting new people. Whether one is stopping by on a snowy night for a warm drink, or coming for the weekend, one thing is for certain, these innkeepers will leave the lights on. NH Inn on Newfound Lake Breakfast with Santa December 17, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 1030 Mayhew Turnpike, Bridgewater (603) 744-9111 Inn at Jackson Sitting atop a hill overlooking Jackson Village, this inn completed a major renovation in 2005 that combines both modern beauty and Old World charm. Shoppers Savings Sojourn Through December 24. Shop in the valley’s 200+ outlets, boutiques, craft and antique shops. Package includes two nights lodging, a full breakfast each morning, discount shopping coupons and complimentary room refreshments upon returning from your shopping trip. And gift wrapping, bows, tape and tags will help you get ready for the holiday. $259 per couple for Mountain Lodge rooms or $309 per couple for Victorian rooms. Main Street and Thorn Hill Road, Jackson (603) 383-4321, (800) 289-8600 Notchland Inn This 1860s granite mansion is nestled into the White Mountain National Forest. Warm up by your room’s fireplace or relax in the front parlor, designed by Gustav Stickley, a founder of the Arts & Crafts movement. Cook Inn the White Mountains: Sweet Treats, December 10-12 Two days of classes, each preceded the previous evening by a 5-course introductory dinner. Inclusive package. Deluxe room, $650 per couple; premium room, $760 per couple. Route 302, Hart's Location (800) 866-6131 Snowvillage Inn Family friendly Snowvillage Inn offers spectacular views of Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range. New Year’s Eve Three nights lodging with a full breakfast each morning, a five-course dinner with a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve and Brunch on New Year’s Day for $419 per person/double occupancy ($469 for view or fireplace rooms), including all taxes and gratuities. A two-night package is also available. Stewart Road, Snowville (603) 447-2818 Riverbend Inn Nestled between the White Mountains and Lakes Region, the inn is a great vantage point from which to explore the state. Romantic rooms featuring art and antiques from America, Europe and Asia await your return. Route 16, Chocorua (800) 628-6944, (603) 323-7440 The Inn at Crystal Lake The historic 1884 Palmer House combines the charm of Eaton Center with the nearby convenience of North Conway. And with the help of innkeeper and trained opera singer Tim Ostendorf, there’s music in the air. Nights at the Opera December 28 Dinner is accompanied by discussions and demonstrations of the opera “Norma” by Bellini — the pinnacle of the bel canto style of music. The presentation includes recordings and live singing, as well as a specially prepared four-course dinner. $55 per person, includes the lecture, dinner and a glass of wine with your entrée. Inn at Ellis River Great access to Jackson’s world class cross-country ski trails and snowshoeing. Finish an active day in the inn’s atrium hot tub overlooking the river. Luxurious Romance Package (Year Round) Room with Jacuzzi for two and fireplace, full gourmet breakfast, afternoon refreshments, a gourmet picnic for two, a chilled bottle of Mumm's Napa Cuvee or split of Veuve Cliquot, and a plate of decadent delights or fruit and cheese. $479-$529, depending on season. 7 Harriman Rd., Jackson (800) 233-8309 Darby Field Inn Jacuzzi rooms, candlelight dinners, moonlit sleigh rides, massage and yoga make this a destination for some serious R & R — that’s romance and relaxation. New Year's Eve Package. A low key, upscale New Year’s celebration Three nights lodging, three full country breakfasts for two, two candlelight dinners for two and use of private cross-country ski trails. Rates: $656-$1046. 185 Chase Hill, Albany (603) 447-2181 Bedford Village Inn The original barn of a working farm built in 1810 has been transformed into 14 luxury guest suites. The property is home to a nationally acclaimed Four Diamond restaurant. Mother Daughter High Tea December 9. Dress in holiday finery and welcome the holiday season with this annual event. Featuring entertainment by the Bedford Youth Performers. Early reservations are strongly recommended. $29 per person, plus tax and gratuity. A special favor for each guest. 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Great Hall. 2 Olde Bedford Way, Bedford (800) 852-1166 Mountain View, The Grand Resort Hotel An original grand hotel set in the midst of the White Mountains. The hotel has welcomed guests since 1865 and offers today’s visitors state-of-the-art amenities. Christmas Week: December 24-30 A week of holiday activities. Christmas Eve, sit by the fire and enjoy live holiday music in the lobby. Christmas Day, enjoy the annual Christmas Day Brunch, with a visit from Santa who will have special gifts for children. Family activities include arts and crafts, games, sleigh rides, ice skating and more. Mountain View Road, Whitefield (603) 837-2100, (800) 438-3017 Christmas Farm Inn A full-service spa for pampering and a variety of accommodation options to set the mood. Sleigh Bells & Bows Weekend Enjoy a holiday shopping spree at North Conway's outlets. Stay includes 3 