I never thought the weather would affect what I’m doing here, but it really does. I knew that if a winter storm hit and our house was buried under two feet of snow, it would make celebrating difficult. I planned for those kind of days, but happy to say we made it through all of that without harm. Today however, it was the heat. Another day of 95+ degree weather with the threat of a pending thunderstorm imminent. It was National Weed Your Garden Day too so that meant if I were to participate, I would either be working in the super hot late day sun, sweating up a storm and attracting every mosquito and crawly creature in the yard or I would be out there with my hula hoe underneath treacherous lightening bolts like a deranged mad scientist. No thanks, on both fronts. The gardens can wait.
As I do when I can’t find the right holiday to celebrate, I turn to the month long celebrations and for June, one of those celebrations happens to be National Turkey Lover’s Month. I love turkey. I happened to have had a turkey sandwich for lunch earlier in the day (Boar’s Head Cracked Pepper Turkey to be exact which I highly recommend). I was halfway there. I had no lofty goal of cooking a whole turkey (too damn hot to do that), but I could surely find a place that served up a nice turkey dinner and I could celebrate this distinguished fowl and my love for it’s cooked flesh. That was the plan.
By the way, as an anecdotal follow up to my Cracked Pepper Turkey endorsement, one time I was at the deli counter at Clements and when the deli guy came over and asked me what I wanted, I must have been distracted because I couldn’t think of exactly what my favorite turkey was called. I ended up asking for “a half pound of Crackhead Turkey.” I immediate got the self-induced giggles. The deli clerk smiled back knowingly but had the decency not to laugh in my face. I almost walked away and out the door in shame. Now every time I order the Cracked Pepper Turkey, I say it with a smile on my face as I recall my faux pas. The thought of crackhead turkey still makes me chuckle.
We’ve been having some car troubles of late (apparently brakes are important), so one of our cars has been in the shop. Because of that and because she had some things to do today that required a vehicle, Lola had to drop me off at work and take the car. That meant that she had to come pick me up after work too so I got to have a commuter buddy going to and home from work. That was nice. It makes the pains of traffic not so bad. On our way home, we were in heavy Providence traffic (as is the norm) and Lola was engulfed in the Jeff Sessions hearing on the radio. She was really listening in and wasn’t very chatty with me but that gave me time to do some research on turkey dinners on Acquidneck Island. That’s not an easy thing to look up because you either find articles about Thanksgiving Dinner specials from the previous November or you get info on sub shops that serve great turkey sandwiches. I wanted the dinner, so my choices were limited. I then recalled two places that serve turkey dinners. One was the Blue Plate Diner in Middletown and the other was Reidy’s right up the street from our house. Either of those places were fine with me, but I know Lola wasn’t a huge fan. She’s not much for that nostalgic diner feel. She prefers a place with fresh local food, good drinks and character. Those places don’t often serve turkey dinners however. We had a conundrum. We discussed our dinner options after the Sessions hearing was over and we toyed with heading out to fancier place, but couldn’t come up with a specific spot. So we ended up going home and decided we would get take-out turkey.
Lola wanted no part of a turkey dinner. She wanted a good Thanksgiving sandwich. I on the other hand had a vision for the quintessential turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, stuffing and the works. Then I realized I could get both – there are no rules here. I knew Clements made a great Thanksgiving panini that Lola would love and I had to go there anyway to get some milk. I figured out all the logistics of my freshly hatched plan: I would call Clements and order the sandwich, I’d get in the car and drive there. When I parked the car I would call Reidy’s and order the turkey dinner, then go inside Clements to grab the milk and the sandwich. By the time I paid and drove over to Reidy’s, my Turkey Dinner would be ready. This is all within a one mile radius from our house, so this was a very doable plan. And in a strange twist of fate, it went pretty much according to schedule. When I hit the deli counter at Clements, the sandwich lady was just wrapping up my sandwich. It wasn’t that busy so I breezed through checkout. And when I got to Reidy’s my dinner was mostly ready. It looked like that they were just coming out of a nasty dinner rush at Reidy’s because there were dirty tables and plates on most of the empty tables, so my dinner was a bit delayed, but I was in no hurry.
