Auld Lang Syne
Toasting farewell to 2022 at Café Dupont, on New Year’s Eve
By Jan Walsh
Every New Year’s Eve we plan dinner at a favorite restaurant, reserving our favorite table. Typically, the choice is not an easy one. Yet this year, with Café Dupont back as a Member of Birmingham Restaurants (under the leadership of Owners, Chris and Angela Evans), the choice is apparent.
After valeting our car, we are greeted at the hostess stand. “Happy New Year, friends. You know the way to your table,” as we are led there. Seated at our candlelit corner window table, Chris, who is also executive chef, stops by to not only greet us but also takes time to catch up.
As we are ready to order bubbly, our server shares some special bottles of Dom Perignon 2012 on hand for the occasion. Nice! Yet we order our favorite California sparkler, from our dear friend Hugh Davies because old acquaintances should not “be forgot.” So, we toast the impending New Year 2023, and drink a flute of kindness “for the sake of auld lang syne.”
Tonight’s 4-course New Year’s Eve Menu offers several options for each course along with tasty bites of amuse-bouche along the way. Kev starts with Lobster Bisque, and I opt for the Baked La Bonne Vie Brie En Croute. The thick, creamy, and beautiful bisque is topped with a crunchy Gulf Shrimp toast, and encircled with dollops of crème fraiche, and boasts deep, dimensional flavors of buttery lobster throughout. One side of my plate is built from a bed of local, Eastaboga Honey. Atop this slathering of sweet nectar rises a crisp, golden crust encasing the warm, gooey French cheese. Crowned with Terra Preta Microgreens, and served alongside is a marvelous cranberry pecan chutney, this dish has it all! Crustiness, creaminess, fruitiness, nuttiness, and sweetness… I was previously wowed by Café Dupont’s cheese platter, but this dish is a double wow!
For our second course, Kev selects the salad, and I have the duck course. For a man who rarely orders a salad, he is delighted with his choice, of Belgium Endive Salad, describing it as, “Outstanding, more than a salad, has substance, and should be a 50 Favorites.” This colorful array consists of a dazzling and delicious compressed Fuji Apple, tender and sweet sous vide beets, tasty prosciutto roll ups, along with shaved fennel and endive in an apple cider vinaigrette, rounded out by candied pecans. Kev is as surprised to see me order duck because I am not always a fan, unless it is perfectly prepared… I explain that Chef Chris impressed me last time with his seared foie gras, tempting me for more. Good things often come in threes. Trio of Duck Confit, Smoked Duck Breast, and Foie Gras Terrine are a synthesis of ducky deliciousness, with each one as divine as the other. And the American South meets France in the accompanying Sweet Cornmeal Madeleines.
For our third course, Kev is turf, with his substantial Smoked Prime Beef Ribeye, cooked to order. A pat of black garlic butter tops this tender, juicy steak, in which the smoky beefiness shines through. Crispy onions, a classic potato gratin so good that he insisted I taste it, and sauteed haricot verts complete this course. My surf is Pan Seared Large Sea Scallops. The succulent scallops float on a red sea of smashing sauce beurre rouge. And a towering stone ground grit cake, bursting with corn flavor and gritty textures, makes this dish a meal.
The obvious choice for dessert is Classic Café Dupont Beignets, which we order and pair with glasses of Croft Reserve Tawny Porto NV. The beignets here are consistently the best, and in our opinion, even better than Café du Monde. These French fritters are served warm, oversized, and golden on the outside, generously sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. And sinking our teeth into the beignets, they are light, billowy, and moist inside. This masterpiece of Angela’s is always a must! And they seal the deal that Café Dupont was the perfect choice for NYE.
Our car is waiting in the drive as we depart, and head home, where we sip Champagne and watch a fabulous fireworks show from our keeping room windows. This final gift of 2022 is a tradition, hosted by unknown neighbor across the ridge. And as the clocks strike midnight, we toast 2023 and enjoy our favorite renditions of Auld Lang Syne. Happy New Year!
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