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David Lissner
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Happy anniversary, ChicaGourmets!

Members of the ChicaGourmets! dining club enjoy a lobster dinner.

Members of the ChicaGourmets! dining club enjoy a lobster dinner.

Before underground dinners, before meet-ups, there was ChicaGourmets!

It’s a lucky 13 for Chicagoland’s oldest and largest general dining club, some 700 members strong, which sponsors about 75 events a year. Oak Park gourmet Don Newcomb, emeritus professor of horticulture at River Grove’s Triton College, founded ChicaGourmets! in 1997.

Don Newcomb

Don Newcomb

Newcomb, who had been on the board of the American Institute of Wine and Food, was looking for a less formal means of bringing food lovers together. ChicaGourmets! arranges group lunches and dinners at a variety of restaurants around town, often including special, off-menu dishes and, typically, several paired wines.

The venues range from the hottest new eateries to old-time classics. When the club started, the meals were most often held at high-end restaurants, but as the group has grown, they have visited many more casual and ethnic eateries, such as recent dinners at Tango Sur in Lakeview and Cafe 28 in Ravenswood. ChicaGourmets! also hosts food and wine lecture series, regional food tours and book signings. Programs usually draw 30 to 40 people.

Although ChicaGourmets! is open to people of all ages and marital statuses, it’s been highlighted as a club “Where Mature Singles Mingle.” Members range in age, but many, like the 71-year-old Newcomb, are retirees. The group dining format makes the club ideal for single diners who want to try new restaurants without having to eat alone or find a date.

ChicaGourmets will host its 13th-anniversary event tomorrow, a dinner with Myra Goodman, author of “The Earthbound Cook,” at Blackbird in the West Loop. Other upcoming events include:

  • Brazilian feast and grape picking at Sinha in West Town, Friday, Oct. 1.

  • Lunch with Dianne Jacob, author of “Will Write for Foodand coauthor of “Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas(with Chicago private chef Craig Priebe) at Kendall College on Goose Island, Saturday, Oct. 2.

  • Fall Festival of Pumpkin, Beer & Wine at St. Andrew’s Inn in Edgewater, Tuesday, Oct. 5. Canceled.

  • “Eat Green Live Well” at Prasino in LaGrange, Saturday, Oct. 9.

  • Irish fare at Bridie McKenna’s in Highwood, Sunday, Oct. 10.

  • “Cuisine Classique!” at Cafe Matou in Bucktown, Thursday, Oct. 14.

  • Ferrari Carano Wine Dinner at Gibsons in Oak Brook, Sunday, Oct. 17.

  • Italian Winemaker’s Dinner at Tallgrass in Lockport, Sunday, Oct. 24.

Most Chicagourmets events are open to the public, but a $45 annual membership gets you a somewhat lower price for their events and puts you on their mailing list. For complete event details and more information, see the ChicaGourmets! website or call (708) 383-7543.