I am a creature of habit. Every second day I wake up at exactly 6:30 a.m. and run the treadmill for thirty minutes. Every night, I read for an hour before going to sleep. I drive the same route to work each morning, always check my email the second I get home, and when I find a restaurant I like, I stick to it. There’s great comfort in routine but, every so often, it’s nice to shake things up. Choosing the elliptical over the treadmill. Steel-cut Irish oatmeal over All-Bran. Kevin Newman over Bill Good and Pamela Martin. Or an unfamiliar restaurant over a long-time favorite. At best, I’ll discover something I enjoy and incorporate it into a new routine. At worst, I’ll renew my appreciation for the tried and true.
And so it was that, this past Friday, I threw caution to the wind and skipped my morning green tea in favor of oolong, took Broadway to work, and decided to try a new restaurant. I perused some online reviews, narrowed down the list of candidates, then checked out the respective menus. One in particular stood out. Foie gras torchon with duck rillette Sauterne. Saffron braised veal cheeks with wild mushrooms. Sweet pepper and goat cheese tortellini with caramelized eggplant! Usually, when I scan a restaurant‘s offerings, two or three dishes will catch my eye. In the case of Figmint Restaurant and Lounge, it was about two thirds of their entire dinner menu. Pan seared rainbow trout with kurri squash marscapone risotto. Twice baked gruyere souffle with roasted pears. For some reason, I was briefly reminded of those undercover police stings where the cops catch the bad guys by luring them in with ridiculously enticing promises of a big prize giveaway. I’d often think “How stupid could those guys be?”. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. So, was I being set up? Would the police sweep in to nab me the second I started on my duck breast with truffled quince? Well, for a menu this tempting, I was willing to risk it.
I have to admit to a less-than-enthusiastic response upon first laying eyes on the place. From the outside, it looked like an upscale cafeteria. And the fact that it appeared to be a hotel restaurant immediately lowered expectations. Coming up with inventive dishes was one thing; pulling them off something else entirely. But my initial cynicism disappeared the second our waiter arrived to welcome us to Figmint. Upbeat and charming, Claude guided us through our choices, gave us a little bio of U.K.-born Executive Chef Lee Humphries – formerly of Elixir and West before that, and even found the time to reminisce with us about our native Montreal.
Given the fact that I had spent the better part of that afternoon going over the menu, I was pretty much ready to order the second we were seated. Fondy and I both started with the Sunchoke and Riesling soup. Although not as dense as previous versions I’ve had, it was delicious nevertheless – its buttery richness complimented by white truffle oil, the whole poured over a fried “biodynamic” egg yolk, sunflower shoots, and Manchego cheese. For her main, Fondy had the Beef dish, a trio of pan roasted beef tenderloin, oven roasted bone marrow, and braised Kobe short rib. The short rib was tender and unctuously fork friendly; the tenderloin equally outstanding. Special mention should be made of Chef Humphries’ take on bone marrow – its crisp crumb cap topping a soft and savory core. I had the saffron braised veal cheeks, a generous portion of the well-marbled cheeks served with wild mushrooms, golden beet puree and pine nut butter. Fondy and I also shared a decadent wild mushroom risotto that featured meaty blue chanterelles.
We ended the meal with three desserts (I was originally planning on four but, in the end, I could barely finish the risotto). The pumpkin brulee with pumpkin seed biscotti was fairly bursting with pumpkin flavor, but could have used a touch of nutmeg to lend it some balance. The chocolate tasting, a chocolate lover’s tour-de-force, included very good white chocolate pot de crème, dark chocolate brownie, and a milk hot chocolate spiced with nutmeg and topped with a marshmallow. Finally, the appropriately named Figmint was a fig sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream and crystallized mint. While I wasn’t a fan of the mint, it was easily removed so that we could focus our full attention on the toffee pudding and ice cream – the dessert of the night.
Chef Humphries’ culinary creations reflect an imagination and talent to rival that of Vancouver’s most celebrated chefs. I haven’t been this excited about a restaurant since visiting Fuel in its fledgling week. Hopefully, in time, word will get out and Figmint Restaurant and Lounge will achieve the recognition and success it unquestionably deserves.
Time for a quick check of the mail –
Crystal writes: “Many of my favorite episodes were written by Kathryn Powers, and I’ve mourned the loss of her work ever since she left the show.”
Answer: I hate to be the bearer of bad news but, in many cases, fans bemoaning the loss of a departed writer or celebrating a given episode’s wonderful writing are, in fact, missing/applauding the uncredited contribtions of individuals still very much involved in the production.
Arctic Goddess writes: “Do you suppose Ba’al could make a guest appearance on Atlantis some time in Season 4, or 5?”
Answer: He’d be much more likely to make an appearance in one of the SG-1 movies.
Anonymous #1 writes: “By the way what does the magic eight ball say about Ford making an appearance in Season Four?”
Magic 8 Ball says: Outlook not so good.
Peter writes: “Have you heard of “Avatar: The Last Airbender”?”
Answer: I’ve heard of it, but am not familiar with the series. My anime collection is made up of almost exclusively Japanese titles. I am still watching Fighting Spirit and will be eventually moving on to Full Metal Alchemist. Paul and I are both fans of Cowboy Bebop.
Shawna writes: “I’ll shameless ask you: do you have any open positions that I might apply for?”
Answer: With only one series in production this year, our production staff has been contracted. No openings in 2007. Sorry, Shawna.
Michelle writes: “Thanks for the rec — Cheesecake Factory is good, although I was thinking more upscale.”
Answer: Daniel Boulud Brasserie and Tableau at the Wynn Hotel are great restaurants.
Anonymous #2: ” Is there anyway you can have Teyla and Dr.Kellar (together) in a situation where they both end up having to save the day while in their underwear.”
Answer: What an amazing coincidence! Carl Binder is working on just such a story.
Marsha writes: ” As persuasive as the argument might have been, shouldn’t you be more supportive of Mr. Anderson and provide your MasterCard information instead?”
Answer: In support of Mr. Anderson, I leave my wallet at home when I go out and make due with three bottle caps, six elastic bands, and a can of Fresca.
Anonymous #3 writes: “Hi Joe just wanted to ask if there was any plans on Andee Frizzell returning in season 4?”
Magic 8 Ball says: Cannot predict now.
Anonymous #3 writes: “There’s no character defining moments anymore, moments that really led to the audience understanding Jack, Sam, Daniel, and Teal’c.”
Answer: I strongly disagree. Carter’s coming to face with her own mortality in Line in the Sand, Teal’c’s conversations with his son, Daniel’s appeal to Vala at the end of Memento Mori, Vala’s fractured relationship with her father in Family Ties, Daniel’s farewell in Meridian – all strike me as very memorable character defining moments.
Anonymous #4: “I think having diversity on a writing staff is important, and that the only way to breed diversity is to have at least one female writer.”
Answer: Before Paul and I joined the show, the production auditioned a variety of different writers, a practice that has continued over the past few years. It isn’t as easy as saying we want this type of writer and then hiring them. The individual we hire not only has to be a capable writer, but capable of writing Stargate – which isn’t as easy as it may look. The show’s mythology can prove very daunting for first-timers. Finally, because we are only producing one show this year, this will be the first season we won’t be going out to freelancers.
Anonymous #5: “Joe, do you ever get tired of people using your blog as a soapbox to preach to you about stuff? Anit-ship, Anti-Carter on Atlantis, Weir, women writers, etc., etc. Do you sometimes wish people would just talk food?”
Answer: As long as they keep it polite – and hopefully brief – I don’t mind.