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best local birds for Thanksgiving?

Moved away a few years back and returning this year for the holidays. Any good recommendations for a local bird?

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  1. Willie Bird's in Santa Rosa. Put your order in early. They're the best!!!

    11 Replies
    1. re: misscotati

      Second Willie Bird. Best turkey I've ever had. It's what I'll be eating this year.

      1. re: Morton the Mousse

        Third, Willie.

        Please see this recent post with leads on where to order a Willie Bird in SF:

        1. re: maria lorraine

          Hmm---I'm happy to see the recommendations but concerned about the smoked part.
          I don't like smoked birds. Do they have a regular turkey option?

          1. re: Windy

            They sure do. You can find it on their website.

            The direct link to their Fresh Turkeys for Thanksgiving Order Form is here: http://www.williebird.com/FreshTurkey...

            1. re: grishnackh

              Thanks--I got distracted by all the mentions for smoked turkey on their site.

        2. re: misscotati

          I stopped by on Thursday to put in my order for a "small" smoked turkey (8 to 12 lbs) and pick up some parts to make soup this weekend. The store will be open the Sunday before Thanksgiving (usually mon-sat only), and that's the best time to pick up an order. Worth going in person to get extra giblets, turkey sausage, and whatever other things turkey one needs.

          Willie Bird Turkeys
          5350 Sebastopol Rd, Santa Rosa, CA

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Do you have to order directly from the store, or are there other retail outlets (in the South or East Bay, primarily) where you could get one? I tried to look for information about that on their website, but couldn't find it.

            1. re: JasmineG

              You can order one through the Cafe Rouge meat market. They'll brine it for a reasonable fee.

              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                Thanks! I can take care of the brining, but it's good to know that they do it.

              2. re: JasmineG

                I haven't bought one there in several years, but Berkeley Bowl has always carried Willie Bird. I seem to remember that Farmer Joe's in Fruitvale carries them as well.

                Baron's Meats has offered a couple of different brands of "natural" turkeys (Mary's, Diestel) and also organic turkeys (Mary's) and I believe also has some heritage turkeys. Since my BIL is getting a heritage turkey through his workplace, I haven't checked their offerings this year, though.

                In any case, you should order it in advance, like now.

          2. Willie Bird is a good turkey. The meat is delicious, particularly if it hasn't been too frozen. This is the luck of the draw as they say chilled but once at the location they used to have on Stage Gulch road I got one that was very close to being frozen through. And in fact since the package inside was frozen I guess I have to assume it had been frozen. My only criticism is that it has HUGE breasts, and a small rib cage. Since I like bird roasted stuffing and the thighs I don't get a Willie anymore.

            1. Personally, I like the Diestel turkeys. I brine them using a variant of the Zuni recipe from the SF Chronicle.


              3 Replies
              1. re: waldrons

                Susan could you put up a link to that? We're doing T-giving for just the two of us this year, so I can get a little more adventurous with the bird--plus we'll have plenty of crab if it doesn't turn out right.

                1. re: mofo313

                  You can order Willie Bird and Diestel from Drewes Bros in Noe Valley

                  I used Alton Brown's brine recipe last year and it was a great bird.

                  1. re: mofo313

                    Well, my memory is clearly shot... the brine recipe is from Chez Panisse! But here's the link: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                    I order my Diestel from Golden Gate Meat at the Ferry Building.

                    If there's crab for Thanksgiving, I'd never make it to the bird!!

                2. Here's last year's thread on ordering heritage turkeys,

                  1. We prefer Diestel turkeys, too. Here's a link to their store locator:


                    And, by the way, Diestel is now raising and selling heirloom turkeys:


                    Diestel Turkey Ranch
                    22200 Lyons Bald Mountain Rd, Sonora, CA

                    1. We're trying something new this year and getting a heritage turkey from Wind Dancer Ranch (www.winddancerranch.us/wdr-dressedtur...) after they were mentioned in a Chron article a while back. Unfortunately, I just looked at their Web site again, and they're sold out for Thanksgiving this year, but they do have some birds available for Christmas. I'd love to know if anyone else out there has tried a turkey from them, I'm a little afraid of my family's reaction to a "different" turkey on T-day... But they really seem like a farm that lives up to sustainable/humane ideals.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Emily Hope

                        Some advice there -- just don't tell your family in advance. My grandmother would freak if she knew about the heritage turkeys that I've made for the past few years and would be predisposed not to like them, but instead she just eats them and smiles.

                        1. re: JasmineG

                          That's good advice! (Of course, we'll be cooking it in my mother's kitchen, so she may suspect something when I bring in the bird, and it doesn't have a ginormous inflated chest... :-)

                      2. Thanks to this thread, I've been researching turkeys for the past few weeks, including pricing birds around town. We had decided to get a Diestel when I picked up a rotisserie chicken yesterday at Canyon Market for $2.69/lb, or about $6.50 a chicken. The preparation was nothing special, but the chicken itself was incredible; and the leftovers today just as good. Flavorful, juicy, even fluffy, including the dark meat.

                        I called to find out what kind it was, and got Joe, the passionate guy who runs their butcher shop. (Seems to be my week for talking to butchers). He said it was from Fulton Valley Farms, which they also sell uncooked, and that I was the 6th or 7th person to call and ask.

                        I asked about turkeys, and he said that they were too late to get on Diestel's distribution. So we're going to try a Fulton Valley turkey. Has anyone tried them? If it's anything like their chickens, I'll be very happy.


