John Dominis in Newport Beach launches its fresh Pacific lobster festival today with a fund-raiser for the John Tracy Clinic's Orange County Guild. For the next two weeks, a special lobster menu will supplement the regular fare. More than 2,000 pounds of fresh Pacific spiny lobsters, a cousin of the Maine lobster, will live in a large seawater pond in the restaurant. Look for such appetizers as roasted spiny lobster soup and entrees including steamed or grilled whole lobster. The restaurant is at 2901 W. Coast Highway; (714) 650-5112.
Twenty-five of Orange County's top chefs will participate in the fifth annual Great Chefs of Orange County celebration Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Westin South Coast Plaza. Entertainer Florence Henderson will host the event. In addition to sampling the chefs' finest, guests may taste wines from 13 different California wineries and there will be a silent auction. Tickets, which benefit the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California, are $75. The Westin is at 666 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa. (714) 962-7675.
Hubert's in Santa Ana, which debuted just two months ago, has discontinued serving dinner in the dining room. Tapas and pizzas are still available at night in the lounge (as well as during the day). Lunch service continues in the dining room. The restaurant is at 2 Hutton Centre Drive. (714) 545-6776.
Aurora Ristorante's fourth annual Festival of the Hunt on Sunday will highlight exotic wild game dishes such as wild boar, quail, pheasant and venison, all offered in the atmosphere of a traditional hunting lodge. The event begins at 5 p.m.; menu is a la carte, with entrees from $15 to around $25. Aurora is at 1341 S. Euclid Ave., Fullerton. Reservations are required: (714) 738-0272.
Is butter passe? Seems that more and more county restaurants offer creative alternatives to butter.
Makes you wonder who's going to come up with what next.
Tuttomare in Fashion Island was one of the first to accompany its baked-right-there bread with cruets of virgin olive oil and vinegar. Mix to taste--and dip.
Now Ciao Bella, the Fountain Valley supper club, serves olive oil and balsamic vinegar with its homemade bread. Le Midi in Newport Beach takes a different tack, offering a chicken liver pate in lieu of butter. Also in Newport, Pascal gives customers a tapenade of olives and capers (plus another spread of anchovy butter with basil). In Irvine, Bistro 201 brings on chef John Sharpe's own version of tapenade , which he describes as "milder, more like an aioli ."
Cano's on the bay in Newport has replaced butter with a colorful bell pepper, garlic and chili dip for its soft bread sticks.
The Studio Cafe in Corona del Mar says there's been "terrific response" to a recently introduced idea of dipping bread first in olive oil with fresh basil and garlic, then in grated Parmesan cheese.
And some Italian restaurants, such as Armonia in Santa Ana, simply let their warm, freshly baked foccacia bread stand on its own. Who needs butter?
Boris Keller, a Michelin star chef, is the new chef de cuisine of the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Dana Point. Michelin, the Western European travel and dining guide, has twice awarded one star to Keller for his work in Bistro Tirrene, Munich, and in Boris' Restaurant, which he owned in Walluf, Germany.
When time's at a premium, Cafe Fleuri in Le Meridien Hotel now promises a 45-minute lunch. For $7.50, you may choose from four entrees (grilled fish; seafood tabbouleh; eggplant, mozzarella and tomato salad or chicken salad). Le Meridien is at 4500 MacArthur Blvd., Newport Beach; (714) 476-2001.
First came dinner and weekday lunch; then Saturday lunch, and now David Wilhelm's Bistro 201 is open for breakfast. Chef John Sharpe's menu highlights blueberry-cornmeal pancakes with Vermont maple syrup, pan-fried rainbow trout in walnut-brown butter with eggs and country potatoes, and homemade granola. Breakfast hours are 6:30 to 9:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. The Bistro is at 18201 Von Karman Ave., Irvine; (714) 553- 9201.