New Year’s Eve Dinner 2011

With the end of the year comes our annual New Year’s Eve dinner party. The guest list is small — the same handful of friends each year, going on a decade or so, with the occasional inclusion of new faces if anyone gets sick, moves or goes through a divorce.

Menu and mise en place.

We set the table with proper linens, light candles, print out menus and put out the champagne flutes. The kids get to stay up late. Besides being an opportunity for a good long evening with friends we never get enough time with, it’s an chance for me to buy fancy ingredients like caviar, white truffles and Kobe beef and play in the kitchen. The menu — typically 8-10 courses — evolves over the span of several weeks, as I browse cookbooks for inspiration and troll the markets. (Last year’s dinner topped out at 12 courses and had an Asian theme.)

Often with the dinner come unexpected insights. For example, it wasn’t until the afternoon of the meal that I realized the first four courses I would be serving were cold seafood-based dishes. This meant that I didn’t have to cook anything until course 5. Which, in turn, meant that each of the first four courses came together quickly and easily, and I was able to spend more time at the table with my guests. A good thing to note for the next dinner party you throw. (Do you throw dinner parties? You should…)

This morning, January 1, 2012, I nurse my coffee and reflect on the dinner. The things I liked best. Which dishes turned out differently than I’d imagined they would (each dish for the dinner being something completely new that I’d never done before). And I begin contemplating what might be different on the eve of December 31st, 2012.

Here are some of the highlights. We’re now taking reservations for next year’s waiting list. Who knows, someone might move or get divorced. Enjoy!

Langoustines with sea urchin creme fraiche, flying fish roe & baby winter greens

"Fish & Flowers" — Hawaiian tuna, rosemary blossoms, Vietnamese crepes and tarragon wasabi cream

Composing scallop and beet salad with guanciale cracklings, garlic chive flowers, chili butter & black vinegar

"The Forest" — Braised short rib, maitake mushrooms, cippoline onions and chrysanthemum sprouts

Duck breast, seared pear, watercress emulsion and nasturtium leaves

Kobe beef "lollipops," truffled potatoes, pea tendrils, black trumpet mushrooms & prunes

"Snowman" — vanilla bean ice cream, Oreo "earth", vanilla brandy pudding, cookie "sled" and candied carrot

Flynn & Maya at midnight

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mom
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 03:11:57

    People would learn to get along rather than divorce to stay on the guest list. It might make me get married.

    Ps I want the fish and flowers the next time I come.


  2. Suzanna
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 08:41:28

    Fish and flowers was my favourite!


  3. paul
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 13:48:39

    Put us on a perpetual waiting list and maybe one year the stars and happenstance will align . . . hoping a trip out west is part of our early 2012 calendar!
    Happy New Year!!


  4. Benjamin Thompson
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 14:23:46

    You’re much more industrious than me. I’m much more: Country Ham on a board with baguette, mustard, & butter, caviar station, profiteroles, and cases of sparkling Rose kind of guy. Here, here to you and Happy New Year.


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