When the Bite Club embarked on a Thanksgiving-season grocery safari earlier this week, the food pros behind the counters dispensed holiday cooking tips along with foodstuffs. Heck, with their know-how, even the Bite Club might have a shot at making a family-worthy feast.

First stop? Gartner's Country Meat Market (7450 NE Killingsworth St., 252-7801). The landscape of blacktop and chain-link surrounding the red barn didn't inspire hope of any quality protein except road kill. But store manager Mark Capps and crew smoke some of the best turkeys in town--order your own for $2.85 a pound.

If you want to cook your own tender turkey, Capps suggests swaddling the bird in bacon rinds (rinds are $2 each). The pork belly eliminates the need for basting and keeps the turkey moist and golden brown. "Study the actual time-per-weight guide on your turkey so you don't overcook it," Capps recommends. "And believe in the pop-up timer."

Next, we ventured into Limbo (4707 SE 39th Ave., 774-8008). Although the lime-painted coffeeshop/market specializes in organic (often local) produce, its back aisle--a long corridor of shelves filled with more than 300 big jars of spices and herbs--looks like an apothecary's storeroom. We grabbed a 75-cent baggie of pumpkin spice--a fragrant mix of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and mace.

Bite Club also stopped by Otto's Sausage Kitchen (4138 SE Woodstock Ave., 771-6714) where co-owner Gretchen Eichentopf sells Teutonic thanks. On her holiday table at home, Eichentopf serves German potato dumplings ($2.75 a box at Otto's) and braised red cabbage alongside the standard mashed 'taters. She advises making side dishes in advance, freeing up time and space for wrestling with the big bird on T-day.

Pumpkin pie--the real reason Bite Club's Thanksgiving continues to exist--was last on the list. So we dropped in on a sweet source: 64-year old Jack Elmer, co-owner of JaCiva's (4733 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 234-8115).

According to Elmer, home bakers should drop-kick the fresh pumpkin. His 17-year-old bakery-and-chocolate shop stands by time-tested proletarian ingredients such as Libby's canned pumpkin and Carnation condensed milk--basically the same recipe as on the Libby's can. "The only difference is our light, flaky crust," Elmer says. "The pie crust's texture has more to do with the flavor of the pie than the spices do."

Damn. Crust. Maybe we'll just order that one.


Don't forget to visit the mother of all markets: This year's Portland Farmers Market says farewell Saturday, Nov. 22 (8:30 am to 2 pm) with a bounty of winter squash, root veggies and chef demos.


Amid the flurry of new eateries opening this past month, a handful of restaurants have quietly closed their doors. Farewell to Southeast's Nourishment and Japanese grill Ginya, as well as House of Asia, which closed due to its owners' move to Cambodia. Beloved Northwest haven Tapeo will serve its last plate of tapas Dec. 13.

Get a

Turkey Piñata

($65), JaCiva's 11-inch tall molded dark- and milk-chocolate bird is stuffed with candy peas and carrots and a chocolate "wishbone."