Happy New Year, readers! Welcome to 2013 and the newly-revamped 101 Achievements (okay, it’s only ‘newly-revamped’ because on New Year’s Day, while trying to write our first post of 2013, I accidentally updated some WordPress thingy that kind of deleted the formatting of our whole site – my bad!). We’ve got a list of 101 new Achievements for the Year of the Snake (am I the only one who thinks of the old Duran Duran song of a similar name every time I hear that?), some of which have made their way over here from the 2012 Achievements we didn’t quite get to, and some of which are all brand-new.
To start the year off right, we attended Pittsburgh’s New Year celebration, First Night 2013. Held each December 31, First Night takes over the streets of Downtown Pittsburgh from 6pm until after midnight, complete with a parade, music, dance, activities, and our very own countdown to the New Year. (Since we took so many pictures, I’ve divided First Night into two posts: today, our dinner, and tomorrow, I’ll post about the rest of the evening.)
For us, New Year’s Eve and our First Night celebration always starts with a delicious dinner from one of our favorite Downtown spots, Sonoma Grille. They offer a special dinner on NYE, and this year, we opted to go for the 5-course prix fixe menu. This year, the prix fixe included our own copy of the menu, autographed by the chefs! Chef Brian brought it to our table and signed it there for us, and chatted with us about the menu and the restaurant – now that’s good service!
NYE dinner at Sonoma also includes a champagne toast, which we enjoyed while choosing our options from the menu and selecting a wine from their giant list (I mean giant – they’ve got over 1000 wines to pick from!).
We finally decided on a Central Coast wine that’s a big hit in the Pittsburgh area right now, Chronic Cellars. They’re a Paso Robles winery, and when it’s cold outside and we want to feel cozy inside, nothing quite does the trick like a glass of California Zin!
The meal was gigantic, but our server Barb (she’s the best, by the way, and we always seem to get her on NYE) kept the plates coming at a nice pace, so we never felt stuffed or starving. The first round was their ‘trio of amusé,’ which is a little sampling of three plates (left to right: oysters, crab, and an itty bitty quail egg).
Then it was on to a course of salad and soup. This salad had a delightful balance of bitterness from the greens, and sweetness from the cranberries, and a hint of a crunch with the fried chevre. This dish was also educational: we learned that there are two different kinds of endives: one pronounced en-dive (this one grows in the light), and one pronounced on-deev (this one grows in the dark).
Appetizers were either wasabi shrimp tempura (which I got, not pictured) or the duck rillette shown here (which Michael got). I’m not big on duck, but the flavor of this was not as heavy as a standard duck dish. We liked both plates!
Then came the entrees! Michael got the surf and turf: perfectly cooked steak, and lobster SO succulent and buttery that I just had to steal a couple of nibbles. But nothing could prepare me for the awesomeness that was my entree…
I got the vegetarian dish, the pan-seared haloumi, which is a cheese made from goat, sheep, and occasionally cow milk. This was incredible! The pan-searing gave the cheese an almost-rind-like shell, but it was so soft and juicy on the inside. However, the real star of the show was the accompaniment of the beets. There were four different kinds of beets on the plate!! (Golden beet risotto, a giant roasted beet steak, crispy beet strips, and a beet gastrique, which is the little dippy circle section of the plate.)
How big was the giant beet steak? Pretty huge!!! Finding out that I could eat cheese and beets as an entree was kind of the best knowledge to start 2013 with. My favorite food is now a side, a salad, an appetizer, AND an entree!
We finished the meal with this delightful trio of desserts: champagne creme brulee (with a bubble-gum-and-berries flavored sauce), milk chocolate hazelnut mousse, and lemon cake with blueberries. It was the perfect finish (see why we come here every NYE?).
Dinner was a great start to our First Night adventure – check back tomorrow for details on what we saw at the rest of the event!