It's the day to get ready for the biggest and most exciting parties of the year! For you, I hope.
For us, it's time to go to Wulf's fish market, in Brookline, one of the few locally owned fish markets, whose new owners have kept up the tradition that the original owners in the heart of the Jewish community did. Or to Courthouse Fish, a family-owned Portuguese market, or New Deal, an East Cambridge market. All of them have very good service, and will I hope have something locally caught (New Deal is particularly good on this) that we haven't tried before.
UPDATE: We found fresh Gulf shrimp on a 50%-off sale and bought a pound--partly out of love of a bargain, partly because peeling the shrimp from the shells will be festive, and mostly out of loyalty to Gulf seafood, which needs, and deserves, all the help it can get, as we saw for ourselves on a mid-month trip to New Orleans I'll be writing about soon, following in Dave Thier's footsteps. If you find Gulf seafood--buy it! And ask for it at restaurants.
And, of course, to buy something sparkling for a toast in front of whatever's in the Netflix queue. That isn't Champagne. I long ago lost my taste for all but the most expensive kinds, like Salon, which I note starts at $250 a bottle, at least in a short Google Shopping search. But so much other sparkling wine is worth drinking and almost as enjoyable, as Chantal Martineau invaluably points out in her very useful piece today.
She leads with cava, which I fell in like with enough years ago that the piece I wrote about it after visiting producers around Barcelona doesn't appear in our online archive; the one I recommended and still do is Seguras Viudas Reserva Heredad, which has gotten sufficiently expensive (about $20 a bottle) that it's no longer an easy choice for a huge crowd. But it has a very full body, and the heft people sometimes complain of missing when they step away from Champagne to, say, Prosecco, another easy and to-me-better alternative--partly because, as Martineau points out, other wines don't have the heavy liqueur-syrup dosage most Champagnes do. (Like me, she prefers Brut Nature Champagnes, which are sans dosage.)
I'll probably go with my default choice, moscato d'Asti, which I love for its concentrated grape flavor, low alcohol level comparable to beer (so you can have a little or a lot), and a pure, delicious sweetness I never find cloying. It's hard not to love moscato d'asti, though it's too sweet to pair with almost anything. And I do love sugar. Watch out not to buy a fortified surrogate; real moscato has no dosage at all, and an alcohol level generally below 7 percent. Ceretto makes a completely reliable one, in a taffy-stretched bottle straight out of the late 1960s, but it's worth trying whatever real moscato d'Asti you can find.
I'm mightily tempted by Martineau's description of sparkling Riesling, as Riesling is my own default food-friendly grape, and it's been forever since I've had Cremant d'Alsace, which she says
can be stony and bracingly crisp at once. The organic Albert Mann is a 50-50 blend of Pinot Blanc and Riesling that retails for about $22. It's zesty and fruity, rich yet refreshing, whether on its own or with samosas (pairing Alsatian wines with Southeast Asian food has become so widespread that it too by now has become a cliché). A friend in the wine business once told me she liked to serve the Albert Mann to fool her friends, who might mistake it for Champagne.
Doesn't that mean you have to try it tonight, whatever else you're pouring? I'm off in search of Albert Mann.
UPDATE: We found Albert Boxler Cremant d'Alsace, a respected vineyard in the sehr Alsatian-sounding village of Neidermorschwihr, which is run by Jean Boxler, grandson of Albert, who though only in his mid-30s has made a name for his Rieslings. And for moscato we found one from Saracco, a Piedmont vineyard whose wines I've found just okay and so passed up, opting instead for one from Aldo Vajra (the vineyard is G. D. Vajra), whose moscato I've never tried though I do know his barolo. All this at the terrific new Cambridge wine shop Central Bottle, which was using its once-a-week bar license to serve glasses of five mostly Italian sparklers, list here, with Island Creek oysters, my new local love, at the bargain price of $1 apiece.
And tomorrow, if I'm recovered, will spend New Year's Day writing the recap of the sparklingly cold, and blessedly snowless, few days in Toronto we've just arrived back from. One of my favorite cities I never tire of, and with a couple of great new, for us, discoveries that are the ideal way to start the new year. Happy New Year's Eve, and Day, to you!