Forget about plastic leis, mai tais in paper cups, and slabs of pork--the usual scene at luaus on this side of the Pacific.
For members of the Laguna Niguel chapter of Chaine des Rotisseurs--an international society devoted to the joy of savoring fine food and wine--it was a necklace of orchids, mai tais in shaved coconuts, and dainty servings of squab at Hotel Laguna on Sunday night.
For openers, guests--including Hotel Laguna owner Claes Andersen and his wife, Georgia--nibbled on salmon rolls, mushroom caps stuffed with shrimp mousse, and scallops. After guests watched a golden sun drown in an opalescent sea, they gathered at the hotel's central patio, complete with gushing fountain and palm-smothered gazebo (which housed a dreamy-sounding Hawaiian band). Here, they dug into a feast so elegant that they began to speak in hushed tones. Nobody wanted to distract from the perfection of it all.
Up for savoring: camphor-wood barbecued squab and white miso soup accompanied by a William Hill Reserve '88 (Take notes--this group knows its wines); lamb steak with pine nuts offered with a Clos de Bois, Marlstone '86; spinach cucumber salad with selected caviars served up with Clos de la Roche '83; and almond mousse in a Florentine cookie basket presented with Penfolds Grandfather Port or a Late Harvest '85 Riesling by Kendall Jackson.
Among guests was Ritz-Carlton general manager Henry Schielein and his wife, Carol. Henry is the president of the Laguna Niguel chapter of the illustrious group that regularly meets to lap up the good life. How does one become a member? "They have to be referred," said Schielein, decked out in Hawaiian duds and his wife's lei. "Then we invite them to a dinner or two to see if they fit in." (Make that behave . Members must not be given to drunkenness and must know how to carry on a polite dinner conversation. Political debates are banned.)
If Rotisseur-wanna-bes pass muster, they get to take regular flights of culinary fancy with some of Orange County's most discriminating gourmands. And occasionally, they get the chance to rankle one another. For example, Andersen's luau invitation referred to something guests might be able to spot "to the south" as they sipped their libations on Hotel Laguna's beachside terrace: "the PuPu Ritz--an extinct volcano!" (the drop-dead gorgeous Ritz-Carlton, but of course).
Perspectives: While Hotel Laguna was brimming with the style of the South Seas, a nearby cottage bustled with the style of Scandinavia on Sunday. Bill Magnuson and Ulf Strandberg, proprietors of the Gustaf Anders restaurant at South Coast Plaza Village, staged an intimate dinner for supporters of the Laguna Art Museum in their cliff-side home with an ocean view.
Up for sampling on their balcony: salmon, golden caviar, pickled herring, Scandinavian breads and cheeses. Afterward, guests filed into the back yard for a sit-down dinner that featured a first course of fish soup (the smell of it simmering was reason enough to come to this party) and a main course of smoked reindeer. Smoked reindeer? "It's a delicacy," Strandberg said with a smile as he tumbled the shrimp shells in his soup. "We get it from Scandinavia via San Francisco." (Said one giggling guest: "Thank God it's not Christmas!")
Among guests: John and Teri Kennady (elegant in a white blazer hand-painted in silver); Robert and Nadine Hall (in a stunning turquoise cashmere blazer); Tim and Debi Bremner; Dr. Signe Belden; Robert Ehrlich; Dr. Robert Ball; Carl and Beverly Mitchell; Virginia Snyder; and Kitty Morgan with her husband, Charles Desmarais, director of the Laguna Art Museum. (Desmarais was in the pink about the museum being in the black.) The evening was part of the museum's "Perspectives" fund-raising party series.
Capers: Neiman Marcus at Fashion Island staged its sixth annual "Catalogue Caper" on Saturday night, netting more than $100,000 for the Orange County chapter of the American Diabetes Assn. Leba Kramer was chairwoman of the $175-per-person affair.