The 2013 Dallas Observer Thanksgiving Dinner Fantasy Draft: Whose Menu Is Best?

Categories: Holidays

With the holidays approaching, the nation is once again sweating with fantasy-football fever, sending the NFL's popularity further into the stratosphere and office productivity further into the tank. But there are more important things in life than football, or at least one more important thing: Food.

Specifically Thanksgiving food, which, like football, brings people together, passes the time and leaves old men wandering around their homes, groaning and confused. It was with this in mind that my fantasy-sports-hating, food-loving wife suggested several years ago that I hold a Thanksgiving Dinner Fantasy Draft. The tradition endured for a couple of years, died and is being revived here. Let's get to it.

The Players
- Scott Reitz, food critic
- Kiernan Maletsky, music editor
- Luke Darby, food blogger
- Gavin Cleaver, online editor, foreigner
- Joe Tone, editor, league commissioner*

The Rules
The draft order was generated randomly and "snaked," so whoever had the first pick in one round had the last pick in the next. Each player had to fill 10 positions from the list of ingredients below, in an effort to create the most appetizing Thanksgiving dinner.

The key, like in fantasy sports and in life, was to identify priorities, stick to your strategy, and make sure there was booze around in case it all blew up in your face.

The Judges
We conducted an internal and blind poll of Dallas Observer staffers, who ranked each menu without seeing the drafter or rationale. There's also a poll at the bottom so you can vote for your favorite meal.

The Ingredients
Meat (pick one): turkey, turducken, tofurkey, prime rib roast, ham

Sauces (pick one): white gravy, brown gravy, cranberry sauce (juggly can shit), fresh cranberry sauce, apple sauce

Carb side (pick two): Scott Reitz's homemade stuffing, cornbread stuffing, oyster stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, cornbread, biscuits, canned yams, bag of Ruffles

Veggies (pick two): creamed corn, creamed spinach, Brussels sprouts, green bean casserole, butternut squash soup, canned beets, boiled cabbage, glazed carrots, elotes, green salad

Desserts (pick two): apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, vanilla ice cream, cinnamon ice cream, jar of Nutella (no spoon), sticky toffee pudding, pear tart, hoarded box of pre-bankruptcy Twinkies, plain Greek yogurt

Beverages (pick two): whole milk, Budweiser, Monster energy drink, red wine, Peticolas Royal Scandal (mini-keg), sparkling apple cider, Box of Franzia white wine, Jose Cuervo (in a Camelback), two liter of Coca Cola (with giant bendy straw), Pumpkin cider

Rene S
Will turkey be the No. 1 overall pick?
The Draft

Round 1
1. Gavin
The Turducken, because now I have THREE meats, and all of you only have one, or none, depending on who gets the tofurkey.

2. Luke
I've never been big on traditions or over-dry turkey, so I'm taking the prime rib roast, even though I think it was the Brit's idea to include it, which makes me nervous.

3. Joe
In fantasy football drafts, amateurs snap up the quarterbacks while the pros stockpile backs and receivers. In fantasy Thanksgiving drafts, the rookies snap up meat while the vets, knowing that meat makes not Thanksgiving, go straight to the auxiliary players -- in this case, gravy. No matter what else is on my plate, no matter how dried out that whatever-urkey I get stuck with is, it will be wet and it will taste of Thanksgiving.

4. Kiernan
Joe, a notorious fantasy sports over-thinker, is going to end up putting gravy on his bag of Ruffles. Gavin, I see, is really drafting an ironic Thanksgiving dinner. I'm taking a look at this menu and realizing pretty much everyone's getting a pie so there's no ground to be made up there. Let's not work too hard on this. I'm taking turkey and wondering how the hell you people let it fall this far.

5. Scott
Swine has always been the most celebrated of animal proteins in the culinary world, and after I win with it I will use the bone to beat you. Make it something French, preferably packed in ash and aged for no less than one year, please.

Round 2
6. Scott
Apple pie with a duck fat crust of course. That dessert list is going to look thin really quick.

7. Kiernan
I thought about responding to Scott modifying the draft items ("I'll take Adrian Peterson but with laser vision and the ability to fly") by doing some modification of my own, but no one's beating Scott at that game. So I'm just going to mock him for it instead. Also, I'll take the Peticolas Royal Scandal mini-keg. We're all getting our guests drunk, but mine will hate themselves the least on Friday morning.

8. Joe
Scott's right: This year's crop of desserts is scary thin, and I don't want to end my meal with something gross or, worse, British. So I'm taking the pecan pie and continuing to build the most traditional Thanksgiving meal to ever include a tofurkey.

9. Luke
I was leaning heavily toward the tequila, but I figured I'd keep things from getting too messy too early. I've always wanted to have an authentic recreation of the first Thanksgiving dinner, which is why I was really hoping we'd include eel as a protein. So I'm going to nab the corniest thing up there (most corn-like, not most hackneyed) and take the elotes.

