Friendsgiving at The Turn House
A few weeks ago, The Turn House contacted me and asked if I’d like to attend the annual Friendsgiving dinner they host for their social media influencers. Considering that they’re one of my favorite HoCo restaurants, I jumped at the opportunity—literally. On my bed scrolling through Instagram one second, running to tell Joe about our impromptu mid-week date the next.
I’ve never really thought of myself as an “influencer” — I see self-proclaimed influencers on Instagram and think, “Wow, they put a lot of energy into this.” So I was more than flattered that The Turn House included me in their event. I knew that my friend Molly from Spices in My DNA was going to be there, too, which made me look forward to it even more.
So let’s dive in: Friendsgiving at The Turn House.
The impetus for the get-together — other than the approaching holiday season — was to promote the restaurant’s recently launched catering menu. As Lorri Miller, the events manager, was telling us, The Turn House is no stranger to hosting events: While it has a relatively small dining room (it seats 48), the venue hosted 186 events this year — ranging from intimate celebrations, to 1st birthday parties, to wedding rehearsal dinners.
The new catering offerings feature a regular menu and a special holiday menu, which we were about to sample from. The regular menu is a showcase of Chef Thomas Zippelli’s knack for highlighting local, seasonal ingredients in an elevated and classic manner — with a contemporary spin when appropriate.
The regular menu is solid traditional catering fare: mini crab cakes, antipasti, and various salads, pastas, and meats. I’m particularly intrigued by the coriander-lemon smoked salmon and 11-hour smoked brisket — sounds yummy!
The holiday menu is just like something you’d see at a traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but kicked up a notch: coffee- and cider-brined local turkey, sherry turkey gravy, root vegetable au gratin, and sausage and pepper savory bread pudding top my drool-worthy list.
Upon arriving at the Friendsgiving event, Trevor, the bar manager, greeted us and offered us flutes of cider. We mingled for a bit — and by “mingle,” I of course mean that Joe and I talked to Molly and her mom and watched everyone else mingle from afar — and then Lorri gave us a rundown of the evening’s plan: They’d bring out the appetizers first, give us time to photograph them, then we’d eat.
Pat, the restaurant manager, was in charge of the wine. He’d picked three American wines for the evening, saying that as much as he loved wines from around the world, he liked to keep his selections stateside for Thanksgiving. He chose a pinot noir, a pinot gris, and a riesling. The pinot noir was my favorite — a delightfully dry and complex wine from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The pinot gris paired well with the food, too. Both cut nicely through all of the rich flavors we were experiencing.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The food started coming out, and sure enough, everyone flocked to the table to take pictures. The thing is, they were Taking Pictures. We’re talking handheld lighting devices, high-end cameras … standing there with my iPhone, I suddenly felt like it was the first day of class and I’d arrived on campus with my pen and paper, only to find myself surrounded by peers with iPads and Chromebooks.
What had I stumbled upon? Was this … a media junket?
The other attendees certainly seemed to be treating it that way. They descended upon the dishes like paparazzi outside a Malibu Soul Cycle studio craning their lenses to snap a pic of a starlet exiting a sweat session.
It was so different from other blogger events I’ve been to — they even called it an “influencer” event this time around. See — even the name has changed. Apparently, the game has, too.
“I guess we’re doing this,” I said to myself as I fought the throng to get a good angle on the baked brie. I soon found myself taking advantage of the illumination that came from one of the attendee’s handheld light — a few times, he even offered to hold it over the dish I was photographing. That bit of congeniality helped break through the fish-out-of-water overwhelm I was experiencing.
At one point, after the third or fourth round of seating myself around the long table, starting to nibble, then jumping up again when another dish came out so I could photograph it, I decided that it was too much:
I was there, first and foremost, for the food.
I love The Turn House’s approach to seasonal food, sourced as locally as possible, and I wasn’t fully embracing it that night because I was too busy trying to get the “perfect” shot. And — to me, anyway — that’s not what Thanksgiving is about. Or life, for that matter.
