Enjoying Good Food, Good Wine, and Good Times.
Some of my best times involved eating out with friends or preparing a feast in the kitchen with family. The Villages Gourmet In or Out Club fosters that warm feeling. The club isn’t just about eating; it’s about fellowship, which became apparent as I sat with a few of the members on a recent Tuesday morning.
The Villages Gourmet Club, as it’s more widely known, celebrates its 10-year anniversary this month, a proud moment for Rich Courmettes and Ellen Harcourt, who are its leaders.
“It started in 2006 as a place people could come to share a common interest: food and wine,” said Rich. Now, the club has more than 300 members and at least 8,500 views per month on its website, which hosts hundreds of member-written restaurant reviews.
Jan Trefny, a member for six years, said she initially joined to meet new people.
“We knew our neighbors but no one else,” Jan said. “When you first move here, it’s good to…try new things and meet people.”
Bob and Colene Makela agree. They’ve been a part of the group from the onset.
“It’s a great club for newcomers,” Colene added.
However, as time went by, Jan, Bob, and Colene found pleasure in just spending time with old members who became lifelong friends and new members who are just getting to know them.
“It’s fun to find places to eat,” said Bob. “You have your group and you bond over a table.”
While a good majority of club members enjoy dining out, a good number relish dining in. Rich said dine-in teams usually plan a themed meal and a couple hosts the dinner at their home. Remaining team members bring various courses or wine to make the experience unforgettable.
“I enjoy sharing food and entertaining people,” Ellen said. “When we have company, I try to make a new dish. I have over 5,000 recipes, plus a ton of cookbooks.”
Though Colene, Bob, and Jan aren’t the biggest fans of dining in for various reasons, they both agree it’s an important element of the club.
“There’s something about cooking and sharing what you’ve prepared with others,” Bob explained. “You don’t invite people over you don’t like. It’s that honoring—it’s a basic human trait, a way to show you care.”
Club meetings are quarterly, and members discuss restaurants and food, as well as Rich’s personal favorite: wine. They also have cooking demonstrations by local chefs such as Linda Dickison from Vom Fass, Scott Vasatka of City Fire American Oven & Bar, and Louis Santiago of Cane Garden Country Club.
Generally speaking, The Villages Gourmet Club is a great place to unleash your inner foodie, but the bigger picture is the friendship and fun that feeds the soul.
WANT TO JOIN?
Open to all Villages residents. Dues are $2 per person every quarter.
General meeting: Jan. 3, 7 p.m., Allamanda Recreation Center