While the turkey remains the star of Thanksgiving, you still need to consider some good nibbles to put out before the main event. What kind of treats should you serve hungry guests as they wait for said bird to grace the table? Easy: Start pouring wine and put out a spread of charcuterie, cheese, artisan pickles and other tasty bites to help tide over hunger. Whether you're hosting a giant feast at your house or going over to family or friend's places, here are five ideas for your Thanksgiving pre-game, along with where to shop for them, that you don't have to order in advance or take extra time to prepare.
True, when you use a pretty pickle plate, no one will know whether the cukes came from Costco or an upscale market (until they take a bite, that is), but why waste an opportunity to eat some of Colorado's finest artisan pickles? Buy anything from the Real Dill, and your pickle-loving guests will be so delighted they might keep nibbling on the crunchy spears throughout dinner. For a mild option, try the pleasing caraway garlic dills, or opt for a real bite and choose this Denver-based company's habanero horseradish variety. And if you're taking a jar to go, just think how pleased your host will be to receive such a tasty appetizer. As a bonus, it's a surefire way to get invited back next year. You can find these pickles in retail stores all over the city, including Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe, Bogie's Beer and Wine and ACME Deli.
Yes, for many pilgrims headed to your house, meat will be the focus of the Thanksgiving table, but that doesn't mean you can't start with a plate of delicately made charcuterie prior to the sit-down meal. Order up an array of sliced meats from the aptly named Boulder shop Cured. Here owner Will Frischkorn sells finocchio, salami laced with garlic and thin ovals of coppa, to name a few. At Cheese+Provisions in Sunnyside, Steve Duty sells locally made goat and pork finocchiona and chorizo from Avalanche Cheese Company in Basalt. No matter what you choose, it's a great way to get your guests', or hosts', appetites watering, and a fun way to sample fatty, salty meats normally not seen during Turkey Day. Plus, if you head to to either of these venues, you can also pick up condiments, wine and cheese — with guidance from professionals you won't get at supermarkets or big-box liquor stores.
Who doesn't love cheese? Just like charcuterie, a cheese board is a great way to start your Thanksgiving feast, and it helps tide guests over as they await the grand production. Luckily for Denverites, so many places in the metro area sell great cheeses from all over the world. Of course, it is a holiday celebrating America, so try and pick out some samples from United States producers. Or, better yet, get some Colorado-made cheese such as the cacio pecora from Fruition Farms and a goat's-milk cheese tumbled in vegetable ash from Broken Shovels Farm. Both of these can be found at St. Kilian's Cheese Shop in the Highlands. At Cheese+Provisions, guests can stock up on Avalanche's Cabra Blanca, a semi-soft goat cheese, and Haystack's green-chile Jack.
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Let's face it: You can never have too much wine at Thanksgiving. To start the meal, a glass of sparkling vino is in order, and the Infinite Monkey Theorem's Bubble Universe proves a great way to begin. Riesling also traditionally goes well with Thanksgiving foods; fortunately, Colorado has been churning out some good ones — like a dry riesling from Guy Drew Vineyards. Also pick up a bottle of the rich and memorable Nefarious Red from Kingman Estates Winery, or the award-winning 2013 cabernet sauvignon; either will go with the meal or charcuterie. Bring a few bottles to your friend's house or pop these tops at home during your own celebration.
Crackers and Bread
What goes better with cheese, cured meat and wine than a nice crusty bread or crunchy cracker? Nita Crisp is a true Colorado cracker, and owner Nenita Pellegrino has been baking up her hand-cut, small-batch crisps for more than ten years. Nita Crisps can be found in stores all across the state, including the Whole Foods in Cherry Creek, Marczyk Fine Foods and multiple Sprouts stores. For a more substantial option that carries over to the dinner table, pick up a baguette or loaf of fresh bread from Greg Bortz's beloved Denver Bread Company or Babette's Artisan Breads in the Source. Keep in mind that the bakeries aren't open on Thanksgiving, so get your loaves the day before and wrap them up or stick them in the freezer so they stay fresh.