Fortunately at Deerhurst Resort in Muskoka, Ontario, you can indulge in a true Canadian experience.
Driving up one Friday afternoon from Toronto, I feared my well planned weekend of taking advantage of "Old Man Winter" would not be possible there was no snow at all in the GTA. (Greater Toronto Area). Deerhurst is located approximately 2.5 hours from Toronto and I was about 30 minutes away. Then suddenly within a turn or two I literally drove into a winter wonderland. It was like I had driven into a secret world around the corner and over the rainbow. Before me was a beautiful landscape of rolling hills, wooded terrain and an incredible partially frozen lake, and situated right in the middle of it all was Deerhurst Resort. My weekend was begging to begin.
Silently, I was welcomed by the large entrance way, gushing fountain and beautiful ice sculptures of a sleigh and the Deerhurst crest, all located outside the main building referred to as the Pavilion. My feet could not move fast enough as I lugged my baggage (although the resort's bellman did offer help) through the front doors to check-in. I was greeted a number of times with warm smiles and polite demeanor. Before going to my room, I thought I would steal a moment and sit in front of the warming and relaxing lobby fireplace.
Listening to the swoosh of the revolving door without fail was accompanied by a cool, crisp breeze, reminding me that outside was still winter. Guests included a mixture of families, couples, and business people queuing to check-in.
I was awed by the expansive three-story lobby. The hearth's surroundings was elegant spaciousness, yet intimate and cozy. The double-sided gas fireplace was grand and majestical, draped in garland and decorations. Above was an elaborate wrought iron chandelier, glowing ambient. The warm tones of burnt red and forest green couches invited me with comfort and I sunk deeply into the stacked, patterned pillows. Huge stony pillers, large area rugs on a slate floor, and a reindeer motif, were the perfect combinations, capturing the natural outdoors setting indoors. I listened to the voices hum, ringing phones, and soft music and clinking glasses from the nearby lounge what a great spot to relax after dinner, I thought.
Although the cross-country ski trail looked fabulous at Deerhurst, the resort allowed us to take skis off-site to the nearby Arrow Head Conservation Area. We cross-country skied 4km through snow-covered, wooded surroundings that nature spread before us like a linen tablecloth for a magnificent banquet. We skied across incredible park lookout points, discovering a hidden waterfall. It was beautful. Peacful. Quiet. So quiet that we heard the sound of the falls long after. we schussed in another direction.
Later, after a well deserved àpres skiing soak in the whirlpool (and then a nap!) the two of us felt invigorated, refreshed, ready for dinner. There are three restaurants at Deerhurst: Steamers (cozy log cabin-style steak house, open for dinner); the Pub (casual pub atmosphere with a view of the grounds); and Eclipse, the newest restaurant, and site of our feast. (Open for breakfast and dinner.) On the way to Eclipse we passed an art gallery filled with pieces from Canadian artists. Of course, most of the paintings and sculptures were nature inspired.
Our waiter, Johnny. was helpful with menu suggestions. For starters, I enjoyed the smoked Atlantic Salmon, dressed with tasty dill sauce. It was a hard decision between the Herb Crusted Ontario Lamb Chops, or the Filet Mignon (Alberta Beef Tenderloin brushed with White Wine Mustard). I was swayed by Johnny to go for the authentic, provincial steak. Delicious Merlot Sauce and Beet Horseradish garnished my tender filet, flamed to perfection. My tastebuds were ecstatic with the correct decision. To compliment our meal we ordered a bottle of 1998 Beringer Merlot (again on the wise tip from our waiter). Outside, the snow fell light and soft, a fitting romantic addition to our wintery Ontario evening. To view the entire evening menu of the Eclipse, CLICK HERE.
The resort's Food and Beverage Manager, Hans Becker, came by and informed us of the vast Deerhurst wine cellar selection, an international collection of three hundred and eleven vintages. There is a fabulous pressing of Ontario wines, including Thirty Bench, a 1998 Niagara Peninsula Merlot reserve. Deerhurst's list has won the 'Award of Excellence' for two consecutive years from the "Wine Spectator". .
And what is a wonderful evening without my favourite part of any dinner? The served dessert? light and fluffy Strawberry Shortcake, topped with whipped cream and sliced, fresh strawberries. My compliments to Rory Gloden, the resort's Executive Chef of the five kitchens, and a staff of 50. Rory not only creates the fabulous menus, but encourages his staff's participation, welcoming their thoughts and ideas. Rory is also the accomplished sculpturer of ice that I admired on arrival.
SING, A Musical Odyssey
After dinner, a dinner never to be 'Eclipsed', we rushed to catch the shuttle bus for the resort's live entertainment at the lodge. The show, Sing: A Musical Odyssey, has delighted guests for nearly two decades with a musical tribute to some of the most popular songs and performers of the past five decades. Eager guests piled into the theatre. I learned that Shania Twain had performed in the Deerburst stage show from 1988-1990 She ventures back about once a year to see the latest production.
The show runs nightly year around, Tuesday through Friday, with two shows on Saturday. During July and August, "Sing" adds a Monday night show. To include "Sing" in your accommodation package, take advantage of Deerhurst Resort's Great Escape Package. Single show tickets are CND$32.95 per person and half price for children under 12.
Thinking back to my action-packed weekend, I was sad to see it end. I will return to Deerhurst next year to again indulge in the warm hospitality and the spectacular winter season. Now, when asked by non-Canadians if I have ever mushed, I have a Far North story to share about the delightful Deerhurst Resort.
By Joanna Niebler, Toronto Correspondent.