Tag Archives: thanksgiving

A Turkey to Be Thankful For

The turkey is a noble bird, or so thought Benjamin Franklin when he argued that it, not the warlike, predatory eagle, should be America’s national bird. He had a strong case, the turkey being a species native to North America, ranging in the wild from Mexico through the eastern United States and into Canada. And although Franklin didn’t succeed in putting the nearly flightless gobbler on the Great Seal, the turkey has become essential to American culture and cuisine–arguably the only required part of our annual Thanksgiving Day feasts.

Turkey is, however, one of the most misunderstood meats in our diet. During the rest of the year, we eat almost exclusively the white meat in deli sandwiches. The rest is discarded or ground for burgers and the like–pretending to be the cheap, lean option. But then, once a year in November, there is a massive demand for the birds whole. The sheer quantity of turkeys in demand means that most of them come from “farms” that resemble factories more than a traditional farm. And the birds themselves are a breed more or less developed in a lab so that the breast meat is larger than natural. When cooked, these turkeys are bland and tend to dry out easily.

This is what I had to take into consideration when I decided to sell turkeys this year. With our commitment to tradition, quality, and locality, I wanted to make sure that our turkeys were something to be proud of. So I drove an hour away from the District into beautiful upper Loudoun County, Virginia where the rolling hills start to reach towards the sky in the Appalachian Mountains and breweries and wineries hide around every corner. I met with a local family farmer, whose farm, Fields of Athenry, began to raise wholesome animals to ensure that their children ate well. Heading up the driveway, I was almost immediately greeted by a loud chorus of gobbles from a pen near the entrance. There they were, in the daylight, turkeys running around in the grass with no cage in sight. As the farmer, Elaine, showed me around, she pointed at specific birds and mentioned what breeds they were. A Narragansett here, a Blue there. It was impressive watching this flock wander around the field together, with the occasional few flying over the fence and then, birds that they are, unable to figure out how to get back in and rejoin their friends.

Free Range Turkeys

I learned that the farm actually operates across three properties in Loudoun County and just over the river in Maryland. In addition to the turkeys, the family raises cows, pigs, chickens, geese, ducks, and make their own deli meats and bacon–all with the same standards of care they show for the turkeys. I’m really excited to work with these guys. But for now, for Thanksgiving, we’re going to have some of the best turkeys available. We have pre-ordering available now through November 16 online or in the store, and can get you a bird as close to the size you want it. I can spatchcock them for you, if you’re feeling adventurous and ready to grill, and Chef Johanna is preparing an awesome cider brine, if you so desire. Plus, we’re cooking up some awesome sides and appetizers to pair with them. Long story short: order a turkey! I promise it’ll be one more thing you’ll be giving thanks for this year.

Scott Weiss
Scott Weiss

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The turkey is a noble bird, or so thought Benjamin Franklin when he argued that it, not the warlike, predatory eagle, should ...

Biggest Food Week of the Year

Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year.  Family and friends all get together to eat, play games and watch football.  No gifts are exchanged and everyone can join in the preparations.  Perhaps we overdid a bit this week – but we sure had fun along the way.  Five nights – 30 people each night.  My kitchen will never be the same.

Tuesday — Pizza night!  Gotta love having a wood burning pizza oven in the kitchen.  I’m still working on my dough technique (Austin definitely has to come back from Italy and take on this task) but I did manage to put together a passable dough.  The pizzas take 3-5 minutes to cook so everyone can put together the pizza of their choice and we crank them out until everyone groans to stop.

Best pizza of the night?

Tomato sauce

Raw sausage


Fresh mozzarella

Of course drizzled with a spicy olive oil when it is finished


Wednesday Lobster bake.  My favorite email the week before Thanksgiving was from my brother Chad “warning” us that he was going to make a big mess in the backyard on Wednesday night.  The email had an attachment of anticipated deliveries of seaweed and shellfish and directions for where and how to storeeverything. I missed the preparation process – but we did end up with 30 lobsters cooked in the firepit out back, clams and fresh oysters.


Thursday – The big day!  Having a fridge full of seafood on Wednesday necessitated a trip to the grocery on Thursday morning to pick up a few essentials – namely turkey, potatoes, cranberries and everything else we wanted to cook.  We had avoided the crowds all week and the Safeway was well stocked and peaceful.  Everyone was still sleeping when we got back and Debbie and I were able to prep the veggies, bake a couple of pies and get breakfast out for the kids.  We left for the movies at 1:15 with the kids (mostly teen-agers now) and left the spouses and uncles in charge of fire and meat.  Seemed like a good fit.  Dinner was precisely at 6:00 and in addition to the mashed potatoes, cranberry chutney and vegetables the boys served up roasted turkey, grilled prime rib, lamb roasted over the fire, tuna poke and octopus.  Where to begin?

Best veggie of the night?

Brussel sprouts steamed tossed with candied walnuts, butter and pomegranate seeds.


Friday – No leftovers for us.  This is where our competitive side comes out and its all about the Chili cookoff.  The kids are experts and they spend the weeks before researching and testing their new chili ideas.  Uncle Michael has been making the same chili for years and keeps winning year after year – you’d think the kids would give up but it just makes them more determined to best him. The best part of the cookoff is standing back and watching the kids go to work.  Everyone is slicing and dicing and sneaking off to add a secret ingredient to the pot.  The kitchen is noisy and chaotic but everyone has a plan.  And then, it gets quiet.  The five chili pots are simmering and everything is being washed and put away in anticipation of the judging.  Big victory this year.  Josh’s chili comes in first and Uncle Michael comes in second.  Of course my team comes in dead last.  Oh well, there is always next year.

Secret to winning?

Fritos, sour cream, grated cheese and freshly diced onions


Saturday — Pizza delivery never tasted so good – and the cleanup was a breeze!

Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year.  Family and friends all get together to eat, play games and watch football.  No gifts ...