FOOD: A Volt from the Blue

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
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.

May 6, 2011 


One Response to “FOOD: A Volt from the Blue”

  1. Jim Breiling, North Arlington on May 6th, 2011 12:59 pm

    Wow. Engaging and informative. Thanks!

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