A wind-swept "Moon Over the Mediterranean" gala that celebrated Fashion Island Newport Center's $100-million renovation. On Wednesday night, a few thousand well-heeled guests swept along gleaming tile walkways, rhapsodized over new fountains, explored new shops, and sipped, supped and swayed till the wee hours, helping to chalk up more than $250,000 for seven local youth charities: the Orange County Philharmonic Youth Programs, the Mardan Center of Educational Therapy, the Irvine Theatre Children's Programs, the Orange County Bar Foundation, Shortstop Program, Childhelp USA and the Irvine Children's Fund.
The Mediterranean never had it so good. Thymes caterers was faithful to the theme, serving up 5,000 pounds of herb-seasoned beef and 1,000 pounds each of grilled tuna and swordfish, not to mention bushels of pasta and enough chocolate brownies to sink a yacht. Other highlights: three kinds of fresh pears quartered and dipped into an apricot candied syrup, grilled, then served with a zabaglione cream. Another mob pleaser: chicken marinated in pomegranate juice (400 pomegranates were crushed to a pulp to pull this one off) and seasoned with sage, garlic and thyme. The bubbly, served on silver trays, never stopped flowing.
"Newport Center has become a Mediterranean town," said billionaire Donald Bren, chairman of the Irvine Co., which, along with The Times Orange County, sponsored the benefit. "The climate here is the same as the Mediterranean's and so is the architecture. This center exudes a radiance, an energy. It will become a special way of life for everyone." His favorite shop? "I enjoy them all," Bren said. His favorite restaurant? "I enjoy them all too."