FOOD: A Volt from the Blue

May 6, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

BY ANNETTE HENNESSEY
Falls Church Times Staff

May 6, 2011

You could say that I’m a pragmatic foodie and definitely NOT a restaurant critic (after all, I’m the one who awarded Domino’s top honors in our pizza contest). I find it hard to criticize any place that allows me to sit at a table and have someone else plan, execute, serve, and clean up a meal. Cooking 7 dinners a week for 14 years for 3 picky eaters will definitely soften your judgmental side!  So when a friend invited me to accompany her to Table 21 at Volt in Frederick, Maryland, earlier this spring, I said “sure” with a shrug, having no idea what a rare treat was being dangled in front of me.

I had a vague recollection that “Top Chef” was somehow involved with chef/owner Brian Voltaggio so decided I should do some research. Since I hadn’t watched the show, I googled and found some clips of episodes – enough to discover he came in second to his brother. Talk about sibling rivalry!  I enjoyed reading the bios from his web site, and perused the menu to see what type of food Volt offered. Gradually, I became aware that a gastronomic experience was awaiting me. Twenty-one mini bites designed by a talented chef especially for a table of eight people who get to watch the kitchen work its magic – dinner and a show all for $121!

Having been counseled by my friend to only eat lightly that day, I had fruit and yogurt for breakfast and a light soup for lunch. Our reservations were at 8:30, and we arrived in Frederick by 8:15 and were shown to the lounge. The restaurant is located in a historic house that has been creatively restored, and I loved the energy of the orange lounge with its low-slung sofas and fantastic light fixtures. Refusing to order cocktails (we’re saving ourselves for Table 21, we explained), the server brought complimentary mocktails to our group anyway. Fruity, yet light with an intriguing flavor – what was it, we asked? Fresh pineapple juice with cream soda, was the answer and it was fabulous.

Soon we were ushered to the coveted seats at Table 21. A bar set around the prep table (with a glass partition) gave us front row seats to a fascinating evening of food creation. We selected a light cava to sip through the appetizers, and then the show began.

There was a server for every two people, and the hostess announced each course as it was laid in front of us: 

  1. Chips and Dip: A fabulous twist to an old party standby, the chips were dehydrated prosciutto
  2. Celeriac Macaroon: Stuffed with foie gras, it shattered in your mouth and melted on your tongue
  3. Mock Oyster: The most creative but not my most favorite, this bubble of salsify and malt vinegar looked like an oyster but popped in your mouth immediately filling it with salty liquid
  4. Yellowfin Tuna Tartare: Exquisite, wrapped with yuzu bubbles that popped and delighted your senses
  5. Devilled Quail Egg: A last minute substitution, this tiny perfectly made devilled egg was a delight
  6. Cherry Glen Farm Goats Cheese Ravioli: OMG – goat cheese, butternut squash, maitake mushrooms…I was in heaven
  7. Sardines with Celeriac and Pear: A unique combination that worked – sardines wrapped around salad of pear and celeriac
  8. Clam Chowder: Deliciously made with bacon woven in every bite
  9. Scallop on Steel Cut Oats: Scallops are a favorite of mine, but I was surprised how well they worked on a bed of savory oatmeal. The textures and tastes showcased Brian Voltaggio’s talent
  10. Black Cod: Smoky with a sweet glaze and a cornbread puree
  11. Hen Egg: Using sous-vide, this translucent egg nestled on a bed of quinoa
  12. Sweetbread: I imagine Volt was a good place to first try sweetbreads! Deliciously creamy paired with savory mushrooms
  13. Winter Garden Salad: A work of art, whipped goat cheese surrounded by carrots and beets looked like a tiny garden
  14. Foie Gras: Served with warm buttered brioche, it simply melted in your mouth
  15. Pork Belly: Salty and crunchy, with intense pork flavored mellowed by cranberry beans and turnip
  16. Sonoma Squab: Smoky dark meat with a hint of orange, this is the only dish I sampled one bite and could leave the rest on my plate*
  17. Creekstone Farm Beef Strip Loin: One perfect bite of beef, potato, rutabaga, turnip, and onion
  18. Ewe’s Blue Cheese Sorbet with Pear: An imaginative twist on the cheese course, a dollop of pear sorbet on dehydrated blue cheese powder
  19. Coconut Lavender Vanilla: Coconut meringue infused with lavender and accompanied by a dehydrated vanilla puff
  20. Dulce de Leche with Lime Sorbet: The sweetness of the dulce de leche was sharpened by an intense lime sorbet
  21. Peanut Salted Popcorn: A decadent end to a decadent feast, dark chocolate sorbet on top of peanut salted popcorn, accompanied by a crème brulee banana and a peanut butter cup had us all licking our plates clean!
  22. Chocolates, Candies, and Macaroons: A sweet to end the evening, we nibbled but did not finish – even though it was all scrumptious

Volt’s kitchen uses a dehydrator to create puffs with intense flavor (think cheese puff texture with intense flavors of beets or vanilla) or thin slivers of produce as accompaniments (pear slices for instance). All of the dishes had balance and clean, clear flavors. And the entertainment value of watching a restaurant kitchen behind the scenes? Priceless.

