Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

A Beethoven Bon Enkai

About five years ago, Mark Kent, one of my oldest and dearest friends, gave me a boxed CD collection of all nine of Beethoven's symphonies. Mark is a newspaper editor for the Mobile Register in my hometown. In fact, that's where we met 30 years ago. I was just out of high school, working my first job as a typist in the Classified Department. My desk had a view of the lobby through a glass divider, and every afternoon about 3:00, Mark Kent would come riding into the lobby on his ten-speed bicycle and carry it up three flights of stairs to his desk, where he worked as a night reporter in the news department. Over time and a mutual love of music, we became friends, and soon after I moved to California, Mark began making annual sightseeing trips across the country in the late summer, with my house in the Napa Valley being the turnaround point at which he headed home to Mobile via Los Angeles.

The year that Mark gave me the boxed set of Beethoven symphonies, he raved about the exhilarating experience of listening to all nine of them in a row on the long stretches of highway between Alabama and California. So, a few months later, on New Year's Eve, my son Will and I decided to give it a try. We calculated the length of each symphony, added them all up and discovered that if we began with Beethoven's First at about 6:00 p.m., Beethoven's Ninth would finish just after midnight. That evening, as we listened to all that glorious music, Will and I made a gourmet dinner of Roast Duck with Wild Rice and Haricots Vert. It was heavenly and has since become an annual New Year's Eve tradition for the two of us.

As a caricature artist and entertainer, naturally Rene always works on New Year's Eve. He's been working the same gig for several years now: an alcohol-free gathering at a community center here in Napa. He always finishes at 11:30, just in time to arrive at my place for a kiss and a glass of champagne at midnight. And, of course, I always have a portion of our gourmet dinner warm and waiting for him.

Here's the menu I have planned for my Annual New Year's Eve Gourmet Beethoven Dinner:

Appetizers: Puff Pastries filled with Bleu Cheese & Bacon; and Crab Croquettes with Lemon Caper Pimiento Mayonnaise

Soup: Creamy Potato Leek Vichysoisse

Salad: Mixed Baby Greens and Watercress with Maguro Sashimi, Daikon Radish and Wasabi Vinaigrette

Main Course: Grilled Petite Filet Mignon, Shrimp & Scallop Brochettes, Spinach and Mushroom Tart; Steamed Yams with Honey Butter; and a Sauteed Vegetable Medley

Dessert: Chocolate Coconut Pastry with Butterscotch Ice Cream

And...we'll be enjoying it on the first night in our new home. We've moved to a lovely Victorian duplex, just four blocks from where we used to live.

Here's wishing all our ThingsAsian readers a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!