Bryan Voltaggio and the Whitmore Farm Dinner
When the invitation to Volt chef Bryan Voltaggio’s late-summer farm dinner went out, its chunky price tag -- substantially more expensive than other farm-to-table events held around Washington -- made some folks wonder whether the food, wine and setting would measure up.
It’s regrettable that this has taken me a few days to write up, but I can assure you that revisiting the highlights is sweet enterprise. It was great. Wish you’d been there. Or not, as it was really nice with a small guest list.
The short answer’s yes –- or at least the three dozen guests thought so. But don’t let that spoiler stop you from scrolling through Nicole Wolf's photos of the glorious Tuesday, Sept. 15, evening at Whitmore Farm in Emmitsburg, Md. The chef was understandably intense during dinner service; afterward, he had warm words for farmer-host Will Morrow and seemed genuinely pleased with the whole shebang.
Proceeds had been earmarked to sponsor another event that fell through, so the chef decided to make it nine courses instead of six, offer cigars hand-rolled on site to accompany the after-dinner drinks, and bring enough of his restaurant firepower to make the meal “as close to eating at Volt” as possible. That called for the presence of his sommelier, manager, two sous-chefs, a pastry sous-chef, a dish washer, two cooks and a dozen servers. A solo violinist helped set the civilized tone.
(Food-geek stats: Planning took about three weeks; menu prep took two days. They dropped off supplies at 9 the morning of the dinner and started cooking at 4 that afternoon.)
Voltaggio couldn’t have picked a lovelier setting. Farmer Morrow was gracious, already eager to sign on for another dinner. He and partner Kent Ozkum polished their 30-acre gem right down to giving their pregnant hog a last-minute bath. The chef loves working with Whitmore’s lamb, goat and eggs, which were given star treatment:
• A 61-degree egg with salsify and caviar.
• A goat shabu-shabu with caramelized Walla Walla onion noodles, broccoli, garlic and maroon carrots.
• Spring lamb with eggplant (four ways), chickpeas, roasted pepper, lima beans and ras el hanout.
“Top Chef” fans might have recognized Voltaggio’s Episode 2-winning lime "macaroons," or meringue drops with guacamole inside, served as one of the canapes.
He applied a similar technique to after-dinner tarragon meringues. They were a refreshing, one-bite crunch. (I asked for and received the recipe to pass along to you, dear readers, but the vagaries of spinach juice, tarragon juice and application of methocel make these a treat best served at Volt.)
I think Voltaggio’s Course No. 3 was my favorite: wild Arctic char with caramelized melon, cucumber, cucamelon, mustard and coriander. Perfectly cooked seafood with a crisp crust and surprisingly complementary accompaniments.
The man can deliver – in his Frederick restaurant, on TV, on a farm. Here’s to more dinners like the one at Whitmore.
-- Bonnie Benwick
P.S. Whitmore Farm products are sold at the Georgetown Farmers Market in Rose Park on Wednesdays, at the Everedy Square & Shab Row market in Frederick on Thursdays and at the West Frederick market on Baughman's Lane in Frederick on Saturdays.
The Food Section
September 21, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories: Chefs | Tags: Bonnie Benwick, Bryan Voltaggio, farm-to-table
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