Monday, August 31, 2009

Ommegang: Belgian-Style Beer Brewed in NY

On a recent trip to visit my family in upstate New York, we decided to finally take a tour of the Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown. Mind you, the brewery has been there for years, but I'm not sure what on earth took me so long to get there!

Ommegang began brewing in Belgium in 1549. In 1997, it opened a US microbrewery on a former hops farm right outside of Cooperstown. Recently, Ommegang was "upgraded" to a regional brewery, and distributes its beer all over the United States.

Driving up to the beautiful, huge, cream colored Belgian barn-style buildings, you feel like you're in Napa. Luckily for us, a tour was just beginning as we arrived, so we jumped right in and began learning about the Belgian brewing process. We started in the "kitchen" room where all the ingredients are mixed at the beginning of the process, and followed it all the way through to the bottling room, then to the fermentation room where the bottled beer sits at 85 degrees for two additional weeks before getting shipped out to distributors. Unlike other beers which have a limited shelf life, Ommegang beers actually improve with age, like fine wine. In fact, the brewery has been leasing "cave space" in the nearby Howe Caverns, but will soon be digging "a great big hole" (as described by our adorable tour guide) on the brewery property to simulate their own cave-aging conditions. The guide assured us that their beer is great to drink right away, but true beer connoisseurs may prefer the taste of the aged brews.

Then it was tasting time!! In all, we tried six beers. We started "light" and tried the Belgian white Witte (my favorite), with flavors of orange peel and coriander. We then moved on to golden Hennepin, the "rich ruby brew", Three Philosophers (cherry undertones), the ambers Biere du Mars (my friend's favorite) and Rare Vos, and finally, Chocolate Indulgence (nicknamed "Obamagang" because it was rolled out at inauguration time earlier this year). We also tasted a few cheese spreads made with beer...the blue cheese variety was the best of the bunch.
The beer is bottled both in traditional 12 oz bottles, or 750ml corked bottles (the same size as a bottle of wine). We opted for a case of the 12 oz Witte bottles, but they also have variety packs available in both sizes.

If you ever find yourself in upstate New York near Cooperstown, definitely check out Ommegang. Not only do they brew some fantastic beers, but the brewery is in a beautiful setting, which they invite you to enjoy with a picnic.

Ommegang beers are available in Fairfield at:

Photos from

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Restaurants: Eating Out In South Norwalk, CT

South Norwalk is one of my favorite places in Fairfield County. It has the vibe of a fun New York neighborhood...but is much closer to home and you can actually park your car! All summer I've been sticking closer to Fairfield, but over the weekend we celebrated our anniversary with a great night out in SoNo.

It had been a while since we ventured down the Turnpike, and I was surprised to see lots of changes. For those of you who are looking for a fun outing, definitely check out what's happening in South Norwalk!

There are lots of good places to grab pre- or post-dinner drinks. We enjoyed martinis at The Loft, but the Rouge Wine Bar (both on Washington Street) also looked promising. Lots of the bars and restaurants have either sidewalk seating or open-air tables, where you can watch the world pass by on a warm night. When it was time for dinner, we headed across the street for a wonderful meal at Match (also on Washington Street), which is always packed, so be sure you make a reservation! Same goes for Pasta Nostra (Washington St.), Barcelona, and Kazu (both on North Main Street), which are all fantastic and were equally as packed that evening. Reservations are definitely recommended at each of these places.

For a more casual meal, try Burger Bar (fab burgers right next to the movie theatre), Brewhouse, SoNo Seaport Seafood, or The Ginger Man. Other places I noticed that looked worth a return trip were Coromandel Indian Bistro, Osetra Oyster Bar, Strada 18 Apizza e Vino, and Pane e Panini (lunch).

I also made a note to mention the new Tribeca Coffee House (in the former space of Stone Cold Creamery on North Main Street), Caffeine (Washington Street), and Chocopologie (South Main Street) where you can grab coffee, desserts, or even a light meal.

South Norwalk has a lot to offer for an afternoon stroll, an evening out with friends, or date night with your other half. I've barely scratched the surface, because there are many, many more eateries to discover! Next time you're looking for a great eating destination, hop on the Turnpike to exit 15 and discover South Norwalk for yourself!

To learn more about Tracy's Fairfield-based cooking classes, go to:

For Tracy's recipes, check out:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Food Openings in Fairfield, CT

I just took a walk down to the newly expanded Brick Walk Promenade, and am very excited about the food happenings in Fairfield! Lots of yummy openings on the horizon....

Amore Bakery is set to open later this week and will feature cakes, cupcakes, biscotti, and a selection of baked goods from SoNo Bakery in South Norwalk. This well-located bakery will be a welcome addition to Fairfield Center!

Pizzeria Molto Mozzarella and Wine Bar plans to open the first week of September. The space is fabulous---with high, red upholstered booths, old-fashioned tiled floors, a long bar, and high ceilings. It's very urban-chic! The owners tell me they have a full liquor license on the way and can't wait to open in a few weeks.

Flipside Burgers is scheduled to open September 1st, in the former Flying Dish space (which has been redesigned and redecorated). This new burger joint looks to be a great place to grab a burger alone or with the kids, but without feeling like you're eating at a chain. The chef/owner also owns Mediterranean Grill in Wilton.

All of the above restaurants are located in the Brick Walk, Post Road, Fairfield, CT.

I've just added new classes to my fall line-up of cooking classes at The Secret Ingredient Cooking School---be sure to check them out at: !!!