Well, my little pavlovas, my blog and I have returned from a complete bout of laziness, but more importantly, a fabulous weekend in the D.C. area. I won't go into the details of my experience at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear because, well, some may consider it too political, but I will say that the rally gave me a great excuse to schlep to Maryland, and stay for another memorable meal at VOLT, owned by Top Chef: Las Vegas alum, Bryan Voltaggio.
Bravotv.com Senior Editor Monica Reyhani and VOLT owner/chef Bryan Voltaggio
My friend and I decided to stay in Frederick, MD instead of D.C. after the rally and, boy, am I happy we did. I've only eaten at VOLT once before, but I remember it as one of the most memorable meals I've ever experienced. And this time was no different. We participated in the Chef's Tasting Menu, where you sit in a room by the open kitchen, so you get to watch your food being prepared. I won't go into each course -- you can see the menu here, but a couple of points: One of the courses was arctic char, which I've actually never eaten before. Though it's related to both salmon and trout, I always thought it would taste more like salmon because of its orange color. I hate salmon (besides lox), so I was kind of nervous to eat it. I wouldn't want to not be able to finish a course, which I consider bad form -- especially when you know the chef! Well, I didn't need to worry because it was delicious, and honestly maybe one of the best courses of the meal. My friend was equally nervous when we were presented with an extra course of goat cheese ravioli. He hates cheese, and frankly I don't really care for goat's milk either, but wow. I don't know if I can have goat cheese anywhere else now. It's usually kind of grainy and not as smooth as other cheeses. This one was smooth. Bryan later explained that it was a goat cheese/chevre mixture. My cheese-hating friend finished his plate before I did! There was also goat cheese in a beet salad course where the cheese was made into somewhat of a whipped cream, which was not only innovative, but equally as enjoyable. I think one of the true signs of a great chef is if he/she can make you appreciate an ingredient or dish you thought you didn't like. Sometimes it turns out that you've just never had it cooked correctly! Honestly, the whole meal was ridiculous and my friend was blown away. Bryan was beyond gracious as always, and I can't stress enough that you need to make a reservation if you'll be in the area. I was happy to see business booming, and Bryan shared that he has some exciting ventures coming, so stay tuned! OK, enough gushing -- now, onto this week's episode! The Quickfire Challenge required the chefs to make "edible arrangements," if you will. The challenge was interesting in that it was really all about presentation and not flavor, which might have been a good thing because guest judge Shinmin Li certainly left a bad taste in Eric's mouth, calling her "rude." Because I could never see Eric saying an unkind word about anyone, this felt like he really meant it. I won't say she was rude, but she certainly ruled this episode with an iron fist. She chose Morgan's as her favorite edible arrangement, with Yigit's as a close second. Eh, I don't really "get" Morgan's, but I don't know that any of them blew me away. What did blow me away was how klutzy Morgan is. He accidentally broke Yigit's sugar vases, which Gail agrees in her blog would've given Yigit the win. Did Morgan do it on purpose? Mmm, who knows, but I think we can conclude he certainly wasn't being as careful as he could have been.
For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs had to create duos for a tea party hosted by Food & Wine's Dana Cowin. The twist? The duos had to be inspired by celebrity duos. I love this. Like Zac, I would've really thrived in this challenged (y'know, if I were a pastry chef) because I'm obsessed with pop culture. I was utterly baffled by the duos the chefs chose. When I try to think of who I would've chose I think I would've gone with Naomi Watts and Liev Schrieber, not only because it would maybe give me the chance to blow away the judges with Vegemite-laced fare for Naomi, but because they're the coolest NYC couple around. (If you don't agree, watch Comedy Central's Night of Too Many Stars). (Note: I couldn't remember the word "Vegemite" and used these search words in Google to refresh my memory: australia food disgusting spread) If I didn't go with Naomi and Liev, I would've been inspired by fictional couples -- Chuck and Blair, anyone? Maybe, Rory and Jess?
I was most amused by Danielle's choice of Conan and Andy. She seems to have an unhealthy obsession with them, but I'm certainly not one to point fingers. And for those that commented on my last blog that Danielle is not funny, well, I respectfully disagree. I also think I switched back and forth between Danielle (Keene) and Dannielle (Kyrillos) in my last post too many times, and it got confusing. In the end, Zac's Julie Andrews and Richard Blakely-inspired desserts won the day. This challenge was tailor-made for him. But Yigit almost went home. He was so thrown off by Heather's elimiantion last week that he feel apart. I love Yigit, but man, I was disappointed in him this week. You fall apart because your friend gets eliminated? As the great Fred Armisen impersonating Joy Behar would say, "So what? Who cares? Big whoop!" This is a competition, and Yigit needs thicker skin. He's lucky his desserts weren't worse than Eric's in the end. Poor Eric -- his "journey," for lack of a less Bachelor-inspired cliche was, well, inspiring, and I think he won over everyone's hearts, even if he didn't win over the judges palates this week. I have a feeling this experience will only do good things for him, and viewers will be flocking to taste his baked goodies firsthand.
The competition is winding down and heating up, and I can't wait for the intense final episodes. Let me know where you've been eating, what you've been cooking, and as always, what you thought of this week's episode!