Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Week Before Thanksgiving

A ThanksGiving parade of recipes and menus have been featured in magazines and online forums for a few weeks now, as we gather our strength for the annual eat-fest that is just about as home-grown as it can get.

Turkeys from Locust Point Farm will begin arriving on Tuesday - you still have until tomorrow (Friday) to order one through us for your TG table.  As usual, this week before Thanksgiving always seems to mark the start of the winter holiday season.  The Radcliffe Mill tree is up (already) (of course), and while we can pretend it is a "winter" tree, it is obviously up early for its traditional role as the building's Christmas Tree.  

The fourth Thursday of November is my personal favorite holiday.  I've said it many times, but a day that celebrates the gathering of family and friends around a bountiful table has a lot going for it. The days leading up to the big "T" are part of the pleasure, including the anticipation of families getting together for a special meal.  I enjoy quizzing people on their plans for the day, what they are making and who is going to be arriving from where.  I love hosting the day at our house - we annually make a big production out of it, and take the entire afternoon and evening to eat and drink and talk to our heart's delight.  The variety of dishes on the table and that big, (hopefully) golden roasted bird are deeply rooted traditions.  You do the same things, year in and year out, a few of which you practiced at your mother's table when you were too young to do more than fill your plate and eat all the pumpkin pie you wanted.  As you take your turn at going around the table and expressing your thanks for what you have been so lucky to receive, you really can take the time to think about something other than the price of gas or those pesky emails you will have to deal with back at the office.  A whole day to eat and share great food and drink with people you love and who love you - what's not to like?

Well, of course not all Thanksgivings are this rosy!  Just take a look at the Diner's Journal in the NYT this week to see a few of the difficulties that are sure to arise on this made-for-angst holiday.  Why anyone would assume that just because it's Thanksgiving we are suddenly going to get along with the dreaded sister-in-law, or that the politically diametrical cousins are not going to start discussing the 2012 elections?  "Stuff" is going to happen, and all the Beaujolais in the world won't stop it.  As a matter of fact, as the NYT columnist writes, all of that Beaujolais will probably make it worse!  Still, if you can follow his Buddhist recommendations, and forget about the diet for a day, Thanksgiving is the perfect precursor to the season that follows.  A season of love and joy and peace among mankind - see, it can start right at the Thanksgiving Table!

Anyway, all of that being said, this year we are planning to dine at someone else's table.  Here at the restaurant, while we have been fielding a lot of calls asking if we will be open for dinner next Thursday - we will not -  the opportunities for dining out seem to be slim to none in Chestertown proper.  So far I have seen few signs that any of the full service dining rooms in town will be hosting a Thanksgiving meal.  Don't despair;  several terrific choices are only a short drive away:
  • The Inn at Osprey in Rock Hall is offering a deluxe Thanksgiving prix-fixe meal in their warm, colonial dining room.  The menu, found here, sounds perfect for a relaxing and satisfying holiday dinner.
  • The Swan Point Inn, also in Rock Hall, is advertising two seatings for a Thanksgiving Day buffet.  At under $20 a person, it is considerably affordable and promises to be a festive occasion.   
  • Travelers to the North might find the beautiful rooms at the Kitty Knight House the perfect spot for their Holiday meal.  Their cooks promise a traditional buffet, which is described here on their website.
  • Farther down the Shore, many dining options are available, including the Fisherman's Inn in Grasonville, where a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving is being promoted, as well as their regular a la carte menu.  
  • One day I am going to get to Mark Salter's Robert Morris Inn, either for a holiday retreat or just a meal in the circa 1710 inn.  He is advertising a sumptuous Thanksgiving prix-fixe menu on the Inn's website, which, even at $58, sounds worth it, given the talent in the kitchen. 
  • A bit of a longer drive, but a seriously worth-while destination, is the Hyatt Chesapeake Bay in Cambridge.  Their perfectly gorgeous location, right on the Choptank River, is certainly one of the area's choicest  spots for what they are billing as an "extravagant" Thanksgiving Buffet. Wandering around their grounds after the feast comes with the price of admission.
  • Perhaps the best-case scenario would be to take the Imperial Hotel up on their offer to prepare all of the meal's accompaniments  for you, leaving  just the bird to roast on the grill.  They have a multitude of choice sides that you can order for pick-up on the day before, ready for re-heating in the comfort of your own home.  That sounds like a real winner!
We still have a week to make up our minds - although I  imagine some places fill up long before we can decide - so take the time to enjoy the cooling fall air, the shuffle through the leaves, and  the call of the geese.  These signals of November add to the pleasures of the approaching season of food and friendship, if we let them, and help explain why life is good here in the land of pleasant living.

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