February 20, 2010: Gusto di Quattro! We get cookin’!

Given that Akemi hails from what I consider to be the best city in the world for eating, I was a little apprehensive about taking her out while she was in town.  Now the great thing about Tokyo is that you can be blown away by the culinary offerings at a simple hole-in-the-wall ramen-ya just as easily as you can at one of the city’s many fine-dining establishments, but would Vancouver be able to offer up a comparable experience?  Well, judging from Akemi’s reactions to the various meals enjoyed to date, I’d have to say Vancouver has a lot going for it.  To be specific: Don Francesco’s seafood risotto, Sea Harbour’s seafood congee and prawn dumplings, Refuel’s creamy onion soup, hand-rolled potato gnocchi, and creme brulee, Aki’s salmon nigiri, Bishop’s Qualicum Bay scallops and its pear and cherry galette.  Oh, and Joe’s peach-schnapps poached/amaretto-tossed roasted peaches with amaretto-amaretti ice cream.

And so, in the hopes of keeping the streak alive, I decided to take Akemi to one of my old stand-bys, an Italian restaurant that has never disappointed – Gusto di Quattro.  Our meal…

We started with - what else? - the wonderful house antipasto platter.
The Pasta Pazza et Pezzi (for two) is comprised of the famed Spaghetti Quattro, Fettucine Ghiottone (that Akemi adored), Penne Arrabiata, and the Fusilli Tartufate.
And, of course, no visit to Quattro would be complete without my personal favorite - The Galletto al Vino - Roasted and braised rock hen, pinot grigio, black truffle mash, and organic baby vegetables.
Don't miss one of the best desserts in town - the Cilliege Filate: cherries, marscapone, and phyllo

Yet another memorable outing.

To work off last night’s dinner, we ran errands, walked the dogs, and made a flourless chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream.  First, that cake…

The ingredients.
Akemi on chopping duty.
Only premium chocolate for this cake.
I prefer this method for melting chocolate over microwaving.
Almost there.
Okay there.
Mix in the butter, cream, and sugar...
Then whisk in your eggs. Make sure to create an image of a dude snowboarding in the chocolate.
Almonds are optional. Akemi decided to go with a half and half: almonds on top one one side, almonds inside on the other.
Bake for 45 minutes and...

Now cover your eyes, count to ten and...
Voila!

Now onto that ice cream…

The ingredients.
After bringing your milk to a boil and take it off the heat. Split your vanilla pods and drop them inside the pot. Allow the flavor of the vanilla to infuse the milk for 30 minutes.
Assemble the eggs, sugar, and corn starch, then whisk together. Strip the vanilla pods, then bring milk to a boil and pour into egg mixture. Whisk and put back on the stove.
Stir over low heat until it thickens, then transfer to a refrigerator to cool.
Once the custard has cooled, pour it into your ice cream maker.
Let the machine do its work.
Once your ice cream has started firming up, add the secret ingredient. I prefer Galliano for its neutral vanilla flavor but I was out so had Akemi decide. The liquor will keep the ice cream relatively soft, even after freezing.
Akemi says: "Yoku dekimashita."

Akemi celebrates our double dessert success with liquor and dancing.

January 10, 2010: Cowboy Bobby Cooper! Gusto di Quattro! My Shopping Expedition! Some Mailbag!

I head back to the office tomorrow with the first draft of a brand new script AND a brand new title: The Awakening.  I like it because it works on a couple of levels – none of which I can go into any detail at this point.  You’ll just have to trust me.  Anyway, I certainly look forward to seeing the rest of the gang: Paul, Carl, Brad, Robert, Lawren, and Ashleigh.  Oh, wait.  Did I say Rob?  No, not Rob.  Last week, we all received the following email from Rob: “Gentlemen, hope you’ve had a great holiday. I won’t be in the office until Tuesday. I have some important business to attend to in Texas this weekend.”.  Important business? How interesting.  Was he scouting a new location?  Meeting with some prospective new talent?  Discussing a new series?  I was intrigued.  Until Saturday night, when I came across THIS picture…

I’m guessing that meeting went really well.

