Feast on This!

Our guide to an exceptional holiday gathering.

 Professional Moves

Ready to mix up your menu? We asked three of our homegrown culinary heroes to help us get creative this holiday season.

Chef Tin Vuong (Abigaile, Little Sister, Día del Campo) talks turkey.

Q: Turkey, that most bland and labor-intensive bird … any ideas that are crowd-pleasing but innovative?  

Try Vietnamese-style turkey served with curried roasted chestnuts, dates, pineapple and mint! Glaze the bird with chili, lime, soy, cinnamon, anise, cloves, black cardamom, nutmeg, coriander, ginger, mace, laurel leaves and rock sugar. Stuff inside the turkey while roasting: charred onions, ginger, lime, lemongrass, scallions and butter.

That leftover turkey makes a bomb-ass banh mi for a midnight snack too. Use leftover sliced turkey, mayo, sriracha, cilantro, pickles of your choice, sliced jalapeño and the essential fried egg, of course … serve on a light and crusty butter-toasted baguette. Also any leftover pâte spread would be a bonus. Eat in bed and enjoy. 

Chef Greg Hozinsky (The Strand House) lightens up the classics.

Q: Stuffing, potatoes, all those killer carbs … any suggestions on lighter, alternative side dishes or a more healthy version of a classic?

For a lighter version of candied yams, take a delicata squash, which is readily available in most markets, and cut it in half to remove the seeds. Then slice it in ¼-inch-thick slices and toss with some olive oil and sea salt and roast in the oven. Make a quick reduction of orange juice and brown sugar (two parts brown sugar to one part orange juice), then lightly toss with the roasted squash and finish with some crispy pancetta and roasted pumpkin seeds. The salty/sweet aspect of this dish is delicious and less overwhelmingly sweet than traditional candied yams.  

Chef Richard Crespin (BALEENkitchen, Hotel Portofino) brings the ocean’s bounty.

Q: Since we live in a coastal climate, are there any ways you’d suggest bringing shellfish or fish into holiday menu planning?

Living on the coast with its moderate temperatures allows me to use the beautiful “frutti di mare,” or fruit of the sea, for my holiday menus. Two dishes usually make it to my own holiday menu in some incarnation. The first one is an arroz negro. This is a seafood paella that is cooked with squid ink to color the rice black. The squid ink can be used to color fresh pasta or gnocchi as well. The other dish is a bouillabaisse, a traditional seafood stew that I make with a tomato, fennel and saffron broth. For the more adventurous, consider a slow-braised beef like short rib or roast, which go very well with scallops. 



 The List

We encourage you to drink differently. Finding a local wine shop with passionate, thirsty employees is the ticket to better grape juice at home. Here are some unique bottles to pair with your holiday meal.

Appetizer Course: Château Barbanau Rosé, “L’Instant,” Côtes de Provence, France – 2013

Drink what the Provençal do: crisply refreshing, bone-dry pink wines that are typically blended from Rhône varietals like grenache, carignan, syrah and mourvèdre. I always serve a dry rosé at holiday meals, as it offers a “bridge” wine between dishes that could pair with either white or red varieties. $18.99 at Barsha in Manhattan Beach … ask for Adnen or Lenora. 310-318-9080, barshawines.com 

Rovira Baques Cava Brut, Catalonia, Spain – multi-vintage blend; also $18.99 at Barsha

Entrée Course: Puma Road Gewürztraminer, Monterey County, California – 2011  

Poultry cries out for aromatic white wines, ones in which the fruit is typically fermented and aged without oak influences. Grapes in this category include riesling, muscat/moscato, pinot gris/pinot grigio and that great unsung hero, gewürztraminer. $24.99 at Uncorked in Hermosa Beach … ask for Jeff, Kathleen or Gerry. 424-247-7117, uncorkedhermosa.com

Chanin Chardonnay, “Bien Nacido Vineyard,” Santa Maria, California – 2012; $35 at chaninwine.com

Stoller Pinot Noir, “Dundee Hills,” Willamette Valley, Oregon – 2012; $30 at stollerfamilyestate.com

Dessert Course: Lustau Sherry, “Manzanilla,” Jerez, Spain – multi-vintage blend

Fall flavors like roasted nuts, smoky bacon and earthy mushrooms complement the toasted almondine, slightly saline tang of manzanilla Sherries beautifully. $18.99 at Bristol Farms in Manhattan Beach … ask for Erin or Jack. 310-643-5229, 

Royal Tokaji, “5 Puttonyos,” Tokaj, Hungary – multi-vintage blend; $44.99 at BevMo in Torrance, 310-257-0034, bevmo.com



 Host With the Most

As CEO of Choura Events, Ryan Choura and his team plan more than 4,000 events every year … so who better to ask for tips on holiday planning than this local expert? Here are five things to keep in mind this season when planning your holiday shindig: 

1. Build something worth coming to.

Don’t be boring. Take some serious time to think about how you can WOW your guests. You want people to walk into your home impressed that you created something fantastic. From the entrance into a main entertaining space, have a consistent feel. Design is KEY.

2. Make your guests want to stay.

You want people to commit to the night—to be there and be present. Guests want to have a beverage, mingle with fun people, be warm, find a cozy spot to sit and be entertained. Help them get there quick by designing communal gathering spaces with lounge furniture.

3. Show genuine hospitality.

I so believe in aftertaste … how you felt after being somewhere. This holiday party is going to be in your home, so why not make your guests feel super-welcome? Give generously, bring out the good stuff and remember, warm water and Windex can clean just about anything. 

4. Let people let loose.

Yeah … I want you to encourage people to loosen up. You need great music. People like to dance, so let them. Hand out Champagne, cheers the year and find ways to celebrate.  

5. Ditch the curfew.

Why kick people out or set a hard stop? If you’re worried about noise, move it inside. You’ll notice a small group of your closest pals will stick around. Tell stories, talk about who looked the best and just laugh … it’s always the best nightcap.




Special thanks to: French Farmhouse in Redondo Beach, frenchfarmhouseredondobeach.com; Melissa’s Produce, melissas.com; and Flowers by Laurel, flowersbylaurel.com in Redondo Beach.