Ringing in the New Year

An executive chef shares some secrets on the luckiest foods to eat when the clock strikes midnight.

Lizbeth Scordo Current Digital, Restaurants

There’s no better way to celebrate the new year than with a few lucky foodie traditions — champagne toast, anyone? — of your own. Turn the page for some of your best bets.

Whether you’re a social butterfly, a homebody, or fall somewhere in between, New Year’s Eve is always an excuse to celebrate — and one of the best ways to do so is with a fabulous, special-occasion dinner.

There are myriad dishes and ingredients steeped in New Year’s Eve history, symbolism, and tradition that have been said to bring you everything from good luck to big money in the coming year.

We turned to Executive Chef Kieran Fleming of The Steakhouse at Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs for some tips on what to eat this New Year’s Eve and how to ensure the last night of the year becomes your favorite foodie holiday.


Executive Chef Kiernan Fleming



1. Eat for a Long Life

In China, birthdays and Chinese New Year celebrations often include noodle dishes since they are believed to signify a long life. “And the longer they are, the better,” Fleming says. (Bonus: If you happen to be hitting up The Steakhouse, you can order the Jumbo Shrimp Scampi that comes served over lusciously long linguine noodles.) Other parts of the world also look to certain foods for their longevity symbolism. In Germany, for example, it’s sauerkraut. “The long strands of cabbage in the sauerkraut represent long life,” Fleming explains. “Traditionally it would take six to eight weeks after harvest for the cabbage to ferment and turn into sauerkraut, so it is ready to eat right around the end of the year.”



2. Eat for Wealth

“Many consider dishes with greens in them to be lucky since the green represents money,” Fleming notes. This one’s easy to incorporate with salads or emerald-colored sides such as collard greens, asparagus, bok choy, or Brussels sprouts. While the greens represent the crisp paper dollar bill, one of the most famous ingredients linked to the new year — black-eyed peas — actually represent bountiful coins. “It’s a humble food meant to bring good fortune,” Fleming explains.



Eat for Progress

“A lot of people say you should eat pork around the new year; the way a pig is always moving forward with his snout and pushing forward and never going backward is symbolic of moving forward in your life,” Fleming adds. Others insist that the richness of the pork relates back to money. Either way, ordering pork medallions over a bed of spinach could be the way to go for both prosperity and progress.



Try Something Special

It is New Year’s Eve, after all. The Steakhouse offers multicourse menus featuring some of the restaurant’s most popular — and decadent — dishes. Fleming says he encourages diners to try something new, or at least something they most likely wouldn’t make at home. “A lot of couples come in so we try to have a shared option like a chateaubriand for two, something they might not normally be able to indulge in.” It’s also an evening when many revelers upgrade their steaks with one of the menu’s enhancements, from king crab legs (the chef’s fave) to the “Oscar style” option, which tops any steak with crab, asparagus, and both the housemade béarnaise and bordelaise sauces. “I enjoy being here on New Year’s Eve because there’s a lot of energy,” he says. “I love seeing everyone having a good time.”

Pop, Fizz, Clink
Choose the best bubbly 
for your NYE meal.

Know the difference between sparkling wine and Champagne.
Most of us use the word “Champagne” loosely, but only sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France can accurately be labeled as such. “Just by having the name Champagne, you’re going to pay more money for it,” says The Steakhouse General Manager Jane Benjamin. “But sparkling wine from other regions can be just as good.” For a top domestic choice, Benjamin suggests a bottle straight from Napa Valley’s Schramsberg Vineyards. “They’ve been producing since the 1800s, and it happens to be my favorite California sparkling wine. I totally enjoy it.



Keep style in mind.

Brush up on terms like brut, extra-dry, and demi-sec so you can choose a glass that pairs best with your tastes and your dish. “Those all give you an idea of how much residual sugar is left in the sparkling wine,” Benjamin explains. “If you like it really dry, you should go for a brut. If you’re having it with dessert, a demi-sec would be lovely. When you’re pairing with food, you want to keep the sweetness levels of the food and the drink similar.”

Think pink.

If you and your dining partners are ordering different dishes and you’re not sure which bubbly to buy for the group, you can’t go wrong with a sparkling rosé. “Honestly, everything pairs with rosé because it retains that really nice crisp acidity while having a little more complex flavor. You could have it with filet mignon or with shrimp cocktail or even with egg dishes. Sparkling rosé is the most versatile ‘Champagne’ there is.”

Go international.

Since Spanish cavas are made with Spanish grapes, they have an earthier flavor to them than French Champagnes or American sparklers. “They pair very well with savory, salty, smoky foods and also nicely with Chinese food,” Benjamin says. Proseccos from Italy, meanwhile, are lighter with a touch of sweetness. “Those are great for a picnic or brunch. They’re typically lower in alcohol, so they’re a great daytime drink.” Just in case your New Year’s Eve celebration extends into New Year’s Day.

This story originally appeared in MeYah Whae, The Magazine of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Fall/Winter 2018-19. To read the current digital edition, click HERE.