New Year’s Eve party how-to

By Daniel Drolet Photographs by Ashley Fraser

A quartet of experts helped create this handy how-to guide for hosting a swish new year’s eve soirée.

If there’s ever an occasion to party, it’s New Year’s Eve.

But in the rush to buy, wrap and exchange Christmas gifts, visit with family and digest turkey (and turkey leftovers), there’s not often time to plan the perfect New Year’s party. You know, the one with the fantastic food, delicious drinks, and smartly dressed guests exchanging witty repartee in a stylishly decorated home.

So we asked for some help. Here, in four easy steps, are ideas for hosting a great New Year’s party. Think of it as your smart and savvy guide on how to stylishly drink, dress, design and dine your way into 2012.

Design

Want to get your home ready for that special New Year’s Eve party? Think sophistication and glamour, says Ottawa designer Ulya Jensen. We may live in a cold climate, but there’s nothing to prevent us from giving our homes a touch of adult-style glitz reminiscent of Hollywood’s gold- en years. Here are her decorating tips:

  • Edit the Christmas decorations: “Christmas is for kids; New Year’s Eve is for adults. So scale back on the Christmas decorations in your home,” says Jensen.
  • You’re going to take the decorations down soon anyway, so get a head start before New Year’s by removing the obviously child-oriented or cutesy stuff.
  • “No more Disney, no more Dora,” no more anything that detracts from a sophisticated look, advises Jensen.
  • That includes decorations on the Christmas tree. You might leave just the glittery Christmas balls and the lights, or simply just the lights themselves.
  • “You’ll want to have good indirect lighting for the party,” says Jensen.
  • “Having a soft glow coming from the tree is a good way to do that. It’s very sophisticated and very adult.”

Drink

Groovy Grapes is an Ottawa company that de- signs food and wine events. It was created by the husband and wife team of Sean Moher and Stacey Metulynsky. Moher has one word for New Year’s Eve tipples: Bubbles.

Traditionally that means Champagne, the quintessential celebratory drink, which is elegant, but also pricey. But, there are also bubbles for every budget. And not just poor cousins of Champagne, says Moher, but very good wines.

Winemaking rules dictate that only sparkling wines made in France’s Champagne region get to be called Champagne. The bubbles occur during the wine-making process as the wine under- goes a secondary fermentation in the bottles.

This is the “méthode champenoise.” Any wine made the same way will be very Champagne- like; it just can’t be called Champagne. Spanish Cava wines are made according to “la méthode champenoise,” says Moher, and therefore are a good alternative to the real thing.

“Cava is an incredible deal,” he says. “You don’t have to pay more than $20 for a bottle of Cava.” One big advantage of planning an evening around Champagne or other sparkling wines is that bubbly pairs well with just about any food. “Sparkling wine is just so food-friendly,” says Moher.

Sabring the bottle

In days of old, swordsmen out to impress would open a bottle of Champagne by cleanly lopping off the top with a well-placed whack of their sword.

It’s called “sabring” the bottle, and Moher says it’s quite easy to do. Even if you’re not a swords- man, it’s a great way to impress your guests.

Moher says a Champagne bottle is actually made of two parts — the main part of the bottle and the neck. There’s a seam where the two parts are fused together. Sabring a bottle involves hit- ting the seam with a knife in such a way that it breaks the top off cleanly.
Start by chilling the bottle until it is quite cold, says Moher. Then remove the foil and loosen the cage (remember that the cork is under a lot of pressure and can pop at any time, so point it away from people and breakables.)

Find the seam, tilt the bottle away from you and others, and run a knife (no sword is required) quickly up the side of the bottle.When it hits the seam, the top of the bottle should pop off cleanly.

“You are not actually whacking it off,” explains Moher. “All you do is just follow through on it —one,two,three!Thetopwillflyoff.”
Moher says sabring a bottle of bubbly (not just Champagne) always impresses, but be careful. “I’ve done it 150 times—even with a butter knife — but I did have a bottle blow up on me once.” So, he recommends doing it outside. “You can do it indoors, but I wouldn’t recommend it.”

Champagne is the ideal NYE drink, but if it’s out of your price range, Sean Moher has other options.

Moher’s top five bubblies for NYE

Skillogale Sparkling Riesling NV, Clare Valley, Australia
Vintages 72868 $20
finish. Charming to both the experienced wine connoisseur and the humble bubbly wine lover. A dry, yet versatile and affordable Champagne that is as easily

It’s a medium-dry sparkling Riesling.“ A great value enjoyed on its own as with succulent seafood dishes.”

traditional-method sparkling wine from a well-acclaimed Australian producer. Crisp, smooth and expressive, with recognizable Clare Valley character. Just the right amount of sweetness to make it an ideal aperitif wine or a great match for fresh oysters to kick off a special evening.”

