Speaking off the toque: Tony Vallone, restaurateur and owner of Tony's [1801 Post Oak Boulevard, (713)622-6778], Vallone's [2811 Kirby Drive, (713)526-2811], Anthony's [4007 Westheimer, (713)961-0552], Grotto [3920 Westheimer, (713)622-3663 and 6401 Woodway, (713)782-3663] and La Griglia [2002 West Gray, (713)526-4700].
Q. For special occasions and holidays at home, most Americans think of preparing the bird that Benjamin Franklin wanted to be the national emblem, Meleagris gallopavo, or as slack-jawed rustics refer to it, turkey. The wild bird is especially delicious. Yet in the restaurant world, turkey is found in cafeterias rather than in temples of gastronomy such as your establishments. What is the reason for this?
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A. Turkey is wonderful. My wife makes a turkey meat loaf at home that always causes me to take in an excess of calories. Nevertheless, many people look at it as a strictly holiday dish, something that is not eaten at any other time than Thanksgiving and, maybe, Christmas. Also, for a restaurateur, turkey has a relatively short shelf life; preparing one takes up a lot of time in the kitchen compared to other birds, and when it is done, there is the problem of serving both light and dark meat. In cafeteria-style restaurants, that problem is solved by serving only breast or white meat that is supplied as a loaf. A fine-dining restaurant would never use such an ingredient, so you always would essentially have half of the bird to utilize in some other way.