Thanksgiving is one of America’s favorite holidays of the year. Whether you enjoy time with family or friends, it’s one of the most celebrated times of the fall season that allows us all to break bread in mutual fellowship. Friendsgiving has become an immensely popular trend among millennials, and others who live too far away from home or have limited connection with family. Some have the ability to enjoy Thanksgiving with their family in addition to hosting a Friendsgiving party as an added bonus.
You may be pondering your own attempt at hosting a Friendsgiving party. Whether you’ve hosted your own dinner in the past, or you’re a first year rookie looking to make a bold statement, you have a big decision to make. Do you want to throw an average, run-of-the-mill potluck party where someone will only be motivated enough to bring in a container full of store-bought potato salad and a cheap sweet potato pie? Or would you prefer to impress your guests with a level of outstanding cuisine that’s become well known throughout Austin dining scene?
There’s no reason to settle for substandard Thanksgiving grub and if you’re like us, there’s no substitute for the best Austin has to offer. We partnered with Suzanne Court, our favorite local catering & event coordinator, invited some of our favorite local food bloggers, and grabbed a few tasty dishes from several of our favorite chefs and local restaurants to host a feast unlike any that’s ever been created. If you plan on hosting a Thanksgiving-inspired feast with your friends, here’s our tips on how to make it the most epic holiday party ever designed.
Step 1 | THE GRACIOUS HOST
Deciding on who and where to host your Friendsgiving can make or break the entire mood of your party. If you’re looking to pull off the type of party your friends will be talking about for the next decade, everything needs to be perfect. Seeking perfection isn’t easy, so we enlisted the help and services of Suzanne Court Catering & Events, a hands-on catering and event company with innovative cuisine and exceptional service. At the helm, the company’s namesake herself, Suzanne Court, is one of Austin’s top event planners with 20 years experience of impeccable personal service.
The grand setting was hosted in the beautiful home of Pete and Mike Mankins, at their residence in the hills of Rollingwood, which set the perfect canvas for a warm and inviting atmosphere allowing guests to eat, drink and enjoy each other’s great company in comfort. Mike and Pete are gracious Austinites that love hosting parties and welcoming friendly faces in to their home.
“We’ve worked with Suzanne Court exclusively for 20 years. She planned 3 of our daughter’s weddings, my 70th birthday at Austin City Limits, our 50th anniversary at Laguna Gloria, as well as multiple events in several locations around the state.”
– Mike Mannis
With the help of Suzanne and the Mankins family, our first ever Friendsgiving party was an astonishing success.
Step 2 | THE GUEST LIST
Thanksgiving is one of the biggest holidays of the year, so you may be a little over ambitious to invite everyone you know. Regardless of the size of your Friendsgiving party, be mindful that your friends they may ask to bring someone along with them. No matter how many guests you have attending the party, you’ll want to create a warm and inviting environment that welcomes everyone alike, because after the party ends you may end up with a few additional friends you didn’t have prior to the event, and having more friends is never a bad thing. We invited some of our fellow foodie friends from Austin’s media community to help us set the scene a festive evening.
Step 3 | THE ENTERTAINMENT
Typically, if you have enough friends and plenty and a lot of great food and drinks, you’ll never get bored with great conversation and fellowship. However, adding a little entertainment to set the mood always adds a classy touch to any party. If you’re looking to avoid watching Thanksgiving football all day long, try looking for something entertaining that all of your guests will able to enjoy together. Group games, and Table Topics are always wonderful party activities, but nothing beats the sound of live music. Suzanne invited her dear friends, Austin musicians “Cornbread” Jason Daley, John Dango, Kalu James, and Bruce Smith to serenade us throughout the evening with a few original folk songs and classics for an easy listening atmosphere that everyone enjoyed throughout the evening.
Step 4 | THE ULTIMATE MENU
Okay, I know I said the setting and atmosphere is the most important thing to hosting your Friendsgiving party, but honestly we’re a food magazine. The menu is arguably the most important thing you can have in your party. Don’t underestimate your guests taste for good food, if they’re like our friends it’s the one thing they’ll scrutinize more than anything else. Instead of spending hours in the kitchen cooking up a storm, we partnered up with some of our favorite chefs and restaurants in Austin to get a few of our favorite dishes to make this the best Friendsgiving feast ever created!
