Not only do we love Christmas cookies (or any cookie for that matter), we especially love gingerbread. Our favorite gingerbread cookies are frosted with lemon icing. And who doesn’t love biting the heads off darling gingerbread men and women?
There is a long history to one of our favorite holiday foods as gingerbread’s history stretches back to the 15th century, with gingerbread houses originating in Germany around the 16th century. Gingerbread decorations were a thing. Today you can find recipes to make non-edible gingerbread ornaments to hang on your tree or in windows.
We are happy to report places you can see gingerbread houses baked and built right here. Plus, they have the bonus of holiday and winter activities, too. And because we cannot resist: Run, run as fast as you can, so you can catch that gingerbread man.
Niagara Community College Gingerbread Wonderland
Students and chefs of the baking and pastry arts program at the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute have been working for months planning and building the life-size gingerbread village that is a part of its Gingerbread Wonderland.
The colorful, edible masterpiece takes approximately 3,000 hours to complete. It features 1,200 pounds of gingerbread, 2,400 pounds of royal icing, 400 pounds of edible decorations and tiles, and 100 pounds of fondant. Last year’s creation was featured in Food & Wine’s list of 7 Magical Gingerbread Houses to See This Season.
NFCI also offers a variety of holiday-themed activities through Dec. 22. Visitors can expect live entertainment, face painting, cookie decorating, crafts and visits with Santa Claus. Hours are 5 to 8 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. A variety of smaller gingerbread houses, entries in the annual competition, will be on display from Dec. 5 to 10.
The college is located at 28 Old Falls St., Niagara Falls. Visit nfculinary.org for parking information. Old Falls Street will host its Jingle Falls USA holiday celebration Dec. 7 and 14, with a variety of events. Visit niagarafallsusa.com/jingle-falls-usa.
Hyatt Regency Buffalo
The Hyatt Regency Buffalo reports its elves (aka executive chef Jeffrey Armusik, pastry chef Umesh Rajput and their culinary team) have been hard at work creating a gingerbread village. It’s a tradition the Hyatt has been doing for more than 20 years. In the past, the Hyatt has relied on local bakeries to create the village, but this year the staff will build the gingerbread structures.
“We are doing our own gingerbread village this year. Our amazing team is creating a true tribute to Buffalo that will showcase some of our great historical landmarks,” said Julie Bumgarner, director of events at the Hyatt.
The village will be located in the lobby where you can grab a hot chocolate at Starbucks or a holiday cocktail at the bar.
The Buffalo Hyatt is at 2 Fountain Plaza just steps away from Buffalo’s Rotary Rink with free ice skating (skate rental is $2 for children; $3 for adults). Skating hours are from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday. Find extended holiday hours online at the Buffalo Place site.
Salvatore’s Gift Shop
The holiday decorations at Salvatore’s (6461 Transit Road) have long been wonderfully over-the-top. Gingerbread is used to create a gingerbread house exterior for the in-house gift shop.
Russell Salvatore Jr. tells us the staff spends two to three weeks to bake 70 sheet trays of gingerbread that are affixed to the front of the structure, which takes two days to decorate with real icing.
Salvatore's Holiday Brunch With Santa continues Dec. 8, 15 and 22, with reservations beginning at 10 a.m. Cost is $35 per person, $22 ages 5-12 and $15 ages 3 and 4; no cost for kids younger than 2. The Big Guy will be available for photos and will be taking gift requests.
Salvatore’s opens for lunch during the holiday season, It is served starting at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, through Dec. 27. Seating is available at the bar for those who have been extra bad. For reservations, call 635-9000 or visit salvatoreshospitality.com.