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1789’s chef puts simple twists on Thanksgiving staples

4 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

More than half of Americans — and nearly 60% of women — look forward to side dishes over the main dish of ham or turkey during the holidays, according to a survey by Hormel Country Crock. Stuffing was named as the favorite side, and more than half of Americans ages 55 and older picked stuffing as their favorite, compared with 27% of 18- to 54-year-olds. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes or yams also ranked high on the list. On average, according to the survey, a holiday meal includes five side dishes.

I reached out to the executive chef at 1789, Anthony Lombardo, to see what his guests want in a Thanksgiving meal, what he will be serving and how he tries to set 1789 apart from other restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area.

What will you be serving this Thanksgiving?

We are using turkeys from a farm nearby in Virginia that we ordered months and months ago and will get our delivery the Monday of Thanksgiving week. We have 45 hormone-free local turkeys coming. At 1789, we will do a traditional three-course meal with a choice for the first course of either autumn pear salad or a three squash soup. Then for a main course there will be turkey, with white and dark meat, and traditional sides. For dessert, guests will choose from our selections of desserts. Most people want turkey on Thanksgiving so we go above and beyond by making sure that our farmer is raising our turkeys in a humane manner and not pumping them with hormones, like 90% of the turkey in the grocery stores this time of year.

How did you decide on this menu?

We cannot be open for Thanksgiving and not serve turkey. So what we want to do is offer it in a fine-dining atmosphere. By creating unique side dishes and coursing out our dinner, this makes it more lavish. A lot of restaurants try to make the experience as close to “dining at home” as they possibly can by giving guests the family-style dinner option. We decide to course everything out, making the dinner extravagant and providing the diner and their family with the amazing feeling they get after a great meal. Most of my family dishes are pretty simple. I am using a similar method as far as producing a sweet potato mash with vanilla.

Do your restaurant guests prefer traditional dishes, or are you able to update them with ingredients and techniques?

Our guests most definitely want traditional dishes for Thanksgiving. We oblige by offering classics with a simple twist, but not too much of a twist that deter people from us. We put interesting culinary twists on side dishes like using a house-made sage pork sausage in our stuffing. We also use both cornbread and brioche in our stuffing. Our dark meat is braised as opposed to roasted, and we serve it in shredded pieces with the stuffing. This makes for a beautiful plate presentation.

Are guests allowed to order from the regular menu in additional to your Thanksgiving special?

We will have full a la carte options for our guests, and a couple of different seafood options along with a really nice selection of appetizers.

About 80% of our guests choose the Thanksgiving day meal three-course option, but for the 20% that are not interested in that, we cater to them as well. Dishes include seared scallops with American sturgeon caviar and house-made Virginia ham. Also, salmon tends to be a popular choice for the nonturkey customers.

Do you serve a special course when serving holiday dinners at the restaurant?

We plan on having a nice aperitivo/amuse course at the beginning of the meal including unique twists on deviled eggs and some pickled fall veggies.

This is a complimentary way of saying thank you to our guests for coming to 1789 to dine for Thanksgiving. There are a lot of restaurants that offer a nice Thanksgiving meals, and our goal is to separate ourselves from the competition.

Image credit: 1789

Share your Thanksgiving menu in the comments.