The heart of the summer is here and we have been moving right along with weekly events that just keep getting hotter. Over 50 joined us for dinner for July 4th at Docks and our Montreal Trip is almost sold out. We suspect the fun will keep coming and as many know, we are planning a trip to Cuba over New Year’s Eve. Please RSVP to this ASAP as hotel rooms are already all sold out in Cuba however, for a limited time, our tour company is holding rooms for us. We cannot stress this enough, you will not be able to join this trip last minute, you must be able to tell us soon if you can join us, as air and hotel will be sold out.

Before we countdown to August, let’s chat about what is still left on the agenda for July. This coming weekend, Sunday, July 17th, we dine at a new restaurant for the Upper West Side, PRETTO CAFFE AND CUCINA. Opened in May of 2016, right in the heart of the UWS, Pretto Caffe and Cucina has incredible Italian food in a casual, yet inviting, atmosphere. Then on Sunday, July 24th we are excited to dine at VICTOR’S CAFÉ. This is hands down the top in Cuban food in the entire city. This is our first time dining here and yes we planned it to coincide with the release of our Cuban trip. If you are undecided about Cuban food, join us here and bring your RSVP for the New Year. Finally, on July 30th, we have the Architecture Boat Ride (NOTE this date has CHANGED from the July Newsletter and the price is NOW $78). Ride aboard a 1920’s style boat around the entire island of Manhattan on the Official NYC Architecture Tour and Yacht Cruise. This 3-hour cruise passes under all 18 bridges of Manhattan and is directed by professional AIA tour guides. RSVP early!! We are almost sold out. Lite food and 1 drink included.

On August 7th, we head to one of the best Italian restaurants in the West Village, GRADISCA. This is a favorite neighborhood stand out for the locals and a top rated restaurant. It is absolutely delicious! It is located in an old rustic townhouse tucked away in the West Village. The following weekend, Saturday, August 13th, we return to the Williamsburg Food & History Walking Tour. I have been asked numerous times when will we be repeating this sold out event featuring food, history, walking and a great day in Brooklyn now is your chance to join us! The next day, Sunday, August 14th, we head to one of the best Brazilian restaurants in New York, IPANEMA. Juliane and I dined here with a very large YELP Elite group and found the food delicious. We knew immediately The Single Gourmet should be dining here. The following week join us just around the corner from Ipanema at a new Greek restaurant for the group, KALLARI TAVERNA. This impressively large and beautiful space is just gorgeous. Highly regarded on Zagat and in the Greek community, we are excited for our first group experience here. For those going on the Montreal Trip and dining here, I will seat you together so that you can meet your tour-mates. For our final event in August, we head downtown to a very hip, cool and famous music venue to hear live music with a delicious brunch at the very famous CITY WINERY. This 3- hour show with brunch features an all-female sextet that has been playing together since 1998. Join us in Tribeca for an afternoon of brunch and great live music!

The following July events are still available for Single Gourmet Members and their guests:

1. Pretto Caffe & Cucina- 417 Amsterdam Ave @80th Street , Sunday, July 17th, 5:45 pm optional drinks, 6:30 pm dinner,
3-course, glass wine OR coffee, tax / tip- $74
2. Victor’s Café- Evolution of Cuban Cuisine- 236 West 52nd Street (7th and 8th), Sunday, July 24th @ 5:45 pm optional drinks, 6:45 pm dinner, 3-course, glass of wine or mojito, coffee, tax and tip $82
3. Boat Ride Around Manhattan Official NYC Architecture Tour and Yacht Cruise- Pier 62- Chelsea @ West 22nd and Hudson River, Sat, July 30th, 1:30 at the pier. Includes- tour, 1 glass wine/beer/champagne, snacks- $78

The following August events are available for Single Gourmet Members and their guests:

126 West 13th (6th / 7th)
Sunday, August 7th
5:45 pm optional drinks, 6:45 pm dinner
$81 Family Style Italian, gl of wine, coffee/tea t&t.
PLEASE RSVP by August 4th

