The Crowd: Palmer's hand in many dishes

One of America's most celebrated restaurateurs and chefs, Charlie Palmer, this week fronted a gathering of culinary critics in a private dining room of his Costa Mesa establishment at South Coast Plaza.

Palmer, joining his local master of the kitchen, Chef Seakyeong Kim, welcomed to the table some 20 local celebs, including Newport's own Jamie Gwen and longtime O.C. dining authority Fifi Chao, of the Orange County Business Journal. The Wednesday afternoon confab marked the publication of South Coast Plaza's spring issue of Taste magazine, featuring the "au courant" voice on local dining.

South Coast Plaza execs David Grant and Debra Gunn Downing pressed the flesh of patrons enjoying a four-course presentation. It began with an asparagus salad followed by sweet pea risotto and pan-seared East Coast monkfish. Each course was paired with selections of West Coast White Rhone varieties offered to guests in a blind tasting. The wine was served in Baccarat's latest collection of stemware called "Château Baccarat."

Palmer shared with the table his latest venture: the purchase and rehab of San Francisco's 80-room, 100-year-old boutique hotel formerly known as the Crescent, which he has renamed the Mystic Hotel. He is also opening a Charlie Palmer-themed bistro in a revitalized sector of old downtown Denver.

Dessert was then served, featuring a caramelized fig and raspberry sangria parfait, which replicated the cover of Taste magazine's spring 2012 edition.


Palmer backing charity event

There's more Charlie Palmer dining news.

Palmer will join South Coast Plaza in hosting the Summer Wine & Food event benefiting the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. The May 19 fundraiser will feature the vintages from some 30 wineries accompanied by a special presentation of selected tastes from the Charlie Palmer kitchen.

The event on behalf of Second Harvest has been a 25-year tradition at South Coast Plaza, nurtured over the years by Anton Segerstrom and staff, who are dedicated Second Harvest advocates as well as wine connoisseurs.

Every dollar generated from the $75 advance ticket purchase, as well as from wine auction proceeds, will go directly to Second Harvest's fight against hunger in Orange County. Go to or call (949) 653-2900 ext. 131 for reservations and information.


Black & White Ball run-up event at Saks

Saks Fifth Avenue hosted guests of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) at a kick-off reception in advance of their upcoming Black & White Ball, set for May 19 at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa.

Elegant hostess and restaurateur Elizabeth An supervised the catering of Asian-inspired hors d'oeuvres from AnQi by Crustacean, as champagne flowed and Saks provided a chic fashion show of black-and-white cocktail attire and evening gowns.

An joined sisters Catherine and Hannah and their father, Danny, along with Lourdes and Ted Nark. Both families are set to be honored at the May 19 ball.

Also in the crowd of revelers were Christina and Bill Lyon, Betty and S.L. Huang, Inga and Mark Beder, Marsha and Darrell Anderson, and Richard Moriarty and Lauren Blackwood.

The evening was co-chaired by Wendy Tenebaum, Nancy Eaton, Susan Kirkland and honoree Lourdes Nark.


Chapman benefit pageant raises boat-load of cash

The hands-on Beckstrand Cancer Foundation, helping cancer patients by providing lifesaving funding for living essentials, received a generous donation of support from students at Chapman University.

The annual "Delta Queen" pageant at Chapman, sponsored by the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, raised an impressive $30,000 for Beckstrand under the leadership of Ryan Wilkenson, executive director of the pageant.

To date, the fraternity has raised and donated $135,000 to Beckstrand.

Television star Eva LaRue of "CSI: Miami" and her daughter, Kaya, joined Beckstrand executive director Lil Spitzer and Chapman trustee David Wilson, of the Wilson Automotive Group, in judging the pageant.

Newport's Donald and Dee Dee Sodaro were the 2012 honored guests, receiving the S. Paul Musco Award for philanthropy through Chapman University.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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