Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ommegang Brewery Belgium-style Beer and CIA dinner

I really cannot get enough of the Culinary Institute of America. I simply get on Route 9 and 25 minutes later I am at one of the most renown cooking schools in the world. I see no reason not to take advantage of this location. Besides the 4 restaurants on campus the school puts on random special dinners and events throughout the year. Last night was one such occasion. There is a Belgium born chef instructors on staff. Wednesday night he took the opportunity to teach about Belgium beer pairings with food with an hour long lecture or at least that was how it as advertised. Of course as things seem to go at the CIA not all everything turns out the way it was led on. However, it was a most enjoyable night and here is what really happened...

The Brew master, Phil, from Ommegang brewery came to chat about the beer making process and the brewery. They are currently undergoing major expansions. Ommegang Brewery is a small micro-brewery in Cooperstown, NY. I learned that a lot goes into making beer. Their beers each have a unique blend of spices something particular to Belgium-style beers. I encourage you to check out their website. They have beautiful pictures.

My favorite part of the night and really the reason for my attendance was the tasting that followed the lecture, a four-course meal with sampling of Belgium beer at each.

The Ommegang Dinner Menu

First Course
Rabbit Terrine
Stewed Prunes and Foie Gras

I have never really been a fan of terrine. To me its like glorified bologna. At this point I could go into a more vivid description of what exactly a terrine is but I find the whole thing a bit repulsive. For a better idea of what this is go here: What is a terrine? The presentation on the plate was very lovely though.

Second Course
Dover Sole Filets en Paupiette
Blanche de Bruges and Watercress Mousse

I also don't really enjoy white fish. Ever since a long trip to London where for a week I only consumed fish and chips I have been a little put off by it. I did manage to seat the whole serving which is say a lot. The people who like Dover sole I am sure would have loved it.

Kriek (Cherry) Sorbet
Peppered Local Strawberries

The Intermezzo is always something to look forward to, a little brightener mid-meal. This sorbet was divine, light and fresh; perfect for a hot summer night. Of course they only give you a melon ball size scoop but I could have had a normal size bowl and called it a night.

Entrée Selection
Oven Roasted Guinea Fowl St. Hubert
Braised Belgian Endive and Fingerling Potatoes with
Monk Ale Scented Natural Pan Drippings

The main course was super delicious. Each person was served 1/2 a guinea fowl on a long rectangular plate. Underneath the bird lay the braised endives. Although I never cook them on my own I have been a fan of endives since my time in Paris. You should definitely try them at some point if you haven't already. On the other half of was a small mound of fingerling potatoes on a bed of corn. They just kind of melted in your mouth along with the butter sauce that accompanied them.

Nutella Ice Cream
Assorted Sweets
Coffee – Tea – Decaf

My favorite course was dessert. I mean, nutella ice cream, who could not enjoy that. Another small scoop, the nutella ice cream was set on a light chocolate cake. It as served with caramelized hazelnuts that were amazing.

Each course was served with a glass of a different type of Belgium-styled beer from Ommegang. Sorry beer fans, I am not going to go into descriptions of these. I will say they each had a very distinct different taste. I only finished two of the 5 glasses I was served this evening. I even enjoyed one. Sadly the Chocolate indulgence was not something I particularly cared for.

The evening lasted a good 4 hours and needless to say by the time dessert came around I was exhausted. Serving 50 odd some people a 4 course meal all simultaneously is quite a feat. It was almost as entertaining as the food.

On side note: I finally came prepared with my camera only to have the batteries completely die off after the Rabbit terrine. The rest come from a cell phone and didn't turn out as good.

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