Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Acacia: Best Lemon Drop Martini -- EVER!

When the weather gets hot, I am all about a cool cocktail to help keep things chilly. After sampling Lemon Drops throughout downtown for the past couple of months, there's no doubt that the best in town comes from Acacia on Market St.

Man oh man, do they make a winner or what?! Here's the trick, and this applies to all recipes: The fewer the ingredients, the better each one needs to be. Thus, no Sprite (yuk!) or faux-lemon juice. Your basic Lemon Drop has only three ingredients: Citrus Vodka, Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice, and Simple Syrup. What is simple syrup? It's a mixture of equal parts sugar and water, cooked stove top just until the sugar is melted. It's a fantastic sweetener for cold beverages because you don't end up with a pile of un-dissolved sugar on the bottom of the glass. It's great for iced tea, iced coffee, or cocktails! At The Tasting Room, they even serve it in a little white pitcher when you order iced tea -- see, they know all about it there.

Back to Acacia though...When I happened by their bar a few weeks ago with some friends, the bartender whipped up the perfect Lemon Drop. She squeezed the lemon juice fresh (actual lemons were involved in the making of this drink!), and shook the vodka and a touch of simple syrup with it until it was really, really cold. Pour it into a sugar-rimmed martini glass and voila! But what really sent this baby over the top was the rock candy swizzle stick. Holy moley, that was good! It was the perfect touch to the perfect summer drink; just like grown-up lemonade. I'm stopping by this weekend to see if they can do it again -- woo hoo!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Volt! Volt!! Volt!!!

It's finally here -- Volt is set to open this Friday, July 25. To say that I am excited about this new downtown restaurant would be an understatement. And I'm not the only one!

Just in case you didn't see it, here's a link to an article in today's Frederick News Post written by one of my favorite local food writers, Rochelle Myers: http://www.fredericknewspost.com/sections/art_life/display_food.htm?storyID=77843

Volt is going to join an already great downtown Frederick restaurant scene, and I'm excited to see how this upscale addition pans out. You can check out their offical website here: http://www.voltrestaurant.com/

The hype, at least locally, has been HUGE, and the pressure is obviously on. As they get ready to open their doors, let's review a few rules to visiting a new restaurant:

# 1: Give them a little bit of time to find their feet

What the heck does that mean, you may ask? Well, let them get everything running smoothly before you start to judge them. Regardless of how polished each person's skills are, it may take a little time to have everyone working together like the well-oiled machine they hope to be. Even Thomas Keller (culinary demi-god chef/owner of Per Se in Manhattan & The French Laundry in the Napa Valley) brought many of the folks running his first restaurant to open the second, and still they hit a few (minor) bumps in the road.

No matter how great you are at your job, you weren't the best you could possibly be your first day, or even your first week.

# 2: Restaurant reviewers don't typically review restaurants in the first 3 months - neither should you

This sounds an awful lot like rule #1, but it's an important point. Don't trash the staff if you don't have the perfect first dining experience. Loosen up a little and relax. Don't be uptight, and have a good time. They will impress you if you give them a chance.

#3: Trust Your Chef

From all the hype, it looks like Voltaggio is the epitome of what chefs today want to be: He's focusing on local ingredients (in Frederick County, how could you not???), he's renovated an historic building to make the restaurant what he wants it to be, he's build a staff from the ground up. He's a local boy coming home to show us what he's got -- let him show you. Whatever you do, try the tasting menu. This is where you typically get the best your chef has to offer.

#4: Don't be afraid to try something new.

If ingredients sound a little freaky or unusual on the menu, or if the plate presentation isn't what you normally see, don't be afraid! Give something new a try. You may like it more than you think


That all said, I really cannot wait to give Volt a visit. I have high hopes for Voltaggio and his partner Hilda Staples, and think they're going to blow us away. Give them a chance and let me know what you think. Me? I'm making my reservation for early September as soon as I can. Woo hoo!