Prepping for the Big Night

As 2013 winds quietly to a close, I once again find myself busily preparing for a yearly tradition around our house: our New Year’s Eve dinner.

Each New Year’s Eve, we gather with eight or ten friends and I make anywhere from seven to 12 courses, depending on how ambitious I’m feeling. It’s my time to let my creativity completely free — I never test anything, and I never make the same thing twice. Usually the dishes are a success, although my friend Jon complained last year of the chewiness and general meaty vulgarity of the Kobe beef tartare “flower blossoms” course. You can’t please everyone.

Last year's Kobe flatiron tartare “blossoms,” quail egg, curried ketchup emulsion, caper & pickled ginger mirepoix and fried parsley — doesn't look that bad, right??

Last year’s Kobe flatiron tartare “blossoms,” quail egg, curried ketchup emulsion, caper & pickled ginger mirepoix and fried parsley — doesn’t look that bad, right??

So also at this time of year, in the days before the New Year, I am consumed with shopping and sourcing. More

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The Christmas Disaster of 2013

All I can say is that I’m lucky I live in California.

We were in the early stages of Christmas dinner with our friends, Debra and Ernie, when the stove flickered off.

Frustrated, I moved the cauliflower and truffle soup I was preparing to a different burner, assuming that was the problem. But one after another, I tried all five burners and got no flame. And then a sinking realization washed over me — I rushed out to the propane tank, checked the meter. It read “0”. In other words, empty.

Cauliflower soup cooking on the Weber side burner

Cauliflower soup cooking on the Weber side burner

(For those of you big city dwellers who live your lives in piped-in natural-gas comfort and have no idea what this means, here’s a crash course: We country folk have big propane tanks outside our houses and have to have gas delivered. Usually this is no problem, as we pre-buy our propane and the propane companies are good about not letting their customers’ tanks run low. What a time for them to fail their charge!) More

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. More