Author Archives: Ommegang

Interview with Tommy Harder of Blind Tiger Alehouse

Chef Tommy Harder

Tommy Harder
Executive Chef
Blind Tiger Alehouse
281 Bleecker street
New York, NY 10014

Brief Bio Born in the farmlands of southern Idaho but grew up in the suburbs of Portland Oregon, Graduated from University of Oregon with degrees in business and psychology. Cooking, for me, started out as a hobby and a means for making ends meet and pay my way through college. It wasn’t until I was ending my days of academia that I decided to take my passions and turn cooking it into a career. So I attended Le Cordon Bleu’s Western Culinary Institute and started developing my skills under some of the great chefs in Portland, Oregon. I wanted to see the world so got set up in Club Med resorts which took me to Florida, and The Caribbean, before setting my sites on New York. After a few months I found myself at the doorstep of Blind Tiger Alehouse. I have backgrounds in over six different cuisines including French, Italian, thai, Japanese and American

Why is the pairing of food & beer important to you? For one, Flavor, Plain and simple. Beer has always taken a back seat to wine when asked to pair with a dish in fine dining restaurants, and yet the different flavors produced by the different styles of beer are more consistent compatibilities with the food I enjoy and grew up eating like burgers, pizza, Mexican food, Asian food, cheese, and barbeque. Plus I like beer, grew up in rural America where it’s more a part of life than wine and spirits. When talking about any food and beverage pairing, it’s said “ if it grows together it goes together.” Foods like cheese, which comes from animals that are fed grains and hints of these flavors come out in the dairy products, grown in mountainous regions, beer being produced from grain grown in similar regions of the world has a natural pairing, better than fruits grown in coastal valleys, or imported from countries half way around the world. Plus, I even had a hand in the production of beer helping out on my dad’s farm in Idaho as a teenager harvesting barley, wheat, and other grains which then went to making beer. Beer is more personally connected to me, and my family’s way of life. I have worked in breweries back in college and restaurants that had a major focus on beer, and even had over hundreds of taps featuring micro breweries all across the Northwest and world back in my days in Portland, Oregon, a city that boasts having more breweries than any other city per capita. At the end of a long day, I am more likely to reach for a cold one in the fridge. Since food is the main focus in my life, I am always focused on the balance of flavors in any dish, and have to always take into consideration how the food will react to what people drink whether it’s a spirit, wine, or beer. It’s wise to understand all possible pairings and not limit one’s enjoyment to just what a sommelier would recommend.

What got you started on pairing food & beer? Well it was something talked about in culinary school as well as wine pairings, but more recently, in my professional life while consulting at a beer and cheese shop in Hell’s Kitchen, It was something that customers were seeking out on a daily basis. So starting with just how different cheeses went with different beer styles took on a different form when I starting focusing on all kinds of food and different cuisines of the world, and pairing with beer.

Who are the chefs you admire? I admire chefs that have a lot of passion for giving people good food and that this something seen through there cuisine. Some who have had a major impact on my cooking are Chefs like Rick Bayless, Ming Tsi, and Thomas Keller, who I spent my free time reading there cookbooks as I commuted between jobs and home in my earlier, struggling culinary artists years. Plus chef who are not well known or have celebrity status, but were mentors of mine, and help shape and fuel my passion for food were chefs like Pascal Sauton of Carafe French Bistro or Marcus Anthony Bynum.

What are some of your favorite pairings? Cheese and beer. Age gouda like Black Knight, or Beemster X.O., or roaring forties blue cheese with a nice stout or porter.

Favorite style / beer to pair with? Sours, and Saisons. They open the door to bring sweet and savory flavors together, and have ability to bring harmony to a dish pairing, taking a dish and having elements of heat, saltiness, and adding sweet elements like fruit compotes and such. Once paired with a sour beer then you having all the tastes present at the dinner table.

Favorite all time beer? Total domination IPA from Ningasi Brewery in Springfield, Oregon.

Feature dish in which you pair beer with food or use beer in preparing the dish? Pilsner brined chicken wings, or brown ale braised pulled pork, then take the braising liquid and turn it into brown ale gravy.

Thoughts on the future of food & beer in fine dining? It is the future, the restaurants that incorporate beer repertoire in the sommelier’s arsenal are the ones that are going to be in the restaurants that everyone talks about.

