Blue about Volt
And that extraordinary personal splurge -- i was there not on the Baltimore Sun's dime, but as a civilian eater with my husband and two dear friends -- produced this theory about why Voltaggio lost out to some guy in Philly for Best Chef -- Mid-Atlantic.
I suspect Voltaggio gave the James Beard judges a case of "blue buds."
That's how one of my dining companions described what we were all suffering from after dinner. Plate after teensy-weensy plate of mostly delicious, beautifully presented, expertly served food had gotten us all excited. But there was no, you know, climax.
We were put off by some of the molecular gastronomy frippery. The tomato-fennel "dipping dots," little savory ice cream pebbles that accompanied a playful take on chicken parm, quite literally left us cold. Some sort of strawberry "noodles" evoked Gummi Worms.
But mostly we loved the food. There just wasn't enough of it - or rather, not enough of any one thing.
That is not to say that after 21 courses we left hungry. Rather, that 21 courses is simply too many. The sheer number demands that each one be tiny. And by tiny, I mean pieces of protein that never exceeded the width or depth of a Wheat Thin. A scoop of spectacular Granny Smith apple sorbet the size of a marble. A single, thumbnail-sized goat cheese raviolo.
When was the last time a sentence demanded the singular for "ravioli"?
I realize that this sort of small-bite tasting menu is all the rage. And I'm not looking for a big bowl of those ravioli. OK, wait, that's a lie. I do want a big bowl of those ravioli. Right now, in fact. But in the context of a tasting menu, I'd settle for, say, four ravioli, even two. Ten, two-ravioli-equivalent courses would do it for me.
I simply need more than a bite to savor each dish -- and to ward off gastronomic ADD.
if I had it to do over again -- and I don't, at least not with my current husband, who downed the kids' leftover mac-n-cheese when we returned home from the most expensive dinner of our lives -- I'd order off Volt's regular menu and get more than a tease.
Which brings me to this week's list: Top Ten reasons Volt will give you 'blue buds'
No. 1: Prosciutto Chips, Potato Dip
The portion size here would have been totally appropriate for an opening course -- if the frothy Yukon Gold puree hadn't been so fantastic. I would have licked the bowl if the lights had been lower.
No. 2: Lobster, Sunchoke, Fennel, Olive Oil
Think lovely Jerusalem artichoke soup -- about spoonful of it. There were two or three pieces of what the server called lobster gnocchi, each about the size and consistency of a piece of puffed rice.
No. 3: Soy AirA dab of this molecular gastronomy fluff topped a tiny slab of Toro. As filling as it sounds.
No. 4: Celeriac Macaroon, Vanilla, Foie Gras
I found this single, savory, foie gras-filled macaroon delightful, even after one of my companions noted that it tasted a whole lot like Pirate's Booty. Like any snack food, you can't have just one.
No. 5: Cherry Glen Farm Goat Cheese Ravioli, Celeriac, Maitake Mushrooms, Sage
The keepsake menu says ravioli, but I'll never forget, it was a single raviolo. I needed more, plus bread to sop up the luscious creamy sauce.
No. 6: Softshell Crab, English Pea, Trumpet Mushroom, Kumquat
I had an advantage here. My husband is not fond of seafood, so he gave me his crab, which, like mine, was about the size of a quarter. That gave me two bites.
No. 7: Tuscorora Beets, Upland Cress, Beet Mergingue
Another delicious course that left us wanting more.
No. 8: Hudson Valley Duck Liver, Seckel Pear, Pistachio, Vanilla Brioche
Don't stop! Don't stop! Don't stop!
No. 9: Longnecker Farm Rabbit, Summer Truffles, Asparagus, Polenta
I'm good with a bite of rabbit, but how about a whole plate of that polenta?
No. 10: Textures of Chocolate, Caramel, Ice Cream
I'll take that in a triple-decker cone, please.
Volt beets, supersized for the regular dinner menu for $12. Sun photo by Algerina Perna