Zagat rated 24 and hidden on a small townhouse laden block, Gradisca has a rich history as both a West Village hangout and as a destination for diners seeking Italian food that is authentic, seasonal and most importantly, delicious. Named after the voluptuous village beauty in the Fellini film “Amarcord,” Gradisca embraces the good life. Once a white-cloth Italian restaurant in the 40s and 50s, a legendary trend-setting cabaret called Reno Sweeney’s in the 70s and then a jazz supper club in the 80s, Gradisca has now recently celebrated its 16th year as a top rated restaurant in the city. Gradisca’s focus is on locally sourced and organic ingredients. This is a rustic location with a hip bar scene and was tweeted by Sara Jessica Parker as her favorite neighborhood restaurant, the food is served family style for larger parties and is a favorite amongst many Single Gourmet members. RSVP by August 4th as we have a special menu and food needs to be planned days in advance.

Williamsburg Food Walking Tour
Meet in Union Square at 14th and Broadway (Citibank)
Or in Brooklyn at the Bedford L stop.
Saturday, August 13th (meet at 12:30)
Tour 1pm-4:00pm+ 5 Star Trip Advisor
$52- Slow walk about 1.5 miles, with some sitting

Come hungry as there is enough food for a full meal! You will feast on delicious foods from local favorites in Williamsburg. Learn the history of the neighborhood, enjoy some incredible large-scale street art, and snap some choice photos out on a waterfront pier of the best view of the NYC skyline! What a perfect way to spend an afternoon! Our expert tour guide has prepared a fun afternoon filled with incredible food, and you can be sure you will know a lot more about Williamsburg. Stops include: Northside Bakery (traditional Polish bakery serving up amazing treats and pierogis since the 80s), Best Pizza, Momofuku Milk Bar, Pies N Thighs, The Bagel Store, Odd Fellows Ice Cream, Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory and Pudge Knuckles Coffee (incredible local coffee stop with a very special tasting)! This tour has sold out in the past, so RSVP early and wear comfortable shoes.

3 West 46th (5th and 6th Street)
Sunday, August 14th
5:45 pm optional drinks, 6:30 pm dinner
$73 3-course Brazilian, glass of wine, tax and tip

Considered by many to be the best Brazilian restaurant in all of New York City, Ipanema offers a relaxed and contemporary atmosphere complemented by the authentic cuisine cultivated over the past 30 years. While the name Ipanema refers to the famous beach in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil the menu is firmly rooted in the culinary crossover between both Brazil and Portugal. Ipanema’s menu combines the timeless history of Portuguese recipes with the zest and vibrancy of Brazilian cuisine, resulting in a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Zagat says, “under the radar in the middle of Little Brazil, this friendly West 40s stalwart has been churning out tasty Brazilian-Portuguese dishes for more than a quarter-century.” 4 stars on Yelp, 4.5 on Tripadvisor, this is a sure winner for those looking to experience a non-traditional meal.

Kellari Taverna
19 West 44th (5th and 6th Street)
Saturday, August 20th
7:00 pm optional drinks, 8:00 pm dinner
$76 Greek Feast, glass of wine, tax / tip

Zagat says, “Mouthwatering displays of fresh fish on ice beckon at this sophisticated Midtown Greek seafooder offering next-flight-to-Athens-quality cooking”. The dining room decor evokes a subterranean wine cellar designed with contemporary elegance. Kellari which means, ‘cellar’ in Greek, features the traditional Greek taverna specialties and an eclectic selection of contemporary Hellenic savory “mezedes.” A recent article, states “Kellari Taverna is the epitome of classic Greek cuisine with the perfect balance of authenticity and elegance. You can find classic Greek and Mediterranean dishes at Kellari. Moreover, the food is as welcoming as the hospitality that you will receive. As you enter Kellari and sit at the bar, the words “Enter as Strangers, Leave as Friends” are printed on placards. It is this feeling of warmth and hospitality that pervades the entire experience at Kellari, a cozy Midtown gem with wood-beamed cathedral ceilings, and walls warmed in sunset hues.” Our menu will be filled with shared Meze Greek style, choice of entrée and shared desserts.

