January 6, 2008

New Year's Eve Extravaganza for Six

New Year's Eve often ends up one large disappointment. Blame it on the expectations, the alcohol, etc., but most people will agree with this general statement.

So for New Year's 2008, I decided to stay away from the ordinary crowded parties or bars (I am getting older after all), and instead I planned an intimate dinner for a few close friends. The plan was to serve a multi-course meal where we could all relax, enjoy the meal, and reminisce about the previous year.

My husband was excited by the idea of only inviting over a couple people and keeping it casual. But he must have been kidding himself (let's just face it, I tend to go a bit overboard when I am given the treat of hosting a holiday party). To me it makes no difference if it's just the 2 of us or if 50 people will be celebrating with us, every detail needs to be contemplated. He was quickly reminded of this quirk of mine when he came home one day to find me curling hundreds of yards of ribbon. "Really?" he said, "there's gonna be like 6 people."

To me it didn't matter how many people I was entertaining. What mattered was that I wanted to create a celebratory atmosphere to add to the overall experience. So there I went, curling and curling tons of black, white and silver ribbon.

The Breakdown:


  • Satin Black Table Cloth: I had trouble finding a black satin table cloth, so I figured I would make my own, custom fit to the size of our dining room table. My husband got me a sewing machine for Hanukkah (because he knew of my secret dream was to make my own tablecloths), but unfortunately I work so I never had a chance to take any sewing lessons (which oddly are only scheduled on weekdays in the middle of the day), so I decided that I would figure it out on my own: I mean how hard could it be to hem around the edge of a rectangular piece of fabric. In hindsight, I underestimated the task at hand, but as frustrating as the process was, I was rewarded with the satisfaction of creating my very first tablecloth. Bottom line: if you have the time or are more gifted than I am at the craft of sewing, go for it; otherwise, shop around.

  • Ribbon Runner: Instead of using a traditional fabric runner, I decided to embrace the festivities. Thus, I created a runner by curling black, white and silver ribbon, and gathering it in the shape of a runner across the table.

  • Candles: I then placed glass tea light holders with white tea lights within the midst of the ribbon runner to create a relaxing mood.

  • Centerpiece: I had been eyeing this black vase for a long time, and I finally had an excuse to buy it. I originally planned to create a floral arrangement out of white roses and hydrangeas, but to my dismay, I couldn't find white flowers. Thus came plan B, I created the ribbon runner, and then added ribbon inside the vase, flowing out of the top and over the sides. I topped off the creation by adding a bottle of champagne.
The Final Touch:

Inspired by my days as a sorority sister decorating for rush, I decided to cover the ceiling in our dining room with hanging curled ribbon. The goal was to make it feel like we were having dinner under a sky full of falling confetti. After I curled white, black and silver ribbon, I stretched out a large piece of white masking tape across my table (sticky side up), and took several strands of ribbon in different colors and laid them across the tape, so the middle was stuck to the tape, and the ends hung to the sides. Then with the help of a stepladder and my husband, we stuck the long pieces of masking tape across the ceiling. We enjoyed sitting under the ribbon filled ceiling so much, that we ended up leaving it up for awhile (maybe a bit longer than we should have). It was a really fun way to add a feeling of celebration. And it definitely could be used for other events (bright color ribbon for a child's birthday party, blue ribbon with fish hanging from clear thread for an under the sea theme, the ideas are endless).

The Menu:

I knew I wanted to serve a formal, multi-course meal with plenty of belinnis and mimosas, because let's face it-New Year's Eve should be fancy.
  • Italian Lentil Soup: when I was traveling in Italy, I learned that it was a famous New Year's Eve Italian tradition to eat as many lentils as you could. The lentils were thought to symbolize money, and theory went that the more you ate, the more prosperous you would be in the New Year. I really wanted to add lentils in some way to the meal, and I settled on this delicious soup-which was a real hit!

  • Winter Salad: Baby spinach, oranges, blood oranges, slivered almonds and an amazing dressing, served as the second course.

  • Brisket: In my family nothing says holiday like brisket. While my husband was hoping for leftovers, sadly there were none.
  • Onion Chicken: In case any of my guests didn't eat red meat (or just appreciated variety), I also made this simple chicken dish, which is a staple in our home.

  • Sweet Potato Casserole: Sweet potatoes, apples and pineapples baked in the oven with butter, brown sugar and apple cider. One of my favorite side dishes to make, it is a bit time consuming, but really easy to put together.
  • Zucchini with Tomato Sauce: Another time saver: chopped zucchini cooked in store bought tomato sauce.

  • Mashed Potatoes: Who doesn't love 'em.

  • Dessert: Puff pastry dough filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate syrup and raspberries (they looked impressive, but were easy to make).

It was a memorable evening that I won't soon forget.

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