Victorian Christmas at Sherbrooke Village
Alain Bossé, the Kilted Chef, has captivated the room, describing Scotian Gold apples roasted with Cornect Family Farms‘ honey and blended with Tap Roots Farm butternut squash to make a heart-warming soup. His description of the soup’s garnish – thick sour cream and a butter and Parmesan drenched crouton – actually evokes an audible gasp from some in the room.
It’s a good night for heart-warming, really, and it seems I’ve come to the right place for that sort of thing. After driving two hours in November drizzle, I’m in need of some warmth. Sherbrooke Village, a nook in Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia, preserved to be authentic to the late 1800s, is hosting an old fashioned Victorian Christmas, and I’m here to duck in from the rain and enjoy turkey dinner in the What Cheer Tea Room.
I can’t think of a better place to shake off the November doldrums and start thinking about Christmas.
Before indulging in the main course, I had the opportunity to venture into the kitchen to see Alain and a collection of hard-working cooks and servers sweating it out behind the scenes to dish up an incredible holiday dinner.
There were mountains of brown sugar-roasted striped beets and a huge pan of rainbow carrots which had been roasted with smoked paprika and maple syrup.
I even taste-tested a dripping spoonful of a buttered rum sauce that had been simmering like liquid heaven on the stovetop.
The tea room got warmer and increasingly boisterous as guests started into their second glass of Jost Vineyards wine, which had been carefully paired with each course of the dinner.
Soon, mouths were full of tender turkey au jus, melt-in-your mouth mashed potatoes and richly spiced cranberry sauce.
And stuffing. Let me just take a minute to tell you about the stuffing. Think hearty chunks of locally baked bread finished with cranberries and double smoked bacon. Though I feel a little robbed of thirty years of stuffing without bacon, I am trying to maintain a forward-thinking attitude, ensuring that my favourite part of turkey dinner will never be bacon-bereft again.
I excuse myself once more and head to the kitchen to watch dessert being plated.
It’s a sticky toffee pudding drenched in aromatic rum sauce and garnished with a Christmas tree shaped ginger cookie. The presentation is simple, yet festive, and tastes totally decadent.
Dessert is served with Jost Vineyards‘ Icewine and delightful dinner conversation. I chat with the folks at my table and come to find that many of those dining with me are locals who make the Village’s Victorian Christmas a part of their holiday tradition.
The sense of community is overwhelming, and I begin to feel like I’m a dinner guest in someone’s home rather than at an event. Except, you know, with more of a focus on local gourmet foods than on, say, casserole. Not that there’s anything wrong with casserole. There’s a time and a place.
After dinner, the crowd begins to shuffle out into the night, but not before picking up a complementary bottle of Jost wine, complete with a personalized label for the evening. What a treat!
I took this opportunity to catch up with Mark Sajatovich, the new manager of Sherbrooke Village, to learn a little more about the history of the place. Here’s where I let you in on a little something. History was never my favourite subject, and it tends to bring back frightening memories of blankly staring at high school exam papers thinking, “1856? 1642? No….1901?”
Enter Mark. Mark is in the business of making history cool, and allowing people to experience it first-hand. He describes his efforts to maintain the authenticity of the village, and how the staff sliced and dehydrated hundreds of oranges to create Christmas decorations that were true to the era represented and interpreted at the Village. Maybe the LED Christmas lights that frame every building on site are a bit of a stretch, but they make for a sparklingly beautiful backdrop to our conversation, especially now that the rain has stopped and the night quietened.
Mark has some pretty incredible visions for what Sherbrooke Village could look like over the next few years. He intends to make culinary experiences a focal point, and plans to do four signature dinners per year. One of these events will be a steampunk fashion show and dinner, which I think is the ultimate in cool. What is steampunk? Check it out.
As we walk through the glittering village, stopping to join a crowd of onlookers checking out the ice sculpture display, I can see why the community of Sherbrooke is so proud of this little gem tucked away in their town. With promises of Easter egg hunts and more great local food in the future, I know I will be back.
Recipes for the soup, stuffing and dessert can be found in the links above, or by visiting our Taste of Nova Scotia website.