We asked six Bay Area culinary personalities to tell us about their ultimate fantasy Thanksgiving dinner. They each answered the following questions:
1. Who would you invite?
2. Who would prepare the meal?
3. What would be on the menu?
4. How would you decorate?
5. Where would this grand meal take place?
Here’s what they conjured up.
Brian Boitano—Food Network Personality and Olympic Figure Skating Gold Medal Winner
1. All of my family and my late grandmother who passed away one month before I was born. It would be wonderful to get to know her and spend this family time together.
2. My sisters and I would do all of the cooking, while our parents carried on the conversation and watched us cook. My mother was never much of a cook and always did her best during the holidays, but I remember she would always make sweet potatoes with the whipped marshmallows; I would eat all of the topping and leave the sweet potato behind. Just to keep Mom involved, we have her make the whipped mashed potatoes for our holiday meals.
3. Growing up we always had turkey. When I started doing the cooking, I fixed the turkey every which way imaginable. Then last year I decided to change it up and fix prime rib. I went to Marina Meats on Chestnut and ordered up a great piece of prime rib, and it turned out beautifully. At that point, we all decided that that’s what we were going to fix from then on. I also like to roast Cornish game hens and a ham; they are always great for leftovers. I have a wonderful cranberry/orange relish recipe, along with corn bread stuffing and the other traditional accompaniments. Our family favorite is my dark chocolate bourbon pecan pie, the perfect end for our meal.
4. My decorating style is always a bridge between classic and kitschy. Thanks to my “Aunt Tree”—short for Teresa—she always had this amazing flair of quirky style for every holiday. Somewhere in my Italian heritage from my father’s side of the family, I inherited that as well. It’s fun to be able to add character along with all of the traditional fineries at the table and around the house and still have a bit of whimsy.
5. At my house with the great views of San Francisco and the Bay. We really live in one of the best places.
Matthew Accarrino—Executive Chef, SPQR
1. Jean Louis Palladin (JLP), Martha Stewart, family, and close friends.
2. Jean Louis Palladin. I had the opportunity very early in my career to taste his food and work a few events alongside of him. I do miss that “gastro magical” excess he was famous for!
3. Truffles, shellfish, caviar, game, mushrooms and sea urchin. All of the stuff that I love and mostly stuff from right here in Northern California, that’s why I invited JLP, for him to experience.
4. That’s why I invited Martha . . .
5. In a hilltop vineyard not far from San Francisco.
Marcia Gagliardi—Writer of Tablehopper, a weekly San Francisco dining and drinking
e-column and the author of The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco: find the right spot for every occasion
1. I would love to bring back all my close relatives from the past ten generations of my family; it would be the most amazing night, mixing up the Southern Italians with our Arkies and Daniel Boone (he’s in our family tree). I guess we’d need some translators, too.
2. The women, of course! We’d all be in the kitchen, learning each other’s family recipes from over the ages. (I think the Italians would just have to watch. Actually, they could make some bread—and I am sure they would figure out how to get some pasta on the Thanksgiving table, somehow.)
3. We’d have my grandmother’s giblet gravy with a hard-boiled egg, our sweet potato soufflé, and our bourbon-pickled peaches. But really, I’d love to see what my American relatives cooked for Thanksgiving one hundred years ago. And we’d have to send Daniel Boone out to shoot some wild turkeys.
4. We would be in a grand dining hall, at a long wood table, and everyone would sit in different chairs that dated back to the era they grew up in. The table would look like a still life from the 1800s, with candles, fresh fruit, and old vases filled with flowers. We’d drink from beautiful old goblets, and dine with the oldest sterling silverware and family china we could find. I’d love to have the musicians in the family take turns playing music, singing—I’d also be sure to hire a cinematographer and producer to film the entire affair and conduct interviews with all the family members.
5. I’d have it take place in a big barn or church with wood plank floors in Bodie, an amazing pioneer ghost town east of the Sierra Nevada. For extra drama, I’d like to have it rain outside, but inside we’d be toasty and dry.
Ravi Kapur—Executive Chef, Prospect
1. My family from Hawaii and India and my wife’s family from Buffalo, New York. My grandparents—who have passed away—would also be there; we have a tradition at our house of “Orphans’ Thanksgiving” where we have all those from the restaurant over who don’t have a place to go, so they would naturally be invited as well.
2. Everyone would cook together and share dishes that are meaningful to them.
3. Pig of course, lots of reef fish, raw crab, and vegetables from the island.
4. The people would be the decoration. There would be music and singing and there would be no need for purchased decoration.
5. The meal would definitely be on the beach in Kailua, Oahu, where I grew up. Surfing and swimming in the day and bonfire at night.
Liam Mayclem—Host, CBS5 “Eye on the Bay”
1. My Thanksgiving guest list is a list of the dead. I love music, literature, humor, and food above all things, so my guests would be: Oscar Wilde for wit; Winston Churchill for war stories; the Beatles reunited for music—they can all eat with me on the condition they play after the meal; my late mother, Maureen—a musician and wordsmith would have to be present, too.
2. The meal would also be prepared by one of the dearly departed, Julia Child. Her kitchen assistants would be chefs Hubert Keller, Roland Passot, Girald Hirogoyen, and Xavier Solomon.
3. It would have to be a traditional British Sunday lunch. Roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, English peas, carrots, and, because it is Thanksgiving, turkey, stuffing, and all the trimmings. Dessert would be a four-layer English trifle—Scotch custard, pound cake, raspberry jam, jersey cream!
4. The room would be decorated in warm rich red autumn colors. But less is more. I am not one for too many decorations.
5. This meal would take place in the Observatory Room at The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay. It’s a circular room with windows all around and ocean views to die for. It’s where I had my fortieth birthday last year, probably the best meal—by Chef Xavier Solomon—with the best company—forty dear friends—of my life.
Gordon Drysdale—Partner/Chef, Café des Amis
1. I would invite all the now-gone members of my family—Mom and Dad. I was the only child on the West Coast and would be odd man out at all of these “family” get-togethers. A few days after the event, all of the pictures would start showing up, and I would always feel very alone.
2. Me! I was always cooking for the family after graduation from cooking school, and the appreciation was always ridiculous. Growing up we never had any money, and I went out of my way to make sure my parents got to enjoy what we in the restaurant business take for granted. Oh, be sure to save me the truffle ends!
3. I would always ask my dad to name his meal! Whatever he wanted would be my—and hopefully his!—pleasure. It helped make up for the guilt I always felt going home and knowing that while we kitchen boys eat like kings, they were eating Kraft spaghetti and meatballs, no joke, every week.
4. Like I was at a catering a gig with Stanlee Gatti. I would want everything to be larger than life!
5. To be decided. Hopefully not at the house I grew up in. We could squeeze six around the Formica table, but it still left something to be desired.