But the true mastery of Brian Voltaggio? Being able to prepare a finale that has everyone licking their plate at course 21.  Such talent is amazing to watch…and taste.

TABLE 21 @ Volt
21 course tasting menu | advance menu not available
Seating in the kitchen | up to 8 guests | $121/person
Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 7:00
Friday and Saturday 5:30 pm and 8:30 pm
228 North Market Street | Frederick, MD
301.696.VOLT
Table 21 is booked through 2011, and the waiting list for cancellations is “epic” according to the hostess. The restaurant is keeping a list of people who wish to be contacted when they open up their 2012 calendar. Call for more information.

* In our party of four, all of us opted out of one course that “didn’t speak to us.” Interestingly, they were all different dishes: sweetbreads, pork belly, quail, and dulce de leche.

Many thanks to Mary Patton for her excellent photography.

Talking Trash: The In’s and Out’s of New Bins

December 16, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

By ANNETTE HENNESSEY
Falls Church Times Staff

December 16, 2010

As reported by Wyatt Shields at the City Council meeting last week, Falls Church City households received new rolling trash bins earlier this month.  In the City Focus last week, residents were informed that old trash cans can be recycled on December 20-21, if they are rinsed and placed face down at the curb by 7:00 a.m. on Monday, December 20.  Before deciding to get rid of old containers, you may want to read the helpful guide on the City’s web site.

The City has also revised its Solid Waste Guidelines, based on the new bins and “Waste Wednesday”.  Some highlights:

  • Next Monday, the City will collect all kinds of trash receptacles (metal and plastic, including lids and green bins) as long as they are clean. The green bins that are in good shape will be kept for redistribution to customers in town homes. Ones in moderately good shape will be used by the City for events and for other uses. Cracked and broken bins will go to recycling along with most of the trash cans. If you do not recycle your containers on December 20, you may put them on the curb any Wednesday marked “please recycle this container”.
  • You may want to keep your old trash can to hold brush (but not yard waste).  Trash cans may be used for brush as long as the brush is stacked neatly in one direction, the can is less than 30 gallons and weighs less than 50 pounds when full. The can should be labeled “brush” and the brush should be visible sticking out of the top or the truck driver may not see it. Branches must still be less than 5 feet in length and less than 6 inches in diameter. Yard waste must still go into brown bags with orange stickers.
  • City policy restricts trash and recylcling bin weight to 200 pounds for safety reasons. 
  • If residents have an overflow of recycling, the excess may be placed in green bins, cardboard boxes, paper bags or extra containers clearly marked “recycling.”  Please keep all recycling separate from the trash.

And in this season of giving, remember wrapping paper — except for the foil metallic paper — can be recycled, along with all the gift boxes. I know for one, the Hennessey household will have an overflow of recycling on Wednesday, December 29!

THEATER REVIEW: Don’t Miss Les Mis!

November 19, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

By ANNETTE HENNESSEY
Falls Church Times Staff

November 19, 2010

Our family went to see Les Miserables at George Mason High School last night and I have some advice for you:  Run, don’t walk, to buy your ticket for this show. Strong leads, melodic orchestra, fabulous cast, and professional sets combine to make this a sophisticated, entertaining evening for only $8. The students had amazing stage presence, and sound and projection were excellent.  Effectively using lighting and screens, the staging matched the students’ performances.  Costuming was professional and in keeping with the musical’s setting. 

Given the size of George Mason High School, Pamela Ricker has done a masterful job of maximizing the pool of talent for a very ambitious musical.  I have to say, it was as enjoyable as any London or Broadway production I’ve seen … including Les Miserables

For less than the price of a movie ticket, you can enjoy local theater at its best (and the Harry Potter movie will be around for a while).  So come see what a small high school can do.  Tickets are on sale at George Mason High School both Friday and Saturday nights at 6:00 pm with the auditorium doors opening at 6:30 p.m.  The show begins at 7:00 p.m.

Please note that the show will be reviewed by the Cappies, the area student- theater criticism program, on Friday, November 19, which means there will be 50 fewer seats available than usual. For more information on Cappies, visit www.cappies.com.

LIFE: The Summer of Benign Neglect

September 5, 2010 by · 5 Comments 

By ANNETTE HENNESSEY
Falls Church Times Staff

September 5, 2010

The weather changed overnight, the pool closes on Monday, school starts on Tuesday, and the calendar is filling up. Summer is officially over.

