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New restaurants and happenings

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The annual season of hospitality is with us in full swing, beginning with that last Thursday in November and continuing through New Year's Day. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice and Christmas all fall within a few short weeks of each other. We may cook for or with others, or we may host and be hosted at one of our many and wonderfully varied restaurants around the Triangle, but gathering around some winter ritual—maybe it's your office holiday bash—is likely on the calendar for us all.

With that in mind, it is not too soon to book a table or a room for your dinner, party or event. Many of the restaurants that were open on Thanksgiving Day will be open on Dec. 24 and 25, and New Year's Eve and Day, offering prix fixe buffets and/or a la carte menus. In addition to the venues we highlighted for Thanksgiving (www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A40159), 115 Midtowne (787-8963, www.115midtowne.com), The Capital Room in the Blue Ridge Road Ramada Inn (832-4100), Top of the Tower in the Clarion State Capital Hotel (832-0501), Carver's Creek (872-2300) and Yancy's (821-7171—add a Cajun twist to your celebrations!)—all in Raleigh—offer some form of the holiday meal during this season. If you want the global angle on your get together, perhaps it's time to try the Brazilian steakhouse Rio Churrascaria with locations in Raleigh (846-6560) and Cary (463-0410).

In Durham, add George's Garage (286-4131, www.ghgrestaurants.com) and Four Square (401-9877, www.foursquarerestaurant.com) to the list of possibilities to scope out for special lunches and dinner; and if Carrboro's your neighborhood for eating out, remember to call Acme Food and Beverage Co. (929-2263, www.acmecarrboro.com) for seasonal menu updates and events in addition to their Dec. 10 Champagne Dinner.

Restaurants already filling up for New Year's Eve prix fixe dinners include: Cary's AN, Southeast Asian Cuisine, $75-$90 per person. Seatings available at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.—the latter includes live music, party favors and a champagne toast (677-9229, www.ancuisines.com). Frazier's seasonal bistro on Hillsborough Street across from N.C. State will offer an elegant three-course meal with a champagne toast for $50 per person (828-6699, www.fraziersbistro.com). Contemporary Italian cuisine at Vivace will serve a $45 per person menu, which includes prosecco (787-7747). Nana's Chophouse will host a three-course dinner for $45 per person, including a champagne toast to ring in the New Year (829-1212, www.nanaschophouse.com). We can't say it too many times: Call ahead to double check the open and closed days and times, and by all means make a reservation well in advance.

Wine dinners, a form of prix fixe dining-out that has taken off across the Triangle, match particular wines with complementary food. In addition to Acme, a few blocks down the street in Chapel Hill, The Lantern (969-8846, www.lanternrestaurant.com) will host a four-course Classic Peking Duck Dinner, featuring the English Heritage duck breed known as Aylesbury on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 6:30 p.m. $75 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. Reservations are required.

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Other prix fixe options can be found at Raleigh's Bogart's American Grill (832-1122, www.bogartsamericangrill.com), which has a Blue Monday special every week—one appetizer to share, two entrées and a bottle of wine or two blueberry martinis for $29.95 per couple. Azure Grille (960-0707, www.azuregrille.com) in Chapel Hill has an early bird special, 5-6:30 p.m. every night of the week—boasting salad, entrée, scoop of dessert (gelato or sorbetto), glass of wine, plus coffee or tea. The menu offers a choice between soup of the day and a salad for starters and entrées such as vegetarian butternut squash risotto or shrimp in double cream chevre. Aurora (942-2400, www.aurorarestaurant.com) has a long-standing tradition of the prix fixe for special seasons of the year, and to make their contemporary Italian specialties even more available, they will be open for holiday lunches Dec. 7-23 from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. in addition to their usual nightly dining hours. The Melting Pot in Raleigh (878-0477, www.meltingpot.com) will also be open for their warming fondue lunches through Dec. 29.

Looking to try new flavors? J. Betski's in downtown Raleigh is now open at Seaboard Station (10 W. Franklin St., 833-7999, www.jbetskis.com). Run by former Lantern manager John Korzekwinski, inside-the-beltline dwellers welcome this spot for central and eastern European cuisine, a variety not easily found in the Triangle. How about roasted beet salad, with horseradish quark and pumpkinseed oil for a starter? Cary's Tangerine Café (468-8688, 2422 SW Cary Parkway, in Parkway Pointe) lists Vietnamese, Indian, Thai, Korean, Japanese and Indonesian among the cuisines represented in a laid-back ambience with quick food and fresh veggie-loaded ingredients.

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