I'm not sure exactly how many of these New Year's Eve dinners we've had, but at least 6 (every year Ryan and I have been engaged/married, and I've gone through two of them pregnant - a little less fun that way for sure).
They've changed a little from the first couple years when our friends Mark and Jason (both excellent chefs, one professionally trained) made the entire meal and would over-night foie gras and other fresh ingredients from far corners of the country. Jason and his wife moved from Kansas City and in the last few years the meal has become much more of a group effort with each individual or couple responsible for one or two courses. The creativity and variety of dishes is amazing year after year and makes for a really fun dining experience.
The dinner takes place at Mark's home, also known as The Atelier, on New Year's Eve. This year we had our smallest group with at least three people home sick, and another couple that couldn't find a sitter (thank you to my parents for hosting Charlie and Izzy and their cousins for a sleepover on this special night!). Our table of eight was perfectly cozy.
After so many years, Mark has the hosting down to a science. He posts the menu to all of us ahead of time and has plates reserved for each course.
He even custom built a warming station that we've used in the past - it wasn't needed this year.
Our welcome course included a Puree Rouge Cocktail (bourbon, blood orange puree, and marinated dried cherries) and Mark's famous Salt Block Sear.
This is a giant block of salt that Mark heats in the oven until it is piping hot. He customized this serving piece to perfectly fit the salt block (I am convinced there is nothing Mark cannot make/create).
For the Salt Block Sear, we take beautiful slices of beef carpaccio and lay them on the salt where a thin slice cooks in mere seconds.
And the meal is off to a festive start!
I've taken pictures of our NYE dinners for several years and each year I get intimidated by trying to document this 7 hour extravaganza. So instead of trying to get in every detail of the night, I am just going to hit the highlights. Needless to say, this 10 course meal that included an Amuse Bouche, a pasta course and a fish course, soup, salad, two entrees, dessert, and a champagne toast was fantastic! And each course had a drink pairing ranging from white and red wine, to a special beer straight from Germany, and rounded out by port wine and champagne, of course!
In between each course, the kitchen is where the action is. By preparing each meal in sequence, we space out the courses and allow our stomachs to relax and rest before the next feast. It is a necessity!
I love this picture - five men in the kitchen working hard while the ladies sit.
Kevin perfectly executed a Spicy Lobster and Mango Gazpacho for our soup course this year. It involved working with this whole lobster. Very impressive.
Serving up the gazpacho in these shot glasses...
Ryan's dish this year was Pan Roasted Halibut with Romesco sauce.
I acted as his sous chef for this course. It was my job to trim the skin off the fish and help plate the sauce (I was in charge of the dessert course, Salted Caramel Molten Chocolate Cakes, and Ryan assisted me with that course).
Happy to be done! After finishing our course, we could relax and enjoy the other courses, wash a few dishes here and there to stretch our legs, and simply pop the already prepared molten cakes in the oven.
One of my favorite courses of the evening was Sara's homemade pasta, Angel Hair Pasta with Lemon and Transmontanus Caviar. It literally melted in your mouth. Yum!
We flew in a special chef straight from Germany (one of our usual guest's father was visiting from Germany. He didn't speak any English but fortunately 2 other guests knew excellent German) and what a treat! He made this amazing course, which was an entire meal in itself.
Braised Rabbit with Potato Dumpling, Brussels Sprouts and Red Cabbage. At this point in the evening, our first entree, I was starting to get full. But I had to soldier on....
Somewhere around the fifth course (and wine pairing) I lose steam for taking pictures. I wish I had a few more people and group shots of this great party. All in all, we had amazingly good food and even better conversation and company. I hope our New Year's Eve tradition continues for many more years!