For years, I boycotted New Year's Eve. Instead, I'd stay in, order Chinese takeout and watch the ball drop in Times Square. If I felt particularly decadent, I'd eat my food directly from the paper cartons.
If you haven't made plans for tonight, you might consider doing the same thing. Think of the advantages. You won't have to worry about reservations, dressing up or splurging on an overpriced wine.
I went back through the year in Eats to find the best places to visit for a New Year's feast to go. After putting the champagne on ice, all you have to do is call in your order early enough. Most of the restaurants listed close at 10 p.m. Here are my picks for tonight:
Black-eyed peas are supposed to bring good luck at New Year's. you'd like to increase your share, check out Micah's, a soul-food cafeteria on Reisters-town Road (410-764-7240). Be sure to get an order of golden fried lake trout, wrapped like a bouquet in a sheet of foil, and some chopped collard greens to go along.
If you're looking for a light meal, try the wonderful soups and salads at Ethel & Ramone's in Mount Washington (410-664-2971; closes at 8 p.m.), or the Italian-style chef's salad with fabulous house dressing at Tonino's in Reisterstown (410-833-2070). Add a pizza if you want something a little more substantial. Tonino's version has a wonderful, yeasty crust.
Gourmet takeout can be found at several places around town. Sascha's Daily, located downtown on Hamilton Street, offers crusty focaccia sandwiches, exotic salads and hot entrees to go (410-659-7606). Today it'll close at 2 p.m., so swing by early.
Over in Federal Hill, Sobo Cafe turns out polished, enticing meals for under $10 (410-752-1518). If you're looking for a comforting winter meal, try the homey chicken potpie with chunks of potatoes and vegetables, or the airy-light spinach pie.
Ordering food to go is no problem at the Tavern at Centre Park in Columbia, which has a dedicated carryout counter (410-884-7001). Southwestern crab cakes, fusilli marinara and assorted sandwich wraps are some popular items at the counter, but anything on the regular menu can be wrapped for carryout as well.
Crab cakes may be Baltimore's favorite festive food. For some of the biggest crab cakes you'll ever set a fork to, take a drive to the takeout counter at G & M in Linthicum (410-636-1777). Moist and eggy-tasting, these giant crab cakes are studded with jumbo lumps.
Making a meal of appetizers is a particularly fun way to eat, especially at home.
At the Greek restaurant Samos in Highlandtown, you might want to pick up some crispy fried calamari, garlic shrimp, orange-flavored sausages and creamy taramasalata (the classic fish-roe dip). Think of it as the Greek alternative to caviar on New Year's Eve. Call early, though (410-675-5292). It closes at 2 p.m.
Middle Eastern appetizers also make a great spread. The unassuming Mediterranean Palace on York Road turns out some of the best sesame-studded falafel in Baltimore (410-532-6677).
Order some to go along with the Mediterranean sampler. It includes baba ghannouj (roasted eggplant spread), hummus (a dip of ground chickpeas), tangy stuffed grape leaves, a small mixed salad and pita wedges for dipping.
The Mexican chicken mole at El Azteca in Clarksville is worthy of a New Year's celebration (410-531-3001). The thick mahogany sauce gets its complex, intriguing flavor from a mix of chocolate, chilies and seeds that the owners import from Mexico. Portions are large at this family-run restaurant, and the dishes it serves are authentic.
Just thinking of refried beans, though, brings to mind my annual New Year's resolution. Yup, those same 10 pounds. If losing weight heads your resolution list, too, you might want to call Olive and Sesame in Pikesville (410-484-7787). Its "revolution diet" dishes are cooked in a bamboo steamer with the sauces served on the side.
The chicken with spicy orange sauce features a gorgeous mix of fresh vegetables, and less than 300 calories.
Pub Date: 12/31/98