City Winery- brunch and live music
155 Varick Street (This is 7th Ave a few blocks South of Houston)
Sunday, August 21st
10:30 brunch- show from 11-1:30
$67- Includes: show, entrée, 1 mimosa/bloody Mary/prosecco, coffee tax/tip

From folk acts and jazz quartets to legendary singer-songwriters and buzz-worthy indie rock bands, this innovative venue is serving up some of the best music the city has to offer. New York’s City Winery is a truly unique facility, combining a fully functioning winery with intimate concerts and fine dining. The brainchild of Michael Dorf, founder of the hugely successful Knitting Factory, City Winery is a vibrant, interactive space. Zagat says, “this “expansive” Hudson Square winner always seems to be happening, credit its classy mix of enoteca, on-site winery and excellent concert venue; whether they’re out to discover new music, catch an old favorite or sample killer vinos, fans spanning their twenties to sixties toast it as a memorable experience.” The weekly brunch act has been preforming together as an all-female sextet for almost 20 years. Brunch includes the show, an entrée, 1 drink, coffee, tax and tip.

December 27-January 3rd

Hola Chiquitos and Chiquitas!! We hope you have polished your Spanish speaking skills because we are going to Cuba over New Year’s Eve! The doors have finally opened between Cuba and the United States, and it is a privilege to be able to go now while Cuba is still in its own jus. We can easily predict that things are going to change rapidly as more and more Americans go down to visit. You could be one of those who say “I got to go while it was still, well, Cuba!” Before we dive into our itineraries and quotes, it is important to understand the U.S.-Cuba historical and political relationship over the last 80 years, because it really gives us a true appreciation for the fabulous opportunity we are given.
The tumultuous U.S.-Cuba relationship has its roots in the Cold War. In 1959, Fidel Castro and a group of revolutionaries seized power in Havana. Despite misgivings about Castro’s communist political ideology, the United States recognized his government. However, as Castro’s regime increased trade with the Soviet Union, nationalized U.S.-owned properties, and hiked taxes on American imports, the United States responded with escalating economic retaliation. After slashing Cuban sugar imports, Washington instituted a ban on nearly all exports to Cuba, which President John F. Kennedy expanded into a full economic embargo that included stringent travel restrictions. In 1961 the United States severed diplomatic ties with Cuba and began pursuing covert operations to overthrow the Castro regime. The 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, a botched CIA-backed attempt to topple the government, fueled Cuban mistrust and nationalism, leading to a secret agreement allowing the Soviet Union to build a missile base on the island. The United States discovered those plans in October of 1962, setting off a fourteen-day standoff. U.S. ships imposed a naval quarantine around the island, and Kennedy demanded the destruction of the missile sites. The Cuban Missile Crisis ended with an agreement that the sites would be dismantled if the United States pledged not to invade Cuba; the United States also agreed to remove nuclear missiles from Turkey.
Following the events of 1961–62, economic and diplomatic isolation became the major prongs of U.S. policy toward Cuba. This continued even after the Soviet Union’s collapse. However, recently, U.S. President Barack Obama came into office seeking greater engagement with Cuba and during his first term, permitted U.S. telecommunications companies to provide cellular and satellite service in Cuba and allowed U.S. citizens to travel there under license for educational or religious purposes.
On December 17th, 2014, Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced that the United States and Cuba would restore full diplomatic ties for the first time in more than fifty years. The announcement followed a prisoner swap and the United States agreed to further ease restrictions on remittances, travel, and banking. The United States and Cuba reopened their embassies in each other’s capitals on July 20, 2015, effectively restoring full diplomatic ties. In January 2015, the United States enacted new travel and trade regulations allowing U.S. travelers to visit Cuba for specific purposes without first obtaining a government license, and to spend money there. Airlines were also permitted to provide regular commercial service to the country. The new rules also chipped away at economic sanctions by allowing, among other things: U.S. insurance companies to cover health, life, and travel insurance for individuals living in or visiting Cuba; banks to facilitate authorized transactions; U.S. companies to invest in some small businesses; and shipment of building materials to private Cuban companies. The United States eased trade and travel restrictions a second time in January 2016, and again in March 2016 ahead of Obama’s visit. Finally, in March 2016, Obama arrived in Havana for the first visit by a sitting U.S. president since Calvin Coolidge visited the island in 1928, a span of almost 90 years. This truly was a historic moment for us all!

