The 5 Most Important Thanksgiving Questions,…Ever

You must try Mindy’s burger – fresh ground beef, organic bacon and aged cheddar with a fried egg

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. For me, there is no pretense. No presents. Less family drama.

Our family has always focused on what’s important – food & family.

Everyone brings something to the gathering – food, wine, whatever. We also have a bizarre tradition of having to bring an “entertainment” – a loosely defined category of anything that will well, “entertain.”

I entitled this blog post The 5 Most Important Thanksgiving Questions,…Ever. The title was originally meant as a joke because the questions are basic and are in no way life defining. The funny thing is, the more I thought about this holiday and what it meant to me, the more appropriate were the questions. Maybe they are the most important Turkey Day questions ever?

I’m a huge fan of the people we interviewed for this posting. Being new to this whole “interview thing”, it was hard to contain my excitement when we were able to hear what Mindy Segal of Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, Pete Crowley of Haymarket Pub & Brewery and Joe Campagna of Chicago Food Snob were doing this Thanksgiving. If I were to eat and drink like anyone on this upcoming holiday, it’s these people.

Mindyat40Mindy Segal is known for her amazing pastries & heads up the restaurant Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in Chicago. James Beard Award? Check – Winner of the 2012 James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry. Nominated by the James Beard Foundation 2007-2011 for Outstanding Pastry Chef in the country. Segal won the Jean Banchet award for Best Celebrity Pastry chef in Chicago, Chicago Magazine’s Pastry Chef of the Year and for two consecutive years the Time Out Chicago’s Eat Out Awards for Best Pastry Chef. Don’t be misled by all of these accolades – Mindy is not one-dimensional. The burger at Hot Chocolate can easily stand up against, if not beat any burger in this meat-loving city called Chicago. Trust me.

BSB: What are you doing for Thanksgiving this year?

Mindy: Normally we go to Dan’s [Mindy’s fiancé] parents in the morning and my cousins in the city afterwards. This year we’re doing something different and going pheasant hunting.

BSB: What is your favorite food for Thanksgiving & why?

Mindy: That’s a loaded question. I am not a turkey lover. So, I am always trying to find ways to make turkey great using different brines and stuff like that. First of all, Dan’s mother’s a phenomenal cook. So, we don’t even mess with the food there, we just eat. It’s very traditional. My family – my late cousin, who’s like my aunt, use to make the stuffing every year. And she made Stove Top Stuffing. She passed away and now I’ve been allowed to make the stuffing. Stuffing for me is like,…super exciting because I try to make it really great & really different. I make my own bread and get wild mushrooms. Every year I do something different. I do sausage in one. I like to go crazy on stuffing.

BSB:  What is your favorite drink for Thanksgiving & why?

Mindy: I’m a whiskey sour kind of girl. But, Dan and I, since we’re in the business, we like to drink good quality stuff. So we always bring craft beer and great wine to Thanksgiving dinner. But, I’m thinking there should be a drink in order with Wild Turkey…I don’t know, I don’t know [says laughing]. We drink well on Thanksgiving….we drink lots of red wine and really great Belgian beer, very heavy beer.

BSB: Can you share any Thanksgiving-appropriate recipes with our readers?

Mindy: Let’s talk about stuffing. How about brioche stuffing? Instead of using white bread you should use brioche. I use wild mushrooms. You should make turkey stock and put the turkey stock in there, or use the drippings from roasting the turkey. That’s the appropriate thing to do I think. Not stuffing it in there, but after your turkey comes out of the oven, take all of those the pan drippings. Take some of it and not only make gravy, but take some of it and soak it into your stuffing.

BSB:  Any Thanksgiving holiday traditions that you can share with our readers?

Mindy: It’s Thanksgiving tradition for my family after dinner to play poker.

Pete Crowley makes ridiculously good beer. If you live in Chicago and like craft beer, you know him by name. Outside of Chicago, you might know him by his 50 awards for brewing, including medals from the World Beer Cup, Great American Beer Festival and Festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer. Pete is the Head Brewer at Haymarket Pub & Brewery in Chicago. Pete specializes in classic Belgian and contemporary American styles. If you come to Chicago, put this brew pub on your list of places to check out.

BSB: What are you doing for Thanksgiving this year?

Pete: We are closed to the public during the day and hosting our second annual friends and family Thanksgiving feast at the pub for friends and employees (and employees who are friends) that don’t have a place to go for dinner.  We don’t open the pub until 5pm for regular biz so we spend all day eating and drinking with them.  We cook Turkey many ways: grilled, fried, rotisserie, smoked, turkey sausage……

BSB: What is your favorite food for Thanksgiving & why?

Pete: Hands down stuffing and gravy.  I can eat it year round.  Actually, does anyone not like gravy?  Really?

BSB: What is your favorite drink for Thanksgiving & why?

Pete: I like a malty, robust beer.  This year we will have a coffee Porter on tap, as well as a Black IPA.  They are so food friendly, seasonally appropriate (colder weather beers), are great to sip and smell and stand up to all the aromas that come along with making thanksgiving dinner (turkey in the oven, pies, did I mention gravy?)

BSB: Can you share any Thanksgiving-appropriate recipes with our readers? (Beer, Food or both)

Pete: Super easy candied yams.  Cut ‘em up with loads of real butter.  Touch of cinnamon, top with mini marshmallow (Mini ones. Very important.). Bake it.  Goes great with big red ales, porters, holiday beers.

BSB: Any Thanksgiving holiday traditions that you can share with our readers?

Pete: Eating Mom’s candied yams.  And now the gathering of friends and family at the pub (it’s only our second year open). Gravy will also be involved heavily again this year (I convinced Steph from Girl and the Goat to make my gravy:):):).  I have to be the only person who had a celebrity chef cook my 4th of July burger and make my Thanksgiving gravy in the same year.  I love good neighbors!

Joe Campagna is not a foodie, he’s a food snob. The man has earned his reputation, forging opinions through experience in the back and front of the house of numerous Chicago restaurants.

Joe works his way through restaurants and explores the culinary world through his blog, Chicago Food Snob at Chicago Now. Let’s just say, the man knows what and where to eat.

BSB: What are you doing for Thanksgiving this year?

Joe: This year is a quiet one. Just a small family celebration.

BSB: What is your favorite food for Thanksgiving & why?

Joe: I love mashed potatoes. With a good gravy there is nothing better and comforting. I love making them and on Thanksgiving you always seem to eat a lot more.

BSB: What is your favorite drink for Thanksgiving & why?

Joe: Hmmm…this is a hard one. My family doesn’t have a traditional Thanksgiving drink but I’m a wine guy so a good bottle of red makes me happy.

BSB: Can you share any Thanksgiving-appropriate recipes with our readers?

Joe: I think if you try a new side dish look at something like chestnut soup or stuffing. Thanksgiving is a chance to have one experimental dish that stretches your skills in the kitchen. I love chestnuts and think they’re so under utilized in fall cooking.

BSB: Any Thanksgiving holiday traditions that you can share with our readers?

Joe: The tradition always seems to be like most American families. Eat a lot, enjoy a fun day with family, watch some football and some where in there take a nap. It’s a great day to slow down, take a deep breath and assess what the year has brought. I do love that nap

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