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Conspicuous Consumption Kicks Off Wine Festival

November 19, 1990|ANN CONWAY

Living well is still the best revenge. Just ask the national and international members of the L'Ordre Mondial who dined until they dropped at the Ritz-Carlton on Thursday night.

After diving into a mountain of beluga caviar and tossing down a river of vintage Cristal champagne in the library, the wine aficionados swept into a seaside salon for a sit-down feast that included stuffed pigeon, ravioli with lobster butter, hare with potato croquettes, and a bevy of fine wines--the star of which was a ruby-red 1966 Mouton Rothschild.

Why all the conspicuous consumption? It was the very private kickoff of the Ritz-Carlton and L'Ordre Mondial's very public "World of Wines Festival," hailed by wine cognoscenti as the country's premier event for oenophiles.

Now, before you go getting huffy, hear this: "People ask us if we don't feel bad, having so much while others in the world have, eh, so many problems," said Harold Stayman, a member of Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs (the food society of which L'Ordre Mondial is the wine and spirits arm). "But I tell them, this is our hobby, our recreation! Some people spend more money bowling."

Guests came from as far away as France and as nearby as Laguna Niguel. And while they looked dashing in black ties, it was their food and wine society medals that caught the eye. Ritz-Carlton General Manager Henry Schielein's chest was sprinkled with the medallions, some of which were suspended on gilt chains, others on colorful moire ribbon.

"They were left to me by Gen. George Patton," deadpanned the president of the Laguna Niguel chapter of Chaine des Rotisseurs. "Seriously, I think I got them because I was being rewarded for organizing a chapter here and affairs like the Worlds of Wine Festival."

"I say this is an organization created for grown men to give medals to other grown men," teased Lesley Smith, who arrived on the arm of Dr. Doyle Rogers--the Bailli Delegue (head honcho) of the Chaine des Rotisseurs. Smith, of Houston, said she soon would be inducted into the Chaine.

"It's going to be fun," said the English-born blonde, adding that she and Rogers were about to depart for an around-the-world tour with gourmet pit stops in Paris and London. "And it's also going to be serious. This group is totally voluntary and you would not believe the time they put in."

Mostly, Rogers said, his time is dedicated toward helping the Chaine "do honor to the professional."

"We sponsor culinary competitions, a Culinary Olympics team, a young chef's competition," he said. "And we donate funds to various organizations and institutions that educate chefs.

"We may be a group of individuals brought together by a common enjoyment of fine dining, but we have a higher purpose, I hope. After so much dining in so many restaurants, it can become commonplace." The group has decided to become involved in community service, he said. "We just signed an agreement with the March of Dimes to do a national benefit next October we'll call 'Chaine Dines for Dimes.' That event will take place in hundreds of homes across the United States, with members of the Chaine providing their homes as a site for a formal dinner for about 12 people."

Also on the scene: Hotel Laguna owner Claes Andersen; Ritz-Carlton executive Horst Schulze (hotel liaison in the U.S. for the Chaine); Hal Rosoff, western regional president of the Chaine, "the world's most prestigious food and wine group," he said; Eric Hansen, marketing director for the Robert Mondavi Wine and Food Center in Costa Mesa (Hansen's medal was suspended on purple ribbon--the color signifying he was a "new member of the group that began in 1248 as a guild of goose roasters," he said); Robert Gordon, president of the Palm Beach chapter of the Chaine; Christian Rassinoux, executive chef for the Ritz-Carlton; Sacha Lichine of Bordeaux, France; and outgoing Bailli Delegue Larry Shupnick of San Luis Obispo--partner in Citrus, the Los Angeles restaurant co-owned by chef Michel Richard.

In love with Jane: They said it with flowers and a knockout show at Donna and John Crean's Santa Ana Heights mansion on Saturday when the American Cinema Awards Foundation staged a tribute to actress Jane Withers. Huge orchids graced the glamour-rags of Withers and Donna Crean, Orange County's hostess-with-the-mostest when it comes to the Silver Screen Set.

After a traditional Thanksgiving feast--turkey and the trimmings--and a live auction, songbird Toni Tennille knocked 'em dead with a concert.

Starry, starry guests--Angie Dickinson, Milton Berle, MacDonald Carey, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Roddy McDowall, Danny Thomas, Cesar Romero and more--partied into the starry, starry night in the commodious quarters, that, when not used for social spectaculars, house John Crean's workshop and office areas (Orange County's happiest mega-millionaire owns Fleetwood Enterprises, a Fortune 500 company that manufactures recreation vehicles).

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