I like writing the December newsletter because it gives me time to reflect on this year’s past events, dinners and trips. I can see what worked and what didn’t, what was well attended and what was not, what to repeat and what to bury in the snow. We discovered some great new restaurants for the group, and we had an attendance of over 50 people at multiple events and our average attendance was 26 per dinner. Our trips were a great success this year with the last 3 selling out and Cuba having a wait list. Since I will be completely unattainable while there, we will not be having a New Year’s Eve dinner this year. I know this disappoints many, but I will have no phone nor internet after December 26th. Last year over half of the 42 people RSVP’d after Christmas and had I not been available to handle those RSVP’s, it would have been impossible to manage.

Great News! We are planning our trip to New Orleans February 9th to 13th. We will be staying at a 4-star hotel in the heart of the city, dining at top restaurants, and much more. I am still putting this together, but our itinerary most likely involves plantation tours, a bus tour, walking tours, cemetery and voodoo tours, a cooking class and/or food tour, live music, a boat ride on the Mississippi and /or a swamp boat tour and of course lots of site seeing and other activities. If you have never been to New Orleans, you must join us for this trip as it will be my 10th time in the Big Easy. New Orleans is a mixture of great food and great music.

November continues this week with a world-wide wine celebration- ‘Beaujolais Nouveau day!’ Therefore, on Thursday, November 17th, join us as we drink unlimited Beaujolais Nouveau at a ‘country-style’ French restaurant, TOUT VA BIEN. We have been dining at this restaurant since the 80’s. For those who joined last year, you can attest to how much fun it was, and how many bottles our group enjoyed. Our November continues on Sunday, November 20th as we head to I’ Trulli Ristorante. The menu, which I did not have in the November Newsletter, includes starters of arugula salad with parmigiano and lemon, or housemade mozzarella, pickled eggplant, aged balsamic or Dora’s famous homemade Sunday meatballs, and entrees of ravioli ricotta with pistachios, or orecchiette in a rabbit ragú or local bass with leeks and mushrooms or organic chicken, peppers, green beans with potatoes or braised short ribs with farro, swiss chard and dessert of chocolate cake, vanilla panna cotta. That same week is THANKSGIVING and as promised I found a great location for us this year-ETCETERA ETCETERA. This high rated Zagat and Michelin Guide recommended restaurant is perfect for a turkey night dinner. Bring friends and family as there are no guest fees for this night! Finally, on Sunday, November 27th, join us at a very well-known, top Vietnamese-French fusion restaurant and delicious menu in a French-Colonial, Southwest atmosphere at LE COLONIAL.

Our December begins on Friday, December 2nd with a CHOCOLATE AND CHEESE TASTING CLASS. Our two favorite things are combined at Roni-Sue’s in the Lower East Side- chocolate and cheese! Roni Sue, who is an expert on all things chocolate, will pair her wonderful chocolate with the cheese of famous cheesmonger, Anne Saxelby (note: Anne will not be running this class but is providing the cheese and the knowledge) in a class of tasting, knowledge and more tasting. If you like cheese, and you like chocolate this is the night for you! The next day, Saturday, December 3rd, join us for our first event at ZIO RISTORANTE. This is an elegantly appointed, modern restaurant in the heart of the Flatiron district. Highly rated on Zagat, this is our first dinner here and is a great discovery for the group. Every night this place is bustling with the local foodies. The following weekend, Saturday, December 10th, join us for some live Brazilian music and food at VIA BRASIL. This unassuming restaurant in the middle of the theater district comes highly recommended by many and is sure to be a fun upbeat evening of great food and amazing musical talent. The following weekend, Sunday, December 18th we head back to MARSEILLE where we spent the last two Christmas dinners with an incredible menu and a warm French brasserie atmosphere. We decided NOT to do a third Christmas at Marseille because we always oversold the event and had to turn people away. Therefore, on Christmas Day, Sunday, December, 25th we head downtown to ARTE RISTORANTE for a Northern Italian Christmas Day Dinner. Arte is a well-known Greenwich Village restaurant. For over 30 years, Arte has been serving their fine dining clientele in plush ambiance in a townhouse in the village.

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

1. Tout Va Bien- “Beaujolais Nouveau Day”- 311 West 51st (8th and 9th avenue), Thursday, November 17th
5:45pm optional drinks, 6:30 dinner $76 3-course meal, unlimited Beaujolais wine, tax / tip
2. I’ Trulli Ristorante- 122 East 27th (Park and Lexington), Sunday, November 20th, 5:30 optional drinks, 6:30 dinner, $77
3-course, glass of wine, tax and tip.
3. Thanksgiving Dinner- See Below
4. Le Colonial- 149 E 57th St (Lexington and 3rd, Sunday, November 27th, 5:30 optional drinks, 6:30 dinner, $72 3-course, glass of wine, tax and tip.
The following events are available for Single Gourmet Members and their guests:

352 West 44th Street btw 8th/9th
Thursday, November 24th
5:00 pm optional pre-dinner drinks, 5:30pm dinner
$86 3-course dinner, gl of wine, coffee, cookies, t & t

Open up the Michelin Guide and you will read that Etcetera Etcetera is “Putting out seriously solid, well prepared food, as a hip and modern breath of clean, fresh air in the theater district. It’s Milan meets Miami.” Zagat says 23 for food and “splendid at this vibrant theater district staple where the excellent Italian dishes garner enough praise as the attentive staff, then factor in a sleek interior and it is an all-around charmer.” Owner and Manager Daniele Kucera who co-owned Vice Versa for many years puts his spin on contemporary Italian meals that will leave you wanting more and more and more and more…etc, etc. Our menu is a choice of baby arugula salad with avocado, hearts of palm, pine nuts, shaved pecorino cheese or butternut squash soup with sour cream; choice of homemade pumpkin cappellacci with butter, sage and candied fruit or turkey with sausage and chestnuts stuffing, sweet potato au gratin and cranberry sauce or baked ham with cinnamon spiced apple sauce and caramelized shallots; ending with an apple chest with caramel sauce and vanilla gelato or classic pumpkin pie with meringue. RSVP early to reserve you spot!

