The Crowd: A tasty Orange Coast kick-off party

Newport Bach Restaurant Week kicked off Friday and runs through Jan. 27. The previous week, Peggy Fort, president and CEO of California Marketing Concepts Inc., welcomed local VIP guests to a preview of the fifth annual event. She threw an incredible "tasting" party prepared and served by the culinary team at the grand Resort at Pelican Hill around its drop-dead spectacular pool and grill. Grilled scallops, seared ahi tuna, steak tar tar, sirloin beef sliders and a tantalizing pasta station had the crowd raving even before they discovered the gelato bar featuring an amazing array of choices, such as a caramel and sea salt, chocolate, pistachio and French vanilla.

"I'll have them all" was a typical request.

Visit http://www.NewportBeachDining for a list of local bistros and their menus offering a taste of the Orange Coast this coming week. Lunch is priced at $15 or $20, dinners, $25, $35 or $45.

The Assisteens, a young ladies auxiliary of the Assistance League of Newport-Mesa, held a fashion luncheon at holiday time chaired by Lido's lovely Diana Thomas. The lively event took place at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa and raised more than $25,000 in support of league efforts. Charities supported include Operation School Bell, which provides clothing and supplies to underprivileged local school children, the Cheri Harris Children's Health Dental Center and other Assistance League-sponsored projects.

Additionally, the Assisteens volunteer in support of local nonprofits, such as Share Our Selves, Girls Inc., the Second Harvest Food Bank, O.C. Interfaith Shelter and others. Assisteens involved in the holiday fashion show fundraiser are on track to be presented to society May 14 at the Assistance League Medallion Debutante Ball at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa. The young ladies include Kennedi Aquilar Varing, Bianca Barnes, Caroline Feinberg, Devon Greenlee, Melissa Martino, Lauren Pfeiffer, Courtney Pickens, Sarah Reynolds, Niki Waniek, Amy Widmer and Madison Vitarelli.

A Fashion Island salon stepped up on behalf of stray animals cared for by the 3rd Chance Program at the Irvine Animal Care Center and Stray Cat Alliance. Studio 4 Salon, owed and managed by Monique Knowland, and Roxanne Chavez joined with a full contingent of their staff, stylists and friends for a recent daylong beauty event with proceeds going to the animal shelter. An amazing $21,000 was raised through donated salon services and a silent auction. Principal sponsors and underwriters were Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate agents Joy Curtin and Gail Grabner, Emery Financial of Fashion Island represented by owner Brad Sarvak, and Irvine's Lucca Café. Funds will go to animal-rescue efforts.

In a final holiday note, the Noble Viking Charities of Orange County, a men's social and charitable organization, once again created a Christmas miracle for an estimated 12,000 O.C. families. Thousands of holiday dinner baskets prepared by some 500 volunteers were packed and distributed in what has become an important annual symbol of the holiday spirit of giving and sharing.

Baskets went to a number of charities for distribution. Some of the deserving included people helped by Civic Center Barrio Housing, Santa Ana; Homefront America, San Juan Capistrano; Pio Pico Elementary School, Santa Ana; Saint Michael's Society, San Clemente; Boys & Girls Clubs of Costa Mesa ,Tustin and Santa Ana; and many others.

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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