Happy New Year! in the City
New Year's eve is one of those evenings that seem to cause some anxiety in me. A couple weeks before the evening (as it is every year), I think that I need to find the perfect festive party to attend. When I lived in Boston, it was so easy, there was First Night, where all the arts venues, restaurants and bars were open to New Year's eve revelers. It was fun to see some art, the Boston Ballet, taste some really excellent food, and celebrate with the rest of the city. Then, when we were done reveling, we took the T home. In Nashville, there is no such thing as First Night, and I was left to my own devices to figure this out. A few years ago, I remember when our friends Nick and Heidi came down from New York, we spent our evening at a local restaurant, and had a really nice time eating specially made food for the night, complimentary champagne, tasting hoppin' john, and enjoying our time together. I really enjoyed that time, and remembered it. A lot of other New Year's eve generic celebrations I have been to, I don't remember because they are not memorable. Since I remembered Nick and Heidi's trip here so well, I decided that I wanted to splurge and have a really nice dinner out with Matt. Whoever decided to come with us, that would just be gravy to the evening.
To my surprise and delight, I got a call from my old housemate from years gone by, and he was going to be in town for the week working, and he would meet us for New Year's eve dinner. What a treat for me. I have not seen my pal for almost 20 years since we both moved on with our lives to different parts of the country. I got teary-eyed with joy when I saw him on New Year's! Aside from a few wisdom lines on his face, he looks exactly like he did 20 years ago! What a memorable dinner this New Year's eve dinner is, due to having such a special guest in my town.
I decided I wanted to go to City House in Nashville because it is my favorite new restaurant in Nashville. I love how Tandy Wilson, chef and owner, creates food in an old world European tradition. We looked at the menu, and we were trying to decide what we wanted, and then the waitstaff said that we get it all! What? Really? What a great deal! Tandy really showed what he was made of with the menu. The menu, as best as I could remember is something like this:
Wildcat bruschetta tri tip tartare
Shrimp with a light cream sauce
Salt and vinegar chips with a paddlefish caviar and creme fraiche
House cured ham with house pickled onion
Cabbage roles with parmesan budina
Ricotta crespele and swiss chard sauce
She crab linguine
Fish and Meat
Veal, peanut and raisin meatballs in a milk braise
quail with chestnut stuffing
And a chocolate crusted cream square
The meal was served family style, so each of us at the table could take as much or as little as we wanted. We started off with 5 different antipasti dishes. The wildcat bruschetta was a winner at our table. The texture, flavor, and portion were perfect. We also thought that it was very creative to have salt and vinegar potato chips served with caviar. None of us ever had such a dish before, and we enjoyed it. The House Cured Ham, as always was perfectly tender and buttery and better than any domestic air dried ham I have ever had.
I think the pasta course was my favorite. The crespele, was a ricotta and chard roled crepe finished in the wood burning brick oven. The she crab pasta was made with fresh made linguine made by Tom Lazzaro from Lzzaroli's Pasta shop. The lump crab meat in the light cream sauce was unbelieveable. Two of us at the table thought this was our favorite course.
For the main course, we got veal meatballs made with peanuts and raisins, in a milk braise. I have only seen one other milk braise, which was made by braising meat in milk on a very low and slow heat. The braising milk condenses into a lovely creamy consistency, turns to a nice light brown color, and adsorbs the meat drippings flavor. One of our table thought this was the best dish of the night. I would have to agree, these were possibly some of the best meatballs I have eaten ever. The other meat dish was chestnut stuffing stuffed quail. I have not had quail in many years, since I was a child, so I was a bit at a loss on how to eat this dish. Luckily, Tandy Wilson deboned the breast and rib cage out of the quail and let a cuttable quail and stuffing dish. The quail was subtle, smooth and cooked to perfect tenderness with a nice crisp skin on top. By the time I ate this, I was so so stuffed, it was hard for me to taste anything at this point. The ribolita was the side dish to accompany the meats. I did not know what a ribolita until this day. Tandy Wilson's ribolita is his take on a traditional Tuscan dish that is like a thick vegetable minestrone soup. I believe this dish had braising greens, onion, chickpeas, white beans, bread chunks, probably vegetable stock made from onions, carrots and celery. We did not eat much of this because we had reached max capacity at this point with dessert yet to come. For dessert, the mascarpone gelato was a perfect way to end the meal. It was surprisingly light, and flavorful.
We left City House and retreated to our house for a little ringing in the new year, and Dick Clark's Times Square ball drop. I had made earlier that day in the slow cooker, some Hoppin' John, black-eyed peas. In the south, it is a tradition to eat black-eyed peas for New Years for good luck. I believe this tradition came from the Civil War when the Union came and burned a lot of the southern plantation homes and crops, but leaving cowpeas aka black-eyed peas for livestock food. At that time, black-eyed peas were considered cow food by the Union, not real human food. The South, felt so lucky to have cowpeas aka black-eyed peas to feed their remaining livestock and themselves, it has become a tradition to eat these cowpeas on New Year's day to ring the new year with a lot of luck. My black-eyed peas are simply a little beef stock, water and some smoked pork jowl for flavoring for the black-eyed peas. No salt, no pepper, just 4 ingredients. Eventhough we were all stuffed from dinner, I made a little cup for everyone to try a bite of black-eyed peas and to ring in the new year with a lot of luck.
Labels: Nashville Eats