You know you need a turkey. Or tofurky. And sides. Cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes and stuffing and gravy and all that stuff. You know all that. You won’t forget that stuff. But you may not think of some other obvious things, food, drink and other, that could ruin your Thanksgiving. So we asked some of our favorite chefs and beverage directors what not to forget this Thanksgiving. Turkey is not on the list because you know you need turkey. Or tofurky.
Not Food & Drink
With so many family members coming to visit and stay over the weekend, an air mattress is a necessary tool to have. -Guillermo Pernot, Chef and Partner of Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar
First of all Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I’ll say on record the truest of holidays. Hallmark Channel needs to be making Thanksgiving movies. There’s no pressure of gifts, expectations, and awkwardness of not gifting. It’s a gathering of family and friends that involves a sharing of a feast. My dad does all the cooking. My mom makes sushi. And there’s my dads pumpkin pie with cool whip! But If I were to speak selfishly about what every Thanksgiving needs, it’s my dad’s old leather lazy boy. After a big meal it’s the most perfect place to claim/sleep. Everyone has taken turns snoring with their mouths open in that chair. But something for the whole family since it is a day of family, Thanksgiving needs an all out flag football game. So much fun. -Katsuya Fukushima, Executive Chef and Partner of Daikaya Group (Daikaya, Bantam King, Haikan and soon-to-open Hatoba)
Every Thanksgiving needs a cousin’s night out on the town. A tradition of ours is to get together the night before Thanksgiving and spend time together at our favorite bars. We may getting a bit old for it, but it’s nice to have a little time without the presence of the older generation. -Tim Ma, Executive Chef of Eaton DC, Chef and Owner of Kyirisan
Some outdoor time is crucial for me on Thanksgiving. I know a lot of us get caught up in the kitchen cooking for hours on end. I like to break up the day by getting outside with everyone, especially my little ones, to throw a ball or frisbee around. It gets everyone moving and ready for the feast that awaits. -Rob Rubba, Chef of soon-to-open Oyster Oyster
Joy is the key to Thanksgiving that is sometimes forgotten. We’ve brought joy to our table with a game we call “This is a cat. This is a dog”. It’s played with a knife and fork where the fork is the cat and the knife is the dog. The initiating player passes the fork/cat to her neighbor to the right and the knife/dog to the player on the left. The utensils are then identified “This is a cat/dog”, questioned “This is a what?” and confirmed “This is a cat/dog”. Then the utensils are passed along to the next guest at the table and the script is repeated, with the question and confirmation progressing back to, and returning back from, the initiating player. The process is repeated as the utensils make their way around the table. The fun begins immediately as the script, utensils and animals are confused, but when the two utensils converge, peals of laughter ring the Thanksgiving table reminding all of the joy of giving thanks. -Ruth Gresser, Chef and Owner of Pizzeria Paradiso
Not Exactly Food & Drink But Not Not Food & Drink
A spoon. No seriously. Everyone cooking that fancy feasts of all feasts has plenty in their kitchen. Unfortunately, I’ve see so many beautiful, time consuming meals, that are on the cusp of glory, fall flat because home cooks tend to not taste their food as they cook. Stop trusting those recipes so much and trust your taste buds.
I’m not naming names. So, if I’ve eaten over your house, It was all wonderful, and I’m not talking about you. Invite me again please.
