This New Year's Eve was much calmer than eves past. For one thing, I was still recovering from a serious cold that attacked me while visiting the frozen north of Michigan (although as I write this it is colder today in Arkansas than it ever was during my Christmas vacation in Michigan, it must be the chill from the bowl game ...). Therefore any kind of serious partying was counted out. Maybe I'm getting older and just don't care for that anymore, or maybe I'm just not as cool as I used to be. Regardless, the perfect Eve activity became a reality: a good dinner at Ciao Baci.
Ciao Baci for me is the good ole' faithful that never ever lets me down, so we booked our reservation early. I started off the evening with a cocktail called the mango confeti, consisting of mango flavors, champagne, and some cute edible confetti sprinkled on top. During dinner Jay and I shared a super tuscan from California that was excellent, full-bodied but not overpowering.
Although the menu was pre-fix, we had a very hard time decided because everything looked so good. For the first course I chose the fried oysters over a wilted spinach salad and Jay had the divers scallops. We both liked our choices so much that we refused to share with each other, something that really never happens. My oysters were perfectly fried, very moist without too much batter, and they had a slightly mesquite flavor.
Second course for me consisted of a crawfish and pablano bisque with pieces of corn and olive oil drizzled over the top. Superb is about all I need to explain it. I'm not a fan of too much heat, but this had just enough to make me happy. Jay got the salad, and while I thought it was composed well, I favored my choice over his.
Third course for Jay (yes, ladies second this time) was a perfectly cooked beef tenderloin over mashed potatoes. Third course for me was a bit of a splurge because it's not something I come across very much (at least not until a get my hunting license): a rack of venison over small butternut squash pasta (similar to gnochi but much smaller). Largely unfamiliar to venison, I ordered mine medium rare, and it was excellent. The outside of the rack was crusted and very flavorful, while the inside was buttery. I'm talking melt in your mouth goodness. I think I ate absolutely everything on my plate.
For dessert, I had peaches napoleon, with sauteed peaches layered between puff pastry and whipped cream. Again, I ate everything. Jay had chocolate tartuffo. It was good, but again I was more please with my choice. I followed up dinner with a drink called the macadamia nut cookie. You know a drink is going to be good when the waiter starts raving about it right after your order, and he was right. It was sweet but not too much so, and basically was dessert number 2.
At midnight we shared some champagne and were provided new years hats and noise makers by our waiter. The crowd was much smaller than other places in town, but for me, it was perfect.
Quick shameless self-plug: we were good little southerners the next day and had a dinner of black-eyed peas and cornbread. I cooked my peas with ham hocks, part of which I salvaged and added to the peas. For recipes on the peas and the cornbread (and pictures), click here.