"Eating out is all about getting together for a night on the town—it's for the experience of that place," says celebrity chef Todd English, who oversees Olives New York, Ça Va Brasserie and The Plaza Food Hall in New York. Serving a prepared meal at home is, in some ways, "the best of both worlds – we're bringing the great food to your home without the hassles, and all you have to do is indulge!"
"By now, most restaurants are filling up or almost full," says Willis Loughhead, executive chef at the historic Plaza Hotel in New York, which will offer prepared meals to go for the first time this year. "Or make arrangements for pick-up. There are certainly very good delis around that will have turkey specials. It depends on how fancy you want to get."
"I've done events where people want to have a bar and they're running out at the last minute buying liquor, wine and beer and then they have to ice everything down," says Robb Garceau, executive chef at Union Square Events, the catering arm of Danny Meyer's restaurant group. "In creating a seamless party at your house, [having your bar ready] is one less thing you have to worry about. Three days in advance, get your cooler and liquor. Ice it the day before. You have your lemons, limes, olives and bitters ready."
Tapenades, cheeses, dips, salamis and fresh bread are essential for guests to munch on, Garceau says. "That's where the timeline comes in—picking up bread, cheese and other snacks at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. But make sure you call ahead for their hours," Garceau says.
Sure, pumpkin pie is synonymous with Thanksgiving, but pastry chef Andrea Lekberg, of The Artist Baker in Morristown, New Jersey, suggests offering an array of Thanksgiving desserts, such as pumpkin ice cream sundaes with toffee sauce and salted pecans, cheesecake with cranberry sauce, and pecan pie. "At our shop, we are making minced apple pie. This is my favorite. It is apple pie mixed with homemade mincemeat. After we bake it, it gets an orange glaze. But for those who have to have something chocolate, I would serve a Michel Cluizel chocolate truffle tart," she says. Meanwhile, The Plaza's Loughhead recommends having a good maple syrup on hand — to drizzle over vanilla ice cream. He also suggests having some oranges as a light alternative. "Most people will be in food coma by the end of the Thanksgiving dinner. It's nice to take a break and have a Cara Cara orange," he says.
"It's a special occasion, so break out the nice china, tablecloth and candles if you like, but always keep the wine flowing, glasses full and music playing — ambiance is everything," says English. Some bubbly is always nice. "It's a holiday and it's nice to have a vintage Champagne," says Loughhead, who also recommends serving a good burgundy or Pinot Noir with the meal. In the end, relax and enjoy. "Don't worry so much about making everything perfect and don't spend the whole time in the kitchen — have fun and be out mixing and mingling with your loved ones and enjoy the occasion," English says.
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