Chef Brian Voltaggio of Volt

Breaking Down the Dish is a feature of the D.C Sustainable Food column in which we highlight a single dish from a local restaurant, and investigate the inspiration and local/regional producers behind it.

This week’s Breaking Down the Dish: VOLT – Tasting of Tuscarora Farms Organic beets & Catoctin Mountain Lamb Meatloaf

Chef/Owner of VOLT Bryan Voltaggio's cuisine starts with a simple premise: being responsible with product and understanding where product comes from.

"People have been doing this for years, of course," Voltaggio said, "but we’re trying to be responsible in different ways regarding how we get our ingredients - so menu creativity becomes very important."

Creativity is at the heart of the two dishes in this week's Breaking Down the Dish, which take fresh and local ingredients and apply Voltaggio's self-described modern American interpretations.

Voltaggio, who grew up in Frederick, Maryland and began cooking at 15, opened VOLT nearly 8 months ago and has to date received numerous accolades from prominent food media for his inventive cuisine - including a #15 ranking in the Washingtonian's 100 best restaurants of 2009.

Ultimately, though, his food is rooted in the understanding of seasons and a close connection with both product and producers.

"When you go where the product comes from and see it growing in the field, and touch it and talk to the grower about it, that makes an impact," Voltaggio said.

Voltaggio notes, too, that he's seeing greater awareness among his customers regarding a search for more purity in food, which in turn is driving demand for better quality ingredients.

"It's all going back to 'this is how it should be,' before we modernized food in our country and started to mass produce food in unhealthy ways," Voltaggio said.

"We’re not going to change the world in my little restaurant," he continued, "but at least if I have some talented cooks coming through here, and I start training people to do things the right way, then maybe it will spread and I can help make an impact on what the culinary scene is in this country - then I think I’ve done my job."

For those interested in keeping track of VOLT's developments, both in and out of the kitchen, check out the restaurant's blog.

Tasting of Tuscarora Farms Organic beets

  • Roast golden beets, Ruby beets and Chioggia beets - Tuscarora Organic Growers
  • Banyuls vinaigrette

  • Goat's Cheese - Cherry Glen, Maryland

  • Large hydroponic pepper cress - Lakeville Produce, Pennsylvania.

  • Flowering tarragon and arrow leaf turnip greens - Chef’s Garden, Ohio.

Cooks slow roast the beets over a low heat to make sure the sweetness is enhanced. They then create a mousse from blending the chevre into an anglaise. When it is the consistency of heavy cream, they then apply it through a whipped-cream canister. Xanthan gum is added to the balsamic six as a thickening agent to create the viscosity of a reduced vinegar. This is drizzled over the beets, greens and chevre.

Catoctin Mountain Lamb Meatloaf, with merguez sausage, beluga lentils, arugula, roasted pepper and cumin-toasted almonds "Most of what we gather for this dish is within 100 miles of the restaurant," Voltaggio said.

"That means a lot because the travel time is shortened. Just being able to go to Dianne’s farm and see her goats is amazing. We’ve already taken the staff there on a field trip."

Catoctin mountain lamb and merguez sausage - Mary’s Delight, Maryland arugula and roasted pepper - Tuscarora Organic Growers.

This dish came together as a twist on the classic application where sausage is used as a stuffer rather than stuffing it. The merguez is formed from the shoulder of the lamb, and then rolled around the tenderloin. Doing so allows the loin to be perfectly cooked sous vide at a medium rare temperature in the middle.