Hugh Hildesley and I at the Ty Ku sake bar.

TORONTO - The Canadian Art Foundation held its 17th annual fundraising gala, an event which raises money for its far-reaching activities, all aimed at increasing awareness and patronage of contemporary Canadian art. A who’s who of the Canadian art world, from museum directors to gallerists, artists and collectors were on hand to support the Foundation’s initiatives which include its Canadian Art magazine, a writing prize, student scholarships, and mentorship programs. The Gallery Hop Gala and Auction was themed “Smart Art,” and the event volunteers wore white lab coats with a fabulous graphic design by artists An Te Liu and Micah Lexier, as well as nerdy black-framed glasses, which were given to all of the guests as well.

The drinks and copious hors d’oeuvres were passed freely during cocktail hour, but I hung out at a boutique sake bar, where they were pouring two types of Ty Ku sake. Sake is one of my favorite drinks (the other being tequila), and this brand was absolutely delicious. The black was labeled as “imported super premium junmai ginjo,” brewed in Nara, Japan, and has won lots of medals. Its tasting notes described it as “rich texture with hints of natural sweetness – peach and vanilla.” The second type was more of a cocktail – coconut sake, Nigori (cloudy). The secret is apparently a small amount of rice purposefully unfiltered to leave behind a rich creamy taste, then infused with flavor of fresh coconut. It is quite addictive, and those of you who have read my blogs know that coconut could perhaps be my favorite flavor of anything. I had to beg the bartender to only give me a little bit, because I had two speaking engagements during the course of the evening, but I kept coming back again and again for that “little bit.” After the speeches were over, I treated myself to a full glass.

It was quite a feat to serve a three-course dinner to the 600 assembled guests, but they managed rather well. The first course was a plate of tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil, fleur de sel, and crispy capers. I thought the crispy capers were a great addition to an old standby, and something I will be copying in my renditions going forward. No one left hungry – the hearty second course was braised beef short ribs in a port reduction, with celeriac puree, cipollini onions, beets, haricots and carrots. And dessert was hearty as well – a trip to the Pacific Islands with pineapple upside down cake, Tahitian vanilla ice cream, Malibu rum cream, cherry compote.