Vadim Akimenko has game. From the popular, quadruple-stuffed indulgence of turducken (duck in a chicken in a turkey) to rack of bear ribs, Akimenko presides over the forces of nature as meat manager at Savenor’s Market [92 Kirkland St., Cambridge. 617.576.6328. savenorsmarket.com]. This season, his Cambridge location is the spot for the ingredients that will turn your modest apartment into a veritably hoity indulge-fest.
Take the turducken, for example. “That guy comes with a stuffing of seafood and boneless birds,” he says. It’s a party at $99.99 for the 15-pound behemoth, or pick a breast-meat-only four-pounder for $39.99. For a fit bird like the store’s wild turkeys, he says, “You have to be very gentle with it, because the breast doesn’t have any type of fat on it.” The solution, of course, is to stuff it with duck fat. Cook either bird until internal temperature reaches 165ºF. “Preparing ducks and geese though, that’s a little more elaborate,” he explains. “Especially geese: you have to poke the skin so the oils and fats can drain out.”
For his own holiday entertaining, Akimenko says, “You can’t go wrong with pork.” He’ll also present the store’s prime beef by barbecuing, slow roasting or braising it. If wild boar is your thing, Akimenko recommends cooking that a bit longer than regular pork.
• Grab pheasants at $6.99/lb, geese at $5.99/lb, Long Island ducks at $3.59/lb and the stronger-flavored Skogie ducks at $6.39, which Akimenko recommends.
• Also look for elk, venison and reindeer.
• When you’re ready to bear down, get the beast at $21.59/lb for shank, and $52.59/lb for short loin or rib rack. Akimenko says he found the flavor of the Illinois farm-raised meat surprisingly beef-like, gamier and more robust.
One could say that Savenor’s is, quite literally, a bear market.
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What’s more terribly bourgeois than a middling, ill-stocked bar?
Naturally, you’d do well to have the basics on hand — classic, quality spirits and fresh, organic ingredients — but you can always go one step further by procuring a bottle of curious goodness.
Depending on your taste, you can choose from plenty of gorgeous finds: Faretti Biscotti Famosi liqueur, Fee Brothers Peach Bitters, Douglas fir eau de vie. Alternatively, your overachieving self can make ingredients at home like freakishly spicy ice cubes.
For a slick vintage move, serve real, legally-acquired absinthe! This year, the US finally allowed the sale ofthe stuff with wormwood. (Vincent Van Gogh, on the other hand, is probably still bathing in the stuff in his little green cloud of heaven.) Kübler, distilled in Absinthe’s birthplace of Switzerland’s Val-de-Travers region, is smooth, stimulating and dangerously drinkable. No promises on the green fairy, though.
Ginger Rum with Numbing Cubes (makes 4 cocktails) | by Chef Ming Tsai, host/executive producer of public television’s “Simply Ming” and chef/owner of Blue Ginger in Wellesley
1 tbsp. toasted, super finely ground Szechwan peppercorns
2 tbsp. sugar
Juice of 1 lemon with zest, minced
Water for 2 trays of ice
8 oz. (1 cup) Gosling’s Black Seal rum
24 oz. (3 cups) ginger ale (preferably Reed’s)
1 lime, cut into wedges
To make the numbing cubes, fill ice cube trays 3/4 full with water. Pour that water into a large bowl with a spout (or a pitcher). Add the Szechwan peppercorns, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Stir to dissolve sugar and pour mixture into ice cube trays, taking care to evenly distribute the flavorings; freeze overnight. To assemble each drink: pour in 6 ounces ginger ale and 2 ounces of rum. Squeeze lime wedge over and drop wedge into drink. Add a handful of numbing cubes and enjoy.
Good & Plenty | by Doug “Bix” Biederbeck of Bix Restaurant in San Francisco
1 1/2 oz. Kübler
3 1/2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice (pink or regular)
Mix in a tall glass with ice.
Nothing makes people RSVP quite like an invitation printed on elephant dung paper [Mr. Ellie Pooh Paper, $13/note set, available at Greenward, 1776 Mass Ave., Porter Sq., Cambridge. 617.395.1338. greenwardshop.com]. Commodity animal poop has never been hotter (or steamier), so make your who’s who list on Pooh’s poo paper and bow down to the mighty pachyderm’s GI tract. Your friends will praise your commitment to sustainable partying.Once you get your posse, bring out the wine. Since wine tasting has become so mainstream, you’ll no longer feel like an asshole using words like “cloying,” “stony” and “lively.” Sip from elegant break-resistant glassware by Schott Zwiesel [$7.75-$11.25/piece, available at Michelle Willey, 8 Union Park St., South End, Boston. 617.424.6700. michellewilley.com]. The combined brawn and beauty of these titanium crystal pieces will perfectly complement your dashing good looks and wine insights.
But don’t get all high and mighty now just because you’re a wine expert. After all, spices are the new wine, so make sure you incorporate some of the lesser known salt and pepper varieties into your dishes [$2.88-$6.92/3 oz., available at Christina’s Spice & Specialty Foods, 1255 Cambridge St., Inman Sq., Cambridge. 617.576.2090]. Try unprocessed Fleur de sel, moist grey sea salt or hot long peppers. They’ll kick that umbrella girl back into the rain.
Although it’s pretty much established you’re the hostess with the mostest, sometimes even the most impeccable gourmand can get a little burned out — not to mention those poor gingersnaps.
See to bribing the librarians with your caviar cups at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study’s Schlesinger Library [10 Garden St., Harvard Sq., Cambridge. 617.495.8647. radcliffe.edu/schles], where you can rifle through one of the world’s most comprehensive cookbook collections.
Or if you’re more hands-on and can pay the price, noodle — and possibly pâte à choux — around with Radius chef Patrick Connolly and co-owner Christopher Myers in a holiday hors d’ouevres cooking class. [Sat.12.8. 11am-2:30pm/$125. 8 High St., Downtown, Boston. 617.426.1234. radiusrestaurant.com].
Stephen Shellenberger, a boundary-pushing bartender at dante [40 Edwin H. Land Blvd., Cambridge. 617.497.4200. restaurantdante.com], wants you to drink his ongoing experiments. Not only is he perfecting an aromatic tincture — cherry stones with rye whiskey and black and white truffles — but also mixing the juice of a lime, Creole Shrub and aphrodisiac flower añejo tequila in la mojada. He notes, “The flowers grow alongside the agave, are notorious in their abilities and contribute an evocative herbaceous whisper.”
When things are dire, splurging on a dedicated mango pitter [$13, available at Williams Sonoma, Copley Pl., Boston. 617.262.3080. williams-sonoma.com] or nine hand-corked vials of raw varietal honey [$78, available at beeraw.com] gives us sick, sick pleasure. God help us.