Every year, the little town of Odessa brings a picture book to life in one of the beautiful homes belonging to the Historic Odessa Foundation. In 2016, it is the magical tale of the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. As I’ve always loved this story, I decided to take a pre-Christmas drive to see it in person.
The town was be quite charming, with most the houses beautifully decorated for the season. I found the current location of the docents and admission site (There was a major party happening in the usual headquarters for the foundation.) and paid my $8 admission. I was thinking I’d be getting a self-guided tour, so discovering the tour is actually with a docent and an hour long was a pleasant surprise. I offered to wait for more people to join us, but she was happy to take me on an individual tour.
The docent was really knowledgeable and justly proud of the lovely buildings belonging to the foundation. As she told the story of the Nutcracker, she threw in some interesting facts about German Christmas traditions and the history of the home the exhibits were in. My favorite? Well to do German families traditionally started Christmas Eve supper with soup and ended with nuts, which is where the phrase ‘soup to nuts’ comes from.
The story ended in little Marie’s bedroom, where there were a number of fun things to look at. The room was created around the Nutcracker ballet theme. The story for the ballet sometimes calls the little girl Clara, but in the book, her name is Marie.
Once the nutcracker story was finished and I took some time to admire the collection of 160 nutcrackers, we went next door and toured the picture book themed Christmas trees. It was really fun to see the creativity of the families and organizations that decorated them!
Lunch in Odessa – Cantwell’s Tavern
While I was in town, I decided to try Cantwell’s Tavern for lunch. The tavern is in one of the foundation’s homes and is a beautiful place. I opted for a side of Rootbeer Glazed Pork Belly, a Blackened Salmon BLT and Apple Pie Crostata with ice cream.
The pork belly was a definite winner. The dish was nicely balanced, with the sweet of the pork perfectly offset by the cabbage. The puree was outstanding – sweet and smooth.
After the perfection of the appetizer, the Salmon BLT was a bit of a letdown. It was not a bad sandwich by any means, though. Just a bit lacking in comparison to the pork dish. The tomato, mayo and slightly over-browned toast overwhelmed the flavors of the bacon and salmon a bit, but they did serve to temper the spiciness of the salmon and saltiness of the bacon. The fries that came with the sandwich were nice and crisp.
The pastry was just a touch tough, but the apple filling and ice cream were excellent. Overall, it was a very nice finish to the meal.
While the pork belly was delicious and would definitely have me coming back to Cantwell’s again, the lovely ambiance and stellar service was what moved this restaurant into my best meals ever list. The staff was pretty much slammed with constant turnover of the tables, office parties and several catered events, but you’d never know that from the service. The waitress was exceptionally friendly and attentive to all her tables, including mine and the host and hostess working the front entry were very welcoming.