With all of the challenges we’ve faced this year, families and home chefs got creative in their kitchens. We were told to stay home, and many found solace and quality family time in the kitchen. Podcasts were downloaded, cooking shows were DVRd, and dusty cookbooks were taken off the shelves and studied.

We were brave. We were inventive. We made sourdough starters and baked our own bread.

Now it’s time to bring that same sense of adventure to the holiday baking and cooking season! Why not look beyond the traditional turkey and mashed potatoes?  Travel to another region from the comfort of your kitchen.

If some of these menu offerings look a little intimidating, we have included a few Michigan restaurants, bakeries, and purveyors of specialty foods that can come to your rescue.

Réveillon Dinner: A Cajun-Creole Christmas

In the early 1800s, New Orleans Creoles celebrated Réveillon, a buffet-style Creole dinner that traditionally began after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Meaning “awakening” in French, réveillon is certain to awaken your taste buds!

Many restaurants now feature special réveillon dinners, with offerings at all hours of the day during the holiday season. Merrymakers feast on traditional Cajun food – from gumbos to soufflés, accompanied by brandies, wines, and chicory coffee. For dessert, the Bûche de Noël is a yule log cake that is both lovely and delicious. Croquembouche is a holiday dessert favorite that features a tall pyramid of choux pastry balls caged in a web of spun caramel.

Where to find in Michigan:
Mac’s Acadian Seafood
104 E. Michigan Avenue
Saline, MI 48176

145 Jackson Cut
Marquette, MI 49855

Pearl’s New Orleans Kitchen
617 Ames Street
Elk Rapids, MI 49629

Feliz Navidad! A Southwestern-Inspired Feast

Holidays in the Southwest are colorful. Cacti are strung with holiday lights, luminarias glow along pathways, and red and green chile pepper garlands called “ristras” hang from doorways.

Southwestern kitchens are festive as well. Tamales, empanadas, and chiles are served with red and green salsas, and for dessert, bischochitos served with piñon coffee. Ponche Navideño is a traditional Mexican punch that features guava nectar.

Where to find in Michigan:
Chela’s Restaurant and Catering
693 S. Maple Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Mexicantown Bakery
4300 W. Vernor Highway
Detroit, MI 48209

California Cuisine: Charcuterie!

California wine country is well known for its cuisine. The cooking is often simple, allowing the selected wines to be the star of the show. A charcuterie board that includes various cheeses, meats, and breads is the perfect pairing for holiday wines.

Charcuterie boards can highlight foods from a specific country – a French-inspired board would include a selection of fromages paired with paté, breads, and crackers, and an Italian board would feature antipasti like prosciutto, salami, Italian fromagi, and crostini.

Adventurous chefs may want to try a Middle Eastern mezze board that includes dolmades, feta, olives, falafel, and lamb kofta. Add small bowls of baba ganoush and hummus with pita, roasted eggplant, artichoke hearts, and sliced cucumber for dipping. Intersperse these selections with festive fruits like pomegranate, grapes, figs, and dates.

Complete the experience with a sweet board that includes Middle Eastern delicacies like honey-drizzled baklava, mamoul, coconut macaroon, and shortbread-style ghoribeh. Intersperse these delightful cookies with sugared almonds for a colorful presentation.

Where to find:
Shatila Bakery
14300 W. Warren
Dearborn, MI 48126

The Cheese Shop
98 N. Ann Arbor Street
Saline, MI 48176

The Cheese Lady
Locations in Farmington, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Rochester, and Traverse City

Zingerman’s Creamery
3723 Plaza Drive Suite 2
Ann Arbor, MI 48108

A New England Noel

Holidays in the Northeast are filled with traditional dishes that celebrate the bounty of that region. Recipes include fish and shellfish from clam dips and chowders to bacon-wrapped scallops and oyster stuffing. A main course alternative to the typical turkey may be lobster, roast duck, or venison. Cranberries and apples are a staple in many New England desserts. Try serving these with a mulled apple cider for a warm and cozy finish to the meal.

Where to find in Michigan:
Joe Muer Seafood/The Gandy Dancer
Located in Detroit, Bloomfield Hills, and Ann Arbor
313-5676-6837 (Detroit)
248-792-9609 (Bloomfield Hills)
734-769-0592 (Ann Arbor)

Oceanside Seafood
Michigan-based home delivery
3617 E. Grand River Avenue
Howell, MI 48843

Bon appétit!