You may still have wrapping paper strewn through the house . . . leftovers crammed into the refrigerator . . . thank you notes to write, and a few items to return. But, ready or not, the next holiday is just days away. If you haven’t made your plans for New Year’s Eve, perhaps our Top Ten list of food-related destinations will inspire you.
Celebrate Old Year’s Night
It makes ultimate sense—the people of Tortola, the largest island within the British Virgin Islands of the Caribbean, say the rest of us have our priorities all wrong. December 31 is still part of the old year, and we should say a proper goodbye. So, at Foxy’s Bar, they celebrate with a beachfront BBQ with ribs, chicken, and freshly caught fish. If you have a reservation, you can go to what they call the “Upper Crust” dining area, where the multi course dinner includes Prince Edward Island Mussels in a White Wine and Mustard Cream sauce, Medallions of Local Lobster lightly poached in a lime fennel beurre blanc, Herb Encrusted Tenderloin drizzled with a Tamarind, Mango and Red Wine Sauce, and, for dessert, something called Dark Chocolate Dream made with Marscapone Filling and served with fresh red berries and Cointreau-flavored whipped cream.
See a Ball Drop
We all know about New York’s famous ball drop in Times Square. An estimated million people are there in person to see the 12-foot geodesic sphere drop, and millions more watch on TV or online. (We liked it better when it was an apple, of course!) But it doesn’t have to be New York. Pennsylvania, actually, is probably the state with most unusual drops—so if you are in that area, you have a lot of choices. Try these foodie drops, just for fun (most are replicas—not the actual food item):
- Lebanon, Pennsylvania drops a stick of Lebanon bologna
- Easton, Maryland drops a crab
- Mount Olive, North Carolina and Dillsburg, Pennsylvania both drop a pickle
- Elmore, Ohio drops a sausage
- Cleona, Pennsylvania drops a pretzel
- Miami, Florida drops an orange
- Harrisburg, Pennsylvania drops a strawberry
- Fredericksburg, Virginia drops a pear
- Atlanta, Georgia drops a peach
- Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania drops a giant M&M (in homage to the Mars plant in that city) at 7 p.m., to coincide with midnight in their Sister City, Letterkenny, Ireland
- Mobile, Alabama drops a Moon Pie
- Plymouth, Wisconsin drops a large wheel of cheese
- Hershey, Pennsylvania, of course, drops a Hershey Kiss
We admit to some fascination with the Lebanon bolgna drop—it’s the actual food item in the form of a 200 pound, 12-foot stick of bologna, with the meat actually donated to a local shelter following the drop.
Take a Murder Mystery Train
For sheer novelty, this should be a must-do on any foodie’s list. especially if you are also a mystery book lover. The Old Road Dinner Train offers a 5-course meal complete with a New Year’s Murder Mystery and champagne toast. If you take the train from Charlotte, for example, you’ll receive your choice of Prime Rib, Grilled Mahi, or a Panko Breaded Chicken Breast, plus soup, salad, and a dessert.
Have a Beachside Dinner
Can you think of a more romantic way to see a year out than to sit, food and drink in hand as you watch a gorgeous sunset? We highly recommend Waikiki Beach, with your choice of a Luau or any number of restaurants, including Duke’s, Tiki’s Grill & Bar (with a special four-course New Year’s Eve dinner), P.F. Chang’s Waikiki with it’s 3-Course Meal, or the Kai Market. Check them all out, and more, at this link. Or, for pure getaway and fabulous experience, try Lizard Island, off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Our tipsters tell us that it ranks at the top in great food, great people, and great ambiance.
Watch a Fireworks Display
A good choice is Sydney, Australia, where the New Year is first greeted with fireworks on the Harbour Bridge (and the million people that go along with the spectacle). But, for whatever reason, one of the most popular places to spend New Year’s Eve is in Praque, overlooking the river near Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. It’s a remarkable place in the moonlight, and kiosks are set up throughout the holidays, making it a Wonderland of sorts, complete with music and happy visitors. You can browse as you feast on local goodies, both savory and sweet, and then watch the fireworks emanating from the boats that rest all over the river and around the bridges.
As you would suspect, food options abound whenever that many people gather, and at most of these you can choose from public events (with tickets for access to the food and drink) or private parties at upscale restaurants with a view of the fireworks.
Take a Cruise
Houston, Texas has a great example if you want to spend New Year’s Eve actually on the water. You can combine dinner and dancing as you take a three-hour cruise with Starfleet Yachts on Clear Lake and Galveston Bay. The menu includes a Gourmet Hors d’oeuvres Buffet featuring Prosciutto wrapped asparagus, Seasonal Fruit w/ Grand Marnier whipped cream, Fresh Garden veggies w/ crumbled blue cheese dip, Gourmet Cheese platter with crackers, Classic cold boiled shrimp w/ cocktail sauce . . . Hot Hors d’oeuvres with Stilton cheese & cranberry preserve en croute, Chile & lime Salmon satay, Vegetable Spring rolls w/ sweet & sour sauce, Chicken & pineapple kebobs, Marinated Flank Steak Churrassco kebobs . . . and (shall we go on?) . . . a Dessert Display of Dark Chocolate Mint Tarts, Cognac Pumpkin Cheesecake, Eclairs, and something called Decadent Mousse cup shooters. Gilligan never had it so good.
Or, cruise with The Big White Boat on Gulf Coast Shrimp with Remoulade Sauce, Imported and Domestic Cheese Display with Seasonal Sliced Fruit and Assorted Crackers, a main course of Medallions of Flounder with Gulf Shrimp and Lump Crab Stuffing pan seared and finished in the oven, Caribbean Jerk Pork Loin with a Teriyaki Pineapple Relish, Three Cheese Au Gratin Potatoes, and Green Beans Almandine, plus, for dessert, Strawberry Cheesecake with Kahlua Whipped Cream.
