Food & Wine
April 27, 2012

Not once in my entire life have I been to a Thanksgiving that wasn't hosted by someone in my family—first my grandmother, now my mother. I have had the same super-plain turkey, sweet potatoes with marshmallows and creamed spinach every year. It's like committing to a monogamous relationship without ever having dated anyone else. This year, though, I got to cheat a little. I was able to attend Michael Symon's out-of-season holiday, one of three Thanksgiving meals he'll make this year (including a hyperactive version for Iron Chef America). In preparing the menu for this issue, he and his wife, Liz, held a party in New York in July. I love Michael (that's us in the photo at right) and was thrilled to get a taste of his cider-braised turkey with lager gravy, and his apple brown Betty.

This brings me to another aspect of Thanksgiving that I've never been able to experience: shopping for the big event. I always love going to the market—or, honestly, multiple markets—for any meal. But stores like Trader Joe's and Costco make it possible to knock out a couple of trips in one visit. At Target, for instance, you can buy terrific wine and a new serving platter. In "Wine Lovers' Guide to Party Planning," F&W's wine, food and style editors suggest the best things to buy on a shopping trip to a big-box or national-chain food megastore.

Another thing I never do for Thanksgiving is travel, since it coincides with my mother's birthday. I always want to be with her in New York, where we live, so I never have to negotiate an airport on the most traveled days of the year. To help those who need to fly to dinner, writer Nick Fauchald tried out new airport restaurants in three big cities. He was amazed at how good the food was, from pristine sushi and oysters to burgers made with a custom blend of meats from status butcher Pat LaFrieda. I'll never abandon my mother on Thanksgiving, but I know just where I'll be eating after the holiday, when it's time to go on a winter escape.

Where I'm Coming From: My Recent Expeditions

Tertulia: New York City

Seamus Mullen's super tapas include specials like smoky mackerel from the must-see custom grill.

Community Table: Washington, CT

Joel Viehland changes his menu often, even within one dinner service. You might not be able to get the venison chop I had, but everything on his menu is great.

RedFarm: New York City

At this charming second- floor restaurant, Joe Ng's juicy rib steak with a green "fence" of baby bok choy was delicious.

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