So while Cowboy Bobby Cooper was taking care of business in Big D, I was prepping for my return to work – by taking Tomomi out for her final night in Vancouver.  We hit one of my favorite Italian restos, Gusto di Quattro…

Tomomi claims I take great photos. I beg to differ. SHE takes great photos! ( Note the angelic halo).
We started with Quattro's famed antipasto platter that includes - well - a bit of everything. Standouts include the lamb sausage and the grilled bocconcini wrapped with prosciutto and radicchio in a cherry wine reduction.
I ordered what I always order when I come here: The Galletto al Vino - Roasted and braised rock hen, pinot grigio, black truffle mash, and organic baby vegetables. And it's excellent every time.
Tomomi had an equally delicious herb-crusted lamb with fig reduction.
I decided to order some pasta "for the table": the off-menu Fettuccine Tartufati and the on-menu Duck Fettuccine. Our waiter - the ever-affable Daniel - urged me to order a half-order of each rather than go full on both. "Trust me,"he said. "You won't be hungry." And, boy, was he right.

A trio of desserts to cap off the meal: the wonderful House Tiramisu, a delightfully subtle Lemon-Ricotta Cheesecake, and Quattro's premiere Cilliege Filate, a killer combo of cherries, marscapone, and phyllo.

Gusto di Quattro is an old standby, one of those restaurants you can keep going back to time and again, confident in its ability to provide consistently great food and service.  Although its listed as fine dining – and the menu selections are certainly top-notch – it’s hearty, rib-sticking fare sure to please everyone from fussy foodies to famished families.  And, incidentally, it also gets Carl Binder’s seal of approval as his favorite Italian restaurant in Vancouver.

That was last night.  Today, Tomomi and I had brunch at a very busy DB Bistro Moderne, then headed downtown for a little stroll.  As it turned out, the little stroll turned into a full-out shopping expedition that saw me purchase a new digital camera to replace the one I dropped and broke last night, two snazzy dress shirts, and three new colognes: another bottle of the John Varvatos Vintage (my Tokyo scent) and a choice of two for my 2010 office cologne – Boss Pure or YSL’s La Nuit de L’Homme.  I like both, but if the print ad for La Nuit de L’Homme gives any indication to the kind of action I can look forward to once I start wearing it, I suspect it would be better suited to evening’s out than the workplace.  I could get into all sorts of trouble.

Mailbag:

Susan the tartan turtle writes: “Any recent amusing doggie stories?”

Answer: Yeah.  I brought Tomomi by to meet the dogs last night.  Jelly had peed in the kitchen.  And Brie kept following us around, barking and nipping at Tomomi.  Quite the reception.

Tammy Dixon writes: “My karate instructor has a picture that includes me and my son on his website.”

Answer: Congratulations.  We’re going to have to start calling you Fists of Fury.

DasNdanger writes: “Anyone else ever get feeling that way – not tired, just…just you feel like you’re moving in slow motion – no drive.”

Answer: Yep.  Maybe we should start a club.

DP writes: “Are any of your friends not foodies?”

Answer: Oh yeah.  My buddy and fellow producer Carl Binder is as, uh, un-foodie as it gets.

Bailey writes: “Do you find that the kind of story/script/comic you are writing affects your mood outside of work?  I realize that intense drama can be very satisfying creatively, but do you find you are generally happier when writing happier things?”

Answer: To be honest, I’m generally unhappy while in the throes of a script.  However, I do tend to enjoy myself more writing the more comic episodes.

Fsmn36 writes: “So, in getting the truffle, does that mean they added it to the dish or that you got a different dish that featured it?”

Answer: They shave it onto the dish.

Fsmn36 also writes: “This is probably my lack of foodie background, but is truffle really so rare/special that simply adding a few slivers onto a plate brings it up that much in price?”

Answer: Oh yeah.  It’s one of the priciest of food items out there.

Spectre writes: “I was wondering if you knew that if the SG-1 and Atlantis movies were to be made, would they be using the old filming and editing techniques that defined the series for all those years, or will it be using the fancy new stuff learned from SGU?”

Answer: We would stick to the tone, look, and shooting style that Atlantis fans are familiar with.

Jenny writes: “You eat out a lot, at some rather impressive sounding restaurants, but as impolite as it might be, I’m curious as to how much, on average, would you spend on these evenings?”

