Living in New York, I’ve gotten the opportunity to eat at some amazing restaurants helmed by celebrated chefs. I mean it’s New York for goodness sake and great restaurants and celebrities in the culinary world are not hard to come by. It seems it’s where every young chef wants to be. And so having been spoiled by the Big Apple, it’s always a bit surprising to find famous chefs outside of this environment.
In Frederick, Maryland, not too far from where I grew up and from where my parents live, I recently dined at VOLT, a well-regarded and award-winning restaurant from “celebrity” chef Bryan Voltaggio. This was my second time at one of his restaurants, the first being to his D.C. restaurant, Range.
For anyone who devours food reality television, you may know B.V. from Top Chef (competing with his brother Michael, a chef in LA) and Top Chef Masters. I actually first saw him on a Cooking Channel Thanksgiving special where he and his brother cooked dueling turkey dinners interestingly enough.
While I have conflicting feelings about celebrity chefs, having eaten at two of B.V.’s restaurants and learning more about his philosophy and restaurant concepts, I’m sold! My parents have met him and fallen in love with his restaurants, VOLT and Range, having nothing but good things to say about them.
At Range, we had a veritable feast. Range’s menu is meant for sharing; the whole table is recommended to get a sampling from the roughly seven kitchens – some crudos, some cheeses, some pizzas, some vegetable side dishes and a few proteins etc.
Here’s a great video I found of B.V. explaining the concept of Range and it’s kitchens. You’ll see the space is open and immense!
Our meal included – a tasting of hams/terrines/pates as well as a cheese plate; hamachi and yellow fin crudo; lamb three ways; grilled octopus; roasted bone marrow; roasted cauliflower; and copious amounts of wine!
My parents love the wine program here – as they’ve said, it’s priced exceptionally well. It’s priced considerably lower than at retail stores and even in other restaurants. And they have a great wine selection on top of that. Plus, it’s managed by sommeliers that are incredibly knowledgeable and personable.
They’ve had many instances where the sommeliers remember their selections from past visits and recommend wines my parents would have never thought to try. My dad for instance, told me of a visit where sommelier Jared (who Mark would like to give a shout out to) recommended a wine from Armenia, in a region where wine was domesticated, from one of the oldest continuing cultivated vineyards in the world. (This is where my dad geeks out about wine). It’s this attention to detail that sets Range apart not only with the wine but also the food and service!
Other fun fact: my parents actually took a wine course taught by Kathy, one of Range’s four sommeliers. Side story – Kathy is a master sommelier, having passed the Master Sommelier Exam, which only 220+ have passed in the world. It is needless to say one of the hardest exams in the world. She is only one of 20 women in the world with this classification as well and the only one in the DC area. You go Kathy! BTW, I have been instructed to check out the documentary Somm on Netflix, all about this intensive exam.
Now at VOLT, the menu is not really one to share, but rather you can pick several a la carte items for each person, or go with the tasting menu. We opted for the 6 course protein driven menu with an addition of the monkfish cheek and the wine pairings. (FYI, by course four, I was ready to be rolled home).
Courses included – a Nantucket bay scallops in a cold dashi broth; hedgehog mushrooms with steel cut oats; a calamari and bacon pasta bolgnese with squid ink pasta; smoked black cod; katahdin lamb, and a s’mores dessert.
There were definitely some courses I liked better than others, but all in all it was an amazing meal! (Also, their chive biscuits are TO DIE FOR).
If you’re ever in the greater Washington, D.C. area, I highly recommend both. At both, the attention to detail and the dining experience is top notch. Range is a bit more accessible in terms of location, but at either you’ll have an incredible meal!