Wrapping Up 2014 with a Menu and Retrospective

It’s been quite a journey in 2014, and now we have finally arrived at the end with the year’s final email (thank the good Lord for that!) featuring an overview of Chef Alexander’s New Year’s Eve menu and a Carpe Vino retrospective.

A Prix-Fixe Celebration to Usher In 2015

new-years-eve-1907-times-square1.092138Carpe Vino irregulars know that many years ago we jettisoned the party favors and silenced the noisemakers on New Year’s Eve in the Friendly Confines in Old Town Auburn.  Our simplified approach is to focus on producing a fabulous prix-fixe dinner experience and make sure our customers and employees have an opportunity to get home safely rather than risk sharing the roads with amateurs.

Chef Alexander has toiled relentlessly to source the finest ingredients and foodstuffs for New Year’s Eve 2014, four courses, with choices for $105 per person ++.  If you would like to join us, you must call the restaurant at 530-823-0320 because we’ve disabled our OpenTable reservation access for the evening.

I sat down with Chef Alexander to learn about what we’ll be serving on New Year’s Eve:

First Course (choice of one)

Hawaiian Tuna Tartare (with yuzu, avocado, radish and white soy):  The chef sources #1 grade Ahi tuna from Hawaii, which is cubed raw and tossed with extra virgin olive oil, jalapeno and yuzu zest.  Yuzu is an unusual Japanese citrus fruit grown for Carpe Vino by Eric Hansen of Pine Hill Orchard in Loomis.  The tuna sits atop a cushion of pureed avocado, surrounded by “ponzu,” a Japanese sauce made from yuzu juice and white soy; finished with shaved radish and cilantro sprouts.

Seared Dayboat Scallop (with cauliflower puree, crisp fingerling potato and black truffle jus):  Large, tender scallops are seared and then placed on top of a cauliflower-and-cream puree.  Fingerling potatoes are sliced thinly lengthwise and fried until crispy.  Finished with a sauce prepared from reduced chicken stock and black truffle butter.

Croquette of Duck Confit (with Medjool dates, tangerine, frisee and hazelnut aillade):  This is a remarkably complex dish that starts with duck legs house-cured in salt and seasonings before being slow cooked in duck fat until meat is tender enough to be picked from the bones.  The meat is combined with Dijon mustard, orange zest, shallots, garlic and herbs and then formed into croquette portions.  These are coated with breadcrumbs, deep-fried and then place atop a salad of frisee (tiny greens) dates and tangerine.  Finished with a puree of toasted hazelnuts and hazelnut oil.

Second Course

Maine Lobster Bisque (with sunchoke cream and fines herbs):  A New Year’s Eve classic dish, Chef Alexander has raised the bar again with this stellar bisque made with lobster bodies, tomato and brandy.  Sunchoke puree is combined with whipped cream to create a mousse, a dollop of which is the bisque centerpiece.  Accented with a French-style herb mix of tarragon, parsley, chervil and chives.

Main Course (choice of one)

Filet of Niman Ranch Beef (with marble potato, Maitake mushroom, charred broccoli, shortrib jam):  First a beautifully tender cut of Niman Ranch’s finest beef prepared perfectly medium rare.  Served with a rainbow of baby potatoes, roasted and glazed in butter; Japanese Maitake mushrooms; and lightly charred fresh broccoli.  Accompanied with a shortrib jam made from meat picked from braised shortribs combined with a red wine and vegetable braising liquid.

Roasted Passmore Ranch Sturgeon (with beet variations, green apple, dill, Tsar Nicolai Caviar):  Michael Passmore’s farm-raised sturgeon has catapulted him to cult status among fine dining restaurants in the Sacramento area.  Chef Alexander will pan roast this delicate, flavorful fish and serve it with a medley of three types of beets:  puree of red beets, glazed golden beets and shavings of white and pink candy striped beets.  Served with green apple, dill and an amazing taste of Tsar Nicolai Caviar. . .making this dish fit for royalty.

Dessert Course (choice of one)

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake (with fleur de sel ganache, mandarin confit and crème fraiche):  Here’s a meal-ender from Pastry Chef Courtney McDonald for those who are ready to overdose on chocolate:  Dark chocolate cheesecake with a chocolate shortbread crust, glazed with ganache—chocolate and cream combined and drizzled on top.  Served with mandarins cooked in simple syrup and whipped crème fraiche.

Meyer Lemon Semifreddo (with dried blueberry marmaletta and lavender shortbread crumble):  This is a mousse put in a mold and frozen. . .but because there is so much air in the mix, it is “semi-frozen” and flavored with Meyer lemon from Courtney and Eric’s “Four Tines Farm”.  Served with a marmaletta made from dried blueberries with Meyer lemon cooked in port.  Crumbled on top (so that you get a taste and crunch with every bite) is house-made lavender shortbread cookie.