Best options for local purveyors of turkey for Thanksgiving (or your protein of choice) [Greater Boston, MA]

Keeping this in the local thread vs the cooking community boards because I’d love to hear your local suggestions for good turkey options. I was a long-time customer of Mayflower Poultry (RIP) for Thanksgiving turkeys. Now that they’ve moved and no longer do retail, I am at a loss for what to do.

I switched away from the big brand market birds more than 10 years ago. While some of the big brands are passable, many were bland or downright water-logged. Plus, fighting with others to find the elusive 12-14lb bird was not worth it. I swear every supermarket is only allowed to put one bird out in that weight range per day.

What’s your typical route for getting a good turkey (or the perfectly sized turkey)? Do you pre-order from the local farms or online? Do you find a good brand that is not Perdue, Butterball, Jenni-O or whatever mass available that should be considered? Do you seek out the special heritage turkeys? Do you anticipate a turkey shortage with all the logistics nightmares in our supply chain this year?

I noticed that the farms are already starting some pre-orders, but other than Stillman, most require pick up at their location (no go for me, with no car). Stillman will bring it to one of their stalls at one of the local farmers markets for pick up. I saw that Eataly was offering pre-orders, but they require you to call them or email them what you want. Their location is good, but I’d love to hear what the feedback is if anyone decides to use them for pre-order. So - what are you all planning?

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We’ve gotten turkeys from both MF Dulick and Dave’s Fresh Pasta in the past. Both have been great quality, albeit more expensive than Mayflower.

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I’ve had invariably great turkeys from Dulock, and once from Stillman. I was unfaithful to Dulock that one time – at their suggestion – because we were doing an early Sunday-before Thanksgiving [footnote 1] before heading to actual Thursday-Thanksgiving in Nashville with close friends [footnote 2], and the Dulock turkeys were not coming in till Tuesday, but Stillman offered them that Saturday.

Notes:

  1. The Dulock turkeys cook surprisingly fast (I’ve talked to Michael about this and he’s surprised, too), especially at high heat. I’m a 500 degree fan, and a small turkey is done in an hourish with fantastically crisp skin and moist meat (even breast). Need a good meat thermometer, though, and careful monitoring.

  2. Heritage is hard to find in the Boston area [footnote 3], and very expensive. Dulock used to offer them, but not recently. Savenor’s has had them in the past, at a price.

  3. Eataly is iffy because it’s basically a big box store, however fancy, and I’ve had very mixed results with the quality of what they offer in Boston. Haven’t talked turkey with them, though. Perhaps they excel in that department.

Footnotes:

  1. Sunday-before because my wife interacts with an international cast of characters who are often baffled by America (welcome to the club) and feels it her duty to entertain them when they have nowhere to go. Since we were to be away on the actual day, we did an early version of our Turkey-for-twenty.

  2. These were close enough friends that I took a carefully nurtured 50-year-old Barolo to them, then dropped it on their granite kitchen counter. My friend observed that “at least the aromas were great.”

  3. There are fascinating “heritage” interconnections between turkey the bird, originally in America, Turkey the country, India, and guinea fowl. Another time.

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Likely it will be just the two of us for Thanksgiving again. I am investigating the following for this year.

Idea 1: Blood Farm in Groton. A couple of years ago, I ordered a whole smoked turkey from them to try something different. While that gathering was high tension due to family reasons, I’d like to revisit that smoked turkey in a calm atmosphere that lets me focus and enjoy the food I’m serving. Maybe this is the year.

Idea 2: Lilac Hedge Farm. Has anyone here ever tried their goods? Lilac Hedge will be a new vendor at our local winter farmers market. Looks like they attend multiple markets in the area.

Idea 3: Bob’s Turkey Farm in Lancaster. Another option where you need a car. I notice that they’re already planning Thanksgiving orders and it looks like you can order on their site now. I see a boned and rolled turkey option that intrigues. Plus you can order frozen gravy or turkey parts for making your own gravy.

Idylwilde Farms in Acton used to take holiday orders for Bob’s Turkey Farm product in the past, so that might be another option to check into.

Note: I drove out to Bob’s last year to pick up a turkey breast that we didn’t love, perhaps because I buttermilk-brined it a la Samin Nosrat. Not a fan of that technique for turkey, I can now say conclusively.

