Escape the kitchen on the holiday

Varied cuisines offer everyone, including the cook, a chance to relax

Restaurant Profile

November 25, 1999|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

It's not exactly politically correct to say so, but Thanksgiving dinner can be a real drag.

OK, the food is almost always great: tables filled to overflowing with heaping platters of comfort food, desserts galore and the obligatory pass-out on the couch afterward.

But preparing such an enormous feast can be a daunting, back-breaking task for the family's designated holiday chef, who will surely wonder: "Wouldn't it be great if we could just eat out this Thanksgiving?"

This year, choices abound for Thanksgiving dinner at local restaurants. Many are staying open today and offering traditional (and nontraditional) holiday cuisine.

For the past three years, Tersiguel's, Ellicott City's famed French restaurant, has opened its doors on Thanksgiving for a four-course meal that's half old-school Plymouth Rock and half traditional French cuisine.

As a result, Tersiguel's Thanksgiving dinner has become a popular alternative for local residents who just don't want to be bothered with hours of preparation time in their own kitchens, says Fernand Tersiguel, the owner.

"More and more," he says, "people just don't want to cook anymore. Thanksgiving isn't a French holiday, but we really wanted to say thanks to the people who eat here all the time.

"Now, everyone wants to eat here, and they even come for the French food, too," Tersiguel adds.

Like many other area eating places, Tersiguel's Thanksgiving menu will feature autumn and seasonal staples such as pumpkin soup, sweet potatoes with pecan crust, Brussels sprouts, persimmons, cauliflower and turkey. (There's also French onion soup, escargots, beef Burgundy, pan-roasted salmon with crab and herb butter and roast rack of lamb.)

While most of Howard County's chain restaurants will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, many of the more upscale establishments will serve dinner at an earlier time.

Ellicott City's Turf Valley Resort and Country Club will offer large buffets in their grand ballroom from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Alexander's Steak House in Columbia will be open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. for a buffet-style Thanksgiving dinner, but will be closed during regular dinner hours.

Others serving Thanksgiving dinner are Kings Contrivance Restaurant in Columbia, the Hunter's Lodge Tavern on U.S. 40 in Ellicott City, Elkridge Furnace Inn and Baldwin's Station in Sykesville.

Salads, vegetable plates, pumpkin soup, ham, turkey and sweet potatoes will be featured on nearly every restaurant's holiday menu. But only a few restaurants can afford to incorporate seasonal produce and meats into their regular menu, which can change daily or weekly, depending on the availability of certain items at local produce markets.

Coastal Sunbelt, part of the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market in Jessup and the produce purveyor for a number of local restaurant chains like Outback Steakhouse and Ruby Tuesday, as well as Tersiguel's and Turf Valley Country Club, begins to receive truckloads of produce like hard squash, nuts, broccoli, and white asparagus around mid-October.

That's when customers will begin to see produce they associate with the cold weather months -- gourds, root vegetables, nuts and beans, says Chris Latteri, Coastal Sunbelt's buyer.

Restaurants that don't have a fixed menu often "can tailor what they offer to fit the season," Latteri says. "Instead of just filling an order for tomatoes, lettuce and other vegetables that can be found all year round, they'll ask what looks good. The chefs will create an item with fresh produce that will only be around for a few months a year."

Pub Date: 11/25/99

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