Photos by Ben Porter
This is not a simple project we took lightly. We wanted the menu to be absolutely perfect in every way. So allow us to take you on an journey through the entire menu featuring every dish created by some of Austin’s most talented chefs.
Step 5 | INCREDIBLE APPETIZERS
Egg Toast | Apis Restaurant and Apiary
Before you get the big feast kicked off you’ll want to serve your guests a few small bites and drinks just like any other dinner party. Get things kicked off with the Egg Toast from Apis Restaurant in Spicewood. They’re so indulgent and savory you’ll want to eat 3 or 4 of them. It sets the pace of what’s to come in the big feast without killing the appetite.
23526 TX-71, Spicewood, TX 78669
Photo by @sushigirl_ATX
Cheese and Fruit Board | Suzanne Court Catering & Events
Cheese boards are perfect for nearly any gathering. They’re fun and an easy to please the crowd as it includes several options that nearly anyone will enjoy. A well-laid cheese platter will look like a work of art with a spread of cheeses, meats, fruit, and bread. This impressive cheeseboard prepared by Suzanne was nothing short of spectacular as it was beautifully stacked with every primary ingredient perfect for our large party, keeping our guests satiated before the big feast.
Fried Polenta | Estância Churrascaria
If you’re going to have any fried food at all in this meal, it might as well be a little fried polenta with it’s chewy and crunchy outside, while the inside stays nice and creamy. It’s perfect served with a little cranberry sauce!
The Arboretum at Great Hills, 10000 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 78759
Step 6 | DRINKS
This is arguably the first step in the party planning process. If you don’t have sufficient drinks to serve your guests, you might lose them before you even get to say grace. We suggest inviting everyone to bring their own drink of choice. Make sure you keep a large ice chest or two full of ice near by to fill everyone’s glass. We brought in a seasonal favorite, Deep Eddy Vodka Cranberry cocktails to serve our large group. We also include wines from Wedding Oak, and cans ice cold beer from Uncle Billy’s Brewing.
Step 7 | THE MAIN COURSE
This is the feast you’ve all been waiting for. This is one time of year where you’ll gladly pack in a few thousand calories without even thinking twice. And why should you? A Thanksgiving inspired feast has always been one of indulgence as well as a time to be thankful for the loved ones in your life. This time, you’ll enjoy filling your bellies with dear friends. So pull out your cameras and put on stretchy pants. It’s time to feast!
Smoked Brisket | La Barbecue
Turkey may be the number one protein on most tables this Thanksgiving, but in Central Texas, Austinites place brisket above all the other proteins in our grand hierarchy. For this feast, we picked up a large brisket from our favorite, and arguably the best BBQ spot in town, at La Barbecue where you can order an entire brisket for your holiday feast. “Moist cut” is not just simply an option with La Barbecue’s brisket, each and every bite of this flavorful meat melts in your mouth in pure nirvana. It should be no surprise that it was one of the first items to wiped out by our hungry guests, so make sure you get a fairly large brisket to feed your crew.
1906 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702
Photo by Courtney Pierce
Pork Chops with Cranberry relish, Pecan Vinaigrette | Dine Restaurant & Bar
David Garrido is one of Austin’s most well known and respected chefs, so when we told him about our Friendsgiving party, he chef Mario Medina decided to prepare something special. Their creation – succulent pork chops with a sweet cranberry relish, coupled with a pecan vinaigrette and roasted pumpkin. Each bite of the moist and tender pork chops was bursting with so much flavor it might easily become one of your favorite dishes of the party. Everyone knows cranberry sauce goes with Turkey, but the cranberry relish was a beautiful and colorful addition to dish, leaving lasting impression of momentary pleasure making it a perfect selection for late autumn feast like thanksgiving.
111 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78701
Photo by Courtney Pierce
Roasted Turkey | Chef Louis Sheppard – Suzanne Court Catering & Events
No Thanksgiving is complete without the ultimate reigning heavy weight of every holiday feast. A turkey is an absolute must for any Friendsgiving party. You should full expect your friends to take photos with their mobile devices, so don’t be boring with your bird, get creative and add it a little garnish to make it photo worthy.