Answer: It really depends on where I’m eating.  A terrific dinner at my favorite local Vietnamese restaurant will cost me about $10.  The West tasting menu came in at about $100.  I paid more for my meals in Tokyo than the costs of my business class flight and 15 day stay at the posh Peninsula Hotel combined!

Anais33 a ecrit: “Allons nous voir des extraterrestres dans le prochain épisode de sgu?
– L’objet de forme ronde qui s’éxpulse du vaisseaux à la fin d ‘Air’ (part 3), à t’il un rapport avec le vaisseaux que l’on découvre dans l’épisode “Justice” ?
– Est-ce que les méchants de sgu feront plus peur que les wraiths?
– Selon vous, quel épisode de la seconde partie de la saison 1 plaira le plus aux fans?
– Vous êtes plus Eli/Chloé ou Matt/.Chloé?
– Allons nous voir des anciens dans la saison 1”

Reponses: Oui, nous verrons des extraterretres dans Space.  Je pense que les fan vont particularement apprecier Space et Incursion I et II.

Sort of translations: Yes, we’ll see some aliens in Space.  As for which episodes the fans will particularly enjoy, I have a feeling they’ll respond quite favorably to Space and Incursion I and II – only because they are significantly more action-driven and visually spectacular.  The fact that I was lucky enough to write them speaks more to the luck of the draw than anything else.

Joshwilko writes: “How many episodes are you writing for the second half of season one for SGU?”

Answer: Space, Incursion I and II.

Dodoalda writes: “Any chance to see all of Earth ships together in some battle?”

Answer: Quite possibly in Stargate: Revolution, the next SG-1 movie.

Eric.Stewart writes: “And I won’t ask about the knife incident, since …. it appears that you don’t want to answer that question.:?”

Answer: Your Japanese is “jozu”.  As for how I cut my finger – I was wiping the stove top down and swung my hand wide and far too close to the disassembled blades of the blender sitting nearby.

IggyMing writes: ”

How timely that you’ve gone to West. My February issue of Canadian House & Home has an article on Vancouver’s top chefs, and they featured West (with chef Warren Geraghty), Cibo Trattoria (with chef Neil Taylor), and Maenam (with chef Angus An).  I was going to ask you if you’ve been to any of these restaurants, but you’ve already beat me to West. Any thoughts on Cibo and Maenam?”

Answer: Hey, congrats!  I’ll have to track down the issue.  I went to Maenam last year and enjoyed it although I found the portions a tad dainty and almost all of the dishes I sampled erred toward the sour.  Have yet to check out Cibo.

Shiningwit writes: “Hey! When’s SGU back on? I read somewhere it won’t be back til April, that can’t be right, can it?”

Answer: Alas, it is.

Tanie writes: “And Joe… what is it about froie gras that you just have to have?”

Answer: I enjoy its flavor, its texture, and the fact that its contrasts beautifully with sweet accompaniments.

Simon writes: ”

1) Is ”Incursion” a three parter? Seems to make the most sense since 02×02 is ”Aftermath”.

2) Dunno if you’ll be able to answers this or not, but do you know where Sanctuary is supposed to be set?

3) Have youe ever seen We Will Rock You?”

Answer: 1) Yes, I guess it can be considered a three-parter.

2) Sorry, can’t help you there.  But Sanctuary creator Damian Kindler maintains an online presence and I’m sure he’ll be able to answer your question.

3) Sorry.  No love for Queen.

PG15 writes: “I’m back, Joe!”

Answer: How embarrassing.  I assumed you were gone for good and ended up selling your parking spot.

O6untouchable writes: “I’ve just begun to educate myself in anime (watching in Japanese with subtitles; my friends would lynch me otherwise), and thus far I’ve started out with Full Metal Alchemist and Bleach. I’m enjoying both thoroughly, but would appreciate some extra suggestions!”

Answer: I’m a huge fan of Cowboy Bebop, a slick, jazzy, ultra-cool spaceship-based series with some very compelling characters.  Berserk, a dark, unrelentingly gritty fantasy series is also a favorite.  Last Exile is a visually stunning series set in a world where airships do battle.  Now and Then, Here and There is a remarkable SF mini-series.  For brazen, over-the-top humor, check out Exile Saga.  Death Note is an incredibly captivating series that deals with demons, curses, and an elaborate game of cat and mouse between two brilliant strategists.   Start with those and get back to me.