The words fall and New England go together about as well as pumpkin and pie. And why shouldn’t they; this area is, after all, heavily steeped in the traditions of the first Thanksgiving. While it is unlikely that much of what we eat on the fourth Thursday in November was on the original menu in 1621, it is remarkable that even a few items that were present then are still being served centuries later.
Whether you are eagerly planning an elaborate feast or considering options to dine out this holiday season, chefs at three of the region’s most exquisite dining destinations have you covered. Michael Bates-Walsh is the executive chef at 1606 at the Beauport Hotel in Gloucester and, as someone who has lived and worked all over New England, is committed to providing diners with “a new take on old standards.” This time of year, that certainly includes turkey and some of Bates-Walsh’s favorite side dishes, such as sausage stuffing and maple butternut squash. Thanksgiving, he says, is “not the time to do a coconut curry butternut squash brûlée,” because even the most adventurous eaters crave familiar recipes when the cold weather comes around. He approaches food with the goal of “helping to create new and updated experiences” while simultaneously “conjuring up memories of years past.” Patrons of 1606 will find this philosophy as well as the chef’s dedication to “simple, high-quality ingredients” on display in every dish. No matter what you may be in the mood for, the stunning ocean views that surround the dining room complement every experience, regardless of the holiday at hand.
Fall dishes from 1606 at Beauport
Journey a bit farther along Cape Ann and you could well find yourself at the Pigeon Cove Tavern at the Emerson Inn, enjoying a meal under the culinary expertise of local executive chef Doug Papows. At Pigeon Cove, the menu reflects the chef’s strong desire to “use local produce and food and represent the community” whenever possible. Like Bates-Walsh, Papows acknowledges that turkey often takes center stage, and encourages cooks both amateur and professional to take the time to create a quality brine to ensure the main attraction is a standout. Mashed potatoes are another staple; Papows favors Yukon Gold with a touch of roasted cipollini and garlic confit. Soup is a great way to begin a meal; the ingredients for the chef’s butternut squash bisque are locally sourced from Alprilla Farm in Essex. He is also a fan of the grass-fed short ribs found at Seaview Farm in Rockport, which he suggests as an alternative to turkey. Perhaps not surprising, given the picturesque location and ocean views, is an earnest commitment to incorporating local seafood. During the cooler months Papows likes to put together a variety of smoked items, including salmon, cod, trout, and mussels from Sasquatch Smokehouse in Gloucester.
If just the thought of cooking for a crowd gets your heart racing, Papows recommends sticking to the basics, and encourages cooks to “put out food they care about” and remember that the gathering is really about being together with family and friends.
Pigeon cove tavern at Emerson Inn
While not on the water, Samuel’s at the Andover Inn, situated on the campus of Phillips Academy, strikes the perfect tone for a cold weather meal. With the rich wood tones and classic Colonial style, it is hard not to want to settle in as soon as you walk through the door. Executive chef Emmanuel Besana takes great care in putting together seasonal menus, and is currently focused on “layered, textural foods” that complement the fall and winter months. With a preference for braising and slow roasting, Besana says he does enjoy cooking traditional Thanksgiving dishes but also likes to add unexpected options to the menu, including wild game such as elk. Describing Samuel’s as “an American regional restaurant—think New England with a contemporary twist,” Besana creates flavor profiles that are recognizable but unique. The fall menu includes apple-brined roasted pheasant, braised lamb shanks, and a poached pear and pistachio tart with cardamom crème. When it comes to prepping for a large-scale affair, Besana offers the pro tip of wisely utilizing oven space. Cooking and warming different dishes at the same time, as long as the temperature allows for it, can be a useful time-saver. The holidays are about making memories, and to this end Besana notes that children love to be involved in the cooking process, and suggests giving them age-appropriate tasks. Not only is this a practical way to remove some prep work from your own plate, but it allows children to make a contribution to the day.
It is worth noting that all three of these talented chefs will be hard at work in their respective restaurant kitchens this Thanksgiving. Not only does the cuisine promise to be spectacular, but they all guarantee you won’t have to wash or dry a single dish.
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1606 at Beauport
Pigeon Cove Tavern
Samuel’s at the Andover Inn