I love ringing in the New Year. As a sommelier, I spend New Year’s Eve in the San Francisco restaurant Fifth Floor every year. We have a lot of fun doing dinner service that night and the celebratory vibe is infectious.
The real party doesn’t start until the next day for me, however. Every New Year’s Day, I host a fried food and champagne party. I’ve got one of those big turkey fryers set up on the patio and my guests are all instructed to bring a bottle of bubbly and something to toss in the fryer. The table is covered with a thick layer of newspaper and decked out with lots of napkins and champagne flutes. An array of dipping sauces or seasoned salts is on hand to add flavor to the bounty. Over the years we have fried everything from crab cakes, fresh vegetables (fennel, onions, chili peppers, and green beans are perpetual favorites), sausages, Twinkies, and Snickers bars. The rule of thumb: If you can batter it you can fry it.
Want to host your own fry fest? I’ll walk you through the process, starting with my recipe for batter.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Other ingredients for frying:
Fresh veggies, Twinkies, sausage, or whatever else you want to cook up
At least 2 cups vegetable oil
At least 2 cups flour (depending on how much food you’re frying)
1. Beat batter ingredients in a bowl with a hand beater until smooth.
2. Heat vegetable oil (2-3 inches) in a deep-fat fryer to 375 degrees.
3. Coat food with flour (make sure it’s completely dry first). Dip food into batter with a fork, allowing excess batter to drip into bowl.
4. Fry the food in hot oil until golden brown. Drain.
And now … on to the champagne! Fried foods are heavy and rich, but thankfully there is an endless stream of refreshing bubbly to keep us all fortified. All sparkling wines are good, but here are some of my current favorites for this particular holiday.
Iron Horse Vineyards’ “Wedding Cuvée” is a richer style of sparkling wine from Sonoma. It is a Blanc de Noirs made mostly from Pinot Noir of a pale peach color. I love how creamy and soft the texture is (and the fact that it tastes particularly good with onion rings).
Gosset Brut Excellence Champagne is a favorite of the whole group. This champagne is fresh, delicate, and crisp. There is a soft spice aromatic that is typical of the wine, and it goes great with fried seafood.
Krug Grand Cuvée is one of our more luxurious picks of the day. This champagne is different from every other wine in its class. It is very full bodied and the flavors are intense and rich. Think preserved lemon rather than fresh lemon. I love it with heavier dishes, like egg rolls and fried sausages.
La Marca Prosecco is a great value and offers a refreshing break from the richer champagnes. It is dry, but the fresh fruit flavors are evident. Being very light in body, it matches paper-thin fried lemons and fennel like a dream.
Banfi Rosa Regale is a great way to finish up the day. It hails from the Piedmont region of Italy and is bright pink and fruity. The alcohol is around 5% and the flavors are of plucky raspberry, cherry, and rose petal. Its light sweetness makes it a lovely match with fried Snickers, fried chocolate bars, and fried strawberries.
Badoit is probably the most important sparkling beverage to drink at this extravaganza. The water from France is naturally carbonated and has a very fine bead (small bubbles). It’s crucial to drink lots of this to assure a comfortable January 2nd when you hit the gym again!
Have fun ringing in 2011!