More and more dining-out options are becoming available on Thanksgiving. Here are 20 (very) last-minute ideas (reservations, when available, are strongly suggested):
At Cosmos, the gorgeous dining room (pictured, above) inside the Graves 601 Hotel, chef John Occhiato makes Thanksgiving special with a sumptuous three-course dinner ($45 adults, $12 children ages 12 and under), with multiple choices in each course (check it out here). The smooth, professional service is an added bonus.
The Beacon Public House, the stylish restaurant inside the equally stylish Commons Hotel (formerly the not-so-stylish Radisson University Hotel), is offering a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for $35 per person, and everyone leaves with a turkey sandwich. Here’s a nice twist: bring in non-perishable food items and exchange them for raffle tickets. The grand prize is an overnight stay at the hotel, and dinner for two at the Beacon.
The lovely main-floor dining room at newcomer Marin Restaurant & Bar (in the Le Meridien Chambers Hotel) is a fine venue for a four-course holiday celebration (find the menu here), brought to you by the same team behind St. Louis Park’s health-conscious Mill Valley Kitchen. The $45 per person cost includes a glass of wine.
You won't find a traditional Thanksgiving spread at Bank in the Westin Hotel -- the restaurant is sticking to its standard menu. Still, the setting is one of the city's stunners, the landmark art moderne banking hall of the former Farmers and Mechanics Savings Bank.
A brunch with all the usual Thanksgiving suspects is on the brunch menu at the Marquette Hotel, which is kicking open the doors of its Windows on Minnesota -- on the gasp-worthy 50th floor of the IDS Tower -- for the big event. Cost is $41 per person, which includes free parking in the convenient IDS Center parking ramp.
The historic Nicollet Island Inn is preparing a four-course meal (with a choice of three entrees: roast turkey, prime rib or broiled walleye) in its charming riverside dining room, for $68 per person.
The comfortable and attractive Bloomington Chophouse in the Hilton Minneapolis/Bloomington is putting out a turkey-and-trimmings-and-more buffet ($35 adults, $17 children ages 6 to 12, free for children under age 5).
How about a steak? Manny's Steakhouse in the W Hotel is open for business. Splurge on the menu's 85-day aged bone-in rib eye. A few blocks away, another steakhouse -- the Capital Grille -- is also serving dinner on the holiday.
At the Mall of America, Black Friday early birds can slip into the Napa Valley Grille for its a la carte menu, which includes butternut squash soup with petipas ($4 and $6) and roasted turkey with cranberries, garlic mashed potatoes and a savory bread pudding for $17.
The News Room is marking the holiday with a three-course ($24.95) dinner that features roasted butternut squash soup, roast turkey with a Brussels sprout casserole and maple glazed sweet potatoes. Dessert? An apple-sage bread pudding topped with a cranberry compote.
Although expats can enjoy the regular bangers-and-mash menu at Merlins Rest, the kitchen at this British Isles pub also embraces its American side, serving a $15.75 dinner that includes wild rice soup, turkey breast braised in Finnegans Beer, a potato-parsnip mash, herb stuffing, Yorkshire pudding and pie.
Perenially popular Stanley’s Northeast Bar Room is putting together a T-giving dinner — turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and more — for $11, with a $15 all-you-can-eat option.
At Common Roots Cafe, owner Danny Schwartzman is thinking of adding some kind of turkey daily special but will otherwise concentrate on its regular daytime fare. “We’ve learned that what people really want on Thanksgiving is to have brunch away from their families,” he said with a laugh.
Across the street, the words organic, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free are all on chef George Lohr's $35-per-person menus at the French Meadow Bakery & Cafe. Farm-to-table, too, with turkey from Wild Acres Game Farm in Pequot Lakes, Minn.
Chef David Fhima is offering a handful of Thanksgiving-inspired appetizers and entrees -- along with his standard menu -- at lively Faces Mears Park, starting at 3 p.m.
Spasso is putting out a Thanksgiving buffet ($19.95 adults, $12.95 children ages 11 and under) and serving its extensive, retail-price wine list, too.
We’ve officially reached the halfway point of this season’s Top Chef, and while we’ve well established that hometown chef Sara Johannes hasn’t quite risen to the top level of competition yet, an equally pressing concern remains unanswered: Why don’t viewers like her?
