There are three traditional options for Thanksgiving dinner: cook it yourself, sponge off someone else’s generosity, or go out to a restaurant. But what if you want to indulge in the primordial caveman ritual of delicious flesh and crispy skin carved off a succulent whole carcass, shared and devoured in the comfort of your own home, without having to actually cook the darn thing?
You’ve seen A Christmas Story, right? That classic movie treats the Chinese restaurant scene humorously, but have you ever had a whole roasted or barbecued Chinese duck? Duck is just as traditional on the Thanksgiving table as turkey and you can buy one of these mouth-watering waterfowl as late as Thanksgiving Day, no pre-order required, at Van Loi 2 at 2829 #D West Gate City Blvd (in the strip behind Napa Auto Parts, also accessible from Farmington Road) on Greensboro’s Gate City Boulevard. The young lady I spoke to this week assured me that they will have a whole rack of freshly cooked ducks just waiting for take-out customers. Roast ducks cost $22.95 each and barbecued ones are $23.50. Either will serve up to four people, assuming one of them isn’t my hirsute friend Doc the duck-devouring biker. Don’t worry, they’ll chop it up for you, and if you aren’t Asian, they probably won’t include the head in the package, although you can always ask for it (my granddad used to say “a bird brain don’t do you much good in your skull, but it’s tasty in the mouth, so quit flinching like a Yankee and eat the thing”).
But that’s not your only Thanksgiving option from the good folks at Van Loi 2. Call them at 336-855-5688 by Nov. 20 and reserve yourself a 15-pound Chinese barbecued turkey ($69). I’ve done that on several occasions and it was perfect: moist and tender inside, with that wonderful savory skin glistening from its smoky-sweet marinade of honey, soy, hoisin and garlic. The bird comes with French fries, broccoli, rice, sweet and sour daikon, carrots and gravy. Tell them Ian sent you.
Speaking of smoky flavor, as well as locally-owned deliciousness, how about a smoked bird rather than a roasted or barbecued one? And not only smoked, but flavored with dry-cured pork? Our buono amici at Giacomo’s Italian Market at 2109 E. New Garden Road in Greensboro are offering 13-15 lb. fully-cooked smoked prosciutto-rubbed turkeys. “We got a giant smoking room all lined with turkeys, and we’re rubbing those suckers with imported prosciutto every day,” said the enthusiastic young man I talked to on the phone. I’ve not had one (yet), but they sound like a good deal at $49.95, and nothing I have had at Giacomo’s has disappointed. Their turkeys must be ordered by Nov. 17 and picked up by Wednesday the 23rd. Call them at (336) 282-2855 for details and to place an order (be aware that they’re closed on Mondays).
If you want something more Southern, how about a deep-fried gobbler? It sounds so manly to cook one of these things in one’s backyard, protecting oneself from the sizzling vat with a welder’s mask, gloves and tongs, but we’ve all heard the stories of exploding oil. You can enjoy your fried turkey without the labor or the risk of third-degree burns by ordering one from a participating Bojangles location. Be sure to get some biscuits, too. Or just make your own. Even done from proper scratch, with lard and buttermilk, it’s easier than frying your own bird, while giving the meal a home-cooked touch. The whole fried turkeys cost $42.99 and can be ordered at participating Bojangles locations “up to Thanksgiving day” (that’s what someone at the Greensboro Gate City location told me on the phone, but I’d give your local store a call by the 21st to be sure). Be warned that, unlike the previous recommendations, these turkeys have been frozen, and require heating. Use http://locations.bojangles.com to locate the store near you and give them a call to make sure they’re participating.
Sadly, I don’t know of any places in Winston or High Point to offer the locally-owned ethnic cuisine delights of Van Loi 2 or Giacomo’s, but the Winston branch of the Red, Hot and Blue Barbecue chain offers whole smoked turkeys for $40 and the website claims orders can be placed as late as Nov. 23. Check out http://redhotandblue.com/smoked-turkey for details.
Turkey, duck and goose (the later sadly available for pre-cooked pickup locally) aren’t the only standards for a carnivore’s Thanksgiving, of course. There’s also the Meat of Kings. One tasty sweet-savory porcine option is offered by Honeybaked Ham Store locations in Greensboro (2613 Battleground Avenue), Winston-Salem (148 Stratford Commons Court) and High Point (1231 East Chester Drive, Suite 131). An 8-10 lb. lean bone-in slow-smoked whole ham is $59.12 to $72.83, and is finished with a sweet crunchy glaze and spiral-sliced. A 4-6 lb. quarter ham can be had for as low as $39.15. They are ready-to-eat and come with a variety of heat-and-serve sides and desserts. The Honeybaked Ham store is closed on Thanksgiving, but open until 8 p.m. the night before. Reserve one at www.myhoneybakedstore.com.
Other local options include Maria’s Kitchen (www.marialovesfoood.com), Mimi’s Café (www.mimiscafe.thanksgivingholidayfeast.aspx ) and Reto’s Gourmet Catering (http://www.retoskitchen.com). And don’t forget that if you do forget to reserve your take-out dinner in advance, Van Loi 2 not only has several varieties of delicious whole duck, but barbecued pork, whole quail and sour chicken. It’s worth the drive from anywhere in the Triad.