This is the latest in a series of pieces examining other countries' holiday food traditions, and their presence in Seattle.
According to JJ Proville, chef and co-owner of the newly open French restaurant, L’Oursin, the French celebrate New Year’s Eve by setting the table with luxury foods: oysters, foie gras, caviar, and undoubtedly champagne. Proville, a dual French/American citizen, recalls a family trip to the foie gras farm—not an uncommon outing for a young child growing up in France, he says—where he would chase chickens while his parents purchased the specialty duck liver and a few bottles of white wine. On New Year's Eve, whether out in the streets burning cars (another common occurrence, says Proville) or nestled inside by a non-vehicular fire, everyone in France will be drinking champagne.
In Seattle, foie gras farms are harder to come by, but Proville will indeed bring a taste of French tradition to the $99, six-course New Year’s Eve feast, or réveillon in French, at his Central District restaurant—in any case, there will be champagne. According to Proville, Seattleites have long been appreciative of truly French fare on this night: go to the Hotel Sorrento and peruse the New Years menus on the wall, he says (reportedly, the 1905 menu includes sweetbreads and foie gras).
L’Oursin marries nouvelle French cuisine and Northwest locavore priorities, and its réveillon feast will follow suit. The classic ingredients are present—foie gras and sweet breads make an appearance—but might not be the star of the meal. Find said foie gras, for instance, in an oxtail terrine. And this réveillon will begin not with oysters, but with a baguette slathered in seaweed butter and yellowtail jack with shaved radishes.
The part of the meal that will stay true to tradition? The pairings. According to Proville, the classic French-style pairings are not to be tampered with: Crispy veal sweetbreads with braised cabbage, apples, and calvados cream go hand in hand with cider. And that’s that.
At L'Oursin's feast, Proville and partner Zac Overman seek to elevate the French home tradition of réveillon for Seattle locals who “might not have access to 15 pounds of sea urchins coming in from the San Juan Islands” (and who might not make it to the foie gras farm this year). Plus, according to Proville, it’s a great excuse not to go downtown. Make your reservation to toast the New Year before the champagne runs dry.