Peller Estates Ice Cuvée Rosé, Ontario.
Vintages 113035 $35.20
“A well-made sparkling wine that’s finished with a drop of Cabernet Franc ice wine to give it a reddish hue and a pleasant red fruit character. It’s light-bodied and refreshing, with a great sense of the Niagara terroir and a well-balanced peach nectar on the finish. Ideal for richer dishes such as chicken pâté with red fruit compote.”

Perrier Jouet Grand Brut Champagne, France
LCBO 155341 $64.95
“This dry, elegant Champagne delivers consistent quality year after year, yet always falls under the radar. On the nose, one finds intense toasted almonds, brioche, pears and candied citrus fruit, which linger through to the

Blue Mountain Brut, B.C.
Vintages 206326 $32.95
“A medium-weight sparkling wine blended from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris from one of B.C.’s leading sparkling wine producers. Offers an array of waxy, leesy aromas and flavours that differentiate it from Champagne and are best enjoyed with food. Spendsa relatively long 24 months in the bottle, like decent Champagne. A lovely way to end a meal with an assortment of cheeses.”

Katnook Founder’s Block Sparkling Shiraz 2008, Australia
Vintages 53330 $24.95
“Opaque ruby in the glass; simply laden with full fruit aromas such as plum, cherry and delicious blackberry, with a hint of minty goodness that delivers just that extra touch of something special to end a holiday meal. Its creamy mousse ripe berry fruit taste makes it a winning combination with a chocolate-based dessert with red fruit condiment.”

Dine

Stéphane Paquet is the chef at Le St-Estèphe, a catering company in Gatineau that specializes in French cuisine.
He says if you want to be cutting edge at your New Year’s party, you should think about using local, organic foods and go for chic and elegant dishes. And you can give your party an eco- friendly edge by using real dishes — preferably old, heirloom ones — and washable tablecloths and napkins instead of the paper, throw-away kind. If you really want to go disposable, choose products made from bamboo or cornstarch. “It’s much more elegant and environmentally friend- ly than Styrofoam,” he says. (For a range of eco- friendly, disposable dishes, containers and utensils, visit packnwood.com.)

To decorate your table, he suggests a large, clear vase filled with found objects, or water with a few drops of food colouring. Add natural elements such as fruit, flower petals or even sand to the tabletop.

Paquet says one great idea for an elegant New Year’s Eve party is not a sit-down dinner, but a cocktail party with fancier-than-usual food. Think of it as a stand-up dinner party made up of several small plates. It allows the guests to mingle and lets them explore new tastes.

He created three small-plate dishes for New Year’s. Recipes for two, which can and should be prepared in advance, are in the magazine. The third is on our website at ottawacitizenstyle.com.

Keep in mind that these dishes alone probably won’t be enough for a meal. You will want to add some nibbles and a dessert. And remember that while they may not be cheap to produce, the wow-factor they deliver will be worth it.

Bavarois of Asparagus, Lobster and Smoked Sturgeon Mousse with Caviar chef Stephane Paquet Le St.-Estèphe

Bavarois of Asparagus, Lobster and Smoked Sturgeon Mousse with Caviar

Serves 4

  • 10-12 stalks of asparagus
  • Pinch salt, sugar
  • 2 small live lobsters, each about 1 pound (450 g)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 7 ounces (200 g) smoked, boneless sturgeon (may substitute smoked cod)
  • 4 tablespoons (65 mL) Peller Estate Ice Cuvée Rosé wine
  • 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) fish stock
  • 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) heavy 35-per-cent cream, divided Juice,
  • 1⁄2 lemon
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 packet (7 g) unflavoured gelatin
  • 4 tablespoons (65 mL) butter
  • 1⁄2 ounce (15 grams) each, red an

Special equipment:

