Sunday, September 23, 2007

Restaurant Review: Kas

Last night, my family and I had a great dining experience at a small restaurant in Nelson, BC, called Kas.

A small, cozy establishment, chef/owner Gordon Kleef, lets you know from the get go that this will be a unique dining experience. After being seated, Chef Gordon personally comes to your table and tells you that there is no menu. The meal he will prepare for you will be completely free-form and based on whatever is fresh on hand from that day. In our case, he mentioned he had rabbit, duck, lamb, and a few other things. He asks if there are any food allergies or foods you absolutely won't eat, and once he has that information, he retreats back into his kitchen and begins creating a one of a kind meal. Three courses, he says, and it's $30 per person.

It began with appies. The first plate brought out was a selection of different tomatoes grown in chef's neighbour's garden. They were sliced and topped with fresh onion slices, drizzled in a lovely olive oil and sprinkled with freshly ground pepper. For someone like me, who hates tomatoes, this wasn't something I was overly excited about, but I tried it - and liked it. Even my brother, who also hates tomatoes, liked it. Things were off to a good start. Fresh sourdough bread arrived, and there was a white balsalmic vinegar and olive oil combination for us to dip the bread into. The next arrival was very interesting: a grilled romaine caesar salad. The head of romaine was cut in half, grilled for a few moments, then smothered in a creamy dressing and sprinkled with cappicollo. I know what you're thinking: grilled lettuce? Very different, but very good, honestly. Next came two more appies: roasted garlic with chili jelly, baked brie, and croustadas. Chef also brought out a stew made with beef, pork, bacon, and mushrooms, served over rice. I think this was the weakest dish as it lacked depth of flavour and was on the bland side.

Then the fun really started. A huge platter of organic veggies came out: roasted potatoes, carrots, swiss chard, grilled zucchini, green and yellow beans, grilled then shredded turnip, and red cabbage with a bit of a vinaigrette.

The main course followed shortly afterwards: leg of lamb, roasted rabbit, duck confit with hoisin sauce, freshly caught lake trout stuffed with oysters and served in a lemon caper buerre blanc. My dad, who won't eat fish, got a supreme of chicken breast roasted with brie and smothered in a grape and grappa sauce. It wasn't his cup of tea, but it was definitely interesting.

Dessert was a trio of goodies: white chocolate cheesecake, toffee ganache torte, and a chocolate brownie cake.

Over all, this was a fantastic feast. I don't like lamb, and that was my least favourite thing on this menu. The trout was outstanding, as was the duck, and I also don't typically like duck. The food was prepared to perfection and the selection was amazing. The desserts were awesome, but too tiny! Since everything is served on large plates or platters, you serve yourself and pass everything around. I think we needed a larger serving of dessert because we essentially got one bite each of everything on the dessert plate.

But, for $30 a person, the value was excellent. We all went away full and satisfied and making plans to go back again soon.

Chef Gordon also prepared the food for the Nelson Rod & Gun Club annual game dinner this past spring (which you can read about here) and I was not impressed with the food there. But, in his own kitchen and obviously in his element there, he proved himself to be superb.

Kas is located at 602 Front Street in Nelson, BC. Reservations recommended (also call ahead to see what is on the menu for that evening): 250-505-5502 or 1-866-592-2233. Be prepared to be there for a while. We were there over two and a half hours, but they have excellent wine to drink while you wait for your food!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Bagels & Giant Soft Pretzels

Finally, after a sweltering, dry summer, it has cooled off and I think I can say with confidence that Autumn is come at last. It's a great time of year for baking since there is an abundance of fabulous produce available: apples of all kinds, pears, berries, and soon, my favourite, pumpkin. But right now, I'm just glad it's cool enough to do some good old fashioned yeasty baking. Today, in a rare fit of energy, I decided to make a couple of things because they involved similar processes. I made Soft Pretzels from a recipe in the latest Canadian Living edition. I also made the bagel recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible. I must have wanted to do this badly because I spent $9 on organic barley malt syrup at my local overpriced grocery store.

Both recipes involved boiling each item in a sweet water bath. I began with the pretzel recipe, since the bagels required a sponge and an extra rise after dough development (though I skipped the 24 hours in the fridge part because I didn't want to make this into a two-day affair). I boiled the pretzels in a bath with baking soda and honey, and when it came time to boil the bagels, I just added a touch more baking soda and a bit of molasses to sweeten the water back up. Baking soda helps in the browning process.

