The Thanksgiving Feast
A Bay Weekly Annual
The Tearman clan will be dining out this Thanksgiving, and writer Margaret, left, back, won’t be eating turkey.
This year the cook’s gone out to dinner;
You can eat turkey,
but she won’t
by Margaret Tearman, Bay Weekly Staff Writer
Meleagris gallopavo. Gobbler. Tom. By whatever name, it is still a turkey.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I come face to face with another Year of the Bird. Over my lifetime, I have roasted at least 30 turkeys. I’ve spent another 30 weeks coming up with edible ways to use the perennial leftovers. A turkey smoothie was one of the more memorable disasters.
No more. I have declared my house a poultry-free zone.
My family is outraged. How can you even think of Thanksgiving without turkey? It is downright sacrilege.
But there must be hundreds of tantalizing options. Delicious alternatives never before considered.
So my Thanksgiving thoughts turn away from the tired old recipes for candied yams and bread stuffing. I am yearning to go where none in my family dared go before. We are a family of food lovers. So why must we limit ourselves to the same old same old on the mother of all food holidays?
In my quest for another way, I’m taking it a step further. I will ban more than turkey; I will can all the fuss and muss. We will dine out.
With all of the restaurants in Bay Country, I should have no problem finding one serving an exotic and unexpected menu on November 22. I imagine a table laden with steaming dishes spiced with curry. I dream of platters of sashimi and sushi. I smack my lips over succulent pork verde and warm tortillas with the obligatory margarita on the side.
Blasphemy, shouts my family. I am a traitor, un-American.
Change is good, I argue, and charge ahead.
Chef James Barrett looks forward to serving his first Thanksgiving dinner at the new Azure restaurant at the Westin Hotel in Annapolis.
Turkey on Linen
Thanksgiving dinner ranks as an occasion on which you can feast in your finest clothes while remembering which fork is used for what and hoping for a payoff from the hours spent teaching the kids to sit still and use inside their voices.
I found several restaurants polishing their silver in anticipation of guests expecting the finest turkey or not.
At Annapolis newcomer Azure’s first Thanksgiving dinner in the Westin hotel, chef James Barrett looks forward to serving his Thanksgiving feast of roasted free-range turkey, oyster and cornbread stuffing, traditional herb stuffing, stuffed country ham, asparagus with caramelized shallots, sweet potato brulee and Brussels sprouts braised in bacon and cider. But he can’t resist gilding the tradition with prime rib and Kurobuta pork, the pig equivalent of Kobe beef. For groups of seven or more, dinner is served family style in the ballroom. Smaller gatherings will feast in the Zen-inspired dining room. Guests of Azure won’t leave empty handed: Chef Barrett promises a surprise at the end of the meal.
At the charming supper club of West Annapolis, Northwoods owner and chef Russell Brown is cooking Thanksgiving, offering his regular a la carte dinner menu with a holiday addition: turkey dinner. “It will be prepared in the traditional way,” promises Brown. “Nothing outlandish.” As in the past, he expects about 40 percent of Thanksgiving diners will order turkey; the majority will choose from the regular menu, with entrees that include veal, seared duckling, seafood, and Idaho trout.
The Breeze at Loews Annapolis plans an elegant three-course meal in its chic contemporary dining room. Thanksgiving diners choose from four entrees: mahi-mahi, crusted filet of beef, grilled duck breast, or, of course, turkey. Don’t expect any nouveau twists on the traditional bird: It will be seasoned, roasted and served the old-fashioned way.
With a wall of windows overlooking Spa Creek and a lounge glowing with a blazing fireplace, Chart House makes it easy to go slow and enjoy every bite from its regular menu with turkey-free entrees like Chilean sea bass, snapper, yellow-fin ahi, stuffed shrimp, prime rib and filet mignon. But for Thanksgiving purists, the Chart House promises traditional turkey dinner with all the expected trimmings.
Rockfish in Eastport serves a Thanksgiving buffet featuring traditional fare as well as some of its signature dishes, including rockfish filet stuffed with crab, fresh oysters and chilled shrimp.
Turkey, No Jacket Required
For 21st century Thanksgiving dinners, you don’t need to get dressed up, and I don’t plan to. My heart is set on comfortable holiday dining. Still searching for the elusive turkey-free menu, I checked in with my usual ethnic haunts, for we are a thankful nation of many tribes.
