South Coast Plaza's Jewel Court was transformed into a dining room for 500 Sunday night for Cuisine Fantasy V, a benefit featuring gourmet specialties organized by two of the 31 women's committees of the Orange County Philharmonic Society.
The Irvine Philharmonic Committee and the Las Canciones Committee, with members from the Placentia-Yorba Linda area, joined in coordinating the $40-per-person event, which raised $15,000 for the society's youth programs.
Guests sampled goodies from 22 restaurants and eight wineries. The choices varied from gravlax and cucumber spaghetti to whole-wheat quesadillas , lobster ravioli, Indian tandoori chicken and sloe-gin chicken.
Although the women's committee members had experience from previous Cuisine Fantasies to guide them, event adviser Judy Thompson of Las Canciones said organizers still faced logistical problems.
"It's always a very large challenge to serve this many people in an area not intended for serving food," she said. "It's particularly difficult for the restaurants, because all they have available is an electrical outlet. But they bring their cans of Sterno, and they seem to manage somehow."
Society board president Jack Caldwell and his wife, Nancy, who is active in the women's committees, talked about another of the society's functions just days before. On March 3, about 3,000 county fifth-graders were treated to a concert at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The concert was one of the programs funded by events such as Cuisine Fantasy.
"When you watch 3,000 of these kids experiencing this for the first time, it just gets you," Jack Caldwell said.
"The words Philharmonic Society can put some people off," Nancy Caldwell said. "They sound so highbrow. But when they see what we do with these kids, they forget about that."