You have survived the crowded malls, signed and sent off a seemingly endless supply of holiday greeting cards and wrapped presents until the early morning hours. You are frazzled and tired, and the last thing you want to do is spend hours in the kitchen preparing a feast for your holiday guests.
Relax. There is an alternative for those who want to feast at home but don't want to cook: holiday takeout meals. Turkey and ham, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, vegetables, dessert--and some more exotic dishes--are available from a number of sources. Forget the slicing, dicing and basting. All you have to do is pick up the food at the appointed hour. Heating instructions and serving tips are provided. Listed below are a selection of places in Orange County that cater to those who want a traditional holiday meal--without the traditional fuss.
A la Carte offers glazed ham and turkey ballotine as main dishes. Side dishes include fruit nut or sausage stuffing, roasted new potatoes with garlic and rosemary, Grand Marnier sweet potato souffle and julienne celery.
On the dessert menu are cranberry nut pie, rum cream pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake and New Orleans bread pudding with whiskey cream sauce.
Holiday customers are about evenly split between those who order complete meals and those who order just a couple of items, says co-owner Terry Markowitz.
"We've done some small orders for two people spending the holiday together. They don't want to go out to a restaurant, but they don't want to eat just an ordinary meal, either." Meals average about $10 a person. Items can be ordered individually.
Orders must be placed at least a week in advance. Orders for Christmas Day meals must be placed before Dec. 19. No deliveries.
A la Carte, 1915 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, (714) 497-4927. Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 24 .
Behind the Scenes offers only complete meals to its holiday customers, who are asked to choose one item from each of the following categories: main dish, potato/rice, vegetable and salad. All dinners come with rolls and butter and pumpkin pie for dessert.
The main dish choices are baked ham, roasted turkey with traditional bread stuffing, pineapple glazed pork roast or Cornish game hen with rice or bread stuffing. In the potato/rice category are duchess, mashed and new potatoes, yams with apricot glaze and nuts, and rice pilaf. The vegetables are green beans amandine, broccoli with water chestnuts and orange-ginger carrots. Salad choices are ambrosia, pineapple raisin Waldorf, tossed green or Chinese chicken.
Co-owner Elaine Lai says her customers represent a "very wide mixture of people."
"We get everything from professionals who are busy and really don't have much time, to shut-ins who just couldn't get out," she says.
Meals average about $10 a person.
Orders must be placed at least a week in advance. Orders for Christmas Day meals must be placed before Dec. 19. Delivery service is available at an additional charge.
Behind the Scenes, 665 N. Tustin Ave . , Suite J, Orange, (714) 532-1005. Open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m . Tuesday through Saturday, including Dec. 24.
Country Garden Caterers'holiday menu includes 25 different entree choices, including roasted turkey, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, apricot or champagne glazed ham, and beef Wellington, as well as such non-traditional fare as seafood Newburg in a puffed pastry shell.
Side dish choices include rice pilaf, mashed potatoes, corn bread stuffing, potatoes au gratin, glazed carrots and fresh vegetable medley in herb butter sauce.
Customers can create a meal by choosing various individual items, sales consultant Louise Duncanson says, adding that holiday meal orders must be for a minimum of 12 people.
"It seems that more and more there are people that don't have time" to prepare a holiday meal, Duncanson says, noting the steady rise in the number of orders Country Garden has received for holiday takeout service in the 10 years it has offered it.
Meals average $20 to $35 a person, depending on the items selected.
Orders must be placed at least 3 days in advance. Delivery service is available at an additional charge.
Country Garden Caterers, 719 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 972-9069. Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m . daily except Dec. 25; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 24.
Gelson's Market offers not only the traditional roasted turkey and honey-glazed ham as main dishes, but also roasted goose with red currant glaze. Other dishes include corn bread stuffing with chestnuts, gingered yam souffle and sherried fruit.
For dessert are fanciful gingerbread houses and butter cake and chocolate cream yule logs, as well as pumpkin pudding and bread pudding with hard sauce. Hillary Grey, director of service delicatessen operations, says Gelson's gets "a lot of family business," much of it from working women who want to serve "a lovely meal" to their visiting relatives.