Carl’s birthday was last Friday, but celebrations continue throughout the month of August. Last night, for instance, was the night I took him out for his birthday dinner, partly because he is a great writer and good friend who is as genuine and admirable in his work as he is in his dealings with others, but mostly because I’m hoping he can get me a job if and when Stargate ends (He knows Jane Seymour, y’know). I wanted the meal to be extra special, so where better to go for an extra special meal than an extra special place – one of my fave restaurants in Vancouver: Fuel.
I’d popped in to make reservations earlier in the week and checked out a couple of impressive new additions to the standing menu: an entire lobe of foie gras and the cote de boeuf for four. Well, I wasn’t going to get anywhere with Carl on the foie gras (Marty G. would be a more appropriate wingman on this one), but the cote de boeuf for four…well, that was right up Mr. Binder’s alley (in fact, when I told him about it the next day, his eyeballs almost popped out of their sockets). It was while I was booking a table with owner/sommelier Tom Doughty that executive chef Rob Belcham walked over and said the magic word “schnitzel”. Turns out he’s familiar with my affinity for the golden cutlet and, even though he just took it off the menu, he offered to make some for a special occasion (Martin, Alan, Carl, Ivon, Alan, and Lawren, stand advised that next Wednesday night will be a very special, and delicious, occasion).
I arrived at 6:30 p.m. to find Carl already there, hungry and waiting. Well, since we’d be finishing heavy, Carl and I decided to start light with the chilled organic sweet yellow corn soup. Wow! It was sweet and rich and dense and, well, beyond sublime, a menu item I encourage everyone reading this blog to check out ASAP as, I’ve been told, the window for this particular dish is narrow indeed. According to Tom, 18 ears of corn go into the soup along with butter, salt, and a touch of chili. I repeat. Wow! I was considering ordering another round when we were served our next course, a little surprise from Chef Rob: golden, mouth-melting schnitzel topped with a delicious cream-based sauce studded with chanterelles and sun gold tomatoes. A delectable sneak preview.
Well, with the preliminaries out of the way, we moved on to the main course. Tom presented the cote de boeuf – a 2 lb cut of dry-aged Alberta Prime – a gorgeous and formidable-looking piece of meat. In the words of Anthony Bourdain: “Pound for pound, the cote de boeuf is the best cut of beef on the animal. For your serious meat-eating guests, this is the way to go.” Was it ever! The roast was whisked away, then returned minutes later, sliced and served with béarnaise sauce and a side of some wonderfully meaty fries. We also had Fuel’s celebration salad (organic greens, home made ricotta, confit honey, and firewood honey), the only salad this non-salad eater will order. The cote de boeuf, cooked medium-rare, was butter-tender and flavorful, reminiscent of some of the best cuts I’ve been served in Tokyo. As I ate, all I could think was “Fondy is going to be soooo jealous.” (And, incidentally, when she phoned in later that night, she very much was).
Well, try as we might, we weren’t able to finish the magnificent roast and so Carl got to take home four nice, thick slices of meat in a doggy bag. Stuffed and thoroughly sated, we were able to sample no more than four desserts: a chocolaty-great Manjari chocolate terrine with crushed peanuts and salted caramel malted ice cream, a very good Tahitian vanilla crème brulee with crushed berries and a spearmint crisp that Carl felt proved a little too reminiscent of his morning toothpaste, a so-so and tad too tart lemon pound cake with rhubarb confit, and a terrific warm Okanagan cherry tart (Yep, you heard right. I thoroughly enjoyed a fruit-based dessert) that delivered a fabulous combination of buttery shortbread, kriek beer sorbet, and sweet cherries.
I say again for the third time: Wow! One of the best meals I’ve had in recent memory. I feel confident that in the event Startgate does ever wrap production, I’ve secured myself a writing gig on the Dr. Quinn Medecine Woman spin-off.