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Munch and Move : For Tacos and Tortellini, Zydeco and Rock, Stroll Through 'A Taste of O.C.' : About 30 county restaurants are due to take part, offering everything from hot dogs, pizza, Tex-Mex dishes and apple pie to ethnic cuisines, including Indonesian, Thai and Lebanese. Beverage vendors will be dealing wine, beer, bottled water, coffee, tea and cappuccino. Oh yeah--someone from Ben & Jerry's will be scooping ice cream.

June 20, 1991|RICK VANDERKNYFF | Rick VanderKnyff is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition.

Afraid of commitment?

Crippled by indecision when it's your turn to pick the restaurant? When the waitress asks for your order? Want to see a concert, but horrified by the prospect of shelling out $15 for just one band? Help may be in the works.

Bite-size samples of food and music will be offered up this weekend at "A Taste of Orange County," returning to the green at the AT&T Tower in Irvine (see map, Page 8).

About 30 county restaurants are due to take part, offering everything from hot dogs, pizza, Tex-Mex dishes and apple pie to ethnic cuisines including Indonesian, Thai and Lebanese. Beverage vendors will be dealing wine, beer, bottled water, coffee, tea and cappuccino. Oh yeah--and someone from Ben & Jerry's will be scooping ice cream.

The musical side of the event includes the KLON Jazz Festival, with Rob Pronk and orchestra backing such artists as Diane Schuur and Art Farmer. On the rock side of the tracks are will be appearances by the Bonedaddys, the James Harman Band, Derek and the Diamonds, Jack Mack and the Heart Attack and other local luminaries.

There will also be food-related talks and demonstrations, events for kids, and even a competition for pro basketball players--for those who can face the sport after watching the Lakers go down in flames in the NBA finals.

The first "A Taste of Orange County" had been in the works for a couple of years before it made its debut in 1989, the county's centennial, at what had been the site of Lion Country Safari. Because of same-day concerts at the nearby Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, the parking situation was a disaster, event founder Jim Wurster recalls.

Wurster, who has worked on several projects for the Disney Co. (including the refurbishment of Fantasyland) as well as on the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, got the idea for a Southern California "Taste" festival from similar events around the country. Having been beaten to the punch in Los Angeles, which already had its own "taste" festival, he brought the idea to Orange County.

The logistics are staggering--enough to keep Wurster and three full-time associates busy all year. Four semi-trailers of food are brought in each day of the event, which comes off with the help of 700 volunteers. Just handling the scrip system for buying food requires 200 volunteers, provided by Bank of America.

"A Taste of Orange County" drew about 15,000 people its first year. Attendance doubled to 30,000 when it was moved last year to its current spot at the Irvine Spectrum office complex. About 60,000 visitors are expected for the three-day event this year, Wurster said.

"A Taste of Orange County" will open Friday and run from 5 p.m. to midnight; weekend hours will be noon to midnight Saturday and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children, and parking is free.

A breakdown:

* Restaurants: Expect most of the food to be family fare, although there should be some interesting exotica from Lebanese, Indonesian and other kitchens. The lineup is heavy on chain eateries--Monterey Bay Canners, Spoons, El Torito, Red Robin, Coco's. Some of the independent restaurants include Hassan's, Scott's Seafood Bar and Grill, Seafood Show and La Dolce Vita. (A complete list of restaurants and menus is on Page 9.)

For food fans looking to sample offerings from Orange County's more serious restaurants, this may not be the year to attend. There is a notable absence of top-end county chefs at this year's event contrasted with past ones.

Food and drink prices range from $1 to $4. Items must be purchased with scrip available at booths on the event grounds.

* Entertainment: See accompanying story, Page 9, for the lowdown on the musical events. All entertainment is free with the general admission, but tickets for preferred seating are available for the jazz festival at $25 and $50. Information: (213) 430-6960.

For the kids, there will be strolling mimes, clowns and musicians, and several stationary attractions--such as a Giant Inflatable Room where children can bounce and jump. There will also be an arts and crafts area.

* Basketball: Charles Smith of the L.A. Clippers has organized a "Battle of the Basketball Stars," which is to be broadcast later on the Sports Channel. Sixteen pros will compete in the 55-meter dash, an obstacle course, a tug-of-war battle, volleyball and other events, even a basketball shoot. NBA athletes announced for the competition include A.C. Green, Pooh Richardson, Kurt Rambis, Craig Hodges, Chuck Person and Alex English, although the lineup may change.

This event will take place Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.

* Demonstrations: The following will all take place in the Chef's Pavilion on the event grounds. There is no admission charge.

George Liechty, executive chef at the Irvine Marriott, will demonstrate ice sculpture Friday at 6 p.m.

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