New Year’s Eve is the time to celebrate—whether reflecting on the events of the past year or looking forward with optimism to the potential of the year ahead. Some people prefer a big party, while others want to stay in for a quiet night. However you choose to celebrate, it’s worth doing so deliciously!
Just you, just me: When it’s a party of two on New Year’s Eve, it’s the time to amp up the romance and create an unforgettable, luxe menu. One of the most decadent ways to start is with fresh raw oysters on the half shell, fresh lemon wedges, and homemade mignonette sauce paired with a brut champagne. Follow the first course with caviar, crème fraiche or sour cream, finely chopped green onion, and buckwheat blini paired with chilled bison grass vodka. The salad course could follow the traditional steakhouse route and be an iceberg wedge salad or a more modern version with a roasted beet, fresh fennel, and orange slices with goat cheese and vinaigrette, paired with a crisp Marlborough sauvignon blanc.
The main course should be something decadent: a surf and turf combo of bacon-wrapped filet mignon with red wine sauce and lobster tails with melted butter paired with a Zinfandel or a Gamay. Side dishes shouldn’t compete with the proteins on the plate—consider roasted new potatoes and asparagus. For dessert, serve crème brulee or chocolate mousse paired with an elegant amaro. Toast at midnight with your favorite champagne, like Champagne Christian Busin.
Dinner Party: 6-10
Ringing in the new year with an intimate group of friends is one of the most fun ways to celebrate. Consider serving dishes that can be made ahead of time and serve several, so you have time to enjoy your guests. Start with an elegant cheese board with a selection of cheeses: a hard cheese like an aged Manchego, a soft cheese like Brie, and a blue cheese like Stilton. Add a selection of meats like salami and jamon Iberico, and round it out with nuts, dried fruits, quince paste, grainy mustard, rhubarb jam, olives, fresh fruit and crackers or toast points…and a glass of pinot gris.
Creamy lobster bisque with chunks of lobster tail is an elegant first course—serve it with thick slices of crusty bread and a viognier. For a salad course, try baby mixed greens with avocado slices, roasted beets, walnuts, and goat cheese crumbles with a homemade vinaigrette. The main should be something that feels special and individual: Cornish hens with an apricot glaze, seared scallops, or filet mignon. Sides can be served family-style; think scalloped potatoes, truffle mac and cheese, and roasted carrots.
Stick with a white like Riesling or Chardonnay throughout the meal if you’re serving poultry or seafood; if you serve meat or game opt for a velvety Malbec. For dessert, make ahead favorites like coconut cake, wine-roasted pears, or mason jar cheesecake are all winners. Have a bubbly toast ready for midnight.
Small Soiree: 20-50
With this size crowd, the key words will be make-ahead and refreshable. You’ll want to enjoy your party, too, so have several options for food and drink, broken down into categories: drinks, snacks, and desserts. If you can, designate a station for each so your guests aren’t all crowded into one area at once. Drinks: A build-your-own bar (or a few) is the perfect approach to this size crowd. You could have a wine table (because guests are sure to bring something to share) but consider a boozy hot-chocolate bar (add in whiskey, Bailey’s or schnapps and garnish with shaved chocolate, candy canes, marshmallows and whipped cream), a bellini bar (with different juices like peach, grapefruit, pomegranate, etc. and garnishes like fresh fruit) or a bloody Mary bar (you set up the mix and the vodka, your guests can choose garnishes like olives, pickles, celery, or bacon).
For your main dishes, finger food—and lots of it—will be your pathway to success. Using a small round table as a giant tray space, put parchment paper over the table and put down your favorite veggies and a homemade ranch dip, an assortment of fruits, meats, and cheeses—easy to refresh as needed and easy clean up (and no extra dishes). The sky’s the limit with appetizer-sized grab and go foods: toast points with tapenade or bruschetta, empanadas, lamb meatballs on a stick with tzatziki sauce, shrimp cocktail, spinach artichoke dip with chunks of bread, stuffed mushrooms, bacon-wrapped blue cheese stuffed dates (aka Devils on horseback); taco bar with tortillas, a couple different types of meat, salsas, and all the garnishes; sliders, chicken satay, and tater tots (seriously, you wouldn’t believe how fast a tray of those disappear around a crowd of hungry booze-charged revelers).
If you’re serving a smaller group and want a more elegant setup, you can use heated chargers and make a buffet with things like pot roast or pork tenderloin, scalloped potatoes, mac and cheese and a salad. For dessert, cake pops, a s’mores bar, brownies, or sugar cookies shaped like champagne flutes are all great options. Just focus on what’s easy to serve, eat standing up, and refresh (and ultimately, clean up) and enjoy your soiree!
All-Out Bash: 50-200
Right about now you’re probably thinking “How did I get myself into this mess?” Don’t panic. Though if you’re throwing the New Year’s Eve party to end all New Year’s Eve parties with an expected 200 people in attendance, this probably isn’t your first rodeo. Your party’s success depends on two things: making everything ahead and math. Even if you failed high school trig, your basic formula when estimating how much a guest will eat, according to caterers, is to count on roughly 7 bites per guest, per hour. For drinks, anticipate one bottle for every two guests and plan on serving one thing (which, given the occasion, would be Champagne or sparkling wine, no brainer).
One option would be to hire a caterer and delegate the work entirely. But if that’s not in the budget or the stars, plan on making everything ahead of time and just serving it. The appetizers in the previous paragraph will work well for any sized crowd. If you’re not hiring a caterer, it’s a good idea to hire someone to help bartend, refresh the food, and help with general cleanup. It’s an easy, fun gig lots of people would enjoy doing for a few hours.
Conclusion: Large or small, you’ll be ringing in the New Year in style. 2020 is sure to bring spectacular things and you’re kicking 2019 to the curb your way in a delicious fashion. Now it’s time to think about what everyone thinks about on the first day of a new year: Not goal setting or resolutions, silly! Brunch.
Rebecca Treon is a Denver-based freelance food, travel, and lifestyles writer who has written for publications like 5280, DiningOut, American Bungalow, Reign, Denver Hotel, The Coastal Table, the Huffington Post, Tasting Table, Food 52, Time Out, BBC Travel, Livability, The Cape Cod Travel Guide, Edible Cape Cod,Edible Denver, Edible Lower Alabama, Alabama Journey, The Denver Post, and DRAFT magazine. She is the proud mother of two tiny globetrotters.