Forget the traditional mustard greens that promote longevity. For two local restaurateurs, it was Chinese fare with a contemporary flair that ushered in "The Year of the Horse" last weekend.
At Michael Kang's New Year's Eve bash on Friday at his Five Feet restaurant, the menu was daring. Among the unique delectables that guests washed down with fine wines: bird's nest king crab meat soup; braised pompano with ginger-soy chili sauce; broccoli and Black Forest ham on a bed of crispy pan-fried noodles (with a to-die-for black bean, tomato and mushroom sauce) and a Sonoma center-cut lamb chop with Mongolian-style mint sauce.
Just as exciting for guests was the chance to have their faces added to Kang's talk-of-the-town mural. Winning the opportunity, via a drawing, were Paul and Lana Caliri; Sherry and Wayne Smith; Dwight Spires; Gordon Cowan; Lana Newman; Sharon Haire; Ralph Collins; Nob Scott; Sandy Saltzman; Marty Fitzpatrick; Cliff Fulkerson (the madcap florist who created the exotic centerpieces for the party); and Tony Quanci.
What made Kang decide to have a mural in his Laguna Beach restaurant? "The wall was blank!" he said.
On Sunday, William Liu welcomed supporters of the Historical and Cultural Foundation to his new and elegant Emperor's Fortune restaurant in South Coast Plaza Village in Santa Ana.
"We decided to combine our New Year celebration with our grand opening," said Liu, who put a $1-million price tag on his stunning dining palace.
Guests were slow to arrive at the party that served up delicious black bean salmon and delicate fresh plum tart. Chairwoman Elizabeth Tierney, slinky in pale peach silk with Chinese embroidery, explained why in four words: "It's Super Bowl Sunday."
Among guests was Liu's lovely wife, Linda; Pat and Carl Neisser; Catherine Thyen; and Lydia Wang Himes, foundation president.
Opening night: Gala gridlock. It happened at the opening of the posh, new Harbour Club in Newport Beach on Friday night. Imagine a few hundred dressed-to-kill party-goers sitting bumper to bumper on Coast Highway waiting-- aching --to make their way into a parking lot overrun with huffing and puffing valet attendants. (Skateboards might have helped. Pogo sticks?)
It seemed to take forever for guests to board the 183-foot Hornblower yacht that would take them on a food-and-entertainment-stuffed cruise. "We should've told people to car-pool," wailed Joan Stevens, wife of Harbor Club president Dick Stevens.
It was worth the wait. Before the last tulip of champagne was tipped, guests had been wined and dined and serenaded on the ship's three levels.
Cinema Awards: "I'm going to turn Elizabeth's purple eyes green!" Donna Crean draped herself in her amazing emeralds for Saturday night's tribute to Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Gregory Peck at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. (Smart planning. When you're going to mingle with a 2,000-strong crowd containing a galaxy of stars, you don't throw on basic black and pearls or you get lost in the sparkle.) So Crean, who attended the American Cinema Awards Tribute with her husband, John, and their sons Johnnie and Andy, not only wore her amazing emeralds, she wore her shimmering sequins. Her shimmering purple sequins. (La Liz kept the purple to her eyes. She wore flowing black silk and her amazing diamonds.)
"Isn't this fabulous?," Donna Crean said, surveying a ballroom brimming with the likes of Jane Fonda, Lauren Bacall, Sophia Loren, Whitney Houston (svelte in a white sequinned slink), Jimmy Stewart, Sidney Poitier, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, Carol Burnett and Gene Autry.
Guests, many toting cameras, enjoyed cocktails as they watched the stars pour through the ballroom doors. "There's Dorothy Lamour!" screamed one. Click. Flash. "Jane Powell!" Click. Flash. "Patrick Swayze!" Click. "Lionel Ritchie!" Click. "Anthony Perkins!" Click. "Whoopi Goldberg!" Click.
And the stars kept coming. Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, Leslie Nielsen and Dennis Hopper strolled through the doors. So did Andy Williams, Carol Channing, Gloria DeHaven, Glenn Ford, Shelley Winters, Jane Russell, Anne Francis, Terry Moore, Cyd Charisse, June Haver, Alexis Smith, Esther Williams, Tab Hunter, Robert Wagner, Ruth Roman, Celeste Holm, Claire Trevor and Caesar Romero.
Also among locals who made the trek to the Hills of Beverly were the star-struck Jade and Ron Higgins of Tustin (he sits on the board of the American Cinema Awards Foundation); Jolene and Tom Fuentes and Darlene and Bill Manclark of Newport Beach; and Emerald Bay's own superstar, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin and his wife, Lois.
The Creans of Newport Beach are avid supporters of the foundation, which, besides other movie-related causes, raises funds for the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital. In 1988, the couple were hosts of a foundation benefit held at the Irvine Marriott. American Airlines sponsors the events. David Gest, a friend of the Creans, produces.
Crystal clear: You don't need a crystal ball to predict that Judie and George Argyros will be generous. The philanthropy of the Argyros Foundation is regularly spotlighted on the society pages. But it doesn't hurt to stage a "Crystal Ball" to honor the Newport Beach couple. Especially if it's like the elegant one sponsored by the Leukemia Society of America at the Irvine Hilton and Towers on Saturday night. More than 400 guests turned out to honor the Argyroses, who gave the organization a check for $25,000 to honor the memory of Debbie Yoder, daughter of their good friends Don and Pat Yoder. Debbie died of leukemia at age 21. Total proceeds from the gala were more than $100,000. Floss Schumacher was chairwoman.