February 8, 2012
Star attractionsCelebrities dabble in hospitality business
By DIANE SLAWYCH, QMI Agency
Many celebrities from the big screen, the concert stage and the sports arena have also entered the tourism-hospitality industries, opening bars or restaurants (such as Gretzky's in Toronto), amusement parks (Dolly Parton's Dollywood), or even starting airlines (Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airlines). Here are a few others worth checking out:
Rita's Tea Room - Big Pond, N.S.
On her tours in Canada and around the world, singer/songwriter Rita MacNeil would always invite her audience to drop by for tea if they were ever near her Cape Breton home in Big Pond, N.S. The response was so overwhelming, she decided to convert her home into the Tea Room. MacNeil bought the former one-room school house in the 1980s and lived in it with her family for several years.
Just last year, she moved back to a self contained apartment on the property for part of the year. Though the tea room is only open seasonally (from about June 1 to Oct. 15), manager Wade Langham says Rita can frequently be found there.
"In the coming weeks, her website will list specific dates/times when she is scheduled to be there for sure, though she does tend to pop in as well," he explained.
While here, sample Rita's Tea Room Blend -- the orange pekoe tea is the most popular beverage offered -- or choose from hot or iced flavoured teas (mint, lemon or strawberry.) All the sweets are homemade and baked onsite, including oatcakes, cinnamon rolls, tea biscuits, lemon pie, coconut pie and chocolate-pudding cake. Also popular are the "tea cup" desserts, featuring chocolate mousse or butterscotch pudding served in a china cup.
Several displays at the tea room showcase Rita's career, including a video presentation near the entrance. Photographs, family history, gold and platinum album awards, Junos, Country Music Awards, East Coast Music Awards, honorary doctorates, Order of Canada, a Gemini, and more can be seen throughout the building.
The Tea Room is also one of the stops on cruise ship excursions run by Atlantic Cruise Ship Services (between early May and the end of October).
Meantime, stay tuned for a new recording from the songstress, scheduled for release this year. For more, check ritamacneil.com and click on the Tea Room link.
Zoom restaurant - Park City, Utah
An award-winning actor and director -- and founder of the prestigious Sundance Film Festival -- Robert Redford is also the owner of Sundance Resort in Utah's Provo Canyon, and the celebrated Zoom restaurant in Park City.
The resort has a spectacular setting in the Uinta mountain range, and judging by accolades it has received, the rates, which start at about $200 in low season, are worth it. If that is beyond your budget. or you are just passing through the state, you can still stop at Redford's Zoom restaurant for a brush with celebrity.
Opened in 1995, Redford named it Zoom for the zoom lens of a camera -- fitting since Zoom is at the hub of the film fest. The restaurant's walls are adorned with photographs and posters from the festival and the Sundance Institute.
The best chance of seeing the actor here, I was told, is during the festival in late January (though that's also when you'll find the longest lineups). The menu is international in flavour with everything from ceviche and pulled-chicken-quesadilla starters, to potato gnocchi, mahi, and pomegranate-glazed pork tenderloin mains.
The Victorian-style building is notable for its history. Once a Union Pacific depot, it was built in 1886, six years after the railroad started train service to Park City. The main dining room still houses one of the scales used for weighing freight. When it was complete, the Park Record Newspaper said "the building is one of the finest in Park City, the design is modern tasteful and brilliant yellow paint adorns it on all sides."
The depot survived the devastating Park City fire of 1898 that destroyed much of the commercial district, but was badly damaged in an arson fire in 1985. It was restored to its former glory and is now listed on the U.S. national register of historic places. Check zoomparkcity.com or sundanceresort.com.
Coppola Winery - Sonoma County, Calif.
In between making movies, acclaimed filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola has always enjoyed indulging his passion for food, wine and adventure. For several years now, he's shared that passion with visitors to the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in the heart of California's Sonoma County. At the tasting bars, visitors can sample some of the 40 wines produced here or join a vineyard hike, one of many tours offered.
Allow time to explore the property because there's much more than vino to enjoy, including two restaurants (offering food and wine pairings) a full bar, a swimming pool, a movie gallery, a performing arts pavilion, and a park with games tables and bocce courts.
To create his wine wonderland, which reopened in July 2010 after major renovations, Coppola enlisted the talents of longtime friend and Oscar-winning production designer Dean Tavoularis, whom he first met on the set of The Godfather. Tavoularis' property design drew inspiration from Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen and other modern family oriented parks.
Coppola shares his most beloved dishes from his travels at "Rustic, Francis's Favorites," which serves everything from Argentinian-style grilled meats to authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas and traditional Italian family recipes using fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from the property's organic garden.
Tuesday nights feature a "tavola" concept. Meaning "to the table," this is an informal family style dining experience inspired by Coppola's favourite way of enjoying a meal: There are no menus, the chef prepares multiple courses, and once seated the dishes and wine begin to arrive. Guests are welcome to have as little or as much as you like, and only pay for what is consumed.
One of the winery's main attractions is the collection of authentic movie memorabilia on display. They include the original Tucker automobile from Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), Don Corleone's desk from The Godfather (1972), and Academy-award winning costumes from Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), and various items from the Vietnam war epic Apocalypse Now (1979). For more, check FrancisCoppolaWinery.com.