Creating A Gingerbread Hotel

Jo McGarry
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Friday - December 08, 2006
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Each year executive chef Rolf Bauer constructs a gingerbread rendition of the Sheraton Moana Surfrider
Each year executive chef Rolf Bauer constructs a
gingerbread rendition of the Sheraton Moana Surfrider

There’s nothing better than watching Honolulu get ready for Christmas. The city is dressed so beautifully for the holidays that it doesn’t take more than a trolley ride downtown to get even those Scrooges among us into the spirit of sharing and giving.

If you’re in need of a prompt to get into the seasonal spirit this year, try a visit to a couple of island-style winter wonderlands. The Sheraton Moana Surfrider has always been one of my favorite places to visit during the holidays, not least because of the dedication of executive chef Rolf Bauer, who each year creates a gingerbread facsimile of the

Moana Surfrider, complete with snow, tiny wreaths, lights, rocking chairs and nutcracker statues on the lanai. The hotel sits within a model village made entirely from gingerbread. Bauer begins preparations in November when he builds Styrofoam dummies for all the houses in the village. Each house is then painted with chocolate - the “mortar” that keeps the gingerbread bricks together, and then decorated.

“The Moana Surfrider dummy is the only one we keep each year,” says Bauer. “It’s made from wood, but has to be rebuilt every year after the chocolate, gingerbread and icing have all been removed.” All of the other buildings, including cable cars, ski lifts, churches, train stations and houses, are built each year from scratch.

It’s painstaking work (the setup alone can take anywhere from 12 to 16 hours), but for Bauer and his helpers, the reward is in the faces of their guests. “It’s wonderful to see the smiles of the little, and the not-so-little, kids,” says Bauer.

You can visit the Sheraton Moana Surfrider anytime during the holidays, but if you really want to experience an exceptional Christmas treat, have afternoon tea on the veranda - if the sounds of Christmas at the Sheraton can’t get you in the holiday spirit, then nothing can.

At the Hale Koa Hotel, Cheryl Apo may not bake the decorations, but she puts as much love and passion into her annual displays as Chef Bauer does his gingerbread creations. The winter wonderland she creates each year is something that guests anxiously anticipate.

“We have people who plan their annual vacation around the time the decorations go up,” she says, “so we have to make sure we never disappoint.”

And the Hale Koa decorations are enjoyed by so many guests that many of them donate a toy or a trinket before they leave.

“I think that part of the fun for our guests is looking for their contribution each time they return,” says Cheryl.

And finally, the feel-good event of the season for me is the annual Miracle on Merchant Street, where Murphy’s Bar and Grill offers free food and trolley rides to anyone stopping by with a new, unwrapped toy. This heart-warming event is a benefit for Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House, and takes place this year on Dec. 13. For more information, call 531-0422.

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