Eighteen years ago I stopped last at the Inn at Little Washington. It was already a famous, special place. Please see the podcast below, The “Inn” Place, as to the many aspects that make the town and Inn so distinctively captivating.
I’ve been married just over seventeen years, and this is one place my wife and I had never visited as a couple. My birthday was looming and we decided to experience it anew, together.
The culinary finesse of Patrick O’Connell, a true innovator, beggars description. Thirty two years of operating the Inn and the experience still takes your breath away.
The first picture you see is the extraordinary kitchen, custom designed in France, based on the dairy room of Windsor Castle, with Gregorian chants soothing and focusing the chefs who deliver such a virtuoso performance each night.
The second picture is us, with a glass of superb rose champagne and a bit of whimsy, truffled popcorn to accompany it in the stunning lounge (the popcorn has truffle oil AND shaved truffles on top — talk about “finger licking good”). Simplicity and artistry in one.
The third picture is the cheese cow. The cheese selection is European in sweep and balance, delivered on this cow which even makes a mooing sound as she approaches. What a blend of elegance and humor, of Old World art and New World impertinence!
Even the dishes are more than they seem. The caviar you see in the picture seems as if it’s just Ossetra in a tin. But underneath is a silky and exquisite crab and cucumber rilette that just amazingly flatters the caviar in undreamt of ways. The subtlety isn’t compromised, and the flavors are wonderfully enhanced.
Each dish leaves you puckering your palate as it experiences both sophistication and also at least a few unusually tantalizing overtones…like the warm limoncello souffle with zesty lemon ice cream. We were there two nights and other than the menu below, I can particularly recommend other dazzling highlights like hot and cold foie gras on a single plate (a revelation!), lamb carpaccio with caesar salad ice cream, and a shockingly, decadently alluring butter pecan ice cream sandwich with warm caramel.
Taken all in, it is everything a performance should be — delivered by service personalities who show up for each “act” presciently and yet unobtrusively, contributing appropriate charm and warmth. And I was even given a lovely Boutonniere (the elegant flower in the lapel) as I entered! A lovely tradition rarely preserved today…except at bastions of civility and taste like the Inn.
This is the stuff that memories are truly made on!
Passion comes first, then vision, then devoted execution…success follows, and is almost then incidental. Having chatted with Patrick O’Connel I found he had perused my website and Blog, knew who was inhouse, his team had recommendations in hand for us to enjoy the environs, and he was clearly determined we’d be back well before another eighteen years!
We will…much sooner.
Care that much and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll more than make it in whatever you choose to go for.
A Tin of Sin: Ossetra Caviar with a Crab and Cucumber Rillette with Gatinois, Grand Cru, Ay, Brut, Champagne, 2002
A Quartet of Island Creek Oyster Slurpies
Lightly Scrambled Local Farm Eggs with Creme Fraiche, Wild Morels and Asparagus in a Crystal Egg with Bodegas Escoda-Sanahuja, Conca de Barbera, Els Bassots, Catalunya, Spain 2006
Pecan-Crusted Soft Shell Crab Tempura with Italian Mustard Fruit and Marinated Cabbage Slaw with Jermann, Pinot Grigio, Venezia Giulia, Friuli, Italy 2006
Pan Seared Four Story Hill Farm’s Peking Duck Breast on Red Wine Risotto with Caramelized Endive and Foie Gras “Croutons” with Thierry Allemand, Cornas, Rhone, France 2002 and La Grange Meritage, Virginia 2007
Strawberry Basil Bubble Tea
Limoncello Souffle with Lemon Ice Cream with Le Mandolare, Recioto di Soave Classico, Le Schiavette, Veneto, Italy 2005
BONUS: Iced Birthday Cake with Dark Chocoloate and Pistachio