I fear my house has become a massive cold spot for bizarre, inexplicable occurrences clearly supernatural in nature.  It began a few days ago in the form of random manifestations in the various bathrooms that, like crop circles, seemed to contain some sort of otherworldly messages in their design.  I provide photo documentation of the initial phenomen –

Note the way the toilet paper tapers, clearly suggestive of intelligent design.

The next incident was even more  of a shock.  I opened up the linen closet to retrieve a bath towel and discovered its once disorganized contents had been transformed into THIS ordered state –

!!!

Equally mystifying developments have followed.  The dishwasher runs without my loading it or turning it on.  The washer and dryer also seem to operate of their own volition.  And my dog Maximus has started answering to Makka-chan.  What the hell is going on?

I’m frightened.

Erring on the side of caution, I hired an exorcist to come in and rid my home of the underwear-folding spirit while Akemi and I headed out to what is purported by many to be one the city’s top dining destination: Lumiere.  The last time I visited was over a year ago, shortly after then-owner Rob Feenie had left/been forced out (?) of his own  kitchen.  On the night I dined there with Bob Picardo, the place was almost empty – but the quality of the dishes was excellent.  We enjoyed a multi-course meal (I believe we were served seven or eight plates) with nary a misstep in the bunch (with the exception of the venison with chocolate sauce).

Well, last night, I was back to a transformed dining room and menu.  Gone were the elaborate multi-course menu’s that offered anywhere from seven to twelve dishes.  We had a choice of a three or five courses.  Despite Akemi’s protests, I decided to go with the latter.  In addition to a couple of glasses of Riesling (Akemi) and a few cocktails (me), we enjoyed a silky sweet and smooth pumpkin soup with parmesan foam as an amuse-bouche and our first course: Beet & Vodka-Cured Hamachi with sturgeon caviar, baby beets, and horseradish cream. Delightfully delicate and delicious. Akemi was very impressed with the quality of the fish.

Akemi was less impressed with the quality of the butter served with dinner, however, a whipped run-of-the-mill Fraser Valley offering that paled in comparison to what we were served at Bishop’s only night’s earlier.  A minor quibble, especially considering I don’t usually partake, but it’s the small things that make a difference – especially when you’re dining at a place with the fine-dining cachet of a Lumiere.  Next up…

Cornemal-Crusted Qualicum Bay Scallops with apple-truffle coleslaw, brisket, parsnip puree, and scallop just. The scallops were divine, marrying nicely with the tender brisket and sweet parsnip puree. The sour green apple crisps topping the scallops were a bizarre little addition that detracted from the whole. The coleslaw was fine.

For an additional charge, we were able to include an extra course - risotto with shaved black truffles. As much as I love the truffle, I found this dish underwhelming.

Slow Baked Arctic Char with Potato Lyonnaise, Leek Royale, and Beurre Rouge. Three for three on the fish and seafood. The char was perfectly prepared, the accompaniments terrific.

Duo of AAA Dry Aged Beef - red wine braised short rib with potato fondant & rosemary soubise, seared rib eye. I preferred the marbling of the short rib but the rib eye was well-seasoned and tasty. Nowhere near in the same league as Japanese beef but fine nevertheless. That rosemary soubise on the other hand was ghastly. Akemi and I both took a bite and set 'em aside. "Mazui!"as the Japanese would say.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed in the menu offerings – and even more disappointed when I witnessed the table beside us being served items that hadn’t been made available to us including a fantastic looking pork duo that I would have much preferred over my beef.  At one point, our neighbors were served foie gras.  “It’s like eating a piece of fat,”sniffed one woman at the table and, with that, all four set their forks aside and waited for their dishes to be cleared.  What a waste.

Chocolate fondant with homemade ice cream. A luxurious duo.

The dessert was followed by a little surprise in the form some lovely warm madeleines and passable petits fours.

Then, THAT dessert was followed by a second little surprise in the form of a 20% service charge added to our bill.  Not a reasonable 10% or even 15%.  20%!  Okay, while I understand that the concept of tipping is foreign to many tourists and that restaurants may feel the need to protect their staff (although of the seven restaurants I’ve taken Akemi to since her arrival, only one – Lumiere – has taken this step), I still bristle at being slammed with a 20% service charge – and this from a guy who tends to tip between 20-25%.  It really left a bad taste in my mouth.  But, in all fairness, it could have been that rosemary soubise.

