Thanksgiving dinner ideas

Thanksgiving may be a time for family and food, but the complexities of preparing this annual dinner ain’t no picnic. Crawling from bed in the cold dawn light to shove a 30 lb. turkey into the oven, frantically checking your e-mail to keep up with an inflow that refuses to acknowledge a holiday, performing a ceremonial juggling act with food and wine — even the most hospitable chef would be exhausted.

For those of us who enjoy the food but not the mayhem, restaurants in the Washington Metropolitan area have plenty to offer this holiday period. Whether it’s dinner for two or ten, an authentic turkey feast or a modern twist, there’s much to be thankful for on this year’s menus.

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• Legal Sea Foods: If you thought Thanksgiving was all about the turkey, think again. Legal Sea Foods returns to tradition with a seafood menu robust enough for the pilgrims themselves. The very first Thanksgiving meal reputedly involved fish as well as fowl, and the modern turkey centerpiece was likely not on the menu (although it will be an option at the restaurant). At $21.95 per person — $7.95 for children ages 12 and under — and with locations across the Washington area, Legal Sea Foods is a great place to take the family and celebrate a historically accurate, and tasty, Thanksgiving.

•Manor House Restaurant at Poplar Springs Inn: The Manor House in Casanova, Va., is offering a special Thanksgiving Dinner and Inn package for those looking for a mini-break. At $455 for a double occupancy with wine pairings with dinner, it’s pricey, but there’s plenty included. Located near the Blue Ridge Mountains on a 200-acre private estate, the package boasts a champagne gift basket to start, a three-course dinner with wine pairings, breakfast in bed the next day, and scenic fall surroundings that are bound to be a welcome break to long work weeks.

• Trummer’s On Main: In the historic town of Clifton, Va., Trummer’s On Main’s executive chef Clayton Miller received a 2010 Best New Chef award from Food & Wine Magazine; no small accolade. His Thanksgiving menu includes oyster stew or butternut soup to start, main courses such as braised beef short ribs, and desert classics like pecan pie, with an overall price tag of $64 per person. The chef’s signature American cuisine is the right touch for a Thanksgiving menu, and brings a great fusion of contemporary cooking and conventional fare. 

• Extra Virgin: If you’re planning on hosting a party during the winter months, Extra Virgin in Arlington, Va., has created a customizable Holiday Event menu. The restaurant can hold parties of up to 200 people, but they also offer catering menus and party platters if you’re holding an event in the office or at home. There’s a choice between buffet-style or hors d’oeuvres, and with Italian food that places particular emphasis on olive oil, it’s sure to win over even the fussiest of eaters.

• CommonWealth: A good dose of hearty pub grub is exactly what Thanksgiving calls for, and CommonWealth: A Neighborhood Gastropub in the Columbia Heights area of Washington, D.C., will be serving it up in abundance. Favorites of turkey with cranberry sauce and roast beef are assuredly on the three-course menu — priced at $35 per person — along with other seasonal produce, such as sides of stuffing and squash gratin. CommonWealth also provides a wide selection of beers  to help wash it all down.

• Rasika: Rasika will be serving up an Indian twist on Thanksgiving dinner this year. Chef Vikram Sunderam has created a special dish for holiday diners of cranberry turkey tikka with pumpkin chutney and spiced brussel sprouts, priced at $16 and available alongside the Northwest D.C. restaurant’s a la carte menu. With its reputation for rich Indian flavors, Rasika promises to be a unique variation on Thanksgiving staples.

• 701 Restaurant: Executive chef Ed Witt at the 701 Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue promises a Thanksgiving dinner for the environmentally conscious. The fine dining establishment’s menu, priced at $45 per person, includes dishes like eco-friendly turkey with roasted breast meat, leg ballotine, mashed potatoes, stuffing and giblet gravy, and eco-friendly suckling pig with house-made sausage stuffing, celery root and savoy cabbage. There will be a live jazz duo of piano and bass, which will undoubtedly add some glamour to your holiday.