Restaurants put new spin on old holiday tradition

If dining out, time for reservations

While turkey remains the centerpiece of Thanksgiving tables everywhere, more and more people are choosing to enjoy their drumsticks, stuffing and cranberry sauce away from home. "Over the last five years, more people are dining out," said William Bradley, executive chef at The Grand Del Mar's Addison. "Restaurants have evolved so much, people can rely on a good experience."

Sydnie Moore has shared several Thanksgiving dinners with her family around a dining room table – at La Jolla's La Valencia.

"We were inspired to go out because we had quite a large group and none of us wanted to take on the responsibility of cooking, or especially cleaning up, for a big crowd," Moore said. "The La Valencia has a lovely private dining room, which accommodated all of us very nicely."

That seems to be the prevailing motivation behind many diners, said Carmelle Pina, director of sales and marketing for Rancho Santa Fe's Delicias Restaurant.

"I have guests who are entertaining for the holidays and just really want a nice night and don't want to have to clean up after themselves," Pina said. "This is the perfect way to start a new family tradition if you don't want to cook."

Regardless of where people partake of the holiday meal, the one thing everyone wants is that it be a memorable occasion. Dennis Rush has been honoring special requests for a quarter of a century; 2009 marks his 25th year as food and beverage manager for the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.

"It's not just a meal," Rush said. "Every table has their own story. It's the young couple taking their mother out for their first Thanksgiving meal. It's the couple who got engaged 10 years ago. When people call for reservations, they tell their stories, 'We got married there 20 years ago.' It's a million memories in this restaurant."

And like any good host, Rush said he talks to his diners so he can accommodate their needs, whether it's a gluten-free request, a couple who need to finish up quickly to make it to a party later that evening, or the party of 12 with three generations who will want to linger around the table.

Diners might be surprised at the planning and consideration restaurateurs and chefs put into creating a meaningful Thanksgiving meal.

At Delicias, executive chef Michael Knowles created a fall banquet around locally sourced, seasonal products. Just as the Pilgrims and Indians celebrated around a table laid out with food harvested from their own crops, guests at Delicias will enjoy dishes made from fruits and produce grown and sold by Chino Farms.

"It's still in the tradition of celebrating the thanks and eating locally," Pina said.

It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a feast, and the advantage for restaurant-goers is the guarantee of a decadent meal.

"There's diners and there's people who go out to eat. On Thanksgiving, you dine," Bradley said. "Our job is to make this a memory for them."

Building off traditional autumn flavor profiles, Bradley's holiday menu includes ham hock risotto, turkey rôti with caramelized cornbread and perigord truffles, and pumpkin tart with praline crème glacee.

At Delicias, the traditional roasted turkey will be accompanied by roasted prime rib, sweet potato gnocchi, crisp skin king salmon, autumn vegetable tart and apple streusel.

Guests at the Marine Room can select from Apple Cider Glazed Sonora Free Range Turkey Breast, Macadamia Butter Basted Australian Lobster Tail, and Petite Syrah Braised Colorado Lamb Osso Bucco and Five Spice Pumpkin Pie.

   
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