For December 24, we did the usual Julebord at Aquevit (we don't celebrate Christmas, but do occasionally celebrate Yule, and have habitually attended the Dec 24 Julebord for the last 10 years or so with a gathering of friends who were doing it for longer). It's a very traditionally Scandanavian Julebord -- a buffet with 9+ preparations of pickled herring, various kinds of preserved salmon, cheeses, a small selection of traditional scandanavian hot foods (Janeson's temptation, sweedish meatballs, ribs, a roast meat), venison, and a shameless selection of deserts.
Every year over the past few, people have complained about how the board was getting worse -- not bad eough not to do it next year, but enough that it was noticably worse than the glory days when the group first did it. Not this year, though -- apparently, the old head chef of the resturuant has retired, and this year the new head chef (formerly the desert chef for Aquevit) was in charge of the whole board. She changed some things -- specifically, she went almost entirely to smaller portions, but more variety (except for the rollmops; a herring preparation that by necessity can't really be shrunk), which everyone really appreciated, and the much greater variety in foods on offer couldn't but be appreciated by the crowd. As it happens, when I asked about the changes, she was standing and looking at people taking from the buffet, so I went over and contratulated/praised her -- and later, she went over and greeted our table (and got praise and congratulations from the table, which contained Lisa and I, who have been doing this for about a decade, Rich and Anne, who have done it maybe 2-5 times before, two new attendees, and Stephen Tihor and his wife, Kate (Kate's only done it maybe two times before, since before that she had to work Christmas eve as nurses don't get a lot of rest; we went over after the meal a few times to visit and comminsurate with her; Stephen has been there the entire time, of course, maybe 15+ times in all if not more).
For New Years eve, we went to our now traditional party, and I prepared a honey apply Tiramisu (with no coffee or alcohol). The party was a bit lower keyed than it's been in the past; there was a lower invite list than usual, and enough friends that don't see one another often that we mostly talked rather than playing games (I did get a few rounds of Code Words in, though; a game that's been going around where in each round, one person on each side takes the role of the spy master -- who tries to guide their team to select the words which represent the team's agents while avoiding opposing agents, innocent bystanders, and, worst of all (and triggering an instant round loss) the assassin -- using a single word and a number each turn as their only communication to their teams). Probably just as well, given that at a party by the same hosts a few months ago, the game playing turned to disaster, as someone left an open container of punch on the table right next to a large, long, cardboard-chit filled, and expensive game--which I proceeded to knock over on my way back in onto the game midway through. Not an experience I wish to repeat (and which, combined with a play-through of the new Dominion expansion a few months later which also occasioned a spilled drink, made me much more willing to enforce a "no open containers of liquid near the games" rule in general when I play. I wasn't all that pleased by the apple honey tiramisu -- I added some cinnamon on top which I thought overpowered the more subtle apple and honey flavors, and it didn't really have enough time before serving for the cookies to reach a proper moist consistency (I prepared it early afternoon, and hoped the two hours in the fridge after we arrived would be enough to put it over the edge)--plus I regretted not putting more of the homemade apple sauce (chopped, but not peeled gala apples, stewed for an hour or two while doing the other preparations, with just a touch of honey put into the mix, and then boiled almost to the point of the liquid boiling out, and slightly mashed after softening) into the dish rather than just using it as the dipping sauce for the lady fingers--but most of the tray was still gone by the time we left, so clearly not everyone agreed with me.
New Years day, we went (as we have for the last 2-3 years, I think) to the Neilsen Hayden's party--bringing a new apple tiramisu that repaired all the flaws I had with the first one (honey on top, not cinnamon, prepared the night before, the entire remainder of the apple sauce used to dip and flavor the ladyfingers and the remainder used as a layer on its own), as well as a more traditional tiramisu with kaluha, fresh coffee, and cocoa, which got praise from, of all people, Ellen Datlow. It was a lot of fun, with munches and conversations with both close friends and people in the publishing industry (and sometimes people who are both, like Moshe Feder).
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