Roni- Sue’s Chocolate and Cheese Pairing
w/Saxelby Cheesemongers
148 Forsyth Street
(2 blocks South of Houston between 1st /2nd)
2.5 blocks from JZFBD, M21, M15,M103,B39,
Friday, December 2nd 6:30-8:00pm
$51- chocolate tasting, cheese pairing

We are back so soon to this amazing chocolate location because it was just so delicious and fun in October. Space is limited for this class as Rhonda Kave, a member of Les Dames d’ Escoffier, who has been making chocolates for over twenty-five years and is partners in a cocoa farm in Belize, opened Roni-Sue’s in October 2007. We begin with a guided bean-to-bar chocolate tasting and learning class with some sparkling wine. We’ll geek out as much as you like about the magic bean! And of course, you will have some bubbly as a palate cleanser in between the chocolates! We follow this with cheeses selected by Anne Saxelby, owner of Saxelby Cheesemongers and a chocolate pairings. Anne Saxelby is quite famous in the cheese world having started out at Murray’s Cheese and apprenticed on both American and French farms as a cheesemaker. She has become increasingly celebrated for her unusual selection of American and French farmhouse cheeses. She supplies hundreds of New York area restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern, Blue Hill, Minetta Tavern, the Dutch and Daniel Boulud restaurants and she will be supplying us this night. I will be out of town so Juliane will be running this event. I had to twist her arm 

Zio Ristorante
17 West 19th Street (5th and 6th Avenue)
Saturday, December 3rd
6:45 optional drinks, 7:45pm Dinner
$78- hors d’oeuvres, dinner, gl wine, coffee/soda, tax & tip

This is one of the most gorgeous restaurants that I have seen in a long time. Zagat 4.3 (their new rating system= 23), they say “this welcoming Flatironer turns out classic Italian dishes with a little twist with its spacious modern setting and friendly service it’s no wonder it’s considered a local gem.” Zio Ristorante is a dining destination in the heart of the Flatiron District delivering a lively atmosphere in a warm setting and beautifully appointed open kitchen. Zio weaves daily organic homemade pastas with seasonal ingredients into inspired culinary combinations influenced by Mediterranean flavors. 4 stars on YELP, 4.5 on TripAdivisor. Note: Juliane will be running this event, so please look for / ask for her upon arrival. Hors d’oeuvres of Pizze Fiordilatte and mini crab cakes passed at the bar then choice of mixed green salad or veal meatballs or fried calamari and zucchini to start, then choose homemade pasta orecchiette pomodoro or pan roasted chicken breast topped with prosciutto, cotto and fontina cheese or filet of sole in white wine and caper sauce with spinach, followed by tiramisu or sorbet for dessert.

Via Brasil- Top Brazilian with live music
34 West 46th (5th and 6th Avenue)
Saturday, December 10th
7:00pm optional drinks, 7:45 pm dinner
$72 3- courses, gl wine, coffee, soda, tax & tip

Recommended as “The Brazilian”” place to go to in Midtown by many members and review sites, Via Brasil opened in 1978 and since then has prided itself in serving outstanding presentations of the classics of Brazilian culinary tradition. The warmly hued interior decor is a combination of exposed bricks and bright paintings with a live Brazilian band welcoming us. Via Brasil is rated 4 Stars on YELP, 4.5 on Tripadvisor and ranked top 5% of NYC restaurants. We start with an assortment of Brazilian appetizers then a choice of sautéed chicken breast with wine and mushroom sauce, carne de panela al molho de vino– Brazilian pot roast in red wine sauce, picanha fatiada- grilled top sirloin, rosotto de mar- seafood risotto w/ clams, mussels, shrimp, and calamari and finishing with Brazilian desserts.

630 9th Avenue (Corner 44th Street)
Sunday, December 18th RSVP early
5:15pm optional drinks, 6:15pm Dinner
$84- 3-course dinner, gl wine, coffee, t&t

We have celebrated our last 2 Christmas Days here to a sold-out group and this year decided to come back the week before Christmas when it will be less crowded. This French brasserie according to Zagat, “feels like being in Paris.” Michelin Guide says, “Marseille marries the charm of a classic French bistro with the inimitable style of New York City and the skilled and truly professional kitchen prepares an impressive cuisine bursting with pronounced balanced flavors-The atmosphere: think Casablanca.” Marseille hails from the same restaurant group that owns Café D’Alsace, Maison, French Roast, Le Monde, Nice Matin, Pigalle and L’Express.

Arte 21 East 9th Street (off University and 5th Ave)
Christmas Sunday, December 25th
5:00 pm optional drinks; 5:30pm dinner
$86 3-course meal, glass wine, coffee, tax & tip

A vanishing breed, Arte Restaurant is one of those quiet, beautiful, best kept secrets with a comfortable, homey ambiance, fireplace and an outside garden. Celebrities such as Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Adam Sandler, Richard Gere, Diane Lane have been coming here for years. The romantic atmosphere combines smoothly with the Northern Italian cuisine all cooked to order. This elegant neighborhood trattoria in Greenwich Village has been serving elevated Italian cuisine for 30 years. Join us this Christmas as we dine in style. Just south of Union Square, please RSVP early, guests are welcome.