As much as I love to putter about the kitchen concocting fabulous food for myself, my family and friends, I really adore the holidays because I get to eat food - glorious food - prepared by other talented cooks.
What a treat to go to someone else's home to relax and enjoy good food and good company. The down side is that someone has to clean up the mess. Believe me, the cook never sits still.
There are two simple solutions. Eat out or take out.
Heresy, you say? A sensible and a generous gift to the special people who cook for us every day, I say.
If you're looking for a traditional turkey dinner with Latin flavor, try Viva Latin Bistro's $25 feast (with Aunt Beatriz' famous pumpkin soup). Leave room for the tres leches cake. It's melt in your mouth divine.
Not a meat eater? Think 271 Adelphi Street's Red Bamboo Soul Cafe. Their cruelty-free meal featuring tasty traditional mock meat and all the trimmings costs $25.95 with sparkling cider or $29.95 with a glass of champagne or beer.
I had a sneak preview of Chef Billy Ahearn's holiday menu and this avowed carnivore is thinking of switching teams.
The spinach salad with candied walnuts, vegan blue cheese, wafer-thin slices of whole red and green pears with a blueberry vinaigrette was amazing -- colorful presentation and a mouthful of flavors and texture that popped. The mock meat smoked turkey and ham looked and tasted like the real thing. No excuses for saying you miss the taste and texture of meat here.
Want to look good in the kitchen? Grab, Gobble and Go at Clinton Hill's Jive Turkey. The one-stop specialty shop for all things turkey has a menu of big birds ranging in flavors from Caribbean Jerk to Peach Bourbon to Carmelized Vidalia Onion.
Shop the store at 441 Myrtle Avenue or order online. Can't decide which bird to buy? Get the combo for $142.
Toss the take-away containers, add some sides from Trader Joe's, Whole Foods or Fairway and no one need be the wiser.