That’s not to overblow the amount of ire Sara faces from the online trenches. She’s nowhere near as hated (she’s not even hated, per se) as Top Chef: Texas' resident bully, Heather, nor is she as divisive as John Tesar, the know-it-all jackass from last season who embodied the coke-bloat of the 80s dining scene with every fiber of his being. But Sara definitely isn’t loved, which might have more to do with a systematic problem of the long-running Bravo series’ current season than it does any of her actual actions.
I appreciate that Top Chef producers don’t feel the need to manufacture as much fake drama as any version of The Real Housewives franchise would, but I’d also bet you’d be hard pressed to find any dedicated Top Chef fan who would rank this season as one of their favorites. There are a number of problems: few chefs outside of Nina have broken away from the pack, challenges have been middling at best, and very little kitchen drama outside of a grill fire has been generated. With creepy Michael and pretty boy Jason eliminated after just a few episodes, this has turned into the Top Chef season without a true villain, which might just have made Sara one by default.
But what has Sara really done to deserve the rude online comments and tweets? Her personality troubles seem to have festered in the fourth episode, in which the chefs were asked to work in teams to create Vietnamese dishes. It was in this episode that show editors started threading together their very flimsy “Bossy Sara” narrative, a label that originated when Sara’s barking orders in a supermarket rush apparently ended with a key ingredient being left out of the cart.
The fact that Sara had her worst showing in an Asian challenge (Shoyu, where Sara is an executive chef, is a modern Japanese restaurant) also lost her viewer support. Following the episode, Television Without Pity commenter Gagic wrote in the site's forums, “Sara was awful as well. So controlling and know-it-all because she works at an Asian restaurant. Then she screws up cooking rice. Her stupid hair and fake crying can't cover up her lack of basic cooking skills.” Yikes – and that’s before the next commenter accuses her style of Asian food of being like a “fancy Panda Express.”
Since then, Sara has been shown voicing a few strong opinions about food and offering Louis some unwanted advice about how to butcher a pig. Could these moments be read as bossy and rude? Objectively so - but Sara’s sour notes thus far appear to come more from dissatisfaction in her own performance than they do spiteful jealousy or pot-stirring. I don’t consider a cheftestant a true Top Chef villain until they start claiming winning dishes actually sucked or insisting that they’re more talented than anyone else in the competition, regardless of what the judges have to say. Sara hasn’t done anything of the sor yet, which is why the “Sara as antagonist” narrative just isn’t sticking to the ribs.
Still, without a top three showing since the first episode, a good chunk of the hostility and/or ambivalence around Sara could just be viewer impatience in anticipating her elimination. If Sara wants to gain some fans, the first and easiest step is to impress us with some high-caliber dishes.
Top Chef: New Orleans airs Wednesdays at 9 pm on Bravo.
Well, it was fun while it lasted.
That’s what diners will – or at least should be – thinking on Dec. 22nd, when Umami by Travail serves its last meal.
Follow the bouncing shrimp toast: The total blast of a pop-up restaurant, the work of the seemingly bottomless pit of culinary energy and creativity behind Travail Kitchen and Amusements, originally opened for a short run in mid-September in the hastily renovated confines of a former fast-food fried chicken outlet on W. Broadway Avenue in Minneapolis.
After the original concept – Asian comfort food, served Travail-style in a multi-course, single-price format at large communal tables – proved popular, Travail co-owners Bob Gerken, Mike Brown (pictured above, right) and James Winberg decided to keep the place open and reprogrammed the kitchen into a dim sum-inspired operation.
Unfortunately, the demands of what they describe as a "manageable side project" are proving to be too unsustainable. With their new version of Travail – and its casual sibling the Rookery – nearing completion in Robbinsdale, the team has decided to pull the plug on Umami after all.
“Umami is not leaving because the business was unsuccessful, but rather because its success came at a time when the organization was already overextended,” the partnership said in a statement. “The restaurant was busy and buzzworthy and it demanded too much of the Travail team’s resources in terms of chefs, kitchen equipment, time and energy.”
Tickets for the remaining dates at Umami will go on sale here at 10 a.m. Wednesday (Nov. 27). Prices, which include food, tax and tip are $30 on Wednesday and Thursday, $40 on Friday and Saturday and $40 for Sunday brunch. If you haven't been, go, and hurry: space is limited.
Meanwhile, construction continues on the new Travail and the Rookery in downtown Robbinsdale. No opening date has been announced, but the Travail ownership team is currently projecting a soft opening shortly after Jan. 1.
