What a difference a year makes!

Here’s the annual reprint of the annual history of New Years Eves…

If my mom ever cooked anything special for the new year, I really don’t remember it. The first time I recall hearing about good luck New Year’s foods was when I was in the Navy. Working with lots of guys from down south, Hoppin’ John entered my vocabulary. As I got older and moved around the country, more traditions arrived.

When I lived at Lake Tahoe, working for the Hyatt, I worked with a lot of Mexicans. They made tamales and brought them in for everyone to share. Somewhere, I remember King Cake – that was probably Boston. Black-eyed peas and cornbread followed me around the USofA, and landing in Pennsylvania, it became Pork and Sauerkraut. Victor would divorce me if I ever made pork and sauerkraut – so much for good luck.

After years in the restaurant and hotel business, the very last day I want to be out is New Years Eve. It’s even worse than Mother’s Day. I don’t know if you can even imagine the horror of delivering pizzas on such a night, or dealing with drunks throwing glasses in the general vicinity of a casino fireplace. We were still finding shards of glass for weeks after that one…

Other than a few small house parties, First Night in Boston was probably one of the the more fun of the New Year festivities I’ve experienced. Definitely the most unique. Outdoors in a cold, snowy Boston with performances ranging from classical to contemporary in a score or more different venues. And the crowds were relatively well-behaved.

We had bullets raining down on us when we lived in San Leandro – why people think it’s a good idea to shoot guns into the air boggles my mind. We flew across the country on New Year’s Eve 1999 to bring in the year 2000 with Victor’s family – on a near-empty flight in deserted airports – remember Y2K?!?. And, as 2003 turned into 2004, being locked out of Times Square after seeing The Producers with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick less than a half-block away was pretty aggravating. We ended up heading back to our hotel and had a champagne toast with the bartender, the Beverage Manager, and a couple from Norway as the clock struck twelve.

Normally, I eschew crowds – especially the throngs out on a New Year’s Eve – but I do think I’d like to ring in the new year in a European city, Rome, London, Paris, Florence, Barcelona… I dunno… Outdoors in a huge plaza, somewhere – and within walking distance of wherever we were staying. The biggest stipulation being within walking distance of where we would be staying. I wouldn’t want to have to deal with any sort of transportation. And I could definitely envision a moonlit walk through Paris at 3am

It’s nice to dream…

And while walking through Paris at 3am was not something we did, this year, we did have a fun time in Oregon, eating way too much food and playing National Park Monopoly! We called it a draw between Victor and Phoebe after more than three hours! It was fun!


Yes, we do know how to have a wild and crazy time!

We spent the evening with Phoebe and Nancy, and their daughter, Emily, sipping prosecco and eating hors d’oeuvres. A rough life, indeed!

Our hors d’oeuvre was Joey’s Camembert Caramel Crunch – on brie instead of camembert! My friend Joey came up with this one when we worked at Trader Joe’s many years ago. It was a perennial favorite and we would demo it every holiday season to huge sales and rave reviews. It is ridiculously simple and ridiculously good! I went with walnuts this time around… Delish!

Joey’s Camembert Caramel Crunch

  • 1 wedge Camembert Cheese – or soft-ripened cheese of your choice
  • 1 jar Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce
  • 1 pkg Candied Pecans
  • 1/2 bag Golden Berry Blend

Place cheese on an attractive plate and bring to room temperature.

Heat caramel sauce, pecans, and golden berry blend and pour over cheese.

Serve as is or with baguette slices or your favorite cracker.

No need to heat or bake the cheese!

And just because, I made crackers to go along with it! The concept came from the New York Times…

They were okay. Not spectacular, just okay. I probably should have rolled them thinner.

Olive Oil Crackers

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat or whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup unbleached flour (or use all whole-wheat flour)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup plus up to 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line baking sheets with parchment. Sift together the flours and the salt. Combine the water, eggs and 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a measuring cup. Place the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, and turn on the processor. Add the liquids with the machine running, and process until the dough comes together. The dough will be soft. If it seems wet, add another tablespoon of flour.

Remove from the food processor, and wrap in plastic. Let rest 15 minutes. Divide into two portions, and roll out each portion into thin sheets. Brush the top of the sheets with the remaining olive oil. Cut the dough into squares or rectangles, and transfer to the baking sheets.

Bake 15 minutes until lightly browned and crisp.

Phoebe and Nancy came up with the majority of the food… and I have no recipes for any of them…

a Hot Artichoke Dip…

Luscious and rich, and creamy-good…

BBQ Meatballs… Always good…

Pot Stickers…

and a really unique Pizza Monkey Bread!

Messy pull-apart goodness!

And, of course, the obligatory Bubbly in the form of a magnum of prosecco…

Games, food, bubbly, and great company! We were home by 10:45pm and sound asleep when the new year struck.

As New Years Eve’s go, it was pretty damned good. Low key and fun with plenty of laughs, perfect food, and perfect company.

Now… to figure out how we can get everyone together for New Years in a foreign land… Vaccine’s are coming… It could happen!