FOCUSED, PASSIONATE, INTENSE: MY INTERVIEW WITH TOP CHEF WINNER MICHAEL VOLTAGGIO

In January 2012, I had the honor of sitting down with the owner of ink. Restaurant, ink.sack and Top Chef champ (and fellow Frederick-tonian) Michael Voltaggio. I really wanted to re-post this piece – let’s all get our inner chef’s inspired, shall we? It’s the HOLIDAYS!!!

PS – I have the Voltaggio Brothers (yep, Michael AND Bryan!) homemade applesauce recipe..it’s SO easy to make! I’ll post it in time for Thanksgiving 🙂

 Focused, Passionate, Intense: Meet Top Chef Winner Michael Voltaggio

When entering celebrated Chef Michael Voltaggio’s new restaurant, ink., one cannot help the feeling as if interrupting a conductor who is privately guiding his orchestra through its greatest concerto. With movements that are quick and decisive it’s no wonder three words come to mind to describe Voltaggio: focused, passionate and intense.

It’s this focus, this passion and this intensity that seeps its way out of the kitchen and onto the main floor here in the home of his newest passion project. Tucked away in the corner of a non-descript brick building on famed Melrose Avenue, ink., opened in September in the heart of West Hollywood. LA’s newest eatery boasts an industrial interior with a minimalist vibe and has quickly become a must-stop for foodies and Top Chef enthusiasts alike.

When comparing ink.’s menus from one week to the next, it can be noted that a limited amount of items are part of his regular repertoire. Voltaggio prefers mixing things up weekly. Served on small plates and meant for sharing, his menu is peppered with interesting options that ring of familiar fare, yet with a culinary twist.

A dish such as the jidori chicken and waffles with hot sauce served with whipped maple syrup is his creative spin on the traditional dish of Southern fried chicken and waffles. Voltaggio also expands diner’s minds and palates by offering a kale salad tossed lightly with burrata, Asian pear, pumpkin seeds and a yuzu sauce.

Other menu items that are tempting taste buds to come out of their humdrum shells are the beef tartare that is served with horseradish snow, hearts of palm, and a sea bean chimichurri. There’s also a dish of brussels sprouts, much like a side dish served for a family dinner. Except Votaggio finishes his version with thinly sliced pig ears, house-cured lardo and apple.

As if one restaurant wasn’t enough, Voltaggio also opened a culinary sandwich shop, ink.sack, in August. In his own way, he has made the ordinary sandwich quite the opposite. The menu at ink.sack offers sandwiches such as a beef tongue Reuben and the “CLT”, his take on the traditional BLT. Voltaggio’s version has the lettuce and tomato but the similarity ends there. The “C’ is a chicken liver mousse topped with crispy chicken skin as the bacon substitute.

Voltaggio also makes sure to tip his hat to his Maryland roots, by including Maryland Crab Chips on ink.sack’s daily menu. Homemade deep-fried potato crisps dusted with Old Bay seasoning adds a new spin on the BBQ potato chip for resident Angelinos. This is definitely not your run-of-the mill sandwich shop.

Sitting down with Michael Voltaggio, you begin to understand his rise to stardom amongst other culinary favorites such as Thomas Keller or James Beard. Food enthusiasts think nothing of including his name among lists of the best. The reason?

He’s becoming one of the greats himself.

“I work the line, I cook the food, I order it, I wash the dishes if I have to. I want to be in my restaurant cooking, not be the guy that is never (there),” said Voltaggio.  “I want to focus, right now, my time in LA.”

How does he spend his time when he owns and operates not one, but two restaurants? Well, there’s a consulting gig for a to be announced project in India on the agenda and don’t forget about the cookbook, VOLTink, which he’s been on the road promoting with his brother Brian. One thing is for certain; Voltaggio’s schedule is not for the faint of heart.

In fact balance is something he finds himself struggling with on a daily basis.

“Lately, it’s been all traveling, so I really haven’t had much time to have a lot of  “fun” at all. I used to go hiking a lot. When I had time, I did things like normal people do: I’d exercise and surf, I went outside. I’d like to be able to go outside again,” he said with a grin.

In the midst of his hectic schedule, there is some light though. “I do go out to eat, I ride my Harley and I like to go to shows and concerts when I can.”

