Halloween cuisine may mean a fistful of bite-size Milky Ways to some, but for others it's wining and dining in spirited style. This year's selection of Halloween-theme events at dinner spots ranges from the urbane black-tie celebration to the put-on-your-costume-and-boogie bash.
Starting the festivities early, tonight the Robert Mondavi Wine and Food Center in Costa Mesa will orchestrate a spirited evening of Price, Pinot and Poe. Actor Vincent Price will read Edgar Allen Poe's eeriest verse, and the black-tie dinner will feature Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir reserves. The tab is $150 per person. The Wine Center is at 1570 Scenic Ave., Costa Mesa; (714) 979-4510.
Most El Torito restaurants in Orange County will present Halloween costume contests Wednesday, with first-place prizes of $500 in the Laguna Hills restaurant, $250 in Dana Point and Tustin. The parties, with DJ-selected music for dancing, get under way at 9 p.m., with the prizes to be awarded at midnight. You'll have to summon up some creativity to cash in. Past winners include two light bulbs and a sumo wrestler. Halloween celebrations are at 24233 Avenida de la Carlota, Laguna Hills, (714) 951-9137; 17420 17th St., Tustin, (714) 838-6630; and 34521 Street of the Golden Lantern, Dana Point, (714) 831-3770.
At the Bouzy Rouge in Newport Beach, owner Tony Hermann is out for blood--your blood, to donate to the Hoag Hospital Blood Bank. If you pledge to donate any time before Halloween, you will qualify for a Halloween drawing awarding a year of 12 dinners for two at the restaurant. Halloween night entertainment will include fortune tellers and a gypsy violinist. Also offered will be delicacies such as "bat wing bisque" and "werewolf tongues." (Don't worry, they're all renamed selections from the regular menu.) The Bouzy Rouge is at 3110 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach. (714) 673-3440.
Wednesday is also party time at the Half Time sports bar in the Ciao Bella restaurant, from 5 p.m. till 1 a.m., with live music, Halloween drink specials and staff members sporting costumes. You can also order pastas, salads and sandwiches. The bar is in the Los Caballeros Sports Village, 17272 Newhope St., Fountain Valley. (714) 546-7426.
If you want to celebrate the Saturday before Halloween, you might get into the swing of things at the murder-mystery dinner at Scott's Seafood in Costa Mesa. The evening will begin with wine and hors d'oeuvres at 8 p.m. in the lounge--and the first of several "murders." The action will continue during the three-course dinner (salad, chicken picatta with rice and fresh vegetables, gelato with raspberries, whipped cream and triple sec). Then all the Sherlocks and Nancy Drews will study the clues and figure out whodunit. It's $65 per person for the evening, including gratuities. The restaurant is at 3300 Bristol St. Reservations: (818) 785-7700 or (213) 661-4018. (By the way, Scott's serves up a new murder mystery each Saturday.)
Or you might get away from it all in Long Beach, where you can book a "Room With a Boo" aboard the Hotel Queen Mary. The package includes overnight accommodations for two in a newly restored first-class stateroom; a 90-minute ghost-story tour into the dark, dank depths of the Queen Mary (where you never know what might be lurking around the corner) and a Halloween-theme dessert reception. The offer starts Friday and runs through Halloween. Cost is $110 per night, single or double occupancy, taxes and tips not included; (213) 432-6964.
Next door, the Spruce Goose dome will be transformed for a some frightful evenings Friday through Sunday. The "Spruce Gruesome Rockin' Spooktacular," a killer costume dance party, will run from 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Costume contests will offer cash prizes and the winner's weight in candy. There will be a "Fear and Phobia" tunnel and palm readers and other fortune tellers. Food and (forgive us) "boos" will be available. Tickets are $18 per person through TicketMaster or at the Queen Mary main entrance; (213) 435-3511. The Queen Mary and Spruce Goose are at the southern end of the Long Beach Freeway in Long Beach.
The Cannery in Newport Beach will deck out the restaurant for its annual "Ghastly Bash" Halloween night. There'll be live music and a costume contest with a $150 cash first prize. There's no cover charge, and both the upstairs seafood bar and the restaurant will serve from the regular menu. The Cannery is at 3010 Lafayette Ave.; (714) 675-5777.