Mammoth Mountain offers Thanksgiving with all the trimmings

Mammoth Mountain has Thanksgiving dinner ready for visitorsWant to hit the ski slopes this Thursday without sacrificing the traditional Thanksgiving dinner? Than consider adding California’s Mammoth Mountain to the list of your turkey day traditions. Several of the resort’s restaurants will be serving up plenty of great food throughout the day, giving you the opportunity to play in the fresh powder, while still celebrating the holiday to the fullest.

Mammoth’s Mountainside Grill has a new head chef, and the restaurant is eager to feature his new dishes. For Thanksgiving, they’ll be offering everything you’d expect to find on your table at home, including carved turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, candied yams, and of course pumpkin pie. The gourmet meal costs $50 for adults, $20 for children age 7-12, and kids under 6 eat free. The service also includes complimentary photos and supervised activities for the kids in a separate game room. Seatings are available at 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, and 8pm.

Skiers and snowboarders looking for something a bit more casual will find Thanksgiving dinner available at other Mammoth restaurants as well. The Hyde Lounge, Yodler Restaurant & Bar, and Lakefront Restaurant will all be offering a fixed menu of traditional items, such as turkey, cornbread dressing, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and a selection of homemade pies.

If you’re headed to Mammoth on Thanksgiving, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of these great dining options. Travelers are encouraged to call ahead and make reservations however, as seating is limited and already going fast. Click here for more details.

Of course, don’t forget about the amazing skiing at Mammoth either. The resort has more than two feet of powder already on the ground, with more snow in the forecast. They’re also hurriedly finishing the famous Olympic size SuperDuper Pipe as well, which should open just in time for the holiday too.

American students bring Thanksgiving’s message of coexistence to the Middle East

masa middle east This Thanksgiving, holiday traditions and messages are going farther than the family dinner table. In fact, they are going all the way to the Middle East as American young adults spending time abroad will be spreading the message of coexistence throughout diverse communities by recreating the Thanksgiving feast from their childhood.

Masa Israel Journey, a project of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli Government, sends more than 6,000 young Americans to Israel each year to study, intern, and volunteer, as well as spread a peaceful and harmonious message. Diverse groups of people such as Arabs, Israeli Jews, Palestinians, Europeans, and American peers are all positively affected by the introduction and blending of Thanksgiving traditions.

Some examples of how American young adults have spread their traditions and the message of coexistence include:

  • Abra Berkowitz, a Boston-native who studied at Masa Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, shared a potluck dinner with other students from Jordan, Isreael, the Palestinian Territories, South Africa, Canada, and Australia. A blending of cultures could be seen by a turkey seasoned with zaatar and a side dish of tahini stuffing.
  • Detroit-born Josh Kanter, who enrolled in Masa Israel’s Career Israel internship program, celebrated Thanksgiving at a Herbrew University-sponsored dinner with other international students from Argentina, Uruguay, Guatemala, Israel, and the United States. While there was turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, hummus was also a big hit at the table.
  • Jessica Simon from Philadelphia, who studied at Masa Israel’s Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, was also volunteering at Jerusalem Open House, the organization that supports LGBT people and their allies in Jerusalem. She planned a Thanksgiving potluck and read from a gay friendly prayer book with Hebrew explanations about Thanksgiving to the Israeli attendees. Because sweet potatoes were not available, Simon substituted them with carrot soup.

For information on Masa Israel Journey and how they help spread the message of coexistence, click here.

A different kind of Thanksgiving without the annoying relatives

A different kind of ThanksgivingLooking for a different kind of Thanksgiving? Still waiting to see who in the family is going to offer their humble abode to celebrate the day? Dreading the thought of fighting the local supermarket for the last can of candied yams? The Ritz-Carlton in Fort Lauderdale has a better idea. Forget all that, leave the annoying relatives at home and come see them instead.

Guests at The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale wake up Thanksgiving morning to a Ritz-Carlton “Macy’s Day” parade with pilgrims, turkeys, and other harvest-favorite floats taking center stage on the oceanfront, 7th floor tropical pool deck. A New York-style breakfast is served, including bagels and lox, sweet and savory pastries, yogurt and parfaits, the freshest seasonal fruits, rich coffees and fine teas, all the while the New York Macy’s Day parade plays overhead. That’s Thursday, November 24 from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and only for hotel guests.

Want to sleep in a while? Enjoy traditional Thanksgiving and Sunday Brunch favorites from imported cheeses and charcuteries, caviar, fresh seafood on ice, create-your-own omelet station, prepared-to-order pasta to roasted turkey, ham and slow roasted prime rib carving stations. Free-flowing Champagne and a lavish dessert enclave make this a Thanksgiving feast not to be missed. We doubt there will be a reheated green bean casserole here.

