This past weekend was one of the best I can recall in quite a while. It was the weekend of my 21st birthday and was filled with day after day of extraordinary eating. I mean, what better excuse to gorge on extraneous amounts of rather unhealthy yet delicious things than it being you birthday. Its just one of those times you have to live a little.
I had a great party at my house on Friday where friends and family came over for eating and celebrating. I cooked up a Southern feast (because I am crazy and actually like to cook my own birthday dinner) complete with chicken and andouille gumbo, cucumber and sour cream salad, southern pecan and apple salad, and an amazing citrus peach cobbler (recipe to come).
Saturday, my actual birthday, was very special because my sister Nia came home from Boston for the weekend. We had awesome Mexican food at La Sandia Restaurant along with a pitcher of Sangria (my first legal drink!) and though my belly was full of shrimp enchiladas and grilled plantains all day, I still saved room for an evening snack of sourdough, Robusto cheese, and fig and walnut butter. But that’s not all! Nia and I also made strawberry buttermilk ice cream that evening from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (my birthday present from her) that we devoured as our late-night movie snack.
But the best eating of the weekend took place on Sunday when my mom, dad, Nia, and I went to brunch at Volt Restaurant in Frederick MD, acclaimed restaurant of Top Chef’s runner up, Bryan Voltaggio. I’ve wanted to go for ages so I figured my 21st birthday would be an amazing opportunity to finally go. And although they offer great things for both lunch and dinner, I had to choose brunch, my favorite meal of the day where sweet meets savory for some of the most innovative and delicious food out there.
Volt is stunning inside and out. Inside the old brick building is a modern and sleek interior, both very classy and elegant yet with slightly masculine and rustic touches. Walls and linens are bright white while the ceilings are painted chocolate brown. Modern geometric light fixtures hang down, lighting the rainbow colored graphic prints on the walls, each portraying the various shops and restaurants in downtown Frederick. And servers, though dressed in white shirts, black pants, and ties, walk around in Converse sneakers. The atmosphere was very relaxed yet little did I know I was about to receive the most attentive and flawless service I could imagine.
Although our meal was a three-course prix fixe with six starters, seven entrees, and four desserts to choose from, we still received a plethora of food outside the main meals. We were first served fennel pollen dusted bread sticks to munch on as we perused the food menu and I sipped on my celebratory glass of champagne. Later, we got to pick from the breakfast breadbasket. This was a hard decision with about six breads to choose from. But, with the four of us plus a double dip into the basket between main course and dessert, we managed to try all of them but one. My first pick was the bacon and sage biscuit, a light a fluffy number speckled with huge pieces of apple wood smoked bacon. My second choice was sweeter, a citrus scone filled with lots of lemon zest and topped with a crunchy sugar crust. Both, smeared with local butter, were so delicious. And if that wasn’t enough, we also could not resist ordering the maple bacon doughnuts off the accompaniments part of the menu so we could each have a taste of this salty and sweet delight.
But finally, our menu items arrived with a brigade of four servers and they swooped the plates in front of each in our party at the exact same moment, landing between our always refreshed and replaced silverware. Our wonderful waiter then would go on to explain the details of each of our dishes before leaving us to indulge. For the first course, I chose the goat cheese ravioli made with black squid ink pasta and local Cherry Glen Farm goat cheese. Surrounding the perfectly al dente rounds were kernels of charred sweet corn and Miatake mushrooms and a balsamic brown butter sauce. Though rich and creamy, the dish was just enough, leaving my taste buds satisfied but my stomach still ready for the many more things to come. The other notable starter was Nia’s. She ordered Bryan Voltaggio’s signature “Spring Garden”, and array of beets, greens, carrots, other vegetables, dressing, and coffee grounds arranged to resemble a garden in the dirt.
I was also extremely satisfied with my main course. Most times, when I go to a fancy restaurant, I tend to order fish just because we don’t make it much at home so it is always to treat to get it. And, I trusted that in a restaurant like Volt, it would be a really fresh and good quality fish, cooked just right. I was right to assume this because it was one of the best pieces of fish I’ve ever eaten. I ordered the halibut, served alongside a farro and spring bean risotto, tomato fondue, and anise hyssop. The salty crust on top of that piece of fish was unbelievable and I held each bite in my mouth, savoring the juiciness and the terrific flavor. The accompaniments were delicious as well, mild enough to let the fish shine while still aiding in enhancing its flavor.
As we waited for the dessert, I was yet again presented with another unexpected part of the meal, a special birthday dessert, complete with candle. Funnily enough, it actually turned out to be my favorite dish of the entire meal. It was a mini vanilla bean and pistachio semifreddo, flavored with chocolate flecks and orange zest and set in an elegant spiraled mold. I guess since I’ve been experimenting with ice cream lately, I was even more excited by this, but nonetheless, its taste was almost indescribable and I will definitely be experimenting with these flavors in the future. The texture was different than ice cream, icier yet also denser and more custardy. It was light and not too rich so it served as a refreshing palate cleanser before second dessert.
Finally, among the four of us, we ordered three of the four desserts (no one got the cheese plate for dessert) so we all shared and got to try these amazing confections. We also got a cafetiere of Highlander Grogg coffee to accompany the desserts, a sweet butterscotch flavored coffee that was strong and absolutely delicious. For dessert, Nia ordered a rich goat cheesecake paired with black raspberry sorbet, almond crumbs, a citrus cookie, and rhubarb cookie. My parents got the peach tarte tatin, served with mascarpone ice cream, cinnamon pudding, crème fraiche, and few other droplets of sauces. They really enjoyed this as a refreshing a seasonal way to end the meal. But I could not resist the dessert called “textures of chocolate” which turned out to be a gastronomic piece of art and yet another inspiration for my lifelong goal of going to pastry school. Amongst a snaking strip of chocolate mousse were pools of chocolate caramel, cocoa nibs, chocolate ice cream, chocolate dust, and burnt chocolate crisps. It was so rich yet I ate every bite, not daring to leave any bit of this amazingness on the plate. Finally, as the last plates were cleared, we each received a gift bag to take home, filled with a fresh blueberry crumb muffin.
My 21st birthday brunch was a meal that I will remember for the rest of my life. It was spent with those that I love while eating wonderful food. I can’t think of anything better.