How to Have the Easiest Holiday Meal Ever

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Can’t face cooking for the holidays? Deep in the winter craze, cooking a full family meal or a party with friends is a lot of extra work when your home’s already buzzing with too much to do. Simplify your life with these local take-out places and caterers who make dining so easy you won’t even have to have time to stress out – just time to sit down, eat and enjoy. How’s that for a royal treat?

San Francisco

Start your errands at Bi-Rite Market (3639 18th street, San Francisco, 415-241-9760) where you can fill your menu’s gaps with terrific produce, cheeses and meats, or browse the holiday menu for delightful items that you can pick up at the deli counter or in the aisles. This year’s menu promises delicacies such as burbon sweet potato puree with candied pecans, creamy squash soup with apples and sage, herb-crusted Heritage pork loin, and Diestel Ranch turkey breast. Top with an order of their savory bread pudding for a full holiday feast and don’t forget chocolate cupcakes for the kiddos!

If you’re in the market for breads and the sweet stuff, look no further than the mocha Bûche de Noël, mini pound cakes or toffee at Tartine Bakery (600 Guerrero Street, San Francisco, 415-487-2600) or the holiday challah at Arizmendi Bakery (1331 9th Avenue, San Francisco, 415-566-3117). Orders should be placed by December 21st, so make sure to call in your order before it’s too late.

Now you may be thinking a big family and friends party at home without the cooking hassle is impossible. But! FineFoods At Home (1732 Hayes Street, San Francisco, 415-440-0532) delivers home-cooked meals based on seasonal menus that change weekly and they can also cater holiday parties.Their holiday buffets features items ranging from Beef Bourguignon, Stuffed Pork Chops, Applewood Bacon Braised Greens with Fennel, and Molasses Cookies. All menus include kid-friendly options and can be customized to fit budgets or secure leftovers.

Hanukkah feasts can be ordered at Miller’s East Coast Deli (1725 Polk Street, San Francisco, 415-563-3542) where mini potato latkes get rave reviews as well as corned beef and smoked fish. Wash it down with a Holiday Gift Pack from the Shmaltz Brewing Company that includes a glass and Hanukkah candles to build your own beer menorah.

For a delish Indian take on holiday food, try Crimson Kitchen (409 Dolores Street, San Francisco, 415-425-1274), a Mission-based Indian food kitchen that offers cooking classes and custom mouth-watering menus with specialties such as chicken tikka, paprichaat (crispy fried tortillas topped with potatoes covered with a cilantro mint chutney and laced with a sweet and sour tamarind sauce), Gulabjamun (deep fried cheese dipped in a sugar syrup flavored with saffron and cardamom), bite-size paneer and veggie wraps, crunchy cauliflower layered with a sauce with ginger garlic soy sauce and chillies or rice pudding with cardamom, pistachios and saffron.

Last but not least, Big Dipper (331 Cortland, San Francisco, 415-879-0433) in Bernal Heights prepares yummy organic food for the baby set, either delivered to your home or sold in the groovy Victorian building shared with several other small businesses.

East Bay

Based in Alameda, Herbs & Spices (2711 Encinal Avenue, Alameda, 510-748-0423) delivers to the entire Bay Area and prepares fun and tasty holiday parties with bite-size chicken parmesan lollypops, mac’n cheese canapés, rosemary shrimp with mint pesto or dinners with butternut squash potato gratin, mini cupcakes or homemade holiday candy.

For yummy French Yule log cakes, true-to-hog charcuterie and vacuum-sealed dinners ready to go, head to La Bedaine (1585 Solano Avenue, Berkeley, 510-559-8201), a small French bakery that offers more than sweet treats. Across from La Bedaine on Solano or in Rockridge and Dimond, La Farine Bakery (see website for locations) makes delicious morning buns, specialty breads and almond croissants to brighten up any holiday breakfast.

Feeling carnivorous? The Brick Pig’s House (5973 Shattuck Avenue, Oakland, 510-923-1789) is southern style barbecue where beef brisket and decadent blackberry cobbler mix with true hospitality. Place your order on the phone and show up to pick up your dinner – you won’t get the secret sauce recipe but the food and service are top notch.


Recommended by Marin moms, Dinner’s at the Table (415-944-0727) is a personal chef service where Denise Rivazza cooks family-style Italian meals at your home or delivers them in the San Anselmo and Ross area. Last year, her holiday dinner featured items like butternut squash lasagna with Italian sausage and mushrooms, herb roasted pork tenderloin, potato leek gratin, and butternut squash pizza with balsamic glazed onions, walnuts and goat cheese. While the chef has yet to release her holiday menu, To satisfy your sweets craving, you’ll have to decide between bread pudding with crêmeanglaise (or caramel sauce) or pumpkin crêmebrûlée.

Looking beyond baked ham? Mi Pueblo Food Center (330 Bellam Blvd, San Rafael, 415-578-3971) is the place to get serious Mexican food ranging from pollo asado to pastel de tresleches or various cremas or tamales. Though Mi Pueblo Food Center does not feature a catering service yet, you will easily find family-size portions and some food to go, all at reasonable prices.


Draeger’s Supermarket and their Grill Deli (222 E 4th Avenue, San Mateo, 650-685-3700) is the answer to all your food dreams from big banquet-type meals for 12 people to more intimate menus for small families. Whether your heart goes for the roast beef, the smoked salmon plate or the honey-glazed spiral ham, don’t forget to look at the adorably decorated mini-cakes for dessert. Party platters can also be served at your next home party, making bite-size tasty foods accessible and hassle-free. Top with egg nog (dairy or dairy-free) and call it a holiday.

What is your family’s experience with holiday caterers and take out spots in the Bay Area?

— Laure Latham

Photo credit: Kevin Y. via yelp, Miller’s east coast deli facebook page, Tammy T. via Yelp