It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas at Madrona Manor in Healdsburg. The grand 1881 Victorian mansion on a Westside Road hillside is decorated outside in lights and garlands, and its expansive gardens glitter with lighted deer, bushes trimmed into gift boxes, and Santas.
Inside, the array is dashing, and dizzying. Manor owners Bill and Trudi Konrad spend more than a week decorating every inch of space in wreaths, flocking, fresh flowers, toys and ornaments, and even a giant plush moose with Santa perched on his back. There are 4,000 twinkling lights on a 14-foot tall Christmas tree in the front parlor alone.
To further set the mood, it’s also the second decade of the Dickens Dinners, when carolers wander the restaurant, dressed in period clothing of Olde 19th Century England. The 12th Night Singers pause in each salon-style dining room for private a-cappella serenades of “Jingle Bells” (complete with theatrical cracks for the whips) and breathtaking hymns.
On these select nights through Christmas Day, Michelin-star executive chef Jesse Mallgren prepares a five-course celebration of new and old holiday traditions, paired with wines. The supper series sells out quickly, and many guests make it an annual event.
Entrees offer a decadent taste of yesteryear, plus a salute to contemporary style, whether it’s beef Wellington or salmon confit. The beef is a large filet of tenderloin coated in duxelles then wrapped in puff pastry and baked to a golden brown crust alongside whipped potatoes and broccolini in a splash of red wine reduction. The salmon is gently olive oil poached and plated with hollandaise, beet puree, a tiny touch of horseradish and a knot of fresh spinach.
But at the beginning, guests delight in smoked egg sabayon, served in the shell as a silky custard of estate grown watercress, potato and prosciutto syrup. Next might come Dungeness crab salad came next, and then potato-celeriac soup or pumpkin-truffle risotto.
Dessert is the creation of the Manor’s new pastry chef, Emmanuel Fimbrez, in an elaborate “Apples and Spice” apple foam mousse with dots of white chocolate cremeux, dehydrated fruit and a smoked crème fraiche-stuffed gingerbread cookie.
With food this sparkling, the real lights are in our eyes.
Details: Dickens Dinners at Madrona Manor, 1001 Westside Road, Healdsburg. The five-course menu ranges from $85 to $125 per person and $41-$48 additional for wine pairings. All dinners seat at 6:30pm with an added matinee on Christmas Day at 1:30 p.m. For reservations, call 707-433-4231 or visit madronamanor.com.
Tip: Jingle bells! Let Pure Luxury Transportation be your holiday sleigh. You (plus friends and family) will delight in a private “carriage” ride to your special dinner, in the elegance and convenience of a limousine or Town Car.