Well, another Christmas is behind us. New Year’s Eve is twinkling on the horizon. Paper hats, streamers, Alka Seltzer, and ice packs are in the ready as the apple in Times Square is preparing for it’s descent. Over the years I have not made a success out of New Year’s Eve. Not for lack of trying, or even over indulging, although I won’t say I haven’t nursed a heavy head a time or two. The night just refuses to cooperate with me on any level, leaving me without one year I would consider memorable other than the kind of memory you wish to leave behind. I don’t know why. It’s not I bear the holiday any animosity, or have tired of the holidays by the time it arrives on the calendar. I’m the first one willing to loosen up and have a good time. You will find pictures in my photo albums of me wearing festive dresses over the years, waving a noisemaker. Somehow, however, disaster always seems to be standing behind me in the picture, party hat askew, waiting to pounce.
When my children were toddlers, my husband and I were invited to a lavish New Year’s Eve celebration hosted at a hotel in Hollywood. Nothing in my closet grand enough for the occasion, a new dress was in order. I chose a form fitting one in scarlet (according to my grandmother a girl couldn’t have a bad time in a red dress), with shoes to match. A baby sitter was lined up for the evening. On the big day I spent extra time making myself irresistible before the eight o’clock deadline to pick her up. With a hint of my favorite cologne dabbed behind each year, I was ready to go. My husband, due home from work around 6:30, was late. No prince in sight and decidedly overdressed for the task, I nonetheless gathered the baby sitter beginning to really worry. At the time there were no cell phones. If someone went missing and was unreachable by land lines, they were truly unreachable. For those of you not around back then I realize this concept must be nearly unfathomable, but I am here to tell you, I speak the truth.
Popping popcorn for the sitter, I turned a video on to entertain the children. Tucking them in a bit later with the baby sitter snoring on the couch, I paced the floor until around 10:00 then began placing calls to family. Once those names were eliminated, calls went out to hospitals and police. Nothing. At 12:00 when I was to be toasting with champagne resplendent in my red gown, I received a call from a hospital in L.A. my husband was in the ER. Waking my babysitter to ask her to stay the night, I spent the beginning of that new year sitting in the emergency room watching the IV drip, drip, drip into my husband’s right arm. A car accident, fortunately resulting in nothing more serious than a few stitches and a mild concussion. A red dress, appropriate for the occasion on some level, never worn again.
Another time, newly engaged, (the dress on this occasion was a lovely aqua blue) tickets were purchased for a New Year’s weekend at a posh hotel on the Monterey Peninsula. The hefty $1,200 price tag included a bottle of champagne and light appetizers in an ocean view room, a gourmet dinner in their four star restaurant on New Year’s Eve, and entertainment by a well-known band. Continental breakfast was also included the following morning. All most exciting. About a week prior I noticed a bit of a sniffle. Not unusual for winter I pooh poohed it, but as the week progressed the sniffling progressed as well, become more more of a snarf with an accompanying red nose. Sigh. The cough didn’t start until mid-week, and although not rib rattling, people began giving me a wide berth.
As the weekend approached I was making a good stab at looking energetic but my body was definitely giving me a run for my money. With over a thousand dollars on the line I was going to this function and by God I was going to have a good time. On Friday I felt a bit better. Buoyed by this, I packed and inserted a smile below my red nose for effect.
The hotel was beautifully decorated and the room positively luxurious. A huge bed with six pillows was laid back with a note from the housekeeper introducing herself as Michelle. Chocolates in gold wrappers sat atop each of the well plumped pillows. Whoopee. Sneeze. Below the veranda was the gorgeous Pacific shimmering beneath a wintry California sun. Glorious. Hack, cough.
I felt hot, but attributed this to the crackling fire burning in the fireplace. Cocktails and appetizers were scheduled for six. Around five I took a bath and dressed for the evening. Little blush was required. I seemed to be generating enough natural color to suffice. Teetering between hot and cold my body temperature shot up and down quicker than the elevator in the Space Needle.
On the first floor the lounge filled to capacity with sequined gowned party goers. Champagne corks popping could be heard above the din. Smells emanated from the gorgeously bedecked dining room usually guaranteed to get my stomach growling, but that night it felt more like a churning sea. Champagne, no matter how light and bubbly, did little to soothe my stomach and my head was pounding like a kettle drum at a pep rally.
We were seated at long tables next to strangers, most well on their way to a splendid evening. On stage the band was tuning up their instruments. The first course was several bacon wrapped scallops nestled in a delicate wine sauce accented by several red dots of a spicy sauce with a mint leave to make it festive. Hack. After several attempts to swallow the mollusks I gave them a decent burial in the folds of my lovely red napkin.
Next came a wedge salad, loaded with an unbelievably thick and rich blue cheese dressing. Normally I would have dived into this with two forks. That night I moved it around the plate, hiding the cherry tomato beneath the chunk of lettuce. My fiance was starting to watch me curiously. I’m sure he was not alone. My face, normally a nice shade of light peach was beginning to look like a well ripened Roma tomato. Seeing it in the harsh light of the ladies room it was hard to tell where the crimson colored roses on the brocade wallpaper ended and my skin began.
By the time the prime rib arrived we were sitting alone at one end of the table with our perfectly cooked medium rare slabs of prime rib and people huddled on the other end were wearing surgical masks. As the night progressed I sank lower in my seat until my red nose resting on the side of the table was the only thing standing between me and the floor.
Finally, giving up on the fabulous time I’d looked forward to I excused myself and returned to the room. Shortly thereafter a hotel concierge doctor arrived at the door. After a brief examination he determined I had pneumonia and probably should be in the hospital. I decided to tough it out instead getting a prescription for strong antibiotics. I spent the rest of the weekend sweating it out under the deliciously thick covers while my fiance slept in two chairs pushed together in the corner. Happy New Year!
Wishing you a safe and sane New Year and a fabulous start to 2014! These potatoes are my favorite with roasts or just on their own the morning after. Yum.
Potatoes in Broth
12 russet potatoes, peeled
1/2 Tbsp. garlic salt
1/2 Tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. black pepper
6 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 cups of vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice peeled potatoes in 1/2″ slices keeping slices together. Place in greased 13 x 9″ casserole dish. Mix together garlic salt, onion powder, basil, rosemary, and black pepper. Sprinkle over top of potatoes. Pour vegetable broth over top of potatoes nearly to cover. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and generously dust with Hungarian paprika.
Bake for 1 hr. and 15 mins. basting often, adding broth if needed until potatoes are tender and crunchy golden brown on top.