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SOCIAL CLIMES

Center toots club's horn

October 26, 2003|Ann Conway | Times Staff Writer

It was a new sound for the Orange County theater district -- the velvety bleat of a sax caught up in a Duke Ellington classic. But there it was, floating through the dark and cushy lounge of Chat Noir bistro, with Orange County Performing Arts Center President Jerry Mandel doing the honors. Taking the spotlight with the Hi Fi Quartet, Mandel elicited hoots and hollers from center donors as he interpreted standards such as "Take the 'A' Train" and "Satin Doll" at the Oct. 14 bash. "We've needed a spot like this for a long time," said Mandel, wearing a saxophone-emblazoned silk tie. "Now we have a place where theater types can hang after a performance. Before, the question was always: Where can we go to jam and sing?"

Restaurateur David Wilhelm threw open the doors of his Paris-inspired restaurant (Chat Noir is French for "black cat") on three nights to launch the Costa Mesa haunt, with parties for supporters of the center, the Junior League of Orange County and the James Beard Foundation. Fashionably attired Junior Leaguers sampled appetizers such as melted brie with caramelized onions on crackers as they sipped bubbly and martinis -- the chocolate number being the fave -- at a high-energy cocktail reception Oct. 10. But a sedate, six-course dinner was on the playlist for guests attending the Oct. 11 fundraiser for the Beard Foundation. Up for savoring from chefs Ryan Adams, Scott Dolbee and Chris Reischl: everything from scallops and sweetbreads with white truffles to squab, braised oxtail and Maine lobster. "We'll use the proceeds from this event to perpetuate the Beard legacy," said Diane Harris Brown, the foundation's director of development. "He would have loved this."

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