If one were to ask the average Vancouverite to pick the city’s most romantic dining destination, Umberto Menghi’s Il Giardino would surely prove a popular choice. With its warm Tuscan decor and beautiful Summer garden, it’s the perfect place for that perfect date. And so, when my wife made the reservation two weeks ago, I looked forward to what would surely be an enchanting and intimate evening.

As it turned out, the evening was not quite as romantic as I’d hoped given that my wife had to bow out at the last minute and I ended up going with someone else instead. Not that my buddy Carl is bad company. In fact, next to my wife, there are few people I’d rather spend time with. And, true to form, Carl and I had a wonderful time – nestled amidst the restaurant’s earthy orange and browns, its cozy dark wood interior, and pleasant soft lighting.

Although we had reserved for Dine Out, a cursory glance at the dessert offerings (raspberry-chocolate ganache cake, limoncello lemon tart, or lavender espresso crème brulee) steered me over to the regular menu. Actually, we had three menu’s to choose from: the Dine Out menu, the regular menu, and the seasonal menu. I decided to go seasonal, starting with a fabulous smoked black cod served on a bed of vegetable ragout with caper-lemon sauce. The savory flavor of the ragout – a mix of diced tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and peppers – was a nice accompaniment to the sweet smokiness of the cod. Carl went with a Tuscan bean and pasta soup that failed to impress – though, in all fairness, he passed judgment after falling in love with my black cod, finding it bland in comparison. For his main, Carl, feeling unusually adventurous, went with the roasted reindeer loin, which was served with a green and pink peppercorn sauce. It arrived tender and incredibly tasty. While Carl positively luxuriated in his choice, I enjoyed the jumbo prawn and scallop duo with a buttery-rich lobster sauce – overall another very good dish although the scallops were the clear winners here. When it came time for dessert, I made things simple for our server: “Just list the desserts that don’t contain fruit.” This narrowed our choices down to two: the house tiramisu and the St. Honore. I was hoping Carl would go with the St. Honore as I wanted the tiramisu but also wanted to at least sample the former. Unfortunately, Carl complicated matters by choosing the tiramisu. And so, I went with the tiramisu as well – in addition to the St. Honore. The tiramisu was great, not too boozy, with a generous dollop of marscapone cheese. The St. Honore – puff pastry, choux pastry, cream puffs, and cream – was a bit of a disappointment, not as rich as the versions I used to enjoy back in Montreal.

Carl couldn’t help but note that I would be writing yet another positive review. “People are going to start thinking of you as the Paula Abdul of restaurant critics,”he warned. Then, perhaps hoping to save me from such a fate, added: “Mention I didn’t like the soup.”

As I waited for the valet to bring me my car, I watched Carl head off into night, and thought it might be nice to have dinner again with him sometime.

Gosh, I hope he calls.

12 thoughts on “January 27, 2007

  1. I’m kind of disappointed you didn’t choose the lavender espresso creme brulee. I would have liked to hear what you thought of that.

    And please know there are fans who read the SGA news and think “hey! they’re shaking things up on the show — can’t wait to see what happens!”

  2. I loved your closing sentence. Who paid for the meal or did you go dutch? What, no kiss good night? Sorry. I just had to laugh at your closing. The food sounds incredible. I will be in Vancouver in March, as you know. Where would you recommend as a great seafood restaurant? Would you like to join us at that time?

    Have a great day.


  3. Joe,

    Gotta agree with Carl. I can’t belive that all the restaurants you go to are so good. I gotta get up to Vancouver if that is the case.

    Since you had dinner with Carl, I was hoping you could tell us which writers will be writing for season 4 of Atlantis.


  4. Since I can’t seem to sign into blogger for the last week….no pics from the BBQ.

    This was a very funny blog to read at the end of a very long day. I wonder if you ever go to a restaurant and dislike the food served?

    (Btw, are you planning on going to Dragon*Con 07? I bought my tickets. It would be a pleasure to meet you!)

    Loved the ADB photo. Made my heart skip a beat seeing it!

    (Windshieldbug when I can sign in!)

  5. Yesterday, I went to Paris to meet some friends coming from France, USA and UK, all of them I met thanks to Stargate. We had a fantastic time together and when lunch time came, we had to take pictures of our meals! I think you’ve started a new trend here… 😛

    As for Carl, it’s 21st century… Don’t wait for his call and call him yourself! 😉

  6. Tough one for you Joe, will you weigh in… Should Sheppard be with Teyla or with Weir?

  7. A reply for your previous post about books to read. I have recently fallen in love with Matthew Reilly, who I find to be one of the *best* writers I’ve read in a long time. Very exciting, gripping from the start, and action packed. I’d suggest Ice Station to start with, as his first novel, Contest, while still very good, had an alien/outer space theme, that might put people off his following ones. Then again, you do work on Stargate, so… 😛

    Happy Reading!


  8. OK, very important question… is he available? if yes, then go for it… give him a call!!!!! and invite me… I like food too.

  9. So, Joe you aren’t sitting there waiting by the phone are you? If he doesn’t call you, call him.

    Ok time to admit that most of the of the food you talk about doesn’t appeal to me on a culinary level, though I love the photos of them. You have a very artistic eye for taking photos. I also love reading your reviews and descriptions of the food.

    I guess I’m just a ‘steak and potatoes’ girl at heart or meatloaf and green beans. My mother ran a ‘country kitchen’ style restaurant for years and I paid part of my tuition to business college by working as a short order cook in an honest to goodness box car diner.

    My older brother loves to tease me by constantly mentioning that the diner is now on display in a diner museum in Pennsyvania (USA)as a representation of the long gone era of diners made out of railroad box cars.

    I can still flip pancakes and eggs with the best of them LOL!

    So do you know any good diners in Vancouver that serve ‘country style food? Can we send you out on expeditions to them and come back to report. It would be like gate missions:)

  10. Aww gee, call him yourself if it was that much fun! 😉

    The food sounds wonderful, but really, you could never be the Paula Abdul of food reviewing, you haven’t got the body for it.

  11. Not sure if it’s your company or the food but Carl sure looks happy!

    Hope the Gero has forgiven the travesty of your neglect of his Wii ownership. Any chance of nudging that boy into starting a blog too?

    Saw your all to brief appearance on that Stargate Saved my Life programme tonight – looking very dapper there, Joe.

    Oh, and I vote you get another dog! You can never have too many!

  12. Oh, great. Now, we’re going to hear endless requests from the Shippers about “is Carl going to be appearing in Rob’s Blog”, and of course, Help Us……Slash Fan Fic about “the meal….”
    How about a crossover brunch to resolve all these questions? The blogiverse is waiting…..

    Scorchy, beam me up.

    😉 half way through archives, and have laughed out loud almost a dozen times. Hard to hide what I’m doing at work when this happens.

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