10. Gavin
That gravy-covered tofurkey will be a show-stopper, Joe. Scarcity-wise, I don't much like the look of the drinks section since Kiernan stole the keg, and so I'm opting for pumpkin cider. Not the Blue Moon one, hopefully.

Round 3
11. Gavin
I can't believe this is still here, so I'm going for mashed potatoes. I'm pretty sure at this point I have the best meat, the best carb and a vaguely-appetizing alcohol. I would definitely attend my own Thanksgiving dinner, which is the most pointless sentence anyone's ever typed.

12. Luke
Unlike fantasy football, we have the ability to combine our picks here (my attempts to physically fuse Drew Brees and Colin Kaepernick got me two restraining orders). I'm picking the two liter of Coke, though I will just discard the bendy straw. My plan is to use it to braise the beef and reserve whatever's left for chasers for the tequila if I manage to get it.

13. Joe
Drinks list is pretty thin too, especially alcoholically speaking, while the sides-and-veggies categories go much deeper. That in mind, I've consulted the wine list at Oak, one of Dallas' better wine lists, and used my patented and fool-proof wine-selection method -- The More Expensive the Better -- to select a 6L bottle of the 2006 Egelhoff Cab, from Napa Valley, California, right here in the U.S. of A. Retail price: $1,750. Gravy-drenched meal, a classic dessert and a nice red-wine buzz: I'm feeling good about this.

14. Kiernan
Do you know what the best Thanksgiving food is, by general consensus and specific passion? STUFFING. It's the most Thanksgiving of all foods (sorry Luke and your eels). We have a few available, but I'm going to take the 2006 Egelhoff Cab of stuffings, which is clearly Scott's homemade variety. I'm told it contains sausage, celery, onion, sage, thyme and presumably some kind of breading, and knowing Scott he probably gets the sausage from a farm that takes him three hours to get to by scooter. Turkey, delicious, traditional homemade stuffing and fancy beer. Bow before half of my Thanksgiving dinner. (Joe's editor note: I really wanted that stuffing.)

15. Scott
Biscuits: wonderfully warm, flaky biscuits made with so much butter that buttering them at the table would be redundant. Not that it won't stop me from draping paper thin slices of fat from my ham over the halves of each freshly sliced golden round. My next day sandwiches will have you all weeping.

Benny Mazur
Apple pie might go higher in a July 4th draft.
Round 4
16. Scott
Might as well take that vanilla ice cream for my pie while I'm at it. Boom!

17. Kiernan
One pie left. You can't have Thanksgiving with no pie, and pumpkin is a prize this late in the game.

18. Joe
I'm eventually going to need something to pour that gravy over, lest it be relegated to my pecan pie. So: Cornbread stuffing. In fantasy eating, as in fantasy sports, as in life, I am starting to think I really fucked this up.

19. Luke
Time to stop delaying the inevitable. It's not a proper Darby holiday without hard liquor, so I'm taking the Cuervo.

20. Gavin
Have you guys seen the state of the remaining vegetable dishes? That's why I'm taking green bean casserole, that most classic of Thanksgiving dishes outside everything Kiernan already has.

Round 5
21. Gavin
The turducken and potatoes are going to need something more heavy-duty than cranberry sauce or apple sauce to keep them edible, so I'm taking home the white gravy, which I will purchase direct from the Waffle House near my house.

22. Luke
Out of concern for my guests, and in the hope that they'll survive until next Thanksgiving, I'm picking sweet potatoes. On top of being one of the healthiest foods in the world, it has the added bonus of being a more popular side than white potatoes these days, at least according to the fancy food magazines.

23. Joe
Hot, fluffy dinner rolls, tinged yellow by melted butter and soaked in gravy, scooping up OH HELL WHO AM I KIDDING WHY DID PASS ON TURKEY??????

24. Kiernan
Thanksgiving dinner in my family is traditionally cooked by my dad and sister, who are both engineers and also a two-headed kitchen zen hydra, if such a creature had opposable thumbs and mail ordered its chocolate in ten-pound blocks from Switzerland. The point is that my mom and I assist by cleaning stuff and staying the hell out of the way, with only one exception: Every year I make the cranberry sauce. It's not fancy -- it's a very slightly modified version of the recipe on the back of the Ocean Spray bag, in fact. But I've been making it for over 15 years now. It's my home-team bias. I'm taking fresh cranberry sauce, and I'm putting it on the side of my plate, where it will offer a burst of color to look at and a clean tart flavor to contrast the heavy stuffing and compliment the turkey.

25. Scott
Could this meal contain more decadence? Oyster stuffing please. There is no stuffing better than one that is kissed by the brine of the sea.

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Yankees make's cornbread DRESSING, not stuffing:)

gavin.cleaver moderator


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