  • 1 ring mould with a maximum capacity of no more than 4 cups (1 L). Tip: An empty 1.05-L can of apple juice works well, top and bottom removed with a can opener. Be careful of sharp edges.
  • For the asparagus, cut off and discard a 1-inch (2.5-cm) piece from the woody end of each spear, then wash. Peel the bottom half of each stalk to remove the tough exterior, then blanch in boiling water 8 to 10 minutes with a pinch of salt, sugar. Drain and plunge into cold water to stop cooking, drain again and pat dry. Dice the stalks. Set aside.\
  • Plunge the lobsters into salted, boiling water and cook about 15 minutes. Remove, cool in cold water. Remove the meat from the shells, taking care to keep the claw meat intact. (You can use the shells later to make bisque.) Only the claws are used for this dish; reserve the remaining meat for an- other use. Cover and refrigerate.
  • To make the mousse, in a small saucepan, melt 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of butter over medium-low heat. Add chopped shallot and sauté briefly to soften. Add half the smoked fish, the rosé wine and the fish stock. (Refrigerate the remaining fish.) Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add 1/3 cup (75 mL) of the cream and gently simmer again over low heat until reduced by half. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Remove fish from the saucepan and dis- card. Strain the liquid. Add gelatin to the liquid, stir to dissolve. Set aside to cool.
  • Cut waxed paper to size and use to line the inside of the mould; set aside.
  • In a bowl, whip the remaining cream. Gen- tly fold the cooled liquid into the whipped cream, taking care that the cream doesn’t lose its volume. Chop the reserved smoked fish and fold into the mousse.
  • Set the ring mould on a plate and pour the mousse mixture in, tapping the mould gently to ensure the mixture reaches the bot- tom. Cover with plastic food wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight.
  • To remove when set, dampen a clean kitchen towel and heat in microwave, then wrap around outside of the mould about 1 minute to loosen. Gently lift the mould off the bavarois, peel off and discard waxed paper, then return it to the fridge.
  • Just before serving, warm the lobster claws gently in 4 tablespoons (65 mL) of melted butter. Slice the mousse in two. Top one side with red caviar, and the other side with black caviar. Gently place the warmed lobster claws in the centres. Garnish with the diced asparagus and microgreens. Serve immediately.

Malpeque Oysters with Zabaglione and an Asian Twist Chef Stéphane Paquet, Le St-Estèphe

Malpeque Oysters with Zabaglione and an Asian Twist

Opening oysters is messy, and making the zabaglione with the blender is going to be noisy. For those reasons, it’s probably a good idea to prepare this dish just before guests arrive. Serve it as a first course.

Serves 4

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into julienne sticks about 2 inches (5 cm) long
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into julienne sticks about 2 inches (5 cm) long
  • 1 large leek (white part only), cleaned of grit and cut into julienne sticks about 2 inches (5 cm) long
  • A few drops, ponzu sauce
  • 24 fresh Malpeque oysters
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) dry Riesling wine
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks/250 g) melted butter

1. With an oyster knife, carefully open the oysters. Detach the meat from the shell and set the meat aside. Reserve as much of the oyster juice as you can. Reserve half the oyster shells. Keep the oyster meat, shells and juice in the fridge until needed.
2. In a saucepan, gently sauté the julienned root vegetables ‘al dente’ (about 5 minutes) in 2 to 3 tablespoons (25-45 mL) of the oyster juice and a few drops of ponzu sauce. Set aside.
3. To make the zabaglione, in a blender add egg yolks, riesling and 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of reserved oyster juice. Blend on high speed 30 seconds. With the motor running, slowly add melted butter. Continue to blend 1 minute. Remove the zabaglione from the blender, cover and refrigerate.
4. To serve, preheat oven broiler. Place 12 oyster shells on a cookie sheet and portion the julienned vegetables on the half shells. Place one raw oyster on the vegetables and top with 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of zabaglione.
5. Broil 1 minute. Serve immediately.

Napoleons of Spice-marinated Foie Gras with Fig Compote and Champagne Jelly Chef Stephane Paquet Le St.-Estèphe

Napoleons of Spice-marinated Foie Gras with Fig Compote and Champagne Jelly

A Napoleon is most often a dish, usually sweet but sometimes savoury, made with puff pastry. In this case, the Napoleon made in layers. This is a decadently rich small ‘bite’ that is right for a sophisticated New Year’s Eve celebration. It can be prepared in advance so there’s no last-minute messing in the kitchen. Pre-cooked foie gras is available at speciality butcher shops such as La Maison Bisson in Gatineau (www.lamaisonbisson.com). It comes either in jars or in frozen slices.

Serves 4
For the foie gras:

  • 12-ounces (340-g) of cooked foie gras
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) fleur de sel
  • Pinch, sugar

For the spice mix:

  • 1/4 teaspoon (2 mL) ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon (2 mL) ground Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon (2 mL) ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon (2 mL) ground star anise
  • ½ teaspoon (2 mL) ground black pepper

For the fig compote, jelly, sauce:

  • 2/3 cup (150 mL) champagne
  • 2/3 cup (150 mL) port wine
  • 2 fresh figs, chopped (can substitute 4 dried figs, tail removed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) powdered agar-agar*
  • 3/4 ounce (23 g) pine nuts, roasted
  • 3/4 ounce (23 g) shelled pistachios
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) balsamic vinegar

To garnish (prepared just before serving):

  • ½ Granny Smith apple, peeled, sliced to fine julienne

* A powerful gel agent, available at health food stores and Asian markets

Note: The foie gras and the compote need to be prepared the day before the party – the foie gras so it has time to marinate, the compote so that you can make the jelly that goes with it. This dish can be assembled just before your guests arrive.

