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Give thanks for food 

Let someone else do the cooking for this holiday

In my home, Thanksgiving is a joyous celebration of all we have to be grateful for as Americans. I love gathering with family and good friends, sharing all the things we love to eat and drink, and saying diets be damned.

click to enlarge BIRD IS THE WORD :  Jose Dahan (left) and sous chef Jason Chenaux (right) of Et Voila were already preparing for Thanksgiving on Nov. 13 when a load of turkeys arrived at the restaurant. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • BIRD IS THE WORD : Jose Dahan (left) and sous chef Jason Chenaux (right) of Et Voila were already preparing for Thanksgiving on Nov. 13 when a load of turkeys arrived at the restaurant.

# All the same, the preparation of the grand feast always stresses me out. I plan a dinner based on my fondest memories: my grandmother's perfectly roasted and stuffed turkey, my mother's delectable orange bow knots (wonderful yeasty little rolls drizzled with a slightly sweet orange glaze), Aunt Peggy's ambrosia fruit salad, and Cousin Shirley's pumpkin pie. Therein lies the problem: I'm trying to recreate a fabulous feast on my own that was put together by a crew of good cooks every year.

I know I'm hardly alone in this predicament, which is the reason so many Americans prefer dining out on Thanksgiving. Most of us who cook try to do way too much, and some even dare to experiment--now that's crazy. So why not take the burden away by ordering your Thanksgiving meal from a chef, or at least lighten the load by ordering the side dishes and/or dessert. If even that's too much, one of the most popular restaurants in SLO is well known for satisfying all of its guests.

After speaking with two local chefs who can help, I've discovered that you can lay out your table with an excellent meal that's stress-free, thanks to their superb foods available at prices that won't bust your holiday budget. Chef Maegen Loring of The Park Restaurant and chef Jose Dahan of Et Voila, both in SLO, earn high praise for their catering services. As usual, both chefs are offering gourmet Thanksgiving treats that are sure to impress your pickiest guests.

At The Park Restaurant, chef Loring offers a wide array of house-made side dishes and desserts--available individually--that you'll want on your table whether you have help in the kitchen or not. Savory choices include vegetarian stuffing with quince, fennel, and marjoram red cabbage salad with Stilton cheese, walnuts, and warm apple dressing frisee salad with roasted beets and pecan-crusted goat cheese with horseradish vinaigrette maple carrot mousse hard cider and sage gravy Yukon gold potatoes mashed with celery root green beans with Fuyu persimmons and cranberry and Meyer lemon relish. Dessert choices are brandied apple and dried plum tart, or chocolate souffle torte. Prices range from $9 to $35 (the latter for a full-sized torte). Ideally, you should order a week ahead, and orders must be picked up on Wednesday, Nov. 21. Call The Park at 545-0000.

At Et Voila, chef Jose Dahan is creating the entire dinner. You'll pick up your order on Thanksgiving morning between 8 a.m. and noon. The chef's traditional meal--with everything homemade--only requires some reheating with simple instructions he provides. Dinner includes an 18-pound freshly roasted turkey mashed potatoes and gravy sausage, pecan, and Brussels sprout stuffing made with his house-made bread (vegetarian option available) green beans cranberry sauce French rolls and fresh pumpkin pie. The complete price with tax is $118.52, which must be paid when ordering. The deadline to order is Nov. 17. Call Jean at 602-9040.

Another good choice this year is SLO newcomer Cena, owned by Kim Colvin. Open just three months, Cena invites locals to put together a great meal in the shop's professional kitchen or leave the work to Colvin and her team. Either way, you'll take home delicious sides and a dessert to treat your family and guests. Their enticing dishes include homemade turkey gravy mashed potatoes yams with marshmallow cream butter sausage stuffing green beans with garlic oil drizzle French baguette with parmesan butter Cena's signature organic coffee and cream cheese apple crisp. The entire Thanksgiving menu is available by half-orders (which serve four to six people for $55) and full orders (which serve eight to 10 people for $90). The ordering deadline is Nov. 17, and the food must be picked up on Nov. 21. Call 547-2060.

As an added attraction, Colvin partnered with Monterey St. Wine Co. The wine shop's co-owner John Stipicevich provided a choice of three wine selections perfectly matched for the foods prepared at Cena: Trou de Bonde 2006 Pinot Blanc Santa Barbara County, Humanitas Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles, and Lucien Albrecht Cremant d' Alsace Brut Rose.

"I chose a white, red, and sparkling wine because these wines really interact well with all of the dishes," Stipicevich explained. "When you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, everybody's taste is a little bit different. I chose these wines for their versatility."

The wine-savvy Stipicevich carries a vast array of wines so he can help find the ideal selection for a Thanksgiving meal no matter what the main course.

"Champagne is one of the things people tend to miss. Sparkling wine is great as an aperitif, and it's delicious with the meal. People don't realize it has a great affinity for food," he said. "You can find a very, very good sparkling wine, and it doesn't have to be from Champagne, France." Call Monterey St. Wine Co. at 541-1255.

With these great local chefs doing the work for you, you can finally relax during the holiday feast. Of course, if you still can't bear the thought of cleaning up the mess, bundle up the family and treat them to a festive celebration at the popular Apple Farm. The menu is limited to three holiday specials from noon to 9:30 p.m., and the choices are strictly traditional: roast turkey and dressing with cranberry sauce prime rib of beef with creamed horseradish sauce and honey-glazed ham with honey mustard sauce. Everything for the meal is house-made, including an array of sides provided with each entree choice: split pea and ham soup or dinner salad mashed potatoes or roasted yams freshly baked cornbread with honey butter seasonal vegetables a slice of one of their numerous and decadent homemade pies and a non-alcoholic beverage. Dinner is priced at $30.95 per adult, $14.95 per child aged 12 and under.

"We want people to feel they got their money's worth. Just like cooking at home, there's plenty of food, so you'll have leftovers to enjoy the next day," said food and beverage director Michael Langlois, who recommends the Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, or the Cabernet Sauvignons they stock from Eberle and Tobin James wineries. "Here you can enjoy the dinner with no fuss and no mess. Just sit down, relax with your guests, and enjoy the meal."

Contact New Times' Cuisine columnist at khardesty@newtimesslo.com.

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