Restaurant Sampler Dishes Up Fun

From curries to coquilles to carrot cake, from pates to potato skins . . . .

Sunday night in the Jewel Court of South Coast Plaza, more than 400 supporters and guests of two Orange County Philharmonic Society women's committees gathered to sample the fare of a dozen-and-a-half local restaurants. "Cuisine Fantasy II" netted $11,000 for the Philharmonic Society concert series and youth programs.

South Coast Plaza arranged for the participation of most of the restaurants, including Alfredo's, Piret's and Copa de Oro. The committees--Las Canciones, based in Placentia, and the Irvine Philharmonic Women's Committee--brought in, among others, Hemingway's, Gemmell's and Francois.

Most attempts to compare dishes (from such varied traditions as French, Mexican, Indian and Italian) ran into the "apples and oranges" problem--given the culinary level here, "McIntoshes and mandarins" might be more appropriate--but some clear favorites among the entrees emerged nevertheless.

"The baked oysters were dy-na-mite! " said Cheryl Christey of Huntington Beach, referring to one of Hemingway's contributions.

"After I'd had my first one, I got in another line, and this guy had one in his plate, and I said, 'I'll give you $2 for that.' But he wouldn't go for it."

As for how many times she refilled her plate over the course of the evening, Christey said, "I'm not telling. I never tell."

Among the desserts, the line for ice cream from Leatherby's was probably the longest. But the line for Chagall Chocolatier prompted Irvine Committee reservations chairman Peggy Cave to muse, "How can these wonderfully skinny ladies be eating plate -fuls of chocolates?"

The sounds of harpist Mindy Ball greeted arriving guests; California Sound provided music for dancing. The Lemon Street Stompers contributed good Dixie and bad lines. ("Don't forget folks, if your nose runs and your feet smell, you were born upside down.")

According to Joyce Reaume, women's committees chairman, joint sponsorship of a Philharmonic Society fund-raising event is rare.

"Las Canciones is new, and they're a small group," Reaume explained. "They thought they might be more effective if they went in with another group." Cuisine Fantasy II is an encore performance of the two groups' first collaboration a year ago.

Having had her fill of gastronomic delights, Carole Uhlaner, assistant professor of political science at UC Irvine, made her way toward the parking lot.

"I had a great time," Uhlaner said. "I was able to taste food from so many restaurants I've thought about going to but haven't gotten around to or didn't think I could afford. I now know that I would go to Le Chardonnay, for instance.

"Unfortunately Hemingway's was out of their oysters by the time I got there. And from what I understand, I really missed out."

Guests included Irvine Philharmonic Committee president Cindy Brauer, Las Canciones president Judith Thompson, event chairwomen Joan Waterworth and Colleen Evers, and philharmonic executive director Erich Vollmer.

The South Orange County YWCA held a dinner-dance at the Westin South Coast Plaza Friday night to honor its 1985 "Achievement Honorees"--seven county women who have earned commendations for their "outstanding accomplishments, dedicated efforts and charitable contributions."

The event raised $8,000 for the YWCA. Many of the 300 attending were honorees' family members--YWCA Executive Director Mary Douglas said she was pleased to see the "potpourri of ages, not just the middle-agers, as is so often the case at this sort of function"--which helped lend a feeling of great warmth to the affair.

Each presenter and honoree spoke briefly; the result was a vignette of each woman's accomplishments, thoughts and aspirations.

Honorees were: Business--Dorothy Doan, president of Pelican Properties; Education--Constance Carroll, president, Saddleback College South; Fine Arts--Dorothy Stillwell, community leader and volunteer; Law--Alicemarie Stotler, U.S. District Court judge; Government--state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach); Medicine--Dr. Beverly Morgan, UCI Medical Center; Religion--the Rev. Barbara Mudge, St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Laguna Beach.

Presenters included Robert Shelton, senior consultant on government relations for the Irvine Co.; Norman Watson, Coast Community College District chancellor emeritus; Tom Fuentes, vice president of Robert Bein, William Frost and Associates; E.B. Buster, president of the Cherry Division of Textron; the Rev. Robert Cornelison of St. Mary's Episcopal Church; Walter Gerken, board chairman of Pacific Mutual; John Burton, consultant for Public Policies Systems Inc.; Dan Aldrich, UC Riverside interim chancellor, and Jean Aldrich, YWCA board president.

County Board of Supervisors Chairman Tom Riley and his wife, Emma Jane, were recipients of a special award for Distinguished Service.

"Basically, the first Wednesday of every month, we just get together and schmooze, " explained Jewish Business Assn. co-founder Evan Fruithandler.

But Sunday night, 200 members of the association schmoozed up a storm at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel; the black-tie celebration marked the group's first anniversary and raised $10,000 for the Jewish Youth Athletic Assn. of Orange County.

"We started with a once-a-month breakfast for Jewish business leaders in the community--and some who aren't Jewish--who got together for business networking," Fruithandler said. "The membership soared to 250 in less than a year. Everybody still does business together, but I think it's more just to enjoy each other's company."

According to Fruithandler, the funds raised at the banquet will be used to send high school students to Israel this summer to participate in the Maccabea games, where young Jewish athletes from 22 countries compete Olympic-style every four years. (Competitions at some level take place each summer in the Maccabea village, he said, whether or not it's a Maccabea year.)

County Supervisor Harriett Wieder--not about to let a fine year of schmoozing go unrecognized--read a proclamation signed by the five supervisors congratulating the group and wishing it the best for the future.

Among the guests were Howard Jacobson and Tom Drosman (founders with Fruithandler), Jewish Business Assn. board president Paul Vann and vice president Ricci Siegel.

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