I'm not exactly sure how it's already February and I'm just now posting pictures from our New Year's Eve dinner party! Somehow the year has gotten off to a busier start than I could have imagined, between writing assignments, travel, recipe testing, and cooking for various events. I just got back from a wonderful week in Nashville visiting family, but I hate that the blog has gotten a bit neglected in the process – I am vowing this month to get back into a regular post schedule!

New Year's Eve is one of those holidays that gets so hyped up, but this year all I wanted to do was sit around the yellow table with our close friends, eat great food, and toast each others' hopes and dreams for the year to come. And that's exactly what we did. The table was set, the candles were lit, a playlist was created, bottles of bubbly were put on ice (in a turkey roaster, actually -- it actually makes a great ice bucket!), and Brandon added an extension to our table so we could sit fifteen people (a minor miracle).

Makeshift bar on the buffet

Ladies in black: Candice and Chrissy

The yellow table set and ready to go

My lovely co-chefs, Lindsay and Sarah

This party would never come together so beautifully without the help of my lovely co-hostesses and dear friends Lindsay Tarquinio (private chef and founder of The Simple Delights) and Sarah Glover (baker extraordinaire and the surfer babe behind Bondi Bikkies). These talented chefs came with a slew of amazing treats to begin and end the meal--as well as a few practical items like extra wine glasses, chairs, and an extra-large pasta pot. (Thanks ladies!!) I can't say too much right now, but stay tuned for future collaborations with these two...!

Lindsay topping polenta rounds with mushroom ragout

Lindsay made the appetizers and they were ridiculous: homemade bread with homemade ricotta (yes, she makes her own ricotta!), arugula pesto, and roasted red pepper compote, plus an addictive spicy caramel popcorn, and little polenta rounds with a mushroom ragout. Swoon. For dessert, Sarah whipped up a beautiful white chocolate mousse with delicate Champagne reduction sauce, served in martini glasses and topped with raspberries and white chocolate bark. The presentation was gorgeous and sadly, I did not get a good picture of them. Alas. Along with dessert, Sarah brought us all Baci, little Italian chocolate hazelnut candies that come with inspirational quotes – sort of like the Italian version of fortune cookies. We all went around and attempted to read the quotes in Italian and our friend Gabe (who is Italian) translated what we said. Needless to say, it was absolutely hysterical.

For the main course, I wanted to make something cozy and family-style that I could let simmer for several hours before the party. I decided on a hearty lamb ragu inspired by a dish Chef Andrew Carmellini serves at Locanda Verde (one of my favorite restaurants, just for the record). I served it over pappardelle and, as he suggests, I topped the dish with fresh ricotta and chopped mint. For something green, I made a simple broccolini saute, with garlic and red pepper flakes.

Family-style lamb ragu with pappardelle (please excuse the not-so-great iPhone shot!)

After a few hours hanging out in the living room and enjoying appetizers and bubbly, we finally sat down at the table around 10 p.m. The night was magical. We shared stories, ate, laughed, toasted, and shared our hopes for the New Year. And of course read our Baci quotes. It was a fun group of people - some we'd known for years, some were new friends, and some were friends of friends that we just met that night. But by the end of the evening, everyone was like old friends. Once we rang in the New Year at midnight, everyone sat around the table drinking and talking until 2 a.m.! I truly cannot imagine a better way to begin a new year. Here's to many more epic dinner parties, new and old friendships, and dreams fulfilled in 2013.

Our dear friends Gabriele and Victoria

Most of all, I want to give a very special shout-out to my wonderful husband Brandon who helps me pull off these mammoth dinner parties in our 650-square foot apartment. I love you!!