Taste everything in several stages, pre-cook, being cooked, and before you serve it. Check seasoning and texture. Is it just ok or do you want to stop what your doing and eat all of it yourself? That’s what I shoot for. You have plenty of time to make adjustments until that food hits the table. That’s why I like to cook hungry! -Michael Bonk, Chef de Cuisine of BLT Steak
Food & Drink
The one thing that every Thanksgiving needs is good bread. Good bread becomes the scarpetta of a meal, or if you’re like me, you’re making a sandwich out of all the components on the table. As we all know – everything tastes better when it’s a sandwich. -Michael Friedman, Chef and Owner of The Red Hen and All Purpose
Charcuterie and Cheese
People spend so much time making the dinner, that they always forget snacks. Everyone skips lunch and arrives early and they’re hungry and cranky. Pick up a little bit of charcuterie and some cheese. Get things started on the right foot. -Faiz Ally, Chef de Cuisine of Poca Madre
Everyone needs a digestif. I strongly recommend Underberg, the German digestif bitter, to help remedy that and they are just fun to throw back. -Brett Oye, Head Bartender of Brabo Brasserie
Green Bean Casserole
I truly believe that every Thanksgiving needs a green bean casserole! For me, the dish has a nostalgic quality, and reminds me of home and my childhood (which is nice as I often can’t make it back for the holidays). -Benjamin Lambert, Executive Chef of Ana at District Winery
I think that no thanksgiving is complete without a bottle of Jameson. I have spent the last 6 years with my adoptive DC family and every year there are new faces and old. The only constant is a bottle of Jameson that MUST be finished before the night is over. Sometimes there are many to help, but sometimes only a few. Lol. Every year we go around the room and give thanks then cheers it with a shot of Jameson. -Marjorie Meek-Bradley, Executive Chef of St. Anselm
The one thing every thanksgiving needs is the leftovers. Growing up my family would split the holiday with both my dads side in New Jersey then my moms side in New York. So we would have an early Thanksgiving dinner with my dads family then drive back to New York and have a late night leftover dinner with my moms family. We would make turkey sandwiches with stuffing and gravy, and my Grandma would always save desserts for our later dinner. It’s definitely my favorite part of the day, and reminds me of many great times with my family. -Tommy Levandoski, Executive Sous Chef of Osteria Morini
Growing up in Austin, Texas, we had Mexican food for Thanksgiving. For me, the holiday isn’t complete without pinto beans, guacamole, rice, hand-rolled enchiladas with red tortillas from San Antonio, tamales, mole ancho, and salad. -Rich Falbo, Executive Chef of Firefly
Start Thanksgiving every year with two dozen fresh oysters, preferably Beausoleil or any northern East Coast oyster) on the half shell and a bottle of Champagne. -Russell Smith, Executive Chef of The Source by Wolfgang Puck
For the table, it’s salad. People always overlook it and it’s a perfect part of every meal – especially one like traditional Thanksgiving. A good salad with lots of radishes, different spicy lettuces (arugula, watercress, frisée) and a light citrus vinaigrette. A must-have. -Marc Hennessy, Executive Chef of RARE Steakhouse & Tavern
A strong selection of appetizers and snacks, and mulled wine! Sometimes at-home chefs get so stressed about the main event (read: turkey, mashed potatoes), that they forget to offer their guests something leading up to the big meal. Thanksgiving is all about eating and relaxing, and you don’t want your friends and family hovering over you in the kitchen asking when dinner will be ready because they’re hungry. As for the mulled wine, it’s a crowd-pleaser and perfect in chilly November weather. -Jason Shelley, Executive Chef of Ocean Prime
Every thanksgiving dinner must have some type of sparkling wine. My Italian family serves Prosecco, Lambrusco, and/or Asti Spumante (my mom likes the sweet stuff). Basically, anything effervescent helps with digestion and is light enough to pair nicely with the massive amounts of food that will be consumed! -Shannan Troncoso, Co-owner and Chef at Brookland’s Finest
At Thanksgiving a Spiced Rum is always nice to mix with various items that you will be serving. The Caramelized notes are especially great with the sweet potatoes, turkey with giblet gravy, etc.
I think it always nice to have one “welcome” cocktail ready when people arrive. Something that can be put together ahead of time. -Erin Ward, Beverage Director of Carmine’s
A few years back my friends and I changed the name to Steaks-giving and haven’t looked back. Give me a grill (and a bourbon)! -Ed McIntosh of Sliced and soon-to-open Chop Shop Taco
Every Thanksgiving dinner should consider the tradition of the trou normand, or “Normandy hole.” Originating in France, it’s a shot of calvados (apple brandy) taken in the middle of a large meal, with folklore dictating that the alcohol burns a hole in your stomach and speeds up digestion, allowing you to eat more. It also serves as a palate cleanser … and terrific ice breaker for awkward family times. -Monica Lee, Beverage Director for Daikaya Group (Daikaya, Bantam King, Haikan, and soon-to-open Hatoba)
From a Frenchman’s perspective: good wine. Start with aperitif like a kir or kir royal , or even Champagne. Then Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the logical choices, but Beaujolais might be even a better go-to wine. Gamay is a humble varietal which thrives in some inhospitable terroirs. Yet it’s very pleasing and refreshing, light body and joyous. How better match to celebrate Thanksgiving? -Christophe Poteaux, Chef and Owner of Bastille