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Top Chef Finale: Part 2

We’re live and blogging the showdown between the Voltaggio brothers and Kevin, for the next Top Chef!

Top Chef’s best season yet, with finalists:
Michael Voltaggio, Kevin Gillespie, and Bryan Voltaggio

I just realized that Kevin is 26 years old. 26!!! Pretty effing incredible. But, I think it was the early balding that threw me off.

Tom and Padma introduce the three four course meal challenge [updated]:

  • First course – cook a favorite childhood memory
  • Second course – must use identical ingredients from a mystery box
  • Third course – cook anything, with any ingredient
  • Fourth course – must cook dessert

Jennifer’s back! And, Bryan gets her. Bryan has a superstar chef team.

Poor Kevin. Looks like he gets stuck with some duds (read: Preeti).

Michael V says he is a risk-taker and Bryan plays it safe. Bryan says he plays it smart.

The chefs’ moms visit! Sweet, but what’s this about? Highlight the sibling rivalry?

Nope. Tom throws them a curve ball. Chefs have to cook an extra course — they’re favorite childhood food memory.

Kevin has bacon in his dessert. Says he should get an award from the bacon council. Pork belly is also his main course.

Looks to me like Kevin takes the first round, with his down-home fried chicken inspired dish.

Michael V is the favorite for the second course/mystery box, with his sweet and sour dish.

Here comes the most critical course. This “original” dish should be the most representative of what these chefs would have on their menus. And, it looks like Bryan comes out on top.

The dessert course looks to be a toss-up between the Voltaggio brothers.

Usually these sentimental moments make me uncomfortable, but I loved hearing why these chefs think they should be Top Chef.

[Update] For a complete breakdown of each chef’s course, read Tom Colicchio’s blog post. It was impossible for me to keep up with each dish and the many, many ingredients. In the end, Tom says Michael won two of the four courses. His second course of Dashi-Glazed Rockfish, Sweet and Sour Crab Salad with Squash and Meyer Lemon, and his main course of Fennel-Scented Squab Breast, Pistachio Cassoulet and Textures of Mushrooms, were the best.

Michael Voltaggio’s main course of Fennel-Scented Squab Breast,
Pistachio Cassoulet and Textures of Mushrooms

——Spoiler Alert——

Amazing that this comes down to the two brothers.  And, the winner is Michael?!?!?! Wow, I seriously thought it would be Bryan.

This was the best Top Chef season yet. Well done, fellas.

Author’s note: Blog post updated with pictures and links after the show.

posted by Ms. S&C

Top Chef Finale: Part 1

We’re covering this week’s Top Chef in real time, so be on *spoiler* alert. Part one of the season finale sends the final four cheftestants to beautiful Napa Valley.

Kevin tells us there is a Facebook page dedicated to his beard.

Guest judge is Micheal Chiarello — not sure there is anyone better to represent Napa Valley and the essence of California cuisine.

For the Quickfire, chefs must cook using grapes and all aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train.

Jennifer drives a 2000 Chevy, so she wants to win the high-stakes Quickfire and get the keys to the Prius.

Michael Voltaggio wins with his grape leaf stuffed with “couscous,” and vinegar glazed grape and scallop kabob. Nice job using all parts of the grape.

Eric Ripert is Jennifer’s mentor, and we love Eric Ripert over here at S&C.

For the Elimination Challenge, chefs are catering the annual “Crush Party,” to celebrate harvest, and can only use local ingredients. They are to cook two dishes: one vegetarian and one featuring a local protein. Kevin says he only uses local ingredients at his restaurant, so he’s feeling confident.

Michael V says he is preparing a perfectly cooked egg for his vegetarian dish. But, most vegetarians don’t eat eggs, right?

Aside: Padma is a gorgeous pregnant lady, but not sure I’m crazy about her “Crush Party” outfit. The cut-out dress and tall red boots–definitely more Vegas than Napa Valley.

When discussing the duck in Jennifer’s dish — Tom uses “ducky” as an adjective and Gail says “it is a real quacker.” All in a good way.

At Judge’s Table, Tom defends Kevin’s simple techniques and his vegetarian dish is called stellar.

All the chefs pretty much deliver on this challenge. No idea who will be sent home.

——-SPOILER ALERT——-

The chef who made most of the farmers market, let the ingredients sing (as Chiarello said), and wins — Bryan Voltaggio!

Uggh. Jennifer is asked to pack her knives and go. Sadness. All girls in Project Runway. All boys in Top Chef.

Great episode — can’t wait until next week!

posted by Ms. S&C

PR Finale: Live Blogging!

Carol Hannah, Althea or Irina – who will be the winner? Can’t wait to find out. Check back for live updates (and opinions). Spoilers included, so watch out!