Jalapeños and Chevy’s Fresh Mex in Parole, Jalapeños’ new sister Mojitos in Mayo, Mexican Café in Annapolis and Huntingtown’s Mexico all will be closed on Thanksgiving. As a manager at Chevy’s patiently explained to me, Thanksgiving is for turkey, and neither Tex-Mex nor traditional Mexican recipes call for turkey. That means no turkey enchiladas, burritos or chimichangas. Darn.
I thought about giving thanks over sushi, but both Joss and Tsunami said about the same thing: No turkey sashimi, thus averting a regional outbreak of Thanksgiving e-coli.
At Double T Diner in Pasadena and Annapolis, I struck gold with unusual alternatives to turkey and gravy: scrapple, challah bread French toast, braunschweiger, sardine sandwich, Romanian steak, meatloaf, Greek spinach pie. But for the traditionalists, Double T serves a holiday special: roast turkey and all the usual suspects on the side. If savoring sardines or chopped liver tempts you, plan on eating early: Double T will close at 3pm to give the staff time to go home and eat turkey.
Our choices for giving thanks over exotic fare are limited, but we can still be comfortably thankful.
Lil’ Jay’s in Chesapeake Beach has just opened its doors in the former premises of Vic’s Italia by the Bay and is keeping them open Thanksgiving Day. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner has traditionally been women’s work, and here three generations of Hunt family women are cooking the feast in their new kitchen. The special holiday menu has, in addition to turkey, three choices from the new menu: pork chops, pancetta-wrapped filet mignon and baked salmon in addition to a traditionally roasted turkey.
Three generations of Hunt women will be cooking Thansgiving dinner at the newly opened Lil’ Jay’s in Chesapeake Beach.
Turkey, Turkey and More Turkey
Images of the first Thanksgiving dinner shared by the pilgrims and their new Native American neighbors often depict long tables laden with food. I think of that first Thanksgiving as the original American buffet: Vast amounts of food the first time around. And the second time. And the third.
This holiday, there’s a bounty of buffets to choose from, each with plenty of turkey alternatives.
If holiday attire means clean jeans for you, as well as for me, Happy Harbor fits the bill. The local favorite has been docked in Deale for 74 years, serving up wholesome food without pretense. Thanksgiving dinner lives up to the Happy tradition with honey-glazed ham, good ol’ roast turkey, Waldorf salad and more including, of course, potatoes, mashed and sweet.
Kaufmann’s Tavern in Gambrills, a Maryland landmark since 1937, is known for crabs, beef and good times. But there won’t be crabs on their Thanksgiving buffet, where you’ll find heaps of ham and roast beef as well as turkey and all the complements such traditional fare demands.
In Eastport, Carroll’s Creek’s Thanksgiving buffet offers an authentic alternative to turkey: venison plus ham, roast beef, poached salmon and roast gobbler. With a variety of vegetables, potatoes, breads and a dessert table, nobody should leave hungry.
Rockfish’s buffet features a traditional Thanksgiving dinner alongside some of its signature and namesake Chesapeake dishes, including rockfish filet stuffed with crab, fresh oysters and chilled shrimp.
Downstream in Galesville, Pirates Cove adds local flavors to its buffet: Southern Maryland stuffed ham, oyster stuffing, corn pudding and that Baltimore favorite, sausage and sauerkraut. Plus, of course, roast turkey. “We’ll be serving traditional roast turkey,” says manager Lucy Walsh, “carved hot on the line.”
Killarney House in Davidsonville, a favorite watering hole for Irish ex-pats and all who enjoy a Guinness with their fish and chips, regularly dishes out classic Gaelic pub fare like meat pie and corned beef. But on Thanksgiving, the American turkey is served alongside butternut squash soup, leg of lamb and shepherds pie.
A Chesapeake Beach tradition, Rod ’n’ Reel’s Thanksgiving buffet offers plenty of roast turkey, plus honey-glazed ham, New England baked cod, oyster stew, ambrosia salad, potatoes, cornbread dressing, baked sweet potatoes and a medley of vegetables.
At Whole Foods in Annapolis, the staff is working as hard as Santa’s elves for the great American feast.
On Solomon’s Island, Isaac’s at the Holiday Inn puts out a Thanksgiving spread with New York beef loin, jumbo shrimp, stir-fried teriyaki chicken, stuffed ham, salmon, chicken gumbo, maple sausage stuffing, and, not to be forgotten, roast turkey.
Wherever you go, abundance is guaranteed. Just like at home, you eat all you can before doubling over in pain.