Photo by Courtney Pierce
Texas Stuffed Quail | Chef Louis Sheppard – Suzanne Court Catering & Events
The turkey doesn’t have to be the only star bird of the show. Quail has been an increasingly popular alternative to turkey and chicken in recent years, so don’t be afraid to get creative with these little flyers and stuff them with sausage, pumpkin seeds and even pomegranate for a meatier version of this delicous pheasant. Whether you serve it with the grand meal, or as a tasty appetizer, you’ll have an instant fan club at your dinner.
Thanksgiving Salad | Chef Louis Sheppard – Suzanne Court Catering & Events
Combined with the fresh ingredients of the fall season, Chef Louis prepared this flavorful but light Thanksgiving salad loaded with a perfect mix of leafy greens including arugula, fennel, roasted butternut squash, pomegranate, radishes, and manchego cheese with a pink peppercorn citrus vinegrette dressing. It’s fresh, seasonal and full of flavor, making it the perfect starter to accompany all the heavier dishes of a hearty Thanksgiving plate.
Photo by Ben Porter
Broccoli with Sweet Onions, Capers, Olives & Anchovy | Olive & June
Cheesy broccoli casserole is old news. Celebrate instead with the cuisine and culture of Southern Italy with a fresh broccoli salad dish that won’t let you go completely overboard on your calorie intake for the day. This dish from Executive Chef Justin Rupp is bright, colorful and bursting with fresh flavor all of your guests will adore, especially if they have any consideration for their waistline.
3411 Glenview Ave, Austin, TX 78703
Brussel Sprouts with apricots, pine nuts + Butternut Squash, Kale, pecan, Parmesan | Sala & Betty
Sala and Betty surprised us with a dish from their New American menu featuring their scratch made Brussel Sprouts dish apricots and pine nuts, and a Butternut Squash dish with kale, pecans and Parmesan. Both dishes were an instant hit, as our guests devoured every last bit of each serving.
5201 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX 78751
Photo by Courtney Pierce
Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans and Pomegranate | Chef Rachel Zierzow
Chef Rachel Zierzow astonished us with the most creative brussle sprouts dish we’ve seen all year. There’s an abundance of fresh flavors to make this one of the most unforgettable dishes you’ll enjoy in your thanksgiving feast. The recipe is fairly simple, but requires a little work to get the seeds out of a pomegranate. If you have kids in the house, it may be fun to put them to work a bit and teach them how out to thump-out all the little seeds that help bring this colorful dish to life! It’s an unforgettable addition to any Thanksgiving feast.
Photo by Courtney Pierce
Cranberries with Orange pecan salad | Tratoria SAGRA
Cranberries is one of the classic staples of any Thanksgiving feast. Why not add a little spin to your cranberry dish this year and pick up this salad from Sagra in East Austin. It’s nutty and full of flavor, adding a little variety to the classic dish nearly everyone has grown to enjoy since they were toddlers. Sagra offers this vibrantly handsome dish at only $28 for regular size and $55 for family size.
1050 E 11th St #100, Austin, TX 78702
Oyster, Shiitake Mushroom and Caramelized Leek Dressing | Chef Louis Sheppard – Suzanne Court Catering & Events
No Thanksgiving feast is remotely complete until you get your carb fix on a delicious homemade dressing. Suzanne employed the skill of talented Chef Louis Sheppard, as he prepared a stunning dressing beautifully loaded with oysters, shiitake mushrooms, caramelized leeks. Smelling this dish as it was prepared made our mouths water, as it was one of the most popular and heartier items on the table. It also pairs well with a side of fresh cranberry sauce.
Oyster Dressing | Chef Trish Wesavich
There’s absolutely no excuse to use Stove Top or any other boxed stuffing. There are hundreds of amazing dressing recipes we could have selected but we could wait to devour this amazing Oyster Dressing recipe from our very own Chef Trish Wesavich, in an unforgettable spin on Thanksgiving’s most classic side dish that’ll highly likely become your favorite of the night.
