Decked Out for the Holidays
Think Christmas and there’s a good chance that the images most of us conjure up will be of German and alpine origin. Gingerbread houses, nutcracker figures, St. Nick in his red suit, even fir trees aglow with decorations and the carol “Silent Night” are from this part of the world.
So, we began our search for the best-decked halls at that mid-state bastion of Gemutlichkeit, the Alphorn Bistro, at the Inn at Danbury (768-3318, 866-danbury, www.innatdanbury.com). Chef Robert Graf and his wife Alexandra Graf revel in the season, decking their inn and its dining room with traditional German ornaments — with a few new traditions of their own.
State law forbids having a live evergreen tree in the dining room, so the Grafs improvise with New Hampshire’s state tree, the white birch, adorning it with traditional European glass ornaments. But elsewhere it’s pure Fröhliche Weinacht in old country themes, with wooden nutcrackers and the gingerbread houses that Robert bakes and decorates each year.
The menu matches the season, too. A kettle of hot gluhwein sits on the 1919 stove in the lobby to welcome guests, with warm spiced cider for children. This traditional German drink of spiced red wine is available throughout the season, as are the inn’s signature Christmas cookies. Along with Christmas cookies, sharing is part of their holiday tradition, and on Sunday, Dec. 18, the Grafs plan a cookie workshop, where guests can join in baking German favorites: Lekerli, Springerle, Drei Augen and Linzer cookies from Chef Robert’s recipes. Everyone will take home a box of cookies.
But the seasonal menu goes beyond cookies and gluhwein, with Chef Robert’s original Christmas Turkey Schnitzel. Turkey breast is cooked in the usual manner for Weiner Schnitzel, but mixed into the crumb coating are the traditional seasonings used in turkey dressing.
The Bedford Village Inn (800-852-1166, www.bedfordvillageinn.com) is decorated from top to bottom by professional designers, each one doing a separate room. Their tradition Christmas Eve dinner is a feast for the eyes and tastebuds.
They really know how to do Christmas at the Christmas Farm Inn in Jackson (383-4313, 800-443-5837, www.christmasfarminn.com), and their extravaganza of holiday decorating is over the top. Guests arriving for dinner are welcomed by a building that seems wrapped in greens and lights, with wreaths at the windows and the porch railings and pillars entwined with evergreen boughs. The festive décor continues inside with Christmas trees, greens and holiday cheer at every turn. Chef Kyle Fitzmorris does special menus for Christmas dinner, with roast goose and pork pie, a traditional French-Canadian Christmas dish. The ovens are especially busy at the holidays, and Chef Fitzmorris offers guests freshly baked complimentary Christmas cookies and hot chocolate during the season.
At the nearby Eagle Mountain House, also in Jackson (383-9111, www.eaglemt.com), the white façade of the inn is bathed in light and wrapped in swags, while the old sleigh in the lobby is filled with red poinsettias. In the library corner, a Christmas tree reaches to the ceiling, covered in antique hand-painted and lace ornaments. Although the hotel’s ambiance is being updated, there’s no mistaking its Victorian grace, especially at Christmas. In the dining room, also festive with greens, Chef Mark Prince, who has been at the Eagle Mountain House since closing his own popular restaurant, is making some changes. The décor and menu reflect the hotel’s new tone, with an updated bistro ambiance and a menu that concentrates on eight to10 entrées with a couple of chef’s specials each night.
At the White Mountain Hotel (356-7100, www.whitemountainhotel.com) in North Conway, the dining room, The Ledges, and lobby have beautifully decorated holiday trees and both areas are awash with brilliant poinsettias in full bloom. This sea of red and green, highlighted with tiny white lights, frames the best view in the valley — Mt. Cranmore seen through the large windows that form the entire east wall of the dining room.
To see more inns of the Mt Washington Valley decked out in seasonal splendor, as well as to sample some of their favorite Christmas cookies, join the annual Inn to Inn Cookie & Candy Tour on the weekend of Dec. 10-11. Tickets are available that weekend at participating inns, or in advance with lodging packages (www.countryinnsinthewhitemountains.com and click on “cookie tour”). NH