After two months of work, Aria’s executive pastry chef Mathieu Lavallee and assistant pastry chef Andrea Madrid were in the home stretch on Thursday, putting “the final touches” on the Sugar Palace that serves as the centerpiece of the resort’s Winter Wonderland lobby display.
“My favorite part is putting it together, and seeing it come together in the end,” Madrid said. “Because some parts of it are a lot more of a ‘trust the process’ kind of thing. You don’t exactly know if it’s going to work yet.”
By Thursday, it was pretty obvious it was working. The blown sugar swans were perched festively atop the 15-foot structure’s pressed sugar tile roof. Pulled sugar flowers adorned walls of pressed sugar bricks. And a small army of five wooden nutcrackers twirled behind a window, showcasing miniature three-layer sugar cakes decorated with crystal sugar snowflakes.
“It’s probably 4,000 pounds (of sugar) total,” estimated Lavallee — noting it took about a ton, simply to create the three-inch-thick bricks of blue-tinted sugar arranged in a jigsaw pattern to form the palace’s front window. Other sweet touches include fondant door decorations, white meringue drops on the rooftop, and 400 pounds of fondant.
But how does it taste?
“It would taste sweet, it would taste like sugar,” Madrid laughs as she answers questions, before adding a caveat. “We don’t encourage people to come and taste the house.” .
Guests are able to enjoy the sweet taste of a hot chocolate, or perhaps a holiday cocktail, while they admire the now-complete palace from Aria’s Lobby Bar, just a few yards away. Or they can purchase a sugary holiday treat to take home. The Winter Wonderland retail area will be open Monday to Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. and Friday to Sunday from noon to 10 p.m., selling a rotating selection of seasonal sweets such as chocolate Santas, holiday lollipops, holiday cookies, candied oranges and almond stollen, prepared by Lavallee and his team.
The Winter Wonderland is on display through January 5.