Photo by Danny Fulgencio

By Taylor Adams

When it comes to the holidays, there’s giving thanks and then there’s amazing grace. 

We asked neighborhood professionals for help. Eduardo “Lalo” Ramirez, executive chef of Lover’s Seafood & Market, starts each Thanksgiving morning with restaurant team members playing soccer against co-owner colleagues at Shinsei Restaurant. Sons Joseph, 13, and Derek, 9, join in. (Shinsei usually wins.) They have tamales after the game and then go home to prepare the meal. He and wife, Sujey, cook together at home for the holiday.

Meanwhile, restaurateur Jon Alexis of TJ’s Seafood says, “I always think of Thanksgiving as kind of like the first big fall meal. It’s about fall vegetables and fall herbs. All summer in Texas, we want to eat meals that cool us down. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, I want food that sticks to my ribs and warms my belly.”

 At home, Jim Severson, owner of Sevy’s Grill, roasts a 20-pound turkey with herbs. He also prepares gravy and brown-butter mashed potatoes. His brother Mark makes “stuffin’ muffins,” a variety of dressings baked in muffin tins. This technique offers crisp edges and variety, including sausage and cornbread. Brother-in-law Brad is a cranberry-relish expert, offering up half a dozen types. 

 Alexis suggests serving beef tenderloin or seafood. “We love that people think of seafood on the Thanksgiving table: shrimp, oyster stuffing, crawfish dressing – those are all delicious things.”

Photo by Danny Fulgencio

What to eat

Ramirez, who is from Mexico City, suggests that you lead with the sides. Turkey is served at Christmas rather than at Thanksgiving in his family. He showcases apple salad with pineapple, enchiladas with roast chicken and tomatillo salsa and roasted sweet potatoes with marshmallow.

What to drink

“The nice thing about the Thanksgiving table is there are so many bold flavors that there are no wrong answers,” Alexis says.

Drink what you like, whether that’s a medium red, an oaky chardonnay or a locally brewed lager.

“The spicy notes in whiskey are beautiful with Thanksgiving,” Alexis says. “Have fun with seasonal cocktails. Make a pitcher of cranberry old-fashioneds. Play with the ingredients of the Thanksgiving meal.

“If you like cab, drink cab. It’s a happy day. People should drink what they like.”

How to fake it

There may be negative connotations with having takeout for Thanksgiving. But in 2018, it’s time for that perception to change. At least, that’s what Joanie Thompson has learned from the clients of Preston Hollow Catering.

“Many people started doing this with us years ago and said, ‘This year I just can’t do it. This will be my only year.’ Then year after year after year, they say, ‘How would I have ever thought about doing that myself?’ ” Thompson says.

Eighty percent of the catering business’ Thanksgiving orders are repeat customers.

Plenty of places provide entire meals or portions of the meals to go — Eatzi’s or Central Market, for example. 

Preston Hollow Catering takes the “whole-meal-deal-or-nothing approach” with turkey, the sides, rolls and pies.

“People love it. They enjoy their lives with their family instead of cooking,” she says.

Make it look elegant

“Bring out all your china and your things that you just sit on during the year,” says Kristen Larkin of Larkin Events and Weddings. “Make it look like an inviting table.”

Larkin, who does much of her work in the Preston Hollow area, suggests a fall scent. Bring water to a boil with orange, pineapple and lemon; add a cinnamon stick and cloves to the mixture, then let it simmer all day.

That adds to the sensual appeal.

“Having a beautiful centerpiece on the table is important. That can be a shelled-out pumpkin with blooming mums or some candles,” she says. “Have the floral start at your front door. Use the same floral at your table outside, greeting your guests. Walking in, they’re hit with that scent, then they see the table.”

Karen Elizabeth Watts contributed to this story.

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