Well, this is sad: Refuel closes; Top Chef Canada contestant takes over space.  Refuel, formerly Fuel, one of my favorite Vancouver dining destinations is closing its doors.  Owners Tom Doughty and Rob Belcham will no doubt remain as busy as ever what with two of their other restaurants, Campagnolo and Campagnolo Roma, doing brisk business and another Asian barbecue-themed restaurant, Fat Dragon, set to open soon.  And, from what I hear, the staff will remain employed, moving to one of their other aforementioned eateries.  Still, it is dispiriting to know that one more long-familiar element of my life will soon be no more.

Back when it was Fuel, I was there two, sometimes three times a week, dining with my ex, my fellow Stargate producer Martin Gero, or, occasionally, solo at the bar seating where I could chat with Tom, Rob, or Chef Ted and watch the open kitchen at work.  To be fair, this was at a point in my life when I was dining out all the time – and, by “all the time”, I mean “all the time”.  The only days I ate at home were when we ordered in.  Unfortunately, high end dining took a hit with the recession and, as a result, the restaurant was rebranded, transformed into Refuel – more casual yet committed to the same quality ingredients.  Some dishes remained on the menu (including the outstanding confit crispy duck) joining notable additions like the buttermilk-fried chicken, and the establishment continued to host special events like their annual snout to tail whole hog dinners, offering everything from crispy pig ears with salsa verde to succulent roast temple.  I continued to frequent the place, though not as much as I used to, mainly as a response to the changes in my life and a desire to start cooking at home more (apparently, when they closed the books on Fuel, the reservation history revealed I had, in fact, been their #1 customer), but the food and service remained consistently great.  In fact, under Chef Jane Cornborough’s stewardship, it became one of Akemi’s favorite restaurants in the city.

I had many truly memorable dinners at both Fuel and Refuel which, not so coincidentally, served as the site for most of my annual chocolate parties.  And so, today, I’d like to rundown my Top 16 Most Memorable Meals at Fuel/Refuel.  This list may not be complete however as the restaurant’s doors remain open until March 24th. That’s ten more days to try their lemon risotto with albacore tuna tartare, dry-aged beef burger, crispy confit duck, peanut & chocolate parfait, and many other dishes!  There’s still time!

March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
Blood-chocolate ice cream.

16) December 11, 2011: Dinner at Refuel! – A reunion dinner with Martin Gero, Robert Cooper, and Jewel Staite.

March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
Crispy rainbow trout.

15) July 13, 2007 – One of the first of many casual lunches – and casual conversations with owners Tom and Rob.

March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
Crispy confit duck.

14) December 22, 2007 – An early Christmas dinner with mom and sis. And I sample my very first crispy confit duck.

March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
Foie gras terrine for two. Of course, that's merely a suggestion.

13) April 2, 2008: Fans Feeling Fuelish – The very first Fuel Fan Dinner!

March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
Pig ear, brain, and eggplant salad served with salsa verde.

12) October 28, 2010: Refuel’s Annual Whole Hog Dinner! – Akemi’s first Whole Hog Dinner.

March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
Fried prawn heads.

11) June 20, 2009: Just Like Old Times! – My former culinary wingman, Marty G., comes back into town – and the gang at Fuel are ready for him!

March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
The corn soup. 18 ears of corn, some salt, butter, and a touch of chili in each exquisitely dense serving.

10) August 18, 2007 – I take Carl Binder for his first (birthday) dinner at Fuel – and discover their unbelievable corn soup!

March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
Tagliatelle with black truffle and cultured butter.

9) April 18, 2010: The Greatest Chocolate Party Ever! – My last annual chocolate party (with the SGU gang in attendance).

March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
Assorted sorbet. The coconut version (bottom) were killer!

8) April 26, 2009: The Best Chocolate Party Ever! – My second annual chocolate party (with the SGU cast).

March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
Sliced pig ears, beets, and black truffle.

7) October 21, 2007 – I return for the second day of Fuel’s first Whole Hog Dinner – and they end up creating a whole new menu for me.

March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
Crispy pig brain served with parsley root and Dungeness crab mayonnaise.

6) October 18, 2007 – Martin Gero and his buddy Kurt join me in my first Whole Hog Dinner!

March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
Pumpkin soup with caramelized sunflower seeds.

5) January 7, 2007 – My first meal at Fuel, five days after its opening.

March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
The whole confit pig head.

4) March 26, 2010: Whole Confit Pig Head Alert! Avert Your Eyes! – My friend Denise and I sit down to whole confit pig head.

March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
Black truffle carbonara.

3) October 17, 2008: Birthday Dinner Rundown, Links, and Reminders – Chef Rob and co. serve me up a special birthday dinner.

