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Thanksgiving Dinner: Think outside of the Chardonnay box

In just a few short weeks, our nation will celebrate its 396th Thanksgiving. Give or take. This holiday—which as far as I can tell, is just a green light to eat yourself into the next size—first burst onto the scene in 1621.

The Pilgrim’s spent 3 days celebrating their first successful harvest. Yay Pilgrims! What we call Thanksgiving Day, the participants of the inaugural meal called The Harvest Celebration.

While we don’t know exactly what they ate, historians agree that Venison was probably served at celebration zero—a thoughtful gift from the “Indians.”

There was most likely wildfowl as well, along with native fruits, local vegetables and nuts.

All washed down with water.

It wasn’t until 1863 that the Thanksgiving holiday, as we know it, was born. That’s when Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday to be celebrated annually.

Let the new traditions begin.

Over the past 154 years, the original low fat, organically grown holiday fare has morphed into a starch, sugar and carb fest. Not that anyone complained.

The menu, now planned by rote, includes:

Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, some sort of Jello concoction (color optional), cranberry relish, assorted yeast rolls and pumpkin pie.

All complimented by a crisp Chardonnay.

But, the Pilgrims never ate any of those things! Over time, we changed the rituals to include the staples that now live on modern day Thanksgiving tables.

Year after year, after year, after year.

Time to rethink and retool. I submit that it’s time to update tradition, again.

In that spirit, I offer the Thanksgiving Tasting Menu with wine suggestions for each course.

Salad of fresh greens and pear slices with a mellow balsamic vinaigrette. Pair with Buscador Winery's Chenin Blanc or Dreamcôte's Riesling. Pick one.

Garlic Shrimp, paired with Arneis from Casa Cassara or Zingy from Buttonwood Farm Winery. Pick one.

Brined, oven roasted Turkey! Because everyone likes it, and I like the leftovers. Pair with Kalyra's Grenache, Ca' Del Grevino's Rosé, Alexander & Wayne's Chardonnay, or Imagine’s Zinfandel. Pick two.

The purist mashed potatoes (butter, milk, salt & pepper) pairs with Rideau's Mourvèdre, Lucas & Lewellen’s Cabernet Sauvignon or a Syrah from Lucky Dogg. Pick one.

The stuff that keeps it all together, aka dressing. Cornbread, veggies, nuts and seasoning. Simple. Pair with Toccata’s Pinot Grigio, or Lincourt's Pinot Noir. Pick one.

Taking-it-up-a-notch option: Batatas Gratinadas/Camotes Gratinados (Sweet Potato Au Gratin). This rich, spicy, yet savory dish will shake up the middle of the meal. The recipe was posted where all amazing dishes can be found—on FaceBook. Pair with any Riesling.

I picked for you.

Roasted Vegetable Plate: Red potatoes, carrots, asparagus, brussel sprouts and onions. Serve with Arthur Earl’s Grenache or Mouvedre. Pick one.

Add gravy where indicated.

This tasting menu is, of course, just a starting point. And it should be tweaked and honed each year. Traditions, after all, can begin at any time.

But they should always end with dessert.

Cranberry Tart, Pumpkin Cheesecake and Pecan Pie. Pick three.

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