Photo by Keelin Czellecz
100 pounds of sugar, 390 pounds of flour, 60 pounds of eggs, and 100 pounds of candy are among the ingredients for a ten foot tall gingerbread house at The Claremont Hotel Club and Spa. Last night at the Resort’s annual Holiday Open House, over 200 guests showed up to see the unveiling of the big gingerbread house. Also on the bill: Santa, carolers, snow, a 1967 Oakland Fire Department Parade engine (with holiday music), servings of hot cocoa, cider, candy canes, ginger cookies, and more. Charity was a part of the event: bins for toy and canned food donations were set up. Guests could also select ornaments from a Giving Tree to make a wish come true for a child in need.
Caroling in front of the Claremont's Gingerbread House
Executive Chef Josh Thomsen oversaw the construction of the gingerbread house, and Pastry Chef Janine Fong was responsible for the baking details. Thomsen said, "The structure takes a day to build. The rest is five days. We changed it up from last year." Thomsen was exuberant about a "homecoming" dinner (Thomsen is an East Coast native) he and his staff prepared recently for the James Beard Foundation in New York City. Thomsen has worked under Thomas Keller at The French Laundry, and was a StarChefs Rising Star Chef this year. Thomsen made sure to pay his respects during the NYC trip, and ate a twenty-three course Per Se dinner that lasted six and a half hours, "longer than the flight!" Thomsen joked. Full disclosure: This writer's brother Josh Ladd was a part of the Beard House crew.
One difficulty Thomsen and Fong ran into is how to replicate the Claremont, since it's "white all over," as Thomsen noted. The gingerbread house was brown in keeping with the gingerbread's natural color. White was used for the windows and surrounding clouds and snow. Claremont Marketing Manager Mickey Khangsengsing said the house's frame was stored with other decorations while Fong and her crew "baked and baked and baked."
Elisabeth Blackburn, age 7, and Ann Smulka admire the gingerbread goodness together.
Small gingerbread houses were created by Claremont club members, and were judged and displayed throughout the lobby. Elisabeth Blackburn, age seven, and Ann Smulka are club members and live nearby. The two were on hand admiring the varied gingerbread creations. Smulka said, "Some of our neighbors were in the competition."
Khangsengsing and other Claremont managers were the judges of the gingerbread houses. Khangsengsing looked for attention to detail. Citing one of her favorite gingerbread houses, she paused and said, "Look at that roof!" made of what appeared to be Necco wafers. "That took a long time to do.' Don't count on eating the results of any of these gingerbread houses, though; it's best to look, but not touch gingerbread that has been sitting uncovered for days.
Full Disclosure: Mary Ladd’s brother Josh Ladd is the Claremont's Executive Sous Chef.