SECOND HELPING

Single Serving: It's hard being a person with gourmet tastes and no one to share them with. Enjoying great food is a lot like sex: It's usually better when you have company. A new-to-Phoenix group doesn't promise to do anything for your libido, but it may make mealtimes more fun. It's named the Single Gourmet, and it's run by Cathy McCaig, a nurse who enjoyed the Los Angeles operation when she lived there.

McCaig emphasizes that the group is definitely "not a dating service," but a "sociable way for single men and women to get together for fine dining at a wide variety of local restaurants."

It works like this: McCaig puts together three or four eating events per month at upscale local restaurants. Among those she says have signed on are Rolands Fine Dining, Marco Polo Cafe, Bamboo Club, Les Gourmettes Cooking School, and 6th Avenue Bistrot Chez Francois. Members arrive 45 minutes prior to dinner for a get-acquainted, no-host happy hour. Then they're seated at tables for ten. (Should two people hit it off, she'll seat them together at future dinners.) Working with the chef, McCaig sets up the menu in advance at a fixed per-person cost, usually between $35 and $55, including tax and tip. No money changes hands at the restaurant--members pay a week in advance. A bimonthly newsletter lists the upcoming dinners, and members can attend as few or as many as they wish. The Single Gourmet is geared toward people ages 30 to 55. Dues are $90 per year and include reciprocal membership in the 15 other clubs. For more information, call 504-0998. Dial 1-800-REVENGE: A female voice left a message on my machine, asking me to call her back with a list of "the most expensive restaurants in town." I just had to know her motive. Maybe she'd just won the lottery, or had to impress a client. But it turns out her reasons were a bit more malign. A short while before, her fiancā had decided to call off their wedding, and demanded she return the ring. But then the guy began to have second thoughts, calling her up and asking about the possibility of getting together again.

Our heroine may have had mixed feelings about reuniting, but about one thing she was absolutely sure: Lover boy was going to pay for the opportunity. She gleefully took down my list of pricey restaurants: Mary Elaine's, Christopher's, 8700 at the Citadel, Etienne's Different Pointe of View.

"What about Vincent's?" she inquired sweetly. "Actually, it's not superexpensive," I told her. "Then forget it," she snapped. I don't know if this story has a happy ending. In fact, I imagine folks might have differing ideas on what exactly would constitute a happy ending: cheering the couple happily married or cheering Romeo buried under a MasterCard bill.

For my part, dispensing advice could open up a whole new sideline to restaurant reviewing. Mobsters could call inquiring about the best place to rub out a rival (1-800-WHACKED). Businesspeople might inquire about which restaurants will pad their accounts (1-800-DEDUCTS). The possibilities are deliciously limitless.--Howard Seftel

Suggestions? Write me at New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix,

 
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