March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
Roast suckling pig.
2) April 27, 2008: The Best Chocolate Party Ever! – The very first chocolate party I held at Fuel.
March 14, 2012: A Farewell To Refuel!  I Rundown My Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!
Slow-roasted steelhead trout belly.
1) March 18, 2011: The Meal To End All Meals! – As I prepare to head off to Toronto, the gang at Refuel prepare my farewell meal-to-end-all-meals.

28 thoughts on “March 14, 2012: A farewell to Refuel! I rundown my Top 16 Most Memorable Meals!

  1. That was great, it was like a clip show! Though I’m sure everyone else also guessed the #1 dinner from the beginning. 🙂

  2. Yum on all the food pictures. I think you’re right about what the recession did to high-end dining. I’m glad they have other restaurants that are doing well. Hope you get to go again before it closes.

    Have a great night!!!!

  3. Wellllll, geeee whizzzz. Wanted to have some of that corn soup that we kept missing because of seasons. Have to say the Crispy Duck was fabulous. Never had foie gras before and tried it there and was immediately a fan.

    Do you know if either of the Compagnolo Restaurants will or would have it?
    Just wondering.,

  4. I was getting nervous, slowly counting down looking for your special farewell dinner. I thought, surely that one is on the list somewhere. That dinner belongs at number one. That was incredible what they did for you. Sorry they are closing, but it sounds like they are just regrouping. I will remember them for that awesome goodbye dinner, their crispy duck, that big sad looking pig’s head (poor thing), and the foie gras protestors. Hey!, no pictures of foie gras? Good luck to the crew. I’m sure you will all meet again elsewhere.

  5. (Whoopsies! Use this one Joey, not the other! Thankies!)

    Awww! So sorry about Refuel! If there’s one thing I do understand, it’s the pain of losing your favorite restaurant. 🙁

    Still, it is dispiriting to know that one more long-familiar element of my life will soon be no more.

    No worries! I’m still here! 😀

    For now. 😉

    Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet. Very busy with work and hobbies. Did a but of metal hunting, and found some interesting odds and ends and $1.25, too, but my most exciting finds came today in the woods behind my folks, and neither are metal!

    One is an old soda bottle. I’ve found lots of bottles but they’re often hard to date. This one, however, has a maker’s mark (I inside a diamond) that identifies it as coming from the Illinois Glass Company, and that particular mark was only used between 1915-1929. So, nearly a hundred years old. The glass is very thick and the bottle heavy, and I knew it had to be old as soon as I found it, but I was thinking maybe it was from the 1960s.

    My most exciting find, however, was my very first owl pellet (regurgitated undigestible matter, such as bones and fur). It’s old and starting to deteriorate, probably from last summer or maybe even last year. I brought it home and hope to find some time over the weekend to dissect it and see if I can identify the animal, but the fur looks like it might be a baby bunny. 🙁 I have it in a plastic bag for now, and will probably sterilize it (in a microwave) before dissecting, but I have to check first to see how to go about doing it. I’ve seen a lot of pellets at nature centers and such, but I’ve never found one myself, so this is super exciting to me, even if it might be gross to everyone else!

    @ Joey & Sparrowhawk – An interesting side note: When questioned about Elric’s digestive system and whether or not he eliminates (keep in mind he’s dragon kin), Moorcock has suggested that the Doomed Lord coughs up something similar to owl pellets. I just think that’s hilarious! 😆

    Piccies!

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v54/dasNdanger/owlpelletbottle.jpg

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v54/dasNdanger/owlpellet.jpg

    das

  6. Most of those dishes, make me want to throw up lol. Mostly me being a little squeamish, I would never eat any organs, or random parts these places cook. I’m sure they taste good to those who try, just again, anything too graphic just doesn’t work for me.

    I think in general we all have different levels of tolerance for that kind of stuff.

    Personally I would consider a dish of whatever vegetables the chef was making plus a form of meat with whatever is being served a decent enough meal.

  7. Ya, I just heard about Refuel being taken over in the Georgia Straight who talked to the new owner -> http://www.straight.com/article-634581/vancouver/top-chefs-trevor-bird-open-fable-refuel-restaurant-closing

    Interesting concept is that they want to make everything in house, basically the new name Fable is from the concept of from farm to table making good old modern Canadian cuisine.

    WOW! Those are some star-studded meals, not just the people but the food too!! Note to self – don’t read Joe’s blog when one is not stuffed full of food for if you do, you will be desperately hungry 🙂 That said, I’m with randomness, I probably wouldn’t eat half of the foods you seem to enjoy so much.

    I’m down for a simple yet great steak with some down home mac & cheese with real, yummy, gooey, sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, a dash or two of peppercorns, and some other mild seasoning.

  8. This is a sad day. Refuel was going to be my first port of call upon arrival in Vancouver. 🙁

  9. Awwww, now I can scratch ReFuel from my ‘to do list’ :(. The food always looks fabulous in your blogs. Always got me hungry.

