New Year’s Eve Dinner Showdown or How I Enjoyed Myself on New Year’s Eve
I’ll admit it. I like to eat. I like food that tastes good. I like food that gives me a pleasant food memory. I like food that makes me wish others had joined me. I went by myself because I didn’t want to rope anyone into paying as much as these dinners would cost, but as I stared at my steak in the first restaurant, I don’t mind admitting that I wish I’d had a partner in crime.
Taking applications for partners in crime.
Not only was it nice to enjoy my meals, but I enjoyed flitting from one place to another, one group of amazing people to another group of amazing people, hearing great music, and generally having a fabulous time on New Year’s Eve. So, where did I eat?
I started out at the Tic Toc room. My friend Karen reminded me that I had not had Chef Julio Rosas’ cooking in a while. Even though Dovetail technically won the initial vote from my previous post (both here and on Facebook), I am always doing something with the Moonhangers Group chain of restaurants. So it was settled… I was going to eat at Tic Toc. But Ashley Dunn’s desserts, I thought to myself. But I knew I couldn’t just get the desserts. I would have to eat the whole meal – and thus was born the most delicious challenge: NYE Dinner Showdown.
I got to Tic Toc a little ahead of my reservation time, so I sat at the bar, but it looked as if no one was ready. I finally felt comfortable about 10 minutes after my reserved time to ask if they were actually ready for me. The girl at the hostess counter looked slightly confused – beautiful, but slightly confused. Is it customary for people to be late for their reservations?
Fortunately, that was the last hiccup at Tic Toc. My waiter, Nick, was amazing. Not only did he not hesitate on the wine pairing when I told him I was going to start with the tuna tartare, but my appetizer came out shortly after my wine. I informed Nick that my next dish was going to be the lobster bisque, so as soon as I devoured the tartare, which included nice, creamy chunks of avocado, the plate removed and the bisque was sat, steaming, in front of me. That is how my service went. It was fabulous, quick but not rushed. I felt I had all the time in the world to enjoy the fantastic food.
The Blue Fin Tuna Tartare had a teriyaki glaze, chunks of avocado, and chives with baked wontons. If you are a sushi lover, this dish would be perfect for you. The tuna was so tender, and like I said, the added cream of the avocado and the sweet teriyaki made for a great dish. I’m pretty sure I could eat this every day without growing tired of it.
The lobster bisque was my next course. I don’t know if any of you remember Adriana’s seafood bisque, but except for clam chowder in Massachusetts, I have not had a creamier, richer bisque than Yoon’s seafood bisque. I remember collecting my tips on Friday specifically to head to Adriana’s for their bisque. Tic Toc’s lobster bisque pretty much reminded me of the red pepper bisque at Dolce Vita possibly cooked in a lobster stock, each spoonful a gentle reminder of red pepper bisque riddled with the sweet hint of lobster. It was good – I enjoy the red pepper bisque after all – but disappointing because I was sure I would be eating something reminiscent of what Adriana’s would dole out, but better. Nick offered to add a bit of sherry. Maybe I should have accepted.
I decide to order the center cut tenderloin over lobster whipped potatoes with a black truffle hollandaise sauce. Because we all knew I was going to go with the hollandaise. The rare steak was not the rarest I’ve ever had (that rarest steak, at some restaurant in Atlanta, was carved from the cow on site and walked through a hot room where it lay, bleeding without me cutting it, in front of me. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious, but I have not had a steak as rare since) but it was perfectly red in the center with a nice, hearty sear on the outside. The black truffle hollandaise glistened in the peaks and valley of the meat, pooling around large pieces of lobster and creamy mashed potatoes. The earthy, buttery hollandaise enhanced the smoky steak, sweetened the lobster, and aided in a nice buttery mashed potato. It was perfection on a plate.
Now, keep in mind that this is New Year’s Eve and my plan, after a 5pm dinner, is to go out and have a blast. If it were just a normal weekend night, I would have taken my time, eaten to my hearts content, and taken home a togo plate. But this was NYE and I wasn’t planning on being home until well after 4am (which I accomplished). That being said, my only complaint about my meal was that the portions were too large. I get that the majority of people who came out for the NYE dinner at Tic Toc were probably not going to do anything more than walk down to the Terminal Station to watch the Cherry Blossom Ball Drop, or head back home to settle into their New Year by each other’s side, staring at the back of their eyelids while Ryan Seacrest took a dump on Dick Clark’s memory at midnight, but I was going to be moving and shaking. I did not need portions for two sitting in my stomach while I tried to rock out to MagTard!
The dessert I chose at the end of the night was a Chocolate Truffle Terrine (and coffee, of course). It was basically a chocolate cake with a nice dark chocolate ganache and whipped chocolate mousse on top. They also offered a pumpkin cheesecake with butterscotch dipped strawberries, but while I adore butterscotch, I’m not a big fan of pumpkin. I basically could not eat more than four bites of the terrine. In fact, the terrine could have been a quarter of the size and I would have felt I got my money’s worth. However, feeling the chocolate melt under the warmth of coffee… Heaven. I was so full, I wanted to skip dessert, but I didn’t because I couldn’t do a showdown between two restaurants without trying every course.