  • How tremendously awful would it be to be Carol Hannah right now? And are those fingerless-glove-armwarmers she’s wearing?
  • Just caught a glimpse of the “helmets” that Irina’s featuring in her collection – not so sure how we feel about these. Do not feel much better about Althea’s oversize stocking cap/beanie (although at least that’s not appearing in her runway show!).
  • Oooh, I love Irina’s 13th look (added on as an extra challenge at the last minute). The dress is chic and simple but intricate at the same time. I hope she heeds Tim’s advice on the danger of the helmets being too costumey.
  • I love how Tim is staying conspiculously far away from sick/contagious Carol Hannah. Am also enjoying her drapey blue gown as the 13th look.
  • I know over-the-knee boots are all the rage, and I’m a big fan, but when paired with Irina’s all-black collection, the whole look comes off a bit dominatrix-esque, to my eyes.
  • The designers are wearing some interesting choices in footwear for runway day. I’m digging Carol Hannah’s sky-high, open-toe metallic booties – but are those the most practical for backstage business? On the otherside of the spectrum is Althea in super-casual boots with a shearling cuff. My shoe vote goes to Irina – basic black boots.
  • Miss Mojito’s Verdict on Althea’s Collection: Mixed. I love a bunch of the pieces – the coats with great shoulders are fantastic, and I’m a fan of the dresses in general – but some of the more casual pieces feel proportionally “off” (super-long sleeves on the cardigans) and a tad bit dull.
  • Miss Mojito’s Verdict on Carol Hannah’s Collection: Fun! The pieces are so playful, and I love her color palette. The first dress out was a very cool combo of geometry and draping. Two thumbs up.
  • Miss Mojito’s Verdict on Irina’s Collection: Chic. That gray funnel-neck coat is phenomenal. And the black, full-length finale gown is a show-stopper. I’m guessing that some of the other all-black ensembles might be even more impressive in person.
  • The guest judge is Suzy Menkes, fashion critic for the International Herald Tribune. Her hairdo is something else! But I’m surprised they don’t have a celebrity critic for the finale.
  • Irina earns praise for the coherency of her collection, but not necessarily for originality of concept. And Michael loves the hats!
  • Nina calls Carol Hannah’s gold dress “spirited,” and Heidi is very impressed with her 13th dress. The judges praise her structured draping, but they don’t see the connective thread of her collection.
  • Michael Kors loves the sportswear-focus of Althea’s collection, but like Carol Hannah, her collection isn’t entirely cohesive.

BIG SPOILER WARNING

Congratulations to . . . Irina! I’m a bit surprised, honestly, that a color-free collection is the winner. I was more impressed with all of the collections than I expected to be.

And guess what – season seven premieres in just a couple of months!

Posted by Miss Mojito.

Off to Prague

pragueMs. S&C goes on the road — to Prague!

Attention loyal S&C readers, Ms. S&C will be taking a few days off (actually, more like a week and a half), as she and Mr. S&C are headed to Prague! We’ve got our trusty Rick Steve’s guide and the New York Times’ 36 Hours column, so we’re ready to explore one of Europe’s most beautiful cities (at least that’s what we’re told). What will we do while we’re there? Well, we’ll visit some castles, drink some a lot of Czech beer, look at Art Nouveau, and you know — just holiday.

While she’s gone, there may be an occasional Tweet or two (no promises, though). But, you’ll be in good hands with Miss Mojito. Miss M will be *live* blogging the season finale of Project Runway, on Thursday, Nov. 19th, so be sure to check it out! Live blogging is fun.

Na zdravi! (That’s “cheers” in Czech).

posted by Ms. S&C

There’s style here

A year ago, we welcomed Fashion Washington, DC’s new luxury fashion magazine from the Washington Post.

Earlier this week, Ms. S&C attended FW’s one year anniversary party at Masa 14, the new hot spot inFW-party Logan Circle. She was thrilled and totally flattered by the  invitation. She was slightly underwhelmed by the cocktails (Strawberry Lemonade was waaayyy too sweet), but the people-watching opportunity was first-rate.

In addition to being in the company of DC’s most fashionable crowd, Ms. S&C met the famous fashion photographer blogger (and now author), The Sartorialist. One of Ms. S&C’s greatest dreams in life is to be considered worthy of one of his photographs. His people-on-the-streets photos are a constant inspiration. They are really, really amazing.

book-signing

The Sartorialist signs a copy of his book for Ms. S&C
at FW’s one year anniversary party

You can check out a recap of the anniversary event on FW’s blog, Fashion District.  And, the Style Setter column in the FW magazine, has a great article on Scott Schuman (aka The Sartorialist).

So, how did DC do, style-wise? On The Sartorialist blog, Mr. Schuman said, “I expected great things in cities like London and Paris, but DC was a total surprise. What a great-looking and diverse crowd.”

posted by Ms. S&C

In full disclosure

In case there are S&C readers out there, who are on the up-and-up in regards to social media, blogging, advertising, and the like, Shoes & Cocktails would like you to know that we are not paid to blog. The FTC recently released new guidelines related to bloggers and advertisers, so we wanted to let you know that no products, brands or stores mentioned in our content are advertisements or paid promotions. We are (unfortunately) not paid to drink cocktails. We are (sadly) not paid to buy shoes online. And, therefore, we are certainly not paid to write glowing reviews of crappy drinks and ugly shoes. Nor, will we ever (write things that are misleading).

In full disclosure, we have, however, received free booze. In further disclosure, we’ve received a lot more booze than we’ve ever written about (much of the stuff they send us isn’t that good, and we’ve got standards, people). There have been two occasions in which we highlighted a specific brand of liquor that we received for free. One of those instances we disclosed (more or less); one we did not (but, in that instance, the booze was vodka, so it hardly counts).

There may be one glorious day when our shoes and cocktails budgets will be financed by advertisers, but we can promise you that we’ll never be at their mercy. If we are, we’ll tell you. Until then, please know that Ms. S&C and Miss Mojito do what we do because we love shoes, we love cocktails, and we think blogging is fun. Thanks for reading!

posted by Ms. S&C and Miss Mojito

Bright, sunny, beautiful

Miss Mojito is in the Outer Banks, and Ms. S&C is headed to Key West. This can only mean one thing — cocktails beachside and poolside! Hooray for vacays!

As we sign off for a few days, S&C leaves you with one of the most beautiful photographs ever seen. It was taken by The Sartorialist in Sydney, Australia. Not sure what is more beautiful — the sky or the woman? The woman. The over-sized sunglasses, the colorful Missoni dress, those incredible boots. Set against the bright blue sky, the crisp blue water, and the gothic iron fence. You want to know what beauty is — you are looking at it.

sartorialistPhoto from The Sartorialist, April 30, 2009

posted by Ms. S&C