Our New Year’s Eve tradition for a while now has been to put together a buffet of assorted small bites – meats and cheeses, fruit, olives, sweets, and such – plus champagne or prosecco.
Caviar is sometimes part of the feast as well. Usually we cheap out and buy the inexpensive whitefish caviar that you can find at Whole Foods, or even sometimes at a “normal” supermarket. This year, I decided we deserved a little splurge, so I ordered a very small tin of very good caviar from a company I found online. Not the most expensive stuff on offer, but still about a hundred bucks for a 1.75-ounce tin. For a once-a-year treat, that didn’t seem unreasonable. And it did indeed turn out to be an improvement over the supermarket variety. The flavor is a lot more subtle, and the texture a lot silkier. We don’t always finish the jar of the whitefish caviar, but we ate every last little egg in this tin.
As I mentioned previously, there was enough cheese left over from our last visit to The Cheese Shop of Salem to cover New Year’s Eve as well, plus my brother and his wife gave us a Christmas gift of a new cheese board plus some cheese and crackeds to go with. So the cheese tray consisted of Garrotxa, Shropshire blue, Brabander, Port Salut, Kerrygold Dubliner (an Irish take on Cheddar), some herbed goat cheese, and also some pimento cheese spread my wife likes. We also had some left over Wagyu bresaola, cornichons, olives, and pickled red onion.
Rounding out the savory selection was shrimp with cocktail sauce. For fruit we had mandarin oranges and grapes. The sweets included some chocolate-covered almonds, “Katzenzungen” (“kitten tongue”) chocolates, Lindt milk chocolate balls, torrone, and some Walker’s shortbread.
Yes, you’re right, that IS a lot of food for three people, and we came nowhere near finishing all of it.
Maple glazed nuts, marinated olives with pickled red onion, Vermont cheeses, Märzen-style beer
I mentioned our October trip to Vermont yesterday. We stayed at the Hotel Vermont in downtown Burlington for the weekend. Maybe the most Spartan hotel room I have ever stayed in – white walls with no decor, an uncarpeted floor, very little lighting. At least the bed was comfortable and not just a stone slab. Anyway, we weren’t terribly hungry for dinner the first night because we’d stopped for lunch at a barbecue joint on the way, and barbecue sticks with you. So we wandered down to the bar, which clearly wants to be A Scene and got drinks and nibbles to take back to the room.
This turned out to be a much better choice than I expected. The maple-glazed nuts were absolutely delicious. They gave us enough olives and pickled onions that we nibbled on them all weekend, and actually ended up having to throw away some at the end of our stay. The cheese came with some crispy toasts. All in all, it was an excellent meal, when all I had expected was a little nosh.
On the menu, this was rather aptly called “Cheese On Fire”. It’s Kefalograviera cheese (you may know it better as Halloumi), which is a very firm cheese that fries without melting. It’s flambeed with a bit of alcohol to get a crispy dark edge and topped wih fresh oregano, pistachios, and honey. Shouting “Opa!” when it is brought to the table is optional, depending on the venue and the quality of your dinner company.
One of my favorite things to do for lunch at home is to make up a charcuterie plate with a variety of meat and cheese. These days I try to buy the food from the local cheese shop (since there is, in fact, a lovely little cheese shop in our city), but have also procured similar fixings from Whole Foods, or even the ordinary supermarket.
The cheeses on this plate were a Shropshire Blue (the yellow one in the photo), a Brabander, and a Garrotxa. Both the Brabander and the Garroxta are made with goat milk, but they were not “goat cheese” in the style of Chevre. Brabander is a kind of Gouda from the Netherlands, super buttery and creamy. Garrotxa is from Catalonia and is earthy and a little acidic.
To go with the cheese, there’s some very thinly sliced Wagyu beef bresaola, and a locally-made Genoa salami. The salami looks a bit more like bologna in this photo thatn maybe what one usually sees, but has the same taste profile. The bresaola is salt-and-air cured like prosciutto, intensifying the flavor of the beef.
To round out the plate, there’s some cornichons, pickled red onion, and mixed Spanish olives (most of which are being obscured by the big slice of Brabander). Plus some baguette slices. And the best part is that I still have enough of all of these things (except the bread) to have some again, probably for New Year’s Eve.