Tag Archives: top chef drink pairing

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

Culinary Olympics

We’re down to four chefs! Kevin, Jennifer, and the Voltaggio brothers — these chefs have been the strongest contenders from the beginning (and maybe in the history of Top Chef) , so no big surprise really. But over here at S&C, we often like it when things work out like they’re supposed to.

Later today, we’ll be *live blogging* part one of the finale. But first, let’s quickly recap the last episode where the chefs where challenged to create a Bocuse d’Or dish. A few comments:

  • I was so happy to hear Padma say, “Welcome back,” to Jennifer after tasting her seafood turducken-esque Quickfire dish of Calamari Steak, Scallops, Salmon, Shiitake, Shiso with Rice Noodle Salad.
  • What the hell is Michael Voltaggio’s problem? His arrogance is out of control. His comment, “The food Kevin cooks is what I cook on my day off.” What? He sous vides lamb on his day off? Really? What a jerk.
  • Who gets the gold medal this round? It was sweet justice that Kevin won the challenge with his simply-prepared-but perfectly-cooked lamb.

Kevin’s Confit of Lamb Saddle with Baked Asparagus
and Sherry-Glazed Beets

For the drink pairing — I’ll admit, I’m not getting too creative on this one. But I’m not sure anyone would drink anything other than red wine with lamb. Jordan MacKay, over at Chow.com, even says so. Check out his article, “Lamb and Red Wine: They’re perfect together.” His recommendation — Rhône reds (particularly Syrah) often have an earthiness that compliments lamb’s meaty flavor. Yet, Pinot Noir offers a fruity contrast that may be more interesting.

posted by Ms. S&C

Live with Top Chef–or–Nigella Says

We’re skipping our usual Top Chef recap/drink pairing, and blogging about this week’s show in real time.

—————————–

I’ll start with the obvious — this has to be Robin’s week to go, right?

For the Quickfire Challenge — it is breakfast in bed with Padma and Nigella Lawson. Eli describes Nigella as a “modern, updated, less French version of Julia Child.” Kevin tells us that Gordon Ramsey named a turkey after her, so she is legit. I’ve always had a thing for Nigella — I think she is totally girl-crush-worthy.

Nigella calls Eli’s reuben benedict a “great hangover breakfast.”

Jennifer makes cream chipped beef. Interesting choice.

Least favorite dishes: Bryan — Nigella couldn’t cope with vanilla and king crab in the same dish. Robin — she was a little too “one note.”

Favorite dishes: Kevin’s steak and eggs and Eli’s reuben benedict. Eil wins. There’s no immunity, but he gets a nod in the next Top Chef cookbook.

For the Elimination Challenge — Padma says they will celebrate the “crown jewels” of Las Vegas – the Strip. It goes something like this:

  • Bryan Voltaggio: Mandalay Bay
  • Eli: Circus Circus
  • Michael Voltaggio: New York, New York
  • Kevin: Mirage
  • Jennifer: Excalibur
  • Robin: Bellagio

Michael Voltaggio says he will pay tribute to firefighters in his dish. Jennifer visits the “Tournament of Kings,” and says she has no clue what to do. Bryan Voltaggio visits the Shark Reef for inspiration, and buys his son a shark plush toy. I predict he is either going to rock it or go home this week.

I’m ignoring Robin. Kevin says a bunch of thoughtful sh*t about his take on food. Sounds like tropical oasis will be the focus of his dish. I love Kevin. Eli visits Circus Circus and appears to be confused. And, he’s kinda scaring me with his peanut, apple, popcorn soup.

Jennifer’s “sword and the stone” dish is not well received by Nigella. She says she is ready to be in “winch mode.” Yikes.

Judge’s like Kevin’s salmon, compressed vegetables and tomato water.

I don’t know why Robin even bothers to show her unusable sugar stained glass.

Micheal cooks a boneless chicken confit with a blue cheese dressing. Not sure about his firefighter connection, but the judge’s like it.

Bryan’s halibut has “fantastic balance” says Nigella.

Toby says that Eli, like most people who come to Vegas, “has gambled and lost.” It sounds like Jennifer may be safe.