We are sure we will learn a lot more being in Cuba ourselves!! But, with that in mind… know that while the fabulous trip we had the agency plan for us is going to be amazing, Cuba is not a luxury destination. It is still very much left as it was, stuck in time. There are no chain stores, no ads, few signs and it is basically a commercial-free zone. Cuba is culturally, historically, and politically rich, but not in wealth. There is little internet connection, and international cell phone service is tough. As of now, US credit cards are not working in Cuba, hence converting cash at the airport is necessary. So much is happening now, but Cuba is still very much frozen in time and it is a going to be one of these trips where you’ll tell yourself “wow, so close and yet, so far…” OK? So, now that this is out of the way, go get yourself a Cuba Libre and read on the fabulous itineraries we have for you!!

• We have spoken to numerous recommended travel agents of members in our group, they have ALL confirmed that hotels in Cuba are basically SOLD OUT for the New Year’s Eve time period. Our tour company is holding onto a block of rooms, but they MUST have a headcount as soon as possible or they will release these rooms. This is not a trip where you can decide you want to join in November. We need an accurate exact headcount ASAP.
• As of this writing, DIRECT flights to Havana from NEW YORK are very rare. Contrary to what you may heard or read, most tour companies fly tourists to Miami and then fly direct from Miami (counting this as a day on their trip). You cannot just call up Jet Blue and make a direct flight to Havana. We have found a charter company offering 2 direct flights per week between New York and Havana. This could change, but as of now it is very difficult to find direct flights. We cannot book these ourselves and we cannot book flights until 3 months prior to departure. When this time comes, we will guide you through it, but flights will sellout immediately. The process is fairly easy. We will have you fill out 3 paper forms: a travel affidavit (where you will check the box that says people-to-people-this is simple), a reservation form and a visa application form (which is your tourist card). We send the information to the charter company, and they send you your ticket and your tourist card. As of now, there is a flat round-trip fee of $850, plus $85 for the tourist card, plus $20 for handling. If this price goes down, it will be a savings for you. We suspect as more carriers join this venture, prices will go down. Also: “you need to pay the Cuban departure tax that will be collected at the airport at the departure time = $25.00 USD.”- this is separate from the tour package as well.
• We hired a legal tour company who was able to put together a marvelous adventure for us. We stretch the word “legal” because they have to be authorized agents of Cuba and the US to take on US citizens and residents on an approved trip. We fall under the “people-to-people” category of approved travelers, making us official students of the Cuban culture. Our trip and tours were designed with the Single Gourmet members in mind, meaning that we will always be on private tours, with our own chauffeur and guides, and our learning experiences are much broader than the “daily talks” other tours offer.
• This information is taken directly from the US embassy website in Havana: “travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited by statute. There are, however, 12 categories of authorized travel. The Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued general licenses in all 12 categories of authorized travel, subject to appropriate conditions. This means that individuals who meet the regulatory conditions of the respective general license they seek to travel under do not need to apply for a specific license from OFAC to travel to Cuba.” The travel affidavit form we will have you fill out is about that. You will check our category which falls under “Educational Activities,” people-to-people travel.
• Also: “U.S. Credit and Debit cards do not currently work in Cuba, so remember to bring enough cash with you to last you your whole trip. US Dollars can be exchanged into Cuban convertible currency at the airport, hotels, or exchange houses. There is usually a 10-13% charge on exchanging U.S. dollars.” The US embassy recommends that everyone traveling to Cuba register with the American Citizens Services Unit. Travelers can register their visit in person or on-line by visiting the website. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. We also recommend that you enroll here: We can help you with that if needed.
• About insurance. This information is taken from the company dealing with the flights and the paperwork: “when purchasing your air ticket to Cuba, Cuban Medical Insurance is automatically included in the cost of your ticket, covering many emergencies, except pre-existing conditions. We do advise that you purchase travel interruption and cancellation insurance to cover you for other non-medical related emergencies. On the back of your ticket you will find the medical insurance stamp: Asistur.”
• About $$$: “The major legal currency for Cuba is the Cuban Convertible Peso, CUC. It’s what you exchange your foreign currency for and make all your purchases with in Cuba. Most tourists will only ever deal with CUC. For international exchange purposes 1.00 Cuban Convertible Peso = $1.00 USD. Note that there is a 13% penalty charged when exchanging USA dollars cash, so, you will only receive 87 centavos CUC for one USA dollar when changing the money, allowing for the 13% interest. The second legal currency in Cuba is the Cuban Peso, CUP, which is rarely used by the vast majority of tourists, but it’s still something you should know about as it is perfectly legal for tourists to use.”
• General notes: it is better to drink bottled water, your cell phone may not work, Wifi is sporadic and internet limited to hotels., carrying a tour or travel book is not advised. We will send more information for whomever joins.


