Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Big bites and small towns

I fell in love last weekend. Twice, actually.

First things first: Volt.

Oh. My. Goodness. I loved every single bite. My dinner went a little something like this:

I. yellowfin tuna tartare avocado, chili oil, petite cilantro, soy air,
marinated whitefish roe

II. sheep’s milk cavatelli country ham, rye, broccoli rabe, parmesan

III. border springs farm lamb mission fig, licorice, farro, madras curry,
merguez sausage, roasted cauliflower

IV. goat cheese cake d’anjou pears, spiced vanilla, lemon balm

Just delicious. We got a kitchen tour and saw Bryan Voltaggio at work, bottling pork creamed sodas for the following night's Cochon 555 competition. We also eyed Volt's famed Table 21 tasting table in the kitchen. Mark my words, I'll have a seat there one of these days. I can't say enough about our meal: absolutely delicious, worth every penny. 

My second crush, then? The town! I fell head over heels for Frederick, MD. I forgot to charge my camera before the trip, so we'll have to revisit these stock photos since I don't have any fresh ones.

Imagine my delight at Frederick's downtown: historic and picturesque, yes, but also surprisingly large and fully-functioning, not a quaint snapshot of one moment in time. The small business mix is fantastic, the housing stock is great and a range of sizes, and more than that... Frederick feels like its own place. It's not responding to anything, it just is. My aversion to suburbs is smoothed over by my true love of cities (and the fact that T has to work in one anyway), but in truth I love small towns just as much. I felt like we were getting a peek into this alternate world of small town idealism last weekend, and I loved it. At some point on Saturday, after discovering a well-priced reclaimed wood industrial dining table (at a shop owned by two girlfriends who left behind their former lives as buyers for Nordstrom and Pottery Barn, no less!), but before hitting up the store where we bottled our own olive oil and vinegars from 30 or so tanks full of flavor, it hit me... I could live in this town. Uh oh.

And so of course H and I had to scope out local real estate, which only made the fantasy worse. Rowhomes nearly identical to the kind we've been trying to buy in DC, at less than half the cost. A regional rail stop right downtown, making for an easy ride into DC, or a stop at the end of DC's own Metro system, just a short drive away. Saving so much money on real estate that we'd actually be able to go on a real vacation. Awesome public schools, without the drama and heartache of charter school waiting lists. Uh oh.

So that was my weekend... lots of what-ifs. And here's where it all came crashing down on me: actually studying the train schedules and figuring out what T's day would look like, leaving his perfect small town surrounded by picturesque farms and heading into the city, where he has to be at work very early. The truth is harsh: he'd be on a train before 5 a.m. each morning. Or he could drive in at 45 minutes, but then have to battle traffic on the way home every afternoon, taking an hour and a half to get back. It's just not fair, no matter how I slice it.

Maybe in five years or so I'll revisit my Frederick fantasy. Maybe by then, our jobs and lives will be different enough that it might be doable. Or maybe - maaaaaybe - we'll find the right home in DC that will push my small town fantasies away for good. But until then, I totally want to take T to Frederick, eat at Volt again, and show him that dining room table.

(You know, for the dining room we don't have yet.)


  1. I am positively drooling over your meal. How big is Frederick? I suppose I could research this on my own- google here I come! ;)

  2. Your meal sounds AMAZING. Your first plate had me drooling. Tuna tartare, avocado, chile oil, cilantro - you're speaking my language! Frederick sounds charming. I'm sorry it won't work for you guys right now but I'm glad it's close enough to visit often. It certainly seems worthy of a repeat trip!

  3. Roller-coaster hopes, huh? Ouch. You never know, though. Life has a strange way of working things out for you two! Keeping hopes high for you from over here...

  4. I've been reading your blog for a while, but I thought I would actually comment now. :) I totally get the dream of living in a small town. I have those dreams myself, even though I don't live in a BIG city. I live in the Raleigh area (Cary to be exact). As much as I love this area, I would really rather be in a small town in eastern NC somewhere on the water. I grew up in a small town living on a lake and really wish my son could have that same experience. Work always gets in the way of this dream. Where would we work?

    Good luck with the home search!

  5. oh it looks lovely. i'm going to add this to my list of places nearby to see!

  6. I just knew you would fall for Frederick! I'm not much of a big city gal, but I LOVE charming towns like this one. It's the perfect size, if you ask me. We're shooting for something like this for our next move.

    Oh, and Volt? I must go!

  7. I like your musings on the nature of life in various places. What makes it work, what doesn't.


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