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Ocean House firing up off-season offerings

Posted by Paul Kandarian  November 10, 2010 09:03 AM

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There's not a lot going on in Watch Hill, R.I., these cold fall days. The seaside community that bustles in summer pretty much rolls up the sidewalks when the leaves fly and the snow threatens to fall.

That's not true at Ocean House, a giant upscale resort hotel that twinkles in the night high on a hill amid palatial summer homes dormant and dark this time of year. Ocean House reopened in summer, a $140 million structure that replaces the original Ocean House, a grand Victorian that opened in 1868 and ruled the resort roost here for more than a century.

Ocean House has a couple of holiday offerings coming up. Thanksgiving Day they're serving a buffet lunch in the Seaside Ballroom or Drawing Room, with live music, at a cost of $55 per adult and $30 per child. A full, five-course Thanksgiving Dinner in Seasons Restaurant will also be held that day. The menu created by Chef Eric Haugen does up such things as Rhode Island honey-glazed celery root panna cotta and sautéed Connecticut bombster scallops. Dinner runs $75 per person.

On Nov. 26, the hotel will be fully decorated for Christmas, and they're doing hayrides for guests throughout the weekend, with a cabaret performance by Marion Markham that night at 9 p.m. Ocean House is hosting a Holiday Trunk Show that weekend as well, and that Saturday night will fire up a giant Christmas tree on the front lawn.

From Dec. 15-26, Ocean House will hold the "Twelve Days of Christmas," including daily activities for guests including ornament making, cookie decorating, and an egg nog recipe contest. On Christmas Eve, a five-course dinner will be served at $75 per person.

Ocean House has enjoyed its resurgence, hotel officials said, running at nearly full capacity throughout its inaugural summer season. The resort had shut down in 2003; in 2004, Bluff Avenue LLC tore down the ancient building and in its place now stands one looking very much like the old one, including its yellow exterior. The original had 159 rooms; there are now 49 rooms, and 23 private residences, the latter fetching prices starting at $1.5 million.

The new owners paid homage to the old Ocean House; more than 5,000 salvageable artifacts and furnishing elements were harvested from the original structure and many of them - including a massive, 12-foot antique mirror - now grace the new building. The elevator is the original, too, iron grating, wood paneling and all, expanded to make it more roomy. The front desk and front door from the original are here as well.

We stayed one fall midweek night and found the place stunningly appointed with amazing attention paid to guests. The rooms are gorgeous; all have water views. Ours had a marble bath with black-and-white heptagonal floor tiling, and a bedroom area that opens to a spacious balcony with lounge chairs and 180-degree water views, including of Stonington, Conn., across Little Narragansett Bay. Early risers can amble to the balcony and check out surf fishermen on the beach. A nice touch: The floor valet brings in the day's paper of your choice and French press coffee.

Seasons Restaurant, open to the public, is terrifically appointed, created by the Niemitz Design Group of Boston, and features such things as a 15-foot-long communal dining couch with three small tables. Menu items carry the origin of each dish's main ingredient and virtually all food is from within a 150-mile radius, from places like Cavendish Farms in Vermont and Wolfe's Neck Farm in Maine. In summer, the chefs harvest their own seasonings from an on-site herb garden.

Go this time of year and you won't get a tan, but you will save money; rates start at $260 per night, as opposed to peak season rates starting at $485.

For more information, visit www.oceanhouseri.com.

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