I 've been fascinated by the hustle and bustle that thrives within hotel lobbies as long I can remember. The smells, the energy, the decor, the diversity of guests all traveling from here to there feeds my constant desire to travel, meet people, see things, and experience life on the move...people on the go.
Imagine when I discovered the Eloise books. A little girl who lives in a famous hotel in NYC. She roams the hotel and can go anywhere and chat with anyone! For her, within a hotel adventures are literally just around the next corner.
For most of my childhood, I rarely saw the inside of a hotel. I often daydreamed about the interiors of hotels, the rooms, and the little bottles of shampoo and tiny soaps left for guests. I had a good school friend who traveled to some exotic location each summer with her family. She would always bring back a small gift for me...a pen, a hair barrette, a scarf, or little chocolates. I would hold the gifted item and treasure it as if it somehow contained a portal of vision into another world. I tried to imagine the sights my friend and her family saw, the people they met, the food they ate...but most especially, the hotels they stayed in. My imagination soared...perhaps it was even better than the reality, I didn't know...so I lived within my own creative thoughts.
I have stayed in many hotels at this point in my adult life. I still have a childlike sense of wonder when seeing the expanse of a lobby for the first time, noticing what kind of key is used, fingering the pretty collection of tiny soaps and shampoos, and watching the hotel staff bustle to and fro. Even as an adult, that childlike fascination is still with me whenever we travel..often much to the amusement of my kids.
So one can imagine the complete joy of experiencing The Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, nestled majestically in the crook of the splendid White Mountains. Appearing seemingly out of nowhere, the pages of history turning all around it as the resort appears seemingly frozen, like a bookmark, in a the time of graceful elegance and serene ambiance.
Patrick and I decided to have a mid-week break and drive up to Bretton Woods for a little two day getaway. I had treated my friend, Chenedra, to the afternoon "English High Tea" at Mount Washington Resort when she visited me from Texas. I kept telling Patrick that we must return for a stay there to see the resort dressed in its holiday decor.
I didn't realize that the inner Eloise in me would reignite my imagination and reveal my childlike inquisitiveness. Being mid-week, there was a beautiful hush and tranquil pace that fell over the entire resort from the minute we walked through the big beautiful brass trimmed front doors.
Eloise is a little girl of about six who lives within the Plaza Hotel in NYC and endlessly roams about seeking out adventures. Whereas I am a mature woman of 40-ishy age, I certainly don't resemble little rambunctious Eloise on the outside but...on the inside...
Walking into the Mount Washington Resort at Christmas time is like stepping into the set of the party scene of the famous ballet The Nutcracker. I could only imagine little Eloise leaving the Plaza and journeying up to New Hampshire to discover the delights of this historical landmark resort. I imagined the squeal of delight and the clasp of her little hands as she laid eyes on the enormous Christmas tree standing tall and brightly lit. The illuminated tree sits opposite a huge stone fireplace where guests can wrap themselves in not only warmth but festive cheer. The large area rug sitting underneath the Christmas tree has pretty patterns on it that look like wrapped gifts spilling out from under the tree and extend all over the floor.
Patrick and I settled into our beautiful room with its wide bank of windows stretching from one end of the room to the other to capture the sheer vastness of the White Mountains. The walls were painted a soothing bay leaf green. The peach and chocolate decor complimented each other and fabrics of playful stripes, argyles, plaids, and florals all worked harmoniously together. And yes, the bathroom was well stocked with petite bottles of toiletries and fluffy oversized white towels.
Not being able to stay in one place for long, I decided to explore the resort and soak in the tranquil atmosphere of elegance combined with historical charm and breathtaking views. Being a person centered around cuisine, I made my way to the grand dining hall. Beautiful stained glass windows arched around the inner circle of the dining room letting in soothing light that made the white clothed tables seem to float and glow in the center of the room.
|Top L: Executive Chef Jacky François |
As it happened, the chef, Jacky François, was doing his rounds of the main dining room when I was roaming around on my own. The dining room was closed but, of course, like inquisitive Eloise...I was tootling around and quite off the guest path. I ended being delighted and captivated to meet not only the executive chef but the head of the dining room as well. We chatted a bit about the behind the scenes work that goes into running a AAA Four diamond-rated resort.
I learned that their culinary team recently traveled to Chile, on the western edge of South America, in search of bold flavors and unique wines to bring back to New Hampshire. They discovered that the valleys of Chile are perfect micro climates for growing some of the best wines in the world.
|Main Dining Hall: Omni Mount Washington Resort in New Hampshire|
The team learned how to cook with the ingredients and spices native to the region and returned to The Omni to create a menu for guests to offer them the opportunity to try different flavors from around the world...this time from Chile.
