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Sunday, July 14

Gapers Block

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Oh, the fourth Thursday in November seems like a small, inconsequential day, but it's so much more than that. On that day, it's likely that you'll be expected to do one of three things: 1. Cook Thanksgiving dinner, 2. Buy Thanksgiving dinner or 3. Bring booze. This year, Gapers Block is ready to help you out with all three and more.

Problem: You need to learn how to cook.
Solution: Take a cooking class.

There are lots of cooking classes for all ranges of ability in and around Chicago. Some of them are going on as you read this, while others can provide you with a crash course just in time for the holidays. I even wrote a column for Gapers Block on cooking a turkey a while back that you may want to look at for some refreshers. For some more ideas (each with their own grains of salt) you may want to search through Chicago foodie boards LTH forum, Slow Food Chicago, Chicago Foodies or Chowhound. Some "professional" cooking class options:

Sur La Table
52-54 East Walton St
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 337-0600

Sur La Table, besides being a national chain of culinary supply stores, has a number of Thanksgiving-oriented classes that you can take as late as Saturday the 18th. Some class titles include the Bon Appetit Thanksgiving, Sensational Thanksgiving Sides and Beyond Pumpkin Pie. They range in price from $55-$65 and you can register online.

The Wooden Spoon
5047 N. Clark
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 293-3190

Local culinary store The Wooden Spoon has some great-sounding classes, but the only one left before the big day is a knife skills class for $65, which sounds great, but I wish they had extended their Thanksgiving workshops past last weekend for the truly last-minute student. Still, if there's room, check out the knife skills class on Tuesday the 14th. You'll get a free Wusthof knife at the end as a bonus.

Corner Cooks
507 Chestnut St.
Winnetka, IL 60093
(847) 441-0134

In Winnetka, you can take a class at Corner Cooks that will teach you (PDF) and help prepare you for your feast with their "Make Take Freeze" series. You'll make all of your holiday sides in just two hours:stuffing, sweet potatoes, spinach soufflé or scallop potatoes — just bring your serving dishes (at least two). It costs $35 per side and you'll make enough to serve eight people. In addition, they sell a lot of pre-made dishes you can buy now and freeze for later.

Problem: You know how to cook, but don't have the time.
Solution: Get it catered! (or delivered)

Cooking Fools
1916 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 276-5595

Cooking Fools on North will let you pick up yummy food as late as 7pm on the 23rd, as long as you place your order by 6pm on the 19th — or you can even have it delivered to your door. They have a special Thanksgiving menu (PDF) you can peruse; highlights include "The Deconstructed Turkey" ($10.95/person), Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Napoleon with Boursin ($7.95/person) and House-made Cinnamon Ice Cream ($4.95/12 oz.). (They also offer classes, but not specifically for Thanksgiving. I'd check their December class schedule though for some nice offerings like searing and roasting and holiday cookies.)

2828 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 832-9063

If you've been to a movie at the Landmark Century movie theater lately, chances are you've gazed over the railings into eatZi's Market & Bakery. They have a special Thanksgiving catering menu available with some fine looking packages as well, which will cost you from $80-$100 but serve eight to 10 people. Some a la carte options include maple glazed spiral cut ham served with bourbon-molasses mustard at 12.99/lb. and eatZi's signature cornbread $4.99 (serves 4). They're even cooking from their Thanksgiving menu before the actual day, so starting this Thursday you can sample off it, you know, just to make sure it's up to your mom's standards.

A La Carte
111 Green Bay Road
Wilmette, IL 60091
(847) 256-4102

A Wilmette offering is A La Carte (the duchess mashed potatoes were recommended to me by a co-worker). Like most anything in Wilmette, it isn't cheap — but then again, Thanksgiving only comes once a year (just like your soon-to-arrive in-laws, right?). Place your order by Wednesday the 15th. Check out their special Thanksgiving Catering Menu with a whole roasted turkey at $8.95/lb. (sizes start at 10-12 lbs.) or sliced turkey breast at $13.95/lb. (those potatoes? $3.95/serving), pumpkin pie with a brown sugar pecan border is $14.95.

Whole Foods
various locations around Chicago

Whole Foods has a pretty extensive Thanksgiving catering menu (PDF), and they're nice enough to have a few folks manning a table in each store (in Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Gold Coast, and around the area) to answer your questions and take your orders. Some ideas: butternut squash & roasted garlic bisque with sautéed crab meat ($6.99/qt); roasted turkey breast ($34.99, Serves 4-6); celebration field roast, an artisan-crafted vegan roast featuring hand-selected apples and sweet winter squash ($18.99, 2 lbs., Serves 4-6); and cranberry upside down cake ($9.99, 29 oz). They also have four different full dinner packages, including a full vegan Thanksgiving dinner, ranging from $14.99/person (for the vegan package) to $149.99 for an "upscale dinner" that feeds 8-10.