Voltaggio’s talent and passion became properly introduced when he was as a teenager, living in Frederick, Maryland, attending Thomas Johnson High School, playing football and working part-time at the Holiday Inn.

“I was in school full time, going to football practice then going to work. I think out of the whole course of my day, the part I looked forward to the most was going to work, and it wasn’t just because I was getting paid. It was fun. I was working on the line cooking food. I couldn’t wait to get there everyday.”

This education helped as he began planning his restaurant after his Top Chef win in 2009.

“I think Los Angeles is a city that has never been taken seriously as a food town. Within the past five years, (we’ve seen) this small food community start to get bigger and bigger, and grow and grow because there is a need for it. People are interested in going out to eat in LA. Food is big, but it hasn’t been as chef-driven or chef-branded.”

When asked what restaurants or nightlife he likes to imbibe in when traveling home to Frederick, Voltaggio’s grin widened as he shared, “Olde Towne Tavern and of course, I’m going to always go check out Volt.”

And where will Chef Voltaggio be in the next few years?

“Hopefully, still in LA, still running ink, maybe with a couple smaller restaurants around,” he said thoughtfully. “I missed my twenties and most likely am going to miss my thirties, so I’d really like to enjoy my forties.”

Photo credit: Alex Horner (for LA Times Magazine)

Photo credit: Alex Horner
(for LA Times Magazine)

 

 

 

The Company We Keep: In search of like minds…

We’re all Late Bloomer’s at heart aren’t we? I needed to make sure I was keeping good company – not just good. AMAZING. Yes, AMAZING company.

Here’s who I found – if you can think of anyone else and want to share, leave a note in the comments! 

 

1. Stan Lee was in his early 40s when he created Spider-Man  – and artist Jack Kirby, Lee’s partner, started drawing The Fantastic Four when he was 44

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2. Rodney Dangerfield didn’t get his first “big” break until he was 42.

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3. Julia Child published “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” when she was 49. She was on TV by her early 50s.

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4. Charles Bukowski was 49 when his first book was published.

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5. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s first book – “Little House in the Big Woods” – came out when she was 65.

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Need Some Help? How to Design on a Budget!

I’ve decided that Tuesdays for the month of October will be themed with budget-friendly ideas for those of us who either don’t want to spend a ton of money OR who don’t have a ton of money to spend!

(Jump back to last Tuesday’s post about budget-friendly date ideas f you need some or missed it!)

Today I’m sharing with you an article I found on the HGTV website: 11 Ideas for Designing on a Budget. Most of the advice is simple and really, it’s the kind of advice you’d give a close friend if they were in the middle of this type of at-home project. However, we forget how easy it is to change our homes with little to no money to spend!

Enjoy this article and feel free to post a comment here or send me a note with YOUR idea of how to get creative with your home-decor design budget – I love your feedback!!

Relationship Advice? Don’t Ask Cosmo!

People who dole out dating advice usually aren’t folks that are actually dating..right?

Maybe I’m stretching the truth a bit here, but I’m not the only one. Dear ole Cosmo has been outed a time or two for suggesting/publishing/advising some of the dumbest crap I’ve ever read.

And we wonder why girls these days are growing up with issues…GET THEM AWAY FROM THE MAGAZINE STAND!!

As if there wasn’t enough to worry about with diets, celebs and their DUI’s making headlines, or other “news”, we also seem to forget that magazine’s insist on offering advice for the ladies in the way of sex, dating, rituals, etc. that just SUCKS. It’s one thing to give advice in YOUR opinion, from YOUR POV (point of view, that is) but it sure as hell is another to give advice like Cosmo did in some of their past articles.

Cracked.com posted this write-up entitled “Seven Psychotic Pieces of Relationship Advice from Cosmo” and I insist that anyone who can get eyes on this does! It’s hilarious and will make you shake your head. To me, the fact that people can get away with this BS (Please reference Psychotic Tip #6, scrolling to the part about “Consequences He Can Expect) is absolutely crazy. Was this shit really in print?

Yep. I’m so irritated I said shit. I also now have a conspiracy theory where Cosmo is in cahoots with every divorce lawyer in the USA. Not kidding.

Anyway, take a read. See what you think. Then post here and let me know YOUR thoughts…Maybe you agree. That’s totally fine. I respect opinions and want to hear all of it!

I love and welcome your feedback, so feel free to bring it on!

