Editor’s note: While this event took place last year, we wanted to repost it here for our new readers instead of having to point your browser elsewhere. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and we’ll see you back here on Monday, if not sooner!
Rachel’s 30th birthday was a few weeks ago, and since this was one of those milestone birthdays and all, I had to make sure that this would be a memorable one. You see, despite Rachel’s reluctance to admit that’s she’s 30 (which she thinks automatically labels her as “old”), she was still carded when she bought a movie ticket to Tropic Thunder last year. So, um, yeah.
Anyway, we had been meaning to go to Volt long before chef Bryan Voltaggio was slated to be a contestant on this season’s Top Chef, but it wasn’t until September that we had found out about the amazing 21 course menu served inside the kitchen. This sounded like quite the experience so when it came time to plan her birthday, I decided to make the reservation later that month in fear of it booking up because of Top Chef starting around the same time.
Furthermore, I wanted to keep this dinner a surprise, and since Table 21 is a communal table that sits up to four people, I called up our friends Kim and Brian to see if they wanted to be my partners in crime for this instead of being paired up with some random patrons. They went with the plan since they also had an upcoming wedding anniversary to celebrate, plus they’re awesome. Our only problem was how we were going to surprise Rachel when Volt is situated all the way up in Frederick.
Well, leave it to Kim to create a fake invitation for an early holiday party her coworker was supposedly having up in Frederick the very same day of the reservation. Rachel amazingly bought it since Kim begged her go as her beau had work to do that evening. Kim had also said that they’d stop and grab a drink at Volt first so Rachel could take a peek at Mr. Voltaggio since she blatantly has a crush on him (dare I say even had a dream about him? But I digress).
Anyway, Rachel just made the MARC train up to Frederick while it took me nearly two hours to make the drive up to 270, but I was still able to arrive early enough and meet Brian before the two of them showed up. The surprised look of Rachel’s face seeing Brian and I standing at the bar had already made my night.
The hostess then took our coats and guided us past the dining room which created even more confusion for Rachel until we were ultimately seated at a table inside the kitchen that was literally within arm’s reach from where the chefs were working, including Mr. Bryan Voltaggio himself. Rachel could not stop gawking.
Course #1: Our first course was presented by the sommelier in what was described as a homemade cream soda made with Absolut vodka. It was actually dispensed via a seltzer bottle and then poured into a martini glass which provided a sneak preview of the creative innovations Volt would provide later that evening. It was like drinking an alcoholic Dr. Browns. I might have to start making a habit of adding vodka to my cream soda.
Course #2: Bryan himself came over to the table and introduced himself to everyone while describing the most amazing appetizer ever, his own rendition of chips and dip. We were then served dried prosciutto “chips” accompanied with a bowl of rich potato dip. We were only into our second course but this one stood out as one of my favorites because of how unique and delicious it was.
Course #3: Up next was a bite of avocado filled with tuna tartar topped with wasabi foam. It was very good but the portion could’ve been a little bigger, but maybe that’s because I love tuna.
Course #4: Shitake with chili oil and pine nuts. Now I’m not sure how they made this dish, but it was hands-down the most “scientific” of the courses served. Volt prides itself on molecular gastronomy, but it’s utterly jaw-dropping to see shitake mushrooms in liquid, spherical form. Just an amazing sight to behold and, of course, really tasty!
Course #5: Trio of macaroons. Just the presentation alone blew me away. Three macaroons each individually placed on three different spoons. The first was a take on Caesar salad, the second was guacamole, while the last was beets. Each time you placed one in your mouth it instantly melted followed by a rich flavor of the filling. You just don’t see this sort of thing in other restaurants
Course #6: Boneless chicken wing. Gotta love this story: Bryan asked us if we saw the episode of Top Chef when his brother concocted this dish. Turns out it was Bryan’s to begin with and he let Michael use it on the show! Anyway, it was of course incredible. Just the right amount of buffalo sauce flavor accompanied with bleu cheese crumbles that were frozen via liquid nitrogen. (Forgot to take a pic prior to consumption…)
Course #7: Clam chowder. Really rich, a little salty, but still very satisfying. I’m pretty sure that every ingredient besides the broth was in miniature cube form (including the clams).
