The press release went like this:

“Fuel Restaurant is proud to announce a great celebration of the bounty of fall with the first annual ‘Whole Hog’ dinner. The 5 course menu will incorporate pork in each and every dish, paying homage to many seldom utilized cuts of the animal.”

Pork? 5 courses? Seldom utilized cuts? Before I could even comment, Marty G. already had the restaurant on the phone and was making reservation. Fastforward a week later to last night for what turned out to be my third birthday dinner in as many days –

We were three, Marty G., his buddy Kurt (who traveled all the way from Toronto to help celebrate although he claims he actually came to town on unrelated business but, really, the guy is a kidder and no doubt the type who wouldn’t want me making a big deal about his selfless cross-country trek to support me on this auspicious occasion, much less post pictures of him demonstrating that Kurtesque benevolence by joining us to sample some decidedly atypical pig dishes), and myself. Fondy had to work late and was feeling under the weather and had to cancel while Martin’s better half (far, FAAAAAR better half) Stephanie had to miss out because she had to head out of town (When I asked Martin if she had left my birthday present behind, he explained that the gift she had left was far more valuable than anything I had received to date – the gift of friendship. Yeah, friendship or chocolate. They’re both equally good I suppose.). Well, they missed out on quite the culinary event.

We started with an assortment of house-made charcuterie: delectable thinly-sliced chorizo sausage (that Marty G. particularly adored), silken pork rillettes (salted pork slow-cooked in fat), hearty pork terrine (my favorite), and strips of smoky lardons (often described as fatty bacon but, really, minus the actual bacon) served with pickled ramps (which, I believe are wild leeks) and fleur de sel.

We were given the option to add a couple of courses to our meal and did. The first addition was scrambled eggs with black truffles and white butter, the eggs more of a pudding than a traditional scramble, topped with actual truffle shavings. As much as I love truffles, I was enamored of this dish as I found the egg-white butter flavor too pronounced and, for lack of a better way of describing it, “too eggy”. Marty G. may have put it best when he said: “The eggs and the truffles fought it out and the eggs won.”

The following dish brought us back to the standing menu – and one of those promised “seldom utilized cuts”. In this case: stuffed pig ear with green sauce accompanied by a pig tail consommé. With all due respect – I shit you not. Very different – but very tasty nevertheless. Martin and Kurt were somewhat put off by the casing’s cartilaginous texture, but I didn’t mind. The actual pork stuffing was fantastic, and even more so when married to the green sauce. No actual tail in the consommé – more a subtle essence of that may have proven more prominent but ended up perhaps far more delicate in flavor in comparison to the accompanying stuffed ear.

Next up was the second addition to the menu and what turned out to be my favorite dish of the night: Carbonara ravioli. The pasta was cooked just right, its creamy, smoky interior complimented nicely by a bed of fresh leeks and sweet sungold tomatoes. Spectacular.

Back to the set menu and yet another adventurous offering: crispy brain served with parsley root and Dungeness crab mayonnaise. I found the crab bed an interesting choice and while I wasn’t left wholly convinced, I did find it very good. As far as brain goes, this was by far the best version I’ve ever sampled but, to be fair, I’m not a big fan of it’s almost metallic undertone.

We followed with an exceptionally well-marbled braised crown bacon that I’d liken to a fork-friendlier pork belly (all you Chinese food enthusiasts) in taste and texture. Of course, this particular cut originates a little further north.

Our final main was the roasted pork saddle served with fennel shavings and boudin. Arguably the least exotic of the cuts served, the saddle was no less delicious. The boudin (pork sausage traditionally made out of pork liver and heart) was a pleasant stand-out.

For dessert, and in keeping with the pork theme, we enjoyed a terrific birch syrup milk chocolate pie with candied bacon, accompanied by a too-tart-for-me apple sorbet.

Yet another fantastic meal at Fuel thanks to the exceptional service and the ever-imaginative creations of uber-talented Chef Rob Felcham.

Even though I hadn’t done the wine pairings (unlike Martin and Kurt), I was experiencing an intoxicating head rush by meal’s end. “Hey, when was the last time you had your cholesterol checked?”asked Martin, bringing down the mood. Hmmm. I believe it was the last time I had a full physical – six years ago. “I’m just wondering,”continued Marty G., “because you eat like this all the time.” True, but I do work out and I can only assume all that dark chocolate helps counteract the bad LDL. Still – “So what would be the potential side effects of high cholesterol?”I asked, tossing out the likely: “Occasional dizziness, trouble concentrating…” “Premature death,”suggested Martin. Beat. “Anyway, happy birthday!”Kurt followed up.

When I came home and told Fondy about the meal, she was jealous. And then when I told her about the hilarious conversation I had with Martin and Kurt at meal’s end, she made an appointment for me to have a full physical this coming Tuesday. Great. Thanks a lot, Martin.

Speaking of appointments, I’m posting early today because I have to get to a scheduled dental appointment late this afternoon.

Oh, and congratulations go out to Mark Savela and his team who won a Gemini in the Best Visual Effects category for No Man’s Land. Well done! Now back to work. You’ve got the rest of season four to finish up.

Today’s pics: Whole Hog Dinner 2007. I’ve never seen Marty G. so excited to be in my company!

Today’s video: Nada. Sorry.

Today’s mailbag:

Gwen writes: “Are you going to VCON (Vancouver Sci-Fi and Fantasy Convention) this weekend?”

Answer: I spoke to one of the organizers about attending, but nothing ever came of it.

Anonymous #1 writes: “According to Joe Flanigan he goes “to town on the producers and writers for the actors all the time”. Is this true?”

Answer: Well, I can honestly say that I have never had a conversation with Joe (involved or otherwise) that focused on another actor.

Dovil writes: “Have you ever thought about filming a Very Special Arbour Day SGA episode?”

Answer: That’s the B plot in Carl’s stick-fighting episode.

Luis Jr. writes: “Joe where can i get an Atlantis cell phone?is that a Razor?”

Answer: I got mine from MGM. I don’t know if they’ll be making them available to the public.

Madam Cyn writes: “Where are the photos of you on the massage table?”

Answer: Ah, Madam Cyn. To what do I owe the pleasure? You have a habit of popping in out of the blue and then disappearing for years at a time. Not unlike the Unabomber. Business ever take you to this part of the world?

Skipgunner writes: “I’ve read that cannelloni and manicotti are the same thing.”

Answer: I believe manicotti are pasta shells as opposed to the more crepe-like cannelloni.

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