Need A Good Idea? Here are the best ideas for an inexpensive date!!

Who says we need to be totally WOW’ed all the time?

Ok, so maybe we do need  a big “oomph” factor. However, in times like these (aka coming outta the Recession we were all dealing with) I love it when  a guy looks for other ways to charm the pants off me…literally. 😉

There is nothing wrong with researching date ideas involving more of a “budget-friendly” vibe. I love being doted on, and the over-the-top moments of an expensive dinner or surprise front row seats to a favorite concert or show, but the times my dates have really thought outside the box? Those are the ones I’ll always remember and truly do appreciate more. Nights chatting over a game of darts, or swinging at balls at the driving range are ones that pop to mind quickest…followed by surprise picnics at the beach or a dinner one night of my favorite pizza, a bottle of wine and a rented movie. And the firing range – Ahh, that was a great first date!
Apparently Marie Claire agrees  – In the July 2011 issue, they released 50 top spots and good ideas for a cheap date. Check out their link and see how many of these ideas you’ve participated in or would like to do with your one-and-only now.

Feel free to let me know how it goes or to leave a comment here with your own ideas for budget-friendly date night 🙂 I love your feedback!!

RUM PUNCH REGRETS – REVIEWS!

August has been beyond busy – which is good for me, but bad for my bloggin’!

Just so you can see a bit of what I’ve been up to, I’m going to post some of the reviews here for you to check out. I’m also extending my CHARM GIVEAWAY for another few weeks just because of the response AND because we will be rolling out some new charms in the line – stay tuned and make sure you add a review to AMAZON to enter for the charm of your choice!!

The first review up is from the Jersey Girl Book Review blog. This one gives you a two-for-one! You get a guest post from yours truly AND a FOUR STAR REVIEW!!

I’ll add more  posts for your reading pleasure as the week goes on – plus I’ll have some pics up from the Lupus LA Poker Tournament and Rooftop Party that’s happening this Thursday September 13th here in Los Angeles! I’m playing in the tourney and look forward to attempting to WIN BIG…

Want more info on LUPUS LA? Click on the link and check out a charity I love dearly and fully support.

 

Another Giveaway! Wanna win a charm?

It’s time for my big, fabulous contest announcement – are you guys ready for it?

WHO WANTS TO WIN A CHARM?

Starting tomorrow, August 3rd, I will be running another EASY contest. This time the winner will get the choice of one of my charms…in gold or silver!!

They are so cute and can be added to an existing charm bracelet, or used as a necklace or on a leather wrap bracelet (my FAVORITE way to wear them!!) These are the charms inspired by ABBY GEORGE and RUM PUNCH REGRETS. Don’t you want one of your own?
To enter, you just need to review one of my books – which I’m sure ALL OF YOU have read by now…right? 😉 – on Amazon. Any names popping up for reviews from August 3, 2012  through September 4, 2012 will automatically be entered to win! (I tell ya where to buy my books below!)

And don’t forget, I give a portion of my proceeds from the ABBY GEORGE SERIES to Lupus LA – help me help them, please?

Good luck and happy reading!!

NEED TO BUY A BOOK? You can get them here:

AMAZON – eBook

AMAZON – print version

BARNES AND NOBLE – Nook

iTunes – NOW AVAILABLE!!!!

It’s Book Release Week!

This Friday, RUM PUNCH REGRETS is being released on eBook and as print-on-demand! You’ll be able to find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble (they have it for pre-sale, too!), iTunes, Kobo…soo many ways to read my fun lil’ book!

Today, I was a guest on Alexis Walker’s Happily Ever After Thoughts Blog – we did a fun interview and she’s arranged for a giveaway with one of my books. I think you may have ’til Wednesday to enter, so stop by her blog and do it!

Wednesday I’m doing a guest post on the Chick Lit Writers of the World blog, part of the RWA chapter I’m a member of. I’ll make sure to post the link once it’s up and running. I love writing at this blog for my fellow writers and sharing my stories or experiences among such an amazing and talented group of writers!

Friday is the big release (did I mention my book? RUM PUNCH REGRETS? Yes, that’s the one.) and along with it…a big announcement! There will be a giveaway and I have been bursting at the seams to share this with you for months. I can finally, FINALLY, tell you about it on Friday! All I can say is that if you buy the book and enter, you won’t be disappointed!!

