Friday, March 5, 2010

A Party Like No Other....

At the end of last year, I received a call from a dear friend, a CFO in a company with interests across our borders. It seems there was one ticket left to a very fancy fundraiser in Montreal –the Cedars Cancer Institute Annual Raffle & Auction. “Would you like to join me?” my friend asked.

Honestly, I did not know whether to whoop and holler in an I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-to-me manner or collapsed in a chair dumbfounded with the realization that I actually know somebody who “frequents” fancy shindigs like the one I had just been invited to. You gotta remember that I am a simple elementary school teacher with young kids of my own (and no live-in maid!). Going out on the town to a fancy schmancy party is somewhat remotely far down my list of frequently used phrases.

Back to the phone call, my dear friend had recently read my blog and thought she would love to read my impressions of my night out. Plus, she knew I was a foodie and the “refreshments” served at the event were supposedly out of this world. “The lamb chops are the best in the world”. What can I say, gourmet food + night out with a girlfriend = heck yeah!

So, like a typical girl, I fret about what to wear. Thankfully, the dress code is business chic. I think I can muster up some business chicness, somehow. A dear fashionista friend who lived 14,000km away said to bring out the “bling” and I did my best to come out of my shell with some semblance of “bling”… LOL!

On a crisp December evening, we arrive at Le Windsor, one ofMontreal’s most prestigious and historic landmarks”. Throughout its history, Le Windsor has hosted the likes of Sir Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy and other dignitaries and celebrities…and lil’ ol’ me is about to walk through its hallowed halls.

There were no less than half a dozen crystal chandeliers to fill my sight as I came through the classic French doors. Peacock Alley had marble floors and 20-foot ceilings and sat in between two ballrooms. It was awashed in winter-themed decorations, all shades of white and frosty blue and glittery with silver and gold. If the Ice Queen of Narnia had been a nice queen, this is the kind of decor I would’ve imagine her to have – something that looked icy cold yet strangely enough felt affably warm at the same time.

People dressed in business chic everywhere, some even more formal that that, what with cleavage, teased up hair and high, high heels. I even saw a pair of Louboutins à la Jennifer Lopez (red-soled designer shoes). I breathed a small sigh of relief; I did not look completely out of place with my black fitting sweater, grey tulip pencil skirt complemented by my high heeled black suede boots tinged with silver gray snakeskin. And yes, I did not forget the “bling”, some chunky turquoise accessories. (Arzee, you would’ve been proud of me).

And indeed, there were food stations in various locations spread out among the two ballrooms and Peacock Alley. Sushi took a prominent spot at the end of the Alley. Fresh seafood and pasta was being prepared in front of our eyes. Waiters and waitresses in crisp black and white circled among the guests with trays of delectable hors d’oeuvres like smoked salmon on little blini pancakes and crème fraiche, petit chicken satay skewers, and steamed asparagus spears. I particularly enjoyed the golden arancini, which were cute little fried rice croquettes stuffed with mozzarella. Of course, there were the famed lamb chops. It seemed everyone raved about them. Beneath the most glorious center chandelier was one wait staff who seemingly out of nowhere, somehow whipped out rack after rack of marvelously roasted, herb encrusted lamb. Each guest took their fill of perfectly cooked lamb, crusty on the outside, deliciously pink on the inside, infinitely sublime all around.

I wish I had more to say about the food. I don’t...  One reason was that I was, unfortunately, not well acquainted with my new digital camera and therefore failed to take sumptuous photos of the most elegant smorgasbord I had ever seen. Quite unlike a dear friend, handy with a Canon SLR, who writes one of the top 5 food blogs in South East Asia -

The other reason was, halfway through the evening, my eyes caught sight of a young woman, dressed in a sleeveless dress of cobalt blue. What drew me to her was not the colour of her dress, which offered a bright splash of colour among the winter whites. It was her shiny bald head and her big smile that caught my attention.

I suddenly remembered the main reason all these people were here. We were not here just for the food, despite how divine and scrumptious it was. We were not here to rub shoulders with the “other half”…the rich and famous and almost famous – Bob Gainey, then Manager of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team was there, as was comedienne, Caroline Rhea. I remembered why we were here. We were here to spend some money at an auction to raise some funds so that the real star of the evening, the Cedars Breast Clinic would benefit from receiving a digital mammography unit.

Yes, I enjoyed the delectable food tremendously – those lamb chops deserved their reputation! Yes, I was awestruck seeing Caroline Rhea in person – her dress was the same striking cobalt blue as the bald young lady I mentioned earlier. I wonder if Caroline won the Gucci sunglasses she bidded on at the silent auction.

My biggest takeaway, however, was the young lady in cobalt blue who was introduced later that night as a cancer patient. Seeing her reminded me of the frailty and uncertainty of life – cancer strikes without discrimination….. seeing her showed me that the human spirit can rise to the challenge that life brings – a spot of chemo was not going to keep her from participating from doing her part in raising awareness and funds to find a cure for the disease that was trying to kill her. She reminded me that sometimes…just sometimes…. giving up is NOT an option.

Thank you, J. for a marvelous evening. I appreciated more than the food. I appreciated life itself.

PS – same time next year? LOL!!

PPS - $350,000 was raised that night, enough to get a digital mammography unit for the clinic. Bravo!