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Bryan Voltaggio and the Whitmore Farm Dinner

Servers from Volt restaurant trek up the hill from the barn’s kitchen to the dinner tables situated above. (Nicole Wolf -- SOTA Dzine)

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.

One big beautiful barn interior, three intimate tables. (Nicole Wolf -- SOTA Dzine)

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.

Canapes were prepared in the kitchen of the main house at Whitmore Farm. (Nicole Wolf -- SOTA Dzine)
Voltaggio wasn’t just cashing in on his current “Top Chef: Las Vegas” contestant status. As is his preference, he featured Maryland wines, produce, meats and dairy; even if you couldn’t/wouldn’t fork over the $285 per person, you’d have to agree the economics of the event remained local.

Chef Bryan Voltaggio was especially proud of his makeshift circulator for sous-vide cooking; yep, that’s a big cooler. Look closely and you can see the new fish tattoo on his right arm. (Bonnie Benwick -- The Washington Post)

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.)

Whitmore Farm eggs figured in several dishes, including the expertly produced first course of a 61-degree egg with salsify and caviar. (Bonnie Benwick -- The Washington Post)

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.

Up close and personal, the slap-the-table-good canape was sweetbreads with pickled golden raisins, second from the bottom. (Bonnie Benwick -- The Washington Post)

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

Course No. 6: Whitmore Farm spring lamb, with eggplant chickpeas, roasted pepper and lima beans with ras el hanout. (Bonnie Benwick -- The Washington Post)

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.

By The Food Section  |  September 21, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Chefs  | Tags: Bonnie Benwick, Bryan Voltaggio, farm-to-table  
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I am an avid watcher of "Top Chef" and find it disconcerting that you would choose to apparently reveal the winner of this season's competition before the show is even halfway through. It's ruined for me now. Shame on you ... kudo's to Bryan Voltaggio if he is in fact the winner.

Posted by: freetobeme3 | September 22, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I, too, am a little bewildered by the revelation that Bryan Voltaggio has been named as the winner of Top Chef when the show isn't over. I know I've missed a few episodes, but I didn't think it was over! Bad form, Bonnie.

Posted by: lizdonner | September 22, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

I too am singularly appalled that you announced he was the winner of this season's Top Chef competition - what is wrong with you?!

Posted by: dreagarrison | September 22, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

What total hubris to divulge the winner as if it didn't matter. Not even a warning of a spoiler. I suspect the need to brag about the intimate dinner overruled such courtesy. Now the word is out and will spread, ruining a great guilty pleasure for many. What ever happened to common sense?

Posted by: patricialu | September 22, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I think the writer is just referring to Bryan's current popularity on “Top Chef: Las Vegas”... not actually saying he is WINNER of “Top Chef: Las Vegas”...

Posted by: MyLastBite | September 22, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

C'mon folks. Read closely. I referred only to his Episode 2-winning recipe. No spoiler here. No bragging. Yeesh!

Posted by: benwickb | September 22, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

the National Restaurant Association provided a link to this story in its daily email. Here is the description they listed:

"Top Chef: Las Vegas" winner and Volt chef Bryan Voltaggio offered a late-summer farm-to-table dinner at a farm in the Washington area. The Maryland chef's highlights included a 61-degree egg with caviar, goat shabu-shabu and spring lamb with eggplant.

What is going on here??????

Posted by: slarisey | September 22, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

What ... did you just ruin top chef for everyone ??????

Posted by: lovetoeatout | September 22, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

i wonder if the top chef people know you let the "chef" out of the bag ?????????

Posted by: lovetoeatout | September 22, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Hi, all -- We have no idea here at the Post whether Bryan wins "Top Chef." That's a VERY closely guarded secret, and we're definitely not in on it -- and never have been in all these seasons. (Though things at this point are looking pretty good for Bryan, anything can change.) Bonnie meant only to refer to his status as a popular contestant on the show. To avoid any confusion, we inserted the word "contestant" above.

Posted by: Joe Yonan | September 22, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Like The Post, the producers of National Restaurant Association SmartBrief and ProChef SmartBrief also are unaware of the outcome of "Top Chef: Las Vegas." SmartBrief summarizes news available about the foodservice and restaurant industry and as such, has no insider knowledge of the winner of the show, which has not yet been determined.
-- Jennifer McNally, SmartBrief Director of Editorial Operations

Posted by: jmcnally2 | September 22, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

What the frack are you people doing? heck. even if it is just an assumption on your part, you're not playing fair in your article at all.

Can't find a better way to "use" this topic to sell more ads? Try real journalism.

Posted by: robyncooks | September 22, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Robyncooks, have you read any of the comments where they explain they are talking about his contestant status? No one knows who will win Top Chef, and they've made this abundantly clear.

Way to jump the gun guys.

Posted by: crystalgroves1 | September 23, 2009 7:17 AM | Report abuse

I think it is unfortunate that the a few readers have taken this article written to enlighten them as to the evenings' winning preparation and presentation by Chef Voltaggio in the beautiful farm setting and turn it upside down. The writer led me to believe that we should have all been so fortunate as to be present at this event rather than watching our TIVO'd episode of "Top Chef". I, for one, (although, I'm interested) don't care so much as to who the winner of a television show is as much as I do knowing there is a chef that I can trust to deliver a meal to me that is worth $285. Congratulations on that, Chef Bryan and thanks for letting me know, Bonnie Benwick!

Posted by: jct3 | September 26, 2009 6:26 AM | Report abuse

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