Vices that inspire

We’re excited as all get out that Top Chef is back. The show premiered last week — and you know what that means? It is time for the Top Chef Drink Pairing! The Top Chef Drink Pairing is a reoccurring feature on the S&C blog, where we recap the previous week’s episode and then pair the winning dish with a cocktail, or other suitable alcoholic beverage.


Season six of Top Chef is taking place in the city of extreme indulgence — Las Vegas, and we’ve been promised high-stakes play. I’m assuming when Tom and Padma repeatedly mention high-stakes, they are referring to the cooking, competition, and drama — where there’s a lot to be won, and a lot to be lost. Highlights from episode one:

  • There are two DC-area cheftestants: Michael Isabella from Zaytinya and Bryan Voltaggio from Volt Restaurant (whose younger bro is also a contestant on the show). First impression: The cute Voltaggio bros are easy to like. Isabella has an overbearing and slightly annoying personality, and let’s hope he reigns it in soon so he doesn’t go the way of Teddy ala The Next Food Network Star.
  • The Quickfire Challenge is the relay challenge, where the chefs work in teams to shuck clams, clean prawns, crack lobsters, and French-cut a prime rib. There’s one team who spent the entire challenge shucking clams, and it was painful to watch.
  • Winning relay team members square off for a challenge amongst themselves, with Jennifer (I’ve made men cry in the kitchen) Carroll‘s clam ceviche winning.
  • The Elimination Challenge has the chefs creating a dish based on their personal vices, and we know a little something about vices as inspiration. :) It comes as no surprise that drinking, scotch, bourbon, beer, and the overindulgence of spirits are the primary vices of our cheftestants.
  • Wolfgang Puck is guest judge for the Elimination Challenge, and he is funny. I like him and his Austrian accent.
  • Kevin Gillespie, who reminds me a little of Zach Galifianakis, wins with his procrastination-inspired Arctic Char with Salsa Verde of Turnips.


Kevin Gillespie’s winning dish, Arctic Char with Salsa Verde of Turnips

Since the prevalent flavors in this dish include fennel and star anise, I recommend a French pastis, or anise-flavored liqueur, for the drink pairing. Pernod, whose distinct licorice flavor is often used as a cooking ingredient, as well as before-dinner beverage to stimulate the appetite, is a good choice. Pernod has a crisp, sweet flavor that makes it a favorite in the summer (a French favorite that is). Purists prefer the traditional French aperitif, the Pernod Classic. But, you know me — bring on the champagne and the French Fizz. Recipes courtesy of Pernod Richard USA. À votre santé!

Classic Pernod

  • 1 part Pernodpernod_bottle
  • 5 parts water
  • Ice

Pour 1 part Pernod in a glass. Add 5 parts water. Add ice to fill glass. Serve in a highball glass.

French Fizz

  • 1 part Pernod
  • 5 parts champagne
  • Lots of ice

Pour Pernod and all of the other ingredients into a tall glass over lots of ice. Mix well. Serve in a white wine glass.

Shoes & Cocktails wants to know: What personal vice inspires you?

posted by Ms. S&C

7 responses to “Vices that inspire

  1. As I watched the season premier last week, I found myself thinking “Is Mike making an effort to be this much of an asshole?” And then I recalled our prior meetings in mostly professional but quasi-social settings and thought “Nope that’s pretty much how I remember him.”

  2. Oh, and the French Fizz is a summer favorite of mine but I like its Italian cousin even better – the brighter fruit of Prosecco seems so natural complimented by the more spicy notes of Pernod.

  3. @Restaurant Refugee, as someone once in the industry, wouldn’t you say that the overindulgence of booze is a common vice? I recall a vicious cycle of work late, drink late, sleep late. Repeat.

    And, thanks for the Prosecco suggestion — will try it!

  4. You forgot the rinse component of the process… but yes, like most industry types I went to a bar or two after work almost every night.

  5. This is brilliant, lady, brilliant. I love the recap; I love the creative pairing… would love to pair for the Top Chef Masters meal— it looked to die for.
    Am chuckling about memories of life in the food-service industry thanks to you & restaurant refugee– am thinking that some of the T.C. contestants would have put some harder stuff on the food if it were a) socially appropriate, and b) delicious.

  6. brava! great post. best pairing of 2009: TC and S&C.

    seems like the most talented and accomplished crop of cheftestants yet. volt, mike isabella, jennifer and kevin seem the front-runners so far.

  7. So excited to learn about the French Fizz- Pernod is a near daily summer staple in our house (we have to order online btw because our local stores don’t carry and I can’t often go to Mclean for ABC runs). I will get MO trying these asap- I suspect he will love especially since it will have more alcohol than standard pastis. Thanks Ms S&C!

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