Take the Slow Boat

Joe Kaplan, the restaurant's owner, says the key is feathers: "I do have a really great mask I bought at Electric Fetus--they have a whole bunch of them--sort of a New Orleans Mardi Gras-style thing, with the feathers coming off the top. But I also bought a lot of cheapies to hand out at the door."

Cheap is one of the operative words at Joe's this New Year's: Entrance to the masquerade ball is free to anyone who makes reservations for one of Joe's prix-fixe dinners that night. A mere $19.95 gets you a sparkling Chandon Brut, an appetizer of either caesar salad, mixed green salad, or spicy cream-cheese won tons; an entrée of portobello mushroom fettuccini, a spicy Asian pork burger, or jambalaya risotto; and a dessert of strawberry shortcake, chocolate mousse, or chocolate swirl cheesecake. For another $10 you may have crab cakes as your appetizer, and blackened sea bass, grilled sirloin, or jumbo shrimp in a lemon-thyme custard for an entrée.

Those who opt for just the ball can buy a ticket for $20 in advance; that fee gets you two drink tickets, hors d'oeuvres, champagne at midnight, and door prizes. If there are any tickets left the day of the party, they'll sell for $25. And if the next morning you have any stories of dreadful misunderstandings or hilarious misadventures--please, please, send them my way. I'll hang on to them through 2020, when those millennium babies start asking who their real father is.

Michael Dvorak

YES, KANGAROO: If Joe's menu isn't up to your romance-and-scandal standards, or if you just can't get lubed up for the big night without dropping a couple of C-notes, dine next door at the Loring Café, 1624 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, (612) 332-1617, where the New Year's Eve dinner runs $100. Chef Patrick Atanalian is setting out to prove that he has not yet come close to pulling out all the stops: His slightly frightening, slightly awesome dinner begins with appetizers like the "Woman in Red," a duck confit spring roll cocktail; goes on to entrées such as pumpkin-mascarpone ravioli in black truffle-essence broth or frenched rack of kangaroo served with purple potato cake, asparagus, and sun-dried-tomato tapénade in a lemongrass-and-23-karat-gold sauce; and closes with dessert options like Millennial Meltdown or Chocolate Apocalypse. Oh, Patrick, Patrick, Patrick. Is it any wonder that the Loring has taken to calling itself the Twin Cities headquarters of "faintly decadent dining"?

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