An Ideal Welcome to 2011

New Year’s Eve – that frustrating holiday which never fails to raise our expectations and often promises to dash them. Many people seem to think that if they’re not invited to the biggest party in town, then the night is a bust. I actually learned a few years ago that for me, there’s no better way to usher in the new year than with a few of my favorite people and good food and wine. Fortunately, the food and wine have improved over the  years, while the friends have been consistently great. 🙂 This year, I was very pleased to have a laidback dinner with five amazing people, and of course, some very high-quality wines.
I felt it was my obligation to obtain some good value bubbly, so I asked one of our reps for the two best Champagnes in his portfolio under $50. What he recommended were the Chartogne-Taillet “St. Anne” Cuvee and the Gaston-Chiquet “Carte-Verte,” both of which are NV and Brut. Both of them were wonderful (although admittedly the latter was consumed quite late in the evening, so my memory of it is less vivid), with good fruit-forward qualities balanced with a light toastiness. For the price, these were amazing. The first Champagne was paired with a delightful cheese plate, including homemade Parmegiano-Reggiano crisps, Walsertolz (Austrian raw cow milk), Le Fleuret Le Chevrefeuille Moulage Manuel, and 5-year aged Gouda.
We then moved on to the appetizer, which was my and Heath’s contribution. (All I really did was find the recipe – he thankfully made it since I had to work earlier in the day!) It turned out wonderfully – a Mushroom, Butternut Squash, and Gruyere Tart, on puff pastry. Our hosts paired it with a 2008 Zepaltas Chardonnay “Babushka” from Keefer Ranch in Russian River Valley. It accompanied the dish well, although I am clearly very sensitive to oak, because even though the winery website says this was aged in only 40% new French oak, it was still a bit oaky for my taste.
Although we probably could have stopped eating at this point, we would have been sorely disappointed if we had. The hosts served a Couscous dish with Braised Tofu, Dates, Figs, Moroccan Spices, Raisins, and Toasted Almonds. It was divine, particularly since I love all those dried fruits. I should have also mentioned that our hosts were kind enough to agree to an all-vegetarian meal (as was Heath), even though they are all meat eaters. With the couscous, we enjoyed two French reds – a 2007 Domaine Jean-Louis Tribouley Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes “Orchis,” (a Grenache blend from Languedoc) and a 2007 Domaine de la Mordoree Lirac Cuvee de la Reine des Bois, a Rhone blend. I know that I am not living up to my status as “Woo Wine Girl,” but I was too full/tipsy/relaxed by that point to take good tasting notes. Suffice it to say that I thoroughly enjoyed them. 🙂
Somehow, on New Year’s Day, we managed to gird ourselves for another round of feasting. At another friend’s house, we gorged on Thomas Keller’s French Toast, Heath’s Black-Eyed Pea Curry, and a wave of Mimosas. It was a peaceful, relaxing afternoon, complete with Rock Band. Afterward, we joined my parents for ANOTHER meal, but this time I got by with just a bowl of lentil soup – after all, I may need some money in the new year. 🙂
I can’t think of a better way to usher in 2011.

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