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February 20, 2014
Cary Pollak for Whisk and Quill

Earlier this month DC’s “Sugar and Champagne Affair” welcomed hundreds of guests who raised cane to benefit the Washington Humane Society.  The much-anticipated event held in the Ronald Reagan Building draws both owners and their precious pets to a canine-themed gala.  And it’s all for a good cause. Now that’s something to celebrate!

The glamorous fundraiser is the creation of Ellen Kassoff Gray.  She and her top toque husband, Todd Gray, who is the Executive Chef at the venerable Equinox restaurant, Todd Gray’s Muse at the Corcoran Gallery, and the kitchen at the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, VA were co-hosts of the event.

Thirteen years ago Ellen correctly surmised that the local restaurant community and particularly many of the area’s talented pastry chefs would be happy to help her promote the cause of animal welfare, an issue she is passionate about.  Ellen again served as Host Committee Chairwoman bringing along her two handsome German Shepherds to meet and greet guests and canine celebs, while Todd could be seen preparing and serving tastings of some of his specialties.

All types of pooches from tiny-as-a-teacup Chihuahuas to massive Marmaduke-sized dogs accompanied their owners to the festivities – many elaborately dressed up or sporting festively colored fur for the occasion.  Doris Pasternak was accompanied by her rescue Poodle, Chilly, who has his own blog And Dixie Eng and Julia Jacobus brought their Goldendoodles who regale their fans at

Kim and Mike Roberts' English Bulldog, Ovie, sporting Alexander Ovechin's #8 jersey

Kim and Mike Roberts’ English Bulldog, Ovie, sporting Alexander Ovechin’s #8 jersey

Smaller canine cuties included Kim and Mike Roberts’ English Bulldog, Ovie, who showed up wearing a replica of Washington Capitals’ hockey star’s Alex Ovechkin’s jersey.  Kimberly Hammond’s Chihuahua-mix Todd, who has come a long way from being rescued after an oil spill, wore a mini-tuxedo.

Kimberley Hammond's Chihuahua-mix, Todd, in evening wear

Kimberley Hammond’s Chihuahua-mix, Todd, in evening wear

Almost eighty area chefs and wineries created a memorable feast.  There were oysters and sushi along with other savory preparations, but the biggest draw of the evening was the sweet treats baked by some of our area’s most talented pastry chefs – from Taberna del Alabardero and their pretty pink and white confections with tufts of freshly made cotton candy, to Baklava Couture’s individual pastries with cinnamon walnut or pistachio fillings.

Doggie treats from Olde Towne Pet Resort

Doggie treats from Olde Towne Pet Resort

In keeping with the evening’s theme, the Olde Towne Pet Resort placed doggie treats in bowls as well as champagne flutes.  Some of these morsels looked so good two-legged guests were hard-pressed to keep their paws off.  And while Poste Moderne Brasserie offered homemade biscuits for pets, their owners could indulge in a version of s’mores with chocolate marshmallow confections on graham cracker crusts.

Salamander Resort & Spa's Executive Pastry Chef Jason Reeves winning cake.

Salamander Resort & Spa’s Executive Pastry Chef Jason Reeves winning cake.

Guests eagerly awaited the highlight of the evening – a cake competition featuring the amazing artistry of our local pastry chefs.  The spectacular winning entry was a cake made to look like a champagne bottle beside a pug licking its chops.  Created by Salamander Resort & Spa’s Executive Pastry Chef Jason Reeves and Amy Tucker, the stunning confection was made with hand-painted and sculpted devil’s food cake and fondant that looked way too good to eat.  Another whimsical creation was a velvety green sofa with a naughty dog trying to hide himself under a cushion.  Pastry Chef Lauren Petri of The Hamilton who designed the clever cake, added a particularly humorous and challenging touch of a partially unraveled roll of toilet paper at the foot of the couch.

The Washington Humane Society relies on fundraisers such as the “Sugar and Champagne Affair” to continue their work protecting the animals of our region.  Last year WHS Field Officers responded to over 17,000 calls to help animals in need.  Plan to join in the fun next year, and bring your precious pup for a howlin’ good time.

Photo credits: Cary Pollak

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