(due to the only adequate hotels already sold out in Trinidad we will not be doing an extension to this part of the island).

PRICES: Airfare is separate and is currently $849 direct + $85 tourist card +$20 handling + $25 airport fee- Airfare Subject to change and must be booked by September.

Note: The tour bus will pick up and drop off at both hotels.
• Option 1: Not Including Direct Air- Staying at the historic Nacional Hotel for 1 week – $4100 double occupancy $4900 Single occupancy standard rooms.
• Option 2: Not Including Direct Air- Staying at the 5 Star Melia Cohiba Hotel for 1 week- $4800 double occupancy, $5700 Single occupancy standard rooms.

The Nacional Hotel: is a historical landmark in Havana! Built in 1930, by the New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, which features a mix of styles. It opened when Cuba was a prime travel destination for Americans, long before the United States embargo against Cuba. In its 80+ years of existence, the hotel has had many important guests. The Nacional is considered a symbol of history, culture and Cuban identity. The Hotel was declared a National Monument and it was inscribed in the World Memory Register. With its privileged location in the middle of Vedado, the center of Havana, it stands on a hill just a few meters from the sea, and offers a great view of the Havana Harbor; the seawall and the city. The Hotel stands out due to its refined elegance and its ancient splendor, which since 1930 has attracted a large number of personalities! Pretty cool! Keep in mind that the hotel was last renovated in 1992. It is ranked #6 on Trip Advisor. The rooms have old-world decor, and include minibars and TVs. Room service is available 24/7. The hotel has 3 restaurants, a casual cafe and 3 bars. Other amenities include 2 outdoor pools, a tennis court and a fitness room with a sauna. Massage services and regular live entertainment are available.

The Melia Cohiba: is a modern upscale hotel and part of the Melia hotels chain. Fully air conditioned, with stunning views of the city and the sea, the hotel provides comfort and an elegant, modern design with Cuban marble and references to the world of cigars and the famous Cohíba brand. A short distance from Plaza de la Revolución, the National Library, the government palace, shopping malls, theaters and other places of interest, the Melia Cohiba is also considered a 5-star luxury hotel. The rooms are more updated than at the Nacional. It was built in 1994. The Melia Cohiba has 5 restaurants, 2 bars, a cigar bar, a spa, an outdoor pool, a health and fitness center. It is ranked #3 on Trip Advisor.