Savory Cornbread Dressing with Apples and Lamb Chorizo | Walton’s Fancy and Staple
Walton’s has been astonishing Austinites for years with their innovative comfort menu and they continue to set the pace with this Apple and Lamb Chorizo dressing. Good thing we bought two servings, it disappeared quickly! You’ll be the hero of your party if you include this on your Friendsgiving menu. The brilliance of this dish is in the distinct textures and flavors you’ll get in every bite. From the crunchiness of the apples to the distint flavor of the lamb sausage and gritty texture of the cornbread dressing, it’s the perfect holiday side dish that you may end up eating just as your main selection.
609 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701
Seafood Mac & Cheese + Louisianan Mac & Cheese | Liberty Kitchen
Liberty Kitchen has quickly become one of our favorite spots in town. When we heard they created not one, but two new Mac & Cheese dishes we had to look in to it. This is hands down some of the best Mac & Cheese you’ll ever eat. Forget grandma’s old family recipe! If you bring this to your Friendsgiving you’ll be carried around the block in triumphant celebration for your good deeds. The Seafood Mac & Cheese comes loaded with shrimp, lump crab and topped with fried oyster. The Louisiana Mac comes with Andouille sausage, shrimp topped with breadcrumbs. You’ll have long lasting fantasies about this dish.
|507 Pressler St #700, Austin, TX 78703
Challah | Chef Amy Kritzer
Our favorite Jewish chef has indulge our great appetites again. This version of Challah bread is as much a pleasure to look at as it is to eat, as it glows on the table! You’ll cherish the pillow-soft interior, simultaneously rich and slightly sweet with the toasted pumpkin seeds on the outside.
Step 8 | DELICIOUS DESSERTS
No matter what you might think, the dessert course is almost always everyone’s favorite course of any Thanksgiving feast. Some chose to never indulge in their sweet tooth cravings all year until this big feast comes around. In our typical fashion, we over indulged for you!
Pumpkin Old Fashion Buttermilk Pie with Whipped Cream & Apple Pie | Blue Star Cafe
Step up your pie game and ditch that store bought brand with the new local legends from Blue Star Cafe. The Pumpkin Old Fashion Buttermilk Pie will make forget about every other pumpkin pie you tasted. The Apple Pie has layers upon layers of fresh apples with the perfect mix of cinnamon and sugar, it will become your new classic. Put down that can of apple pie filling and pick up a real dessert for a change.
Click Here for Apple Pie Recipe
Pumpkin Old Fashion Buttermilk Recipe
Photo by Ben Porter
Sweet Potato Bavarian Cream | VOX Table
VOX Table is known for its beautifully crafted New-American cuisine and was recently named Austin’s top restaurant of the month by USA Today. With a dish like this Sweet Potato Bavarian Cream pie, it’s obvious they made the right choice. Chef Joe Anguiano delivers an instant hit that is not easily duplicated, however if you complete the recipe it’ll easily become the favorite dessert of the evening.
Bourbon Pecan Pie | Farm House Delivery
Pecan pie is one of our hands down, champion of Thanksgiving-inspired, guilt-inducing desserts. You can eat it for breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. It’s crunchy and gooey and perfect. Every bit of this pie disappeared before the sun set. Everyone will will dive fork first at the first opportunity, so you better make two or three pies just to be sure. Hide one in your fridge so you’ll have your own after everyone leaves!
Sweet Selections | Delish Bakery
Step 8 | HAVE FUN
Friendsgiving is about spending time with the ones you love. It doesn’t always have to be about family. Most of us still celebrate in the traditional fashion, however spending time with friends is a welcome change of pace. Try to remember, this is a party. To be a great host, you’ll want to introduce people to one another. You don’t have to remember everyone’s last names or what jobs they currently hold, but you have to be genuine and carry this Friendsgiving in to the evening. Keep the party casual and let your friends enjoy themselves especially if you have a large group.
Step 9 | SHARE IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA
We’re in the age of social media and the most relying form of instant gratification is to share your photos on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Pintrest and Twitter. Encourage all of your friends to share their photos on every form of social media, tag each other, and show the world how much of an awesome planner you can be. We actually want to see how awesome your party can become, so tag us (@austinfoodmagazine) and Suzanne Court (@suzannecourtaustin) on your social media links and show us how amazing your Friendsgiving party will be!
Photo by Hayden Walker