So underneath the twinkling lights of the historic crystal chandeliers and to the dreamy tunes of the pianist, that evening at dinner, Patrick and I decided to try the Chilean menu offerings.
Each of our selections from appetizer to dessert were paired with a carefully chosen bottle of Chilean wine.
For an appetizer, I chose the "Choritos con Pebre" or steamed mussels with tomato, onion, bell pepper, and cilantro. The mussels were piled high and sitting in a bed of delicious hot broth. We chatted with our lovely waitress, who is originally from Peru, just north of Chile about the difference between her cuisine and that of her neighbors to the south.
|Top R: Rice Pudding soaked with milk, spices, and dulce de leche|
Bottom L: Surprise truffles left by the bedside
I can rarely pass up sea bass so I was delighted to see an entrée called "Bacalao con Tomatican" or "Seared Sea Bass with braised tomato, yellow corn and cilantro salad". While I enjoyed each velvety bite of the sea bass, Patrick was perfectly satisfied with his "Costilla Con Pure Picante" or "Pork Ribs slowly cooked in beer and Palm Honey with Potato Purée and Chilean smoked chili pepper".
|The view over the mountainside from the expansive back terrace|
We had such a lovely dinner in the main dining room. It already felt as if we were gone from our daily work routine for days instead of hours. The white mountains glistened out the window as the moonlight tried to spread a milky glow over the mist that hung over the valley. I was equally captivated by the wonderful pianist who seemed lost in his own world of music. A true musician, his fingers fluttered over the keyboard as he kept tempo with his head, shoulders, arms, and hands.
Two little girls about 7 or 8 years old left their dinner table and skittered to the circular area in the middle of the dining room. Dressed in pretty red and gold tulle dresses, they swirled each other around the dance floor, adorable and charming in their innocence.
Patrick will be traveling soon to Brazil quite a bit. We wondered if some of the flavors we were experiencing on the Chilean menu would be the same. How fun to have an entire dinner sampling flavors of a particular culture from appetizer to dessert. The "Tres Leches Cake" is assuredly on my list of recipes to try. A smooth rich milk soaked cake topped with cream and complimented by fresh berries. Swoooooon.
Many years ago now, in the days of my intensive ballet training, I studied at a ballet school where we all boarded in an old somewhat refurbished hotel. The students on scholarship, such as me, were assigned to various jobs. One of my jobs was to work the old brass elevator with the old-fashioned turn crank level that lifted the elevator to the floors above. For several hours after a grueling day of classes, I worked the tiny historic elevator of our hotel-turned-dorms lifting ballet students up and down.
As we stepped into the elevator at Mount Washington Resort, I wondered why the elevator operator entered with us. As I turned around, I saw him operate the same sort of controls as I did so many years ago. With unabashed delight, I laughed out loud as memories of that experience returned. I told the operator my story (possibly in too much detail). I think he appreciated it (I think he thought I was looney). He laughed, at least and was good natured. After I excitedly departed, he might have shaken his head and chuckled with amusement once we left.
From "English High Tea" to an evening of "Chilean Flavors of the World", what an extraordinary stay we had driving up into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It is something indeed to see this grand dame of a historic resort all adorned for the holidays. From the soft Christmas music lilting throughout the hallways and dining rooms to the glittering holiday lights creating sparkles against the crystal chandeliers, this was a holiday escape that might just become a yearly tradition.
|A huge buffet spread and made to order dishes for breakfast in the morning|
Imagine the stories that Eloise could write and tell in her whimsical childish outlook of the world. Imagine the characters she could portray...the serious elevator operator with his sturdy formal hat, the bellhop with his umbrellas at the ready, and the chef with his crisp white suit coats roaming the dining hall to make sure everything is just so. Imagine the fun she would have peeking into the numerous wrapped gifts piled under the enormous Christmas tree or the undulating hillsides outdoors that beg for sliding down fast while barely holding on to an old fashioned sled.
Oh, I imagined the life of Eloise...if just for a day or two. I may not be 6 years old, but in my mind's eye...I may not be too far from it either.
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Labels: Bretton Woods NH, Chilean food, Chilean wine, New Hampshire resorts, Omni chilean dinner menu, Omni Mount Washington Resort New Hampshire, White Mountain resorts