Holidays, especially New Year's Eve, are generally thought of as a time of excess. Too much of a good thing as far as rich foods and alcohol. Arguments can occur, stomach pains and headaches abound, and waistband are far too tight the the next day.
Having experienced all of the above over past decade on New Year's Eve and Day, I really wanted to bring in 2009 with moderation. Something quiet and relaxing, with activities that would not have me waking up on January 1st with a hangover (which in my case translates into vilely nauseating migraine). We normally celebrate at our friend Billy's. Billy loves his food and wine and is an amazing cook with a superlative wine cellar. I am incapable of moderation at one of Billy's parties because there is just too much good stuff to try and I know we will be spending the night there, so why NOT have that extra glass of amazing Bordeaux or three? There's something about a party setting which removes my internal moderation censors.
This year Dave and I also had a tagalong on our trip to San Diego - Ghost, a small kitten destined for her new home with my sister in Venice Beach. Lisa always spends New Year's Eve at Billy's as well, so we decided it would be wiser to bring Ghost to our parents' in San Diego and then drop her off on our way back to San Francisco so Lisa would be there to monitor Ghost's integration into her household, which already includes two full grown felines. This decision made it easier to stick to our guns as far as skipping the food and wine fest; we would visit Billy and whoever was still visiting on our drive back up the coast (Billy lives in San Malo, a picturesque little community in between Carlsbad and Oceanside. It looks like a cross between Cabot's Cove and The Village in THE PRISONER.) and spend New Year's Eve with my best friend Maureen.
My folks dropped us off at Maureen's place in La Jolla, along with Ghost (who was becoming quite the well traveled little kitten). The plan was to have dinner somewhere near Mo's house and then have some wine at her house, one of a group of historic cottages on Ivanhoe Avenue. Maybe we'd watch a movie, maybe we'd just talk and play with the kitten. We would take a taxi back to my parents' house in Clairemont, above the Mission Bay Information Center. Low stress, low calorie and quiet. No hangovers, headaches, bad feelings or excess.
The fatal flaw to this plan was not apparent until after dinner. Mo, Dave and I went to Karl Strauss, a local brew pub/restaurant in La Jolla. Maureen got a turkey burger; Dave and I split a couple of appetizers, ahi poke and chicken quesadilla. It was happy hour prices and something light sounded perfect. Maureen suggested the garlic Parmesan fries so the three of us split a plate. Well, folks, they were yummy. Hot, crisp, dripping with Parmesan cheese and grated garlic. We made jokes about boosting our immune systems with all the garlic. An hour and two containers of leftovers later, we went back to Maureen's and settled in for the rest of the evening.
An hour and a half later, the overwhelming taste of garlic was still heavily apparent to all of us. We opened a bottle of Opolo Summit Zinfandel, a rich, jammy and spicy wine. It tasted like garlic. We watched Ghost tear around Maureen's cottage and burped garlic for another three hours. We were unable to get a taxi (I was on hold for 40 minutes), so my parents came back to pick us up around 10:30 (the only party animal that night was Ghost). Garlicky hugs were exchanged with Maureen, Ghost went back into her carrier and we got in my parents' van. My mom reeled from the odor of garlic; if they'd been vampires, we would have lost our ride home. I couldn't smell it from the outside, but from where I was sitting, garlic was my world. It was running through my bloodstream, the taste and smell firmly planted in my mouth and nostrils. Ugh.
Dave and I both brushed our teeth immediately when we arrived at my parents place. Didn't help. We ate some shrimp and toasted in the New Year with a modest half glass of Lucien Albrecht Cremant. It tasted like sparkling garlic. I woke up at 4am still revisiting those garlic fries and immediately brushed my teeth again. 8am, the New Year. Burp. Garlic.
I did not start 2009 with a headache, a hangover, a stomach ache or embarrassing recollections of alcohol fueled arguments. I just started it with bad breath.