Time for Take-out turkey
By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor
By Wanda A. Adams
Tired of cooking but want a Thanksgiving with "all the fixin's" — plus turkey bones for jook and leftovers, too?
Working full time and stressing about how to make dinner for the whole 'ohana?
A lot of families are solving these problems by buying take-out Thanksgiving dinners from local restaurants, delis and hotels — either rushing hot meals home right before serving, or taking pre-made chilled dishes home to reheat. Smaller households are even buying Thanksgiving dinner by the plate; Times Supermarket service delis are among the outlets offering hassle-free dinners for two.
At Times Supermarket on Beretania the other day, Hide Tsutsuki said he and his wife will be alone this holiday as their daughter and her family are going to visit her husband's Mainland relatives. "I gotta ask my wife but at our age, you know, retired, she doesn't cook big meals too often and maybe this is easier, yeah? We live close, just come over, pick 'em up," he said.
The Donald Brown family of 'Aiea discovered holiday to-go a few years ago: "We both work," Brown said of he and his wife, Nani, and they generally have a few out-of-town guests, so the cooking can get out of hand.
"It's kind of a tradition. We'll bring the guests down to Waikiki that morning and go holoholo and then go pick up the food. The hard part is smelling everything all the way home when you're hungry," said the hotel accountant. "We've tried several different ones and haven't decided yet where we'll go this year. The stuffing is kind of the deciding factor, we like to try different ones."
Though the meals seem pricey on the face of it — as much as $20 per person — if you add up all the ingredients for a full turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, vegetables, relish, rolls and dessert dinner, you'd easily be in three figures at the grocery store. "It's a lot of food," said chef Kelvin Ro of Diamond Head Market and Grill. "If you ate a serving of everything we give you, that would be about two pounds of food!"
Ro began making takeout turkey dinners years ago at his now-gone Kahala Moon restaurant, turning out 40 dinners from the galley-size kitchen at that location. Today, his Diamond Head Market and Grill prepares nearly 200 reheatable turkey dinners, plus another 100 turkey plates sold individually out of the Grill window and nearly 500 orders of his trademark pumpkin pecan crunch dessert. ("Even with that number, I was getting scoldings from the aunties who didn't get their orders in time," he said with a grin.)
Back in the '90s, when Kahala Moon began doing the turkeys, it was a fairly new phenomenon here, where home-cooked Thanksgiving meals were the norm.
"We were among the first and I've really seen this progress. There's not too many (free-standing restaurant) chefs that will do this, they just don't have the room," he said. To accommodate the ingredients and prepared dishes, he rents a 20-foot walk-in refrigerator and plunks it in the parking lot for a week.
Hotels find the project easier with their larger staffs and spacier kitchens, but they too, must plan the logistics as though preparing for battle — including the pick-up drill, given that customers don't want to deal with parking hassles.
At the Hawaii Prince Hotel, where chef Khamtan Tanhchaleun's staff is readying to do 500 honey-and-macadamia nut-glazed turkeys — most of them to be out the door between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Nov. 27 — they'll use runners in a golf cart and special, handled boxes for curbside delivery. Ro uses banker's boxes and provides the metal trays for reheating. The Pacific Beach hotel will do curbside service, and Hyatt Regency is offering drive-through at the hotel in Waikiki and at a site in Kapalama near the elementary school.
For almost a decade, A Catered Experience, the catering arm of the Zippy's restaurant chain, has been offering piping-hot turkey dinners to go, seeing a 5 percent increase in sales each year, said marketing executive Jeanine Mamiya-Kalahiki. The meals are disseminated at a drive-through operation in Waipi'o. Why way out there? That's where the company's caterings kitchen is, and it's where Napoleon lives (the Zippy's Napoleon Bakery, that is), so the food is fresh and hot. Zippy's began selling half turkey dinners for small families in 2000, adding whole turkey dinners the following year.
Most outlets are cutting off orders the third week of November, or when they reach a set number. Better get orders in now.
Reach Wanda A. Adams at email@example.com.