As has become our custom, we celebrated the passing of the old year and the coming of the new with music, fine wine, good food, and great friends.

This year, the group organized a progressive party, beginning at the home of two of our close friends, who got the party rolling with the fish course: crab cocktail, smoked salmon blinis, and scallop appetizers and some bubbly to get the evening off to a good start.

Then it was off to the Santa Barbara Symphony’s Wild West Pops concert, performing the rousing symphonic melodies of all your favorite oaters from The Magnificent Seven to Blazing Saddles.

Then back to our house (at about 11 pm) to pick up with the soup course and beyond.

My inspiration for this year’s menu arrived in mid December from a Julie Powell piece in the Way We Eat feature in the Sunday NY Times magazine: Coffee-Roasted Fillet of Beef with a pasilla cream sauce. The actual rub for the tenderloin contained a combination of coffee, cocoa, and a touch of cinnamon and proved to be quite tasty, although for my money, I think I still prefer the garlic rub we usually use on tenderloin of beef. If I were to use it again, I think I would cut back on the amount of coffee in the rub, up the cinnamon a bit, and maybe even hit it with just a touch of cayenne. Still, I enjoyed the interplay of tastes between the coffee, the warm dark spices, and the bite of the pasilla pepper cream sauce.

The evening went on until the wee hours–long after we’d interrupted our meal between the entree and the cheese to toast the arrival of the New Year with champagne and a couple of choruses of Auld Lang Syne around the piano–owing in large measure to the symphony’s going on longer than advertized. I must admit we felt a bit worse for the wear after we’d cleared away the last remnants of the festivities and finally headed to bed; we’re not as young as we once were, I guess.

Despite the lateness of the start, we enjoyed a lovely evening of merriment with our friends. For the record, here’s the full menu:

Pumpkin Soup, garnished with Fresh Cranberry Orange Relish
Coffee, Cocoa, and Cinnamon Rubbed Beef Tenderloin with a Pasilla chile cream sauce
Butter-sauteed Shitake Mushrooms
Epoisses (ripened French cheese) with a bit of Pecan-raisin Bread
Drunken Rubies
Fingers of Mike’s Mother’s Fruitcake*

And, of course, wine, wine, and more wine. We enjoyed a Sequoia Grove Chardonnay with our soup, then moved to a Francis Ford Coppola Rubicon Estate red with the tenderloin, a 1996 Reserve Sequoia Grove Cabernet with the cheese, and, of course, more champagne as the big ball dropped.

*It should be noted that Mike’s mother makes a killer fruitcake that even fruit cake haters love. Admittedly, it’s not low carb, but it’s worth the once-a-year splurge. It was a hard sell to get Mike to part with any of the small loaf she sent to us, but the holidays are about sharing, so I finally prevailed. Every person at the table ate every bite of the fruitcake tidbits; if there had been more (that Mike was willing to share) they’d have eaten that, too.

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