Friday, January 07, 2011

What We Did on New Year's Eve

Mr. Lobster
I'm having one of those moments/weeks/days where I'm paralyzed by all I have to say.  I realize I have to start somewhere though, and it feels like something time and date specific should be at least a little timely, so before the week completely passes me by - here goes.  On New Year's Eve, we hosted a dinner party for fourteen friends, and served lobster, caviar, and champagne. Here is the menu:   
Lobster stew brewing
New Year's Eve
December 31, 2010

Farm House Cafe Chicken Liver Moussse
with Pickled Onions and Toasted Acme Bakery Baguette
Blini with Osetra Caviar and Creme Fraiche
 Smoked Salmon, Creme Fraiche and Trout Roe
 Castelvetrano Olives
Marcona Almonds
Billecart Salmon NV Brut Rose Champagne

Endive and Frisee Salad with Shallot and Mustard Vinaigrette
Fuji Apples, Toasted Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese Crostini
Locke Ober "JFK" Lobster Stew
Acme Epi Bread
Simi Sauvignon Blanc

Lindsay Shere's Chez Panisse Almond Tart
Andrew dishing up the trout roe
The blini with caviar, smoked salmon, creme fraiche and trout roe were stellar - a complete and total delight. I ordered the smoked salmon from Barney Greengrass, and Andrew helped procure the caviar and trout roe through a wholesale connection.  I used the Barefoot Contessa's blini recipe (with whole wheat instead of buckwheat flour and a little more liquid than called for.)  Standing at the stove flipping blini, tossing back  Billecart Salmon and popping these little lovelies into my mouth is surely going to go down as one of the high points of 2010 - no doubt about it. Never mind the blistering burn I gave myself on my pinky during the process. I drank another glass of champagne, shoved it in a glass of ice water, and presto!  It didn't hurt at all anymore.
New Year's Eve Blini with Caviar and Creme Fraiche
The chicken liver mousse, procured from one of my favorite restaurants in town - Farm House Cafe - was stellar as always.  It's on the menu every night, and it's one of my favorite things to eat in this town.  The salad was also pretty great - curly endive with mustard vinaigrette is one of my all time favorite flavor combination, and Jora helped me plate these individually with a couple of leaves of belgian endive, some matchsticks of fuji apple, toasted hazelnuts and a goat cheese smeared Acme baguette crostini. 
After dinner we played charades
For the lobster stew, I used this recipe, with the addition of some finely chopped shallots, onions and garlic sauteed in a little onion and sherry.   I bought the lobsters - nice, big, healthy ones - for $13.95 a pound at Point Loma Seafoods.  I researched the best way to kill/cook them extensively, and what I saw seemed to indicate there was really no benefit to stabbing them in the head with a knife.  I couldn't bring myself to do what Andrew suggested though, and skewer them through the tails before cooking.  They were pissed off enough as it was.  Instead, I brought about five inches of water to a boil in a massive pot (from a turkey fryer) so that the water wouldn't cool down when I added them, and cooked them two at a time, dropping them into a sink full of ice water straight out of the pot. I put the lobster meat into the fridge, and the shells in a large pan with lots of cream, milk and butter. That mixture simmered for quite a while, and then went into the fridge overnight to steep.  Just before the party, I sauteed the lobster meat in butter and more sherry, and added it to the cream mixture to reheat.  The only problem was that by the time I was done ladeling it into all of the bowls and sprinkling them with chopped chives, it had cooled a bit too much.  I could have kicked myself, but I was so afraid of overheating it and making the lobster tough.
Lindsay Shere's Chez Panisse Almond Tart
For dessert, I made Lindsay Shere's legendary almond tart - served after the first dinner at Chez Panisse. It's actually a little underbaked here - I slipped it back in the oven to toast a bit more until it was nice and brown. This was a  hit with the guests, and fairly simple to make.  It's made with a cookie crust, filled with sugar and cream cooked to a caramel and baked until thickened and browned.  The only tricky thing is that you have to continuously poke the sliced almonds down into the caramel as the tart bakes, since they have a tendency to float to the top.  I also did little trays with Italian nougats and chocolates from Mast Brothers and L.A. Burdick. 
  14 guests - 24 bottles - not counting the bottle of sherry in the lobster stew.
I've said before that you can never have too much champagne, but I think we actually might have had a little too much this time.   We went through twenty four bottles (including a few bottles of wine) for fourteen guests.  The plan had been for everyone to either sleep over or come back the next morning for brunch - but not everyone made it.  Let's just leave it at that.  :)
new years day brunch spread
I was glad at least a few people were there to share in the smoked salmon and bagels.  There were also  cinnamon rolls from Con Pane and fresh squeezed tangerine juice. We've done this before and I can vouch that it is a great way to spend the first day of the new year, or any day for that matter.  Russ and Daughters wasn't taking mail orders the week before New Years, but Barney Greengrass came through in spades, snowstorm or no.  If the shipping didn't cost as much as the goods, we'd eat this a whole lot more often! 


  1. What a glam menu and elegant evening! My blog was recently added to Alltop- I found you there. Glad I did~will be back to see what's new!

  2. Where can you buy Acme Bakery bread in San Diego???

  3. I actually brought it back with me from San Francisco last week! We drove, and we stopped at the bakery in Berkeley on the way out of town.

  4. WOW!! How do I score an invite to next year's soiree? That spread looks amazing ;)

  5. You just put EVERYONE'S New Year's menu to shame. Congratulations. :) I would have killed to eat lobster on New Years!

  6. Michelle - Thanks! I will save you a seat for next year. :)

    Strictly Foodie - thanks! It was a lot of fun, and I am hoping to do it again. Lobster is a little bit cheaper right now because there's a glut on the East Coast, but it's still definitely an indulgence!

  7. Felt very lucky to be included in this feast! I actually might have enjoyed brunch the best.... ;-)

  8. oh, and the dessert....i KNOW i ate more than my fair share.

  9. Delurking to tell you - I read this whole post with my jaw dropped on the floor. My first thought - "How can I score an invitation???"

    Please send me your address. A bottle of bubbly will be in the mail to you. And a box of chocolates. What else? My car? My house? My antique copy of Larousse Gastronomique?

    Name it, girlfriend! ;)

  10. I'm speechless (because I'm drooling)!

  11. @Julie - Hmmm.... I have been looking for a vintage Larousse Gastronomique... :)

    Mel - next time you'll have to high tail it back from your road trip a little earlier! Hope we can get together soon!