I strongly dislike pretentious food. It makes me feel icky. And it irritates me when people use it as a tool to make themselves feel sophisticated. I like fresh, farm fresh, to be exact, food. However, on a recent trip to Maryland, my undying affection for Mr. Bryan Voltaggio gave me this nagging desire to go to VOLT, his restaurant located in Frederick, Maryland. Now, I know nothing about this man other than what I saw on Top Chef and from what I gathered on Top Chef, his cooking seemed completely out of my league. But I liked his personality and I liked his opinions about food so once I landed, I looked at his website and was completely surprised and delighted by what I found.
VOLT is a compromise between high-end cuisine and farm to table ethics. Frederick, as my friend Caitlin was telling me, is a farming community. And, on the website for VOLT it’s clear that the core of Bryan’s food preparation is centered around this community. I was thrilled. Thank goodness. I was worried I might have to eat a meal containing all the things I hate more than anything in this world. His menu seemed to favor components that are based on the season, rather than scattering it with fancy items just for the sake of it. You can only choose from two options: four courses or seven courses. The seven course is fixed but within the four you can choose from multiple dishes. It’s $80 for the four and $95 for the seven. Pricey. Yes. definitely. But life is short so I said, fuck it, and made a reservation for two.
Upon arrival, I was surprised at the exterior. It’s set in an old Victorian mansion. Upon walking in I was also surprised. It was modern, yet comfortable. It felt easy. The rooms are separated so that each one, kind of has its own thing going on. Caitlin and I were sat at a table that was nestled in the corner and a perfect size for the two of us. There were tons of staff milling about. A lovely lady who came and took our order, but, I wouldn’t really call her a waitress. There was the Master of Wine, as he called himself, LJ, who was completely dashing and wonderful. He decanted our 2007 Châteauneuf-du-Pape and told us lovely stories about his wedding. There was the man whose job was solely to introduce the bread basket and a bunch of other folks serving water, serving food, etc. We were never alone, that’s for sure (in a good way). Someone was always checking in to make sure we were absolutely perfect. And we were, exchanging eloquent conversation immediately.
We both chose the four course, but we opted to add the cheese plate, a $12 upgrade. In hindsight, we could have skipped that because we were literally stuffed by the end. I ordered the following:
beets goat cheese, coffee, sherry, navel orange
ravioli maroon carrot, cocoa nib, black trumpet mushroom
beef australian crescent potato, cheddar, spinach, bacon
chocolate, caramel, chocolate, peanut
I was concerned at the sound of these dishes that I may not like what I ordered. I was concerned they would come and be weird-looking with ingredients I was slightly unfamiliar with and refused to eat. I was definitely worried that this may be too much out of my comfort zone even with the promise of farm to table. And when the amuse arrived and I heard the word foie gras, I almost bolted for the door, given that I have an ethical distaste for the stuff. Thankfully, Caitlin talked me off the ledge and we stuffed the amuse in our mouths, ethics aside and watched as someone came running over the second they saw our noses scrunch up. It was good but the thought of its ingredients was enough to invite a discerning facial expression, which apparently, everyone saw.
Anyways, the courses came well-timed and by the very first one I knew everything was going to be alright. I hate beets, but I loved them in this dish. They were cooked well and went wonderfully with the whipped goat cheese. The coffee resembled dirt and added a depth to the dish I didn’t expect. I scraped it clean, anxious for the next one, which was equally as delicious. Ravioli’s have never ever, been done so well. The portions were also perfect, in fact, far more generous than I would have imagined. Everything was beautifully placed on the plates, so much so, that I became one of those people, taking pictures of everything. The bread that they offered was heavenly, I chose a piece of brioche with bacon, Caitlin had something with parmesan. The main course was life changing and the dessert was more than I could have ever wanted and then some. The whole time, our wine guy kept stopping over, pouring for us and making the dinner very entertaining. I really loved his personality and he added something to the dinner that to me, was priceless. I really enjoyed his anecdotes, as well as his French accent, which could have been real, when he presented our bottle.
Then, when we couldn’t eat anymore, they presented us with 8 mini desserts from macarons to madelines as a thank you for dining with them. They looked amazing but I couldn’t eat them, I was too full. And then, as a goodbye present, they provided us both with a coffee cake, wrapped up in the cutest bundle. WHAT!?! I thought, this never happens. Usually, I leave a dinner this fancy needing a burger. No, no, my friends, quite the opposite, I was fat and happy. Ready to roll myself home.
We had sat there for three hours and it flew by like a flash. We had such a wonderful time, that the concept of time was lost on us. Going to VOLT, was a fantastic experience, one that I will never forget. It’s simply divine to see that success does not breed assholes and that somethings can be exactly how you imagine them. Nothing fell short here. I enjoyed it all. It was worth every moment and every penny. Perhaps some of that had to do with the company I shared, as I have been desperate for my friends recently, seeing as though they all live so far away, but I think everything in this place complimented my evening so well. It’s a night that will go down in the history books.
Even though I didn’t get to touch Mr. Bryan.
Love you Josh. 😉