Soft Pretzels, adapted from Canadian Living

1 tsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 pkg. dry yeast ( 2 1/4 tsp)
3 - 4 cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
baking soda


1 egg, beaten (optional)
2 tsp coarse salt

1. Combine sugar, salt yeast, and 3 cups of flour. Add water to make a sticky dough. Turn out onto floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if necessary. I used my Kitchen Aid and developed the dough on speed 2 for about 6 - 8 minutes.

2. Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease all over, and cover with plastic wrap or a wet tea towel. Let rise until doubled in bulk.

3. Punch down the dough. Cut into 8 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a 20" rope. Form into a circle, crossing the ends left over right above the circle 3" from the end. Pick ends up and cross left end over right again. Bring ends over and under to bottom of circle, overlapping by 1/4" to create a pretzel shape; press to seal. (This is where I had trouble. My pretzel-shaping was really off, and they wound up looking more like my knot buns instead. Oh well. We live and learn.) Place on parchment-lined baking pans. Cover and let rise for 15 minutes.

4. Add 2 tbsp baking soda to large, wide saucepan of boiling water. (I added 2 tbsp of honey, but this is optional.) Boil pretzels, 3 at a time, turning over once with slotted spoon, until puffed up and set - about 1 - 2 minutes. Transfer back to baking sheets and let cool slightly.

5. Brush with egg wash, if using. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 400F fro 25 - 30 minutes, rotating if necessary, until golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped. Transfer to racks and cool.

Bagels, adapted from The Bread Bible


1 tsp instant yeast
2 1/4 cup warm water
3 cups bread flour
(if using barley malt syrup as opposed to the malt powder in the ingredients list to follow shortly, add 1tbsp of it to the water in this step)

In a mixing bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer (should you be fortunate enough to have one, but be aware that this is a large recipe and the regular 4 1/4 quart or 5 quart Kitchen Aid bowl will probably not be big enough; also, the small watt models like the 325 and 350 watt ones require extra caution because this is a really dense dough and you don't want to burn out your motor; making this by hand may be safer), whisk these ingredients together to form a thick, batter-like mixture. Scrape down the sides. Cover with plastic wrap.

Flour mixture:

3 tbsp unsalted butter - optional (I didn't bother)
2 1/3 cups bread flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp malt powder (if you're not using the syrup)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper (I didn't bother with this either...couldn't see the point, really)

Combine these ingredients well and gently put it on top of the sponge mixture.

Cover the whole thing up again and let it sit for a minimum of an hour or up to 4 hours. You can also refrigerate it overnight for up to 24 hours. The sponge will bubble through the flour mixture - this is fine.

Stir the flour mixture into the sponge until it becomes too stiff to mix. Hand-knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together. If using a stand mixer, stir on speed 1 with the dough hook until the mixture comes together.

Knead until smooth and elastic, or develop on speed 2. Now, I have the 525 watt Kitchen Aid with the 6 quart bowl and I only developed this on speed two for a few minutes, because I could feel the machine heating up. At this point, I removed the dough to a lightly floured surface and hand-kneaded it until it was properly developed. Let the dough rest for about 20 minutes.

Let the dough rise in a greased bowl, covered, until doubled in bulk - about 1 to 2 hours. The original recipe now instructs you to deflate the dough and put it back in the greased bowl and put the whole thing in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight, or even 2 days. This allows for flavour development. I skipped this part, as I mentioned above.

Shape the bagels. To do this, divide the dough into 10 equal portions. As you work with one piece, keep the rest covered so they don't dry out. Roll the portion into 12" long ropes and seal the ends together tightly with a bit of overlap. Or, roll the portion into a ball and poke a hole in it with your index finger, gradually hooking the bagel over your thumb and index finger on your other hand, until the hole is about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.

Preheat the oven. The original recipe says 500F; my oven won't do that (it's old), so I settled on 450F. If you want to use a baking stone, chuck it in now.

Boil the bagels. Remember that nice water we used for the pretzels? Reuse it. Or, bring a large dutch oven full of water to boil and put in some baking soda (1 tsp) and some molasses (2 tbsp). Gently transfer the bagels into the pot, boiling three at a time. They need room to puff up. Boil for 1 - 2 minutes, turning over once with slotted spoon or spatula.

If you want, you can put an egg wash on them after they come out of the bath. Just beat an egg up and brush it on the bagels. Sprinkle on some poppy or sesame seeds, or some herbs, or whatever. If you don't want the egg wash, the seeds will still adhere to the surface.

Bake the bagels for 15 - 20 minutes, or until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom. Remove to wire racks and cool. Enjoy!

This sounds like a lot of work, I know. But it's done in quite gradual stages, so it's manageable. And the results are fantastic and so worth it.


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