NEW YORK (DTN)--The well-known humorist Calvin Trillin has been crusading for years to replace turkey as the national Thanksgiving dish with spaghetti carbonara, the ultimate comfort food with a rich sauce made from pancetta, raw eggs, parmesan cheese and olive oil.
At a time when Americans are food-phobic about raw eggs because of fears about Salmonella, it doesn't look like his unlikely crusade will succeed anytime soon. But judging from an informal survey of specialty food stores and restaurants catering to New York's finicky eaters, there's a small but growing trend of people who are swearing off turkey for Thanksgiving Day in favor of other dishes.
"We're selling more duck, prime rib, and ham than usual," said Stanley Lobel, one of the co-owners of Lobel Prime Meats, an upscale butcher store on the Upper East Side that caters to a wealthy investment banker crowd.
Across Central Park on the West Side of town customers were taking numbers and lining up at the butcher counter at Citarella, a neighborhood institution. Stacks of hams lay on shelves in front of the cases of steak and lamb chops. Owner Joe Gurrera said sales of geese and ham are up this Thanksgiving, but it's still the turkeys that are flying out of the store.
"We sell 5,000 turkeys," he said, with offerings ranging from organic to free-range to national brands like Bell & Evans.
Sardi's, the famous theatre district restaurant, is advertising a special Thanksgiving menu for $49.95 that offers several alternatives to turkey, including roast beef, scallops, pork tenderloin and salmon.
"You have to offer choices, because not everyone wants turkey," said manager Sean Ricketts.
With reservations for 600 people, he's ordered food under the assumption that roughly 200 people will skip the drumstick and go for a non-traditional meal instead.
Meanwhile, at Angelica Kitchen, a vegetarian restaurant in Greenwich Village, the chefs were creating their own unusual $38 holiday menu with such entrees as a "phyllo bundle" with red wine-herb marinated seitan, a meat substitute made with Wheat gluten, turnips in a cranberry glaze and a "napoleon" with a pumpkin seed-encrusted kabocha squash cake accompanied by kale and corn polenta.
"We don't do things like turkey tofu, we're not trying to imitate a meat or poultry-based dish," said manager Gary Koenigsberg.
But even a restaurant that completely bucks traditions can't get away from one classic holiday dish. It may be a no-turkey zone, but they do serve pumpkin pie.