The Tourism Council of Frederick County invited foodie bloggers to a sneak peak of Frederick’s anticipated restaurant week, which takes place this March 4th through March 10th.
As a sommelier and writer for Capital Cooking with Lauren DeSantis, I welcomed the opportunity to explore an historic town that supposedly serves up unique and fine-dining cuisine in a classic American Main Street scene. Besides, I needed an escape from the cacophony of DC metro area life—little did I know Frederick, Maryland was just the sort of dining destination in which my soul could settle. On a cold winter’s day, I set out on my journey with a spectacular blue sky stretched out before me. In little less than an hour, my mind had slipped into repose mode as I pulled into the parking lot of Frederick’s Visitor center. Warm greetings and chatter quickly dissipated as we turned to samplings from restaurants participating in the discount food frenzy. As we listened to details describing Frederick’s favorite venues, the group chowed down on bite-size tastings from a family dining fixture, The Red Horse Seafood and Steakhouse. February’s frigid bleakness suddenly exploded into memories of patio-dining and fresh lime-squeezed margaritas upon tasting their shrimp ceviche. Our second sneak peak lacked nothing in flavor and texture, as I sank my teeth into pan-seared duck breast dressed with dueling sauces of tropical mango and blueberry pomegranate coulis.
Unbeknownst to me, I discovered The Red Horse recently underwent a face-lift in an attempt to shake up old school steakhouse concept by introducing a Green Initiative to the restaurant and daily chef specials inspired by locally sourced and organic food products. As I began to relax even more, I witnessed the beauty of Frederick as we stepped outside onto an ornate brick-lined path along a small canal, what locals call Carroll Creek Linear Park. We strolled past shops, homes, businesses, antique stores and restaurants that boasted creek side views. The entire walking tour revealed the town’s myriad church spires and 18th century architecture as we trekked from Carroll Creek and Market Street to ultra quaint Shab Row and Everdy Square. In a matter of three hours, I experienced the breadth and scope of Frederick’s dining scene from wine bars, American bistros to a brewery, a Mediterranean tapas spot to Brian Voltaggio’s famed restaurant, Volt. With over a dozen restaurants putting their best foot forward this first week in March, Frederick tempts the DC dining crowd to venture north. As seen with my sneak peak tour, restaurant week isn’t the only lure to Frederick dining. The town pumps year-round with seasonally inspired menus at most restaurant locations. Some hotspots to check out are The Wine Kitchen on the Creek, which astounded my taste buds with a simple preparation of seared Artic Char on a bed of melted leeks, parsnips and beets, and offers more than thirty glass pours and inspired wine flights.
Ayse Mese turned our attentions to vegan delights with out-of-this world Brussels sprouts steeped in walnut oil, vinegar, currants and capers, with which sweet, sour and savory collide.
Along an unsuspecting quiet street, a wine bar and full service retail shop, Shab Row Bistro, churns out French bistro style food with familiar flavors presented with whimsical elegance. With over 400 artisanal wines and craft brew selections that you can purchase at retail price, you have the option to enjoy your purchase while dining for only $9. The chef insisted we try his house-made pistachio and chicken liver pâté with a cherry reduction sauce plated with cornichons and dried cherries. The spices and decadence on the plate paired up nicely with grapefruit chipotle margarita shots the bartender concocted. Who knew margaritas could be warmed, spiked with smoky seasoning and paired with fatty decadence while complimenting cherry sensations weaved throughout each bite?
Even though the famous restaurant, Volt, won’t be participating in restaurant week, I couldn’t resist the urge to make my last stop at their wine bar for one last chance to reinforce my relaxed mood. Brian Voltaggio’s wine list offered depth with region-specific wines and traditional, eclectic grape varieties. I chose a rustic style Syrah from France’s Rhône Valley, and sat back to enjoy a bit of reminiscing of my day’s culinary extravaganza. Frederick left deep impressions in my mind while I marveled over its cosmopolitan scene disguised with a small town feel. I sighed, smiling warmly about my imaginings of my next visit: could be Restaurant Week this upcoming first week in March, or perhaps later. Regardless, I now know a short distance from DC, I can escape to an adventure fit for the likes of any wine and food lover.