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It Takes Two to Spice Up Philharmonic Fiesta

April 27, 1999|ANN CONWAY

Want to put the ole! in your Cinco de Mayo celebration?

Try these tips from popular TV Food Network ("Too Hot Tamales") chef-restaurateurs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken:

* Spike a Minty Lime Cooler with Tequila Silver.

* Enrich guacamole with roasted tomatillos.

* Showcase a flamenco guitarist.

Feniger and Milliken--owners of the ultra-hot Border Grill restaurant in Santa Monica and the new Ciudad in Los Angeles--were the featured guests at Sunday's fiesta-themed reception staged by the Philharmonic Society of Orange County.

About 70 philharmonic supporters attended the twilight bash at the rambling Pelican Hill estate of Mary Kay and Dr. Louis VanderMolen.

The buzz: Where in Orange County will the chefs open a restaurant?

South Coast Plaza has courted them. So has the Irvine Co., inviting Feniger and Milliken to open a Border Grill at Irvine Spectrum.

Sorry, they're after a free-standing locale like the one Bandera restaurant has on Coast Highway in Corona del Mar.

"That's the kind of spot we'd love," said Feniger, author with Milliken of five cookbooks. "We've been looking for a year. We don't want to be part of a retail center if we don't have to."

About that Cinco de Mayo party:Take it easy.

"Whenever I entertain, I do the easiest possible thing," Feniger said. "I put something like our Chilean sea bass stew on the stove, make a big, grilled veggie salad, lay out a bunch of bowls and let guests help themselves."

Added Milliken: "Those items, along with rice, refried beans and guacamole--don't over-mash the avocados!--are all you need. People can just walk up and help themselves."

The secret to preparing a Minty Lime Cooler (featured in the cookbook "Cooking With Too Hot Tamales," published by William Morrow): "Mix fresh lime juice and chilled simple syrup with a bunch of fresh mint in a blender," Milliken said. "Pour into an ice-filled glass and top with Tequila Silver or sparkling water."

Dessert? How about Key lime pie--one of several sweets served up Sunday in the VanderMolens' mirrored dining room: "It's so easy to make, it's embarrassing," Feniger said. "You mix cream cheese and Key lime juice with evaporated milk and a little sugar and pour it in a pie crust. Top with whipped cream and lime slices."

Guests such as philharmonic executive director Dean Corey--himself a gourmet cook--had ideas of their own about what to serve at a Cinco de Mayo bash.

Corey likes to serve tacos filled with chicken that has been slow-cooked with onions and garlic in three quarts of vinegar. "I crisp the tortillas over high heat in duck fat," Corey said. "Believe it or not--it's low in cholesterol."

It was Corey and his wife, Kaley--restaurant manager at the Center Club in Costa Mesa--who invited Feniger and Milliken to the party honoring supporters of the society's upcoming Beethoven Festival. "We love their TV show," Corey said. "We're big food people."

The philharmonic will keep the social scene rolling when the Beethoven Festival--featuring the composer's nine symphonies--is launched at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa on May 17.

"People should try to go to every concert. This opportunity will probably never occur again," Corey said. "It's difficult to find a time when the nine symphonies are played throughout a season--much less in one week--and on period instruments."

For more information, call (949) 553-2422.

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