Dinner at VOLT: Order the Beets!

brian voltaggio volt restaurant

So I’ve been suggesting to husband to make reservations at VOLT restaurant in Frederick for a while now – hoping we could get in before one of the Voltaggio brothers wins Top Chef this season — brother Bryan is chef at VOLT (http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/season-6/bios) (http://www.voltrestaurant.com/). Brunch was booked up, so husband kindly made dinner reservations for Sunday.

We arrived a bit early and sat in the open bar/lounge area of the ‘mansion’ to await our table… Gary wasn’t convinced an entire Sam Adams fit into his fancy glass, though the barman insisted it did… We were seated in the main dining room (in addition there’s the noisy kitchen-view tasting dining room and a glassed-in Chef’s Table) with white linens and coppery brown ceiling – elegant and populated with nearly as many servers and sommelier-types as diners.

We selected three of the four courses from the four course menu including, starting with the beet salad which was the tasiest dish of the night: as Gary put it, 75 cents worth of beets for $12, but they looked very pretty on the huge plate, swirled with tasty oil, a cheese mousse, and tiny green ‘weeds’ and tasted lovely.

Next up was goat cheese ravioli in brown butter — nutty flavor but Gary said too oily. Teeny-tiny scallops (seriously, as big as a dime) atop some sort of nutty grain were overpowered by the grain, and it was hard to tell the flavors of the white, orange and green ‘smears’ of sauces on that plate.

We both selected fish as main plates, with Gary’s striped bass a winner featuring crispy skin and a deep earthy flavor. My slightly rare halibut was a disappointment in comparison. The accompanying hot, puffy dinner rolls in various flavors (from sea salt to bacon) were lovely – we should’ve ordered more!

For dessert I ordered the banana split dish – a ‘deconstruction’ similar to something Bryan made in restaurant wars. It was interesting, but unsatisfying-with nut powders beneath teaspoon size samples of chocolate and vanilla ice creams and a strawberry sorbet that would’ve been great as its own serving in a cone or normal size bowl. There was a strange tofu-like-textured banana ‘mousse’ winding across the plate and a ‘spherical’ maraschino ball that burst when I tried to spoon it up. Gary fared a bit better with his peanut butter and chocolate combination, decorated with organic chocolate and some micro-green cilantro and cilantro powder(!) If was amusing to look around the dining room and watch the other diners eating their tiny servings with great care and precision of fork, most leaning forward and examining the food items thoughtfully while taking itty-bitty bites.

The yummiest dessert came as a complement of the pastry chef, a dish of miniature ice cream sandwiches on various cookies. And the check was delivered hidden beneath two tulle-wrapped citrus/pumpkin muffins, ‘in case you’re still hungry, you can eat them on the way home’ is what the waiter actually said. If you have to hide the check under muffins so folks don’t get upset at the cost while their bellies are still empty, that sums it all up…

It was a pleasant dining experience, and was interesting to taste and see some of the flavors and styles of food that we’ve been seeing on Top Chef, though we both agree that the restaurant across the street — Acacia — offers more flavorful and more satisfying food for Frederick visitors.

Good luck Bryan Voltaggio – we’re still rooting for you!

Volt Charges Ahead – In Outlets Beginning in 2010

chevy volt in pool with bikini girls

GM announced this week that the Chevy Volt is still on schedule for a November 2010 release.   The new plug in hybrid (PHEV) is expected to sell for between $30,000 to $40,000.  However, GM only expects to be able to ramp production to 100,000 a year by 2012.  As a comparison, the Toyota Prius is selling at a rate of almost a quarter a million per year.

While GM works hard to solve battery delays, cooling issues, and other unexpected issues, other companies are also speeding up their own PHEV development.  Toyota has announced a follow-on Prius PHEV that will be released in 2009 using standard NiMh battery packs, but will follow-up with Li-ion packs in 2010.  Ford has basically given up and said that they hope to have a PHEV available in 5 years.


girl charging electric car

EEStor is a company based in Cedar Park, Texas, United States that claims to have developed a superior type of capacitor for electricity storage, which EEStor calls ‘Electrical Energy Storage Units’ (EESU). Its CEO and president is Richard Weir, who is also a co-inventor named on their principal technology patent.

These units use barium titanate coated with aluminum oxide and glass to achieve a level of capacitance claimed to be much higher than what is currently available in the market. The claimed energy density is 1.0 MJ/kg (existing commercial supercapacitors typically have an energy density of around 0.01 MJ/kg, while lithium ion batteries have an energy density of around 0.54–0.72 MJ/kg).[2]

Based on these claims, a five-minute charge should give the capacitor sufficient energy to drive a small car 300 miles (480 km). However, standard household wiring is not capable of delivering the power required for this, so charging times this short would probably require purpose-built high capacity dispensing stations.  Overnight charging at home should still be practical, as is using a second EESU for the home which could be charged overnight using cheap, off-peak electricity to then charge the EEStor unit in the car in 5-10 minutes on demand. Also according to Ian Clifford a normal household outlet with 110 volt supply can fully charge the EESTor powered CityZENN in 4 hours for a 250 mile range and a normal household outlet with 220 volt supply can fully charge the EESTor powered CityZENN in 2 hours for a 250 mile range. CityZENN target price is around $25000 – $30000.

Not sure if this will ever actually work, or if it is just hype?  I think LS9 has a better chance to revolutionize our energy supply. 


The Volt

I like the idea of a hybrid plug-in.  In the long-run, we need a car that will go 30-50 miles on electric-only power, but with an aux on-board source of power for longer range (~250 mile) trips.


When it comes to plugging in, the Volt will be designed to use a common 110–volt household plug. For someone who drives less than 40 miles a day, Chevy Volt will use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions.(2) For longer trips, Chevy Volt’s range-extending power source kicks in to recharge the lithium-ion battery pack as required. We expect a driving range of an estimated 640 miles.(3)