Dining out on Christmas

Le Grenier in Vineyard Haven, one of several restaurants open for Christmas Eve dinner. — File photo by Susan Safford

Christmas traditions vary between cultures and families, yet a great deal of them involve a decorated evergreen and a feast.

In Japan, where Christmas is not a national holiday, many celebrate anyway, with KFC, (previously known as Kentucky Fried Chicken). Sometime in the 70s, marketing mavens at the fast food chain managed to make Colonel Sanders and his buckets of chicken synonymous with St. Nick during the holiday season. More than 40 years later customers are encouraged to place their Christmas order two months in advance.

This weekend families across the globe will gather to dine on traditional Christmas fare like prime rib, salted cod, oysters, chestnuts, foie gras, roast goose, curried goat, coconut rice pudding, and almond cakes.

Between obligatory photos by the tree, swap your footie pajamas for a festive sweater and check out what these Island chefs are cooking this holiday.

Chef Jean Dupon at Le Grenier is serving Christmas Eve dinner starting at 5:30 pm. Indulge French-style with appetizers like Escargots Bourguignon ($14), Oysters Rockefeller ($17) and Moules au Pernod (mussels steamed in Pernod and tomatoes), $15. For the main course, dishes like Lobster Normande with apples, shallots, and cream ($39) and Sweetbreads Financier with mushrooms, green olives, and demi-glace ($34), are fittingly festive for a holiday dinner. Finish your feast on a sweet note with Chef Dupon’s chocolate or caramel profiteroles or the decadent warm chocolate bread pudding topped with dark Jamaican rum chocolate sauce (all desserts are $13). Call 508-693-4906 for reservations.

Zephrus at the Mansion House is open Christmas Eve 11 am to 7 pm and Christmas Day 11:30 am to 5 pm. Warm up with a bowl of mushroom bisque topped with Reggiano-Parmesan and truffle oil ($8). Don’t miss the unusual yet remarkable grilled white pizza topped with crispy calamari and a mini Caesar salad: the combination is unique and the result is delicious. Roasted pork loin with apples and curry oil served with twice-baked sweet potatoes ($24) should generate feelings of joy, of the gastronomical sort anyway. Call 508-693-3416 for reservations.

Sharky’s in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs will both close a few hours early on Christmas Eve, depending on the crowd. The Oak Bluffs venue will reopen on Christmas Day from 3 pm to 1 am for those seeking refuge after the family party, apparently of whom there are many, owner JB Blau recalls last year being “a zoo.”

The Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company is taking reservations up until 7:30 on Christmas Eve. The reservation list was filling up last week, so call today: 508-696-3000.

The Newes Pub recently brought back their off-season wee bites menu featuring small plates like fried mac and cheese and mini-sliders for $2 to $4. They will be open for lunch on Christmas Eve, where you can fuel up before the evening’s festivities.

For a last minute Christmas gift, visit the Sweet Life Café’s website at sweetlifemv.com. The restaurant is closed but you can purchase gift certificates online. For every $100 spent you’ll receive a $20 dining certificate for yourself, the gift that truly keeps giving.

Lattanzi’s chef/owner Albert Lattanzi notes that “Italian fare is inherently suited for family style eating,” which is what he is offering on Christmas Eve with a traditional Italian feast. The menu is a la carte, with entrees starting at $20. The pizzeria is open as well. Call 508-627-9084 for reservations.

State Road Restaurant is open for last minute shopping 12 noon to 6 pm until December 23. For delicious stocking stuffers, they’ve got oven-baked granola, State Road Chocolate Bars, coffee, and more.

Next week I’ll list some places where you can ring in the New Year, but I wanted to give a quick mention and some fair warning about the Harbor View Hotel’s celebration, since tickets are already selling quickly. Visit them at harbor-view.com to learn more about what is gearing up to be one of the major New Year’s fetes on the Island this year.