As I reflect on our summer, I realized that our summer was one of benign neglect, for reasons beyond my control. With record heat in July, I gave my garden up to Nature’s forces – our water was needed to keep our newly landscaped lawn and shrubs from dying of shock.   Who knew we’d still get a bountiful crop of goodies – the white eggplant and cherry tomatoes were plentiful and are still producing.  So our zucchini, cucumbers, and larger tomatoes withered on the vine…our long beans were champs and kept on growin’ through 95° heat.   

My ‘tweens also blossomed through this summer of benign neglect while I managed a database migration at work.  Finding few camps that fit with vacation plans or interests, they had a lot more unscheduled time than in past years. 

I learned that a simple To Do list left on the kitchen table with no nagging was completed beyond my expectations.  Working as a team, they were able to get the lawn mowed (one to pick up the sticks and start the ancient mower, one to mow the lawn in neat rows). Even though, honestly, there was a lot of screen time, a request to “turn off the computer and TV and find something else to do” was met by more books being read this summer – even when it meant they had to walk to the library to check out the next book of a series.  Baskets were shot with friends, the dog visited the dog park frequently, and outings with friends were organized – without a lot of intervention on my part.  We used the pool more than ever.

Hmm… maybe this is a trend.  Or maybe it was a fluke.  But it was a great summer.  How was yours?

This article is the first in an occasional Sunday series about life in general.  Ideas for stories?  Send them to contact@fallschurchtimes.com.

FOOD: Pizza Wars

September 2, 2010 by · 12 Comments 

By ANNETTE HENNESSEY
Falls Church Times Staff

September 3, 2010

After a hectic week in our house, nothing welcomes the weekend better than ordering out for pizza.  (Add a glass of wine and a good comedy from Netflix and I’m in heaven!)

Even though we’ve been ordering pizza for years, our family hasn’t formed a firm allegiance to a local pizza joint.  So this summer, when faced with a lazy day, we decided to blind taste-test eight cheese pizzas in preparation for the coming school year.

My two kids called four friends to help with the judging.  We created score sheets and a tracking grid to note comments about delivery times, pick-up process, price, and size.  We identified eight different restaurants in Falls Church City or just over the line – ranging from national chains to one-of-a-kind pizza parlors.  We ordered medium pizzas (when available) with just cheese. Read more

IT’S SUMMERTIME! Check Out These Great Summer Camps

June 16, 2010 by · 5 Comments 

By ANNETTE HENNESSEY
Falls Church Times Staff

June 16, 2010

This Friday, school’s out in Falls Church City…and summer officially begins!  Even though swimming pools have been open since Memorial Day, the lazy hazy days of summer don’t really begin until you no longer have to be at a bus stop at o’dark thirty.

So what are your plans this summer?  Still looking for a good camp or two?  The Falls Church City Recreation and Parks Department offers something for everyone of all ages.  From Mommy & Me swim lessons to horseback riding, sports to science, art to adventure, tennis to fencing, a wide range of camps still have openings, according to Amy Maltese, camp coordinator for the City’s Recreation and Parks Department.  Click here for a full list of camps with openings.

Descriptions for each camp can be found in the 2010 Summer Camp Brochure which is available online at http://www.fallschurchva.gov/. Hard copies of this brochure are also available at the Falls Church Community Center. For additional information, contact Amy Maltese at 703-248-5307 .

MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG:
Falls Church Times Celebrates 2nd Anniversary

June 8, 2010 by · 14 Comments 

By ANNETTE HENNESSEY
Falls Church Times Staff

June 8, 2010

As most of you know, two years ago the Falls Church Times was born.  According to George Southern, our self-appointed historian, it was conceived on May 18 but the first story appeared on June 8, 2008.   We really didn’t pull it together until the fall, but since George went on record with June 8, it’s now our official anniversary date.

With a couple of years under our belt, we’ve had to deal with changes. Jimmy Scarano departed for graduate school. Election coverage stretched our staff.  More and more people began expecting us to have indepth investigative reporting, not understanding that the Times was an all-volunteer effort.  But along the way, we’ve stayed true to our founding principles:

  • The Falls Church Times remains non-profit.
  • Our comment policy has created a forum for City residents to debate in a robust, yet civil manner; no personal attacks or mean-spiritedness are allowed.
  • Through our opinion pieces and Community Comment, the Falls Church Times has shown its willingness to publish opposing Read more

SATURDAY 6/5: Farmers Market Chef Demonstration

June 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The next Farmers Market Chef will be this Saturday, June 5th from 9am to 11am at the Falls Church Farmers Market.  The chef will be Chris Edwards, Executive Chef from the Restaurant at Patowmack Farms.

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