DAY 1: TUESDAY DECEMBER 27 -Hello Cuba: arrival at Havana’s José Martí International airport, change money into Cuban Convertible Pesos while waiting for your luggage, meet your guide and bus driver after you exit Cuban customs, enjoy a group welcome dinner with your guide at private restaurant. EVENING SPECIAL ACTIVITY: “¡Noche de fiesta cubana!” party and dancing class with live music at Club Chévere.
DAY 2: WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 28 -EXPLORING OLD HAVANA, OUR COMMON HERITAGE: Breakfast in hotel, followed by a walking tour of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’ll visit four of the five historic plazas that make Havana unique in the western hemisphere. We will see: Cathedral Square, Square of Arms, Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, Palacio del Segundo Cabo, Museo de Artesanía at Castillo de la Real Fuerza, the oldest remaining fortress built by the Spaniards in the West Indies, San Francisco Square, and Plaza Vieja to only name a few! We will then have lunch at a bayside fish joint (it is the latest newcomer to the city’s list of upscale eateries). After lunch, we visit Callejón de Hamel (Hamel Alley) to see the artwork of famed Afro-Cuban Artist Salvador González and we will return to our respective hotels. We will have dinner at a private restaurant and our EVENING HIGHTLIGHT is a performance by Buena Vista social Club at Café Taberna!
DAY 3: THURSDAY DECEMBER 29 -HEMINGWAY: Breakfast in hotel, followed by a visit to Finca La Vigía (House and farm of Ernest Hemingway Museum). Then we are going to Cojímar, a small fishing village -one of Hemingway’s favorite’s places. For lunch, we have a cooking class and lunch prepared by private restaurant El Ajiaco (#1 in Cojimar). After lunch, we will visit Hotel Ambos Mundos’ room 511 where Hemingway used to stay and then we will return to the hotel. After dinner at a private restaurant, we will go to la Zorra y el Cuervo (The Fox and the Crow) where top jazz players perform on a nightly basis. It’s the place to hear Cuba’s best jazz musicians!
DAY 4: FRIDAY DECEMBER 30 -VIÑALES VALLEY / PINAR DEL RÍO PROVINCE: Breakfast in hotel, and morning departure to the western agricultural province of Pinar del Río! Morning tour of Viñales Valley: Viñales village is a picturesque town in the heart of Cuba’s prime tobacco growing region. The town itself sits in the center of a flat valley surrounded by stunning karst hills formations known locally as mogotes. Mogotes are irregularly shaped steep-sided hills that can rise as high as 985 ft. and have bases ranging from just a few hundred yards in diameter to as much as a couple of kilometers in length. Many consider this the most beautiful nature spot in Cuba. We will visit: Cueva del Indio [Indian caves], mural de la Prehistoria followed by lunch at El Balcon del Valle restaurant (with view on the mountains). After lunch, we will visit tobacco farmers and tour the town square of Viñales village before returning to Havana. Tonight’s dinner and evening are free time for you to explore the city!
DAY 5: SATURDAY DECEMBER 31 -HAVANA/ DAY EXCURSION THE ART OF RUM AND THE AFRO-CUBAN RELIGION: Breakfast in hotel, followed by a day excursion about the art of Rum! We will learn everything about the origin and development of the rum production in the island. We will visit to the Rum Museum, we will have a tasting of the Havana Club Rum, we will have a cocktail-making lesson where the barman will teach us how to prepare our own Cuban cocktail. Then, we will tour of the most famous bars of the old town: the Floridita and the Bodeguita del Medio including the tasting of a cocktail at the Ambos Mundos or the Beltrán de Santa Cruz hotels. After our boozy morning, we will have lunch, followed by a visit at the Afro-Cuban Church of Regla Municipality. We will then return to our hotels and get ready for our special night!!! We will enjoy a ride in old American classic cars to our New Year’s Eve dinner and show!
DAY 6: SUNDAY JANUARY 1ST -VARADERO: Breakfast in hotel and morning departure to Varadero! Varadero is an uninterrupted 20km stretch of blonde sand that is undoubtedly one of Caribbean’s best!! It is a gorgeous beach resort with a lot of shopping! En route we will stop at Puente de Bacunayagua, the highest bridge in Cuba, with a spectacular view of the landscape over the Yumurí Valley and the Atlantic Ocean. We will do a panoramic tour of Matanzas city and then visit “Botica Triolet” Museum Pharmaceutical of Matanzas, the oldest drugstore that remains in Cuba! Then continue to Varadero, visit the city and have lunch. We will have some free time (sight-seeing and shopping!) before returning to Havana. Dinner tonight is not planned, meaning, more free time to explore beautiful Havana!
DAY 7: MONDAY JANUARY 2 -LAS TERRAZAS: Breakfast in hotel and morning departure to Las Terrazas, a small community and nature reserve. It is located in the Sierra del Rosario mountains, which was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1984. We will visit a rural village called Rancho Curule and Cafetal Buena Vista, the ruins of an ancient coffee plantation run by African slaves. Our lunch is going to be exclusively vegetarian at the #1 restaurant in town: El Romero! We then have some free time to explore before returning to Havana. We are having dinner at a top rated private restaurant. This evening is free to explore the sights and sounds of the city. Your guide will keep you posted on evening entertainment options.
Breakfast in hotel, check-out of hotel, and transfer to José Martí International Airport for flights home!