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For hundreds of years, Americans ate locally during the holidays. They had no choice. Today, it takes a ton more work to put together a holiday meal from local products.
Appetizers: A spread of cheeses, charcuterie, breads, and jam. Several local dairies hawk their cheeses at area farmers markets, including Everona Dairy, Keswick Creamery, Blue Ridge, and Cherry Glen. For charcuterie, there’s Red Apron, which sells Nathan Anda’s house-cured meats at Planet Wine in Del Ray and at the FRESHFARM Penn Quarter market (until Dec. 17). Or order Jamie Stachowski’s holiday charcuterie board, which includes enough sausage and salami and pâté to serve 10 people, by calling the chef at (202) 413-7355. Some of the best breads anywhere are being baked by Atwater’s in Baltimore; you’ll find their terrific baguettes and San Francisco–style sourdough bread at the Dupont Circle and Takoma Park farmers markets. For jams, check out Copper Pot’s excellent line of spreads made by former Mio chef Stefano Frigerio. You can order them at copperpotfoodco.com. Your guests may never make it to the dinner table after this opening feast.
Opening drink: The apple cider from Twin Springs Fruit Farm, based in Orrtanna, Pa., may be the best I’ve ever had. Buy lots of it, because your guests will drink the stuff as if it were water in the desert. Twin Springs sells its cider at farmers markets around the area, from Dupont Circle to Arlington. You can serve the juice any number of ways: straight up; mulled with cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger and/or nutmeg and served warm; or stirred over ice with a good bourbon to make a holiday cocktail, perfect for surviving even the most tedious of family gatherings. twinspringsfruitfarm.com
Starter: Because there aren’t many fresh greens available at this time of year, your best bet is to start your meal with a soup rather than a salad. Squashes, of course, are abundant, and few soups are as sweet and satisfying as one made with roasted butternut squash. The gourds are available from countless local farms that sell their products at the District’s many farmers markets. Try pairing it with a winter green, like chard or kale, which you can blanch, chop, and mix into the soup pot for added flavor.
Entree: With all the arguments about fresh vs. frozen, heritage vs. broad-breast white, free-range vs. barn-raised, it’s often hard to know where to turn for a quality turkey. Politics and environment aside, you must know your own palate. Do you prefer white meat that tastes slightly sweet? Then stick with commercial broad-breast whites, which are bred and often chemically enhanced for those characteristics. But if you want a genuine taste of turkey, with the kind of deep, natural (and even gamey) flavors that the birds had before the giant food companies got ahold of them, go to Maple Lawn Farms in Fulton, Md., and buy one of its fresh free-range toms or hens. You can pre-order your turkey for pick-up at maplelawn.com. Remember: Don’t buy a fresh turkey more than a day or two before you plan to cook it. Otherwise, you might have, shall we say, a Food Safety Issue. Not a good thing for the holidays.
Side dish 1: Forget the standard yams and sweet potatoes. For something really different, try the Murasakiiro IMO (aka, the “Okinawan sweet potato”), which is actually part of the yam family. Sold at the Homestead Farm stand at the Takoma Park farmers market, this tuber has purple flesh, which will make for a colorful side dish to a meal so often saturated in boring browns and whites. Mash it with butter, cream, and ginger for a sweet-and-aromatic combination that should pair perfectly with your standard turkey dinner.
Side dish 2: Yes, yes, I know. You hate Brussels sprouts. You’ve despised ’em since you were a kid. Well, that’s likely because they were boiled to death. Or overcooked. Well-prepared sprouts are a great winter side, a sweet and savory bite with a welcome note of bitter cabbage underneath. Simply boil the sprouts for 10 minutes, then roast ’em until browned and caramelized. Season and drizzle them with a little melted butter. You’ll thank us later. You can buy sprouts at the FRESHFARM Dupont Circle market from Tree & Leaf, New Morning Farm, and the Farm at Sunnyside.
Rolls: Technically speaking, you can’t buy or prepare rolls with local ingredients. The wheat necessary for the flour is, by and large, grown too far away to be considered local. So we’re going to cheat: Buy a 2-pound bag of Patrick Henry All-Purpose flour by Byrd Mill in Ashland, Va., whose history dates to 1740. You can buy it online at byrdmill.com (minimum $10 order). With the flour in hand, you can prepare your own rolls and pull them, hot and buttery, straight from the oven. We’ll even help. Baker Mark Furstenberg has provided us with a deeply flavorful dinner roll recipe. It’s on the Young & Hungry blog (washingtoncitypaper.com/food).
Wine: Let me make a confession. I’m still shamefully ignorant on many of the fine producers in the area, which is why I sought assistance from Don Rockwell, former wine writer for the Washingtonian. Rockwell suggested a trio of bottles with the characteristics you want in a holiday-dinner wine: good acid, low tannins, or good old-fashioned carbonation to cleanse the palate. For a sparkler, he recommends the 2005 Kluge Estate Blanc de Blanc from the Charlottesville winery. The 2007 Glen Manor Sauvignon Blanc from the Front Royal winery should be your go-to white, he adds, and as for a red, go with the Bordeaux-like 2005 Linden Claret from the vineyards in Linden, Va.
Dessert: Hate to sound so gung-ho All-American here, but after Thanksgiving, I think we’re all a little tired of pumpkin pie, which is why I’d go with another universally popular dessert—apple pie made with a buttery, homemade double crust. I mean, why not? Many orchards have atmosphere-controlled storage facilities, which prevent the fruit from ripening so you can enjoy quality apples long after the season passes. Empire and Jonagold varieties make for good fillings, and both can be found at farmers markets around the D.C. area. The Young & Hungry blog has pie recipes.
Coffee: Like with breads, you can never truly buy local coffee. Most of the beans are grown in Latin America, Africa, or Southeast Asia. But you can buy locally roasted coffee, like the stuff at Qualia Coffee on Georgia Avenue NW (202-248-6423), where owner Joel Finkelstein roasts beans six days a week. Try Finkelstein’s Ugandan Bugisu beans, which should provide a rich, somewhat sweet coffee to go with your dessert. Or check out Qualia’s latest import, the India Kaapi Royale beans, which you can grind with a cardamom pod and steep with cinnamon and cloves, all of which should give you a sweet and exotic cup of Joe to go with your final course of pie. >>