Favorite restaurant in a city not your own? Carafe French Bistro, Portland, Oregon. One of the best burgers I ever had and being a former employee, I ever had a hand in producing. It is a restaurant that features only seasonal products grown in local organic farms surrounding Portland.

Recipe- Pilsner brined hot wings.
1 gallon of choice pilsner beer or any light colored flavorful artisan beer.
1 cup of salt
Chicken wings or chicken pieces
Mix salt and beer together in a large container; be cautious as it will cause the beer to become foamy and possibly over flow. Pour over top of meat and cover with plastic wrap. Place bags of ice or a large plate and weigh down so that the chicken remains submerged for three hours. If the chicken pieces are small they can get too salty if they are brined for too long. Drain and allow the chicken to dry and sit for thirty minute or more so that the juices will infuse into the meat. If you roast or cook too quickly, all the beer will leach out during the cooking process. Place the chicken pieces on an oven rack and on top of a sheet tray and roast at 350 degrees until the chicken forms a brown skin and is cooked all the way through, or reaches internal temperature of 165 degrees. Take the wings and toss them with your favorite hot sauce, dip in some blue cheese dressing to counter the heat and enjoy.

Interview with Bart Vandaele of Belga Cafe

Chef Bart Vandaele

Bart Vandaele
Belga Cafe
514 8th Street Southeast
Washington D.C., DC 20003

With his European flare and rambunctious personality, Belgium native Bart Vandaele has taken D.C. by storm since opening up his wildly popular Belga Café in 2004. As Executive Chef and Owner of the District’s original Belgian café, Vandaele, who was recognized as a Rising Star of 2006 by, has successfully melded the rich culinary traditions of his homeland with the comfortable, relaxed attitude of Barracks Row in this neighborhood gathering place.

In 2009, Chef Bart received the honor of ‘Knighthood’ by the Museum of Belgian Brewers and the Brewers Guild of Belgium given in recognition of his devotion and passion to educate his guests through Belga Café on Capitol Hill in Washington, about the hundreds of breweries, their history and brewing techniques in his homeland, Belgium. Additionally, Belga Café received the accolade of ‘Beer Bar of the Year’ by Cheers magazine in 2010.

Raised in the Flemish-speaking region of North Belgium, Vandaele developed a passion for the kitchen at a very young age. Surrounded by family members active in the industry, including café managers, butchers, chefs and restaurant owners, Vandaele began his training early in life, citing that even as a toddle his favorite playground was the kitchen. The largest influence on young Vandaele came from his chef-father, whom created traditional, regional Belgian cuisine in his own innovative and unique style at the family’s restaurant. With a strong culinary presence at home and an abundance of local, fresh ingredients, Vandaele decided to embark on a culinary career at the young age of 12, the typical age Belgium school children choose the profession they plan to pursue. As part of his schooling, Vandaele received culinary training at the Culinary Institute for Restaurant and Hotel Management in Brugge, Belgium, where he embarked on a six-year program of academics and culinary externships, learning a multitude of skills, ranging from culinary techniques to managerial skills to business operations.

In addition to years of formal training, Candaele gained much of his knowledge, drive and creativity through his experiences in some of Europe’s top fine dining locales. Working at renowned Belgian restaurants such as Piet Huysentruyt and Restaurant Scholteshof, of which received two Michelin stars while Vandaele served as Sous Chef under respected Chef Roger Sourereyns. Here, he honed his craft as well as expanded his knowledge and passion for the profession. Working his way up through the culinary ranks in these competitive kitchens for over seven years, Vandaele discovered bold, vibrant flavor combinations, the fusion of traditional Belgium cuisine with international fare and a close comradery amongst his peers.

Recommended by Huysentruyt, Vandaele’s next career move brought him to America’s capital, where he served as Executive Chef for the European Union’s head diplomat to the United States, followed by the position of Executive Chef at the Dutch Embassy. In the midst of the District’s political society, he concocted dishes for some of D.C.’s elite, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, H.E. Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and former United Nation’s Secretary General Kofi Annan. But it was moving forward on his own with the conception and creation of Belga Café that proved to be Vandaele’s biggest challenge. Inspired to bring D.C a bit of his homeland, Vandaele wanted to establish a place that elevated and expanded the common American conception of Belgian cuisine.

While still highlighting dishes commonly associated with the streets of Brussels, such as waffles, mussels and frites, Belga Café enhances the flavors and introduces the 8th Street to more exotic flavors from his native land as well as creating a warm, friendly and energetic space the resembles the European’s attitude and enthuses guests. At Belga there are only two rules that Vandaele enforces: nothing goes to waste and everyone is family.

