Range by Bryan Voltaggio

29 01 2014

I recently had a dining experience that definitely falls in my top ten of all time. Range by Bryan Voltaggio knocked my socks off when I was in DC last week.

When I lived in DC, I had always heard of Voltaggio’s restaurant Volt, but never got a chance to trek up to Frederick, MD to check it out. You have to make reservations a year in advance-it’s that popular (and I’m assuming THAT good, based on the loads of rave reviews).

However, Voltaggio recently opened a second restaurant, Range, in DC proper (just barely, if you walk across the street, you’re in Maryland) and I was able to check it out.

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The restaurant is located inside the Chevy Chase Pavilion- essentially an enormous building that has office space, shops, a hotel, and restaurants- and I’m pretty sure that the restaurant doesn’t have any walls that are actually on the outside of the building. I really mean inside. However, the walls that set the boundaries of the restaurant are floor to ceiling glass. So, as you approach, you can see inside the entire restaurant, which is quite large.

www.thepresidentwearsprada.com

(image from The President Wears Prada)

As I approached the front door, I was greeted by a host and hostess. I was dining solo, so I asked if I could just grab a seat at the bar. The host told me “Absolutely”, as he started to walk me in, “but if there isn’t any space there, I can seat you at the chef’s table.”

The chef’s table?

My ears perked up and my inner foodie started to jump up and down. I sheepishly asked, “Can I sit at the chef’s table, even if there is space at the bar?”

He cheerfully responded, “Of course” and proceeded to walk me straight up to the place where all the action was happening- a seat less than five feet from where chef John Miele was putting the finishing touches on every. single. plate.

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Range has an open kitchen, which wraps around the inside of the restaurant like an L. There’s seating all along the edge, almost like a diner, but fancier. 😉 I was literally right next to the station where the wait staff picked up their plates from the chef to take to their tables. It was a bit busy at first, and several of the wait staff kindly asked if the seat was okay, and if I’d prefer to be down a few seats where it was quieter. I declined- it was so fun be (literally) in the middle of all the action.

The menu offered a ton of delicious sounding options. I kept watching the plates come out, sometimes asking what each dish was (yes, I was close enough that I could talk to the chef if he wasn’t too busy), and trying to narrow down my choices.

I knew I wanted the fried brussels sprouts, but I was so torn about my main dish. At the recommendation of my waiter, I went with the Carbonara special.

As I waited for my dinner, I had a goofy grin on my face as I watched plate after plate of delicious food go out to the hungry customers. Man, would I love to try it all! I snapped a few photos like a tourist, but the chef didn’t seem to mind- he was probably used to it.

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I wish I wasn’t so shy/nervous, because I only exchanged a few words with the chef and his staff. Whenever I did, I got a detailed response, and if my questions bothered them, they never let on.

Soon, my food was up!

The brussels:

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These were AH-MAZ-ING!

Chef putting the finishing touches on MY carbonara:

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(Side note: So the dish is mostly prepared by one of the other cooks right behind him. When my pasta first was being plated, the chef turned around and watched. I’m not sure what happened, but the next thing I saw was the food being taken away, seemingly not up to standard. A few minutes later, I watched the cook replate a new serving of pasta which did pass muster.)

The final product:

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A perfectly poached egg atop homemade pasta in a buttery sauce with sausage. Finished with some sliced pecorino and greens for garnish.  (Sorry my description is not as appealing as the one that was in the menu. I wish I had captured it!)

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YUM!

And of course I couldn’t say no to dessert! I asked my waiter for his recommendations and he was partial to the meyer lemon dessert (unfortunately, I can’t find the dessert menu, so I can’t be more specific!) I wasn’t totally on board with that, so I mulled over the menu for a good bit longer. Another waiter, as he was waiting for his plates to come up, asked me which dessert I was thinking about getting. I confessed I wasn’t sure, and he recommended the caramel pot de creme. He completely sold me on it. The homemade almond cake, the roasted pear, the creamy caramel mousse, and the chocolate stout ice cream sounded outstanding, so I ordered it.
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OMG. This was soooo incredible. And it looks like artwork, doesn’t it? The caramel creme was outstanding, and the almond cake was just moist enough. The ice cream definitely tasted like a stout, and was the perfect compliment!