Well, the Nebula nominations have been announced and some familiar names made the list.  Congratulations go out to blog regular Michael A. Burstein whose “I Remember the Future” (one of several wonderful tales collected in his I Remember the Future anthology, a former Book of the Month Club pick) gets the nod in the Short Story category.  Well done, Michael!  Congrats also go out to the immensely talented, always entertaining – and, oh by the way, SGU Creative Consultant – John Scalzi whose The God Engines received a nomination in the Novella category.  John has also been nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy  for Zoe’s Tale, alongside two other Book of the Month Club guest authors: the late great Kage Baker for Hotel Under the Sun, and Catherynne M. Valente for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (which you can check out here: http://www.catherynnemvalente.com/fairyland/).  Kage Baker’s The Women of Nell Gwynne’s is also in the running for Best Novella as is “Act One” by SF veteran – and yet another Book of the Month Club guest author – Nancy Kress.  Another past guest author, the weird and wonderful Jeff Vandermeer, gets the nod in the Best Novel category for Finch, while a future guest author – Cherie Priest – receives the nod in the same category for Boneshaker, March’s Book of the Month Club pick.  Hope you’re all making your way through your copies and will be ready for the upcoming discussion!

48 thoughts on “February 21, 2010: Somebody get me those Ghost Hunter guys! Dinner at Lumiere! Nebula Noms!

  1. Hey Spooky Mallozzi!!! Send that cleaning ghost to my house! Just tell him/her not to stand over my bed in the middle of the night, because that just creeps me out… And oh yeah, if this ghost could not look all nasty and gooey like the ones on the Sixth Sense, that would be great also.

  2. Hey Joey, what’s with all the extra apostrophes tonight? Must be that tidy linen closet messing with your head 😉

  3. If Akemi should like to visit the mid-Atlantic region, I’ll be happy to find her some room. It would be well worth it to take her out fine dining for a week or so if it means those mysterious supernatural events follow her….you are a fortunate man to have such a considerate guest, and she is lucky to have such a convivial host.
    Had to snicker at the foie gras, though I’m mystified why you were not offered the options of the ungrateful group beside you. And I share your outrage at the mandatory gratuity. I’m a more than reasonable tipster, but I tend to pass up places that try to attach such gratuities to individual bills. I accept it for larger groups, having seen how people will stiff the help, figuring others will pick up the slack. But if the place is so worried about their waiters, let them raise their wages instead.
    Glad to see so many nominations from authors who have been spotlighted here. And just over a week till the next book discussion! So, what is the book after that? Anyways, thanks as always for some entertainment and enlightenment.

  4. I’ve been thinking about it but haven’t come up with a title for the April Book of the Month Club.

    Do you guys have any suggestions?

  5. Linen cupboards – I just open the door, throw the item in and shut the door quickly. Frankie de Tom Cat loves opening doors – he has been attacked by a cascade of towels many a time.

    Book of the month – “The birthing house” by Christopher Ransom. Get everybody to read it and then explain it to me. I was totally confused at the end of the book.

  6. Well, any book? Does it have to be science fiction/fiction/fantasy or something we’ve enjoyed? If the latter is the case, just finished “Space” by James Michener, which I’m sure most everybody’s read, but still an excellent novel 🙂

  7. @Joe

    The air novilization. Really, it’s a good book and totally different from the pilot!!!!! 🙂

  8. I put forward my suggestion last week, one of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. I wouldn’t say the 1st book is the best, but it’s still enjoyable.
    Maybe too mainstream?

  9. Hi Joe!

    Pausing while bidding on items from *cough* your shows *cough* on ebay. Gotta one cool (to me) piece so far!

    USA 5, Canada 3 !!! (Men’s hockey) *happy dance with a sad movement for Canada*

    I’d be very scared of your cleaning ghost as you might wake up one day and the bed has been made around you!!!

    I’d be very annoyed with a mandatory 20% service charge too. We usually tip 20-25%, but that’s by choice. And to automatically add a service fee for two people is ridiculous and an insult to the restaurant’s patrons.

    It’s like when the four of us left Fogo de Chao’s and the valet made a point of saying they “work for tips.” Our friend who was driving, who tips well, was very insulted. Give us a chance to be jerks before assuming we are, eh?!

    Anyway, lovely food pics and nice spoooky blur effect on the ghosty pics.

    eddy

  10. @ Deni – I think the extra apostrophes are because of all the cocktails Joey had. 😉

    @ Joey – Soooo…this ghost is folding your undies? Does that mean you’re going steady now?? 😉

    das

  11. How sweet of Akemi to pick up after you. I’m betting it was because she’s very grateful for all of your wonderful Vancouver adventures, and not out of a sense of self survival.