Fireside Inn
5739 N. Ravenswood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60660
(773) 561-SIDE
(877) 878-7433

The Fireside Inn is a restaurant with some tasty Thanksgiving eats, which you can get delivered to your door. They have a heated outside patio as well as a fireplace (warm!) or, if you're staying in, a huge delivery area that goes from Jarvis to the north, Belmont to the south, California to the west and Lake Michigan to the east.

Problem: Your apartment just can't hold everyone
Solution: Go out to eat!

There are lots and lots of great places to eat in Chicago for Thanksgiving (too many to list here), some of them are buffet style, and some of them are set to impress that snooty aunt. Reservations are pretty easy online at Open Table. You can check prices, availability and special Thanksgiving menu offerings at restaurants around Chicagoland. You can search by cuisine, price, neighborhood, or name.

Want some specifics? Besides the Fireside Inn (above) Reza's has an absolutely famous Thanksgiving buffet with everything from traditional turkey to their delicious hummus and kabobs. They have locations in Andersonville, River North and Oak Brook. Not a bad place to take those vegetarian friends, either (for more ideas sans meat, see below).

If you want something a little different, but still get your turkey on, McCormick and Schmick's has a Thanksgiving special in addition to their regular menu. From 10am-8pm, in addition to their seafood menu which changes twice daily, they'll have a dish consisting of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes ("the works") for $19.95. They have a Chicago location in the Loop as well as one in the Gold Coast.

Problem: You're in charge of the hooch and you don't know a Chardonnay from a chandelier.
Solution: Get some professional (wine) help!

While your neighborhood bartender knows how you like your Makers with a beer back, your mom may want something a little fancier to serve alongside the turkey. Get thee to a wine shop! This may be the best chance you get to visit your local wine merchant, and they'll be happy to assist you, truly.

Provenance Food & Wine
2528 N. California Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 384-0699

Tracy Kellner owns and operates Provenance Food & Wine in Logan Square and carries many wines that are good for Thanksgiving. If you go for reds, try Gamay (Beaujolais) and Rioja (Tempranillo) "which are easy drinking and won't overpower the thanksgiving meal." The same goes for most Pinot Noirs from Oregon, France, Santa Rita Hills area of California. If you prefer whites, try Alsatian or Oregon Rieslings "with a bit of sweetness to complement potentially dry turkey, but enough acidity so you can drink them all day if you want to!" Also, try a Torrontes from Argentina or a Viognier from California or France. If you're serving Tofurkey, Kellner says, "Ditto on the wines above — they are all great food wines that complement foods like 'comfort foods' we associate with Thanksgiving and don't overpower them." On the cheap, they always have a table of "10 under $10" that features 10 wines priced under $10. The shop will have extended holiday hours from November 20th until year's end, 12am-7pm. Delivery is always available for an extra charge.

Binny's Beverage Depot
multiple locations around Chicago

Binny's will have a special section full of wines that go great with turkey (and tofurkey), so steer towards that, or grab an associate. Specialty Spirits Buyer Brett Pontoni tells me that their "price range is huge, but most will be $5-$25." Binny's hours are usually 9am-9pm, with all of the stores open 9am-4pm on Thanksgiving Day for last minute purchases. Potoi says, "It's a busy day, we actually get a lot of traffic from whole families coming in, usually involving out-of-towners, to shop, not just to grab that 'emergency' bottle." Binny's will have a lot of wines out to sample, too, especially on the 16th, which is Nouveau Beaujolais Day, the traditional release date for the first wine from the current year's harvest in the French region of Beaujolais.

-Anne Holub

Problem: You've got (gasp) vegetarians to feed
Solution: Meatless Thanksgiving can be delicious!

There are those do not partake in the turkey-oriented dietary requirements of Thanksgiving. Perhaps you're intrigued: what does a vegetarian, vegan or non-meat eater do on a day such as this, when everyone celebrates by being poised and hovering around a succulent and rather large breasted specimen of bird? There are options, my friends.

Dining Out
The best option, if one were to dine out, would be the always-excellent annual Thanksgiving Dinner at the Chicago Diner (3411 N. Halsted St.). This year marks the 24th year they've provided a gut-buster of a meal to patrons. There are four seatings throughout the day (12pm, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm) with plenty of time to digest the vast amount of quality and delicious vegetarian and vegan grub at hand. The menu includes a starter salad, a choice of soup, a choice of entrée, a large plate of sides, choice of dessert and last but not least, your choice of beverage.

The food is really good. We're not kidding. Even if you're a meat eater. Options such as roasted veggie turkey, beefy wellington, pumpkin ravioli or stuffed squash make it worthwhile. And that's just your entree. Sides are plentiful, the soups are top notch, and the dessert? Not to be missed. Plenty of friends who've never had a vegan cake before have exclaimed their astonishment at how good — and in a lot of cases, how much better — the cake was than a regular one.

Reservations are highly recommended -- it fills up quickly. You get all of the above for just $36.95 a person, an absolute steal considering the amount of food (doggie bags are quite the norm) and quality. Fresh and made just for you. In recent years the diner has also added a raw menu for $40.95. Reservations and details are available by calling (773) 935-6696 or visiting the website. You won't be disappointed.