I always feel like I can help a restaurant in those moments. I see the “weeds” happening as soon as I am in a restaurant and I can see the server starting to sink (or already sunk). I can see what happened and how an extra set of hands, even for five minutes, would help the server right the ship. I wish I could pull out a badge and say I can help, I am a trained professional, not unlike an EMT in an emergency situation who is qualified to start CPR. I can’t help it. I watched the server work her way through the mess until my order came up. Then she gave me my bag and I was on my way home. When I got home, I set us both up for a turkey feast.
I’ll give them this – Reidy’s knows how to put together a good turkey dinner. It wasn’t Thanksgiving fresh, but it had all the elements I wanted. First off, the turkey was genuinely roasted and thick sliced. It wasn’t deli meat or some kind of turkey loaf, it was actual roasted turkey. That was the kind of turkey I was looking for. The white meat that you would expect on a turkey dinner. In fact, it was slightly dry like so many Thanksgiving turkeys are, but they took care of that with a sizable dose of good turkey gravy. They weren’t shy on tossing this on. It was flavorful and on the salty side but kind of brought everything together. The mashed potatoes were soft and fluffy – the kind you get with your hot lunch at school, but still good especially with the gravy. I was most surprised by their stuffing because it was homemade and especially good. They must bake it as a casserole because the portion is a generous square slab. It was thick chunks of bread (I’m sure they are never at a shortage for stale bread), and there was a distinct apple flavor to it. Not too shabby for a little family restaurant. The final touch was the corn which was frozen kernels but still good in that way you like frozen corn. However, they went a little heavy on the portioning. It was a good dinner. My only complaint would be that they slopped it all together when they packaged it. Maybe it was because they were working out of the weeds when I got there so they skipped the finesse plating that made them famous. I transferred it to a dinner plate anyway, just to give it a touch of class.
The reason I knew that Reidy’s had turkey dinners was that it was one of Lola’s mom’s favorites there. In fact, a few days before our wedding, Lola went out with her sisters and friends for a kind of bachelorette party. Dinner, drinking and dancing that kind of thing. That has its own tale that Lola can recap someday, but on that night, I stayed home and kept getting the house ready for the wedding. It ended up being just me and Gigi for dinner that night and we decided to splurge and get some Reidy’s to go. I got a cheeseburger, I think, and Gigi went with the turkey dinner. We ate our dinner right from the styrofoam boxes on the back deck overlooking all the wedding preparations we had made. It was a moment of relaxation and calm in and otherwise whirlwind week, and it was nice time with my soon to be Mother-in-law. As I think back on that night, it was a special little moment and it was all over a turkey dinner.
Tonight, Lola had the Thanksgiving Sandwich which I’ve talked about here before. Turkey, stuffing, cheese, a little mayo and cranberry sauce. Clements makes theirs as a panini and the nicely toasted bread transforms the sandwich into something special. It’s actually one of the better sandwiches I have had in Portsmouth. You just have to order ahead of time because they take a while to craft, but ordering ahead is easy. This sandwich gave me 9 out of 10 punches on my sandwich club card too which means one more and that free one is mine! For the record, Lola thoroughly enjoyed her dinner, but we knew she would.
As far as Turkey Lover’s go, I’m a pretty big one. I eat a lot of turkey sandwiches, so that counts for something, but I’m also a turkey dinner connoisseur like the Old Man in A Christmas Story. It was always my favorite meal as a kid and even as an adult, it always tempts me. It’s tough to get a good one outside of November. It pops up on some of your more folksy restaurants – diners, family spots, senior citizen demographic places. Maybe that’s what my palate leans towards. A turkey dinner is a little bit like the taste of home. It’s that holiday dinner amidst friends and family. And sometimes it’s that easy meal to enjoy with your soon to be mother-in-law while your future wife is dancing the night away that never leaves your mind.
Next up: National Strawberry Shortcake Day