For the foie gras:
1. If using cooked foie gras from a jar, remove from the jar; if using pre-cooked frozen slices, thaw.
2. In a spice grinder, grind together the salt, the sugar and half the spice mix until powdery. Rub this spice mixture onto the outside of the foie gras. Wrap the foie gras once in plastic wrap, wrap it again in a clean kitchen towel, and let it sit overnight in the fridge so it can absorb the spices.

For the compote:
1. To prepare the compote, jelly and the sauce, pour champagne, port and the remaining spice blend into a small saucepan. Slice figs in half and add to the saucepan. Heat gently and simmer until figs are cooked (5 minutes for fresh, 15 minutes for dried).
2. Remove saucepan from heat, and carefully remove the figs from the cooking liquid. Set figs aside. Strain the liquid to remove any lumps; reserve 3 tablespoons (50 mL) of the liquid.
3. Return the remaining liquid to the saucepan (you should have about 2/3 cup/150 mL). Add agar-agar and stir to dissolve. Cook 2 minutes on low heat. Pour the liquid onto a dinner plate and refrigerate to set.
4. Dice the cooked figs and mix with pine nuts and chopped pistachios to make the compote. Add 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the reserved cooking liquid and refrigerate.
5. Pour remaining reserved cooking liquid into a saucepan; add a dash of balsamic vinegar (about 1 tablespoon/15mL) and cook briefly until the mixture gets syrupy. Remove from heat and refrigerate.

For the assembly:
1. To assemble before guests arrive, remove jelly from fridge and dice. Remove the marinated foie gras from the fridge and, if it’s not already sliced, slice into thin rounds. Place those rounds on small plates, one plate for each guest.
2. Top each with a dab of compote, tamp down lightly, then top diced jelly. Drizzle a little sauce over each, and repeat with remaining foie gras slices, compote, jelly to create multiple layers. Finally, top with julienned apple and serve cold with Champagne and little rounds of toast.

Dress

If New Year’s drinks are all about bubbles, New Year’s clothing is all about sparkle.

So say Christine Achampong, the public relations director for Ottawa Fashion Week, and Erica Wark, an Ottawa fashion blogger and stylist.

Or if not sparkle, at least something that pushes the envelope of your own personal style limits.

“New Year’s is probably the one and only time of the year when it’s completely acceptable to wear something shiny or sparkly,” says Achampong, who admits to having a weakness for all things glittery. (“I’m such a magpie!” she says.) “You don’t have to go ‘basic’,” says Wark. “You can amp it up!”
For New Year’s, says Wark, “it’s a great investment to buy something fun and flirty — for ex- ample, with sequins and glitter, something you love, but would not normally wear.”

If you’re thinking colours, think jewel tones, adds Wark. Or a woman could wear her basic “little black dress” and pop it with stunning accessories. “Step out of your comfort zone,” advises Wark.

“Try a statement necklace piece — something that really stands out. Or go out and buy a new clutch — something you would not normally gravitate to.

“Accessories are very powerful for women, (they) can definitely save you some money.”

Also important is to choose clothing that complements your body shape. As a stylist, Wark says the fashion problem she most often encounters is people — men and women — who insist on buying clothing that’s too big for their body or wrong for their body shape.
“People will buy three sizes too big and think it will hide the parts they don’t like. In fact, it does the opposite.”

Wark says clothes that fit right will make you look good.

“If something fits in the shoulders or the bust, but it’s too large around the waist, get it tailored. You are automatically going to look like you’ve shed 10 pounds.”

Men should also follow that advice and for extra celebratory sparkle, they can add fancy cufflinks to their look. Bright ties, jewel-tone shirts, and sports coats will also add a bit of shine. Or maybe a jacket with a velour collar or elbow patches. It may be too much for the office, but it’s great for New Year’s Eve.

If you’re going out to a party, you’re probably going to be carrying your shoes in a bag—a con- cession to Ottawa winters. But that shoe bag should contain wild footwear.

“It’s an occasion when you can wear completely outrageous footwear,” says Achampong. “When you are going out for New Year’s, the more inches the better.”

Hair? Achampong likes updos — they definitely say special occasion. Wark suggests that if your clothing is simple, “do something more far- out with your hair.” That could be putting it up, or it could involve using a dramatic fastener.

The same goes for makeup; simple clothes call for more dramatic makeup.
On the Web: See ottawacitizenstyle.com for a video of our four experts giving advice on how to throw the best New Year’s Eve party ever.

Eve. She’s wearing an Anika sheer dress, $562, Bri leather jacket, $286, Babs crystal studded stiletto, $234, leather and crystal bracelet, $58, Futura silver and crystal bangle, $106. All from BCBG MAX AZRIA.

 

New Year’s Eve calls for wild footwear such as these sparkly beauties, $234, at BCBG MAX AZRIA, Rideau Centre.

Christine Achampong takes her own advice and gets dolled up for New Year’s Eve.

 

Connect with Daniel Drolet |danieldrolet@bellnet.ca