Well, with the holidays upon us and everyone going their separate ways – Hawaii, San Francisco, Vegas or, in my case, nowhere- Fondy and I got together with Marty G. and his gal Stephanie for a little pre-Christmas dinner at – where else? – our favorite Vancouver restaurant: Fuel. Apparently, whenever Martin or I make reservations, the gang at Fuel gets all fired up because it means they’ll be able to test those somewhat atypical recipes they’ve been dying to try out. And Martin and I are just to guys to appreciate the sort of off-book creations Chef Belcham and co. come up with.

On this night, we dispensed with the menus and went with the Chef’s 6 Course Dinner, placing our evening (and respective stomachs) in Rob’s infinitely capable hands. He started us off with a little appetizer: nice, thick slices of smoky homemade coppa ham served with a sweet and tangy green tomato chutney. I honestly tried to limit myself to four slices but, when Martin left the table to take a call, those delectably sweet slices beckoned and I couldn’t well allow them to go to waste. The wonderful thing about Fuel’s coppa is that, despite being air-cured, it is far from dry and a wholly different experience from any market-bought cured meats.

We followed up the coppa with soups – a slow-cooked parsnip soup with smoked spring salmon and horseradish, and duck consomme with boudin, thyme, fennel, and slices of smoked duck – two of each for the table. Although I’m not that big of a soup guy (the notable exception being Fuel’s high seasonal corn soup that I would kill for), I enjoyed both although I preferred the consomme which proved incredibly flavorful, its accompanying smoked duck slices nothing short of heavenly.

The next course was comprised of gorgeous heirloom beetroot and butter lettuce salads for the ladies and, by special request, the Jeruselam Artichoke Risotto with house smoked polder side duck for Martin and I. The gals loved their salads, dressed with homemade ricotta and fireweed honey dressing. Martin and I, meanwhile, were delighted in our risottos. Next time I’m in, and provided it’s still on the menu, I’m getting it again.

Because Martin innocently inquired (a.k.a. strongly hinted) about the possibility of seeing some foie gras on the menu, the table was served an entire lobe of pan-fried foie. Divided four ways, it was an incredibly generous portion that ultimately proved too rich for Fondy and Stephanie – what with two more courses headed our way – so Martin and I batted clean-up. Overall, a great dish that was somewhat undermined by the tartness of its plum accompaniment.

Next up was the fish course and four different dishes: 1) tuna for Stephanie served in some sort of broth – I didn’t sample it so I can’t offer my take, but Stephanie didn’t love it, 2) a good but slightly overcooked ling cod for Fondy, upstaged by delicious piece of smoked pork belly it was served atop, 3) scallops with truffles for Martin which he adored but, nevertheless, allowed me a taste, and 4) a perfectly-prepared piece of salmon for me, poached in olive oil and served with brussel sprout leaves and fingerling potatoes. A magnificent dish.

Course #5 – the biggie: a rack of pork prepared cooked sous-vide and finished in a cast-iron pan, served with lentils and deep-fried cheese curds. Well, for once, words fail me. Martin summed it up nicely when he likened the texture of the pork to braised short rib – utterly tender and delicious – the greatest pork dish he’s ever had. And I would agree.

Four different desserts to conclude the meal: some non-dairy creation for Stephanie that I didn’t sample, a terrific Manjari chocolate terrine for me, an incredibly light Tahitian vanilla crème brulee for Fondy, and, the latest addition to the dessert menu, a roasted dulce de leche pound cake with pumpkin confit and cinnamon cocoa sorbet for Martin.

Service, as always, was excellent.

Today’s pictures: Our dinner at Fuel.

Today’s mailbag:

Cyn writes: “A friend and I got into a discussion about whether First Strike was the case when compared to the Iraq War. Was there such a discussion about this episode?”

Answer: There wasn’t. The problem with having stories reflect world events is that, by being topical, you run the risk of dating yourself. Also, I personally find nothing more annoying than clumsy, transparent attempts at lecturing the audience.

Suekay writes: “ Just a coincidence, but one of the Chinese restaurants in my village is called the Princess Rose.”

Answer: Coincidence…or is it?

P.S. : It probably is.

Carolann writes: “would you be able to offer any advice on how someone like me might have a chance at breaking into screenwriting?”

Answer: Pick up a good scriptwriting software program and spec some scripts. Get your foot in the door by writing for animation.

Angelique a ecrit: “Et est-ce que tim ginee sera dans le telefilm continium ?”

Reponse: Oui.

Anonymous #1 writes: “ I can’t deal with my Ben taking orders from a woman.”

Answer: Heads up. Cameron Mitchell is a fictitious character played by actor Ben Browder. Ben Browder is the real actor who portrays the character of Cameron Mitchell.

For future reference.

Anonymous #2 writes: “Yeah I would have written more intelligent dialogue and better plot devices that stayed true to established canon and not thrown the canon out the door…”

Answer: Bless your heart. You remind me of my sister-in-law who once said: “You have the best job in the world. You just sit around all day, making stuff up.” Yep, our job’s are that easy. So easy, in fact, that even someone like you could do it. Maybe I’ll come over to your office and work accounts receivable for you. Let me know when’s good for you. I’ll make sure to pack my abacus.

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