It is hard for me to believe that South Coast Plaza is 50 years old. I remember my husband and I moving to Orange County in 1969, and the retail center was newly-opened–literally in the bean fields. There was a Sears and May Co. and a long string of stores between the two anchors. Plus, there were no high-rises in sight, only small strip malls filled with grocery stores, Thrifty Drugs, small eateries, a barber, cleaners, and gas stations on almost every corner. My, how the landscape has changed! Not only are there a multitude of high-rise buildings and a 31-year-old Segerstrom Center for the Arts and a 39-year-old South Coast Repertory, but South Coast Plaza has grown to include more than 250 stores and restaurants, with many more anchor stores, and an extension of the center across Bear Street connected by the Bridge of Gardens. South Coast Plaza, still privately owned by the Segerstrom family, is now known as the premier luxury shopping destination in the country, boasting annual sales approaching $2 billion. It is a remarkable story and one which I hope you enjoy reading in this issue.

Also celebrating an anniversary this year is Orange County School of the Arts. The 30-year-old award-winning public charter school, with Founder and Executive Director Ralph Opacic at the helm, has become a national model for high quality arts and academic education.

A food and wine theme exists in the issue, with interesting stories about Clos de L’Obac Spanish wines and the Boisset Collection’s French and American wines. Andrea Poe talks about the food culture in New Orleans and Jenn Tanaka details Chef Andy Arndt’s journey in creating a new restaurant at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa, while pastry chef Elyssa Fournier, owner of Mixed Bakery, details her standards in creating her delectable confections. Parting Thoughts columnist Deirdre Michalski gives you her thoughts on the best places to imbibe on St. Patrick’s Day. And, don’t forget, Orange County Restaurant Week is this month–March 5th through March 11th. There are more than 100 participating restaurants offering great values for some very good food.

In closing, happy dining at any of the restaurants offering their best for affordable prices during this year’s Orange County Restaurant Week, and here’s to raising a toast to Patron Saint Patrick on his special day!

Until next time,

Donna Bunce, Editor

Cover: South Coast Plaza’s Bridge of Gardens, designed by renowned landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson, opened in 2000, connecting the two major buildings of the retail center