The price? $95 per guest, includes champagne, $35 per child with ages 12 and under $1 per year old.
The day after, shopping begins with an exclusive, complimentary Black Friday Shopping Shuttle escorting guests of The Ritz-Carlton to Florida’s largest outlet shopping destination, with more than 350 stores including luxury designers such as Barney’s New York, David Yurman, Burberry, Giorgio Armani, Prada, Valentino and more, featured at The Colonnade promenade. A shopping survival kit is provided including bottled water, energizing snacks, and exclusive offers leaving guests to shop ’til they drop. That’s Friday, November 25 from shop-till-you-drop 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Ritz-Carlton has other events as well including Wine Journeys with somelier Don Derocher where guests tour the hotel’s award-winning 5,000-bottle Wine Vault and enjoy a personalized wine tasting of three reds or whites of preference.
They do this on November 25 & 26 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. $30

An Ultimate SpaScape lets guests treat their skin with a restorative facial that stimulates, regenerates and restores. A full body massage using antioxidant-rich oils infused with grape varietals eases muscle tension and stress.

While the fam back home listens to those same old stories that get told every year, you’ll be enjoying a complimentary glass of Sauvignon Blanc post treatment… for 50 minutes anyway.
$130

Photo courtesy Ritz-Carlton Hotels/Roberto Santos


10 More Things You Didn't Know About Thanksgiving

Video of the day: a goaty guide to pronouncing foreign cheeses

The holidays are Cheese Season. At no other time of the year are cheese and specialty food shops as thronged by dairy-seeking customers. They’re hungry for a fix or searching for a gift, recipe ingredient, or the makings of a cheese plate. Cheese is love, and one of the easiest, most elegant ways to kick off a cocktail party or conclude (or make) a memorable meal.

With that in mind, the folks at Culture: the word on cheese magazine (full disclosure: I’m a contributing editor) have produced this clever (and utterly adorable) video to aid you in pronouncing some of those delectable but tricky foreign cheeses from France, Spain, and Switzerland. Happy Hoch Ybrig, everyone!


Five sustainable alternatives to turkey this Thanksgiving or holiday season

thanksgiving turkeyIf you expected to see “Tofurkey” anywhere in this article, you clearly aren’t familiar with my work. Nope, no textured vegetable protein here.

As a kid–an obnoxiously picky eater, at that–turkey was on my lengthy list of foods to avoid. I suspect it was the notoriously dried-out birds of my youth that caused my aversion. Today, I like turkey, but it’s honestly not one of my favorite eating birds: I much prefer a good roast chicken or a game bird.

Game birds–both wild and farmed–are popular throughout much of Europe, especially in the UK, France, and Italy. Goose and duck are frequently seen in Asian cuisine, depending upon the country and region. And now, game birds are growing in popularity in the U.S.. Quail and duck aren’t difficult to find on menus, but there’s also squab, guinea hen, partridge, wood pigeon, etc.. Some birds, such as goose, heritage breed turkeys, or wild game birds may be seasonal or require order well in advance; just to give you an idea, the turkey farmer at my local market has people start signing up for Thanksgiving birds in March.

If you can’t find these birds at your local farmers market on butcher shop, you can order them online. The important thing is to ask or research how the animals are raised, and make sure it’s in a humane, ecologically responsible manner (see end of article for more information).

With the proliferation of farmed birds (mostly small-scale operations) in the U.S., I’m hard-pressed to recommend you shoot yourself some dinner (although I’m behind roadkill), but hunting is a discussion for another day. For the record, while I don’t participate in it myself, I support hunting wildlife as a means of population control, as long as the animal in question is fully utilized.

As for you city slickers, just be aware that wild birds are much stronger in flavor, less tender, and in most instances need to hang for a few days so the proteins can break down and render the meat edible. So put away your bird call and shotgun unless you have the experience and permits, and do your shopping locally or online. No muss, no fuss, and trust me, plucking birds is a serious pain in the ass. Farmed birds are bred for more tender meat, are usually hens (also more tender and mild), and a great choice even if you’ve never cooked anything beyond a chicken breast.

Do note that goose and duck, are very fatty (the extra padding helps keep these aquatic birds buoyant) and you’ll need to render the fat before you can cook the meat. The key to successfully preparing most birds, however, is to not overcook them. Your butcher or any number of cookbooks will be able to tell you how to prepare them. Some good resources: Nose to Tail Eating (Ecco) by Fergus Henderson, and River Cottage Meat Book (10 Speed Press) by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Sourcing information for all of the following bird species can be found at the end of this article.

1. Goose
Goose was once a British Christmas dinner favorite (oddly, turkey is now the bird of choice), and it’s still popular in Germany. According to esteemed food writer Joan Nathan of Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook (Random House), German Christians traditionally ate goose for Christmas, and Jews cooked it for Hannukah. In her book, she provides a lovely family recipe for roast goose stuffed with chestnuts and apples that would make any Thanksgiving table proud.

