Last month, some friends and I made our way up to Frederick, Maryland to dine at VOLT – which is of course, Top Chef season 6 runner up Bryan Voltaggio’s fabulous restaurant. Word has it that since his appearance on the show, the restaurant’s business has picked up so much that you have to reserve months in advance…and if you want a seat at the famed “Table 21” (their 21 course tasting menu) on a Saturday, you’ll have to wait until next year! (Even if you happen to be Tom Colicchio…they run a very democratic system, lol).

Our reservation fell on an extremely timely week – it was on the Saturday following the Top Chef finale! Unfortunately, the chef himself was out of town that weekend, so we didn’t get a chance to say hello, but members of his staff were extremely gracious and made up for it by regaling stories of Bryan’s – and the restaurant’s – Top Chef related experiences. ♥

We had a reservation at the Chef’s Table, which is 5 courses plus amuse bouche and petit fours. You can either choose the Kitchen Menu or the Market Vegetable (vegetarian) Menu. Obviously our entire party went with the former. From the Kitchen Menu, everything is preselected with the exception of the second course. You can either get the ravioli, or, for $12 extra, opt for the duck liver (pictured above).

The decor in the small room designated for the Chef’s Table was sparse and white. We could see the kitchen from where we sat, and also the small nook where they seat Table 21. It was very cozy and intimate…I liked it very much. When each course arrived, they would have wait staff poised behind each diner, so they could set down each person’s dish in one coordinated swoop. Then the waiter would explain each dish very helpfully.

Aren’t these cute? These were the breadsticks they served us as we pondered over the menu. (Not that it took too long to decide on the Kitchen Menu..) They had a nice crunch, salty and delicious!

And speaking of breads, they had several piping hot and tasty breads to choose from, bringing them by every so often to replenish us between courses. I picked the brioche with bacon and thyme, and it was heavenly. (*____*) Loved the thyme in particular.

This trio of macaroons was only the first of THREE amuse bouche. I seem to recall Bryan making something similar to these macaroons on Top Chef, perhaps on the bachelor / bachelorette party episode? In any case, these came in three flavors: beet with foie gras, Caesar saladm and sweet & sour guacamole. The gauc one was my favorite, but they were all very good! Flaky and light on the outside, with a burst of flavor on the inside.

Second amuse was my favorite of all the amuses, a duck ragout with fennel gel. So tender and flavorful! Loved it.

And the last of the amuse, radish salad with lemon vinaigrette and vanilla salt. A very nice and refreshing bite!

shiitake velouté pinenut sabayon, chili oil, basil

Fabulously creamy and delicious mushroom soup! Though surprisingly not very “shiitake” but maybe that’s a good thing. I like a nice and subtle shiitake.

cherry glen farm goat cheese ravioli
butternut squash, sage brown butter, chanterelle mushrooms

One person at our tabled opted for the ravioli, of which I had a bite. Yum! I got the duck liver myself, but would not have been disappointed with the ravioli either.

The duck liver (top of this post) was beautifully presented! It was described on the menu as “hudson valley duck liver seckel pears, pistachio, anise, vanilla brioche.” It was SWEET! And very light, like a mousse. You would never think that duck liver could taste like this. It was like starting off with dessert.

california sturgeon quinoa,
black trumpet mushrooms, salsify, proscuitto broth

The fish was a little over cooked but otherwise absolutely delicious. I loved the black trumpet mushrooms with it!

red wattle pork belly moustarda
cannellini beans, petite red ribbon sorrel

Wow, what a pork belly! Loved this playful presentation, and the flavors! Fatty and delicious… (how many ways can you describe food as “delicious”?) Probably one of favorites of the meal.

pineland farm beef strip ratte potatoes,
dragon carrots, garlic transparency, tokyo turnips

Deceptively simple presentation, but there was a lot going on here! The garlic “transparency” was something I’d never seen before…it was like edible garlic paper. X) What looks like a dollop of orange colored sauce in the upper left corner was actually something more gelatinous, made from a complex technique that the waiter explained to us later. Definitely some crazy feats of molecular gastronomy at work here.

meyer lemon curd clementine,
ginger ice cream, anise hyssop, ginger glass

(*____*) Wow, smooth lemon curd that was just absurdly good. So good in fact, that one person from my party wanted to order another.


I think the waiter misunderstood, thinking that we wanted a second round of desserts for everybody. This came out several minutes later, at which point I was so stuffed I couldn’t eat it, much less type frantically into my iPhone what it actually was. XD;; It was probably another dessert they were serving from the regular menu that night.

As if that wasn’t enough, they then brought out this semi freddo dessert, for our friend’s birthday. X) I don’t remember what flavor it was…lemon? Pistachio?

A few of us shared a double sized French press Kona coffee. I have to have some kind of hot beverage with my desserts. Loved this coffee! Really rich and full bodied. Aren’t the nuggets of sugar cute?

The petit fours consisted of tiny bite-sized ice cream sandwiches…adorable! There were enough for two a piece, but I could only finish one.

And something for the road! Cranberry citrus spice muffins tied up with ribbon to take home. The check was placed underneath them.

Final verdict: WOW. Quite possibly one of the best meals of my life! It’s a splurge that’s well worth the price tag, and the long drive up to Frederick. I’d love to try Table 21 one of these days, impossible as it is to reserve a spot there. X)

Nice post! I went to Volt in October for my anniversary, and will be going again this coming September for Table 21 (yes, I had to make the reservation about 10 months in advance).

Thanks! And ooo…have a fabulous time! The wait will feel like forever, but it’ll be well worth it, I’m sure.


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