“One of my favorite musicals is coming to Segerstrom Center for the Arts: ‘Les Miserables,’” I told Catherine, my editorial assistant.
“I’ve always wanted to see it,” she replied.
“Well then, we have to go!” I stated. “And I know the perfect dining spot to prepare us for an evening in France. Pandor Artisan Boulangerie & Café opens in Westcliff Plaza this month, and they’re having a media preview the same night we’re attending ‘Les Miz.’ They specialize in authentic French artisan breads, Viennoiseries, pastries, tartines, paninis and salads.”
“Sounds perfect,” said Catherine, smiling. “I spent a lot of time in France and I love the food, especially the bread.”
“Better practice your French, because Pandor has hired French Master Baker Julien Pietravalle to oversee the breads, French Pastry Chef Serge Bertrand to oversee the pastries, and French Chef Eric Cuenin to complete the café menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner items.”
On the way to Pandor, I explained to Catherine that Pandor’s owners, Raffi and Tiffany Sepetjian, named the restaurant Pandor after the French words for golden bread, Pain d’Or, and that Pandor’s wholesale counterpart, RTR Bakery, provides artisan baked goods to several local restaurants including Brasserie Pascal and the Balboa Bay Club.
“The ambiance is just like a French boulangerie,” exclaimed Catherine as we stepped inside Pandor.
“I think that’s the idea,” I whispered as we started sampling various baked goods, salads and sandwiches.
“The breads are all fresh and full of flavor,” noted Catherine. “Did you try the baguette filled with pieces of bacon? I think that’s my favorite.”
“Everything tastes better with bacon,” I laughed.
“Ooh, they have blood orange sparkling lemonade from France, called Rieme. Blood orange drinks have always been my favorite, but they’re hard to find in the United States. I know where I’ll be going to get my fix.”
“Did you try the vegetable salad with broccoli and asparagus? I don’t think I’ve ever had vegetables that taste that good. This is what I’d feed to kids who don’t like vegetables.”
“The best part is the fresh mint and lemon dressing,” added Catherine. “It’s so light and refreshing – perfect for a hot summer day.”
“Oh my gosh, I just found food nirvana. Try this peanut butter and jelly sandwich on French toast. Wow! I could eat this every day, twice a day.”
We sampled several more dishes before we had to leave for the theater, but promised the owners we’d return soon to try the paninis and pastries – and the Croque Monsieur.
We made it to the Segerstrom Center with minutes to spare. As we found our seats, I reminded Catherine that this was the 25th anniversary production of “Les Miserables,” and that we were no doubt in for a treat. I was right.
“This is a fabulous production,” I said enthusiastically as we sipped champagne during intermission. “The voices are all terrific, the staging is fresh, and even though I’ve seen ‘Les Miz’ several times, it’s easy to get caught up in the story.”
“I’m happy that it’s living up to my high expectations,” agreed Catherine. “The sets, the cast, and the orchestra are all amazing.”
We watched Act 2, and afterwards were almost speechless as we basked in the afterglow of experiencing a stellar production.
“This was a perfect ending to our day in France,” said Catherine with a grin as we left Segerstrom Center.
“Who said it’s over? Charlie Palmer’s is just across the street and they have a late night happy hour. I happen to know there’s a blood orange martini on the menu with your name on it. Sound good?”
“Good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used,” wrote William Shakespeare.
Wine and Shakespeare will both be well used when Newport Beach Vineyards & Winery and The Laguna Playhouse present “First Summer Night in the Vineyards,” an evening of wine, food and frivolity on Wednesday, June 20 – the first official evening of summer.
One of the highlights of the evening is “Theatre in the Vineyard,” a presentation of short vignettes from several of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, including “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” featuring actress (and former Indy scribe) Stasha Surdyke.
“We decided to have theater in the vineyards because it’s such an ideal environment to present Shakespeare,” says Justin Myers, managing director for Newport Beach Vineyards and a board member of Laguna Playhouse. “We’re erecting a small stage in front of the vines near the wine cave.”
Prior to the performance, guests will enjoy Newport Beach Vineyards’ finest wines, including the 2009 OC Red (Cab Sav, Merlot, Cab Franc), 2005 Wretched Excess (a classic Bordeaux blend), and a flight tasting of the 2008, 2007 and 2006 Back Bay Cuvee, which features various combinations of Cab Sav, Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec, all grown on the estate near the Back Bay.
The Hyatt Regency Irvine is providing the cuisine, which includes Cured Pork Sausage with Paprika and Sour Dough Bread, California Halibut Fritters with Saffron Aioli, Twice Cooked Pork Belly with Sweet Onion Sauce, Crispy Salt and Pepper Free Range Chicken Wings with Almond Spicey Lemon Glaze, and an Artisanal Cheese Selection. Justin’s mother, Cherri Penne-Myers, is making her signature Chocolate Covered Strawberries.
Cost is $90 per person. Proceeds benefit The Laguna Playhouse. Various sponsorship levels are available, as is a special VIP experience that includes tastings of rare wine and a tour of the estate.
For more information, visit www.LagunaPlayhouse.com or call 949-497-2787, Ext. 217.