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Rustic elegance at Segerstrom Farm

Tammi and Kurt Belcher

Looking for an alternative to the typical black-tie fundraiser, Sandy Segerstrom Daniels created the Segerstrom Ranch Dinner to benefit the Festival of Children Foundation. For inspiration, Daniels simply looked outside her office, which sits on the grounds of the 40-acre Segerstrom farm in Costa Mesa. The rustic alfresco dinner, now in its fifth year, is considered one of the most exclusive charity events in Orange County. During the October dinner, 50 guests mingled under a moonlit sky while roaming a section of the private farm; some even picked fruits and veggies to take home. “We’re making an experience. It’s very un-gala like,” said Daniels, the foundation’s founder and executive director.

Ralph Opacic, executive director of the Orange County School of the Arts, said the event is one of his favorite fundraisers of the year.  “It’s quaint, casual and intimate,” said Opacic, whose wife, Sherry, serves on the foundation’s board of directors. “Top Chef” finalist Amar Santana of Vaca prepared a communal feast served at tables lit by Edison lights cascading through decades-old orange and grapefruit trees. As a tribute to the farm’s legacy crop, Santana created a cassoulet of braised lamb neck and Segerstrom lima beans. Guests swooned, asking for second helpings of the showstopper course.

Santana joins an elite group of chefs who have cooked for the foundation event. Previous chefs have been Nancy Silverton, Lauren “Lulu” De Rouen, Joachim Splichal and Florent Marneau. De Rouen, formerly of Pinot Provence, said the ranch dinner gets better each year. “It’s like someone is cooking Thanksgiving dinner for you, but being outdoors is different. The natural setting makes everyone relaxed.”

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