    Hey, I finally got through all my mail today, and found a letter from the “TV Writers Settlement Administrator”. Interesting. I got an “A” for a Starsky and Hutch episode in a writing class I took at CSUN once. I also wrote an outdoor play about the French and Indian history of Natchez (MS) that got partial National Endowment of the Arts funding, but was never produced in Natchez because the rest of the funding was from the local oil industry, which tanked at the time. These were both in the 80’s. Later I wrote a couple of film scripts that really sucked.

    So why would they send this to me? I opened it. “If you are age 40 or over AND wrote or were interested writing for television, a proposed settlement may affect your rights.” Good grief, “…or were interested in writing for television…”? Well, that would be me and everyone else on the planet. So I tossed it. I was going to ask if you got one of these, but I doubt you’re old enough. Carl?

    @PBMom Sending all sorts of positive thoughts your way. And hope you can find time to take care of yourself too.

  12. You don’t need an exorcist. All you need to do is sit in your underwear on the couch, watch only football, fart a lot and gain 30 pounds. Also make sure to absolutely ignore all of the occurrences you mentioned.

    It may take a few years, but they will definitely stop.

  13. I’m getting to the point where I’d pay to watch you eat some KFC or shit like that… hahaha!!

  14. Why do Australians call beets ‘beetroot’? Is it stating the obvious like when Americans call Tuna ‘Tuna fish’ ? (yes we all know it’s fish).

  15. Hey Joe,

    *giggles* So, you are being spoiled I take it. Trying to come up with a reasonable explanation of why or how she came up with the time to accomplish to organizational marvels. It is a woman’s charm. No further need for explanation. I am certain there was no need to organize the liquor…since it was perfect and already done by a woman.

    Your dogs certainly are influenced easily. hheheehe I am sorry, but somehow that just makes me chuckle. You give them everything and a pretty woman comes along and …. boom..life changes. The truth will be told when you see how long they pout after she has left.

    Love the food pics. Fun as always.

    Best to you Joe,
    Always,
    Cheryl 🙂

  16. First off, your closet scheme could do with some “colour”. Or, is this where you stash your collection of “liberated” international *souvenir* hotel linen…? Oh, BTW, you could use more “bath” size towels – especially if you continue to have house guests! And I’m not seeing [it’s really hard to tell in the photo] a lot of standard size wash cloths there either? — Really, what is it with guys living alone and only having just a couple [or no] wash cloths around? Also, [FYI] the higher ratio of [what looks like] “hand” towels doesn’t make up for the lack of the afore-mentioned and are [to me anyway] just a tad…[*cough!*]

    ..nevermind…

    —-

    Oh, hey, that “service charge”… did they charge GST on top of it too??!! If so, you should have Akemi write a “comment” to the local newspaper’s Food Editor!

  17. Akemi or Fondy? The dogs? Hey, it’s gotta be the dogs who are folding towels in the dead of night. I wish my linen closet looked that neat.

    I’ve not been to any restaurant where they’ve added a tip automatically unless you have a large group. Even some really pricey ones. That’s just a way to drive customers to never come back, especially if the meal was hit and miss.

    Great. More books to add to my reading list. Not like I didn’t have a million right now. Well, probably enough to reach the ceiling and back at my house. Still, that’s a lot.

  18. I came into a little free time and binged myself on a marathon of seasons 9 and 10 of SG1 and the SG1 movies, (and the first half of SGU on DVD). Curiosity led me to your blog, trying to track down information on if any more movies were in the works.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I’ve enjoyed reading your posts… especially the food posts.

    The occurrences of late remind me of the first time I met up for lunch with one of my Japanese friends in art school. We rendezvoused in the park and pulled our lunches from our bags. She had a glossy bento box neatly wrapped in a decorative cloth with maple leaves and sakura blossoms. I had a beat-up tupperware container that had seen better days. She unfolded the cloth and produced a neat little lunch, with all the vegetables cut into cute shapes and even an anime character’s face pressed into the sandwich. I had the remnants of leftovers from the night before hastily thrown together. Now, whenever we meet up, I feel the obligation to impress her with my own fancy cut vegetables.

    Back to the shows… keep up the good work! Can’t wait to see what develops on SGU and hope that the new movies happen!

