Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Eve 2010 - An evening to catch up

This year Nick and I decided to take things easy on New Year's Eve.  Last year we did the ticket thing that bought us a buffet dinner and a single glass of champagne for a toast, but then you had to pay for all other drinks.  Basically, it was a lot of fun, but it ended up costing more money than we were anticipating.

This year one my oldest friends, Amanda, and her husband were coming into town from Virginia so we were put in charge of finding a place to have a good dinner where we could chat and catch up.  Of course we procrastinated a bit, so trying to make a reservation was a bit of a challenge.  Not only due to the short notice, but also we were very against a price fixed menu.  I always feel like the selections are never great (more so since I can be picky) and you always end up paying so much more.  Turns out, finding any restaurant that was NOT doing a price fixed menu on New Years Eve was difficult.  Ultimately, we (and by "we" I mean Nick) found Union Bar and Grille and although we had never been there, it had positive reviews.  Further it was a part of the same restaurant group as Aquitaine, which is great.

Unfortunately Amanda's husband got the flu, so it ended up being the three of us, but we had a great time!  The food and drink was great, and the restaurant was warm and inviting. 

Picture from Union's website

A couple of decorations...
For drinks, we decided to order cocktails rather than wine because their drink menu was fantastic!  Amanda got the French Standard.  Of course I cannot find the description online, but I know it had St. Germain.  It was good enough that we skipped wine altogether to order more.

French Standard
I got the Aloe, which was delicious!  It had vodka, aloe and white grape juices. 

The Aloe
It was really a light drink that masked the vodka flavor really well.  Something I would love to learn to make, but have no idea how to make it!  Nick of course got the dark and stormy.

Dark and Stormy
A dark and stormy is dark rum and ginger beer over ice.  This one was a bit strong, but again, delicious.   Union begins their meals with a cornbread that is nice and light.  It was delightful, but a bit filling given I wanted to indulge in the rest of my meal!  

Ms. Pac-man shaped cornbread
For appetizers, Amanda got the Ipswich Fried Clams (odd since Amanda is from Ipswich!).

Fried Clams
These were pretty good.  They had a nice crust to them, which I consider the most important part.  The great touch to this dish was the dipping sauce.  The menu only specified that it had "silly pickles," go figure!  I got the braised Berkshire pork belly with with celery root remoulade and mustard jus.   

The Pork Belly
The dish was really good - not too fatty as pork belly can sometimes be.  The sauce and celery added a nice contrast to the pork belly, a good complement to a strong main component.  Nick got the winning appetizer, the sweet corn risotto with fire roasted peppers, imported chorizo, and crispy sage.

The Sweet Corn Risotto
Everything about this dish was delicious.  The chorizo flavor was distinctive, but not overpowering.  Overall it tasted almost like corn bread batter that had surprising additions.  The consistency looked a bit suspect, but really it could not have been better.  This is a dish we would love to try to recreate at home but I think it may be difficult to make it taste as good.  Definitely would order this on the next visit.

For the main meal, Amanda got the black pearl salmon with brussels sprouts, toasted quinoa, and salsa verde. 

She really wanted a fish as we are on the coast - where she is in Virginia it just does not compare.  The dish did have brussel sprouts,  however the brussel sprouts are actually shaved very thinly on top of the quinoa.  I had never had quinoa before.  It has an interesting flavor, a nice grain alternative to a rice.  She also got the mashed potatoes, which were creamy.  Even though we were full, we could not stop.

Nick had the duck breast with pinot noir jus, cippolini onions, sugar pumpkin, and chestnut puree. 

The Duck
The dish was tasty and a good combination of flavors, but the duck was a little dry.  I ordered the winning main course, with the potato gnocchi with roasted mushrooms, truffle oil and spinach.

The gnocchi
The gnocchi was really light and the texture was fantastic.  I really could not get enough.  The truffle flavoring was present but in no way overshadowed the other aspects of the dish.  I wish I had more bread of some sort to mop up the juices at the bottom of the plate.  Everything about this dish was great and I would not hesitate to order it at my next visit to Union Bar and Grille.

We saved a little room for dessert and shared the pumpkin cheese cake with spiced pecans and a fig compote.  It had a nice flavor, however, in some bites it was a bit dry.  A little more whipped cream fixed that though!  Amanda and I both got an Irish coffee to finish up our dinner and needless to say that was a good touch.

Our reservations were not until 9 PM and we were at our table slowly moving through the courses until 11:45 PM.  At no point did our server rush us at all.  We really were able to chat and catch-up throughout the dinner, which was really the point!  After dinner we went to the bar that still had bit of room and grabbed a glass of champagne so we could properly ring in the New Year.  Union actually passed out some festive hats and horns, which did add a nice touch.  The TV was on in the bar so we watch the ball drop, making it officially New Years in my book. 

Overall it was a great New Years, though very different from past New Years we have had.  Really, just a nice meal with close friends - what else does a New Years Eve need?!?  Bring on 2011!

Union Bar and Grille on Urbanspoon


  1. Erica,
    Thank you for dining at Union and for the very kind post!
    I look forward to sharing your comments with our staff and linking your blog to our website.
    Enjoy the New Year!
    Jeffrey Gates
    Union Bar and Grille
    Aquitaine Group

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