Food and Travels13 Jun 2010 09:21 am

As you can imagine, I’ve been a bit busy. Posts have been sporadic, and I have not had much time to consider blogging as I’ve been busy with other things like Japanese lessons, packing and visiting my brother one last time.

So, I’m going to do things backwards and bypass Vegas posts for now. Last week I visited my brother in Kelowna, and had an awesome time. We hung out, his cats didn’t scare me or make me sneeze (much), we had some wine, I watched “Glee” for the first time and we ate some great food. Because these posts are already queued up and I’m still working on wedding photos, I’ll blast these and some other food related posts out before any wedding/Vegas ones, and hopefully I’ll get them all done before July rolls in.

I’ll start off with the meal I was looking forward to most while I was in Kelowna…dinner at RauDZ.

First things first. It’s pronounced “Rods.” Yes, it’s weird. But it becomes more clear when you find out that it’s a combination of the co-owner’s names: RoD (Butters) and AUdrey (Surraro). He does the food, she does the wine.

RauDZ opened in 2008 in the space occupied by a restaurant called Fresco – also owned by Chef Butters and Surraro. I think they have a good handle on what makes a restaurant successful. The focus at RauDZ is on fresh regional foods, which is perfect for a place like Kelowna because it is located in the epicenter of one of Canada’s best produce regions and is very close to other food producers like ranchers and farmers. They are extremely supportive and proud of locally made items and list their producers in columns on their menu.

Even the dining room features the work of local artisans. Heartland Millworks made the long 21-foot harvest-style table and the substantial pine door. The bar top was made from Vancouver fir. The photographs of local farmers hanging on the walls were taken by Kelowna based photog and film maker David McIlvride. The chefs go picking fresh morels in the nearby forests with each other ahead of dinner service. There’s a lot to love about a restaurant like this.

Tory peruses the menu

But how was the food?

Well, we’ll get to that.

We started off with some drinks, first. The “liquid chef” behind the bar prepares fresh fruit purees to use in feature martinis each day, and there is a long list of other cocktails to try. Add to that an extremely extensive Canadian wine list, and the bar is certainly impressive. We tried a series of local beers and various martinis and fresh sangria and enjoyed each one. I highly recommend the gingery “Cold Snap” beverage.

Tin Whistle ale and the Amante Picante cocktail with tequila, cucumber, cilantro and spicy agave nectar.

The fresh peach puree martini, with nasturtium and raspberries

We started with chicken confit poutine and gnocci, fulfilling the starchy component of the meal. The chicken poutine was savoury and cheesy and some of the best I’ve had west of Montreal. The dish it was served in prevented all of the fries from becoming soggy with gravy, but my brother commented that he thought the chicken was a bit slimy. It was, indeed, a bit too tender from confiting, but I enjoyed the savoury poultry depth it provided for the gravy and dish as a whole.

The gnocci were fantastic. My brother and Bruce said that they had seen gnocci in the grocery store but didn’t know what they were. Every culture has a potato dumpling, and gnocci are among the best. These were no exception; boiled and pan fried, salty and crispy and a bit chewy. They came with a zingy rocket salad and curls of parm cheese. Our appetizers made us excited for the mains and they did not disappoint.

Veal bolognese with hand rolled pasta – strozzapreti, perhaps?

Bruce’s “boring” cheeseburger, which was anything but.

Halibut cheeks with turnip and fingerling potatoes

Bruce said he was going to be “boring” and get a “plain old burger” but was very impressed with his dish. Seasoned fries lay alongside a ground-to-order stacked burger with fresh pickle relish and slaw. The burger was juicy, but not so out of control that Bruce couldn’t put it down, which is always nice at a classy restaurant.

Tory got the hand made pasta with veal bolognese. Some people fear veal, such as Bruce, and he wouldn’t try it, but I think it did a lot for the bolognese, making it taste a bit earthier and more complex than just plain beef would have been. The sauce was tomato rich and bordering on creamy, even without any added dairy other than cheese. The serving was substantial, but Tory polished it off.

I got the fish special. On a Tuesday! Anthony Bourdain probably woke with a cold sweat from whatever far off country he was traveling in. I couldn’t resist the halibut cheeks, and with halibut a dish on their regular menu, I felt confident I wasn’t getting weekend left overs. I found the vegetables were a bit too finely diced, making for a very mixed up flavour in every bite which may have been the only misstep. However the butter and fingerling potatoes helped balance it out. The fish was tender, not dry and meaty, not flaky. Pretty perfect, if you ask me.

The restaurant got extremely busy near the end of our meal.
Tory and the Valrhona fudgsicle; all desserts $4 a pop
Somewhat soggy apple fritters

Bruce double fisting his desserts

Because I am a glutton, I insisted we get dessert. Although they offer a full sized RauDZ special dessert at $10, the majority of the dessert menu is reserved for sweet martinis, ice wines, special coffees and dessert “tastings” at $4 each. I’m all for this. Sometimes, I just want a bite or two. Instead I pack down an entire dessert after I’m done enjoying it, but want to clear my plate. (see: glutton statement, earlier) We all appreciated the smaller bites, and got a few different ones to share.

The overall winner was probably the espresso vanilla bean creme brulee. The crispy burnt shell top gave way to a creamy coffee-y custard. Next most popular was the Valrhona fudgesicle. My brother asked what Valrhona chocolate was, and I drunkenly replied “chocolate…on ‘roids” He said it was an apt description.

The fudgesicles came coated in small crispy orange flavoured balls. Tory ate those first before going in for the kill on the chocolate, but Bruce ate his all together. I got the apple fritters which were the weakest offering I think. They were filled with Okanagan apples which can never be wrong, but the dough on the fritter was cold and soggy, made even soggier by the addition of a plop of ice cream on top. They weren’t my favourite.

At the end of the meal, our bill came with some charming in house made lollipops; peach-thyme and blueberry-lavender.

Service was well paced and knowledgeable, despite increasing amounts of diners in the space. I spied both Audrey and Chef Butters in the restaurant, working hard. This restaurant is their baby, and it shows.

After an extremely satisfying meal, we strolled home out of the PACKED restaurant to Bruce and Tory’s downtown condo just minutes away. It could be some time before I’m back in Kelowna again, but I hope not because I’d love to visit RauDZ again.

RauDZ Regional Table
1560 Water Street
Kelowna, British Columbia
Only open for dinner, 5 pm on every night
Dinner for three, with two appetizers and five drinks each came to $150

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