                        Canyon Market
                        2815 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Windy

                          I didn't know Fulton Valley handled turkeys. I'll be interested in hearing how it turns out. If you drove east-west on River Road to and from 101 the day you came for lunch, you went right past the Fulton Valley processing plant in the burg of Fulton.


                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            They're not listed on the website, so who knows. I'll report back.

                            When I hung up the phone with Joe, I thought he said Folsom and imagined the turkeys in jail, with a Johnny Cash soundtrack...Much nicer to imagine them spending their last days in Forestville.

                          2. re: Windy

                            I think Magnani Poultry in Berkeley carries Fulton Valley turkeys. I know their chickens are Fulton Valley, and I think the turkey I got there a while ago was, too.

                            1. re: Windy

                              I also like both Diestels and Willie Bird, but I love Fulton Valley chickens, so this posting caught my eye. Unfortunately, I have left two phone messages for Joe at Canyon Market (got voice mail even though my calls were both during regular store hours), and no call back....even though I was rather specific as to why I was calling. I am not sure if that means they are holding a turkey for me or are just too busy to call back, or sold out or what...but given that I have had service issues with them even when I am in the store, this wasn't lowering my holiday stress levels....

                              so I called Mollie Stone's at Tower. Mind you, I pretty much hate everything about MS except the butcher and the Strauss products, but they do have Willie Birds and were very efficient about taking my order for one over the phone and giving me a confirmation number, so it looks like that will be our Thanksgiving choice this year...

                            2. The New York Times food section had an article on heritage turkeys today, so if you were thinking about ordering one, you had better do it soon.

                              Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/07/din...

                              1. Alright, I'm going to be the voice of insanity -- get yourself a Cajun Turkey from Popeye's!!

                                Its special order only, pretty darn tasty and with the turkey done, you can focus your energies on making awesome sides & deserts. Yeehaw!

                                Popeye's Famous Fried Chicken & Biscuits
                                599 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: larochelle

                                  I noticed an ad yesterday for Thanksgiving at Tommy's Joynt. $12.95. For under $100, they cook a whole bird with sides for you for 8.

                                  I had no idea Popeye's had turkeys. Do they have them through December?

                                  Tommy's Joynt
                                  1101 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                  1. re: Windy

                                    I don't think so, I think they only do them around Thanksgiving. We'll be here at Christmas so maybe I'll ask this year.

                                    1. re: Windy

                                      Last Thanksgiving I was driving my cab, thinking of grabbing a bite at Tommy's. No way!! Every time I passed it, extremely long line. I'll bet the line was at least 1/2 hr long. Parking would have been difficult, too. So, no turkey for me last year.

                                  2. I prefer Diestel as well.

                                    But the owner of Willie Bird is a marketing genius, he always gets lots of free PR this time of year and really knows how to schmooze the high end chain owners and buyers.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: recycleit

                                      My 2cents, I have made many Willies and Diestels, I prefer the Willie though they are harder to find. But that said, last year my Diestel seemed more "frozen" than usual, the Lunardi's butcher stressedI "that is just the flash process and it is NOT frozen". The turkey was good, not great. A few weeks later we made a Safeway housebrand frozen turkey (a freebie) and it was, much to my surprise, EXCELLENT (and I did not brine it either).

                                      So, I am not sure what my point is.... I am still not sure what I will be buying this year. I am thinking of Willie aka Dolly (as in Parton) as it is known in my family. If TJ has larger sized kosher I may try that.

                                      1. re: frangelica

                                        My local Raley's can special order the Diestels, so I always get one of those. It is worth mentioning when I placed my order the other day the butcher told me that "sometimes they arrive almost frozen." FWIW.

                                        1. re: janetofreno

                                          Yeah, there's been some discussion on these boards that "fresh" turkey can be stored/shipped at temps under 32 degrees, as low as 26: http://www.theeagle.com/food/Frozenvs...

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            So I noticed a while back that the local Russian River Slow Food convivium and the local 4-H clubs were offering turkeys this year. I ordered a 13 to 16 lb bird. I'll report back when I have something to say.

                                    2. I've tried them all, Diestel, Willie, Brannen, etc. I think the most important thing is the way it is treated. I think that flash chilled is another way of saying frozen, and is a particular problem with the smaller places. I think freezing is what wrecks the turkey. I once got a Foster Farms fresh, not frozen and it was the best turkey I have ever had. I have also tried dozens of ways of cooking them, brined, marinated in Zinfandel, herbs under the skin, etc. If you are doing the whole dinner yourself, I'd brine with a simple brine, without sugar, and roast it in a Reynolds bag, which is self basting and it always stays moist.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Curmudgeon

                                        Can anyone tell me whether Willie Bird or Diestel turkey taste gamy? I'm thinking of placing an order, but I can't stand gamy fowl.

                                        1. re: theSauce

                                          I really like gamey meat, and I like Diestel turkeys, so yes, the Diestels are gamey.

                                          1. re: theSauce

                                            Not that I've noticed. They aren't gamey like heritage birds, if that's what you're worried about. They're still "regular" turkeys.

                                        2. I'm trying the Diestel this year for the first time. Am keeping my fingers crossed. My father always likes it when I get the cooked turkey from 99 Ranch, actually.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Hao Chr

                                            I was reading Cooking Illustrated top turkey list and Diestel came in last... Perhaps they were frozen.

                                            Below is a link to their PDF http://www.cooksillustrated.com/image...

                                          2. A quick note that the local food banks are short on turkeys, in part because Thanksgiving is so early this year. A $15 donation buys a whole turkey for a family; FedEx is matching donations in SF, so your $15 feeds two families. SF and Alameda Counties are particularly in need.

                                            Details and links at the end of this page: