Our roundup of food, culture and travel news for the 2020 holiday season

Posted on November 26, 2020 | By Dawn Chafe | 0 Comments



The Doctor’s House in Green’s Harbour, N.L. could double as the set for Irving Berlin’s 1942 film classic

I’m not saying Dr. Charles Boddie had Irving Berlin’s award-winning musical in mind when he started his country retreat on a 100-plus acre estate in Green’s Harbour, Newfoundland over 50 years ago. But there’s no denying Boddie’s massive Tudor-style home has a lot in common with Jim Hardy’s (played by Bing Crosby) fictitious Connecticut farm.

Literally and figuratively an hour’s drive from the bright lights of St. John’s, at the end of a gently winding dirt road framed by abundant natural forest, the former Boddie property—now owned by entrepreneur Jerry Byrne—fairly glows with pastoral hospitality. Think warm fires on cool autumn nights, whispering walks under a thousand stars, chickens strutting about the yard, goats cuddled in their pasture and horses wandering the field.

The jewel of this idyllic backdrop is a four-and-a-half-star luxury resort comprised of an inn (10 rooms plus common areas, spa and a basement-level lounge with sunroom), a guest house (four bedrooms plus kitchen, sitting area and hot tub—perfect for small group getaways), 16 one-bedroom bungalows, and the stunning Secret Garden restaurant.

The restaurant is a fairy-tale location: white linen-draped tables surrounded by warm woods, all lit by sparkling chandeliers and strings of Edison bulbs. At the far end, floor-to-ceiling windows offer unobstructed views of ocean moods and colourful sunsets.

Open to both overnight guests and visitors for breakfast and dinner (and take-away picnic lunches in between), the Secret Garden’s locally-sourced menu changes with the flavours of the season. For the evening meal, you can choose two or three of the á la carte options: an appetizer and main for $50 per person, a main and dessert for $46 or all three courses for $60. My husband and I made a night of it: we each went for the three courses.

My trio consisted of a truly flavourful salad (leafy local greens, cheese, nuts, seeds and a generous helping of beet topped with a perfect amount of house-made dressing), the Roasted Chicken Supreme (I couldn’t resist the lure of a chef’s take on traditional savoury dressing) and warm Blueberry Bread Pudding topped with Newfoundland Screech caramel sauce.

Husband chose a very hearty Seafood Chowder (cod, salmon, mussels, scallops, shrimp, potato, celery and onions), followed by a pan-seared striploin accompanied by potato and vegetable sides, finished off with double-chocolate cheesecake.

What the wine list lacks in variety, it more than makes up for in price: of the 15 reds/whites/rosé available, the most expensive was only $52 a bottle. (For very special occasions, they have a $150 Pol Roget Brut Champagne from France.)

By the time we’d cleaned our plates, our bellies were both supremely full and happy. So much so that 12 hours later, we were back for breakfast.

Included with your overnight stay but costing a very reasonable $20 for visiting diners, there are five breakfast menu options. Being a carbaholic, I had the Blueberry, Oatmeal and Banana pancakes with house-made maple syrup. Husband asked for a custom item that combined the Hearty Breakfast with the Fish Cakes Benny: he had fish cakes instead of eggs, with house-made sausage (the leanest he’s ever had), toast, hash browns and fruit. It was the perfect meal to sustain us for the afternoon of sightseeing we planned for our drive home.

The big difference between Berlin’s and Byrne’s respective holidays inns? Berlin’s innkeeper only wanted to be open for holidays; every day is a holiday at the Doctor’s House. With plans to incorporate sleigh rides, a sugar shack and outdoor ice rink into the property, this is a resort with growing year-round appeal.

The Doctor’s House Inn and Spa
21 Old Hopeall Road
Green’s Harbour, N.L.
Open April to December

Shopping local: Gift ideas for the holidays

Businesses are really hurting this year. People were forced to stay home for months at a time and tourists were told to stay the blazes away. Here’s some ideas for how you can give a gift that keeps on giving, both to the lucky recipient and to your local business community.

READER SAYS: “Bubble Pixie Soap Co. is one of my go-to-local stores. They’re in Grand Falls, N.L., but they ship anywhere.”

Made to order
Give gift cards for a local restaurant. Now, more than ever, dining out is a special treat. Not only can you pick the denomination of choice—making sure you don’t go over budget—but your thoughtfulness will be appreciated at the time of gifting as well as redemption. How’s that for just desserts?

READER RECOMMENDATION: “Anointment Natural skin care (in Sackville, N.B.) has an organic line for new moms and babies. And their baby bum balm and postpartum line is recognized on gift lists and media across Canada. Love they lumberjack soaps too!”

READER RECOMMENDATION: “I love supporting In Pursuit—a mobile boutique in Saint John, N.B. selling women’s clothing and accessories.”

Show time
Many live performances are shifting online. We know it’s not like it used to be, but neither are the ticket prices. Popular N.L. singer/comedienne Sheila Williams, for example, is selling tickets to her November 26 virtual event for only $10. And sidedooraccess.com has a catalogue of upcoming online performances for sale. Click on the event, buy your tickets—holiday shopping really can be that easy.

READER RECOMMENDATION: “Sackville Harness shop in N.B., for-real sleigh bells on gorgeous hand-crafted red and green leather for your door knob to welcome guests! They’ve been outfitting sleighs here and farms for decades. I send tonnes of these sleigh bells every year.”

Top of the miss list
A lot of Christmas craft fairs have been canceled this year. Or have they? Search for your favorite fair online—you may very well find that they’ve transformed into a virtual showcase. You’ll be able to scan vendor offerings and fill those stockings, from the comfort of home while wearing your fleecy pjs. Add a mug of adult hot chocolate and you won’t even notice the credit card pain.

READER RECOMMENDATION: “Mary Manette Seafood, a naturally smoked Canadian seafood company that’s P.E.I. owned and operated.”

READER SAYS: “I ordered a bunch of stuff from Tangled Garden (Nova Scotia). Their jams and jellies are delicious!”

Comfort food
Research shows that global chocolate sales spiked during the pandemic with premium brands leading the way. And why not? Chocolate is an affordable luxury that delivers an instant moment of joy. Artisanal Atlantic Canada brands include, but are no means limited to, Peace by Chocolate (founded by Syrian refugees who immigrated to Antigonish, N.S.), Adorable Chocolat (a self-described healthy chocolatier in Shediac, N.B.) and Newfoundland Chocolate Company. According to the latter’s website, their popular NL Sayings bars will “bring a smile to your lips and put a twinkle in your eye!”

It’s a hard cover holiday
There are so many great new local books available, you’ll easily find something for everyone on your gift list. The celiac with the unsatisfied sweet tooth? Consider Jessica Mitton’s Some Good Sweet Treats, 50 delicious gluten-free and dairy-free recipes ($21.95, Breakwater Books). The aspiring techpreneur will find motivation and more in Gordon Pitt’s Unicorn in the Woods, about East Coast geeks and dreamers who are taking the world by storm ($29.95, Goose Lane Editions). New and established business owners alike will find valuable insights in Donald Savoie’s homage to the Irving genius in Thanks for the Business: K.C. Irving, Arthur Irving and the Story of Irving Oil ($29.95, Nimbus Publishing Ltd.). For more information about what’s on offer from local authors, visit atlanticbookstoday.ca

READER SAYS: “Check out Third Place Tonic—Newfoundland and Labrador’s first and only all-natural artisanal tonic.” •

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