Every family has its holiday traditions. It wouldn’t be the holidays without them. And while there’s room for updating those traditions, or even starting new ones, there isn’t all that much room. (I learned this the hard way last year when my “Thanks-gourmet” dinner swapped mashed potatoes for a Yukon Gold and Wild Mushroom Gratin and my Irish aunt nearly made me kiss her Blarney Stone.) But, there are some traditions that could use a little sprucing up – especially when it comes to where you’re sourcing your feast from. Here’s how to have a farm-to-table meal this Thanksgiving.
The Hors d’Oeuvres
You could: Buy a tray of shrimp cocktail and some pre-sliced cheddar from the grocery store.
Or: Mix things up and serve Poppasquash Oysters on the half shell from Windfall Shellfish. These Bristol-raised bivalves are some of the best around, and shucking oysters is easier than you think. Plus, it’s one of the foods that was actually served at the first Thanksgiving. If it was good enough for the Pilgrims, it’s good enough for you. 30 Andrews Court, Bristol. 401-225-5075
And: Serve a cheese plate, but get it straight from the source. Simmons Farm Organics in Middletown raises cows, pigs, lambs, goats and chickens, and produces cow and goat Farmstead cheese from their own animals. The on-site petting zoo lets you get up close and personal with their dairy goats and Tennessee Fainting Goats, which really faint – you’ll have to see them to believe it. 1942 West Main Road, Middletown. 401-848-9910.
You could: Buy some boxes of wine for your boozy family.
Or: Sip local while you dine local. This neck of the woods is particularly rich in vineyards. Start off with sparkling wine from Westport rivers Winery. All of their sparkling wines are excellent, but their standout RJR Brut is affordable and delicious. Serve a red and a white wine with dinner: Cock of the Walk from Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard in Little Compton, an easily drinkable and relatively light red table wine; and Rosecliff Pinot Gris from Portsmouth’s Greenvale Vineyards, a stainless-steel aged white perfect with poultry. After, pour a dessert wine like Vidal Ice Wine from Newport Vineyards in Middletown. Westport Rivers: 417 Hixbridge Road, Westport. 508-636-3423. Sakonnet: 162 West Main Road, Little Compton. 401-635-8486. Greenvale: 582 Wapping Road, Portsmouth. 401-847-3777. Newport: 909 E Main Road, Middletown. 401-848-5161.
The Table Setting
You Could: Let your family bring you flowers and hope for the best.
Or: Buy a handmade centerpiece from Freirichs Farm in Warren. The farm stand hosts regular events (like their Holiday Open House on Thanksgiving weekend) but is also home to a boutique selling gifts and seasonal decorations like beautiful Christmas wreaths. 43 Kinnicutt Avenue, Warren. 401-245-8245.
You could: Fight the woman next to you in the produce department for the last bunch of carrots.
Or: Source your veggies from local farms. They taste better, last longer and have less of a carbon footprint (which, as everyone knows, tastes of guilt and smog). Think farm-fresh produce is just for summer? Think again. Four Town Farms in Seekonk has Brussels sprouts and turnips in season this month. Sandywoods Farm in Tiverton is harvesting pumpkins and winter squash. Indie Growers in Bristol has garlic, herbs and greens. Four Town: 90 George Street, Seekonk. 508-336-5587. Sandywoods: 43 Muse Way, Tiverton. 401-241-7349. Indie Growers: 1362 Hope Street, Bristol. 401-528-9777.
And: Make it easy on yourself. The Mount Hope Farmer’s Market operates year round, every Saturday morning on Mount Hope Farm in Bristol. Though the market moves inside in the colder months, there’s plenty of local bounty to enjoy. Enjoy baked goods from Provencal Bakery and sweets from Aquidneck Honey in Middletown. Take home potatoes from Maplewood Farm and beef from Aquidneck Farms in Portsmouth. Check out the produce from Little Compton’s Wishing Stone Farm and from Indie Growers. 250 Metacom Avenue, Bristol. 401-254-9300.
You could: Buy a frozen bird of unknown origins at your grocery store, and try not to think about all the antibiotics and other unmentionables it once ate.
Or: Buy a fresh, straight-from-the-farm turkey from Helger’s Turkey Ranch in Tiverton. See for yourself where the birds are raised. If you’re really particular, you can talk to Chad Helger himself about what they eat and how they’re treated. Frozen turkeys are available year-round, but save yourself the three days of thawing time and treat yourself to a fresh one. The difference between that and your old Butterball is incredible. 2554 Main Road, Tiverton. 401-624-4087.
You could: Shake a cylinder of cranberry sauce out of a can and mash it up before anyone else notices.
Or: Make your own cranberry sauce from fruit harvested at Delucia’s Berry Farm in Little Compton. During summer months, the farm grows all manner of fruit - blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, plums - but the fall is all about that tart little red one that pairs so well with turkey. If you’re not ambitious enough to make your own (though it’s easier than you think), take home some of their homemade stuff instead. 96 Willow Avenue, Little Compton. 401-635-2698.
You could: Trust your grocery store’s “bakery department.”
Or: Save yourself some work and buy a couple of delicious pies from Johnson’s Roadside Farm Market in Swansea, known far and wide for its delicious pies, cookies and various sugar-laden baked goods made with farm-grown ingredients. 445 Market Street, Swansea. 508-379-0349.
Or: If you insist on making your own desserts, make a trip to Bateson’s Apple Farm in Rehoboth. Buy some fruit and take it home to bake – but treat yourself to some fudge while you’re there. 68 Barney Avenue, Rehoboth. 508-336-8356.
And: Don’t forget the ice cream. Without it, pie just isn’t the same. Susanna’s Ice Cream from Sweet Berry Farm is revered far and wide as the best ice cream around. Fall flavors include Cinnamon, Pumpkin and Apple-Cinnamon. While you’re there, get a cone, walk among the rows of pumpkins and enjoy one more bit of outdoor time before the cold weather really sets in. 915 Mitchells Lane, Middletown. 401-847-3912.