Written by The Jazz Gypsy
Pictures by Michelle Wong
Mercedes-Benz (MB) of Laguna Niguel in Southern California was the proud co-presenter and home of 2007 The Taste of Laguna Niguel on Friday, August 24, 2007. Where else would Orange Country�s (OC) well-heeled and cultured crowd feel more at home than at one of the largest MB dealerships in the nation that has an inventory of over 1,600 new and pre-owned vehicles?
Billed as an evening of fine jazz, fine wine and fine food, the event kept their promise. The evening began at 5:00 pm with free valet parking. The registration tables where guests received a program, Passport to the World of Taste, plate, and wine glass were strategically placed in the lobby where guests had to walk through an immaculate showroom displaying glistening new and vintage Mercedes� en route to the tastings. The showroom also had a parts department that was open for business that looked more like fine men�s clothing store with a million dollar inventory of MB gifts, accessories and parts. The two chocolate and wine bars located on the showroom floor kept patrons returning to be within close proximity of the newest MB C-Class Models displayed in the showroom with eager salesmen nearby.
Outside and beneath the warm California evening air, linen covered tables were placed before a large stage. Food stations lined the perimeter and beverage bars were dotted throughout the courtyard. A separate VIP room offering fine wine, Champaign, chocolates and gift bags from Saks Fifth Avenue was also on the grounds.
Since this was a tasting, I must comment on the food. It was simply to die for. Several of my favorite items included grilled shrimp wrapped in bacon, shrimp & crab risotto served on puff pastry, and the roast beef with gravy & mashed potatoes served in martini glasses with a sprig of rosemary. The Ritz-Carlton Eno Bar, Ruth�s Chris Steak House, Salt Creek Grille, Savannah Steak and Chop House, Tommy Bahama�s Tropical Caf� & Emporium, White Horses, Maestro�s Ocean Club, Nirvana Grille, Javier�s, Infusion, Bristol Farms, Chaparosa Grille and Splashes Restaurant were the featured restaurants.
Providing a perfect pairing for the delectable edibles, California Taste Fine Wine, From the Vine Wine Boutique, Gioia Luisa America, Inc., Nolet Spirits USA/Ketel One Vodka, PRP Wine, Salt Creek Wine Company, Wilson Creek Winery and Wine Pavilion provided free-flowing beverages.
Rounding out the evening was the music from the surprise smooth jazz artist, Peter White. Appearing with band members Donald Patterson on bass, Kimo Cornwell (of Hiroshima) on Keyboards and La Mont Peoples, Drums, White�s extended set included more than a dozen songs which were all crowd pleasers: "Talkin� About Love", a Mr. Magic medley including "What Does It Take" (To Win Your Love), "Who�s That Lady", "Papa Was A Rolling Stone"; "Heart & Soul"; "Bueno Funk"; "My Prayer"; "Midnight in Manhattan"; "Hit the Road Jack"; "The Closer I Get to You"; "San Diego"; "Millennium Funk"; and "What�s Going On".
White, who was joined by saxophonists Michael Paulo and up and coming, 19-year old Shannon Kennedy, kept the patrons dancing on both the fast and funky tunes as well as the slow, romantic songs. Who knew the OC could �boogey uggie uggie� to "Papa Was A Rolling Stone"? Even White and Paulo boogied across the stage and each, at different times, fell to their knees, adding drama to their solo presentations.
Earlier in the evening, Actor Richard Burgi, who plays the character �Karl Mayer� on the popular, Emmy award winning Desperate Housewives ABC TV series, shared his thoughts on �Fine Tastes for Fine Causes� and introduced the event�s Official Spotlight Charity, Beta Foster Care, and the events� co-Sponsor, The Laguna Niguel Chamber of Commerce.
Sponsors and local radio station Jazz! FM 88.5, KSBR, broadcasted live from 5 pm � 8 pm. KSBR is a state-of-the-art broadcast facility that reaches approximately 35,000 south OC listeners with a highly successful contemporary jazz format.
KSBR is also widely known and supported by many smooth jazz artists and the OC community during their annual KSBR Birthday Bash that is always held on the Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend. This year, over 30 artists participated in the Bash. Performers listed by instruments were: Sax: Greg Vail, Michael Paulo, Jackiem Joyner; Keyboard: Brian Simpson, Dan Siegel, Rob Whitlock; Guitar: Nils, Chuck Loeb, David Boswell, Ray Fuller, Peter White; Percussion: Mombo Hernandez, Rafael Feliciano, Johnny Blas, Bass: Michael Manson, Max Bennett, Brian Bromberg, Melvin Davis, David Levray, Tony Guerrero, Greg Adams, Joey Sellers, Drums: Evan Stone, Steve Ferrone, Nathan Scott, Donnel Spencer; Vocals: Bill Cantos, Kelly Sweet, David Pack, Sara Gazarek; and Band: Hiroshima kicked off the event with the first two songs.
The Taste of Laguna Niguel seemed to be a huge success. It ended with smiling guests receiving beautiful black paper gift bags embossed with the words �Mercedes Benz� filled with bright orange crepe paper poking out of the tops and many wonderful treats inside.
The Jazz Gypsy Tip: When attending a �taste of�, invite a designated driver so you can indulge in the liquor responsibly.