Their motto is clearly the underlying factor in the menu as guests dine n delicious dishes such as Vlaamse Reus (leg of rabbit with Rodenbach beer) or ‘Belga’ Heilbot (halibut poached in Kasteel Brown beer with asparagus, mushrooms, crispy pancetta and Belgium’s famous baby gray shrimp). In addition to the tasty plates coming from the kitchen, Vandaele ensures guest will think they are visiting a European beer garden when looking at the extensive beer list, featuring Belga’s special beer cocktails as well as popular Belgian brews including Delirium, Duvel and Kwak Pauwel. Vandaele oversees his vast menu of over 150 different beers.

Most recently, Vandaele has been selected as a National Brand Ambassador for the Belgium brews Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Leffe Blond, and Leffe Brown. Based on the celebration of Belgian flavors, Vandaele is the perfect candidate for this position, who has long been influenced by the renowned beers, often utilizing the different flavors in his food, and his goal of bringing the idiosyncrasies of Belgium cuisine and culture to the States.

Nearing its sixth anniversary, Belga Café and Vandaele have provided D.C. with a necessary balance of food, international flare and fun. A dining room that is constantly filled with couples, families and friends, Belga and Vandaele has become ingrained in this Barracks Row community making it a culinary destination. The key to his triumphs, quite simple according to Vandaele, “We do nothing the ‘normal way’ here. We do it the Belga way. And that way focuses on comfort, simplicity and success.”

Interview with Chef Mitch Prensky of Supper

Chef Mitch Prensky

Mitch Prensky
Chef / Owner of Supper
926 South Street Philadelphia, PA 19147

Brief Bio Chef and Proprietor Mitch Prensky and his wife and partner, Jennifer London Prensky, are one of Philadelphia’s most respected “culinary couples.” As the owners and operators of The Global Dish Caterers, a singularly successful event planning company, and Supper, one of the city’s most ambitious and well-regarded restaurants, they have long been at the cutting edge of the restaurant scene, using their talents in the kitchen and their skills as entrepreneurs.

In 2008, Mitch and Jennifer opened Supper to rave reviews and a loyal neighborhood following. Their fresh approach to cuisine, known in foodie circles as “urban farmhouse,” won them a prestigious “Three Bell: Excellent” review from The Philadelphia Inquirer and a place in Philadelphia magazine’s annual “Best of Philly” issue in 2009 & 2010 as well as a top 25 ranking among that magazine’s “50 Best Restaurants” three years running. Supper was also recently praised in The New York Times as, “perfectly capturing the spirit of Philadelphia dining.”

As early as 1995, Mitch and Jennifer were preparing to open a fine dining restaurant in Center City Philadelphia. While they were in the preliminary planning stages, they found themselves frequently approached by friends and acquaintances to cater private dinner parties. Together, they found that designing custom menus and creating one-of-a-kind experiences for their guests was an interesting and challenging niche of the fine dining industry that they hadn’t yet explored.

To continue their work in catering and private event planning, they created The Global Dish Caterers. The company’s vision, to act as “event artisans” by creating a “personal restaurant” for each client and serving the highest quality of food with inimitable hospitality and flawless ambiance, made The Global Dish an instant success and garnered Mitch and Jennifer enormous awards and praise for outstanding food, service, hospitality and originality.
Mitch Prensky is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute and alumnus of such prestigious Manhattan restaurant kitchens as L’Ecole, Le Chantilly and Mesa Grill. His continuing education in haute cuisine has led him to stints at March and Daniel, also in New York City. Chef Prensky has worked as corporate chef for Vann’s Spices, and is a member of The Chef’s Collaborative for Sustainable Agriculture and The Philadelphia Fair Food Project.

Why is the pairing of food & beer important to you? I have always preferred pairing my food to beer. Beer is food. In order to get a great flavor profile from a beer the brewmaster infuses the malt, hops and wheat with any flavor that he is looking for in that beer. Unlike wine where the natural aging of the grape gives perceived nuances and aromas of a certain food item (i.e melons, berries, etc.) Since I am an American Chef cooking seasonal American food in this country, I look for beer and wine pairings that have a sense of place. To that end, beer naturally complements my style of cooking

What got you started on pairing food & beer? As a beer drinker and a chef I find that it has always been an easy thing to do. I have been pairing beer with my food for the past 25 yrs.

