If you want something bigger than a sugarplum to dance in your head this time of year, behold the fondant-coated fantasy that sits in the lobby of the Park Hyatt Aviara outside San Diego: a 9-foot-tall chocolate Christmas tree.
The display has just gone up at the 327-room resort, set on 200 acres in Carlsbad (a short drive from both LEGOLAND California and Carlsbad beaches). Planted atop Santa’s gingerbread workshop, the 9-foot tree was made from 90 pounds of chocolate, 20 pounds of isomalt (the beet sugar often used in candy sculptures), 30 pounds of rice treats, 15 pounds of marshmallows, and a whopping 200 pounds of fondant.
Indeed, it dwarfs last year’s 250-pound chocolate train created for the lobby. This year, Executive Pastry Chef Christophe Rull says that he and his team (who recently won the Food Network’s Halloween Wars as Team Ghoul’d) designed the display as a chocolatey optical illusion: It looks like “just” a giant candy tree from afar, but as you get closer, you can see a candy-fied St. Nick and his elves loading up their (also chocolate) sleigh.
Just don’t get too close—and that raises a question. How does one protect such a tempting edible masterpiece from—well, from being eaten? “It’s hard,” admits Rull, who talked with us as he and his team were first constructing the tree. “Last year we put a clear globe around the train, and this year”—he demonstrates by leaning and stretching out his arm—“we’ll have a nice little fence.”
To get hands-on with sanctioned edible art, take one of gingerbread classes taught by the hotel’s pastry team on select dates in December. The Aviara’s holiday festivities also include themed wreaths and trees throughout the hotel, family-friendly Teddy Bear Teas in the Park Lounge, and complimentary roasted chestnuts, made fresh in a cast-iron pan, from December 20–24.
The tree will be up in the Park Hyatt Aviara’s lobby until early January.