To Go
Even if it's fully booked for Thanksgiving, The Chicago Diner also makes their Thanksgiving dinner available for carryout. Worth it if you're not in the mood to be elbow-to-elbow with your fellow diner (though it does give the place a very familial atmosphere) and would rather lounge around in your pajamas, take a look at your options here and then give them a call at the number above to place your order.

Most other vegetarian restaurants will be closed for the day (we've called around). However, vegetarian food tends to hold up pretty well to being refrigerated so if you desire, you could make an order the day prior and get food to go with a reheat the next day. We recommend you take a look at PJ Chmiel's excellent vegan guide for a rundown of who's got the goods.

On the dessert tip, the great Chicago Soy Dairy (makers of Temptation soy ice cream, which uses fair trade chocolate amongst the many other flavors), offer a Vegan Ice Cream Pumpkin Pie for $17. Pre-order them here.

At Home
Two companies make turkey substitutes. The most infamous is Tofurkey. While they've branched out over the years to encompass various other meat-like products, their original Tofurkey remains a classic vegetarian Thanksgiving favorite. There are two kinds Tofurkeys you can buy: the complete feast, which comes with a variety of sides, or just the roast itself, so you can cook it alongside your family's regular turkey and enjoy your family's meatless side dishes. They're available at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Wild Oats and the newly opened Sunflower Market. For a list of products, take a look here.

The other company making Thanksgiving roasts is Quorn. They call it the Turk'y Roast and they offer just the roast alone. It's also available at the grocers above.

If you're inclined toward cooking at all, you may want to forego any of these store-bought products and make your own foods. It's not as daunting as it seems and requires a bit of patience if you've never done it before. For the turkey, one should look for a good seitan recipe — out of which you can make the "meat" that matters here. The rest is, of course, up to you.

Happy (meatless) Thanksgiving!

-Naz Hamid

Problem: Oh, man. You ate too much.
Solution: Go to the gym!

The holiday season is a great time to get fat. Work parties, family dinners, nights out with pals — they're all excuses to indulge. According to the folks at Bally Total Fitness, the average American consumes about 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat during a typical Thanksgiving dinner. That's like eating 16 slices of pepperoni pizza in one sitting!

Thankfully, many Chicago-area gyms are open during the holidays — even on Thanksgiving Day. Here are a few clubs that offer holiday treats:

Bally Total Fitness, with more than 20 clubs in and around Chicago, is turning Black Friday (the annual post-Thanksgiving shop-a-thon) into "Feeling Fat Friday" and opening its doors to the public for one free day of fitness. Enjoy a free day at the gym and get advice from personal trainers and nutritionists. They're also offering cheap gift cards for the holidays, including a 30-minute personal training session for $29 or four sessions for $99.

In addition to being open on Thanksgiving Day (8am to 1pm), Galter Life Center in Albany Park holds an annual "Holiday Survival Challenge" for members. Participants who maintain their weight and fitness level from November 19 to January 13 can win cool prizes — and bragging rights around the gym.

Swanky Holmes Place Chicago is also open from 8am to 2pm on Thanksgiving day, and as a bonus, members can bring in a guest for free to experience the club's amenities.

Many other health clubs around the city are open on Thanksgiving, most offering shorter hours and modified class schedules, so you can squeeze in a workout before squeezing in three servings of pie:

Equinox Fitness Clubs in Lincoln Park, Highland Park and on Michigan Ave. are open Thanksgiving Day and the day after with limited hours; the Loop location is closed on Thanksgiving Day but open the following Friday.

World Gym's Uptown location is open on Thanksgiving with limited hours, but its Loop location is closed.

All three of Cheetah Gym's clubs (in Andersonville, Bucktown/Wicker Park, and Edgewater) are open on Thanksgiving from 8am to 4pm, with a modified class schedule.

Lakeshore Athletic Clubs in Downtown (on Wabash), Illinois Center, Lincoln Park and Streeterville are open Thanksgiving day with limited hours.

All Fitness Formula Clubs, in Boys Town, Oak Park, East Lakeview, Gold Coast, Union Station, Old Town and South Loop, are open on Thanksgiving with limited hours (most locations are open 8am to 2pm).

The Lincoln Park Athletic Club and sister location Evanston Athletic Club are both open on Thanksgiving from 7am to 2pm.

Crunch Gyms is keeping all five of its Chicago locations open Thanksgiving day with limited hours.

-Jenni Prokopy


About the Author(s)

This year, Anne Holub is trying for the fifth time to replicate her mom's turkey. She's got a ham on standby.

Naz Hamid is co-founder and artistic director of Gapers Block. He'll be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the soon-to-be in-laws this year.

Jenni Prokopy is a health reporter and founder of This Thanksgiving she plans to do 30 minutes of cardio and then eat at least five pieces of pie.

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