• Wednesday , 21 February 2018

Fairmount Park Conservancy Presents Flavors of the Season at Historic Philly Houses

Mama said punch you out! Manatawny Still Works struck seasonal gold with this winter.

“For centuries men have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home. – W. J. Tucker

Story, photos by Sharon Kozden

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through Fairmount Park’s historic houses, the aromas were wafting, from simmering punch to braised beef short ribs – with no signs of either mouse or grouse. The stockings really were hung by the fireplaces with care. And while there was no actual “Visit from St. Nicholas,” the comestibles and beverages included in December 10th’s Flavors of the Season event delivered (as Santa does presents) a varied and delicious bounty.

It was something like a Christmas miracle to experience a tour of the houses on a day when snow had fallen the night before. The houses’ holiday-festooned décor along with the warming comfort of food and drink provided a refuge from the cold. A combination of food and drink–as it is wont to do–enhanced the guests’ camaraderie. Knowledgeable guides were on hand–some in period costume–to share all manner of facts–from historical to whimsical to the always-appreciated and oft-amusing anecdotal tales. Purveyors of tantalizing treats included GARCES Restaurant, Shane Confectionary, Giambi’s Quality Sweets, Birchtree Catering, XII Original Ciderworks and Manatawny Still Works.

The event, one of four comprising A Very Philly Christmas at the five Historic Houses at Fairmount Park, was a wonderful time for families to take a break from the often stressful and challenging crowds, parking, lines, and debt-incurring frenzies when trying to find the perfect gifts. Here was an opportunity to meander at an unhurried pace with nary a sign of malls and roadways replete with bumper-to-bumper traffic. What’s not to love about spending an afternoon in what can be considered almost an exercise in mindful meditation, the antithesis of what can often be chaos at this time of year? Transportation between the houses spared extended footwork with PHLASH looping visitors throughout the day.

No scurries, no worries. Thanks to Fairmount Conservancy’s staff, volunteers and all involved for a very special Christmas gift–peace from the madding crowd and good flavors to all and to all a good day.

Can we just agree to meet and eat?

Traditional red and green Christmas colors accentuated by Mother Nature.

Let it snow and show… show off, that is, Historic Strawberry Mansion.

I have no idea why this particular combination of ingredients resulted in a punch that smelled (and tasted a wee bit) like ham. Porcine Porky punch anyone? The smell was obvious; the taste much less so. Magnificent.

Perfect stocking stuffers with bow ties suitable for a black-tie affair.

So many beautiful trees on display throughout the historic houses. This one had me waxing nostalgic with its circling choo-choo train.

Jose Garces’ saloon The Olde Bar (set in the Old Original Bookbinder’s) represented at Woodford.

Two bar tenders from Garces Restaurant take a break from serving attendees to pose for a snap.

Specialty cocktails are always a treat. Garces Restaurant pours the “No Place Like Home.” Apt name!

More comfort on a snowy day: Garces employees dole out samples of creamy, satisfying New England Clam Chowder.

A real crowd-pleaser here. Post-nibbling, noshing and imbibing, even if I could try on this “dress,” the teeny-weeny waist would present a serious wardrobe malfunction.

Everything you want to know about the tree-dress, including the whalebone hoops. Just the word fills me with constricting dread. What, no fleece Hello Kitty onesies then? These women needed a lesson in athleisure wear.

Jam, preserves and honey featured at Historic Strawberry Mansion. Singularly unique Christmas gifts are typically appreciated. Hella better than tube socks!

So many trees, so little time to include all but worth every jaw-dropping gaze.

This local PA cidery was an excellent addition to the line-up of seasonal favorites. Be sure to check out the Conservancy’s CiderFest come fall. This year’s event featured over 20 PA cideries.

Such creative, inviting names beg sampling both.

For what should be obvious reasons, I am infatuated with this room within Historic Strawberry Mansion. Must. See. To. Believe.

Sharon Kozden with Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Ed Miller.

Docent for Philadelphia Parks & Recreation docent Tyson is perfectly turned out right down to the ornamental bird clip.

Birchtree Catering (“locally minded, seasonally inspired”) satisfies sweet tooths at Laurel Hill with mini donuts along with a plethora of tempting toppers.

Donut toppings include everything but the baker’s oven!

More culinary niblets from Birchtree Catering. Protein before donuts ensured I wasn’t later napping from a sugar crash.

Birchtree Catering really stepped up with the refreshments. A third offering featured scrumptious Hen of the Wood Tarts with flaky puff-pastry bedding.

Gentlemen caller period fashion? How very Mr. Darcy.

Artfully arranged Christmas display could give Martha Stewart a run for her money.

Here’s a gent who takes his chocolate seriously. Philadelphia’s Shane Confectionary (est. 1863) holds the prestigious title of America’s Oldest Candy Shop.

The barber of chocolate captured mid-shave. Said shavings were used in creating Historical Drinking Chocolates from around the world.

Sorry not sorry Godiva, but this chocoholic’s dream collection from Shane’s is calling my name.

On Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and one amber gem-like Vixen.

I see the tree; however, this Betsy Ross haute couture dress is the real scene-stealer.

Stockings hung with obvious care, olde as well as modern skates and a sled make me want to don a anorak and venture outdoors.

This couple appears more than pleased with their choice of how to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Giambi’s Quality Sweets hopes their candy “brings you a little extra sweetness, too.” Mean ones Mister Grinch and Scrooge need a delivery on the quick!

Touring and tasting accomplished and with purchases in tow, it’s time to go.

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