Turkey, wrote Salvador Dali in "My Secret Life," "always awakens in man the flight of the cannibal angels of his cruelty." He illustrates this point by citing a particularly gruesome method of cooking the bird, mentioned in Neapolitan author Giambattista Della Porta's 16th-Century "Magia Naturalis"--a method that, you may rest assured, I have no intention of describing in a family newspaper on a Sunday morning.
I've always thought modern man's (and woman's) greatest cruelty to turkey, though, was in the way in which we inevitably overcook the beast, draining its soul and savor from it, turning it into so much cotton wool--and then drowning it in floury gravy to make sure it's really done for. (To quote Dali's fellow Catalan, author Josep Pla, "Cuisine is the art of resurrecting cadavers, not of re-murdering things already dead.")
On the other hand, it could be argued, the miscooking of turkey is no big deal. Thanksgiving may be a holiday built around the table, but it's not really a gastronomic holiday. A happy Thanksgiving dinner with family and/or friends can still be great with dried-out turkey and instant mashed potatoes; a sophisticated Thanksgiving supper--wild turkey with truffle sauce and pommes souffles , say--with people you don't much care for can leave a bad taste in your mouth. Good company and good feelings make the occasion--and de-fang whatever cannibal angels might be about.
If you choose not to, celebrate Thanksgiving at home, plenty of our local restaurants offer alternatives. Here are some of them:
(Prices are per person for a complete "traditional" turkey dinner unless otherwise noted; other entrees may cost more or less.)
Georgie's Bar & Grill, Encino, $8.95 for adults, $6.95 for children (from 4 to 10 p.m.).
Belle-Vue, Santa Monica, $12.95 (from 12:30 p.m.); the Sand Castle, Paradise Cove (Malibu), $13.95, $6.95 for children (from noon, with breakfast and brunch served earlier); Lew's, at the Burbank Airport Hilton, buffet-style, $14.95, $11.95 for seniors, $8.95 for children (from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.); Cafe Parisien, Marina del Rey, $13.95 (from 1 p.m.); Pennyfeather's on La Cienega, $11.95 (from noon to 9 p.m.); Calabasas Inn, Calabasas, $12.95 (from noon to 8:30 p.m.); Fiasco, Marina del Rey, $11.95, $6.95 for children (from noon to 9 p.m.); Daisy's Market, Hyatt Anaheim Hotel, buffet-style, $13.95, $11.95 for seniors, $9.95 for children 5-12 years old, $6.50 for children under 5 (1:30 to 9 p.m.).
Bob Burns, Santa Monica, $17.95, $12.95 for children (from 1 p.m.); Bouzy Rouge Cafe, Newport Beach, $15.95, children's portions available (from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m.); Pacific Dining Car, downtown, $18 (from noon to midnight); St. Moritz, Studio City, $17 (from 2 to 9 p.m.); Le Cellier, Santa Monica, $18.50 (regular hours); and at the Century Plaza Hotel: Cafe Plaza, $13.75, $9.75 for children; the Terrace and La Chaumiere, $17.75, $12.75 for children (regular hours).
Lalo and Brothers, Encino, $35 (from 5 p.m.); the Beverly Hills Hotel, $30, $17.50 for children under 12 (regular hours); Perino's, Los Angeles, $45 (from noon to 9 p.m.).
Most of the above also serve their regular menus at regular hours. Other Thanksgiving notes: Knoll's Black Forest Inn in Santa Monica offers not only turkey but also roast goose and venison in the German style, with seatings at 3 p.m., 5 p.m., and 7 p.m. . . . Ciatto on Los Feliz Boulevard closes for Thanksgiving, but serves a $25 prix-fixe dinner with Italian-style turkey specialties featured in three different courses on the 28th, 29th, and 30th (just in case you're still in the mood for turkey by then). . . . And the Chicago Brothers restaurant, down south in Pacific Beach, offers a free turkey pizza feast from 2 to 6 p.m. for San Diego's needy.
SILVIO MEETS DOMINICK: Silvio De Mori, who used to run Pane Caldo on Beverly Boulevard and now has the immensely popular Silvio's on the site of Sonny Bono's old restaurant on the cusp of Melrose, is the new owner of the landmark Dominick's, back on Beverly. He plans an Italian-style fish restaurant there, he says, complete with an open refrigerator case by the front door to expose the catches of the day. "We'll use all the best new recipes," he continues, "with some French ideas as well as some Italian ones." A 100-seat enclosed patio will be added behind the tiny restaurant, with opening set for January or February. No name has been decided upon yet--but, says De Mori, "I'd like to stay with 'Dominick's' if possible." Silvio's, meanwhile, will remain open--and doubtless packed--as usual.