Dinner at the Market Cafe
by Sylvia Bond
I recently was invited up to Vancouver to participate in a press tour for the Syfy Channel, during which they arranged for us a number of events, including a lovely dinner (which this article is about) and a press tour (more about that to come).
The supercool thing about traveling for purposes other than your own is that you get to kind of float along, following someone else’s arrangements. I’m the kind of trip planner who likes to start out months in advance, and develop an outline with as much care as I would for a college English paper. That is to say, with a lot of attention to detail and an almost fanatical devotion to maps and directions.
However, since this was a) a last minute trip and b) it was all organized by the lovely planners hired by the Syfy Channel, I didn’t have a thing to do. Nope, I showed up and the whole thing was taken care of. Which left me feeling a little bereft, but as the arrangements that were made for us started to ease the way, I became quickly enamored of the attention to detail and the thought that had gone into making it easy for out-of-towners to enjoy themselves.
Our first night the press group was treated to an evening at a venue known as “The Market Cafe” at the Shangri-La Hotel in Vancouver. The Shangri-La, as you may or may not know, is about a billionty times more swank than anything most of us could afford or might even consider. There are only a handful in the world, and no real prices on the website, so that tells you something right there: If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. They don’t even have a check in desk like you might see at, oh, a Super 8 or something. No, instead, someone apparently meets you in the lobby and everything is taken care of behind the scenes. Nothing so mundane as a paper invoice for guests at the Shangri-La!
The dining area we went to was a little bigger than the average living room, with a fireplace at one end, and some warm lighting all over, white covered table cloths, the usual fancy stuff. But it was cozy and inviting and intimate enough to feel like home, rather than a five diamond hotel.
And right away, to put us at ease, the wait staff started pouring the drinks. You could have anything you wanted, really, so I ordered a lemon drop martini, which, as I sternly told the waiter, would be the ONLY martini he was allowed to bring me all night. I can hold my liquor fine, but the concoction that is a martini is a beverage that I cannot be allowed to overdo or I will be singing. Yes, singing at the top of my lungs, and usually some ribald lyrics to an old sailor shanty, which should never be done in polite company. Or when moms are present. (I wisely stuck to wine after the martini.)
I had the happy company at my table of fellow bloggers and industry people, and the friendly conversation flowed as fast as the drinks. It was nice to discover that people who were the VP of this and that in LA or the editor in New York were as nice as the local bloggers, and no one had an attitude of anything more powerful than pass the salt, please, and how far did you travel?
Besides myself and fellow dining companions, there were lots of important people from the Syfy channel present, and I thought it was nice of them to sort of put themselves in our path. I cannot confirm or deny, but this was the list of people who I’m told attended: Dave Howe, Mark Stern, Craig Engler, Eric Storey, Erika Kennair, and Josh Gates. I do only remember meeting Mr. Howe and Mr. Stern, but I’ll be honest I got more into chatting with my table mates than doing a meet and greet. I met several of the lovely publicists from the Syfy channel as well, all of whose names I’ve completely forgotten! Each of them took the time to come over and introduce themselves and to put the press at their ease, which I thought was very gracious of them.
To their credit, in the little speech that was given before dinner (I’m thinking it was Mark Stern who gave the bulk of it), the Syfy channel representatives acknowledged that the recent name change was a bit difficult, but they felt overall that the ratings were good and that audiences were receptive. I was wise enough to hold my tongue at that point, because while I felt the name change was silly (you pronounce both versions of the name exactly the same), the people at Syfy had an apparent and earnest desire to not just increase their market share, but also to reach out to audiences who heretofore this wouldn’t consider a station that played only sci-fi shows to be to their liking. And apparently they’ve been successful because their ratings are quite good.
Needless to say, my dining companions were pretty sure that the food there would be of the artsy-fartsy kind, you know a dribble of some brown sauce that might or might not be fruit and paprika (or some other bizarre concoction) surrounding a drab of something else that might or might not be some actual protein. (I’m a big foodie so these details are actually quite important to me.) But surprisingly, it was yes, artfully arranged, but real food that you could really recognize and that tasted damn good.