To satisfy some truly last-minute Thanksgiving shopping needs, some Twin Cities supermarkets, grocers and natural foods co-ops will be open on Thursday, including:
Dragon Star Oriental Foods (633 W. Minnehaha Av., St. Paul), open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Eastside Food Co-op in Minneapolis, open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
El Burrito Mercado in St. Paul, open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Both branches of Mississippi Market in St. Paul, open 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Seward Co-op in Minneapolis, open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sun Foods (544 University Av. W., St. Paul), open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Select Twin Cities Walmart Supercenters, open 24 hours.
Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis (pictured, above), open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
All six Twin Cities Whole Foods Market locations, open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (some stores open at 7 a.m.)
Several bakeries are also serving customers on Thanksgiving, including:
All three Minneapolis locations of the Turtle Bread Co., open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A Baker’s Wife’s Pastry Shop in Minneapolis, open 6:30 to noon. 729 6898
Patrick's Bakery & Cafe in Richfield, open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Lucia’s to Go in Uptown Minneapolis, open 8 a.m. to noon.
All Twin Cities Bakers Square locations are open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
My Thanksgiving wish? A better photograph of the magnificent turkey that I've been making for the past six years.
If I posted the one that I snapped from my (not-so-great) Android smartphone from Thanksgiving 2012, no one would continue reading this post. Not pretty. And I'm usually so busy getting dinner ready that it doesn't occur to me to stop for a moment and snap a food-porn image for Facebook posterity.
Instead, I'll run the image from the cover of Saveur magazine, November 2007, which featured a you-can't-believe-how-amazing-this-is recipe for the ultimate Thanksgiving turkey. Wait, doesn't that sound like a food magazine cover blurb: "THE ULTIMATE THANKSGIVING TURKEY'?
Truth to tell, that's exactly what it is. Naturally, it's the handiwork of Lynne Rossetto Kasper, the gilded-voiced center of The Splendid Table universe. Her recipe (find it here) goes to considerable pains to insert flavor -- in this case, the tail end of apple season -- into turkey, which, if we are honest with ourselves, is not exactly the most flavorful of animal proteins.
Most of that autumn apple goodness materializes via an overnight brine, one that's composed of pureed apples and apple cider. Rossetto Kasper balances the fruit's sweetness with plenty of garlic and chile powder, then finishes with fragrant basil. A third nod to apples comes in the form of apple brandy, a building block for a remarkably robust gravy.
Prior to embracing the Lynne Rossetto Kasper Path to Thanksgiving Enlightenment, I'd never brined a turkey. Now I can't imagine our Thanksgiving turkey any other way. This is one sublimely juicy bird, and the various complementary notes sneak into each bite in a nuanced chorus of whispers rather than shouts.
Another bonus: This is one great-looking Thanksgiving table centerpiece, glowing with a crisp, deeply browned, caramelized skin (photo, above, from Saveur and photographer Landon Nordeman). My suggestion is that you show it off to your guests (what cook doesn't like to hear oohs and aahs?) before carving it, if a tableside knife show isn't part of your itinerary.
The multi-step recipe may seem daunting at first. But persevere. It's detailed, yes. But complicated? No. Just make sure you read it carefully, several times, and several days before starting. After going through it once, first-hand, you'll understand its inherent logic and simplicity.
I'll admit that I cheat with the gravy (don't tell Lynne) by dispensing with the whole making-the-broth routine. Although it's not a terribly time consuming step in the process, I prefer to channel my limited time into other cooking tasks.
I buy it. Not from the supermarket, but from Clancey's Meats & Fish in Linden Hills. Not only Clancey's version a far more convenient alternative than preparing it myself, but the deeply flavorful results are better than anything I could hope to make, not only for gravy, but for basting the stuffing.
Another Thanksgiving tradition? Buying our turkey at Clancey's, which owner Kristen Tombers imports from Wild Acres Game Farm in Pequot Lakes, Minn. It's a superior-quality product, and since the turkey is the sun around which the Thanksgiving solar system revolves, the splurge, price-wise, is more than worth the investment.
One last suggestion: While you're preparing this awe-inspiring turkey on Thursday, tune into "Turkey Confidential," Rossetto Kasper's annual live (and entertaining) Thanksgiving Q&A, with guests Michael Pollan, Mario Batali, Ted Allen, Alexandra Guarnaschelli and Pati Jinich. Catch it from 10 a.m. to noon on Minnesota Public Radio. In the Twin Cities, find it on KNOW, 91.1 FM, or listen to the program's live-stream.
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