I’m learning to embrace my mess, and that means that sometimes I won’t have the perfect lighting or the perfect setup or the perfect angle. And that, my friends, is okay. Because at the end of the day, it’s about the experience. And at the end of this day, it was about the food.
And the food did not disappoint.
The appetizers were from the restaurant’s regular menu: the baked brie with sliced apples and pickled vegetables and the burrata with mushrooms were both served with toasted house-made sourdough. We were also treated to lamb meatballs with butternut squash puree and grilled scallops with black garlic ponzu.
I’d had the baked brie before: It’s fun to pile up the different toppings — brie, apple butter, pickled vegetables, and sliced apples — onto the grilled sourdough and go to town. The flavors all complement each other nicely. I just love how pickled veg cuts through richness.
The burrata was next-level. I always seem to forget how creamy burrata is! This preparation was like fall in a burrata bowl. I’m not sure what mushrooms they used, but they were deeply flavored and tasted of the forest. There were all kinds of treats accompanying it — pumpkin seeds, apple, rosemary, and balsamic to give it a nice acidity.
The lamb meatballs had a delicious spice to them — very Mediterranean. They paired nicely with the creamy butternut squash. The scallops were a mouthful of powerful flavors — the citrusy zing of the ponzu crashing into the dark pepperiness of the black garlic, all transported on a silky, buttery scallop pillow. Yum.
For the actual meal, it was a full Thanksgiving spread. Turkey, mashed potatoes, two different kinds of stuffing, three different kinds of sauces, roasted Brussels sprouts, and my favorite: mushroom gratin.
It was all rich. It was all decadent. It was all exactly what Thanksgiving was supposed to be.
Let’s talk about the stuffings. The two stuffings. One was a squash, poblano, and pimiento cheese sourdough stuffing, and the other was a (more traditional) sausage and leek with sourdough ciabatta. Both were delicious, but I have to say, the squash and poblano was the winner in my book. I mean, where else have you had stuffing with pimiento cheese in it? It was a fun spin on traditional holiday fare.
Everything was served up family-style; servers came around and stopped at each place, lowering the dishes to our level so we could serve ourselves. It was all very Downton Abbey. I felt very fancy.
I’m sure it was also a raging workout for the servers, because the serving dishes were mostly cast iron. And huge. And full.
Let’s talk about the mushroom gratin now — my favorite of the night. It’s like the chef took the best parts of green bean casserole — the cream of mushroom soup and the crispy onions on top — and made it into its own dish, but waaaaaaaaaaaaay better. This was positively packed full of various mushrooms, tossed in a ridiculously rich cream sauce, and topped with all the crunchy goodness your heart could desire.
At this point, I was perfectly happy letting the paparazzi worry about their perfect pictures. I was in heaven. I talked to Molly about the food. We pondered pimiento cheese. We marveled about mushrooms.
Across from me, one of the “influencers” (I just can’t bring myself to call myself one of those … yet, anyway) stood over her plate and snapped what I’m sure will be a gorgeous shot (I’ll find out soon enough, because I follow her on Instagram now). Her boyfriend looked unfazed — you could tell that this wasn’t the first time he’d started his meal before she’d even sat down.
As for me, this is the only picture I got of my plate, and you should be grateful that I even got it, given how much I was enjoying the moment:
So. Much. Food.
At one point, Chef Zippelli came out and joked, ‘You guys have enough to eat?” I have no idea what they did with all the leftovers. It was all I could do to not ask for a doggie bag to take my leftovers home with me.
Before I knew it, it was time to go. Full and satisfied, we exited the event space — it’s at the rear of the restaurant, overlooking the golf course — headed down the hall, and grabbed a cup of hot chocolate to keep us warm on the ride home. The uncharacteristically mild Fall had recently snapped into Winter-like temperatures, and sure enough, before the night was out, there would be a thin blanket of snow on the ground.
A big thank you to The Turn House for hosting us for their Friendsgiving event. If you’d like to learn more about their event or catering services, you can contact them at 410-740-2096 or www.theturnhouse.com.