One of the first - and tastiest - fundraisers of the year, Red & White, took place Jan. 18. Held at St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts and Humanities, this annual event supports the essential services offered by Harmony House Women's Shelter.
This year's edition included two great Canadian chefs, Michael Blackie of the NAC's Le Cafe as well as Lora Kirk of Ruby Watchco in Toronto's Leslieville.
The enhanced culinary component proved to be a big hit, just as organizer Tracey Gainforth of Harmony House expected. "Ottawa is such a foodie town and I am involved in the foodie community here, so I thought it would garner some interest, which it has," she noted.
Indeed, many in attendance seemed to be eager foodies, as evidenced by the crowd that clustered around the demo station as the chefs took turns showcasing each dish.
Red & White is not a new fundraiser for Harmony House, but this year they brought it to a heightened level. In the past it was a small after-work event with music, canapés and wine. This year it was ramped up; planning started last spring and ticket sales doubled.
The evening's pace was perfect, with each of the four courses ably plated by a team from Le Café and students from Algonquin College, as well as scores of volunteers who cheerily cleared tables.
The beverage stations were similarly manned with knowledgeable representatives from several Eastern Ontario breweries and wineries, eager to offer their recommendations on wine and food pairings throughout the evening.
True to form, chef Michael Blackie delighted all with his culinary creations which were, as expected, absolutely delectable. He served up Cohiba cold-smoked sea scallops with a lobster and Israeli couscous toss, along with a kale fennel slaw.
His second plate was a succulent pulled short rib accented with a dollop of my favourite feta cheese - from Clarmell on the Rideau - as well as sage polenta and a triple mustard crunch vinaigrette.
Meanwhile, Chef Lora Kirk is sure to have Ottawans beating a path to her Toronto restaurant thanks to her outstanding dishes.
The first was a proscuitto-wrapped veal tenderloin with a sauce of sweetbreads, lemon and capers while the second featured bacon-wrapped trout along with a warm fingerling potato salad with pickled jalapenos and a sweet, smoky mustard remoulade.
It was hard to choose a favourite among the four dishe,s as all were truly sublime.
The lucky auction winner who bid $1,100 for dinner for four at Ruby Watchco, prepared by chefs Blackie and Kirk, is sure to relish every bite.
A sweet finish to all these savoury delights was provided by Little Cakes who offered up a variety of astonishingly-good mini cupcakes, including such flavours as pina colada, chocolate and more.
Not only did Red & White offer incredible value for fans of top-notch food and drink, but it did so in a way that was unpretentious and thoroughly enjoyable. I'm already making plans to attend next year's event.