Sure, you can go to the local tavern in boots and flannel to drink beer, eat peanuts, and sing "Auld Lang Syne" with your pals. But if you'd rather deck out in spectacular evening wear for New Year's Eve, many of Madison's finest restaurants are putting on ritzy dinners to anchor your evening and provide a stage to show off that finery.
Dinner at Liliana's will be a six-course meal, and that's not counting the seared scallop with lardon and honey-lavender balsamic amuse-bouche. For the appetizer, choose from Oysters Rockefeller or ahi with beet purée and wasabi mash. Caesar, spinach or duck confit with cranberries are the salad options; coq au vin, Arctic char, veal Bourguignon, grilled filet mignon or roasted pork tenderloin are tempting options for the main course (think on it well). Then there's dessert - perhaps a poached pear with crème anglaise, light and sugary enough to keep you on your toes through the wee hours.
Chef Tory Miller will be on hand at L'Etoile to prepare an undoubtedly sensational, seasonal three-course meal (with a vegetarian option available for each course); $85 per person, not including drinks or gratuity.
Ocean Grill will host a prix fixe menu that includes one appetizer, entree, dessert and champagne. Steak au poivre, wild Alaskan salmon with foie gras whipped potatoes and potato-crusted sea bass, and tea-scented chocolate tart are all on the unique-to-this-night menu. The package is $45 per person.
Prentice Berge of Restaurant Magnus promises "some very nice specials," and the Andreas Kapsalis Trio will play ($10 cover).
The Concourse Hotel, a classic Madison New Year's Eve destination for those who want to feel luxurious, will serve a five-course dinner in its Dayton Street Grille. Lobster bisque with caviar and shellfish, chanterelle mushroom soup with white beans and truffle butter, and hot and sour duck consommé are soup choices. Amazing-sounding salads include avocado and lobster mache with fresh mozzarella, and garam masala-spiced grilled quail with yogurt cucumber salad. The pasta course is also intriguing, showcasing blue crab ravioli with spicy lobster Creole sauce and herbed rabbit fricassee pasta. Butter-poached lobster-tail and crepe filled with hominy and smoked cheddar are both on the special menu. $75 per person.
Fresco will offer its regular dinner menu along with specially priced drinks from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.: $5 for select cocktails, wines by the glass and, of course, champagne.
Sardine will also host a champagne toast and hors d'oeuvres at midnight. With dinner reservations, these festivities are free. For just the band and party, it's $25 for an advance ticket or $30 at the door. The always excellent Tony Castañeda Latin Jazz Sextet will perform starting at 10 p.m.
At the pastoral Quivey's Grove, dinners served in the Stone House include steak tenderloin topped with king crab and béarnaise sauce, Steak Oscar served on garlic rosemary potato tart with fresh asparagus, and Gulf shrimp with ginger lime butter sauce. In the Stable Grill, more specials: grilled salmon filet with spicy lime and ginger butter, Black Angus boneless prime ribeye with mushroom jus, and grilled steer tenderloin medallions.
If you want to time-shift the event because it is just too stressful to go out on New Year's Eve, Fleming's is serving Wagyu beef filet with Australian lobster tail ($76) and Maine lobster with snow crab claws, shrimp, mussels and clams ($70) each night from Dec. 31 to Jan. 2.
Be fabulous, and drive safe.