Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Culinary Destination: Frederick

Volt Chef Bryan Voltaggio’s appearance on Bravo’s Top Chef Season 6 series may have ignited the public’s awareness that Frederick is a great place to dine, but many have known for some time that Frederick has all the ingredients to emerge as a culinary destination. From award-winning local wines and beer to some of the region’s best farms, Frederick restaurants have practically everything in their backyard to create a memorable feast.

Many restaurants, like Volt, are turning to farm-to-table menu items that feature the unique tastes of Frederick County. Vegetables, grass-fed beef, greens, fruits and berries, and cheeses are just a few of the homegrown items featured in area restaurants. And visitors are noticing the difference.“Dining has always been a popular attraction for visitors,” says John Fieseler, Director for the Tourism Council of Frederick County. “But more and more people are asking where they can have a meal that features local ingredients.”

In addition to the ability to offer local produce, the restaurants in Downtown Frederick have an added benefit – the large number of food establishments within walking distance to each other. “We know that some businesses – like restaurants – generally do better when grouped together,” explains Kara Norman, Executive Director of the Downtown Frederick Partnership. In addition to farm-to-table offerings, diners can choose from the many American-style and ethnic restaurants, offering anything from hamburgers to creamy curry dishes. “Visitors can head downtown and know that there are 60-plus restaurants, specialty food shops, cafes, bakeries, and coffee and tea houses within just a few short blocks of each other. They all thrive as it establishes the area as a culinary and dining destination,” Norman explains.

In fact, plans to further establish Frederick as a dining destination are already underway. The Downtown Frederick Partnership, Tourism Council, and local restaurants are planning Frederick’s first Restaurant Week in the spring. “While we are still working on the specifics, there is a lot of enthusiasm from the restaurants about this project,” says Tiffany Ahalt, Tourism Marketing Manager. “It’s a great way to promote our vibrant dining scene.”

Frederick’s beverages are also earning a reputation as well. Many local restaurants proudly feature and pair their dishes with Frederick County beer and wine. Frederick’s Flying Dog Brewery took the “Mid-Size Brewery of the Year” award at the Great American Beer Festival, placing first out of 76 others in the category and also taking home one silver and three gold medals for their brews. Brewer’s Alley was on the scene as well, winning a bronze medal. Frederick County’s six vineyards also offer palate-pleasing blends for wine enthusiasts. Notably, Black Ankle Vineyard’s 2007 Crumbling Rock was selected as the top wine in the 2009 Maryland Governor’s Cup Competition and its 2007 Leaf Stone Syrah won best Syrah in the 2009 Mid Atlantic Seaboard Competition.

“Between our high concentration of quality restaurants, great produce, and award-winning wines and beer, Frederick is becoming discovered for what it is – a culinary destination that lets the visitor experience how good Maryland fare can taste,” says Fieseler.

Story by Michelle Kershner
Communications Specialist, Tourism Council of Frederick County

photo caption: Volt’s co-owner and Chef Bryan Voltaggio serves up local produce at a Chef’s Challenge cooking demonstration at the West Frederick Farmer’s Market. Without being told beforehand what was available, Voltaggio created a dish from fresh foods found at the vendor stands.