Living YBG sat down with Scala’s Bistro Executive Chef Justin Deering to talk holiday dining and traditions. Chef Deering also shares tips on how to create a charcuterie board just like Scala’s Bistro. Enjoy!

YBG: What’s your favorite holiday tradition?

JD: We used to go down to colonial Williamsburg every year around the holidays and order Peanut Soup. Not a lot of people have heard of Peanut Soup! It’s made from onions, garlic, celery, chicken stock, and peanut butter basically. It’s really good, I love it, but it’s not for everybody. 

YBG: What is your favorite holiday meal?

JD: I cook something different every year. This year, I’m making porchetta and prime rib. Last year, I did a pork loin roast. I like to mix it up, but I always pair the entrée with traditional sides such as stuffing or mashed potatoes. I love mashed rutabaga and, being in the Bay Area, we always have crab salad!

My girlfriend is a pastry chef, so for dessert we prepare something that we can make with our nieces and nephews. Sometimes it’s cookies, sometimes it’s cake, a couple of times we made pies. The kids love helping us bake and assemble the dessert. 

Our seasonal drink always seems to be a swizzle. It’s rum and sparkling wine, with a few other flavors in there. I personally prefer it with orange slices.  

YBG: What dish is a crowd-pleaser at a holiday party?

JD: Something that is familiar but unexpected. My girlfriend’s family is Chinese and her mother always makes eggrolls for our holiday party. Everyone recognizes eggrolls, but it’s not customary to serve them around Christmas. I think that’s what makes it a huge hit. 

YBG: Will Scala’s Bistro do anything special for the holiday season?

JD: Since we’re a part of the Kimpton Hotel, we are open on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. On Christmas we will have a few menu additions, but New Year’s Eve will have its own menu. We offer charcuterie at Scala’s all year-long, but it feels especially festive around the holidays. It’s a great dish that is meant to be shared. 

Tips for Building Your Own Charcuterie Board

  1. Go to your local gourmet store and have them slice you a bunch of different artisan style salamis. Some gourmet stores also have pâtés and premade tureens of things, so I would get an assortment of items like that. 
  2. I like to use spicy mustard. I usually mix Dijon and whole grain mustard together for a looser texture. It also has a big bite, which I love. 
  3. Select a variety of pickles. You can set them out separately or create a nice giardiniera out of them.  
  4. Choose a crusty bread, something like breadsticks. 
  5. Add in dried fruits like quince. Your higher-end stores will have a better selection of these kind of things. 
  6. If you want to make more of an antipasti platter, pick out cheeses. Preferably local cheeses! I like to offer a mix of cow, sheep, and goat cheeses. Or at least a mix of hard, soft, and bleu cheeses. 
  7. Be creative! It’s key to use a variety of textures and flavors.  

Outside cover photo: Charcuterie, photo by Aubrie Pick, July 2017, courtesy Scala’s Bistro

Chef headshot: Executive Chef Justin Deering, photo by Nader Khouri, December 2016, courtesy Scala’s Bistro