New Year's Eve -- our poor palates have been waiting all year for this.
For the past 11 months and change, we've subjected ourselves to deep-fried, shallow-flavored, over-seasoned and uninspired dining. We've assaulted our food with aiolis, drowned it in dressings, wrapped it in dry tortillas, baked it atop dense dough, smothered it in sauces, hidden it under cheeses and blanketed it in bacon just to make it bearable.
But on New Year's Eve, we can bask in the great pleasure of eating amazing food. We can leave the Buffalo or ranch at the sports bars and dine like cultured human beings. We can turn over our trust and our taste buds to the experienced hands and adventurous minds of Anchorage's best chefs and sommeliers. They'll take good care of us. Ahhh ... finally.
Here are just a few of Anchorage's great New Year's Eve dining options.
You're going to wish New Year's Eve was a week-long celebration, or that you'd invited more dining companions, when you see the special five-course menu at Jens' Restaurant. You get to choose from seven appetizers (oysters, scallops, foie gras, oxtail ravioli among them), two soups (duck with black-eyed peas or vegan butternut squash) and four entrées (peppercorn crusted ahi tuni, grilled filet mignon with Oregon truffles, Alaska king crab over manicotti-stuffed shrimp and ricotta, vegan ancho-glazed roasted root vegetables), with all combinations landing at $85. Seatings are 6, 6:30, 7, 8:30, 9 and 9:30 p.m. Meals include salad and dessert, as well as a glass of champagne and pre-dinner amuse. Late guests get hats and favors for the midnight countdown.
Dining at the Marx Bros. Cafe is always a special occasion -- New Year's Eve goes to the next level. Hope you're hungry (four courses along with a warm-up, an intermezzo and a dessert) and ready to explore options like quail stuffed with forbidden rice pilaf or veal tenderloin stuffed with prosciutto de parma onion marmalade, zucchini crusted baked sea bass or a classic grilled tenderloin with many fine fixings. Even if you're full, you won't want the chocolate and vanilla torte dessert to end. The dinner is $95 for early seatings, $120 for late seatings and $40 for wine pairings. Seatings are available from 5:30-9:30 p.m. and the staff will make sure you have a glass of champagne and a limo ride to your next destination if you'd like it.
Celebrate in rarefied air with rarefied dining at the Crow's Nest Restaurant atop the Hotel Captain Cook. The five-course New Year's menu features a dream duo in the middle: the frutti di mare (Kodiak scallops with cauliflower and white truffle puree, along with crispy pancetta and sweet pea coulis) and a petit fillet of elk with a rosemary crust over taleggio cheese polenta. You'll remember the tiramisu for the whole year ahead. The meal is $115 or $175 with a wine pairing.
High altitude meets high class dining at Seven Glaciers in Girdwood. The New Year's Eve chef's tasting menu features a taste of caviar, some oysters, a brown butter trout, a Wagyu beef filet with a black-eyed pea cake and a mocha rocca torte for dessert. Your head will be in the clouds. The meal is $79; wine pairings are $50, and add some Dom Perignon bubbly for $45.
Chef Drew Johnson's Kincaid Grill staff always offers a fireworks feast. This year's six-course meal features all the stars: a king crab cake/oyster casino combo, Kodiak scallops in a wild mushroom soup, lobster risotto, classic beef filet entree, pear salad and a flourless chocolate cake to close the deal. Dinner is $85; add a wine pairing to each course for $40.
You'll probably feel weak in the knees after the appetizers at Sacks Café and Restaurant, whose chefs always go big on New Year's Eve. If you don't faint from pork belly or white prawn pleasure, continue along the four-course prix fixe menu to find four main entrée choices: king salmon with a horseradish dill crème, duck breast with spaghetti squash, beef tenderloin with porcini mushroom gnocchi or butternut squash and wild mushroom risotto. The meal is $75; ask about the wine pairing, if you're interested. Reservations available from 5:30-10 p.m.
Another year, another totally exciting, totally affordable New Year's Eve lineup at Kinley's Restaurant & Bar. This year's multicourse menu has two entrée choices that create a delicious dilemma: French butter-poached halibut cheeks with shallots over rice pilaf or grilled New York strip steak on a smoked bacon and mushroom red wine glace with truffled mashed potatoes and asparagus. It's a screaming deal: $60 per meal; add $30 for wine pairings.
It's easy to feel inspired, and hungry, at Muse in the Anchorage Museum. This year's four-course menu has an entrée choice of seared Pacific sturgeon with a fresh citrus salad or a grilled filet mignon topped with diced tomatoes, Danish blue cheese and balsamic reduction. Dinner is $75; add $40 for a wine pairing. Seating is 5-9 p.m.
Always cozy and friendly, Southside Bistro satisfies southsiders on New Year's Eve, as well, with a big-bang-for-your-buck meal. At $65 per person, the menu runs five courses deep and is highlighted by a rich prime filet Oscar smothered in snow crab and béarnaise sauce.
Downtown neighbors Orso and the Glacier BrewHouse are offering full dinner menus with New Year's Eve dinner specials. Orso's is a seven-ounce beef filet with Chianti peppercorn sauce and a petite North Atlantic lobster tail, served with creamy cambozola, au gratin potatoes and bistered garlic broccolini for $45.95. The BrewHouse's is a grilled steak in a rich brandy and mushroom sauce with Alaska sea scallops for $38.95. Both offer a house-made pistachio cheesecake slices and drink specials, with seating open from 4-11 p.m.
By Josh Niva
Daily News correspondent