On the idealized holiday table, stemware sparkles, elegant candles are lit, and elaborate dishes, made from recipes collected throughout the year, are spooned from matching platters. In reality, chances are we’ll be planning our gatherings during a freeway commute as the time left to prepare ticks away. Salvation may be as close as the next exit. Many gourmet shops offer prepared dishes—from pissaladières and panna cotta to roasted pork loin and potato salad—that have been cooked with as much care and imagination as we’d have devoted ourselves, given another day. Or two.
Joan’s on Third | Los Angeles
A crock of olive tapenade and a few artisanal cheeses can be collected here for an impromptu gathering, and now, thanks to a renovation that included expansion of the shop’s kitchen, the selection of main dish platters, sides, and hors d’oeuvres is even more extensive. Joan’s holiday menus offer everything from matzo ball soup and brisket to baked Brie in bread, whole roasted turkeys, seared baby New Zealand lamb chops, apricot-glazed ham, butternut squash and pear soup, Grandma’s old-fashioned stuffing, and pecan pie. Pick up some high-end teas, candies, and condiments before you go. » 8350 W. 3rd St., L.A., 323-655-2285.
Little Next Door | Los Angeles
This addition to the Little Door restaurant is a café, French deli, and wine shop as well as a great source for prepared foods: charcuterie, ham-wrapped figs stuffed with Roquefort, quinoa couscous, grilled wild salmon, and all sorts of quiches. Fresh baked breads and scrumptious desserts—mango panna cotta, chocolate cake, apricot tarts, and beignets—are available to complete any menu. » 8142 W. 3rd St., L.A., 323-951-1010.
Le Marmiton | Santa Monica
For years classic house-made charcuterie has been the signature of this traditional French shop. Imagine rustic pâté de campagne with peppercorns, savory duck liver mousses, veal pâtés en croûte. Other delicacies include freshly made salads: ratatouille, haricots verts with slivers of artichoke heart and celeriac. Bring your own serving bowls and you can fill them with coq au vin, salmon blanketed with creamy sorrel, or spinach-filled crepes with Mornay sauce. » 1327 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, 310-393-7716.
Nicole’s Gourmet Foods | South Pasadena
As an importer of artisanal ingredients for the restaurant trade, Nicole Granjean initially stocked her shop with specialty ingredients—confectionary pastes, fancy butters—as well as cheeses and simple sandwiches. She has since added Provençal dishes like caramelized onion tarts, pissaladières, a smoked trout with crème fraîche, and a savory clafoutis of cherry tomatoes. » 921 Meridian Ave., Ste. B, South Pasadena, 626-403-5751.
Photograph by Jessica Boone