I don’t know about you, but I am blown away at the speed in which 2016 flew by. My husband believes the culprit is the business we’ve owned and operated for almost two years now; true and complete time off doesn’t really happen when the business is yours. Therefore, the hours, days, weeks and months blend into another year gone before we know it. Nevertheless, the celebratory night of New Year’s Eve is upon us!
One of my favorite things to do on New Year’s Eve is to indulge in a gourmet dinner, like the ones hosted at The Restaurant at Ponte and Bouquet Restaurant. Growing up, my parents took my brothers and I out for a fancy dinner every December 31st. We’d all get dressed up, and I would be allowed two Shirley Temples that night! At the steakhouse we’d have reservations at every year, my dad would always order the stuffed mushroom appetizer and all of our meals would include a tableside salad course. The waiter would bring a huge, wooden bowl of salad greens along with silver tureens of dressings and all kinds of salad toppings. Each of us would decide what we wanted on our salads. We’d move on to our main courses (I got to order lobster one year) and dessert. It was all so very refined for a little girl. In later years, we switched from the steakhouse to a charming little Italian place closer to our house where I’d order Cioppino every single New Year’s Eve. Good memories, indeed. My son is now five years old, and I think a little too young for a fancy restaurant, but I look forward to starting this tradition with him and my family when he’s a bit older.
In the meantime, we stick to dinner at home on New Year’s Eve and, sometimes, a night of bowling after. At this point of the year, I am fresh off of Christmas shopping and a small fortune spent on our traditional prime rib Christmas Day dinner. I try to prepare something special but not terribly expensive (as much as the occasion calls for surf and turf). My trick? A night of appetizers. It’s amazing how fancy a plate of crostini feels when paired with a great sparkling wine.
Crostini, otherwise known as toast. Toasted slices of baguette or ciabatta bread can be topped with ingredients limited only by your imagination. Here are some of my standbys:
- Rub slices of toasted bread with a clove of raw garlic as soon as they come out of the oven or grill. Spread on soft goat cheese and top with a chopped tomato and basil mixture. Douse it all with fruity green olive oil before serving.
- Top toasted bread with mushroom tapenade. Add thin slices of steak (or leftover prime rib from Christmas, like I do), and garnish with shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. If you have it, drizzle a bit of truffle oil before serving.
- Caramelize some sweet onions and sweet peppers (red and yellow are best) until the mixture is soft and sweet. On your toasted bread, place some of the pepper/onion mixture (you can cheat and use this) and a bit of crumbled blue cheese. Drizzle some sweet balsamic glaze or reduction on before serving.
- Spread some store-bought paté over toasted bread slices. Squeeze a bit of Dijon mustard on each toast and top with sliced cornichons.
Trust me, you can and will get full and satisfied on toast. It’s great for a quiet night at home with the family (why not play a couple great board games while you eat?), or for serving at a party. Add a ring of shrimp cocktail, some glittery party hats and Frank Sinatra’s greatest hits and you’ve got yourself a swingin’ New Year’s party. Don’t forget to stock up on your favorite Ponte bubbles, Moscato and Vernaccia Nera.
–How do you celebrate New Year’s Eve?