A French 75 is one of my favorite cocktails. A classic concoction dating back to the first world war and named after an artillery gun, for reasons that become apparent should you drink too many. It is made from gin, champagne, lemon juice and simple syrup, and is topped with a jaunty lemon twist. It is perfect for celebrations and my birthday happens to be the day before New Year’s Eve, what more excuse does one need? When AD asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday, I said that I wanted to eat cheese fondue and drink French 75s. This was with our visit to the Velvet Tango Room in Cleveland still fresh in my mind. When I found a beautiful Bodum fondue set under the Christmas tree I knew plans were promising.
Few things are more delicious than a piece of crusty bread dipped into Swiss cheese melted in wine. The Velvet Tango Room gave us the inspiration to serve pretzels as well as bread and crudites to dip into the molten cheese and we even tried our hand at making our own soft pretzels.
I also made some mushroom vol au vents with chestnut, beech and shitake mushrooms, truffle oil and a splash of madeira, and some roasted pumpkin squares marinated in sesame, honey and soy sauce.
We also let the guests sample some of the products from our pig fest earlier in the week – torchons of pig head and pork belly served with David Chang’s pickled mustard seed sauce.
It is probably not too much of a surprise that many of my friends are as enthusiastic about food as I am, and everyone brought treats to share. These included: homemade stuffed vine leaves
Goat cheese balls rolled in sesame, seaweed or paprika – which by happenstance went prefectly sandwiched between the pumpkin squares.
There was also home smoked pastrami and sauerkraut for making sandwiches. The pastrami made from the recipe left by Details Chef Drew Garms before he left Columbus and the sauerkraut was made with wine.
And just to make sure we balanced our the cheese with meat, some home cured prosciutto style pancetta.
Late in the evening we kept our cheese quota topped off with some gorgeous gougeres. The perfect accompaniment to a champagne toast at midnight, in addition to a bottle rocket and a rousing, albeit slightly untuneful, rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
I am thankful for wonderful food, gifts and friends. Happy New Year and best wishes for 2010.