  19. yes yes i remember now, it was not too long ago that we were forced to deal with this level of supernatural elements. Quick, gather the following items: a guitar string, Chinese mustard, keyboard buttons R and F, Barry White CD, ink from a Reynolds pen and an old calender of the year 2000.
    meanwhile, all i have to do is solve the Goldbach Conjecture in time and finally beat this thing!

    btw, those pics make me hungry. oh and USA! USA! USA!

  20. Book recommendation for the April Book Club: I recently read and very much enjoyed Jack McDevitt’s “Time Travelers Never Die.” I think others here would enjoy it as well.

  21. Hubby calls such phenomenon “magic”. The “Magic Pantry”, the “magic hamper”, the “magic cookie jar, etc…….. Yes, hubby is spoiled. On the other hand, he says I get the “magic paycheck”. 😉

    Tipping: Did you read this about a couple arrested for not paying a tip because the service was so bad? http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local-beat/Time-In-Prison–70426052.html?yhp=1
    I wouldn’t mind the 20% added on if the service was good.

  22. I wasn’t necessarily admiring the towels being folded so neatly, but rather the space of that linen closet! Ours is about half the size, thus half the amount of towels/sheets to be able to fit into there. Impressive.

  23. Hey Joe, I know you’ve been busy. Any possibilities the DVDs have been mailed yet to the contest winners?

  24. @Michael Burnstein. Belated congratulations, and if you (and the other nominees that have graced these pages) don’t win, then youse was(wills be?) robbed.

    Mr. Burnstein’s selection sounds interesting. I’m fond of David Gemmel’s “Legend”, which is a fantasy take on an Alamo-style stand. It’s a pretty quick read by BotM club standards.
    I would also suggest a “classics review”. By this I mean choose say, 3-5 sci fi or fantasy classics the majority of people here would have most likely read. It would take a few days to put together a prospective list, and then narrow it down. But this way everyone interested in participating will almost certainly be able to weigh in on at least one book. Some books I’d suggest. Dune, Foundation, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Tarzan of the Apes, Lord of the Rings. I’m sure others have classics of their own to offer up. I’d be interested to see other people’s takes on these older standards, and see if people think they in fact live up to the classics label.

  25. Never mind. I got the package today. I don’t know why I thought this was being mailed by YOU personally. Now I can finally listen to all the GOODIES. Another great thing to brighten my day and get this: The people north of Houston (i.e., ME) are going to get 2-4 inches of snow tomorrow afternoon/evening. Twice in one season? I like love this El Nino thing. No hurricanes in the summer, snow in the winter. I wonder if El Nino has a Facebook Fan Page.

  26. I also vote for the Dresden Files. Dresden Files – 1 – Storm Front to be precise.

    Why? Because it is an easy book to read, without too many long words and it makes sense from the very beginning..

    I have Boneshaker and I am having difficulty getting into it. I can’t help thinking that if I was “English 2nd Language” there would be no way I would even attempt to read it.

    Joe, you read “Highbrow” books, and bless him, I bet Michael A. Burstein does too, but please spare a thought for us common people.

    Other easy reading books? How about Rachel Caine? The Weather Warden books are great.

    Hells teeth, even Stephenie Meyer comes to mind. We’ve all seen the movies, but how many of us have read the books?

  27. We could do a classic science fiction novel for the April BOTMC. We won’t be getting a guest Q&A from Frank Herbert, but it would be a change of pace. And, look, Thornyrose beat me to the classic suggestion.

    Can we do just the first half of Stranger in a Strange Land? It comes to a satisfying conclusion right in the middle, then Heinlein starts getting a little full of himself.

  28. Those towels become more and more frightening the longer I look at them.

    @all Do NOT click on the picture of the towels. Just. Don’t.

    @deeinsouthafrica – Stephanie Meyer? I can only guess that the movies might be tolerable to watch, but I tried listening to the novel Twilight on CD, couldn’t finish. Short review: not quality literature. My long review includes a tirade about not needing to hear varied adverbs to describe chewing cafeteria food to segue into an interior monologue.

  29. Just read that Walter Koenig’s (Chekov of Star Trek) son is missing in Vancouver. Apparently, Walter and his wife are headed there to help with the search. How awful for them.

  30. SebiMeyer – Damn good point.

    Michael Burnstein – Belated Congratulations. I’ve also noted your reading recommendation. Love getting recommendations!

    deeinsouthafrica – Re: Stephanie Meyer. I think the boys would vomit. And Joe would decide to never use the word ‘chagrin’ again in his life. The Sookie Stackhouse books are a similar theme but definitely superior in quality.
    Thanks for the backing on Dresden 🙂 I love the humour in Dresden.

