May 23, 2024


Free For All Food

Local foods to ring in the new year, kick out 2020

Many traditions surround the holidays but those you can eat are most cherished. Edible tokens of gratitude and hope are prominent at New Year’s, whether enjoyed with a glass of champagne as the clock edges closer to midnight or the next day, in post-revelry stupor. Yep – food is the key to the kingdom of celebration and in a year when family is scattered and friends cannot be gathered as we all attempt to stay safe and keep a global pandemic at bay, we can still take pleasure in ordering takeout and watching the ball drop in our pajamas.

The food enjoyed should be thoughtful and reflective of the season of hope. Cultures around the world have placed meaning on certain recipes, whether as a symbol of good health or monetary prosperity for the year to come. In culinary terms, 2020 was a cheese souffle that bubbled over in the oven, caused flames to erupt and sent every smoke alarm in the house into a frenzy before we placed it on a trivet, watched as it sank in upon itself… and then we still stuck our fork in to have a taste, only to burn the tops of our mouths! Let us raise a glass to 2021 and envision the year as a towering, perfectly moist layer cake filled with custards and jellies and creams, decorated with gilded accoutrements as a reward for making it through the longest year of our lives. Don’t be the idiot that burns the house down with too many candles placed atop.

Below, our suggestions for ordering takeout on New Year’s Eve and a history lesson on why those foods are linked to the start of a new year. Happy New Year’s — we hope you savor every bite.

Deanna Fox is a food and agriculture journalist. @DeannaNFox 

Many items fall under the umbrella of “dumpling,” including pierogi, ravioli, samosas, empanadas and more. But for the new year, Asian dumplings are symbolic of purses of coins that hold the treasures to come and also resemble ancient ingots once used as currency. Each filling for the dumplings represents a form of affluence (especially green vegetables like celery, leek and cabbage) so choose your New Years dumplings wisely!

Where to buy
78 Beekman St., Saratoga Springs
Bacon-wrapped, chicken and leek or vegetarian dumplings available

A La Shanghai
468 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham
A variety of Chinese dim sum, including steamed and fried versions and soup dumplings

Son of Egg
418 Madison Ave., Albany
Traditional Korean vegetable (vegan) dumplings or choose a beef option with Thousand Island dressing.

Noodles are consumed around New Year’s to signify hopes for longevity. The longer the noodle, the longer the life. Here, think soba and spaghetti, not ditalini and penne. Bowls of noodles on New Year’s are a common practice in Asian cultures, but do not hesitate to enjoy a big bowl of spaghetti with meatballs (bonus if they are pork meatballs; see more about pork later in the story) or a cold noodle salad for New Year’s Day brunch. Be sure not to cut your noodles; slurp them up from the bowl if necessary to preserve their length.

Where to buy
A Bite Of Xian
1 14th Street, Troy
A bevy of noodle dishes to enjoy, including biang biang and dan dan noodles and shredded pork and pickle noodle soup.

Grappa 72
818 Central Ave., Albany
Look for dishes with long noodles, like spaghetti Amatriciana or the Mediterraneo or vongole offerings, which include shrimp or clams, as fish is a symbol of prosperity at New Year’s.

51 Main Street, Wynantskill
Thailand is known for its use of noodles in many dishes, but for true Thai flavor, go beyond pad Thai and try kao soi, a northern Thailand specialty.

Those large, flat leaves of green cabbage that sell for cents on the pound in every local market stand in for cold hard cash on the holiday table. While cabbage might seem ubiquitous and anything but special, its continuity makes it a cherished inclusion for New Year’s. Besides the resemblance to money, the long strands of cabbage used in kimchi and sauerkraut are meant to represent long life – like with noodles. The process of fermenting the cabbage from the fall harvest usually takes nearly two months, making it ready just in time for New Year’s.

Where to buy
Taiwan Noodle
218 Central Ave., Albany
Don’t let the simplicity of the menu name “preserved cabbage” fool you. This item is rich and complex and worth a starring role on your New Year’s plate.

Saati Deli and Catering
Newton Plaza, 586 New Loudon Road, Latham
We’re not really sure why Saati’s coleslaw is superior to all others. All we know is that we can eat it by the pound. It provides a nice, crisp texture and taste to otherwise heavy winter meals.

Euro Deli
231 Wade Road Ext., Latham
The stuffed cabbage at Euro Deli tastes like something a Polish grandmother would spend hours making to perfection, but don’t forget to order a quart of bigos, the traditional cabbage stew, while you’re there.

Like cabbage, greens symbolize money. Some cultures in the American South also say that the color green keeps evil spirits at bay and hang a leaf of collard or mustard greens, spinach, kale or whatever the prominent vegetal version of the region is near doorways to keep good energy flowing through the new year. Many recipes for stewed greens also include pork or black-eyed peas (two other traditional foods for New Year’s) but greens on their own work just fine.

Where to buy
Kitchen 216
85 Central Ave., Albany
Collard greens are popular here, but the braised cabbage and black eyed peas are worth ordering, too.

The Health Bar
22 Clifton Country Road, Suite 79A, Clifton Park
Detoxing from December’s gluttony is top of mind come January. Get a head start on a return to health with any of the salads from this juice, smoothie and bowls establishment in the heart of Clifton Park.

Hattie’s Chicken Shack
3057 Route 50, Wilton Plaza, Saratoga Springs
Hattie’s flagship location on Phila Street is closed for the moment, but the fast-casual Chicken Shack keeps the region flush in stewed collard greens.


Whereas greens and cabbage represent money based on appearance, other traditional New Year’s foods are included in the holiday simply because of convenience and availability. Harvesting pork is traditionally done in late fall or winter and many cultures use the occasion as a time to gather neighbors and kin to feast from the offering of the pig. Holiday hams are popular at Christmas and signal a prosperous year: if you were able to afford and slaughter a pig, you were doing alright by most standards. Pork on the New Year’s table is an emblem of wealth and abundance.

Where to buy

Wagon Train BBQ
671 Mariaville Road, Schenectady
Pulled pork and smoked sausages are hard to complain about. Wagon Train BBQ does it right, but most barbecue places in the region will offer up pork suitable for New Year’s eating.

42 N. Jay St., Schenectady
An Italian mix sandwich is like a “best of” compilation for cured pork: capicola, prosciutto, sopressata and more.

Rolf’s Pork Store
70 Lexington Ave., Albany
An Albany institution, Rolf’s is the go-to when it comes to pork. Order a full ham or stop in for smoked hocks to simmer along with your greens and cabbage.

Italian culture is rich with symbolism, and the shape and color of lentils resembles coins – especially Italian lira — made serving lentils a common practice in Italy for New Year’s. The tradition was brought  ashore to the U.S. with Italian immigrants, but lentils are easier found today in our region’s hearty Middle Eastern and Indian subcontinent eateries.

Where to buy
Bountiful Bread
Stuyvesant Plaza, 1475 Western Ave., Albany
The coconut curry lentil bowl combines grains, lentils and vegetables with an addictively good coconut curry sauce that works as a side or as its own meal.

Cart and Cafe
346 Columbia Turnpike, Rensselaer
Whatever your lentil needs, Cart and Cafe probably has it, from idly and methy vada to dal tadka.

Sheba Al-Yemen
340 Central Ave., Albany
Lentil soup is a winter warmer that has variations across cultures, but Sheba Al-Yemen does it right at a bargain price.