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Palates for Palettes

Art of Dining Bash Grosses $620,000 for Newport Harbor Art Museum

May 21, 1996|KATHRYN BOLD

Six renowned chefs combined their talents to create a masterpiece Sunday at the Newport Harbor Art Museum's Art of Dining IX.

Approximately 420 guests, many of them connoisseurs of food, wine and art, attended the Exhibition of Culinary Art at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach. The $500-per-person black-tie gala grossed a record $620,000 for the museum, thanks in part to a successful live auction and generous underwriters.

Cuisine on Display

After attending a reception where they sipped Champagne Veuve Clicquot, guests adjourned to the ballroom to admire tables decorated with sculptures created by artist Therman Stratom. The whimsical artworks, including a house of cards, a pink glass slipper and miniature houses, went to bidders at a silent auction.

One only had to look at the place settings, each plate flanked

by two long rows of utensils and no fewer than five wine glasses, to know that food and wine lovers were in for a treat. The key to surviving the five-course feast with waistline intact:

"You talk more than anyone else at your table," advised event chairwoman Twyla Martin, who presided over the festivities in a sophisticated tuxedo gown.

Martin and her committee members gave chef and dinner coordinator Joachim Splichal of Patina in Los Angeles complete freedom to create an artistic cuisine.

"The only instructions we gave is that we just wanted a knock-your-socks-off dinner," Martin said.

Splichal called upon his fellow chefs to fly in from all over the country and create an entree.

"This event is unusual for Orange County, but dinners like this happen all over the country," Splichal said. "These chefs travel everywhere. David [Burke] was in Paris yesterday."

Food as Art

For the first course, the Four Seasons' Michel Pieton orchestrated a terrine of foie gras with frisee, apple-cider vinaigrette and peppered brioche--difficult to pronounce, perhaps, but delicious. That was followed by an artful potato truffle mousseline by Chris Gesualdi of Montrachet in New York and a gingered Kona lobster and scallop by Alan Wong of Alan Wong's, Honolulu.

Patrick Clark of Tavern on the Green in New York created Chilean sea bass with lump crab, sweet peas and fava beans, and Burke of Park Avenue Cafe in New York and Chicago served "duck, duck, duck" prepared three ways. Splichal did the honors for dessert--a lemon sandwich with candied citrus zest and strawberry salad.

Each course was accompanied by a wine from Robert Mondavi Winery, whose vice president, Peter Ventura, described the virtues of the different selections.

"You could say too much about wine. The best thing you should do is taste it," he told the crowd.

Of Art and Money

The evening was held in honor of Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha, who told the audience the economy had been tough on the art world.

"I took a nighttime job at the sales department at Felix Chevrolet," he joked. "Come down and I'll make you a deal."

A live auction held during dinner helped boost the evening's proceeds for the Newport Beach museum. When guests weren't talking food, many discussed the museum's pending merger with the Laguna Art Museum.

"It will be the third leg of the cultural triangle for Orange County. We already have the South Coast Repertory for theater and the Performing Arts Center for music and dance," said Chuck Martin, who has been named president of the new museum. "It's time for Orange County to have a first-class institution for art."

Although some people have voiced opposition to the merger, Jim Selna, board president of the Newport Harbor Art Museum, said the majority of museum members voted to approve the county museum. Supporters will now await a review of the proposed museum by the attorney general's office.

"I'm very confident [the merger] is going to happen," Selna said.

Proceeds from the gala will be used for the Newport Harbor Art Museum's exhibition and education programs.

Among the guests were: Mariette Hartley, actress and mistress of ceremonies; Jim Villers, auctioneer; Zee Allred, who bid a whopping $10,000 for a dinner prepared by Orange County Titan Chefs George Argyros, Terry Hartshorn, Don Davis, Jerry Jones, and Larry Higby, all wearing white chefs hats with their tuxedos; Michael Botwinick, museum director; Deborah Fabricant; Byron and Ronnie Allumbaugh; Terry Goldfarb-Lee; Roger Martin; Oscar and Alison Frenzel; Joan Beall; Jennifer Van Bergh; Robert and Margaret Sprague; and Ted and Mary Jean Simpkins.

* WORTH $500 A PLATE? Reviewer Max Jacobson samples the food. F3

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