Celebrating the Year of the Rooster
Article by Dame Christina Ostrander
Every twelfth year is the “Year of the Rooster” in the Chinese zodiac cycle. This year specifically is the “Year of the Fire Rooster” and is associated with the color red. On January 30th about 36 members and guests of the Bailliage d’Albany came together, almost all wearing red, to celebrate good fortune and happiness throughout the coming year at Rain Modern Chinese in Albany, NY. Chef Rôtisseur Jose Arteche with the support of the restaurant’s owner, Frank Lee, worked diligently with their team to put together a symbolic affair from start to finish.
Entering the bar area our eyes were immediately drawn to the glass wall water feature. The flow of the water on the glass reminded us that persistency and consistency are key players to good fortune and happiness. The hors d’oeurves were simplicity displayed, as well as passed by Chef Jose, exemplifying his hospitality. We enjoyed lobster and prawn rangoons, five spice dumplings with toasted walnuts, candied kumquats and chevre, as well as tempura enoki, mushrooms and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto maki rolls. They all looked as delicious as they tasted. A large and joyous crowd congregated for cocktail hour – gathered around, sharing spirits and stories from the passed times since we all had last seen each other.
It felt like cocktail hour could last forever, but we knew what Chef Jose and his team had in store for us could not wait. We traveled a short distance through the dining room to four large tables, lined with red linens, spaced along a wall of windows. Our family style eight course banquet commenced. Large communal plates for each dish were presented before us, one by one. The friendly staff served us from one course into the next. We shared this meal, together, in unity. Each course was created to satisfy all of the senses, all the while being symbolic of the year to come. The whole Cantonese roasted duck for blessing fertility, seafood tofu soup for fulfillment of wealth, twin lobster with ginger and scallions to represent double happiness, Rain stir steak for strength, snow pea leaves with minced garlic representing unity, steamed whole striped bass for continued prosperity, Peking pork chop for our abundant blessings, and salt and pepper calamari for good fortune. Even our taro coconut tapioca dessert was a representation of togetherness and reunion. As our meal came to an end, the dishes were cleared and we finished the libations we were sipping on between conversations. Chef Jose personally presented each guest with a take home mignardise for good fortune to sweeten the New Year. The tiny boxes were filled with numerous items including a green tea shortbread cookie and a chocolate dipped fortune cookie with our individual fortunes inside. He told us that three of the take home boxes contained a special gold coin intended to give its recipient an additional special blessing.
As we gathered our belongings and took in the view from the windowed walls once more, our gaze settled on the water feature one last time. We put on our coats and prepared to meet the harsh cold winter that awaited us outside the doors where only hours before we had been greeted with such warmth.