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Beyond Ham and Turkey: Chefs' Holiday Food Traditions

Missy Frederick is the Cities Director for Eater.

Everyone has their own holiday traditions—including chefs. Skip the Christmas ham this year and check out one of these restaurants, where chefs are serving dishes that reflect their ethnic traditions or are putting their own spins on classic holiday treats.

Chef Cathal Armstrong is Irish, while his wife and business partner Meshelle Armstrong's family is Filipino. For the holidays, Armstrong and his family gather for
a Filipino meal, including dishes like chicken adobo, which is inspired by Spanish and Chinese influences in Filipino cuisine and is made with soy and vinegar. The chicken currently appears in wing form on the menu at Virtue Feed and Grain.

Another Armstrong Christmas favorite dish is minced meat tartlets, which are stuffed with dried fruits and beef suet. They'll be selling mincemeat at Society Fair so that patrons can make their own tartlets at home.

For a taste of French Christmas traditions, head to Bastille for Christmas Eve, where the Old Town restaurant is serving a four-course meal. Chef Christophe Poteaux is from Paris, and he says that turkey stuffed with chestnuts is a traditional Christmas dinner. That dish is available on the menu, as well as the traditional Buche de Noel cake, which resembles a log, and almond cake with eggnog ice cream.

Blue Duck Tavern also offers a spin on the French poultry dish. Executive Chef Sebastien Archambault is from Périgord, France, and he'll be serving the roasted chicken with black truffle stuffing, glazed chestnuts, brioche butter, black trumpet, and dandelions on Christmas Eve and Day.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a seafood-focused Italian dinner traditionally celebrated on Christmas Eve. Indulge in a pescatarian feast at Bibiana Osteria- Enoteca, where dishes include grilled eel with onion compote, fried shrimp with calamari, smelts, oysters, and cauliflower, and black spaghetti with sea urchin. Bethesda's Assaggi Mozzarella Bar is also offering the fishy feast on Christmas Eve, with swordfish carpaccio, crispy codfish, and other dishes.

At Jaleo, Jose Andres celebrates the clementine, or the "Christmas orange," in a number of dishes. The citrus fruit is harvested in Spain in the winter and will be featured in special tapas and cocktails at Jaleo through December 23. Dishes include clementine salad, seared clementines with goat cheese, and the La Valenciana cocktail, made with gin, clementine juice, honey syrup, lemon, and basil.

At The Grille at Morrison House Executive Chef Brian McPherson is serving a Christmas Day brunch with spins on classics—figgy pudding beignets and "reindeer" carpaccio. The three-course brunch includes the beignets, which are made with fig pudding that's folded into batter, fried, and coated with powdered sugar. The carpaccio is Alaskan antelope from Alaska that's rubbed with coffee and peppercorns, thinly sliced, and served raw. While not actually reindeer, the smoky dish will put all thoughts of Rudolph out of your mind.

Imagine the end of A Christmas Story, then go Chinese at The Source, where Scott Drewno's holiday menu centers around a lacquered Chinese duckling or goose with lo mein noodles and sweet and sour huckleberries. The birds are available December 20-29 as part of the family-style holiday menu, which includes a selection of seasonal sides and carrot cake for dessert.

Then there are less traditional spins on holiday dishes—at DC-3 on Capitol Hill, the hot dog joint is serving a "Feliz Navidog" hot dog for the holidays. The sausage is a housemade chorizo nestled in a butter loaf and topped with blistered tomatillo sauce, shaved cumin coleslaw, and queso fresco crumbles.

And for a sweet pre-Christmas treat, take a break from last minute shopping and sample the new Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken. They're doing a holiday pop-up shop on Thursday and Friday at Chinatown Coffee. The two doughnuts available are an eggnog cake doughnut with a vanilla custard and rum glaze, and a Panettone doughnut, which is a yeast-raised fruitcake with rum glaze and toasted almonds.

—Amy Cavanaugh

[Cathal Armstrong's mincemeat pies]


480 7th Street Northwest, , DC 20004 (202) 628-7949 Visit Website


606 North Fayette Street, , VA 22314 (703) 519-3776 Visit Website

Virtue Feed & Grain

106 S Union Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

Society Fair

277 South Washington Street, , VA 22314 (703) 683-3247 Visit Website


12th Street Northwest, , DC 20005 (202) 216-9550 Visit Website

The Source by Wolfgang Puck

575 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, , DC 20565 (202) 637-6100 Visit Website

Blue Duck Tavern

1201 24th Street Northwest, , DC 20037 (202) 419-6755 Visit Website