At the judge’s table — Kevin, Michael and Bryan are the top three. Michael wins with his fancy take on the buffalo chicken wing.

TC-chickenwing

Michael Voltaggio’s Boneless Chicken Wing Confit
with Curry and Blue Cheese Disc

That leaves Jennifer, Robin and Eli on the bottom. Nigella says: Every part of Jennifer’s dish was disappointing;  panna cotta is “child’s play,” and Robin should have known how to make it; and finally, she would rather eat sawdust than Eli’s dish. I think I’m renaming this post “Nigella Says.” I could listen to her all night.

Wow. Robin does go. While I think she deserved to get the boot weeks ago, I’m not sure how Eli survived this round.

—————————–

For the drink pairing — since Michael’s inspiration was New York, sobrooklynlager is ours. Brooklyn Brewery is one of our favorite beer makers. They have a great range of beers for you to fill your glass. Core brands include the brown ale, pilsner, pale ale, among others. Seasonal beers include their potent monster ale, black chocolate stout, oktoberfest, and more. Brooklyn Lager is their award-winning flagship beer. As with most lagers, it is versatile with food, and the fine balance of malt (for sweetness) and hops (for bitterness) make it a refreshing match for spicy chicken.

Author’s note: Blog post updated with pictures and links after the show. Also corrected a few grammatical errors.

posted by Ms. S&C

Vegging out

Last week’s Top Chef episode was all about vegging out, in one way or another.

For the Quickfire Challenge, the cheftestants created a TV dinner, inspired by an iconic television show. Kevin won the challenge with his Soprano’s meatballs with polenta.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs created vegetarian dishes for guest judge Natalie Portman. Kevin, Michael Voltaggio and Eli were the faves. (Mike Isabella was not.) Kevin won again. And, Micheal Voltaggio came off looking like an ungracious jerk. Even Tom Colicchio thought so. Read his blog for great behind-the-scenes insights.

kevin_vegKevin’s Vegetarian Dish: Duo of Mushrooms, Smoked Kale,
Candied Garlic and Turnip Purée

Kevin’s vegetarian dish reminded me a lot of Moosewood Cookbook‘s Warm Salad, which I make at least once or twice every winter — and, I drinkfairhillsred red wine with it every time. True, I drink red wine with most dinners, but I particularly love it with hearty kale and mushrooms. Since eco-friendly Natalie Portman was guest judge for this episode, and since October was Fair Trade Month, I’m going with the Fairhills Bus Stop Red for the drink pairing. I picked up a bottle at Whole Foods for less than $10. It was also highlighted on the Whole Foods blog, telling us that the wine is a product of one of the world’s largest Fair Trade projects, a joint venture between exporter, Origin Wine, Mendoza Vineyards in Argentina and Du Toitskloof Winery in South Africa.

The Fairhills Bus Stop Red is a dryish, medium bodied wine, with aromas of berry fruit and chocolate and hints of plum. Meatballs or kale, it should go great with either of Kevin’s dishes.

And, what makes the wine taste even better? Proceeds are dedicated to purchasing a school bus for the children of the over 800 farm employees and communities of San Martin, Lavalle and Medrano in Mendoza, Argentina.

posted by Ms. S&C

Anything but revolting

The Restaurant Wars episode is easily the most anticipated challenge of Top Chef. The judges said that this season was the best they’ve seen in TC history. I don’t think the caliber of the cheftestants has ever been higher. And, having said that, I was so glad they didn’t have to bother with the whole decor planning part this go round.

