Thanksgiving dinner a breeze with SF markets' prepared items

The day is fast approaching and you are the host. You intended to cook the whole feast from scratch, but you realize that you don’t have the time, the will, the expertise or the psychological strength to handle the event.

Thank goodness you live in San Francisco, because help is at hand in many forms. Buy a complete Thanksgiving meal, already prepared and ready to heat and serve, or buy sides, which will allow you to concentrate on the  bird.

Conversely, buy the bird already cooked, and have the fun of making the side dishes yourself. You get the pleasure of showing off your creative centerpiece and new wine goblets without killing yourself in the kitchen.

Il Cane Rosso

Il Cane Rosso is the brilliant farmers market-inspired kitchen in the Ferry Building run by Lauren Kiino. Luscious food emerges from her rotisserie and ovens. Lucky for us, she is catering Thanksgiving. Here’s the menu at $30 a person: Sonoma County turkey breast with garlic and herb stuffing; Iacopi Farm roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon; Mariquita Farm sweet potato gratin with parsnips and Parmesan; County Line Farm chicories with toasted walnuts, Point Reyes blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.

Dessert is either spiced pear upside-down cake with caramel, or dark chocolate pudding with espresso whipped cream, at $7 a serving. All you have to do is make mashed potatoes and set the table.


The Whole Beast, (415) 816-1414

John Fink started his catering company, The Whole Beast, a year ago around the notion of cooking whole, heritage-breed animals and wild fish as the centerpiece of a meal. He comes to you, sets up a fire and cooks the animal just right, and provides appropriate side dishes. His idea for Thanksgiving is ingenious: a turkey cassoulet, the long-cooked white bean gratin that originated in southwest France.

Fink’s cassoulet uses Willie Bird for turkey confit, turkey-cranberry sausage, turkey stock and braised dark meat — essentially the whole animal — in a casserole of heirloom shell beans from Rancho Gordo topped with crisp, buttery bread crumbs. Cassoulet only gets better with reheating. One for six costs $42; for 10, $54.  All you need to add is something green and dessert.


Arlequin Cafe & Food To Go, (415) 430-6540

Consider dessert from one of the best pastry chefs in town, Bill Corbett, who makes them for both Absinthe and Arlequin.  For Thanksgiving, he is offering pecan pie ($32), Oatmeal Creme Pie ($30), pumpkin bars ($35) and pumpkin cake ($35), all of which serve 10.


Bi-Rite Market
3639 18th St., San Francisco, (415) 241-9760

You can get the whole meal here or parts, but better get there by Tuesday before things run out. Go for the complete Diestel Ranch organic turkey dinner, $169.99 for 10, which includes the bird, butternut squash soup, wild mushroom stuffing, roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots with bacon and maple syrup, zinfandel gravy and cranberry-tangerine relish.

You could serve crab bisque ($12.99 per  quart, serves three to four), and roasted broccoli and cauliflower with Meyer lemon butter ($7.99 pint serves two to three), with the cassoulet.


Wednesday Thanksgiving Market
Ferry Plaza, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Heart of the City Farmer’s Market
at Civic Center, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

You practically don’t have to cook ingredients when they come straight from the farm because they simply taste better. Get over to the Ferry Building or the Civic Center the day before Thanksgiving.

Buy crisp crimson grapes, juicy Concord grapes, walnuts in the shell, new crop almonds, flavorful apples, the first tangerines, persimmons, lettuces, carrots, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and sweet potatoes. Pick up a head of garlic or some onions. With a bottle of good olive oil and some butter, you’re set. Just throw a turkey into the oven until it’s done — no stuffing, no gravy, no worries. Eat it hot with the vegetables and a salad and put out the fruit and nuts.

You will be surprised how wonderful your simple meal will taste, and it will bring you closer to the indigenous Americans and pilgrims who collaborated on the very first Thanksgiving, a celebration of the harvest.

Patricia Unterman is the author of many editions of the “San Francisco Food Lovers’ Guide.” Contact her at

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