It goes without saying that Thanksgiving is all about great eats, and this one was no exception. My mom, sister, and brother and his family came into town last week along with my mom's best friend and her husband. Their son and his family live close to San Francisco, so we had a big, extended family and friends Thanksgiving.
On Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we had dinner at Scoma's, a kitschy, touristy, wall-to-wall carpeted, "old San Francisco" kind of restaurant. My brother, who had never been there, was worried that it would be a tourist trap, which it is, but when it comes to fish and crab, I think Scoma's rivals any fancy restaurant. The preparations were simple and unfettered, which is how I like my fish anyway. If you've never been, ask the waiter what the fresh fish of the day is and she or he will show you a list at least 10-12 items long. We were there to celebrate the start of dungeness crab season and my mom picked the menu of garlic roasted crab, green salad, and martinis. Sixteen of us shared a private room where all the kids could get up and "stretch their legs." They all sat back down when it was time for the rich, chewy chocolate gelato (heavenly!). It was the perfect way to kick off the week.
On the Wednesday, my mom's friend invited us to a Chinese banquet at one of my favorite restaurants, Great Eastern. They are known for their impeccably fresh seafood. Our eight course meal consisted of:
- a cold platter of thinly sliced drunken beef, cold chicken, char siu (roast pork), fish cake, and jellyfish
- taro soup (a rich, clear broth flavored with taro, carrots, and meat)
- salt and pepper crab with chilis and green onions
- sauteed water spinach
- steamed chicken and black mushrooms with ginger
- fried pork hash with hamni (salt fish)
- chili beef
- clams with sweet and sour Chinese pickles
It was BYOB so we had Prosecco and wine to go with. There was so much food leftover that my refrigerator was packed.
On Thanksgiving day, we started the morning at J.'s family's house where we had an early, homemade Thanksgiving meal. Then later, we all went out to dinner at the Fairmont Hotel which has become a recent tradition for my family since our Thanksgiving celebrations seem to be getting bigger and bigger. We all love it because we can stuff ourselves with caviar and blinis, oysters on the half shell, sashimi, foie gras, and fancy cheeses. We always joke that they hate to see us coming because they lose money on us. We had a lovely table next to the window overlooking the bay. We could see Alcatraz and both bridges and our dinner was timed with sunset so we got to enjoy that, too.
As far as buffets go, we all agreed that overall it was really good. I didn't have turkey, but I did try the lamb which was cooked perfectly, and the Beef Wellington which was nice and pink on the inside. The gratin dauphinois consisted of thinly shaved potatoes and was light as a feather. The cheeses were all local and included the likes of Humboldt Fog and Point Reyes blue, and the paté and salumi platter was divine. Special touches included a Cobb salad station where a server tossed salads to order, a chocolate fondue fountain, and a kids' buffet table which was lower to the ground and included things like mini-burgers, baked chicken legs, Jello and Rice Krispy treats. (My kids eschewed that in favor of lamb and tortellini al pesto...but they did eat Jello.)
Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner
I knew that at some point over the weekend of Thanksgiving I wanted to cook a turkey dinner because we'd all miss "traditional" Thanksgiving fare in a relaxed atmosphere. The week before, I went to Whole Foods with the intention of ordering my holiday turkey but I was sidelined by the folks taking orders for their holiday meals. "All organic," they said. "We use real cream and butter," they said. I thought about whether I really wanted to spend an entire day cooking, an activity I normally love, and decided to order the complete dinner.
It was delivered on Wednesday before Thanksgiving and included a cooked Diestel turkey, maple-herb butter to glaze the turkey, green beans with shallots and fresh herbs, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, dressing, turkey gravy, whole cranberry-citrus sauce, 12 La Brea bakery rolls, and a whole pumpkin pie. They even included a roasting pan, a large plastic bag with which to wrap up the turkey carcass, re-heating instructions, and a recipe for turkey noodle soup. We all agreed (and we are an extremely hard to please bunch) that it was excellent and tasted homemade. The turkey was moist and juicy from brining, the gravy was made with drippings, the dressing tasted like my own recipe (buttery and with loads of fresh herbs), the mashed potatoes were like silk. My only complaint was that there were no yams. The dinner was so good that I've already written my letter to Whole Foods telling them how much we enjoyed it. Dinner was on the table within an hour and a half, and the rest of the day was spent with family. As it should be.