Who are the chefs you admire? I admire chefs that don’t play with their food and aren’t enamored of the latest toy or gadget that’s out there. Guys that cook seasonally and locally with not too much fuss. People like Jonathan Waxman, Frank DeCarlo, Paul Bertolli, Thomas Keller, Tom Colicchio. But also food innovators like Edna Lewis and Alice Waters.

What are some of your favorite pairings? Spicy fried chicken with Ommegang Farmhouse Saison, Smuttynose IPA with Rogue Smokey Blue Cheese, Allagash white with pan roasted sea scallops, beets, yogurt and cucumber.

Favorite style / beer to pair with? I like the bitter notes in IPA’s. I find that they pair well with rich cheeses and funky offal meats like tripe and sweetbreads. I also like pairing a hoppy beer with our lamb merguez flatbread.

Favorite all time beer? Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA

Feature dish in which you pair beer with food or use beer in preparing the dish? Our BBQ pork loin: The loin is stuffed with housemade country sausage, then wrapped in Nueske’s bacon. We serve this with collards that are braised in beer with bacon and ginger, Anson Mills grits gnocchi and a Black Jack BBQ Jus that uses Dock Street Man Full of Trouble Porter and Stumptown coffee for its base

Thoughts on the future of food & beer in fine dining? It’s only going to get better from now until god knows when. Beer makers are presenting chefs with so many options and my job as a chef is to figure out how to honor the integrity of their work. The sky’s the limit.

Favorite restaurant in a city not your own? Peasant in NYC.

Interview with Chef Ric Orlando of New World Bistro & New World Restaurant

Representing the Hudson Valley in the Mussle Tussle is Chef Ric Orlando of New World Bistro and New World Restaurant. Ric is no stranger to cooking competitions having twice won on Food Network’s Chopped. Ric has even provided us with one of his recipes for Mussels prepared with Rare Vos, so we are excited to see what Ric has in store.

Chef Ric Orlando

Ric Orlando
Executive Chef
New World Bistro & New World Restaurant
1411 Rt 212, Saugerties, NY
300 Delaware Av, Albany, NY

Bio: We Want Clean Food. Guided by these words, Ric Orlando brings an inspired blend of lust for life, outspoken passion for the flavors and ingredients of the world community, and nationally renowned cooking prowess to his roles as chef, lecturer, author, and media source. 
Ric has been preparing and promoting both global and local food for over 20 years. 
New World Home Cooking Co. is a Hudson Valley landmark and the Albany Gastro-Pub he designed and manages, New World Bistro Bar, is a local BEST OF winner. His recipes and commentary are consistently in demand by the regional media. His tireless work in promoting the products, people, and beauty of the region has made him one of the Hudson Valley’s leading culinary spokespeople. A man with a colorful past, Ric’s cultural roots stem from the underground music and art scene through 1980s in New York, New Haven, and Boston where he also gathered his passion for Global flavors eating urban ethnic cheap eats. He developed in his culinary experience at groundbreaking restaurants such as the Elm City in New Haven, (the original) Harvest in Cambridge, Massachusetts, The Wild Goose in Boston, Sugar Reef in Manhattan, and Yates Street and Justin’s in Albany. Ric has cooked in the kitchens widely of respected chefs Bob Kinkead, Jake Jabobus, and Emmett Fox.

New World Bistro

Why is the pairing of food & beer important to you? Food and Beverage Pairing, the essence of good eating!

What got you started on pairing food & beer? Going to Fenway Park when I was a teenager lol. Actually, I dear friend of mine, Duane Carrington was chef at the original Troy Pub and Brewery and we did a beer dinner together back in the ‘90s.

Who are the chefs you admire? Gabrielle Hamilton, Mario Batali, Floyd Cardoza, April Bloomfield

What are some of your favorite pairings? Lager and Charcuteries, Blonde and Pad Thai, Ale and Fish and Chips, Pilsner and Buttered Lobster, Triple and Soft, Stinky Cheese.

Favorite style / beer to pair with? Blonde

Favorite all time beer? Don’t Laugh—New Castle

Feature dish in which you pair beer with food or use beer in preparing the dish? Hurricane Kitty-Lemongrass Mussels, Ropa Vieja, Mother’s Milk Fish Fry, Cream of Lettuce Soup.

