Saturday, March 17, 2012


Less than 50 miles from Washington, DC, Leesburg, Annapolis and Baltimore, VOLT is located in the heart of Frederick's nationally-renowned historic district - an architectural treasure trove of 18th and 19th Century buildings which house hundreds of specialty stores, antique shops, bed & breakfasts and restaurants. Exceptional dining awaits you at VOLT, where Executive Chef Bryan Voltaggio's seasonal entre├ęs showcase classic flavor combinations prepared with fresh, local ingredients.

For my birthday, Keith totally surprised me and took me up to Frederick, MD for the weekend.  He arranged for us to stay at the Stone Manor in nearby Middletown and made dinner reservations at VOLT.  I wanted to eat here ever since watching Bryan Voltaggio compete with his younger brother, Michael, on the popular culinary show, Top Chef.  The restaurant was not immediately recognizable, but stands apart from the businesses along Market Street with its bold glaring steel letters framed by a 19th Century red-brick facade.  Free parking is available in a private lot for VOLT guests only.  Quartered within a spectacular brownstone mansion, the restaurant's distinctive ambience combines Victorian elegance with contemporary, urban sophistication. The restaurant's main dining room, awash in a palette of amber and burnt rose, pays homage to the building's original Gilded Era construction. The glass enclosed, oval-shaped Conservatory - designated for private dining - yields panoramic views of the mansion's walled garden and provides natural light.

Diners have a choice of the four course prix fixe menu for $80, seven course kitchen menu for $95, or the chef's table seating for $150 per person.  Since we came all the way, we decided on the seven course kitchen menu.  The mysterious menu simply lists the star ingredients of each dish, with no indication of how it is prepared, so most diners may be perplexed. But given the top chef status, I decided to push my type-A mindset aside and enjoy whatever was to be presented.  Additionally, the well-oiled team of servers are knowledgeable in each item and willing to answer any questions you may have.  Compliments of the chef, we were presented with one of the most fun dishes I have ever had - a trio of canapes that are whimsical, delicious, and set the tone for the gastronomical wonderland we were to embark upon.  The macaroon of foie gras melted in my mouth, the chilled leak soup with lobster was decadent, while the "mock oyster" popped with refreshing sea flavor.  Already, Keith and I were blown away.  An assorted bread basket came around and I chose the cheddar and chive biscuit that was intense with flavor.  Keith chose the cornbread and a bacon and herb brioche muffin.  I could have eaten more bread, but knew I had to save room for the plethora of food to come.

First in our tasting menu was a light sashimi of kampachi, aka amber jack.  Dotted with blood orange, the fish was buttery and thick, still very mild in flavor and the fennel brought out a nice bright acidic bite.  Second, was a play on chicken noodle soup with noodles made from the cabbage and spices found in the pickled Korean side dish known as kimchee.  The chicken and egg provided a depth of flavor to the broth, however any trace of spice was missing.  Third, we ate a nice piece of turbot fish that was cooked sous vide, which created an interesting texture with very mild flavors.  This was probably the least memorable of all the dishes we had, although still very good.  Fourth, one of my favorite dishes, was the goat cheese ravioli with earthy and fragrant black trumpet mushrooms and a parsley root foam.  I noticed this was a popular choice among the other diners at nearby tables as well.  Fifth, I had a vegetarian alternative of mixed root vegetables that were mediocre compared to all the other dishes, while Keith ate his favorite dish of the night:  sweet breads with bacon and sunchokes.  He has had sweet breads before, but never had them prepared this way - crisp on the outside, firm and tender on the inside, with lots of flavor.  A definite highlight to the menu and stand out in Keith's opinion.  Sixth, another vegetarian alternative for me of oatmeal with dried maitake mushrooms.  The juxtaposition of soft and crunchy textures was very unusual and intriguing.  Keith had beef with potatoes, turnips, and pearl onions.  The beef was cooked perfectly and paired well with the onions, but was not really outstanding.

The last course in the tasting menu was dessert of a frozen chocolate ball on top of marshmallow with peanut ice cream.  The most artistic presentation of all the dishes, slightly derivative of Cubism, it was very rich and almost a little too heavy, especially after this multi-course meal.  Additionally, for my birthday, I was presented with a second dessert of vanilla semi fredo with pistachio and cocoa nibs.  When we thought our courses were over, a dessert sampler of truffles, macarons, marshmallows, and fruit jellies was brought out with the check.  And if that is not enough, they sent us each home with a little package of freshly made almond crumb cake to enjoy for breakfast the next morning!

The top notch service continued throughout the night adding to the high score, yet the extremely loud atmosphere and tight quarters of the tables lessened the enjoyable relaxing ambience I was expecting.  Furthermore, an inaccessible air is created by the requirement of reservations one month in advance and the far distance to travel.  Nonetheless, our three-hour dinner at VOLT was one of the best dining experiences to date with generous portions for tasting menu standards; superior local ingredients; innovative cooking techniques and approaches; modern and creative presentations; and incredible attentive service.  Chef Bryan peeped his head into the dining room a couple times throughout the evening, so it was evident that he cared what was going on in the front of the house as well as managing the distinguished and premium workings of the kitchen.  VOLT is a great "destination" spot and worthwhile the drive up from DC for special occasions.  I do recommend overnight lodging so you have time to recover from the intense food coma that is to come.  I want to especially thank my awesome husband, Keith, for treating me out to VOLT to celebrate my birthday.  It was truly a memorable experience.

Total Rating: 4.45
Food: 5, Price: 4, Service: 5, Ambience: 3, Accessibility: 2

What I ate:
canape trio
foie gras stuffed macaroon, leak soup with lobster and basil oil, salsify "mock oyster"

blood orange, fennel, ginger

daikon radish, chicken thigh, quail egg, basil

butternut squash, radish, brussels sprouts

black trumpets, ash, parsley root

cheddar, radish, maroon carrots

steel cut oats, sea greens, yeast

semi fredo
vanilla with pistachio and cocoa nibs

marshmallow, caramel, peanut

dessert sampler
chocolate hazelnut truffles, lemongrass marshmallow,
passionfruit jellies, caramel popcorn macarons

Plus Keith ate:
sweet breads
sunchokes,  black kale, bacon

chard, potatoes, gold ball turnips

Volt on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. You have successfully made me drool! My wife and I will be eating the 7-course menu in a few weeks, and now I'm REALLY having trouble waiting!


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