Tuesday, January 1, 2008

And Here We Are-Right Back At The Beginning Again

I think I've spoken to this point but I'll say it again...I am not a fan of New Years. The hype, the expectation, the advanced planning. For me, it takes all the spontaneous fun out of going out and toasting with friends. The exception to this is house parties- many a happy eve was spent with my good friend, neighbor and 12/31 birthday boy with the rest of Shady Creek getting drunk in their garage.

After going so far as to "take the night off" last year and do nothing, this year it was decided to simply make it my own. Spend $150 on a night with 300+ wasted strangers and 30 minute bar lines? No thank you.
Instead? Time to glam it up with appetizers and champers in the WP.

*Pictures are pending other people's cameras and my personal discretion. I don't do "candid" well. Give me a countdown and say "Missouri River."

The Cast:
Jason and Katie (Newlywed friends from college),
Jenny (Katie's sister who was the instigator of an amazing all-nighter in Logan Square one random August evening in 06),
And it could not be a cocktail party without my co-host with the most, D$.

Dustin and I hit an absurd scene at the grocery store and stocked up but it wasn't until I got home and started prepping that the New Year's spirit finally hit me. What to wear? Went to my closet and was thinking, "Just a house gathering, maybe jeans and a black sweater...No, cigarette pants and heels...No, maybe a dress?"

Scrolls to back of the closet where things tend to get longer...Oh man alive.

The Dress.

The dress that has been in the back of my closet since Boss gave it to me last summer. Boss has a tendency to go through her closets with Colleague and I as the benefactors. These turn into veritable lunch break holidays as Boss has got a SERIOUS collection of fabulous items she has neither room for nor reason to wear any longer. Which brings me back to the present when I was in my darkening apartment looking at a vintage, floor length black cashmere halter dress from Donna Karan's first collection. Before Cashmere Mist, there was this- two halves connected in one place, on one stitch and the dress wraps together in the ingenious manner of tailoring that has secured Ms Karan her many successes since then. I love this dress and have had zero reason to wear it. Till last night.

Once the dress was in play, things just snowballed. Made myself a vodka and soda, broke out the gloss and heels and put my new dangles on. I even pinned up my hair for a messy halo of curls. So now I am quickstepping around my clean apartment and am just blessing the name of New Years. Boss also managed to find a vintage fox fur stole in Cicero and slipped it into my Christmas box (please don't tell PETA, this guy's been a goner since 1955. I'm just honoring his memory). Playing dress-up much?

When my guests arrived at the front gate an hour later, I was seriously hamming it up. At this point I am trolling around my tiny lair in a fur, a cashmere evening gown, 4 inch heels, huge earrings, huge hair and a cocktail. And they jumped right in with the sequins and sparkles. Alright, no sequins or sparkles for Jason and D$ but they did eventually find two pairs of Elvis sunglasses to accessorize themselves with.

From that point on it was singing and dancing and toasting and terrorizing the HC with hats and small bits of bacon (a waistline terror for poor Pudge). We made it to midnight and decided to visit a bar to ring in the smoking ban but as soon as we left it was like I had broken my own force field. Too many dates. Too much champagne. I was fading in all of my glamorous glory. Thankfully, I had over-served my guests just enough that they too were ready to call it early. Come to think of it, those bar lines probably delay the drinking just long enough to keep people on pace... I got to bed, slept on in, shoveled the walkway and have done nothing other than shop online and watch "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". Niiiice.

The alleged reason you are here...Menu and Recipes!

The Menu:
Bruschetta with serious Parm on top (read: not out of a shaker or bag)
Appenzeller with cracked wheat crackers and salami from Bari on Grand
Individual Mac n Cheese in rammekins with a French Bread crust
Dates (also stuffed with "serious Parm") wrapped in Maple Bacon
An Undisclosed Amount of Holiday Yorks

Bruschetta was a simple affair but I think I will wait for Ms Maggie Clement to share her recipe so you get it straight from the source.

Mac n Cheese (Courtesy of Ms. Martha)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for ramekin
  • 6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts trimmed, torn into cubes
  • 5 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked 2 to 3 minutes less than package directions


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter 84 one-ounce ramekins. In a small pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter; toss with bread in a medium bowl.
  2. Heat milk over medium heat until just steaming. Melt remaining butter in a deep skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, stir in flour; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in hot milk, bring to a boil, and cook until thick enough to coat back of spoon.
  3. Remove from heat. Stir in nutmeg, cayenne, 3 cups cheddar, 1 1/2 cups Gruyere, salt, and pepper. Stir in macaroni.
  4. Pour into ramekins. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses and breadcrumbs. Bake until browned, about 30 minutes.
Parmesan Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon (courtesy of Epicurious.com, courtesy of 10/05 Gourmet)
  • 18 (1- by 1/4-inch) sticks Parmigiano-Reggiano (from a 1/2-lb piece)
  • 18 pitted dates (preferably Medjool)
  • 6 bacon slices, cut crosswise into thirds (TKTC: Maple bacon made it sensational- salty/sweet and achingly familiar)


Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.

Stuff 1 piece of cheese into each date, then wrap 1 piece of bacon around each date, securing it with a pick. Arrange dates 1 inch apart in a shallow baking pan.

Bake 5 minutes, then turn dates over with tongs and bake until bacon is crisp, 5 to 6 minutes more. Drain on a paper bag or parchment. Serve immediately.

Cooks' note:
Dates can be stuffed and wrapped in bacon 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before baking. This is also a great team exercise, even with a buzz.

Believe you me, there were several other items on this menu but once you get to goin with the cocktails, down four courses of cheese and bacon and start a photo booth come dance party- you and sous chefs quickly lose interest.

I'm still collecting any poignant thoughts for 2008 so hold tight but don't hold your breath. It may be 2009 before I think I've got 2008 figured out so let's just expect change, mischief, adventures and, of course, the unexpected.

I may not be crazy for New Year's Eve, but do seem to take to New Year's Day. This is the day that's all about looking forward rather than backward. A chance to start all over again but do it a little better and make it shine a little brighter. I do so love a new beginning. Happy New Year...for all of us!


Susie said...

Um, you better post pics of your dress. I sooo want to see it!!

Sounds like a fabulous party...and those dates sound amazing (already know I LOVE Martha's mac and cheese :))

D$ said...

ill get you pictures later...

Laughing through my chardonnay said...

I am so using that mac and cheese recipe! Your new year sounds like a blast, way to ring it in the right way. Happy New Year!