Course #8: Bryan came over and introduced this dish himself while shaving white truffles over the perfectly-cooked . It was accompanied with salsify and caviar and proved to be another excellent course. The eggs were provided by nearby Whitmore Farm as Mr. Voltaggio ensures that all of his items are locally produced and farm fresh at Volt.
Course #9: Goat cheese ravioli and butternut squash. Yes, this was the same ravioli that was featured last night on Top Chef, and let me tell you, it was downright incredible. Perfect flavor and texture. One of the top courses of the night.
Course #10: Butter poached lobster with forbidden rice and coconut air. Another dish that was hit out of the park. Just an incredibly delicious, rich piece of meat that was cooked to perfection. I’m not sure if I’ve ever ate forbidden rice prior to Table 21, but now I definitely want to buy some and cook it with some fish the next opportunity I get.
Course #11: Seared halibut with risotto. Another solid dish. It was a bittersweet moment because I was really enjoying the fish but soon realized we were halfway through our meal. The best was yet to come though.
Course #12: Crispy veal sweetbread with flavors of picata. Delicious.
Course #13: Iberico pork trotters with a trio of beans. I was looking forward to this dish since it sounded interesting, plus the serving was a generous portion (two pieces per plate). You could somewhat compare it to pulled pork that was then breaded and deep-fried. Rachel even gave me some of hers since she’s not a huge pork fan. Score.
Course #14: Hudson Valley fois gras with vanilla brioche. Just incredible. We took our time spreading the fois gras over the homemade brioche just because we didn’t want this course to end. A favorite amongst all four of us.
Course #15: Braised Longnecker Farm Rabbit. Probably my absolute favorite dish of the night. The rabbit was incredibly succulent and the way Bryan infused the applewood smoked bacon into the meat was nearly breathtaking. I was really blown away by how good this dish tasted. Well done, chef.
Course #16: Quail, accompanied with brussel sprouts. I forgot to bring the menu with me while writing this up so unfortunately I cannot recall the other ingredients, but yet again, Bryan did not disappoint. The quail was very flavorful and proved to be another highlight of the protein courses thus served that evening.
Course #17: . Another home run. The lamb was perfectly cooked and meshed really well with the curry. Oh hell, it was probably the best lamb I’ve ever had.
Course #18: Wagyu beef with potato puree and garlic chip transparency. First off, the potatoes, just like the aforementioned lamb, were the best I ever ate. Words can’t describe how full of flavor they were. As for the beef, well, I wish I had seconds. I’m a huge steak fan so I was looking forward to this one the most as I had never had Wagyu before. Incredibly tender and perfectly executed. This was also the last entrée course which was kind of a relief because we were so full (yes, even me).
Course #19: Cheese course featuring cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy, accompanied with a tarragon crisp and gelato. I’m not a cheese buff by any stretch of the imagination but it was still an enjoyable course. The gelato added a pleasant sweetness to the cheese and served as a nice segue to the forthcoming desserts.
Course #20: Dulce de Leche goat cheesecake with green apple sorbet. Rachel was pretty much floored by how good this dessert was and always recalls it first when looking back on our Table 21 experience. It was that amazing. The white chocolate power surrounding the cheesecake was also a very nice touch and added even more flavor to an already outstanding course.
Course #21: Three flavors of white: coconut, vanilla, and lavender. Another memorable dessert that was both creative in its composition and presentation. It was comprised of coconut ice cream, vanilla pudding, and lavender power. Really different yet really satisfying.
Course #22: Chocolate peanut butter mouse. This was probably my favorite dessert of the night. You can never go wrong with the incredible combination of chocolate and peanut butter, especially when it’s prepared from a restaurant like Volt. Really rich and had a nice, crispy texture on the bottom.
Course #23: Mignardises – miniature homemade ice cream sandwiches. Volt can do wrong. It was sad to finish these bite-size desserts since it concluded what was perhaps the best meal I’ve ever had in my entire life.
When we headed out after spending nearly four hours (!) at Table 21, we saw Bryan at the bar talking to a few guests while the kitchen was shutting down for the evening. Rachel asked if he could sign her menu and, if possible, take a picture with us. He couldn’t have been a nicer guy about it.
I applaud both him and his staff for having such a unique restaurant in this area that not only provides great food and service, but also cares so much about supporting local businesses and the community. Would Volt work in DC? Definitely. But there’s a certain charm about the restaurant being situated in Frederick that simply cannot be replicated elsewhere. I can’t wait to go back up again.