Interview with Bart Vandaele of Belga Cafe

Chef Bart Vandaele

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

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 starchefs.com, 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
www.supperphilly.com

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
www.ricorlando.com
www.ricthechef.blogspot.com

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.

Interview with Chef Marcus Guiliano of Aroma Thyme Bistro

Marcus Guiliano
Executive Chef / Owner of Aroma Thyme Bistro
165 Canal St.
Ellenville, NY 12428
www.aromathymebistro.com

Brief Bio: Marcus Guiliano is the chef, owner of Aroma Thyme Bistro located in the bountiful Hudson Valley of New York. Chef Guiliano has been an advocate for over 10 years on healthy, sustainable, local and real food. He found his mission in cooking when he reversed over a handful of medical conditions including 28 years of asthma. For more information visit www.chefonamission.com.
Aroma Thyme is know for their “stealth health”(Zagat). The Bistro has an award-winning wine list from Wine Spectator Magazine and over 200 beers. Aroma Thyme is certified green by The Green Restaurant Association.

Why is the pairing of food & beer important to you? Beer is more creative than wine. It allows me as a chef to be more adventurous.

What got you started on pairing food & beer? It all started when I opened my own restaurant. I didn’t want the big brands of flavorless beer in my restaurant. I have actually had people leave my restaurant because they couldn’t get a Bud. As a chef if I take the time to combine flavors in my food it would be great to offer beer that the brew master did the same.

Who are the chefs you admire? I was always a fan of Marco Pierre White in my earlier career. Currently I am still a huge fan of Raymond Blanc from Le Manoir in Great Milton, England.

What are some of your favorite pairings? I love to experiment with beer and cheese. You never know what goes together until you experiment. I love Indian food and Tripels. But I’m huge hophead too. I’ll drink a dry big IPA any day with grilled salmon or a creamy soft cheese.

Favorite style / beer to pair with? I like to pair food with Tripels. The crispness of that style can waken up flavors in food.

Favorite all time beer? I always go back to the Ommegang Abbey Ale. Then comes Unibroue La Fin du Monde. No matter how many beers I have on my list or taste I am always amazed when I go back to those two.

Feature dish in which you pair beer with food or use beer in preparing the dish? We make all of our meatloaf with beef. We soak the breadcrumbs in a pale ale or IPA. You can definitely tell that there is beer in the meatloaf. Then we sauté onions and mushrooms in the same beer.

Thoughts on the future of food & beer in fine dining? Chefs need to wake up and realize beer is much more than the mass produced stuff that pairs with hot dogs.

Favorite restaurant in a city not your own? Café D’Alsace in NYC has a great list with awesome food.

Any other thoughts? It is very upsetting when you go to fine restaurant with hundreds of wines and then they drop the ball on beer. It makes me think that they are lazy or just under estimate what beer is. But they take the time to research wine, build a wine cellar or some fancy tower to store the wine. But then all you can get is mass produced cheap beer.

Recipe– Grassfed Meatloaf Sliders with Keegan Ales Hurricane Kitty
and Great Hills Blue Cheese

2 lb grass fed beef
½ ea small diced onion
1 lb Bread Alone Miche made into bread crumbs
12-16 oz Hurricane Kitty IPA
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 tsp chopped rosemary
2 tsp sea salt
4-6 oz Great Hills raw Blue Cheese

1. Mix breadcrumbs and beer.
2. Mix well all ingredients except cheese.
3. Bake in a loaf pan at 375˚ for 45 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165˚.
4. Serve on grilled bread topped with crumbled blue or by itself.

Other serving suggestions:
add sautéed onions and/or mushrooms
Recipe property of
Marcus Guiliano
Aroma Thyme Bistro
165 Canal St
PO Box 731
Ellenville NY 12428
www.chefonamission.com

We thank Chef Guiliano for helping to spread the gospel of Great Beer Deserves Great Food. Be sure to visit the Aroma Thyme Bistro July 21st- 28th as Chef Guiliano features Belgian beer and food pairings. http://beerofthemonthclub.blogspot.com/2011/07/belgian-independence-day-beer-and-food.html