Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Top Chef Finals


It may come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I have become just a teensy bit obsessed with the current season of Top Chef. It has been one of my goals to eat at as many of the cheftestants' restaurants as I can. Of the final three, I have dined at two of their establishments. Let's compare.

Restaurant

Volt
Frederick, MD

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Woodfire Grill
Atlanta, GA

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Chef
Bryan Voltaggio
Kevin Gillespie
Cuisine
Modern American
Local-vore Rustic
Top Chef Reputation

While just as intense as his brother Michael, Bryan came off as the more relaxed and friendlier of the two Voltaggio Brothers.

Friendly bear-like Kevin was everybody’s body. His food was mocked (mostly by Michael V.) as being too simple, but he won challenge after challenge.

Atmosphere

Located in the semi-seedy downtown of Frederick, Maryland, Volt is located in an old mansion tarted up to look like a modern art museum.

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Located in a semi-seedy area of Atlanta, Woodfire Grille looks like a dumpy barbecue joint, but on the inside it has high ceilings and earth tones that make it resemble a 70s era ski chalet.

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Food

The food is high end gourmet and comparable to fancy New York places. The meat tray included both pate and head cheese. Both of our first courses came covered with foam. The goat cheese ravioli was fine, but the lobster was just out of this world.

For the main dishes, the pork tenderloin was cut with a butter knife tender but the presentation was a little busy with at least three little side bits on a rather small plate. The fish dish was tasty but not spectacular. Both desserts were deconstructed and rather bizarre.
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Service by the black and Converse clad wait staff was attentive to the point of obsequiousness. The only glitch was that the bar was slammed by cargo shorts wearing refugees from a downtown street festival and our cocktails didn't arrive until halfway through the appetizers.

We sprang for the tasting menu which is not listed in advance. Appetizer was a shrimp something which was very good. Next was a diver scallop that was only so-so. Third course was a deboned quail.

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Such a tasty scrumptious thing. Like a little baby slice of heaven. The main entree was, wait for it, pork belly and every calorie laden bite was delicious.

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The first dessert was frozen solid so they replaced it with another one featuring candied bacon. Pork as a dessert is a wonderful thing.

The service was nearly the best I ever had anywhere. Our seasoned to the point of looking grizzled waiter explained the whole life story of every animal that died for our dinner as it came out. Midway through the meal he suggested a perfect wine pairing for just one course with overselling the rest of the meal.
Chef Sighting


We were in the Main Dining Room, not the Chef’s Dining Room, so we didn’t get to gawk at Bryan in action, but he was in the back looking all serious slicing and dicing like a mad man. The next time we may have to spring for the 21 course tasting menu.


We were one of the first seatings, so kevin wasn’t around when we arrived, but as we were leaving, he was hard at work at the titular woodfire grille. He stopped for a photo and signed a copy of the tasting menu for us.

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Verdict

Volt is an oasis of fine dining in central Maryland that can compete with the best restaurants anywhere in the country. It is fancy enough to more than impress a date, but not so stuffy that you can’t take the whole family for a special occasion. Top Chef has made Bryan and prodigal brother Michael local celebrities so reservations are now tough to get. But since it is in downtown Frederick, there are plenty of places to get a tattoo nearby.

One of the best places to just relax and have a fine meal anywhere. I had a cocktail called the Rendezvous (high west rye whiskey, fresh grapefruit juice, cardamom syrup, and lemon juice) that was about the best I have ever had. It’s a little too expensive to go to on a weekly basis, but you sure wish that you could. And for after dinner entertainment, the infamous Tattletales (link NSFW) is just a few blocks away.

I will be on the couch watching the finale and if either of these two wins, I can see why. Both are Top Chefs no matter who Tom and Padme finally pick.

4 comments:

margaret said...

yello, you really know how to live well!

Elizabeth said...

I'm jealous you have such great places to eat. They both sound wonderful. But I've never thought of head cheese for a fancy dinner.

A Free Man said...

Pork belly is seriously underrated.

VE said...

You have have the best breakdowns of these things...