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Aw, Must We Have Incredibly Delicious Turkey--Again?: Ten out of 10 actual turkeys support alternative Thanksgiving dinners.

Turkeyish Delight

Traditional dinners aren't the only way to thrill your taste buds when the holiday season hits

By Christina Waters

Turkey, schmurky--it's Dungeness crab season again on our crustacean-laced Monterey Bay, and that means cracking up juicy delicacies and dipping firm silken flesh into drawn butter. Luxury, pure luxury. So before you put your taste buds through their turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing duties, treat them to a gala Crab Feed up at the MacKenzie Bar & Grill adjacent to the Pro Shop at Pasatiempo Golf Club, overlooking the velvety ninth fairway. The bar and grill, by the way, was named for golf course architect Alister MacKenzie, who designed the sloping greens of the Pasatiempo golf course with its sensational views of the ocean and Santa Cruz far below. He also designed the fabled greens at Augusta and Cypress Point. Well, chef Pete Dressen, arguably among the top two or three chefs on the Central Coast, is laying out a hands-on crab feed this coming Friday, Nov. 21, from 6 to 8pm. You and your friends will be able to go wild over fresh crab, with Italian chopped salad, baked ziti, boiled red potatoes and garlic bread--and baked stuffed apples for dessert, all for $25 per person. I call this one impressive tasting opportunity, a chance to honor the local crab season as well as hang out in our classiest "sports bar." Make reservations at 831.459.9162. And while you're at it, you might also forgo the exhausting preparation of turkey and all the trimmings and let Hollins House Restaurant do the cooking of an old-fashioned traditional Thanksgiving Buffet, on Thursday, Nov. 27, from 1 to 6pm. Roast Diestel turkey, Corralitos ham, slow-roasted prime rib, Petrale sole, various composed salads and memorable house desserts are included in the $37.95 per person price (tax and tip not included); children ages 4 to 12 years, half-price. Reservations are required; call 831.459.9177.

If you haven't visited the historic Hollins House at 20 Clubhouse Road (www.pasatiempo.com), the elegant former clubhouse built by golf and tennis queen Marion Hollins in 1929, here's your chance.

Ah, but there's more than one way to roast the bird, so to speak. For example, Bittersweet Bistro chef/owner Tom Vinolus and his lovely wife, Elizabeth, invite you to "their house" at 787 Rio del Mar Blvd. for a bountiful Bittersweet Thanksgiving Buffet, also on Thursday, Nov. 27 (because that is Thanksgiving), between 1:30 and 6:30pm.

The Vinolus buffet tables will practically groan under the culinary weight of such opening acts as spanakopita, Waldorf salad, Caesar salad, tossed Asian salad and something wonderful-sounding--maple-roasted butternut squash soup. Traditionalists will enjoy a nod to the '50s in the form of a festive jello mold, as well as organic mesclun greens. Now for the big stuff. The roasted free range turkey with pan gravy is joined by baked candied yams, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, apple-sage stuffing and lots of sautéed fresh veggies. Delicious alternatives to turkey include teriyaki salmon, Corralitos ham, salt-roasted prime rib with horseradish crème fraîche and wild mushroom risotto. The cost is $45.95 adults, children 6 to 12 enjoying the special "kid's table" pay $18.95, and youngsters 5 and under, free. For your Bittersweet Thanksgiving reservation, call 831.662.9799.

More Holiday Happenings: Any chance to wine, dine and stay overnight at Sand Rock Farm Inn feels like a holiday occasion--especially since chef Lynn Sheehan presides over this gorgeous old Craftsman mansion-in-the-redwoods. But there are a few special excuses to schmooze in style out on Freedom Boulevard. In the SRF's Carriage Barn, Dec. 6 and 7, 11am-4pm, come look for special gift treasures from an array of locally produced gourmet items, fragrances and body-care specialties, vintage and handmade jewelry, textiles, stationery, you have the idea. Small plates of savories will be offered, and fresh-baked items and beverages will be on sale. Definitely gourmet holiday shopping. ... There's a Dec. 13 Holiday Wine Dinner with Barry Jackson of Equinox, matching a line of sparkling wines with Chef Lynn's sumptuous cookery--and, yes, you can book dinner, and if you're smart, a room as well, for New Year's at Sand Rock Farm, on (duh) Dec. 31. For complete details and reservations, contact 831.688.8005, or www.sandrockfarm.com.

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From the November 19-26, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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