Decorate Gingerbread Cookies At Lou's This WeekendDec 03, 2019 12:34PM ● By Virginia Dean
The cookies are free and decorating begins on December 6th immediately following the tree lighting at 5 p.m. on the Dartmouth Green and until supplies run out, restaurant owner Jarett Berke said.
Soft and chewy, sweet in flavor, these chestnut-colored men come to life with the addition of peppermint candy, mints, a small container of Royal icing, skittles, Swedish fish, Tootsie rolls, sprinkles, M&Ms, and hard candy, among other candies given out in individual bags.
“We put out about 5-600 cookies along our counter,” said Berke. “Each child is given one to decorate at our tables and then take home. It’s a wonderful tradition that we have here.”
The smell, the shapes, the tastes of these baked goods – not to mention their personalities with their frosting trim and hairstyles – quickly capture the hearts of the children who assuredly believe that the only thing better than decorating them is eating them.
All sorts of gingerbread men are created in the short time span of the day including hair and/or beards with thick white icing, red and white hearts on their cheeks or as buttons down their front, dark chocolate chip eyes, green and red sprinkles to create festive patterns on their bodies – all adding to the traditional recipe of molasses, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
Because the event has been historically so popular, children line up outside the restaurant and are asked to come into the restaurant only when seats are available at the decorated tables.
“The goal is to do this as efficiently as possible,” said Lou’s baker, Jaime Reyes. “The children have a wonderful time.”
Gingerbread houses and their elaborate cookie-walled houses originated in Germany during the 16th century and became associated with the Christmas tradition, Reyes noted.
In addition to children making and eating them, Lou’s gingerbread cookies have also made popular Christmas stocking stuffers, as noted by former restaurant owner Pattie Fried who, along with her husband, Toby, retired two years ago and sold the restaurant to Berke and his wife, Cailin, a young Hanover couple with three children who moved to the Upper Valley in 2015 when Jarett enrolled at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.
Berke has attempted to keep the restaurant “exactly as it (has been)” along with its 35-person staff and the 16-seat counter and 74 seats in the dining room.
Berke is a former U.S. Marine Corps captain and helicopter pilot who flew missions in Afghanistan. He graduated from Tuck in 2017 and then worked as vice president of growth at Bionic Advertising Systems, a Hanover company that develops management software for advertising.
The company is located across the street from Lou’s, and Berke found himself heading over to imbibe in its delicious eatables, including his favorite, The Big Green, with cruller French toast.
With a family background in manufacturing and restaurants, Berke bought the business with the goal of preserving the legacy that the Fried’s during their 30-year tenure.
Maintaining its reputation as a popular meeting place in the center of town, Lou’s uses local farms and food producers who supply the restaurant. It also offers an assortment of baked goods including pies, cakes, muffins, donuts, cheesecakes and pastries – all homemade.
“During the Christmas season, we make several German/Austrian specials including Stolen, Linzer, Yule Logs, and Christmas cookies,” said Berke. “We’re already taking Christmas orders and plan to do several hundred of them.”
Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that the holiday season will be celebrated with children waiting to get into the restaurant that will offer them a small army of gingerbread men guaranteed to put a smile on the faces of all who receive them.
“Lou’s has been inviting children to come decorate gingerbread cookies for many years as a community event,” said Berke. “Each year, hundreds of children get a chance to escape the cold December night to have a little fun, decorate like one of our skilled bakers, and create their own special treat. “Everyone is invited as long as they bring some holiday spirit!”