And of course I couldn’t go home without getting some of their confections and chocolate to go, so after again grilling my waiter on his favorites, I ordered a few pieces of chocolate (mexican hot chocolate anyone?) and a few too many cookies/biscotti/krispy treats. #worthit

I had an absolutely wonderful experience at Range, and I would go back in a heartbeat. The staff was pleasant, attentive (but not overly attentive, which can get annoying), knowledgable, and very helpful. I loved the vibe and the open kitchen. Sitting right next to the chef was awesome, and it was totally a perfect spot for someone dining solo to sit, not to mention someone who loves food as much as I do! And it goes without saying that the food was dynamite. If you’re ever in the area, go check it out!





(old) Hometown Races Are The Best

19 03 2012

One of the perks of my new job is that it allows me a spring break. How awesome is that? As it turned out, spring break happened to fall the week before the Rock N Roll USA half marathon in DC, which I had sign up for before I knew I was moving. So, I capitalized (Capitolized? hehehe) on my time off and spent the first half of break relaxing in Tampa, and then I spent the second half hanging out in my dear old DC!


I was so glad to go back to visit so many of my friends, and hang out in the city I called home for nearly 7 years. I filled my schedule and my belly for the few days I was there. I hit up happy hour with an old coworker at Guapos,  enjoyed some Vietnamese with Chloe, fueled up for the half marathon with some pasta at Sette Osteria (great meal, terrible service!), replaced all the calories I had burned off (and then some) with brunch at Los Tios, and spent some time catching up with my friend Steph at Busboys and Poets. Man, I miss the food scene in DC! There were so many more places I wanted to go, but not enough time to eat at them all.

As I mentioned, I didn’t only go back to visit friends, I had a race to run too! I didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself for this race because I had a pretty tough week of workouts, and lately, my training runs haven’t been so stellar. I also had heard bad things about RnR races and knew there would be a ton of people, so I just wanted to go out there, have fun, and get some miles logged.

Well, I surprised myself, and ended up having a stellar race. I don’t knowing it was just the fun and familiarity of being back in my old stomping grounds, the incredible crowd support all over the course, or the sheer excitement of racing, but I felt great throughout the entire race, and walked away with a new PR!

But let me back up a little.

I spent the night at my friend Sue Ellen’s house, and we got up bright and early to fuel up and head out to the metro. I knew there’d be a lot of people, so we gave ourselves a little bit of extra time to get to the start, use the porta potty, and get to the right corrals on time. The first train pulled up, and it was already crowded. Ugh. We moved towards the door, and I was reluctant to get on the train since it was so crowded already. Sue Ellen grabbed me and her friend Andrea and said we could fit. So, we squeezed in like sardines with the hundreds of other runners.

Good morning friends!

I’m sure glad that we crammed into this mess, because I later heard from several different people that their experience on the metro was MISERABLE. 2 hour waits? Off loading? ICK! That would have completely stressed me out. Thanks Sue Ellen for still being a city-dweller and forcing us on the train:-)

Anyhow, we made it to the start with enough time to check our back, stand in the incredibly slow moving porta-potty line, and get to the starting corrals. We parted ways because Sue Ellen and Andrea were in a different corral than I was, but planned to meet up at the finish line.

I was supposed to be in corral 10 (I had estimated a 2 hour finish when I had signed up), and I moved up to corral 9 before starting. I spotted a 3:55 marathon pacer, and figured I should try to stay near him. That didn’t work out so well, and I quickly lost sight of him. I don’t think he was really well marked, and I guess I could have STOOD next to him at the start instead of 20 yards away. Oh well. I figured I’d just watch my Garmin, and try to run a comparable race to Gasparilla.

As we ran up and down and across DC, I’m pretty sure I had a smile on my face.  I LOVE THIS CITY. It was so fun to run by the Capitol, by the mall, through Dupont, Columbia Heights,  H Street, and other neighborhoods, passing so many familiar sights, and running along streets I knew like the back of my hand. After this race, I really realized the benefit of knowing the course. Though I had never run this course exactly, I knew the streets well and was prepared for hills and straightaways.

I occasionally checked my Garmin, and I seemed to be pacing myself alright. I felt really strong, so I decided to push a little harder. The hill in Dupont? It was not going to get me down. I heard the cheering crowd, saw some familiar faces, and I told myself that I was going to dominate it! I was shocked at how good I was feeling, and just let myself run free. As I passed mile marker 12, I checked my watch and saw that I was on track to beat my Gasparilla time. Heck, if I push myself really hard, I may even be able to break 1:50!

