Holiday Hosting Made Easy

Pam George

Pam George

, Below The Fold

Whether you want turkey stock or six turkey dinners, area establishments are ready to help

There was a time when many hosts cowered in the shadow of Martha Stewart. Faithful followers stenciled tablecloths and napkins for the Thanksgiving meal. They made the gravy from scratch and carefully tucked decorative herbs under the turkey skin for a wow factor.

No more. Today’s time-starved hosts have learned the shortcuts to a stress-free holiday meal or party: buy a dish or even an entire meal from a shop or restaurant.

“There’s definitely no shame in it,” says Lisa Scolaro, executive chef at Moveable Feast, a gourmet takeout shop and café in Wilmington. “Our clientele depends on us, for sure. They were asking for the Thanksgiving menu in October.”

Moveable Feast, whose slogan is “cutting-edge comfort food,” is just one of the local businesses that can ease your entertaining workload over the holidays.

The Whole Enchilada

Many shops offer the entire Thanksgiving meal, which is a boon for you if your kitchen is small or you have a black thumb when it comes to cooking.

Moveable Feast’s complete dinner includes all the favorite sides for eight to 10 people. Janssen’s Market in Greenville sells a complete turkey dinner for between two to 12 people. (If you have small children, you can likely make do with dinner for two.) The menu includes a choice of stuffing, potatoes or rice, vegetable, relish, and pie. It also includes giblet gravy, turkey stock, dinner rolls, and even cut flowers for the table.

You can also find prepared turkey dinners in some unexpected places. Toscana To Go might have an Italian flair, thanks to big sister Piccolina Toscana. But come November and December, the cooks are roasting turkey and preparing America’s favorite trimmings.

Not surprisingly, Wegmans in Concordville is a contender. Just remember that the super store’s full turkey meal is packaged cold. Don’t pick it up 10 minutes before guests arrive.

Spending Thanksgiving solo but still want your turkey dinner? Call Montrachet Fine Foods, the catering arm of Centerville Café, which will happily prepare dinner for one.

On the Side

Admittedly, you might delight in the smell of a roasting turkey. Or perhaps you want to pull out the turkey fryer you received last Christmas. (Remember to make the time to heat the oil, and for heaven’s sake, use it outside.)

Popping the turkey in the oven or oil is one thing. Peeling and mashing potatoes, cubing bread, stirring lumpy gravy, and baking pies is another. “The most requested dishes we sell are the old standbys that take a lot of time to prep and cook: mashed potatoes, maple-whipped yams, stuffing and a lot of gravy—vats of gravy,” Paula Janssen says. “We preorder all the turkey necks we can get in the week before Thanksgiving to meet the demand.”

If you like to cook but don’t like the prep, there is also an option. For one client, the Centreville Café makes the turkey stock and chops celery and onion. The client makes the stuffing. “We save her the labor,” owner Susan Teiser explains.

If you decide to order prepared sides, Centerville Café will happily arrange the food on your platters or in your casserole. “Customers can take full credit for it,” she says. Without cartons and bags, your guests won’t be the wiser.

Have it Your Way

In these days of gluten-free, dairy-free, and Paleo eating, you’ll probably encounter guests with dietary preferences. The Centerville Café specializes in customizing a dish or ingredient to meet the client’s needs. “So much of our work now is gluten-free,” says Teiser, who’ll also make sugar-free items.

Janssen’s sells gluten-free stuffing and pies. Moveable Feast can provide both gluten-free and vegetarian options. Harvest Market Natural Foods in Hockessin is the go-to place for ingredients that will appease guests on most special diets.

For kosher foods, turn to ShopRite in Brandywine, which has a kosher kitchen on site and will deliver throughout New Castle County. ShopRite also sells specialty meats, such as halal foods, which are permissible under Islamic law.

Holiday Dazzle

Let’s say it’s Thanksgiving—the start of the holiday season hoopla—and it’s your turn to host. House a mess? Consider holding the party at an event venue, such as the Centreville Café, which can host up to 35 indoors. You could also book Domaine Hudson’s new private dining space, which seats 35, or the 20-seat private dining room.

If your home is presentable but your culinary skills are subpar, Montrachet caters in a client’s home. “We’ll do full-service—whatever anybody wants,” Teiser says.

More often than not, most hosts just want, well, help. Order and pick-up has become a popular option at Toscana To Go. “We have a casual catering menu that we’ve written just for home entertaining,” says owner Dan Butler.

Bachetti Bros. Catering will deliver or you can pick up. (Bachetti’s also offers full catering.) Opt for the catering menu if you have more than 20 guests. Otherwise, check out the market for dips, soups, and prepared salads. Moveable Feast has a lengthy list of options, including Middle East samplers and antipasti with grilled vegetables.

Restaurants also have seen opportunities in this market sector. Big Fish Grill on the Riverfront, for instance, has a lengthy menu of cold and hot appetizers, entrees, salads and desserts. Stop here if you need shrimp cocktail, a raw bar platter, or three pounds of Big Fish’s addictive smoked tuna dip.

Increasingly, supermarkets have stepped up to the holiday party plate. ShopRite locations in Delaware offer a variety of catering options, including sushi. Carnivores, conversely, will appreciate oven-roasted beef tenderloin, served medium-rare with Black Bear horseradish-cream sauce. Many dishes are prepped for cooking, such as prime rib that’s tied and seasoned. Just pop it in the oven.

But the most requested catered items during the holidays are appetizers and desserts, Teiser says.

“Appetizers are a little fancier and desserts are a little richer.” As usual, she keeps the cheese case stocked.

If you’re having a small party, stop by Bon Appetit Gourmet Food Shoppe in Talleyville, which sells apps such as lollipop lamb chops with basil-walnut pesto and skewered sesame chicken by the piece.

Buy or Lease

Party planning involves more than buying food. You also need the right tools of the trade. If you’re lacking good barware, head to Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond, where you can snag up to 12 glasses for well under $20 and often under $10. You can also get some great deals on cheap white plates, cutlery, and white napkins on Amazon.com.

For patterned linens, chafing dishes, tables and chairs, Teiser recommends Diamond State Party Rentals, which posts its pricing on the website.

Be Prepared

During the holidays, Teiser keeps her coffer full of popular items, such as lollipop lamb chops. But if you want quail egg or boneless duck breast, order at least a week in advance.

As for Thanksgiving, there are only so many turkeys to go around. Determine your store’s deadline, and fill out the order form. Check it twice. Otherwise, you and your family might be eating in a Chinese restaurant on the big day.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.