Thursday, September 22, 2011

Food (Almost) Field Trip: Volt

Maine Lobster Prepared a la Volt, Frederick

Without traffic on I-270 (how often does that happen?), Frederick, Maryland is a 45 minute drive from DC; in rush hour (most of the afternoon), it can take twice the time.  So to Eating Around DC, dining in Frederick falls somewhere between "local" and a "food field trip."  Bryan Voltaggio's acclaimed Volt occupies a restored 19th century mansion in the heart of Frederick.  The setting is both historical and charming, but what is the best way for DC residents to fully enjoy the experience given the distance?  That is the question B and I have been asking ourselves.  And this past weekend we decided to stay at a bed and breakfast in Frederick to fully embrace this adventure.

Volt itself soared (details below), but the overnight experience did not!  I will start with the bad in case you are considering such an escape.  Frederick is small, charming and remote--the perfect setting for a quiet night away, right?  Wrong.  At Hill House, a mere block  from Volt, the noise throughout the dead of a Thursday night was unreal, and louder than any hotel we have ever stayed in -- London, Rome, Paris, or New York.  Owing to a street sweeper, trash truck, and perhaps, though I can't be sure, helicopter, all of which made extended cameos between 2 and 4am, I cannot condone the place.  The Victorian windows of the B and B were no guard against any of this noise.  But Volt is worth the trip, and the afterglow of such a dining experience should be allowed to shine, so save yourself the frustration and go with another after-dinner plan (drive, car service, or maybe a country inn nearby).

The white tablecloth dining room at Volt is minimalistic and elegant.  You enter through a tiled doorway under a mosaic that simply and appropriately proclaims Eat.  The numerous servers are darting around everywhere in their trademark brown converse sneakers.  Simultaneously attentive and palpably nervous, they purport that the menu, priced a la carte, is designed so that you can enjoy all four courses, but the portions we ordered were large enough that many could have easily been shared. 

While the menu was presented--and orders solicited--with a bit of haste, after the cocktails arrived, the pacing improved markedly.  With my first sip of a cherry-infused concoction and my first bite of a foie gras-infused fennel macaroon, Volt won me over.  This is dining as entertainment, with flavors (vegetable ash), textures (soy air), and presentation (vibrant colors set off against oversized white plates) all coming together as a cast of characters to entertain the palate and the eye.

The six varietals of bread were all addictive.  The bacon brioche was a buttery puff of sweetness; the cheddar and chive biscuit was a savory Southern-inspired bite.  Unlimited house-filtered sparkling water is complimentary and refilled consistently throughout the meal.

The ingredients of each course were artfully deconstructed on the plate, and the flavors merged in your mouth.  A hearty cylinder of Hudson Valley foie gras was as rich as would be expected, but that was offset tastefully by the color and sweetness of crimson watermelon cubes and cucamelon slivers; the accompanying mini brioche loaf was quite adorable (and delicious). A pasta course of Cherry Glen Farm goat cheese ravioli, yellow corn, vegetable ash, maitake mushrooms, and balsamic brown butter tasted like a perfect early fall harvest on a plate.  The protein portion of the entrees was the star of the show.  B ordered chicken and I opted for lobster, which were heightened by the colorful and rich sides of bacon lardons and tender carrots respectively.  Dessert tasted as good as it looked.  A deconstructed carrot cake was moist and ethereal with a spiced foam; a rich cheesecake was offset in both color and flavor by vibrant purple figs.

This is not your average meal and while not as pricey as similar caliber restaurants in the heart of DC, it is a culinary investment.  An over-the-top dinner for two with four courses, cocktails, and wine, was upwards of $300.   And in case you want more (and I think you will), each diner leaves with an individual coffee cake for the next morning.
Volt on Urbanspoon

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