Well, I kept running strong and, though I didn’t break 1:50, I crossed the finish line in (officially) 1:51.40. Booyah!

Here’s my splits:

They’re certainly interesting…I really need to  figure out pacing. I think that will come with more experience (this is my 3rd half ever), but in the meantime, any tips people? How do you pace yourself in a half marathon?

After the race, I found Sue Ellen and Andrea (who both also PRed!)

We met up with a few others, then decided to head home. Unfortunately the thousands of other runners were doing exactly the same thing, so we decided to walk a bit and then catch a cab. After nearly a mile (!!!) trek, we finally found a cab. It felt So. Good. to sit down! We got home, and hauled our smelly selves to brunch. Ahh. Perfect way to end a racing morning. 🙂

I had a fantastic time in DC and was completely stoked about my race. Did you race? How’d it go? Leave a link to your race report in the comment section!





So Long, DC

13 01 2012

I can’t believe I’m actually writing this post. After 6 and a half years, I’m actually leaving DC. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here that long! I arrived in DC back in June of 2005, fresh out of college, as a Teach for America corps member ready to take on the world and a classroom full of students who spoke little to no English.

My life has changed a lot since that summer. I transitioned from being a teacher to working in the non-profit education world, and will soon be making another transition to work for a school district in Florida. I’ve moved from a DC townhouse to a DC basement, and finally crossed the river and settled into an Arlington apartment. I dated a few guys (briefly),  fell in love, and spent 4 years in a relationship which ultimately didn’t work out, but shaped much of my DC experience. Since then, I got back on the dating train and met my wonderful boyfriend Bill, whom I love very much and will be somuchcloser to when I get to Florida! To say I’m excited is an understatement!

I experienced my 20s in DC. I grew up, and learned a lot about myself and the world around me. And of course, my experience would not have been the same without the people I’ve met along the way. The network of friends in DC I have built over the past 6 years is absolutely incredible. I am thankful for each and every one of you. You’ve all touched my life in more ways than you know.

DC will always hold a special place in my heart. I have so many fantastic memories from my time here, so I thought I’d share a few highlights.

Moving to DC was my first real experience living on my own. I lived in a cute townhouse in the Shaw neighborhood with my friend Ann, who remains one of my dearest friends. Since that first year in DC, we’ve lived together twice, lived in the same apartment building once, and now until Sunday we live across the street from each other. I’m definitely going to miss her.

I had my first real job as a teacher in DC. It took me awhile to get used to little people saying “Ms. Gibson!”

OMG I’m a teacher!

That first year in DC was pretty crazy. I spent far too many nights dancing the night away in Adams Morgan with my girlfriends.

Anna and Sarah’s signature moves. Probably singing to some JBJ. Fun times!

I channeled my inner child by joining a kickball team!

Team 16 is in da house!

And was convinced by some of my teammates to run a marathon.

Hoo-rah!

I ate cupcakes at Georgetown cupcakes before it was cool. Ok, so they were still popular, but they didn’t have a TV show yet!

I witnessed history and froze my toes off at President Obama’s Inauguration.

Once in a lifetime experience.

Speaking of cold…

I survived Snopocalypse.

And Snowmageddon.

Two feet of snow, twice, in the course of 2 months. That’s a lot of snow. Don’t think I’ll have to dig myself out of this anymore!

I found a group of girls I really connected with. Since we were teachers, we could enjoy a spring break trip to Sonoma, California! Hooray wine country!

My circle of friends grew and we tapped in to our local resources- the wineries in Virginia!

Weekend trip to Charlottesville? Yes, please!

I wish my eyes weren’t closed!

DC’s a place where your friends/significant other from out of town actually come visit! And then you have an excuse to do the touristy things too!

Photo credit Matt Hecht.

And where else can you ride your bike past the Lincoln Memorial on your way to work?

I met Chloe, and we started a blog!

And we put names and faces together when we met other bloggers in real life too!

I love these ladies.

I discovered my passion for cooking and taking pictures of my food.

And realized there were a bunch of girls who liked to eat as much as I do!

And though I’ve met so many new people in DC, it was always comforting to have people close by who I’d known before I moved to DC.

These pictures barely scratch the surface of all the memories I have from DC. There are far too many moments to ever be captured on this blog.

So for now, it’s “So long, DC”. It’s been real. Thanks for all the memories.