Find a Quiet Retreat
The five-mile beach at Hua Hin, Thailand, offers a nice getaway. New Year’s is actually a peak time in Hua Hin, but you can still find the charm of a traditional and quiet fishing village. Take a walk along the shore at midnight and you may see box-like kits lighted by large candles, released one at a time until hundreds are in the air, forming a line of “candles” as far as the eye can see out over the water, and then disappearing into the distance. Imagine it with no sound—just the quiet lapping of the water hitting the shore, creating an almost mystical greeting of the New Year.
Another quiet choice is an inn, like the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls. Here, you can call ahead and have a bottle of Champagne and Chocolate Dipped Strawberries waiting for you in your room, and can feast on treats such as Wedge of Baked Brie, Rack of Lamb, and Poached Pear & Almond Cake.
Take the Restaurant Route
For many, New Year’s Eve is the best time to get all dolled up in finery and find a restaurant—or a restaurant and hotel combined. For example, Gordon Ramsay’s Maze, in The London NYC, is offering a menu prepared by Chef de Cuisine Markus Glocker. It’s a four-course special consisting of Slow Roasted Turkey with fricassee of root vegetables, a choice of confit leg a la crème and roasting juices, or Twenty-eight Day Dry Aged Strip Loin with spice eggplant puree, Rommes Anna, and roasted Portobello.
Or, try Province in Chicago, where on New Year’s Eve they will offer special celebratory dishes as well as a four course menu plus a wine pairing. Consider this: Nicols Farms Beet Salad with Spanish blue cheese and spiced pepitas, Seared Sea Scallops with roasted marinated mushrooms, Dietzler Farms Braised Beef Short Ribs with a parsnip-potato mash and orange gremolata, followed by a Brioche-Chocolate-Hazelnut Tarlet with brioche ice cream and chocolate salsa.
New Orleans is the place to see and be seen for New Year’s Eve, and the restaurant choices are numerous throughout the year. We like A Mano, where your five-course dinner will start with Affetati Misti per la Tavola (a selection of house-cured salumi for the table), followed by an Antipasti choice that may be Burrata cheese, pickled beet, micro greens, olio nuovo & sea saltâ€¨, then a Primi course that could be your choice of Ricotta and chard gnudi, or Lobster risotto, or Pici pasta with rabbit, Tuscan kale, and butternut squash. There is still a Secondi and a Dessert selection after that, so pace yourself.
If it’s a New York experience you are after, The Plaza Hotel is ideal for a family New Year’s Eve with its exclusive Eloise-themed “Black, White and Pink” New Year’s Eve celebration. Highlights include:
• A three-course, prix-fixe dinner at The Palm Court featuring Willie Wonka-themed treats
• Eloise at The Plaza, where games, arts & crafts and Eloise-themed activities will be available for guests of all ages
• The Plaza Movie Screening of “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” in the Terrace Room
Or, if you want New York for couples only, try A Voce Madison and A Voce Columbus, where you can get grown-up Italian cookery set against a back drop of Italian style and organic East Coast elements. Executive Chef Missy Robbins is offering classic New Year’s Eve Italian specialties with a contemporary twist.
Our Twitter followers had a few recommendations we liked, too, if you are heading for a restaurant celebration. Try the Hotel Victoriano, San Juan del Sur, on the Pacific Coast in Nicaragua. Or Santornini for fresh seafood in Chicago. Or, from more than one, we heard about the Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal, where you can get a foie gras hamburger to see your New Year in.
Closer to home, is your own home. What better place for a quiet retreat, with munchies of your own making and the ability to set your own pace as you say hello to the New Year, then turn off the light for some sleep! Or, mix it up by having some friends for a party. Celebrating with family and friends can be a great way to ring in the new year, especially when you have a continuous supply of great tasting food and drink.
For pure decadent delight for you and your guests, we recommend the new creation from renowned pastry chef Francois Payard of FPB. Especially for New Year’s Eve he is creating a Black Truffle Chocolate Tart – with real black truffles, a sable Breton shell sprinkled with dry girolle mushroom powder topped with a layer of 70% Guanaja Dark Chocolate Ganache mixed with fresh black truffle shavings drizzled with a bit of black truffle oil, pieces of hazelnut nougatine and a hint of fleur de sel. The Black Truffle Chocolate Tart serves eight and is a limited edition, available online at www.payard.com.
You can also stock up on international specialty foods such as olives and olive oils, vinegars, spices, gourmet coffee, teas and cocoas, artisan jams and sauces at The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English. For the wine-lover, specially-created wine decanters, bottle openers, and a selection of custom-made wine glasses by Riedel Crystal are available there as well. If you need a way to toast the New Year, think about the wines from Marchesi Antinori. The Antinori family has been making fine wines for over 600 years, one of only a few families that can claim that distinction. (Try the Chianti Classio Riserva 2005).
Your Local First Night
Around the country, there are “First Night” activities that are usually sponsored by a local Arts Council or other community organization. The idea here is to support your community—choose a local restaurant, perhaps in a revitalized downtown area, and have a leisurely dinner followed by making the rounds of the entertainment offered by First Night. It’s the kind of support needed, when you hear that a community such as Austin, Texas, known for being vibrant and on-trend, has had to cancel it’s First Night event, due to a lack of funding. Don’t let that be a trend that catches on!
Whatever you do for New Year’s Eve, make sure it includes great food and fun. Here’s to a food and fun-filled 2011 for all of our Food Channel friends!