Turkey on the Go
In my search for alternative dishes, I discovered an alternative dining choice: a Thanksgiving feast prepared and waiting for pickup. Serve it on the china you inherited from grandma and wow everyone without having to scrub so much as a pie plate. This idea is catching on.
At Whole Foods in Annapolis, the staff is working as hard as Santa’s elves for the great American feast. With a special order desk and a pickup system supported by walkie-talkies and runners, the market is making Thanksgiving dinner painless for its customers. Traditional dishes are available, but options with
Thanksgiving Out for Free
Chesapeake Country neighbors feast as the Pilgrims did in community at two free Thanksgiving meals:
In Deale, Cedar Grove United Methodist Church invites all to its annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Wednesday, November 21, from 5pm to 7pm. At this home-cooked dinner, prepared and presented by friendly volunteers, you’ll find a traditional feast, served buffet style. There’s no cost to dine, but any donations are gratefully accepted to help cover costs.
Church members deliver turkey and stuffing to the doors of near neighbors who can’t get to the church.
Reservations are appreciated so volunteers know how much food to prepare: 410-867-7417 or email at email@example.com. Cedar Grove is located on Rt. 256 in Deale.
In Solomons, feast at SMILE’s 17th Thanksgiving Day dinner, volunteers dish out a free hearty Thanksgiving buffet on Thursday November 22, from noon 3pm at Catamaran’s Restaurant. Each year, several hundred hungry people fill up on good food and community.
A tradition begun by Lighthouse Inn owners Richard and Susan Fischer, the feast is continued by Catamaran Restaurant owners James and Jennifer Seymour, with their chef, Joe Bell, and a bevy of volunteers, including many servers working for free. Cohost is SMILE, a non-profit of nine Southern Maryland churches to provide food, clothing and more to needy people.
No need to rsvp; all are welcome at Catamaran’s Restaurant, 14470 Rt. 2, Solomons Island. Call in advance for a ride to dinner: 410-326-0009.
a modern twist are the stars.
“Instead of lima beans,” explains Amy Chase, marketing specialist, “we use fava beans.”
If you long for a stuffing not made with bread, check out the truffle wild rice stuffing. With four kinds of mashed potatoes home-style, buttermilk and blue cheese, cheddar, and garlic with crème fraiche you can have tradition and innovation. Talking turkey, Whole Foods sells only free-range birds: vegetarian fed, organic or kosher.
Kerri Out of Severna Park varies the menu but not the convenience. All you have to do, besides pay the bill, is choose the menu and carry it home. Their a la carte Thanksgiving menu includes bourbon-acorn squash soup, wild rice crab cakes, crab fondue, rosemary pork tenderloin, asparagus and mushroom and brie cheese bread pudding. Plus, of course, turkey: herb roasted, all breast and no bones.
Super Suppers of Annapolis makes carrying out Thanksgiving dinner simpler still. Their “take-and-bake” turkey dinners come with a cooking schedule. “If you have one oven, we give you a schedule for cooking,” says Lisa Keogh. “If you have two ovens, you get a different cooking schedule.” The traditional Thanksgiving dinner serves 12 and includes boneless turkey breast, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, candied yams, cranberry compote and rolls.
At Let’s Eat in Edgewater, Judy Sober wants to take the stress out of a feast you can still call your own. She shops, chops and measures. All you have to do is cook in her kitchen or yours. Or, for an additional cost, she’ll do it all. Her feast includes shrimp and crab dip with baguettes, pomegranate-glazed turkey with sherry gravy, walnut-cranberry dressing and sweet potato soufflé. Tired of turkey? You have alternatives. Consider giving thanks over salmon Wellington with garlic mashed potatoes, corn or spinach soufflé and sweet potato fries.
Turkey in the End
Though I have not found a Thanksgiving dinner served to the music of a mariachi band or rolled to perfection by a Japanese chef, I did unearth a surprising wealth of choices. With plenty of talented chefs willing to do all the work for me, I don’t have to clean, stuff, roast, baste and carve another Thanksgiving turkey. Nor do I have to eat turkey. I can feast on duck, veal, salmon, scrapple or braunschweiger while my family stuffs themselves with white meat, stuffing, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce.
There’s one tradition, however, you won’t find me breaking. I may have declared my personal boycott of the Thanksgiving bird, but I’ve not sworn off the traditional end to every turkey-fest: pumpkin pie. My favorite part of any Thanksgiving meal is on almost every menu. If there’s no room in your belly for a few more bites, take it home for Friday’s breakfast.
Whichever way you like it best. It’s your choice.