Idea 4: Not turkey. I’m also considering an alternative menu of small plates of vegetable sides, smoked fish sourced from Gloucester (Twin Lights, an offshoot of Cape Ann Fresh Catch) and some other seafoody thing yet to be determined.

Idea 5: Stealthily worm my way into the good graces of @fooddabbler and hope he has more amazing wine kicking around. Because after a sip or two I’ll be so happy the menu—well, I won’t care anymore. I call dibs on this scheme. The rest of you can just back off. :wink:

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since you seem all friendly with the Dulock folks, here’s a quick side question : I was in Union Square Monday and I noticed that that place across from the park where they were going to move to had “for sale” signs in the windows. Did they abandon the idea of moving there from their current location? (This would be fine with me, their location now is much closer to me).

Dave’s Fresh Pasta…? That’s unexpected. Tell me more!

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@fooddabbler -
I’ve had a heritage turkey before and I’m not convinced they’re worth the money. Turkey is already a lean meat, so I don’t feel the heritage versions – being all the skinnier! – offer anything, aside from getting a bird with skimpier meat. I didn’t taste a huge difference in quality from a good ol’ pasture-raised turkey. I’m open to trying them again in case I just got an underwhelming bird, if someone insists there’s a noticeable difference.

As for Eataly, I’ve bought a few items from the butcher and fishmonger stands that I enjoyed, but for a price! I like having it as a back-up option in case I can’t get to the preferred vendor, but you pay a premium for what you can get elsewhere cheaper. For me, what’s a good go to in Eataly is actually their small produce section. I’ve found unusual fruit like makrut limes there, and sometimes more exotic citrus or mushrooms that I can’t easily find elsewhere. It’s a convenient location for me though, so it’s hard not to pop in whenever I’m in the Back Bay on errands.

@tomatotomato -
Lilac Hedge farm has a stand (or used to, pre-pandemic) at the Boston Public Market. I think I tried eggs and one meat item from them. They were good and comparable quality to what I’ve had from Stillmans and others that make regular stops in the local farmers market circuit.

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Thanks for the intel about Lilac Hedge Farm, @kobuta! How convenient it would be to pick up at a location close to home.

Some years (5?; the past 18mos has really destroyed much of my time sense) we ordered a turkey through Daves. They took pre-orders for naturally raised birds from local MA farms. I think we had to order by the early Nov for pickup before Thanksgiving. Worth checking in to see if they still do this.

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@tomatotomato missed this earlier and have never tried the turkey, but Lilac Hedge comes to the Somerville winter market and I’ve always been thrilled with whatever I’ve gotten there. A quality vendor.

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Thanks, @passing_thru! Now I’m really looking forward to trying the goods from Lilac Hedge based on the recs here.

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Here’s a snippet of an idea for a screenplay:

Passing_Solazzo: “I need those food guys you carry in your pocket like so many sweetbreads”

God_Dabbler: “It’s true I have friends in the food business, but they wouldn’t be friends for long if they knew I was trafficking in information, which they regard as dirty business.”

Shortly after, Passing_Solazzo has God_Dabbler shot.


Since I don’t actually know, and don’t want to be shot, I’ll ask.

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Your screenplay went completely over my head. But it wouldn’t be the first time that I’m hopelessly clueless. That’s my baseline. :upside_down_face:

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I’m a big Stillman’s fan having purchased turkeys - both whole and boneless rolled breast -over past few years. I had no idea a farm fresh turkey could be so delicious. I placed my order already. Here’s the link for all the info (https://www.stillmanqualitymeats.com/holiday).
Likewise I can speak for Lilac Hedge as a quality vendor. Slightly bigger operation than Stillman. I believe they started taking preorders this week . https://lilachedgefarm.com/turkey-talk-faq
Both Stillman and Lilac Hedge do offer home delivery at additional cost.

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Sorry. You need to be a fan of The Godfather (the movie). I know not everybody is.

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Funnily enough, I am a Godfather fan. And I’m still clueless. lol

Yes, I love Eatlay for the produce section. Used Mercato for delivery and got some unusual citrus and other items I loved for very reasonable prices.

I did ask, such is my respect for (fear of?) you, @passing_thru, and, yes, the plans to move are “on hold” for the foreseeable future. Among other issues they’ve lost staff – new faces in the store these days.

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Cool. Thanks for the muckraking!

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold

Market stall in Lima
Credit: TXMX 2