July 10, 2017



August 10 fundraiser at acclaimed Spanish restaurant in heart of
South Coast Plaza dining and arts district will be O.C. culinary event of summer


Costa Mesa, CA – June 28, 2017 – Celebrated chef Amar Santana and partner Ahmed Labbate will host a Friends of James Beard Benefit® Dinner on Thursday, August 10 at 6 p.m. at their acclaimed Vaca, a star of South Coast Plaza’s collection of fine restaurants.

The seven-course, sit-down dinner with wine pairings underwritten by Bodegas Torres, will raise funds for James Beard Foundation scholarships and other culinary programs. The dining extravaganza will be the O.C. culinary event of the summer and a highlight of the ongoing 50th anniversary of the premier shopping destination. Seats are $350 and $300 for members of the James Beard Foundation, all inclusive.

Located in Park Tower at 695 Town Center Drive between South Coast Plaza and the internationally renowned Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Vaca specializes in authentic Spanish cuisine with Southern California flair. It opened to great critical acclaim in December 2015.

Santana and Labbate, whose roots together at South Coast Plaza go back to 2008 when they opened Charlie Palmer, will welcome 100 guests with a love of food and wine to the Beard dinner. Santana is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. In 2016, he was runner-up on the Emmy-nominated Season 13 of Bravo’s “Top Chef.”

The festivities on August 10 will include a small silent auction during an al fresco reception. While enjoying the signature Vaca Tonic and hors d’oeuvres, guests may peruse deluxe offerings, which will include a LVMH luxury Champagne experience for 16 guests;  packages from South Coast Plaza, the Montage Laguna Beach and Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, unique dining experiences, luxury travel destinations, and high-end wines.

The Vaca Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner menu follows.  All wines are generously donated by Bodegas Torres. Based in Pacs, Spain, the privately owned company founded in 1870 is managed by the fourth generation of the Torres family. Other event partnerships as of this date include Melissa’s/World Variety Produce, Parés Baltà and Bonne Fleur.

For reservations to the Friends of James Beard Dinner at Vaca, please register online at http://vaca.mybigcommerce.com/events/. For more information, please contact Ghali Benhima at 714.463.6060. A credit card will be requested to secure the reservation.



Signature Vaca Tonic

Passed Hors d’Oeuvres

Chicken Liver Toast, Pickled Red Onion

Tortilla Espanola

Anchovies & Olives Pincho

Baby Chorizo, Hot Pepper

Duck Gizzard & Papas Canarias

Mussel Escabeche, Saffron Jelly

Pan con Tomate

Chorizo, Romesco Arugula Coca

Creamed Leeks, Anchovies Coca

Eggplant Stew, Olives, Idiazabal Coca

Parés Baltà, Brut Cava, Penedes, Spain





Vaca Charcuterie & Cheese Board

Parés Baltà, Brut Cava, Penedes, Spain



Strawberry & Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho,

Confit Fennel, Crispy Quinoa, Ibérico Lardo

Rosado, Carinena Blend, De Casta, Miguel Torres,

Catalunya, Spain 2014



Slow Baked Cod, Stewed Peppers,

Paella Broth, Crispy Wild Rice, Black Olive Oil

Verdejo, Miguel Torres Verdeo, Rueda, Spain 2014




Roasted Lamb Meatballs, Lemon-Yogurt, Cucumber

Albacore Tataki

Albacore Tataki, Avocado, Shallot Soy Vinaigrette,

Pork Cracklings

Canelon de Pollo

Smoked Chicken Cannelloni, Foie Gras Sauce, Sherry Reduction

Panza de Cerdo

Braised Pork Belly, Smoked White Bean, Pickled Peppers

Celeste Crianza, Miguel Torres, Ribera Del Duero, Spain 2013



Lobster Paella, Squid Ink Bomba Rice, Smoked Paprika Aioli, Leeks, Charred Lemon


New York & Prime Skirt Steak Tasting

A2, Romesco, Chimichurri

Salmos, Priorat, Spain 2013



Mama Santana Flan

Tocino de Cielo

Vermouth Flavored Tres Leches

About South Coast Plaza

Renowned as a leading international shopping destination, South Coast Plaza is home to more than 250 prominent boutiques, critically-acclaimed restaurants and the adjacent celebrated Segerstrom Center for the Arts. It is the West Coast’s premier shopping experience, with its proximity to beaches and John Wayne Airport, customized concierge services, and unparalleled collection of diverse retailers — from Gucci, Hermès, Cartier and Harry Winston to Roger Vivier, Dolce&Gabbana, The Webster, Dior, Dior Homme and more. Now celebrating its 50th year, South Coast Plaza is located in Orange County, California, in the city of Costa Mesa. Information: southcoastplaza.com or 800.782.8888.


About Vaca

Inspired by the diverse regions of Spain, award-winning chef Amar Santana, along with his partner Ahmed Labbate and investors Rich Cadarette and Paul Roy, create an atmosphere where the food and drink transport you to Spain. The restaurant’s menu is inspired by the creativity of Santana and his version of authentic Spanish cuisine. It features top quality ingredients, with a global superior meat selection and unmatched innovative beverage program. At Vaca dishes are tapas and family-style, meant to share over great conversation, atmosphere and with a top notch crafted drink or aromatic wine in hand. Vaca opened in December 2015 at Park Tower in the theater district of South Coast Plaza. The restaurant has achieved critical acclaim since its inception for cuisine, fine steaks, creative cocktails and the energy created by the Santana-Labbate partnership.


About The James Beard Foundation

The James Beard Foundation’s mission is to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. A cookbook author and teacher with an encyclopedic knowledge about food, the late James Beard was a champion of American cuisine. He helped educate and mentor generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts, instilling in them the value of wholesome, healthful, and delicious food. Today JBF continues in the same spirit by administering a number of diverse programs that include educational initiatives, food industry awards, scholarships for culinary students, publications, chef advocacy training, and thought-leader convening. The Foundation also maintains the historic James Beard House in New York City’s Greenwich Village as a “performance space” for visiting chefs. Get food news, recipes, and more at the James Beard Foundation’s blog, or subscribe to the free digital newsletter, Beard Bites. Follow @beardfoundation on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and Snapchat. Watch the James Beard House Kitchen Cam, the James Beard Awards, and more on the Foundation’s Livestream channel.

The James Beard Foundation is a national not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in New York City.