Thoughts on the future of food & beer in fine dining? I think fine dining as in FINE dining is played and has peaked for a while, but fine food paired with fine brews in an upscale casual atmosphere is where it is at. I see real, handmade beer increasing the upscale casual market to the point of overtaking the nationals.

Rare Vos and Lemon Grass Mussels
This concoction was refined over the years. My old friend, Johnny Levins, the electrifying chef of the Green Street Grill in Cambridge turned me on to beer and lemongrass harmony back in the 80’s.
Make this and your whole house will smell bewitched.
Serves 4
Ricter scale- 7

1 stem lemongrass, cut in 3” pices, bruised with a pan
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
3 medium shallots, minced
1 tablespoons roasted peanut oil
32 ounces quality bottled clam juice
4 chipotles in adobo, minced
2 tablespoons Texas tarragon a/k/a Mexican Marigold Mint or
(a combination of 1 tablespoons fresh tarragon, 1 teaspoon basil can be used to substitute Texas tarragon)
6 ounces Rare Vos
3 lbs scrubbed and debearded mussels
3 tablespoons butter (optional)
1 medium tomato, diced small
1 cup sliced scallions

In a large wok or pot with a tight fitting lid, sizzle garlic and shallots in oil for a minute and then add all clam juice and lemongrass.

Simmer briskly for 5 minutes then add the chipotles and herbs. Cook for two more minutes and then add the beer. Cook for 10 more minutes, add all of the mussels and cover. Cook over medium heat covered for 3-5 minutes, or until they just pop open.. Turn off the heat, add the butter and recover the pan, allowing the mussels to stream without boiling.

Ladle into big bowls, with plenty of broth. Sprinkle each bowl with the diced tomatoes and scallions.

The Mussel Tussle at Belgium Comes to Cooperstown

Brewery Ommegang’s yearly festival, Belgium Comes to Cooperstown will receive a new and exciting twist this year as 6 chefs have been invited to compete in a “Mussel Tussle” cooking competition.

The competition will be based around a standard of Belgian fare: moules or in English, mussels. This fast-paced competition will challenge the chefs integration of local the farmers’ market and fine food stores, preparing a mussel dish to be judged during the festival. The winning dish will be selected by the attendees of the festival.

The winning chef will receive:
• La Creuset cookware set
• $500 Cash prize
• Winning recipe featured at Café Ommegang
• Winning Chef and representative restaurant showcased on Ommegang website for remainder of 2011

Participating Chefs include:
Lucy Townsend of Lucy Townsend Catering – Cooperstown, NY
Ric Orlando of New World Bistro & New World Restaurant – Albany & Saugerties, NY
Mitch Prensky of Supper – Philadelphia, PA
Bart Vandaele of Belga Café – Washington, DC
Tommy Harder of Blind Tiger – New York City, NY
Matt Molloy of Meadhall – Cambridge, MA

Each day leading up to Saturday’s event, we will be showcasing an interview with each chef and discovering their insights into why great beer deserves great food.

Chef Lucy Townsend

Chef Lucy Townsend is the first of the featured chef and is the hometown pick for the competition. Chef Lucy has been a part of
the Great Beer Deserves Great Food program for several years, catering local beer dinners at Brewery Ommegang and hosting Ommegang events at Templeton Hall, her catering venue in downtown Cooperstown.

L.M.TOWNSEND CATERING began with a dream back in 1978 when owner Lucy Townsend graduated from Dartmouth College with a major in art and embarked on a career in food service leading her from a job cutting and weighing cheeses in a gourmet shop, to employment ranging from chef aboard a hotel boat on the River Thames, to salad girl for a family owned restaurant, kitchen manager at a bistro, and manager of a Rockefeller Center restaurant.

Lucy''s Chicken Breast Stuffed With Spanish Ham Red Pepper Romesco Sauce with Hazelnuts and Almonds,Saffron Pilaf and Artichoke Hearts paired with Ommegang Abbey

Lucy began work on her own catering business in 1989 in Cooperstown, NY and some of her first clients remain loyal to this day. Although corporate functions and wedding receptions comprise a large part of sales, Townsend Catering is also expert at providing services for private dinners, cocktail parties, brunches and barbecues.

Lucy's Mexican Chocolate Streusel Cake Cinnamon Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce paired with Three Philosophers

Be sure to check back each day as we will be interviewing each Chef that competes in the Mussle Tussle, and subscribe so that you can help join in the Great Beer Deserves Great Food movement and discover great chefs, restaurants and event around the country.