It loomed large in front of us, in the early evening darkness, lit up like an ocean liner with the promise of warmth and magic inside.
We made our first visit to the new White Point Lodge last week. The resort held an open house on Friday, but newspaper deadlines being what they are, we had to get there two days early.
Everyone on the South Shore remembers what they were doing when they heard the news a year ago that the lodge was on fire. It had been such a part of our lives for so long; as a family we had booked stays there at different points in our children's lives, we often went to special events and meals, and as an employee I attended a variety of conferences there over the years. One organization with which I am involved, the South Shore Public Libraries, hosted provincial conferences at White Point, the most recent being in the fall of 2010.
As people stared glumly at the scene or at photographs of the ashes the next morning, the question on their minds was whether the lodge would be rebuilt. Clearly, it would. The owner, Robert Risley, mobilized his staff, hired architects and contractors and recreated the lodge in what seemed like record time. The lodge burned on November 12 of last year and on November 11 of this year the new lodge hosted the closing ceremonies of Nova Scotia Music Week.
And what a lodge it is.
The moment we walked inside we were captivated. There have been many descriptions in the press of what the new lodge looks like, but allow me to say that you must see it for yourself. The design works. It reflects the old lodge but is absolutely new, with wide open spaces and lots of fragrant local wood, lovingly put together by local craftsmen and contractors.
The main lobby area, containing the bar, lounge and reception desk, soars to the height of the building, yet manages to feel cosy and intimate. Large windows overlook the sea. The focal point is a huge fireplace, beautifully crafted from beach stones, and if you look carefully at them you will see that a few of the stones have messages etched in them.
Beside the fireplace are iron cages containing dry firewood, reaching up to the top of the chimney. The question is how do they get the firewood down so that it can be used? Everybody asks that, I was told, and I am not going to tell you the answer. You will have to ask for yourself.
The lodge is decorated for Christmas these days and is a credit to the staff. Everything is soft and tasteful, nothing gaudy. Even the many cabins have wreaths, and Christmas greenery in the flower boxes. We settled down in soft chairs with drinks before the fireplace, the fire crackling and the lights twinkling in the room. It was truly magical, a place you want to come back to time and again.
The dining room opens off the main lounge and can be seen from either side of the bar. We dined with friends from Lockeport, Leo and Sonja Fourdraine. Chef Alan Crosby, who worked during the rebuilding period taking care of supply interruptions after the fire and then in setting up the new kitchens, showed off his culinary talents, about which I have written before.
Sheila chose the Meadow Brook long bone pork chop, served with honeyed thyme jus and spiced pear jam; Leo had the blue crab crusted haddock, with parmesan, herbed bread crumbs, olive oil and cream; and Sonja had pot roast, braised for four hours, served with rosemary, bacon, tomato, garlic, roasted carrots and shallots, so large a portion that she had to take most of it home. The other dishes had servings of vegetables, including superior mashed potatoes and sugar peas.
I had the fisherman's soup. Understand that this is not just a bowl of soup, but a cauldron of scallops, shrimp and mussels in a lobster broth, and topped with a half lobster cut open so that the succulent pieces could be retrieved with ease (the claw required a little more work, with tools provided). Bread and vegetables were alongside.
To go with the meal, we had Leon Millot, made by Jost, a red wine which is described by the NSLC as being similar to a merlot. Leon Millot is a French grape grown in British Columbia and Nova Scotia and makes a very nice sipping wine; producers here include Jost and Domaine de Grand Pre, using grapes grown at the Pete Luckett vineyard in the Gaspereau Valley.
Everyone we talked to was enthusiastic about the reborn White Point, from Tiffany behind the desk to Rike, our waitress. In fact, most of the staff has returned to work at the new lodge. We toured the new pool, hot tub, sauna and entertainment area down below and were happy to see a special area set off just for children. The conference rooms are attractive, as is the gift shop. Tiffany told us that there will be two rooms in the lodge which can be booked, designed for those who find it difficult to get to the many newly-renovated cabins or to the modern accommodations on the grounds.
Hats off to Robert Risley and the loyal White Point workers who made this happen. Already it is impossible to get seats at the annual New Year's brunch; White Point will serve over six hundred diners at that event alone. It is truly a Queens County jewel.
- Tom Sheppard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org