    Tammy – I have to explain to my other half that fairies don’t exist. The cleaning fairy, the cooking fairy, the magically replacing everything you use fairy, the bill paying fairy, the other income fairy. I think because I’m a software programmer and run a software company that he believes I have made programs and secret robots to do it all.

  31. Nice linen cabinet. I own precisely the right amount of towels and sheets to fit into mine, with one set on the bed/in the bath, and one set in the laundry. The cabinet downstairs in the guest bath is scary, we’ll not go there. Were I to have a ghost, I’d ask for a dusting, vacuuming, change the kitty litter boxes ghost, thank you very much.

    Today my hubby is on a plane, trying to get home to see his sister for the last time. She has been in the hospital with ovarian cancer, too weak for chemo, too sick to eat. She has taken a bad turn and there is nothing more to be done save make her comfortable. Damn cancer. She is far, far too young to leave us this way.

  32. @Michael A. Burstein — Congratulations! We are all very happy for you, and jealous too, considering you get to breathe the rarified air of published author. 😉

    Okay, so I did click on it. Couldn’t resist. Joe, you have a sewing box in the bottom of your linen closet! I recognize it cause it looks a lot like mine. So, are you hiding some of your *manly* talents from us?

    We will be expecting after photos when Akemi leaves, and you are once again not being pampered by house guests. Our family always referred to it as the “cleaning fairy.”

    20% Yipes! Think a little highly of themselves, huh?

    I received my Valentine’s gift Saturday — got to see “Phantom of the Opera,” which is my favorite musical.

    On the pic of the scallops, was that supposed to read “Cornmeal”?

  33. @maggiemayday — So sorry about your sister-in-law’s situation. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your husband’s family.

  34. @maggiemayday: So, so sorry to hear about your sister-in-law. And yeah, damn cancer. We’ll keep your family in our thoughts and prayers.

  35. Hi Joe. Sorry I was AWOL I missed out on the cleaning festivities, sir. I had a lengthy battle with the flu, and in the middle of that, my 17 yr old cat lost her battle with liver cancer. It’s been a long couple of weeks and I’m just now getting caught up with everything online.

    But if you ever need someone to tune up your MacBook Pro, making sure it has the latest security updates and most recent versions of iTunes and Quick Time, I’d be happy pop up there and take care of that. 🙂

    Glad to see you and Akemi are having a good time. The food pictures of the vegetarian type foods and desserts look fantastic. I only dream of someday being able to afford such things. Also glad to see the pooches are doing well and hope they aren’t missing Brie to badly.

    As far as books go, I agree with others about the Dresden Files. The first book sets the stage, but they get better as they go. I’m currently reading book 11 in the series, and book 12 comes out in April. The timing on the humor in these stories is one of the things I love about them.

    I’m also currently on a Stargate binge. I’ve been watching each season, minus an episode here and there I didn’t care for, starting with SG-1, then will watch Atlantis, then the first half of SGU, hoping my timing ends up pretty close to the start of the second half of the season.

    Everyone take care and give lots of love to your fur-babies!

  36. I think the Dresden File books sound interesting, so I would second or third that. And since I am flying to and from Seattle and taking the car ferry from Tsawwassen to Victoria during spring break (late March) I should have plenty of reading time.

    Please, no Stephanie Meyer.

    I have a couple of historical fantasy books to add to the list:

    The Master of All Desires by Judith Merkel Riley: a tale of intrigue in Renaissance France featuring such characters as Nostradamus and Catherine de Medici.

    The Cardinal’s Blades by Pierre Pevel: sure to appeal to fans of swashbuckling tales set in the era of the Three Musketeers. This one is only in hard cover at the moment, but will be out in paperback in July.

    @maggiemayday: Sorry to hear about your sister-in-law.

  37. @ Thornyrose, Narelle from Aus:

    Thanks! But please note my last name is Burstein, not Burnstein.

    @ deeinsouthafrica: How do you define highbrow? I bet you’d be surprised by some of my reading…

    McDevitt is an award-winning writer and a friend. “Time Travelers Never Die” gives some interesting glimpses into the past and the future…

  38. Hey Joe,
    I think you should treat Akemi to a nice gondola ride up Grouse Mt. While you are there, say hi to Matt and the gang…..and wave to the cameras *U*

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