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An Upscale Hoedown

May 11, 2000|ANN CONWAY

Forget bellying up to the bar or gulping down barbecued ribs.

Guests at the Art of Dining benefit that raised $500,000 for the Orange County Museum of Art celebrated the West in style, sipping fine wines and dining on beef tenderloin marinated in molasses and black pepper.

Seated on mahogany Versailles chairs at tables crowned with floral works of art, party-goers at the $1,000-per-plate dinner--whipped up by chefs from Four Seasons hotels in Texas and California--also dined on spring asparagus and Poblano bisque with mesquite-grilled quail.

Dessert was a masterpiece: prickly pear cactus fruit mousse with lime tequila preserve--presented with a sweet wafer tinted to evoke a prairie sunset.

Dallas never had it so good.

"We went Western because we're honoring Joan Irvine Smith. She celebrates our Western and California heritage," chairwoman Elizabeth Tierney said during the gala Sunday at the Four Seasons in Newport Beach.

Along with Smith--great-granddaughter of Orange County land baron James Irvine and founder of the Irvine Museum, a showcase for her California Impressionist art--museum leaders recognized artist/sculptor Peter Alexander.

"Peter Alexander is one of a handful of artists who brought California art to the attention of the national and international art worlds in the late '60s," museum director Naomi Vine said during a pre-gala reception at the museum, hosted by Chase Global Private Bank. "More than any other living artist, he has summed up the California experience--from LAX at night to the palm trees at Fashion Island."

Smith's love affair with California Impressionism began more than 50 years ago when her stepfather, Thurmond Clarke, would take her and her late mother, Athalie R. Clarke, to lunch at the California Club in Los Angeles.

"At that time, the club displayed an outstanding collection of plein-air art," Smith said.

Smith began to acquire California Impressionist works in 1991. Her mother warned her that art collecting "could become addicting," she said.

Clarke was right. "Today, my collection numbers more than 3,000 paintings," Smith said with a smile.

"When I founded the Irvine Museum in 1992, I wished to display the art and also to publish books about it in order to help people realize what has been lost of our beautiful and fragile California environment."

Circle 1,000

Be your own advocate. If you're older than 50, demand a colonoscopy.

That was the advice television actress and colorectal cancer survivor Barbara Barrie gave the hundreds of women who attended the 13th annual Circle 1,000 Founder's Brunch sponsored by the Hoag Cancer Center of Newport Beach.

If Barrie had followed that advice, she may have been able to avoid her bout with cancer. "I didn't pay any attention to the symptoms and didn't get the test--so I ended up with really severe rectal cancer and a [permanent] colostomy," she said during her recent appearance at the Four Seasons hotel in Newport Beach.

"People always tell me that this is not polite conversation," she added. "And 'colorectal cancer' are words most people don't speak. But I've been going all over the country speaking about getting tested early for colon cancer. If you haven't had a colonoscopy and you're 50, you'd better call your doctor tomorrow and make an appointment."

Complacency kills, said Barrie, who played the mother of Brooke Shields in the television series "Suddenly Susan." "I want to scare you; I don't want you to be complacent about this because this is a cancer that can be prevented."

After her surgery in 1994, Barrie was able to resume her active lifestyle.

"I've lived with [my colostomy] very happily because I actually feel better now than I felt during the 10 years preceding my diagnosis," said Barrie, who has written a book--"Second Act: Life After Colostomy and Other Adventures"-- about her ordeal. "I play tennis, walk, run and travel around the country."

Dinner with Julia Child

Cooking up a feast for her idol, Julia Child, was a culinary dream come true for Zov Karamardian, owner of Zov's Bistro in Tustin.

Child was the guest of honor Saturday at a $1,000-per-ticket dinner benefit for the International Assn. of Culinary Professionals.

"Julia has never been to this part of the world, so it was nice for her to see that there are places in this area that do a good job [of cooking]," said Karamardian, who helped prepare a nine-course repast in her restaurant for 50 guests, including best-selling author Dean Koontz.

Was she nervous, whipping up fare for one of the world's great chefs?

"Not at all," said Karamardian, who helped prepare Mediterranean-style dishes that included mezzas--tasty appetizers such as walnut caviar, feta cheese, grape leaves and hummus--and succulent roast rack of lamb with eggplant cannelloni. "I just made sure to prepare every dish with a lot of love."

The secret ingredient worked. "Julia loved every bite," she said.

Ann Conway can be reached at (714) 966-5952 or by e-mail at

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