UNION — Sweetgrass Farm Winery and Distillery had a sweet idea this year: Invite the public and students from the Midcoast School of Technology culinary department to create a gingerbread house; put it on display. Invite the public for cocktails and vote for the best one.
Throughout the weekend, December 9 and 10, as holiday shoppers drifted through the tasting room, enjoying cranberry gin and Bixby Bar drinking chocolate with rum, one gingerbread creation stood out, drawing the most votes.
Rachel Nichols, a full time artist from Newcastle, won $500 for her elaborate rendition of the Rockland Breakwater. Having moved to Maine from California a year ago, she has walked the Breakwater many times. It took her nearly three weeks to assemble the entire piece.
“I went through so many batches of gingerbread,” she admitted.
The detail of her culinary artwork has to be seen up close to be appreciated. The granite “blocks” are made from caramel. The shingles of the lighthouse are something out of the game, Candyland. The raging surf was created from three layers of frosting and sprinkles. But, the real wonder is in the back of the house attached to the lighthouse. Deep inside the house, Nichols created a miniature candy Christmas scene within a scene with Santa, a tree, presents, and even a tiny clock on a peppermint made from edible ink.
“I always loved to make little doll houses when I was a kid,” she said. “This was the most fun part of creating this gingerbread house. If you look at it through the side window, you’ll see a candy fireplace with flames and little coals out of jellybeans. I love creating little details like that.”
The $500 prize is a big boost to help Nichols with her Christmas shopping. “That, and more art supplies,” she said. Nichols is currently working on finding a temporary home for the gingerbread house to be on display for the rest of the season.
The student winner of the contest had just as creative an idea. When Thomas A. Akselsen put together his gingerbread house, unfortunate circumstances caused it to collapse. So, he made the most of the disaster by turning it into a candy crime scene—winning the popular vote.
Constance Bodine, co-owner of Sweetgrass Farm Winery & Distillery said: “This is the first year we’ve done this and people loved it. None of the participants were professional bakers, but we had a lot of creative entries. And proceeds from our specialty cocktails benefit the MCST culinary program.”
Rounding out the event, Appleton Creamery offered samples of chèvre in olive oil; Bixby Bars had samples of candy bars and drinking chocolate and Sugar Spell Sweets offered mini bites of cookies, candies, and treats.
For more information on Rachel Nichols visit: rayfaithnichols.wixsite.com/artist
For more information about Sweetgrass Farm visit: sweetgrasswinery.com
For more information about the Midcoast School of technology visit: midcoast.mainecte.org
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org