For those of you who are interested, the menu was pretty straight forward. There was one appetizer: Seared scallops with caramelized cauliflower and caper – raisin emulsion. You could pretty much cook scallops any way you’d like and I’d still eat them, and these were done just right, crisp on the outside and flavorful all the way through.
For your main dish, you could select either B.C. venison, Pacific halibut, or parmesan crusted organic chicken. Since I’m a steak and potatoes kind of gal, I chose the venison. It’s really quite good if they sear it and serve it somewhat rare in the middle, which is exactly what they did at The Market.
What I loved about the venison dish was the “cabrales foam” that was served with it. What is cabrales foam, you ask? Well, I didn’t know either, so I had to ask, so, refusing to feel like a foolish yokel, I did. It is, get this, pulverized blue cheese. That’s it! Just blue cheese that’s been liquidated and sort of oozed onto the plate. I could barely taste the blue let alone the cheese, but you know, it’s not often you get to eat foam. After that we were served the so-so green apple crisp with cinnamon ice cream. I’m not big into deserts anyway, so I left most of that uneaten. But the service was excellent and the wine and the coffee and the company and everything was so marvelous, I really felt like a VIP.
While we dined, we exchanged chit chat at the table about what shows we liked, what was worth watching, what was going on in the industry, how far each of us had traveled. What made it nice was that for the most part, each person there was a fan in one way or another, and there’s nothing so easy to talk to as a fellow fan.
At one point, Deanna from spoilertv.com, mentioned to me that she felt that Dave Howe ought to be informed that his next project should be with Joss Whedon. The more wine I had, the more I agreed with her, though I could never really be called a True Browncoat, I do have a healthy respect for Whedon’s creative mind and have watched Firefly/Serenity, and know who and what and where.
Some time around desert (gone uneaten by me, as I mentioned before), and around the fifth time that Deanna mentioned the Howe/Whedon co-project, and some time after the fifth time I encouraged Deanna to get up and walk the two feet to Mr. Howe’s table (because when, oh WHEN was she going to get a chance like THAT?), I stood up and threw down my napkin and announced that if she wasn’t going to tell him, I would. She instantly got up as well, and my ploy worked because two seconds later I had her ensconced in front of him and telling him all about it.
I mean, really. Talk about a fannish dream come true: you’re looped enough to tell the truth, but not so looped that you mumble or shout, and you’ve got Dave Howe, President of the Syfy Channel as your (mostly) captive audience for a full five minutes. He was very nice about it and listened to everything that she had to say, and said something along the lines of, “Thank you, I’ve noted your suggestion.” (Because far be it from me to Confirm or Deny that the President of the Syfy Channel had agreed on a nod and a handshake to a co-project with Joss Whedon! Because he didn’t, okay? He didn’t! He just said yeah, thank you, and seemed, well, rather interested from where I was standing. So do with that what you will.)
The party lasted till past 11 at night, and we parted ways and promised to be up bright and early for the tours of the studios and the question and answer panels. But overall, I’d say that whoever chose that venue and planned it got the two-day event off to a nice start and put us all in a good mood for the next day.
Photos: 1. The Market Cafe at The Shangri-La (from hotel website). 2. SyFy president, David Howe.
Sylvia Bond is a ten-year technical writing veteran with too many degrees under her belt to count. She lives in Colorado, but does not ski, preferring instead to spend her money and time at the annual Great American Beer Festival, taking road trips across the United States, and reading historical fiction from the comfort of her fluffy green arm chair. She has been involved in fandom since 1993 and been writing fanfic since approximately 1993. What she finds most amazing about fandom (besides the open heartedness of fans and the sheer amount of creativity) is how visible fandom has become. “In my day,” she says, “we had to hide behind P.O. boxes to get fanfic. But nowadays, people wear t-shirts that shout their affiliation and share their shiny toys on the internet.” It’s a wonderful world.
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