    Finally found a way to get my hands on Dark Matter…! Since I don’t own a creditcard and i’m not even near a comicbookstore able to order Dark Matter (believe me, I tried) I found a website where you can ‘buy’ a prepaid visa card.

    I have to say: great comic! Totally different from what i’m used to (Asteric&Obelix, TinTin etc.) but I love the drawings and storyline. Hopefully Hollywood will pick it up and we can enjoy it on a screen some day.

    I’m going to order the remaining two editions for the weekend…Only to be disappointed after finishing it since i’ll have to wait for new editions coming out 🙂

    Cheers,

    Squishy

  10. Sorry to hear about Fuel/Refuel closing. I’m going to miss it, which is weird since I’ve never been there.

    Where will you have your chocolate parties now? I miss them, too.

  11. There’s a lot of “yum” pics, well balanced with “no thanks” and “Oh. Hell. NO” dishes.

    I had to google “confit”. Yeah. I’m unconvinced.

    Random foodie moment: I saw a donut hole maker on sale, immediately wondered if it could be used to make takoyaki, then realized I can’t get fresh octopus in Utah.

  12. That stinks. I was hoping to visit ReFuel if I ever made it to Vancouver. End of an era I guess. Good luck to Chef Rob and Tom on their other establishments.

  13. Sad to hear about ReFuel. I had hoped to try them out if and when I ever made it back out that direction. heartened to hear that the staff is taken care of, and that the owners and chefs will not have their talents being left idle. I expect we’ll get one last post on their final servings, and that you’ll see them off to a proper farewell.
    Now, a quick nap, off to pick up Dark Matters 3, then back to the grind. Thanks for sharing the post and the pics.

  14. Oh, a whiskey tango foxtrot question. Suddenly I have to log into facebook or another site in order to post? Looks to be a wordpress thing. Not sure I like this development, and curious if anyone else has run into this.

  15. I agree with Randomness. I would never try some of this stuff on my own. If I were invited I would, anything else would be rude, but I’d never get the idea to order some of these on my own. But if it tastes good, who cares about the looks, right?! Well almost…

    @ das
    Kinda disgusting, yes, but pretty cool, too. 😉
    Have fun and tell us what you found out, plz.

  16. So sorry to hear about ReFuel. I haven’t been up for a Stargate Con for a few years, but when I was able to visit, it was always my first dining stop. Had the corn soup and met Richard Dean Anderson (at GateCon) all in the same weekend a few years ago. Practically a religious experience.

  17. Sorry to hear about Refuel. That food all looks amazing, even if I’m not quite sure I could go for the pig brain.

    I was actually hoping to get there on my way through Vancouver in April!

  18. @Joe:

    You wrote in the confit pig’s head post:

    When it comes to a pork, for instance, shoulder, side, loin, and leg are acceptable; head, tail and feet are not. My question is: Why not?

    I for one have no problem with where the cut comes from. For me, it is more about taste, texture and preparation. For example, I love pickled pigs feet, but I hate when they don’t singe the hair off properly before pickling. I also don’t like strong liver flavors.

    I do like most pate’s (see liver comment), scrappings/scraps (scrapple, black/white pudding, sausages) and so on, but I don’t care for liverwurst.

    And while I love just about all forms of seafood (including raw oysters), I have never liked cooked salmon; I don’t like the copper/iron taste that develops when it is cooked. I do like raw (sashimi style) salmon though.

    Summing up, I think I would try most everything you’ve shown here, even the foie gras and pork brain. Even though I don’t like liver or metallic tastes, I’d still try it, and then decide; the preparation may make all the difference.

    So, if you’re ever stuck in Chicago and need a wingman for haute cuisine, I’ll be glad to join you. 😉

  19. By the way, I had to log into WordPress (using my Gravatar login) to be able to post…

    Joe, have you been getting too many spam comments lately?

  20. In early times, was there really any difference between alterans and ori? They both wanted ascension, both used technology, both kept knowledge from their people, both liked to wear white. It was only much later that they contrasted views in how to control humanity; use them to serve their own purposes.

  21. Hey Joe did you hear they are opening a new Memphis Blues on Robson St. It will be across from Library Square.

    And did you ever get to eat at Five Guys Burgers??

  22. Yeah Joe, I, too, had to log in to WordPress for my post to be accepted.

    I’d also like to apologize for my errors – but was supposed to be bit, undigestible was supposed to be indigestible, and so on and so forth. I wasn’t typing with a full deck. 😉

    @ Birdy – I stopped by the local state park today and asked about sterilizing the pellet. I’ve read both oven and microwave techniques, and they all vary widely. The naturalist at the park said just to wear gloves, and not to put any of it in my mouth. I can do that. 🙂

    @ Maggiemayday – I’ve only had duck confit once, in mac and cheese. I am assuming it was traditionally prepared in order to be called confit, and it was delicious. You have to like duck, however, and not everyone does, even if they think they do. 🙂

    das

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