Last night, two of my favorite lady friends and I hiked up to Frederick, Maryland, for an evening at Volt.
For those of you who are not Top Chef whores, Volt is the restaurant of Bryan Voltaggio, last season’s runner up and the kinder, hunkier bro-testant.
How to begin my food porn vignette?
Our foodventure began inauspiciously. One of the servers brought us each a complimentary amuse bouche, a brussle sprout shell filled with cheese foam and topped with caviar that he promised would “give us a sense of what was to come.” While the foam was a nice balance of textural delicacy and potent flavor, the caviar was curiously undetectable–odd given the generous amount that had been sprinkled atop the bite–and the foam overwhelmed the nice bitterness of the brussel sprout. If this was a taste of what was to come, I feared a rather spendy bout with disappointment.
As it turned out, the amuse bouche was the only off bite of the night. The ladies and I agreed to each order a full four courses, and we chose items we were all kind of hot to try, so we could sample as much as possible without making our guts explode. (I am still waiting for someone to invent the detachable supplemental stomach, thus eliminating the eyes-bigger-than-stomach dilemma forever.)
Here’s the scorecard:
Course 1: Our contenders were a shitaake mushroom voloute (which I had no idea was a soup until the waiter set up a big spoon before it arrived … ah, French and its pesky Frenchy words), a tuna tartare, and a beet and goat cheesed salad with goat cheese made at a really awesome local dairy. Each of these courses was lovely, but the real standouts were the tuna tartare, which was topped with avocado and this insane stuff called “soy air” and just enough chili oil to give it a definitive kick, and the marvelously mushroomy soup, accented with pine nut and chili oil.
Round 1 Winner: mushroom voloute.
Course 2 contained the plate that came closest to being a dud–a scallop and cauliflower dish that, while not at all offensive, lacked acidity. My second course was a plate of veal sweetbreads, fried in a slightly cakey batter that accentuated the suppleness of the sweetbreads and accented with traces of kalamata olive, lemon, and raisin. Even better was the pork belly, which was basically a three dimensional hunk of the most marvelous bacony goodness you could imagine.
Round 2 Winner: The pork belly
Course 3: Here, one of my friends and I both went for the pork tenderloin, pepper crusted and served with brussel sprouts and sweet potato puree. I think this dish was the sleeper hit of the night. My first few bites were pleasant enough, but by the time I was finishing it up, I didn’t want it to end. It was a dish I could eat every night for the rest of my life and be a pretty happy girl. We also got to taste the rabbit four ways, which included a bit of that sous vide business that always seems to make or break the reality show cheftestants. (Our very awesome waiter explained to us how to sous vide at home, too, which was cool of him, though I’m not sure my Tombstone-pizza-toasting-arse will be giving it a go anytime soon.)
Course 3 winner: I admit a bias, but I’m going with the pork here.
Course 4: Ahhh, dessert. We had the textures of chocolate, the dulce de leche, and chocolate torte with clementine sorbet. The textures of chocoate was a bit sweet for my tastes, but my chocolate/clementine dessert was a wonderful combination of bitter/tart/sweetness. The big winner here was the dulce de leche, though–which, despite the name, consisted primarily of wonderfully tangy goat cheese cake and a granny smith apple sorbet that I wish was sold by the pint. Oh, heavens.
Course 4 goes to: dulce de leche
In addition to all this yumminess, we were treated to some pretty kick ass house-made biscuits (mine was seasoned with bacon and thyme, and doubled as a pretty awesome soup ladle while it lasted) and a complimentary plate of the tiniest of ice cream sandwiches, each made with quarter-sized cookies. The service ranged from fine to excellent, with my two major complaints being that 1) we waited way too long for our wine bottle to arrive at our table and 2) the hostesses lacked the polish that you’d expect at a fancy place like this, even if it is the kind of fancy-but-deliberately-laid-back place where all the waiters wear chucks with their dress shirts and pants.
The final verdict: Well worth the trip to east-bumble-Frederick, well worth the hundred buckos a person, and, yes, well worth getting to catch a glimpse of a Voltaggio as you scooted past the kitchen on the way to the powder room.