Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A North Carolina Christmas

The Sorbet Sistahs and I just got back from a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. We wanted to check out the Gingerbread House Competition at the Grove Park Inn and the gorgeous Biltmore House.

Would you believe that the winning gingerbread houses were all in New York City for the filming of Thursday's Good Morning America? What a bummer!!!! But that's good news for you all if you want to see some amazing creations. Here are just a few:

This was one of my favorites because it was absolutely PACKED with candy - can you see all those gingerbread men and snowmen and a penguin? - it was out of control! Love it!

Thursday - 8:00am to 9:00am Good Morning America - check it out!!

Today we stopped by the Biltmore - it's so gorgeous with every room decorated for Christmas - an amazing feat. I've never seen it in the snow before - gorgeous. America's Largest Home - it's 4 acres INSIDE.

Snow on the gargoyles!

And a snowball fight on the front lawn:

Remember how I confessed to you all that I love gingerbread? I said those Little Debbie gingerbread men were crappy and that I loved Archway's gingerbread men? Well, someone from Archway contacted me and asked if they could send me some of their holiday cookies. I said YAHOO!!! They sent two types of gingerbread and this totally cute plate:

Isn't that sweet? But you know me, I can't review in a vacuum, so I got us some more gingerbread men to compare.

Let's start with Keebler - I mean elves should have it going on at Christmas, right?

Okay, not the most exciting design. Inside we get:

Okay - the sprinkles liven things up. But overall, these are lame. Cheap hard cookies that really don't taste that much like gingerbread. The elves must be focusing on toys.

Let's check out Pepperidge Farm. They have three entries:

The whole freakin' gingerbread family! Reminds me of those annoying stickers on the back of vans that have a stick figure representing each member of the family. Dad, Mom, kids, pets - why for God's sake? To do a quick check in case someone is missing? To tell everyone that you can indeed reproduce? Ah - I digress.

There is a nice idea on the back in case the gingerbread family can't pay their mortgage:

Although I think that might be a big waste of some mighty fine cookies - especially if you use Milanos for the shingles. Mmmmm.......Milanos.........

But look at how nicely these cookies are packaged:

Pepperidge Farms makes their cookies seem special even if they aren't. Sorry - not enough ginger, hard as rocks, and why are those kids attached to each other? I had a brother and we would have killed each other.

On closer inspection maybe they really are beating the hell out of each other.

But Pepperidge Farm isn't done:

I love the man - Ginger Man - like he's a superhero or something.

Okay, these taste like sugar cookies that someone waved ginger over. I can barely taste any ginger. Also hard as rocks. I like gingerbread cookies to have a little give to them, a little softness. And they should taste like ginger! Maybe they are just calling them ginger man because of the shape. Boo!!

How about Stauffer's (known mostly for animal crackers):

Okay - look at the cookies on the bag. Now look at the cookies here. What the hell happened? Is that a ginger ghost? They all look like this and they too taste like hard rocks. Crappy.

Now here's some cool packaging I found in World Market:

But it was hard as hell to get the cookies out of the tiny opening:

Good thing they too were as hard as rocks so there wasn't much breakage:

Made by Orbit Cookie out of Canada. Still pretty crummy, but at least had a better ginger taste. I like the train.

Okay, let's talk Archway:

These were not the Archway cookies that won my heart. At least these aren't as hard as rocks and they do have a ginger taste, but THESE are the money cookies:

Sprinkles, icing - soft cookies, really taste like gingerbread - oh yeah! These blow everything else completely out of the water. These ROCK!!!!!

I even compared then to cookies that cost almost ten times as much:

By Monaco Baking Company in the good ol' US of A - these were dry and the candy coating kind of yucky. They look gorgeous, but the taste didn't hold up.

And these from Williams - Sonoma:

These are usually really good, but this year they were kind of dry also. And for $22 dollars a pack - I kid you not - they should be the ones rocking. Good looks can't offset crummy taste.

Take aways?

Once again - looks don't mean everything, although we often get fooled by a pretty face or other attractive exteriors.

Try lots of things to figure out what YOU like. You might like the Ginger Man or you might love the Archway - but you won't know if you don't try them!!

Holiday adventures can't be beat! Biltmore is amazing at Christmas - and the snow turned out to be a great gift. And I'm so thankful I have my Sorbet Sistahs to have fun and adventures with! Get your friends out there - someone has to get the party train started!! Just make sure there is plenty of room for the cookies.


Kris, in New England said...

I've been to the Biltmore once! It was around the Tulip Festival - we stayed in Black Mountain at the Red Rocker Inn, probably around 1994. It was an awesome trip and the Biltmore really was a highlight.

You should come up to Newport, RI sometime and tour the mansions there. Amazing.

jeff said...

Merry Christmas, Denise. And a Happy and prosperous New Year, too.


Denise Ryan said...

Hey Kris! Oh I love Biltmore in the spring! I would love to come to Newport - great idea!! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!!!

Denise Ryan said...

Jeff - same to you!! Here's to a great 2010!!!!