An annual sporting ritual heralding Autumn is the US Tennis Open, where most folks were surprised to see Andy Roddick crash out in the first round this year. On his feet while he did were sneakers provided by his new apparel sponsor Babolat, a French athletics wear firm who had Roddick on hand to help them introduce their products in the US at a sumptuous luncheon at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on 42nd Street. Their manufacturing partner, the Gallic rubber giant Michelin, had a launch event of their own on November 2nd, when the long-anticipated Michelin Guide: New York City Restaurants & Hotels 2006 was presented at the Guggenheim Museum. 1000 First Edition numbered guides were made available to event attendees (I got # 759), and among them Wylie Dufresne told me he was “very pleased” with the one star awarded to his place WD~50. Less ecstatic was Daniel Bouloud, who opined that “they messed up the two stars, they messed up the one stars, but they got the three stars” – a comment on his ventures Daniel and Cafe Bouloud receiving one and two stars respectively. Assuming Le Bernardin‘s three-star rating was satisfactory, I asked Eric Ripert how he liked the evening’s catering, supplied by Restaurant Associates; “I didn’t taste the food,” he tersely replied, which spoke for itself.

Like any multiple-star aspiring chef, the restaurant business is notoriously demanding and difficult, but three places opening within a month after the Michelin Guide launch figure to be around for inclusion in the next edition. Trend-watchers might note that two each begin with the letter A and specialize in serving tapas-style small plates meant to be shared. On LaGuardia Place Askew cooks up a Eurasian fusion of sorts, with bacon-wrapped sea scallops, poppy seed gnocchi, a mussel pot with bouillabaisse broth, and gouda & apple strudel all menu standouts. Aspen, at 30 West 22nd, highlights ingredients native to the American West, and here you can’t go wrong with dishes like lamb chops seasoned with pomegranate & rosemary, grilled jalapeno elk sausage with sauerkraut, maple & orange glazed salmon with sweet potato, bacon & corn hash, and bison burgers topped with bacon & cheese. Serving a broader array of appetizers, main dishes, breads, soups and salads is Mint, located in the San Carlos Hotel at 150 East 50th Street. Here the cuisine is South Asian, and in addition to familiar fare such as Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Vindaloo and Goat Rogan Josh, adventurous diners can opt for regional specialties such as Ajwaini Tilapia, Goan Chicken Xacutti and vegetarian dishes like Vengan batata nu shaak and Diwan-e-handi.

Debuting before these, but still too late to be in the Michelin was Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction, which held a bash to mark the closing of the Howl! Arts Festival [full disclosure: I participated in Art Around the Park, creating a piece which gave New Yorkers opportunity to show how they feel about our 43rd President], before the official opening party two weeks later. With an eclectic menu here in addition to several live performance venues upstairs, this Avenue A establishment feels Michelin-proof. Another place aimed more at satisfying a regular clientele than the occasional critical gourmand is Bobby Van’s Steakhouse. While their first Manhattan site at 46th and Park is starless in Michelinland, it’s done well enough to spawn two branches, and on October 25 guests at the new 25 Broad street locale were treated to a buffet featuring prime beef, creamed spinach, seared tuna and a raw bar with clams, oysters, shrimp and crab claws. As a number of haute cuisine closings recently makes clear, the number of stars a restaurant is awarded in various guides doesn’t necessarily determine it’s viability as a business; conversely, several Manhattan institutions celebrated justly-won longevity this autumn despite being sans etoiles dans Bibendum. On October 11 Odeon celebrated it’s 25th with a bash that spilled out onto a tent specially set up on West Broadway to handle a mob scene larded with survivors from the roaring 80’s. 10 days later you could go to two anniversary parties in one night, but I opted to bypass the Florent event in favor of the 20th birthday party for the terrific Union Square Cafe, the beachhead for Danny Meyer‘s gustatory empire.

That restaurant, along with Meyer’s other ventures just north of it – Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, Tabla and Eleven Madsion Park – all took part in Harvest on the Square, the annual food and beverage feast put on by the Union Square Partnership, which was on September 22nd this year. Other neighborhood institutions leaving attendees satiated and smiling included Blue Water Grill, Angelo & Maxie’s Steakhouse, Dos Caminos, Cafe Spice, Todd English’s Olives NY, City Crab & Seafood Company, Candela, The Strip House, Beppe and Heartland Brewery. Within the ensuing week food lovers could indulge in two more tasting events. On September 26th the League for the Hard of Hearing held their 13th Annual Feast With Famous Faces benefit at JPMorgan Chase dining rooms, where you could you sample dishes from places like Le Marais, Gonzo, Mercadito, Zoe, Riingo, Rosa Mexicano and Il Bastardo, as presented by local television news personalities such as Jim Ryan, Lyn Brown, Sukanya Krishnan and Bill Ritter, who were abetted by a number of less recognizable (and surely less well-paid) soap opera actors. The next night Time Out New York magazine hosted their tasting event Eat Out 05:  A Tasting Celebration at Skylight (the former Ace Gallery), and delicacy providers included Aix, Chanterelle, Artisanal, Nobu, Tamarind, Lupa, Wallse, Oceana and Gotham Bar & Grill.

Two Puck Building events later in the Fall benefited City Harvest: on Monday, November 7th, New York magazine held their annual food fest, with Cafe Bouloud, Butter, Cafe Sabarsky, Beacon, Lever House, The Modern, Rib, Nobu 57, Fatty Crab, Craft, Devi and Cercle Rouge among the caterers on hand, and on Wednesday, November 16th PJ Wine held their Grand Tasting 2005 event, where a dizzying array of libations were available. Landmarc, Les Halles, Lenox Room, Barmarche, Beppe, Vento Trattoria and Suba were restaurants with booths, with distributors Redondo Iglesias USA, Foods From Spain, O & Co. and D’Artagnan also there; of course Frederick Wildman & Sons and Kobrand had wine tables, and there were quite a few quality champagnes presented as well – Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Piper Heidsieck, the pricey Krug, and a variety of small vineyards’ products distributed by Michael Skurnik wines.