I was satisfied. Fat. Full. Nick laughed at me lamenting my admittedly first world problem of not being able to take anything with me. I paid and left.
My night took me to the Bird, where a few friends gathered. I always love seeing the staff of the Bird. They had taken care of me so much in 2012, it was ridiculous. I stopped into Lemongrass to say hello to the staff there and talked to some of my friends who had eaten there. They absolutely loved it. I decided to get a cigar for New Year’s Eve sake. I went to Cherry Street Ink to check out the DJs and the talented artists who have taken up residence there. The space looked amazing and their work looked great too. Next I walked to Downtown Grill, where I enjoyed my cigar and talked to a couple who had also tried to eat at Tic Toc. They did not have quite the pleasant experience I had. They had a much longer wait, their food didn’t come out like they ordered and eventually they just left and had appetizers at Downtown Grill. DG was hopping, the staff was super busy, but I still enjoyed my Maker’s and Ginger Beer while I puffed on the cigar and talked about guns. That is what you do when you smoke a cigar drinking Maker’s Mark, right? Talk about guns? I finished up about 10 minutes before my reservation at Dovetail.
I chose to sit at the bar for my experience. It’s interesting walking into a place where you know everyone. The entire Roasted staff and friends were there. It was like the bar was actually Cheers. There was eating and drinking and carousing and Wayne, the staff mixologist, had a seat ready for me.
The meal started with quail. The quail amuse bouche was amazing. Tender, the carrot puree flavorful without being overwhelming (which carrot can be), the onion and carrot topping just the right amount of spice. My friend Charlene came over just as I took my first bite and told me she and her group had not enjoyed their meal at all. Then she tried my quail and she looked like she would cry. Apparently, what I was eating and what she’d had was such a far cry from each other, she almost questioned if they’d gotten the right foods.
The next course was curry rubbed king crab legs with Carolina rice and a coriander crab hollandaise. The rice was nice and fluffy and a little sweet, maybe from the crab. The coriander hollandaise might have been competing with the curry, since I could barely taste the coriander. The dish was a bit salty for my taste, but in my small little world, I’m a known salt-o-phobe. The dish was delicious, though, the crab legs nice and tender.
Next I tried the Butter Poached Shelled Lobster with the triple cream brie grits and three sisters succotash. The importance of people knowing how much you love food is that people love sharing their food knowledge with you. I asked about the three sisters succotash. It is corn, squash and carrots. To give it more of a southern feel, Dovetail added the lima beans. The original concoction came from the Indian Mounds, or at least recipes from the peoples that populated the mounds. The chef noticed these three ingredients in many of the recipes and, trying the combination, found that he liked them and decided to incorporate them, with the addition, into many of his dishes. The lobster in this dish was tender in parts and tough in parts, but the succotash was tender without being mushy. This was the first time I actually liked lima beans in a dish. If my dad were alive, he would be astounded by that statement.
You wouldn’t think black pepper on ice cream would be noteworthy – although you might question the wisdom of such a thing. You shouldn’t, though. It is delicious. The taste of the pepper is hidden, but the spice is not, thanks to the homemade pernod ice cream with macerated strawberries. Such a simple dish, such complex flavors. The tart noir is chocolate ganache at its finest, nothing clouding it, nothing distracting. The pomegranate sabayon was creamy, only a hint of tartness and the tiny donut was chewy goodness – not too sweet – perfection. I loved dessert.
There were parts that were amazing: Tic Toc’s steak, Dovetail’s quail, Tic Toc’s tuna tartare, Dovetail’s dessert trio. Dovetail won hands down in the dessert category – which I suspected might happen since Ashley Dunn is such a talented pastry chef, but the overall meal that still resonates in my mind, nearly two weeks later, is Tic Toc’s New Year’s Eve meal. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by the talent of Executive Chef Doug Sanneman, Chef de Cuisine Brad Stevens, Sous Chef Dan Couch, Pastry Chef Ashley Dunn (all from Dovetail), and Executive Chef Julio Rosas (from Tic Toc). Chef Rosas, you did an amazing job and I’m so glad your wife Karen spoke up like she did. A most pleasant experience for which I thank you.
But the amazeballs night did not end there! After the (what I would consider) correctly portioned (for a night of drinking and carousing), delicious dinner at Dovetail, I walked over to Roasted to catch up with MagTard. The band hadn’t played in a while as members dealt with the things of life, like having babies and waiting for injuries to heal. You would expect them to be a little rusty, but they played the hell out of some rock and roll that night. All the voices were in fine form and it was so nice to be able to enjoy amazing music with so many people that I like. Col. Bruce played the Bird, and while I would have loved to have seen him, I realized that the enjoyment would have been dampened by the number of strangers who would have surrounded me. The music and the enjoyment was all the sweeter for my friends.
Then a stop by the Rookery right before midnight for a glass of champagne and to hang out with my friends behind the bar, whom I had not seen all night, which is weird because I love the bar at the Rookery and the bartenders that imbibe there. I continued to roam around downtown and ended the night amongst friends. I don’t remember the walk (or did I get a ride) home, but I got there safely and woke the next day happy. I hope that the start of your new year was as fun, as pleasant, and as filled with love as mine.