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Winemaker's Journal — New Year's Eve pizza and bubbly

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pesto potato pizza

New Year's Day is a time to begin life anew, to forget the mistakes as well as the  accomplishments of the past and move into the new year with fresh ideas and ambitions.

Okay, now that I know how positive and motivated I'm going to be next year, I can go back to planning what a great time I'm going to have celebrating the end of this past year when I failed so miserably living up to all those idealistic resolutions for 2013.

It's been years since I've actually gone out to a New Year's Eve party. There's always plenty of dinner parties going on during the holidays and New Year's Eve when there's so much encouragement to over-drink seems a good night to stay close to home, with family or a few friends if possible.

One New Year's tradition I always try to keep is making homemade pizza. Grandma Micucci would make pizza for the extended family when I was a kid. It was the perfect thing to keep eating slice by slice through the evening while playing pinocle or canasta, hooting and hollering and then firing the shotgun and shooting fireworks outside at midnight.

Grandma would make the thick crust focaccia style pizza, topped with just tomato sauce, basil and Romano cheese. Grampa would make a rolled up pizza — sliced after baking like a cinnamon roll — filled with spicy sausage.

I like the thin, crispy crust style that is popular now in restaurants with wood fired ovens. I don't have a wood fired oven, but a regular electric oven with a pizza stone does a great job. You can also cook pizza on an outside barbecue if you have one on the porch like I do.

If I have guests over, I put out bowls of sliced mushrooms, olives, artichoke hearts, salami and sausage and any other ingredients that come to mind, along with bowls of various cheeses and sauces. I roll out or toss the dough and let guests make their own pizzas. When it comes to pizza, anything goes. If you really want to have fun and make a mess, have your guests try to toss their own dough. That's a hoot. My son Zak is an expert pizza twirler who also juggles tomatoes and onions to entertain guests waiting for next pizza to come out of the oven. When I toss a pizza it's likely to stick to the ceiling.

Making the dough is simple. It's just flour, yeast, water and little olive oil, salt and sugar. There's a good recipe here:

I was searching through my photos and was surprised how few I had of the many pizza parties held at my house over the years. Obviously, I was having too much fun to grab a camera. The shot of the pesto-potato-pepper-olive-feta cheese pizza ready to go in the oven was one of the more creative ones baked on a New Year's Eve a few years ago.

Red wine is wonderful with pizza, but sparkling wine is even better. You definitely have to have a bottle or two on hand to see the New Year in. My favorite reasonably priced bubblies are Freixenet Cordon Negro and Cava Nevada and Segura Viudas, all from Spain. Italian Proseco is fun. Real French Champagne will cost you plenty. The best bubbles to be easily found may well be our own Washington Domaine Ste. Michelle Sparkling Brut. It's excellent and often sells for less than $10.

Happy New Year!