Wine may be a traditional food-pairing libation, but spirits are starting to take over the plate-side place. Here are three chefs who have created spirited sips with food-friendliness in mind.
The Chef: Daniel Boulud
The Lyon-born chef has made his name with high-end temples to French cuisine, including DANIEL, Café Boulud and DB Bistro Moderne.
The Spirit: The Dalmore Selected by Daniel Boulud
No, it’s not a French spirit—it’s a single malt Scotch. To create it, Boulud worked closely with The Dalmore Master Distiller Richard Paterson to test out possible variations. He settled on a blend from three casks, each of which previously held a different type of wine or fortified wine (Muscatel, Madeira and Port). The finished Scotch is luscious and full of fruity and chocolaty flavors.
The Pairing: Dessert
While the Scotch has enough heft to stand up the seared Wagyu tenderloin on Daniel’s menu, it’s ideal for a dessert pairing, such as alongside a chocolate-and-coffee ganache.
The Chef: Edward Lee
The Louisville chef first gained national attention for his appearances on Food Network’s Iron Chef and Bravo’s Top Chef, but even before that, chef Lee was known for innovative Asian-Southern fusion restaurants 610 Magnolia and MilkWood. He’s also the author of cookbook Smoke & Pickles (Artisan, 2013).
The Spirit: Jeff’s Chef’s Collaboration
Lee paired up with Trey Zoeller of Jefferson’s Bourbon to create the Bourbon-rye blend. “Our intent from the beginning was always about Bourbon and food,” says Lee. “Because of the nuances and sweetness of corn in Bourbon, it has some great pairing opportunities.” What he’s created is a mellow, golden whiskey with gentle vanilla and lemon-cream flavors, braced up with ginger and cinnamon sparks from the rye.
The Pairing: Charcuterie or Grilled Meats
Think cured meats like prosciutto, salami or country ham when pairing this spirit. Grilled grilled brisket, ribs or shoulder are also great matches.
The Chef: Peter X. Kelly
The Hudson Valley restaurateur emphasizes Contemporary American Cuisine, utilizing French techniques and local produce at restaurants including Restaurant X and Xaviar’s.
The Spirit: Slovenia Vodka
Since Kelly is also a winemaker, a spirit seemed like a natural extension. His “culinary vodka” was inspired by a trip to Slovenia—the source of many excellent vodkas, although none of them are marketed in the U.S. The crisp, neutral spirit is made with a touch of buckwheat—and it’s not lost on us that buckwheat is the key ingredient in blinis, too. Celebrity partners in the Slovenia brand include Mikhail Barishnikov and Bill Murray.
The Pairing: Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
“Fresh tomato, gently warmed, the vodka comes through,” says Kelly. He makes a poached egg dish with heirloom tomatoes “flamed with vodka,” and infuses in-season Hudson Valley peaches into the vodka as well, to pair with a sabayon with berries.