Ringing in the New Year

Farewell to the old year and here's to a Happy New Year!

Around the world, food has long been inextricably linked with the new year, and not just because when we're hungry, we need to eat. Metaphors abound in traditional dishes served across the globe, from the vasilopita, or Greek sweet bread, containing a coin that brings good luck to the one who discovers it to lentils served in Italy, thought to bring prosperity because they resemble tiny coins. In Japan, where long noodles mean long life, soba (buckwheat noodles) are the country's go-to-food on New Year's Eve at midnight, when diners call them toshi-koshi soba, meaning “from one year to another.”

In Norway and Sweden, rice pudding celebrating the new year contains a single almond promising prosperity to the person who find its. And in Denmark at midnight on New Year's Eve, people leap off chairs hoping to ward off bad luck and draw in good luck during the new year. They also toss plates at the doors of their neighbors' homes, symbolizing friendship. Whoever accumulates the highest number of broken plates has the most friends. And here in New Mexico, many people traditionally serve lime-cured hominy on New Year's Eve hoping to usher in good luck in the coming year.

However you celebrate the closing of the old year and the coming of the new year, one custom celebrated around the world at midnight involves raising a glass to make a toast and then clinking that glass with family, friends, neighbors and others, marking the moment the new year arrives. This tradition dates first to medieval England, when people clinked glasses and exchanged “Waes haeil,” which meant “be well” in Middle English. It wasn't until the 17th century, though, that the idea of toasting arose when people who may have been seeking to make their beverage taste better began placing pieces of spiced, toasted bread into their glasses.

So farewell to the old year and here's to a Happy New Year! If you happen to be looking for a place to dine this New Year's Eve, here's a shortlist of Santa Fe area restaurants offering celebratory fare. And on their menus, you just may find a few of the traditional New Year's foods served around the globe.

Out in Tesuque, the romantic El Nido offers an elegant three-course prix fixe dinner with seatings from 4:30 to 9 pm. The appetizer options include black lentil soup, perhaps because Chef Cristian Pontiggia, decorated Italian chef, is observing his country's tradition of eating lentils for the New Year. His version is an applewood-smoked Black Beluga lentil soup with vegetable consomee and bay leaf garnished with 24 karat gold leaf. Entree options include grilled elk tenderloin with fontina polenta and Barolo porcini mushroom sauce as well as poached Maine lobster with lemon caper aioli, rice pilaf and asparagus. The desserts all sound delicious, but the hazelnut tartufo might take the cake, an Italian gelato with a chocolate heart, dusted with hazelnut.

Spend New Year's Eve with Arroyo Vino and savor award-winning chef Colin Shane's farm-to-table three-course prix fixe menu with an abundance of offerings. Highlights include tempura Alaskan King Crab with smoked avocado, citrus supremes, spicy greens and bonito flakes; and potato & rye gnocchi with grain mustard, pearl onion confit, crispy sauerkraut and raclette cheese. Entree selections include butter poached Maine lobster tail with crispy veal sweetbreads, smoked potato confit, braised leeks and black truffle sabayon as well as slow-roasted pumpkin with sikil pak, Tesuque corn masa dumplings, goat milk crema and black garlic. For dessert, try white chocolate semi-freddo with matcha green tea, pistachio financier and Meyer lemon. The seating is from 5 to 9 pm and the evening includes live music.

At Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder's Red Sage, the New Year's Eve dinner, served from 5 to 10 pm, includes such sumptuous starters as sweet corn bisque with red chile crème or a combo of grains and baby greens with a petite Parmesan basket, farro, quinoa, cucumber, heirloom tomato, roasted peppers and sherry wine vinaigrette. For entrees, consider veal osso buco Milanese with saffron risotto, haricot vert and gremolata; or lobster tail en croûte served with scallop and shrimp mousse, grilled asparagus and herb-roasted tomato. The dessert offering, flourless chocolate torte, comes with a French macaroon, canella cream and raspberry coulis.

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