A Catered Affair

Food and wine editor Bonnie Graves plans the perfect outdoor holiday meal … with the help of Valley vendors and friends.

 I hosted Thanksgiving at our home last year and narrowly avoided disaster when I belatedly realized our oven would not heat to more than 375º. The specter of raw turkey and sweltering SoCal autumn temperatures sent me running to our local Gelson’s. It was there that I experienced a Thanksgiving epiphany as I picked up my perfectly roasted bird to bring home and then stealthily style as my own, of course. A nice platter, a sharp knife and some pretty herbs and fruits are all I needed to salvage the day. So take my mantra to heart this year and “supplement strategically.” And eat outside already—it’s California!

Maybe you roast your own turkey but buy your pies. Or perhaps you want to bake but let someone else handle the side dishes. Whatever strategy you choose, the end result will be more time outside with a glass of wine in your hand and loved ones at your side. We hosted our very own Thanksgiving potluck on your behalf this year with a crew of local experts to help you cheat your way to the perfect feast.

Richard and Hallee Mooney of Kensington Catering teamed with event guru Ryan Zynger to set the stage in their gorgeous backyard patio, where lucky attendees got an early crack at al fresco gluttony. Here in the Southland, we are blessed with an incredible array of artisanal bakers, personal chefs, caterers and boutique wine shops to help you channel your inner Martha Stewart this fall. No one needs to know how you made it look so effortless, so read on for more insiders’ tips and recipes from selected pros. 

Traditional grocery stores typically offer frozen turkey bombs, boxes of stuffing and instant mashed potatoes—convenient timesavers, even if inedible. Shop smarter this season with the nice folks over at Grow in Manhattan Beach, whose farm-to-table fervor is matched only by their charitable chops. Sun Valley free-range turkeys start at $3.99 per pound, and did we mention they deliver free of charge to most local neighborhoods? Now that’s something to be thankful for.

Grow has smartly partnered with some other nearby businesses to maximize your holiday time. Local favorite Chef Thomas Symon expertly brined and herb-roasted one of Grow’s birds for our feast, and many of his delicious soups and other creations will be available at the store.

Chef Anne Conness over at Tin Roof Bistro whipped up a sweet potato gratin with caramelized onions and pecans that had us all clamoring for the recipe. And our pie buffet was enough to ruin any waistline—from the folks over at Cake Bake Shop came an incredible cranberry nut tart, while the surprising hit of the day was the pumpkin-chocolate marble pie from the wizards at the Sensitive Baker. The latter was gluten-free, dairy-free and kosher, but most importantly, it was out-of-this-world delicious. We licked the pie plate. 

Don’t forget the wine for Thanksgiving! Rather than grab a dubiously old bottle you’ve been saving and hope for the best, let the pros help you put together a variety of turkey-friendly wines to please every palate. Owner Paddy Delepine at Bacchus Wines Made Simple contributed a trio of bottles that complement the diversity of any feast. And with smart supplementing at your own Thanksgiving table, you just may have time to sample all three this year.  Cheers!

Raising a glass to toast good friends and great vendors


Feast Vendors

Artful Foods Catering | Chef Jason Ivener | 310-512-6077 | artfulfoodscatering.com

Topanga Catering Company | Chef Jeffrey Kramer | 310-308-8654 | topangacatering.com

Big Sugar Bakeshop | 818-508-5855 | bigsugarbakeshop.com

The Sensitive Baker | 310-815-1800 | thesensitivebaker.com