Here’s a much too lengthy recap (but it was such a good ep):

  • The Quickfire Challenge was a tag-team relay/cook-off (which may become the most anticipated Quickfire Challenge). It was super fun. The chefs were separated in teams of two, blindfolded, and had to cook one dish total — with each of them cooking for 10 minutes, one right after the other, not allowed to talk, and obviously not able to see what the chef ahead of them was doing. Yes, this is confusingly written, I know — let’s just say, it was much better watched.
  • The Blue Team (with Jennifer, Kevin, Mike Isabella and Laurine) won with Sablefish, Sauteed Mushrooms, Shitake Broth and Radish Salad. I thought the Read Team (with the Voltaggio Brothers, Eli and Robin) made a tactical error in having the two weakest chefs (Eli and Robin) start off. As opposed to the Blue Team, where perfect-planner-Jennifer started and perfect-closer-Kevin finished.
  • The Blue Team’s tactical mistakes came when their overconfidence let their $10,000 prize ride, and they chose not to make a dessert for the Restaurant Wars (RW) Elimination Challenge.
  • For the RW, the cheftestants took over guest judge, Chef Rick Moonen‘s restaurant, rm Seafood. The Blue Team became “Mission,” (think clean, San Francisco-style), and took over the white tablecloth section of rm. The Read Team became “REVolt,” (think rebellious and play on initials, rather than revolting and disgusting), and took over the more rustic-looking section.
  • REVolt won convincingly, and Michael Voltaggio won $10,000, for his Pressed Chicken with Calamari Noodles, Tomato Confit and Fennel Salad. He shared his earnings with his teammates.
  • I was shaking in my boots, thinking Jennifer would be sent home for her fish dishes. Instead, Laurine was given the boot, for her poor front-of-the-house performance, and not stepping in when Kevin didn’t properly cook her lamb.

TC_pear-des

Robin’s Pear Pithivier with Vanilla Ice Cream and Elderflower Syrup

For the drink pairing, it was hard not to use Robin’s pear pithivier dessert for inspiration, particularly because of the elderberry syrup. I found the Gigi, a pear elderberry cocktail over on Chow.com, which sounds just about perfect (and slightly reminiscent of the S&C celebratory Elderberry Spritz). According to Chow, Jackie Patterson, former mixologist at Le Colonial in San Francisco, created this stiff cocktail, combining three French spirits. When I try at home, I will likely cut back on the liquor portions, and possibly substitute the pear vodka for pear simple syrup. Or, just find a way to add more pear.

Gigi Cocktail
Courtesy of Jackie Patterson, from Chow.com

  • 2 parts Lillet Blanc
  • 1 1/2 parts St-Germain elderflower liqueur
  • 1 part Grey Goose La Poire vodka (or other pear-flavored vodka, if available)
  • Ice
  • 1 part brut rosé champagne
  • 1 pear slice, for garnish

Combine Lillet, St-Germain, and Grey Goose in a cocktail shaker and top with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Float champagne on top of Lillet mixture. Garnish with pear slice and serve.

posted by Ms. S&C

Pigging out

The Pigs & Pinot episode of Top Chef made things easy for Ms. S&C’s recap and drink pairing. During this show, the cheftestants drew knives to select a part of a pig to use for a dish, then paired it with a pinot noir — all for a Charlie Palmer (who also was guest judge) and Food & Wine charity event.pigI was pleased as punch that my favorite four chefs created the four best dishes. You know who they are by now: Jennifer, Bryan Voltaggio, Michael Voltaggio and Kevin. If these are not the last four chefs standing when this season comes to an end, then there’s something wrong in the world. (Ash was the chef sent home, but how cat-food-pork-rillette Laurine survived, I don’t know.)

Kevin, (who loves pork so much that he has a pig tattoo), won the challenge with his pork leg pate. The wine he chose to pair with the dish was the 2006 Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, from the Willamette Valley, in Oregon.

TC_porkpateKevin Gillespie’s Pork Leg Pate with Mushroom Salad
and Pickled Cherries

I’ve personally always loved pinot noir (even before watching the movie Sideways). It is often my go-to red wine, mostly because I think you can abandon the age-old tradition of pairing red wine with red meat, and drink it with fish and poultry dishes. When researching the Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, I was happy to discover that the wine was $36.99. While that is still quite a bit more than I typically pay for a bottle that I’m drinking at home (usually I go for something in the $12, or less, range),  it is an acceptable price point for a special  occasion dinner at home. Wine.com highlights the wine’s black cherry, raspberry, truffles and cola/mocha components. Considering Kevin’s pork dish includes cherries and mushrooms, it appears he made a smart and tasty decision. But, that’s the kind-of chef he is.

posted by Ms. S&C