Well, the posts are a little out of order, but I promise we completed these things on the proper timeline! We kicked off our 2019 of posts with a write-up of our amazing Spork cheese dinner, but we kicked off our *actual* 2019 with a visit to First Night downtown. It’s a tradition for us, and we would love to share some of the excitement that happened that set this year’s celebration apart from the rest.
There *are* some things we do the same way every year. The first is to start the night with a Cosmopolitan at August Henry’s. It’s not really New Year’s Eve until we have one of these in front of us.
And we do enjoy visiting favorite restaurants for our big NYE dinner. We were long-time visitors to Sonoma Grille, but when it closed in 2017, we had to change our game. Our new NYE tradition is to have an early-bird dinner at Nine On Nine.*
A very decadent and delicious dinner, that is. Nine On Nine’s chef compiles a wonderful prix fixe menu with three different options for each course (and it was really hard to narrow the options down this year, so we kind of considered pretending we had a third person with us, so we didn’t miss anything delicious).
There is also the option to add on a wine pairing for each course, and we knew we couldn’t pass up that opportunity. (That’s a delightful pinot noir that Husband is enjoying with his creamy mushroom risotto.)
The evening started out cold and rainy, so I jumped on the opportunity to have the creamy crab bisque. (I almost managed to not share this with Husband, but I think he snuck a few bites when I wasn’t looking.)
For the main course, Husband got the pan seared duck breast (I think mostly because he knows I’m not a huge fan of duck and he could keep it all to himself). Not only did it look beautiful on the plate, but even I, a non-duck-fan, thought the flavor was quite good.
After dinner ended, it was time to head out into the night. However, this night was going to bring us something more magical than any First Night that had come before it. You see, I have spent many years of my life working towards a very specific goal. I have tried to achieve this goal during several First Nights, in fact, as well as a few times each summer, and some other times in between. This goal, is to finally see the River City Brass Band perform.
We even had tickets to see them a few years back, but dinner ran an hour late! Once, we were supposed to see them at Hartwood Acres, but it rained. And I was stuck working the morning they were performing at Bach, Beethoven, and Brunch. But this New Year’s Eve, I could sense the time had finally come. We were going to find the River City Brass Band. So as dinner wound down, we began our quest on the streets of Pittsburgh.
First, we came across these incredibly creepy puppets. They were in the children’s tent area of First Night, and I have to say, I’m glad that kids are still being terrified of things just like we were back in the 1980s. (Which, as a point of reference, was the last decade when I actually got to see the River City Brass Band perform live.)
I had a hot tip from an article online that the River City Brass Band was playing at 630pm at Fifth Avenue Place, so we zipped right over there! Only to discover that the article was from like 2014. BUT! All was not lost – the Center for Creative Reuse was at Fifth Avenue Place with arts and crafts for us!
I made this really adorable snowman!! My handstitching after a wine tasting menu is maybe not my best work BUT I still think it’s really cute. I named him River City, after the brass band of the same name.
I got some hot intel (from a .pdf document I looked up on my phone that was actually for the correct First Night celebration) that the River City Brass Band would be playing around 8pm. Across downtown. So we rushed out of Market Square, planning to run all the way to the Steel Building. But then. The parade was happening! We’ve never missed the parade!
And the parade has EVERYTHING.
Everything except the River City Brass Band.
I knew I had to focus. As the parade ended, I grabbed Husband’s hand and dragged him toward the Cultural District. Nothing could distract me.
And then. There, in that really nice old church where we used to sometimes see the bagpipers on First Night, there they were.
The River City Brass Band.
Basically that was the best moment of 2018 and maybe one of my Top Ten Moments Of All Time, but there were still hours left to the night, and even though I tried to convince the River City Brass Band to just play us right into 2019, they could not.
So we got some tasty cocktails at The Warren and talked about how our lives will never be the same now, having seen the River City Brass Band live.
But finally, the hours wound down, and it was time to bid 2018 farewell. 2018 came in cold as heckin balls (First Night was actually modified due to the cold, and we spent NYE watching the Dick Clark special on my parents’ couch), and went out unseasonably warm, with temperatures in the upper-mid-60s and gusting winds.
Basically, my favorite weather ever.
We secured a spot in front of the old Hornes building, where we had a great view of the fireworks. (There was actually a bit of drama around the fireworks – with the winds being so high, we weren’t sure if they would actually be able to set them off at all!)
But no matter what this year brings, we can say that it started with a truly magical evening centered on good food, creepy puppets, delicious wine, and of course, the River City Heckin Brass Damn Band.
* Editor’s note: just as we were writing this post, we learned, sadly, that Nine on Nine will be closing right after Valentine’s Day! While we’re sad to see it go, we’re also looking forward to starting a new dining tradition at First Night 2020!