Ring In The New

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. Virginia Woolf

A new year has dawned. After well upwards of fifty of these I confess I'm somewhat jaded by the whole fireworks and champagne popping, Dick Clark and Lady Gaga ball-dropping business. I approach New Year's Eve as a time for personal reflection and appreciation for all the good things the passing year brought. This year was no exception. I marked midnight with friends from around the world on Instagram and Twitter, followed up with a few "likes" and comments on Facebook, all while snug in my comfortable bed. 

This time last year, I was in Ohio visiting friends and family. New Year's Day dinner with BFF Kiki was a spectacular Thai feast from Bangkok City in Buckeye Lake, Ohio. Chef-owners Danny and Molly Armonyard are so welcoming and genuinely friendly, a visit to their place has become a must-do on every Ohio road-trip. 

I have fond memories of fishing at Buckeye Lake with grandma and grandpa, my sisters, mom and dad. We'd pack the trunk and make a day of it. What little patience I now possess I learned from my grandpa Lowe - sitting on the banks of Buckeye lake, learning to catch fish. To this day, I carry a fishing pole in the trunk of my car. I haven't been fishing in years. That's not why it's there. 

A lovely jaunt to Savannah in February brought friends and family (in this case Kristeena's family) closer together. The V-Jewels painted the town pink that weekend - and we're making plans to do it again in 2012, with a few new friends sprinkled in for more flavor. Forming close bonds with old friends and meeting (virtually and IRL) so many new friends as a result of social media - these are my most pleasant memories of 2011. 

The scent wafting out from the Choucroute Royale that will feature in tonight's New Year's "Good Luck Food" dinner at our new casa reminds me of a more sophisticated version of pork belly, field peas and greens I ate at the Augustine Grille at the Sawgrass Marriott in my adopted hometown of Ponte Vedra, Florida.  I was invited there last year, along with my friend Jodi from EatJax, for a Bite Club event  where we had the pleasure of meeting and dining with Scott and Denise Francis from Twinn Bridges Farm, and other local purveyors who toil so that we can still enjoy real food with little or no chemical adulteration. I still run into Scott and Denise at the Beaches Green Market on Saturdays when I make it out there. The pork belly dish took me back to countless walks to the butcher shop with my grandma Lowe, shopping for cuts of meat few people in the Lady Gaga generation have even heard of. Fatback, salt pork, chicken gizzards and livers - my grandma made use of all of them, and my mom has faithfully adhered to her methods through the years (although I can't recall the last time she purchased a chunk of salt pork).  

Several "meet the farmer" style events made 2011 a banner year for Slow Food on the First Coast.  There was also a spectacular "Meet the Winemaker" event at Salt - the flagship restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island, where I met and dined with Jed Steele of Steele Wines

The fish course at that meal had a savory lemon zabaione creme that had me wishing it was kosher to lick one's plate in polite society. I'm pretty sure I stabbed the waiter with a fork when he attempted to clear it before I could lap up the last of it. 

A special shout out is in order to Cari Sanchez-Potter of Cari-Vicarious - for all she's doing to nurture the local Slow Food movement. Expect great things from this one. Check out her recent mouthwatering culinary adventures in Spain on her blog.

We had a conversation about pork belly last night, mom and I. She didn't see the point of it. I don't see how it differs much from the aforementioned fat back, except that it comes from a different spot on the pig, so it gets less, um,  exercise during the pig's lifetime, which contributes to its melt-in-your-mouth tenderness - when properly cooked. 

I sense our friend Amie from The Veggie Bin cringing in disgust upon reading that. She's a recently reformed vegetarian, and still a little squeamish about our food-centric view of pigs, cows, delectable sea creatures and such. But we love her because she brings us all those fabulous boxes of veggies from our farming friends. 

Which brings me to my New Year's Resolutions. I only made two this year. One I carry over from year to year, and it is a reflection of where I've been and what I've done in my life. 

Enjoy Life - This is NOT a Dress Rehearsal.

The other is indicative of the dire shape my body is in due to all this excessive consumption, and it will be my philosophy for 2012: 

All Things - In Moderation. 

"I think it's time for you to start to seriously
consider salads."  ~ Tony Soprano
I plan to eat more fruits and veggies, incorporate more raw foods in my diet, and consume less fried things. Larger variety, smaller portions. STAY HYDRATED. That's a big one for me. 

I want to live a healthier life, but I don't see myself going on some dramatic food regime and obsessing over each choice, each ingredient, each pound. You won't be seeing any of those "wow - look how big my pants used to be, now I fit in one leg" kind of posts from me. 

Nor will I flood my Facebook feed with grass clipping and seaweed smoothie recipes, or videos on the dangers lurking in a can of Diet Coke or box of McDonald's French Fries. I like those things. I may, from time to time, consume them. Hopefully less often than in the past. All things in moderation. 

In 2012 I plan to focus on the things that nourish my inner beast - good friends, great food, art, nature, - and run the gamut from the grand passions to small observations about life and love that make me who I am. I hope you'll come along for the ride. Thanks for being part of my life. I wish you all the best in 2012.

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