A Tasteful Recap From 3 Orange County Culinary Events

Orange County is home to more than 5,000 nonprofits, and the community is all too happy to lend a hand in support, which is — at least in part — why the social calendars of so many movers and shakers are packed with galas, grazing events and gourmet dinners. Here’s a taste of what was served at a few fetes from the recent past. — Tina Borgatta

Romance of the Mission

It was a magical evening that began with Champagne and cocktails in the courtyard of the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano, where VIPs like Pick Up Stix founders Charlie and Ling Zhang, and guests of honor Madeline and James Irvine Swinden, mingled among the crowd. Mission Director Mechelle Lawrence, who looked stunning in a blush-colored satin gown, greeted everyone with a smile as tasty nibbles by The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel primed palates for the feast that was still to come. (The crowd-pleaser: Tender figs topped with whipped blue cheese and a little slice of prosciutto.) Then, as the sun began to set, guests were directed toward the Ruins of The Great Stone Church, which served as a dramatic backdrop to a concert by young powerhouse vocalist Jackie Evancho (a finalist from “America’s Got Talent”), who wowed with her renditions of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “The Music of the Night,” among other hits, followed by “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano” as her finale. And the magic continued in the garden, where tables dressed in fruit and florals from Roger’s Gardens welcomed guests for a multicourse dinner. A crisp salad of romaine lettuce whetted appetites before the surf-and-turf main course — sautéed shrimp teamed with a succulent filet mignon and asparagus. The dessert? A rich and delightful slice of cheesecake accompanied by Luxardo cherries and a few dollops of custard. And by the time the night was over, $600,000 had been raised — all to help ensure the grand old mission will remain a place of beauty and history for future generations to enjoy. A sweet ending, indeed.

Photography by Carla Rhea and Val Westover

The Golden Foodies

They arrived at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa red-carpet ready. Arc’s Marin von Blöm, a fashion maven known for her bold but always on-point sense of style, wore a dramatic ensemble with a thigh-high slit and sleeves that swayed in the breeze. (Had there been an award for Best Dressed, she most certainly would have taken home the honor.) Yes, the crowd was dressed to impress. It was, after all, a night set aside to celebrate Orange County’s dining industry in grand fashion. A sunset reception on the lawn with the sparkling Pacific on the horizon kicked off the night. O.C.’s restaurant royalty and special guests sipped cocktails as they sampled signature bites from the likes of AnQi, Mix Mix Kitchen and Bar, Filomena’s Italian Kitchen and URBANA Mexican Gastronomy. Then the crowd headed into the ballroom for the awards presentation hosted by Food Network star (and Sauté Magazine contributor) Simon Majumdar and KFI’s “The Fork Report” host Neil Saavedra. The big winners of the night included Arc’s Noah von Blöm (Chef of the Year), Ross Pangilinan (Rising Star Chef of the Year), Monarch Beach Resort’s Jamon Harper (Pastry Chef of the Year), Taps Fish House and Brewery (Best Brunch), The Winery Restaurant and Wine Bar (Best Service Award), Lynette Lim (Bartender of the Year), and URBANA’s Javier Cuadra and Cambalache Grill’s Teresa Razo, who tied for the titled of Restaurateur of the Year. 

Photography by Luis Esparza, Joe Katchka and Ed Melliza

Chef Masters

There’s nothing like watching a chef in action, and the inaugural Chef Masters event at Paséa Hotel & Spa gave foodies the chance to witness more than two dozen of Orange County’s elite culinary artists work their magic. (Think The Winery’s Yvon Goetz, Oceans & Earth’s Adam Navidi, Haven Gastropub’s Craig Brady, Filomena’s Italian Kitchen’s Linda Johnson and Journeyman’s Zach Geerson — to name just a few.) They set up their grills and burners on the terrace overlooking the white sandy shoreline of Huntington Beach and delighted guests with sumptuous tastes — from ceviche to venison and everything in between, all of which paired perfectly with the selection of California wines and specialty cocktails that were poured. Inside the ballroom, dessert was served — a trio of sweet sensations presented by Paséa Executive Chef Kevin Meyer. The fete was the brainchild of producer extraordinaire Kristin Martin, and it drew support from philanthropists Julia Argyros and Sue Gross, and beloved Chef Pascal Olhats, who served as honorary chair. And, thanks to the 375 guests in attendance who bid on auction prizes like a stay at The Resort at Pelican Hill and a Montana vacation, and who generously donated to a fund-the-need drive, more than $100,000 was raised for the Alzheimer’s Family Center. Cheers to that!

Photography by Bob Hodson

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