Tuesday, May 28, 2024

A weekly notebook about food during the Covid-19 shutdown. Remember, if you’re dining out, doing takeout or getting delivery, the people serving up the food are part of the front line; keep it in mind when tipping.


Thinking about Thanksgiving


Colette is one of several Cambridge restaurants selling full Thanksgiving feasts for pickup this year.

One quick note as we continue with pandemic food pickups: Double check your orders when you’re checking out online via Toast or whatnot, on the phone with the person taking your order and when you pick up your meal, especially if you have special requests. I recently ordered three salads and only one came with the small, sealed cup container of dressing within. Live and learn.

Thanksgiving is upon us. For me as a kid, the tradition was to go to grandma’s house; later it was the hellacious Interstate 90-to-Interstate 84 trek home to see mom as a young Bostonian. (Best turkeys and pies ever.) Sadly, those homesteads are no longer an option, and with a family of my own, new traditions have taken root. For the past four years we’ve been bringing the cheese course to a gathering at the house of a school friend of our daughter’s. The mom makes enough turkey – wrapped in bacon, mind you – for the 15 to 20 thankful gatherers, a diverse, international crowd that adds perfect relish to the rite. That said, Covid. So what to do? I’ve done birds at home, but they were long labors, and while they always came out near perfect, timing was always an issue and, to be honest, I get a bit uptight running around in the kitchen. The one thing I miss from those endeavors was the downstream turkey clubs with generous squirts of mayonnaise and cracked pepper; the hybrid shepherd/pot pie; and of course, soup made from the picked-over carcass.


Wanting all that, we decided to see what local restaurants would give. Without question the stuffing comes from Flour – one vegetarian version with mushrooms and a heartier version with apple and sage sausage. I’ve always liked the cheap, out-of-the-box versions simmered in broth and spiced up, but Flour’s are tops after mom’s. Then there’s the matter of the bird. You can get them precooked from Whole Foods and the like, but this year a lot of local restaurants worth supporting have complete meals made with artistry, flavor and care for pickup the day before – which I tell you because if you don’t order now, they’ll all be gone. We were seriously considering Summer Shack, because it offered a complete traditional meal at a great price (you can even get your bird Southern fried, though I wonder how that would hold up for a day in the fridge) and this week they were down below their last 30 turkeys. Other options that appealed was the à la carte menu from Hi-Rise Bread Co., which continues to expand on its tremendous pivot in becoming a convenient, all-purpose go-to for pantry items, meats, pastries, prepared foods and curated wines. Another enticing draw was Urban Hearth, offering sage- and cider-brined breast with confit legs, but that did not seem to provide fully for the leftovers club sando, soup and pot pie goal. Ultimately we picked Colette. The price for the bird was right, and brined and buttered would be just how I’d do it. All the traditional sides are offered, to boot: creamy mashed potatoes with rosemary gravy, Gran Marnier cranberry sauce and haricots verts – French green beans. What else would you expect from a French wine bistro?

Of course, the Thanksgiving day feast will begin with brioche French toast and a nibbling of a gooey, pungent cheese from Formaggio.

Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in the WBUR ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.