There will be more giveaways on Goodreads and other fun contests, so please check back often and get your friends to join my email list here so they can take part, too.

Have a good week everyone and if you’re on vacation and pounding some rum punch? Take two aspirin and drink LOTS of water.

TRUST ME ON THIS ONE 😉

When NOT to text…or how to date the old-fashioned way!

I can’t believe I’m about to wax poetic about the days of yore, but as a single gal out there dating, I’ve come across a phenomenon that is just not normal, people. Not one bit.I thought I was the only one that felt this, but thankfully after interviewing several women and men, I’ve found that what I thought was a lone pet peeve is actually a universal one.

What is this maddening, irritating tick, you ask? Okay, hold on to your boot straps folks, cause I’m about to upset techies everywhere.

It’s TEXTERS.

There I said it, and my load feels lighter for just typing it out. Text-iquette is something that is begging to be addressed as it is becoming more and more common in today’s dating world.

I get it – we are an A.D.D. society, used to getting information faster than a speeding bullet. Can’t remember who starred in that last Clooney film? Quick! To the SmartPhone and Google it. Need to look up the address for that amazing restaurant from last Saturday night? No need to dial 411 when you can search it out online from the privacy of your car, then text the address to your friend!

All in less than a minute…

There are times when texting can be a lifesaver. I understand that when you need to send or receive a quick burst of info without a long conversation, using the power of text is quite beneficial. Friends with someone forever? You can text one another, going back and forth with quick one-word answers because you know each other and can hear the tone of his or her voice. Family member that could get you tied up in a long convo on the phone? Text ‘em!

But, when should you not text someone?

When you’ve started to date someone, especially in the very beginning! We need to set some ground rules here, folks. Cause this is getting a little out of hand.

Recently a friend of mine – let’s call her Chloe – went on a date or two with someone who was coming across well in person. They had a few dates that were fun and lively. There were some reservations, but she wanted to get to know him a little more, because that’s what dating is about. It’s an information exchange while searching out your chemistry, and hopefully a little making out, too.

Anyway, all was well for those first few dates, then the texting began. Now initially Chloe said that she didn’t mind the texts after date one, because they were still in the “getting to know you” phase. Did she want to talk on the phone? Communicate verbally? Of course.

Did the guy do this? Of course…Not.

(Most of the folks I polled DO want to speak on the phone. It’s just better since the beginning stages are when you’re both sussing out the others ticks and habits. You don’t know someone’s inflection over a text, but six months down the road you might. )

Men and women alike are growing irritated with the trend of non-committal texting. The impression you give in the beginning is the one that makes or breaks you, my dear. Seriously.

Chloe, being more forgiving than most of her gender, decided she’d go out with Mr. X another night, and would bring up the lack of conversation when they saw each other next to test the waters.

Oddly enough, the next date was entirely arranged via text message. The evening of said date, Chloe waited for her date to “text” her his ETA for their date. She never heard from him. Confused and wondering if she should call or text, Chloe decided to go to bed and give it a day to see what tomorrow brought.

Well the next morning brought an apology…over text. It seems that Mr. X had indeed texted Chloe that he needed to postpone their plans. Unfortunately, the message was never delivered. It had shown up on his end as a “delivery fail” and he had not seen it until the next morning – insert sad face emoticon here.

Yes, folks, it truly was a delivery fail.

Realizing that this man could have picked up the phone to call her and rearrange plans, yet he chose not to made it much easier for Chloe to see her own personal communication red flag at this juncture.

Following his lead, Chloe sent a “nice to meet you” text, and promptly deleted his information.

I know, it isn’t easy out in the dating world, folks, but the one thing I’ve learned in all of my years as me is that communication is key.

So the next time you get the urge to text someone – be it a first date, your girlfriend of five years or even your best friend – surprise them and yourself and communicate like the olden days:

PICK UP THE PHONE!

———

Anne Kemp writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

 

The 15 Most Romantic Movie Moments

While researching content for this month’s Anne In Progress column, I found this article on the15 Most Romantic Movie Moments.

I was transported back to fond memories by the simple act of clicking through these pages. I hope it makes you as happy as I was when I stumbled upon this.

It really doesn’t matter whether your jaded or in love, a believer in Valentine’s Day or a cynic that thinks it all a crock…take a few moments to flip through and enjoy!