Of course it’s early. Everything happens too fast with Thanksgiving, from the getting there to the cooking to the eating to the cleanup to the football to the jump online to shop for all the Black Friday deals that now encroach on the getting there and the eating and the cleanup and the football.
That’s wrong, because done appropriately, Thanksgiving should be the slowest of all the holidays. There’s no egg hunt or present unwrapping or fireworks show. There’s food, and some family, and dessert. And football or The Wizard of Oz, depending on your tastes.
Speaking of food, if you’re not inclined to cook (though there’s slim chance of that after you read The New York Times’ incredible “The United States of Thanksgiving” feature), you have one more reason to take it slow. Sit back, relax, enjoy the family, and partake of a wonderful dinner at some of our favorite Thanksgiving-dinner destinations.
Los Angeles: Bourbon Steak Los Angeles. Chef and restaurant entrepreneur Michael Mina only does exceptional, and his stunning Los Angeles location doesn’t disappoint. This is L.A., so everything comes with something; the butternut squash veloute comes with cardamom-whipped creme fraiche, and the turkey breast with fall-spice-poached apple and cranberry haricot-vert almondine and mushroom gravy. [Ed. Note: We have no idea how to hyphenate that. Is it spiced apples and cranberries, or apples on one hand and green-bean casserole with cranberries, or is it everything, all smushed together? No matter; it all winds up in the same place eventually.] Non-traditionalists that we are, we might just go for the ancho-chili-marinated tri-tip with baby turnips, Brussels sprouts and smoked rutabaga puree, with some black truffle mac-and-cheese on the side. And without question we are saving room for the 100 percent homemade s’more with marshmallow fluff and peanut-butter ganache. In Mina’s hands, with is good.
Boston: Beat Hotel. This Harvard Square funkateria has one of the best Thanksgiving-dinner-out innovations we’ve seen: After the bearded hipsters serve you dinner (organic turkey and grass-fed rack of lamb) and you listen to some live bluegrass, you can come back at 10 p.m., after the football and The Wizard of Oz, for the “leftovers menu.” @BeatHotel: We’re totally in for an organic-turkey-and-Vermont-cheddar sandwich, if you’re offering.
Las Vegas: db Brasserie. You know how we feel about Vegas, and the Public House at the Venetian. For Thanksgiving we thought we’d upscale it to Chef Daniel Boulud’s place inside the elegant Italianate resort-casino. The meal’s French overtones are earthier, peasant French, with root vegetables and chestnuts in the stuffing. (If you must, think Ratatouille.) The restaurant’s turkey is given a French twist with some foie gras, but what really sold us are the desserts: a deftly layered apple tian, pumpkin pie with vanilla-bean gelato, and a candied pecan tart with spiced Chantilly cream. A bargain at $48.
Philadelphia: City Tavern. There’s authentic, and then there’s City Tavern authentic. Chef and owner Walter Staib thoroughly researched and vetted the recipes for his traditional 18th-century feast, then outfitted his waitstaff in wool breeches and jerkins to do the serving. His four-course prix-fixe meal includes delicacies the pilgrims never ate but George Washington may have: lobster Newburg, mallard-duck sausage, paillard of salmon, sage-and-marjoram stuffing, sweet potatoes with apples, and Martha Washington’s chocolate-mousse cake, with madeira and vintage brews to wash it down. The setting is true to the menu: City Tavern dates from 1772, and the Continental Congress met there two years later. They say you can’t put a price on authenticity, but City Tavern charges $85.95 a person.
Asheville: Asheville doesn’t lack for options, but we’re headed to the opulent-beyond-words Biltmore Estate. Four different restaurants at this National Historic Landmark will be serving up everything from sandwiches to an elegant prix-fixe dinner. Every restaurant requires an admission ticket, but this is your best chance to see how the Vanderbilts watched football, pounded Bud Lights, and counted down the hours to Black Friday.
Nashville: Oh, gosh, the Loveless Café has turkey, dressing, and two sides. If biscuits come with that it’s a no-brainer – though we are sorely tempted by the smoked-everything Thanksgiving buffet at Puckett’s Grocery, with creamed-vegetable and sweet-potato sides that just won’t quit.
Charleston: Our man (formerly) in Charleston, Mike Lintal, suggests Magnolia’s, High Cotton, Poogan’s Porch, and Oak Steakhouse, in no particular order. Magnolia’s enchants us with its sides, especially the sweet-potato casserole and the low-country succotash. High Cotton gets us with the Charleston cream-of-crab soup and an entrée of Carolina duck breast. Go to Poogan’s Porch for its maple-brined pork loin with an apple-and-walnut chutney. And Oak Steakhouse offers four-day gravy, which is more than enough for us. Because you know we’re all about that gravy.