[Photo credit: Flickr user turtlemom4bacon]thanksgiving turkeyGoose is considerably more fatty than other birds, so it’s not a good choice if you’re watching your cholesterol or calories (stick with white meat turkey). But it’s that layer of fat that makes the meat so succulent and juicy. It’s very rich, so a little goes a long way; ideal if you’re feeding a crowd.

2. Pheasant
The Common Pheasant is native to Asia, but there are over 30 subspecies that have been introduced all over the world as a game bird; it’s naturalized in Europe. In the U.S., we’re most familiar with ring-necked pheasant: the males are striking, with emerald- and crimson-colored heads. Farmed pheasant is growing in popularity on menus, and is similar to dark chicken meat in flavor

3. Quail
While tiny and full of bones (imagine gnawing on a giant hummingbird drumstick), quail is a great choice if you’re having a small gathering because you can serve one bird per person. They’re very dainty and require simple preparation. Just butterfly them, thread on skewers and toss on the grill, or pan-fry. Quail meat is dark, juicy, and non-gamey; it pairs beautifully with dried fruit such as figs, dates, or cherries. Toss grilled quail atop some bitter greens dressed with a bacon vinaigrette, add some plumped dried fruit, and let the cooking juices wilt the greens. Dinner is served.

4. Duck
Duck is commonplace on fine-dining menus nationwide. While technically white meat (as is goose), it’s similar to red meat: rich, rosy, and juicy with burnished, crackling skin. Many people are intimidated by cooking duck, but it’s one of the easiest alterna-birds to work with, especially if you just use breast, thigh, or leg meat. Breasts will have a thick layer of fat beneath the skin; you’ll need to score the skin in a cross-hatch pattern to help the fat render (Don’t throw it out! Store it in a clean, sealed jar, and use it to fry potatoes or other foods for extra crispy goodness). Grill or saute breasts; legs take well to braising or confit.

There are three main breeds of duck sold commercially: Pekin, Muscovy, and Moulard. Pekin are the most tender and mild, while Muscovy are large, meaty, and stronger in flavor. Moulard are a Pekin/Muscovy cross; they’re larger, more fatty, and stronger in flavor than Pekin, and are usually raised for foie gras.

5. Squab
A more civilized term for pigeon, these aren’t your standard “rats-with-wings” variety. Squab are eating pigeons, and the meat is similar to duck–very juicy and rosy in color, with an almost livery flavor. Think of it as a smaller duck in terms of cooking technique.

Speaking of park pigeon, when I lived in the Bay Area, there was a semi-factitious activist group advocating the consumption of the out-of-control resident pigeon population (something I’d be completely behind if these birds weren’t such carriers of disease). To prove their point, they cooked up a bunch of captured birds in a San Francisco park one day and had a well-documented pigeon picnic. I’ve always found that hilarious.
thanksgiving turkey
Sourcing

Even if you decide to just stick with turkey or switch to chicken this holiday season, the most important thing–besides technique–is to start with a great bird. It’s worth the extra expense to get a pasture-raised animal that’s been supplemented with exercise, sunshine, plant matter, and foraged bugs. You’ll taste the difference, but it goes beyond just flavor.

Industrially-raised poultry (i.e. chicken and turkey) are the taste equivalent of Styrofoam with bland, watery meat plumped with saline solution; their feed is often supplemented with arsenic to produce pinker meat and act as a growth promotant and antiparasitic. They’re hybridized to grow quickly and possess outrageously oversized breasts (because that’s the part most people prefer to eat). Factory farming is also an inhumane, environmentally devastating industry with far-reaching impacts upon human health (Click here for more information on sustainable-vs-industrial turkey farming).

Sonoma County Poultry sells Liberty Ducks (actually a strain of Pekin ducks adapted to a slower, less stressful growing process) ships nationwide. Grimaud Farms of California’s San Joaquin Valley sells Muscovy duck and guinea fowl online

D’Artagnan is a well-regarded purveyor of specialty foods. They have a strong focus on sustainability and humane poultry and game bird production and procurement, and sell farmed quail, pheasant, quail, goose, squab, poussin (technically, young chicken, although sometimes game hens are sold under this name); capon (castrated rooster, which makes for flavorful, tender meat); guinea hen, and wild Scottish wood pigeon, grouse, pheasant, and Red-legged partridge online

Mad Hatcher Poultry
in eastern Washington produces quail, squab, poissin, and quail (heritage turkey and rabbit, too).

[Photo credits: roast goose, Flickr user Herman Saksono; cook, Laurel Miller]

How to Buy and Cook Duck Legs