Flavor of the month

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:45

It's gingerbread, of course! Hardyston, N.J. — Tis the season for gingerbread. And that's just fine with Executive Chef Michael Weisshaupt, who started a new tradition last year at Crystal Springs Resort: Decorating with gingerbread. Even the reception desk has a new look for the holidays. The booth was framed out in wood and then gingerbread bricks and rocks were applied to the outside. The gingerbread is real too. Take a sniff! Chef Michael says that everyone at the resort gets involved with the project. Some of the staff brought their kids in to decorate the bricks with every kind of candy imaginable. The Black Forest House with its water wheel, pond, picnic area and cuckoo clock grace the entrance to the lodge. The details, right down to the ginger snap tables and frosted mini wheats roof are the creation of Chef Michael, who grew up in the Black Forest region of Germany. Authenticity counts Repairs have to be made daily, he says, noticing that someone had sampled a piece of a table top in the picnic area. The village includes a large church that comes complete with stained glass windows made of melted sugar and melted candies and marshmallow lanterns lighting the walkway to the church doors. There is a replica of the Crystal Springs Resort lodge that contains many details making it as close to the real thing as possible. Dried seaweed (sushi rolls) were used to create the roof. One of the larger houses at the village comes complete with a Christmas tree and a stone fireplace inside. “It’s all in the details,” says Chef Michael. That is evident everywhere, including the candy ski slope, and the trees made with bay leaves that are placed around the village. It’s a snowy scene that looks just like a magical winter wonderland. A labor of love It takes a minimum of 25 hours to complete one of the houses, says Chef Michael. Although the houses that guests could make were made from kits the resort ordered for the occasion, he baked the gingerbread for the rest of the buildings, made the icing and used a variety of edibles for details. “It really was an excessive amount of candy and dry ingredients used,” says Chef Michael. The large village itself was an effort of adults and children alike that began on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving and ended last weekend. On Saturdays between 10 a.m. and noon, guests could sign up to build their own gingerbread house. They could either box it up and take it home or leave it for the display. House building was also held at the Minerals Resort and Spa. That project is part of Mountain Creek Resorts’ Enchantment Weekends, says Activities Director Denise Tappan. She said that the resort wanted to come up with ideas for guests since the slopes weren’t open yet and the golf course was closed. Other activities included a centerpiece demonstration by Annette Paelaez of The Country Cottage Florist shop in Hamburg. Mixologists demonstrated how to make holiday drinks, and this Friday, Dec. 23, Santa will be at the Crystal Tavern for an hour. The resorts’ employees, from kitchen staff to managers, got involved too. This project began four weeks ago. A room in the basement was set up with a table and all the supplies needed for assembling the houses. Employees who wanted to get involved would take any “down time” they had to go and work on them. According to Chef Michael: “It got them into the holiday spirit.” Employees got together and worked beside each other in a different capacity. There was lots of joking around and brainstorming on how to add details to the various projects, he says. Gingerbread Village by the numbers 25 to 30 hours: Time it takes to complete one average gingerbread house. More than 500 pounds: Weight of candy used to decorate the village. 600 to 700 pounds: Estimate of how much icing used in the village. More than 1,000 pounds: Amount of flour used in the gingerbread village.