02 January 2006

New Year’s Eve, or a Slow Night In Part I – The Planning

Going out on New Year’s Eve means joining the ranks of amateurs. You’re pretty much guaranteed an off night at most bars and restaurants, and the punters are out in force. If you don’t believe me, listen to this guy. But if you’re smart, you find your nearest and dearest, stock up on the finest food and wine you can, put out the good china, crystal and silver, and live large. Which we did. And this is how it came to be.

So to end the arc of holidays in the United States that began with the festival of food – Thanksgiving – and continued through Chanukkah and Christmas I planned a little get together with our friend and fellow traveler V. Now, part of the story here is how you get to a memorable – even unforgettable – meal. So bear with me. I’d been haunted by a memory of my one trip to France many years ago. I couldn’t get the memories of walking in Paris at Christmas and seeing piles of oysters in mounds of crushed ice everywhere. Now, the DP and I love oysters, and seafood in general. So I factored that in. And planned for oysters. Lots of oysters.

I’m also fond of meats that you can’t generally get at the local Safeway. Odd poultry. Game. Really, really good beef. I chose goose for this particular meal. Goose is a particularly difficult fowl to cook – it’s both fatty, and not terribly fleshy. But what flesh there is, is remarkably rich. And geese also have large livers, which when fed a very rich diet, becomes a remarkable fatty treat called fois gras (yes, again with the French). So that was added to the menu.

V. celebrates the anniversary of her birth on 31 December, so in addition to the dinner decadence, a celebratory dessert was required. V. loves chocolate in all of its forms. A flourless chocolate cake fit the bill.

Finally, there are always accompanying courses: salads, starches. While celebrating the Christmas leg of the Holiday Arc in Oregon with my mother Virginia, the DP and I shared a dinner with our friends Erik and Arwyn, also fellow food travelers, here . Where I enjoyed another French-inspired meal that included pureed chestnuts. The night before, the DP, Virginia and I supped at a Portland classic, Jake’s Grill. (And before you get all “avoid corporate kitchen at all costs” on my ass, Jake’s was the origin of the McCormick & Schmick’s chain. So there. ) In any case, there was a fine example of a gratin pommes de terre, and that earned a place on our menu.

So when I put all this together I came up with this:

Fois gras and fig amuse bouche
Oysters with mignonette
Wilted greens with carmelized nuts
Roast goose with roast chestnut puree and mixed potato and mushroom gratin
Ginger sorbet
Flourless chocolate cake with mango coulee

Rounds of email ensued with V (the DP bowing out on the picayune editorial process of the menu setting). The mango coulee was thought to be a bit much, especially as V. had a wine in mind that she wanted to share as a present – a Sauterne. So the mango was struck.

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