days/2 nights deluxe accommodations. Hearty country breakfasts, three-course candlelit dinners, coupons for local shops and outlets, hot cider and cookies served by a roaring fire $219-$281.50. Route 16B, Jackson Village (800) HI-ELVES, (603) 383-4313 The Inns at Mill Falls A 19th-century mill was originally restored into a traditional country inn, complete with an indoor pool and sauna and an adjacent marketplace. Since then three more inns were added including Bay Point, pictured here. New Year’s Eve Gala A Grand Gala in the Winnipesaukee Ballroom at Church Landing includes a grand buffet, a midnight dessert/breakfast buffet, Champagne toast, party favors and live music. Two nights accommodations, Champagne and strawberries and a live pianist in the Oval Room and New Year's Day brunch buffet. $299-$419 pndo The Inns & Spa at Mill Falls, Meredith (800) 622-6455, Eagle Mountain House This Historic Hotel of America, listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was restored as a country inn in 1986. Ninety-three guest rooms and suites are decorated in casual country style. Fall Away From the Mall Through December 21. Inn or superior room. Full breakfast each morning; 20 percent dinner discount in dining room on food; tote bag with shopping coupons for each room; free festive self-gift wrapping supplies. $49 ppdo. Carter Notch Road, E. Jackson (603) 383-9111 ANNUAL INN TO INN COOKIE and CANDY TOUR Seventeen innkeepers from the Country Inns in the White Mountains are wishing their guests sweet dreams December 9 and 10. The 10th Annual Inn to Inn Holiday Cookie and Candy Tour will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Tour participants will not only tour inns decked in holiday finery offering signature holiday cookies and candies, but this year they’ll be treated to a display of handmade gingerbread sculptures, collector’s ornaments and recipe collections from each inn. Tickets are $25 for the two-day tour. Each participating inn will offer two tickets (a $50 value) with their cookie tour package, including a two-night stay and breakfast for two each day. Tour tickets are available in advance by reserving a lodging package from participating inns or select inns on the day of the tour. (800) 626-5855 for reservations MAPLE WALNUT BALLS from Inn at Ellis River 2 1/4 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers 1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar 1 1/4 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped fine 3 tablespoons Grade B maple syrup 1/3 cup maple liqueur, such as Oh Canada In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the confectioners sugar, vanilla wafers and 1 cup of the walnuts. Stir in the maple liqueur and maple syrup and mix well. Place in the refrigerator, about 30 minutes. Mix together the remaining 1/4 cup confectioners sugar and 1/4 cup of walnuts in a shallow bowl. Using a tablespoon cookie scoop, dip out portions of the cookie mixture and shape into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the confectioners sugar and walnut mixture, coating evenly. (For “snow” balls, just use confectioner’s sugar). Place on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Store in air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, placing parchment or waxed paper between the layers to prevent sticking. Exotic Double Chocolate Chippers from Inn at Ellis River 2 1/4 cups flour 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 2 teaspoons ground cardamom 1 cup unsalted butter 2 cups light brown sugar 2 eggs 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 2 tablespoons dark rum 1 1/2 cups high quality chocolate chips Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together flour, baking soda and salt and spices with a wire whisk and set aside. Cream butter and sugar together well, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add eggs, vanilla, and rum and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture gradually, blending at low speed just until combined. Carefully mix in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoons full 2 inches apart onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake 11-13 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer cookies to a cooking rack. Makes 3 dozen cookies Awarded “best tasting cookie submitted by a guest” During the cookie tour of 2005 SNOWFLAKES ON ROCKY MOUNTAINS Created by Marguerite Bannick, Orlando, Calif. She won a gift basket with gift certificates and special items offered by the Country Inns in the White Mountains. 3 cups crushed peppermint candy 3 cups pistachio nuts 8 cups semi-sweet chocolate 2 cups heavy cream 1 cup white chocolate Line jelly roll sheet with aluminum foil. Mix crushed peppermint and pistachio nuts together. Melt 4 cups of the chocolate over a double boiler until completely melted. Spread chocolate evenly onto jelly roll pan, and then add pistachio/peppermint mixture on top. Cool thoroughly. Melt 4 more cups of chocolate over double boiler, then add 2 cups of heavy cream and mix until smooth, then add to top of candy and nut mixture and cool. Melt white chocolate and drizzle over top of sheet of cookies. Cut into small rectangles and serve.