Celebrate Luciadagen (Lucia Day, Dec. 13) with lunch at Fika, the light-filled café at the American Swedish Institute’s Nelson Cultural Center. Toast to the season with a round of Swedish 75, made with Gamle Ode dill aquavit and a splash of sparkling wine, and savor nouveau Nordic specialties including smoked whitefish salad, juniper-spiced meatballs with potato purée, and cardamom bread pudding. Afterwards, shop for painted Dala horses, lingonberry preserves and other gifts at the institute’s well-curated gift shop.
2600 Park Ave., Mpls., 612-871-4907, fikacafe.net
While Diwali, the beloved Hindu festival of lights, concluded in late October, the feasting continues at Bombay Bistro, across the street from the Foshay Tower. To get in the spirit, order a bracing Bombay Sapphire martini or a glass of mango lassi and toast to Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity. Order from the lengthy menu or join the line at the buffet, where the sumptuous repast includes lamb rogan josh, chicken tikka masala, tandoori beef, vegetarian specialties and fresh-baked naan for scooping up every bit of the richly flavored sauces.
820 S. Marquette Ave., Mpls., 612-312-2800, bombaybistromn.com
According to Japanese tradition, bonenkai (“year forgetting”) parties should be held in December before shogatsu (new year) to shed old worries from the past year. To ensure good luck, good health and good fortune in 2015, request a private zashiki room at Fuji Ya, the Twin Cities’ first Japanese restaurant. Take your shoes off if you’re so inclined and order a bottle of elegant Ohyama sake, a veritable alphabet of sushi from aji to uni, and fresh soba noodles with tempura shrimp, or sautéed beef and fresh vegetables, to enhance your chances of a long life.
465 N. Wabasha St. N., St. Paul, 651-310-0111; 600 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-871-4055, fujiya.com
Vincent A Restaurant
From Beaujolais nouveau in late November to le réveillon, the elaborate midnight meal on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, the French have elevated holiday revelry to high art. To celebrate in true Gallic style, book a window table overlooking Nicollet Mall. Sip a St. Germain cocktail or a flute of Piper Heidsieck as you deliberate between escargot and foie gras, steak frites and the niçoise salad. For dessert, the decadent Louis XV chocolate cake accompanied by a pear poached in red wine is de rigueur.
1100 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-630-11189, vincentarestaurant.com
Throughout Vietnam and other parts of Asia, the Dongzhi festival marks the winter solstice on Dec. 21. To celebrate the return of longer days and enhanced positive energy, take a table at Ngon Bistro, the sunny Vietnamese-French café in St. Paul’s Frogtown. Order a round of zesty rum daiquiris made with fresh grapefruit and lime juice, tender shrimp and pork spring rolls, and crispy dumplings, a Dongzhi tradition. To fortify yourself for the new year ahead, order a steaming bowl of pho with your choice of locally sourced duck, seafood, oxtail, rib-eye or homemade meatballs in rich, long-simmered spicy broth.
799 University Ave. W., St. Paul, 651-222-3301, ngonbistro.com