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TIMES STAFF WRITER

So how much are you willing to spend for the ultimate dining experience?

Say for a six-course meal, each course prepared by a respected chef from the community and accompanied by a fine wine.

You’d dine in a grand ballroom, exchanging witty repartee with friends and like-minded gourmands. And the tab for the evening’s fare would actually be a charitable contribution.

In fact, this is the “Ultimate Dining Experience"--the Conejo Valley Senior Concerns’ 14th annual major fund-raiser.

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Reservations are still being accepted for the Aug. 8 affair at the Hyatt Westlake Plaza Hotel. The price: $100 a plate.

All proceeds will help support the nonprofit agency’s programs, including Meals on Wheels, the Fitzgerald Senior Day Support Center, Senior Advocates and the Safe Return personal identification program.

The benefit, a sellout most years, will unfold something like this:

A silent auction will begin at 5 p.m. in the ballroom’s foyer. Up for bidding will be entertainment tickets, sports memorabilia, artworks, vacations, gift baskets and much more.

At 6:45 p.m., the doors to the ballroom will swing open and diners will be seated at elegantly dressed tables.

The Grand March of the Waiters begins at 7:15 p.m. Each chef will be introduced to discuss the course he or she has prepared just before it is served.

But don’t expect to learn of the gourmet offerings before the event.

“We never publish the menu,” said Frances Prince, executive director of Senior Concerns. “It is always meant to be a surprise.”

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What we can share, however, is which chef is preparing which course:

* Appetizer, Ray Swanson of Westlake Village Inn; salad, Eric Olson of North Ranch Country Club; third course appetizer, Bradley Bennet of Piatti Ristorante; sorbet, Phyllis Vaccarelli of Westlake Culinary Institute; main course, Dean Marlatte of the Hyatt Westlake Plaza.

* Ten wineries from around California have donated selections for the event: Cottonwood Canyon (Santa Maria); Ravenswood (Sonoma); Meridian (Paso Robles); Barnwood (Arroyo Grande); Laetitia (Arroyo Grande); Cambria (Santa Maria); Callaway (Temecula); Domaine St. George (Sonoma County); Stonehedge (St. Helena); Au Bon Climat (Los Olivos).

After those gastronomic delights, an auction will offer items big and small.

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The evening will wind down with Michel Bardavid of Sherwood Country Club introducing his dessert.

DETAILS

Conejo Valley Senior Concerns will present its 14th annual “Ultimate Dining Experience” benefit Aug. 8 at the Hyatt Westlake Plaza Hotel. Cost: $100 a plate. Reservations required. Call 497-0189.

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Leeward Winery in Ventura will hold another installment of its seasonal “Taste of Ventura” open house events.

This is an opportunity to scrutinize pre-release samples of Leeward’s 1998 Edna Valley Reserve Chardonnay and 1998 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir. Current releases will also be poured.

In addition, Epicure Catering in Ventura will prepare Pinot-soaked raspberries, shrimp gazpacho, organic greens and more. A wealth of locally grown produce and other edibles will be served by Underwood Farms, Boccali’s, Somis Nut House, Pictsweet Mushroom Farms, Saticoy Fruit Exchange and others.

DETAILS

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Leeward Winery’s open house will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Sunday. Admission is free. The winery is at 2784 Johnson Drive, Ventura.

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And for those looking for something to do tonight: Fillmore & Western Railway will offer another of its Saturday Summer Sunset Barbecue train excursions.

Participants will board a vintage train in downtown Fillmore for a westerly jaunt to a nearby picnic area.

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Patrons will disembark at the grassy site, where a full barbecue dinner will be prepared and served. You’ll have a choice of chicken or tri-tip.

Post-dinner activities will include live music and dancing, and after the fun, it’s all aboard for the return to Fillmore.

DETAILS

Fillmore & Western Railway’s Saturday Summer Sunset Barbecue train ride departs at 6:30 p.m. from Central Park and Santa Clara Avenue and returns about 9:45. Cost: $48.50 general; $42 senior citizens; $37.50 ages 8-12; under 8, $15. Reservations are required. The barbecue train excursions are held on alternating Saturdays through Oct. 23. Call (800) 773-TRAIN [8724] or (805) 524-2546.

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Rodney Bosch writes about the restaurant scene in Ventura County and outlying points. He can be reached at 653-7572, fax 653-7576 or by e-mail at: rodney.bosch@latimes.com.


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