Serving Up Adventure
Published: Friday, February 15, 2013
Updated: Saturday, March 9, 2013 01:03
My favorite part of Valentine’s Day is taking the opportunity to dine out. So when my boyfriend told me he was coming down to visit the weekend before Valentine’s Day, I told him to forgo the chocolates and flowers and instead treat me to a meal at "Top Chef" runner-up Brian Voltaggio’s Range in Friendship Heights.
I was immediately taken aback upon entering the restaurant, a 14,000-square-foot establishment entirely enclosed by glass. Range has nine visible kitchens for its nine sections of the menu, including a raw bar, bakery, salumeria, wood-oven pizza station, wood grill and candy bar, amongst others. Despite its initially overwhelming grandeur, the restaurant also has a casual side, as exhibited by the aprons and Converse sneakers worn by all of Range’s employees.
My waitress introduced the menu as "traditional ingredients with a modern twist." This succinct statement describes Range’s selection perfectly. Best if shared, every plate on the extensive menu manages to turn traditional American staples, such as pizza and cornbread, into culinary masterpieces. The waitress recommended that we order six to eight courses for the pair of us.
We started the meal off with a few selections from the restaurant’s acclaimed bakery. The cheddar chive biscuits with pepper jelly were an impeccable combination of savory and sweet. The textured jelly, rich and sweet, perfectly complemented the sharp flavors of cheddar and chive. Served in a skillet, the cornbread with bacon marmalade was equally satisfying. The cornbread was warm and textured, crumbling at the cut of a knife, while the bacon marmalade impeccably fused together salty and sweet flavors.
Another highlight was Range’s selection of seven artisan cheeses. Served on a cutting board, the cheeses came with some apple rosemary sauce to offset some of the more pungent cheeses, citrus mustard and small toasts. Among the cheeses, the maple-smoked Cabot cheddar was a standout. However, the Monocacy Ash goat cheese, with its lush, creamy consistency that spreads on toasts as easily as butter, reigned supreme. Though Range’s salumeria station boasts an extensive selection, we chose to order only a sampling of the Virginia country ham. My boyfriend devoured the ham before I even managed a bite, later proclaiming it the best ham he had ever eaten.
Feeling adventurous, we decided to try the whole rabbit, for our main course. Infused with greens and spices, the rabbit was delicious, but it was the least enjoyable aspect of the meal. This was due mostly to its texture, which was a rubbery crossbreed of the consistencies of chicken and liverwurst. Along with the rabbit, we ordered "seamless" ravioli stuffed with goat cheese. Perfectly round and served over a few spoonfuls of hearty chili, my encounter with the ravioli was a positive one. The warm goat cheese was creamy and rich, and the ravioli’s dough melted in my mouth.
Desserts are definitely a strong suit for Range. In addition to having a candy and chocolate station, an employee carts around a display of the pastries, cakes and puddings. Due to our full stomachs, however, my boyfriend and I opted to share the house-made sorbets and ice cream: a trio of granny smith apple, blood orange and cinnamon peppercorn scoops. This refreshing dessert, served over a spoonful of crumbled cookies, was the perfect end to a fantastic meal. After Range, I experienced a food coma, which made me unable to move and induced ten hours of sleep, but it was well worth the obscene calorie intake and substantial bill. Range was the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.