Some times you have a good week. And sometimes you have an awesome week. And last week was a super awesome week.
In the course of celebrating my birthday I got to visit both of Bryan Voltaggio’s DC area restaurants, Volt in Frederick, MD and Range which is in DC about 10 feet shy of the Maryland state line. Now both restaurants focus on local ingredients, resulting in seasonal menus that change at the drop of a hat to make sure the best and most flavorful items are being presented to you in ways you would never think of yourself but once you taste them you can’t believe you never thought of it yourself.
Wednesday night for my birthday dinner we visited Range, which is classic food, done small plate style. The menu is broken down into categories to allow you to build your meal however you like. We choose to skip the raw bar course and move directly into bakery section with the skillet corn bread with bacon marmalade, which looks like marmalade but is entirely made of bacon. Let me say that again, entirely made of bacon, and you spread it on corn bread.
We followed that up with a lovely little salad of arugula and parmesan. The winner of the whole meal was the ricotta ravioli with ragu. Not only were the ravioli round like little balls, but the ragu they swam in was meaty and rich while still being light and delicious.
We followed it up with the black cod with BBQ hazelnuts, who would think to combine barbecue sauce with hazelnuts. That crazy Voltaggio, that’s who.
I will say I was sadly disappointed in the cheese plate, which was even sadder then a normal course being bad because I LOVE cheese, and this one let me down. The cheeses ranged from ok to completely bland. All in all, skip the cheese.
However, do NOT skip the salted caramel ice cream, it will rock your world, and in our case saved the end of the meal and let us roll on home happily.
I also want to give a huge shout out to the staff at Range, everyone we came in contact with was not only polite and helpful, but they were also huge foodies, and were more then happy to not only discuss the menu but talk through the options and what goes with what. Also, their wine list ranged in price, per bottle, from $16 up to $60. Gotta love a restaurant that finds and will talk up bottles on the lower end of the price spectrum.
Volt is like Range’s big, bad, culinary brother. While the food at Range was amazing it was all simple yet elegant. The food at Volt is complex not only in the flavor combinations that somehow work when plated together, but also in terms of the general presentation. Now I have done the epic 7 course tasting menu at dinner, which was hands down the most expensive meal of my life (to be fair we added cocktails, a wine flight, and a cheese course). The Volt brunch menu is no less mind blowing, but it manages to do it in three courses, along with some delish side dishes.
Now, I highly recommend going with a few people in order to cover as much of the menu as possible as there are four to five options per course. The cocktail menu is seasonal, so give it a glance as you begin your meal.
I went with an airmail, which combines rum, sparkling wine, and honey in a way that is refreshing yet not overly sweet.
The first course for the three of us (like I said bring folks with you) consisted of sourdough linguini with smoked clams, cuttlefish cavatelli in a ragu sauce including their own ink, and corn gnocchi with fish pepper, and leaks. Now once the dishes have arrived you can play the Volt game, in which you try all the dishes and vote on the winner. For the course the cavatelli won due to the perfection of the wee cavatelli combined with the salty ink and the rich rage (oddly similar to the Range ragu on Wednesday night).
The second course brought with it crab ravioli with shaved leaks and roasted carrots, the most perfectly poached duck eggs over potatoes, and seared scallops with a bacon jamish situation (again, oddly similar to the bacon jam from Wednesday) When measured strictly as brunch food, the eggs were some of the most tasty I have ever had, but in the end the crab ravioli won the round, with the pasta being the definition of al dente and the crab being simple and unadulterated with any flavors other then the delicious crab.
The beauty of the brunch menu is that with the second course there are side dishes, except to call them side dishes is a grand understatement as they were some of the highlights of the whole meal. The three options (and let’s not pretend we did not get all three) were thick cut applewood smoked bacon, cheddar polenta, and maple bacon donuts.
In my personal option you should put the polenta on the bacon and add a little bit of the maple glaze left on the donut plate. You will not regret that decision.
The final course confounded us, as one of the options included cheese with an orange blossom honey, crushed almonds, triangles of vanilla brioche and a rhubarb jam situation. My two dining partners were unable to resist that, so we had that along with a chocolate frozen custard, accompanied with toasted marshmallow cream, and a caramel sauce (yes I will officially eat ANYTHING with caramel involved). Both were stunning. The cheese in the rhubarb dessert was leagues better then any of those on offer at Range and the chocolate dessert was perfectly sweet without being tooth aching.
All said and done, Volt is an amazing meal that should absolutely saved for special occasions and Range should be saved for that random week night when you do not want to cook (and can manage to score a reservation)