Monday, July 14, 2008

Chef's Table at the Inn at Little Washington.

The Menu

Have a special occasion coming up? Getting married? Divorced (and have the better attorney?) Found oil on your suburban 1/4 acre? I've got the perfect place to celebrate. It's called the Inn at Little Washington.
Some of you may have heard of it. Some maybe not. It has been a Mecca-like destination for the Gastrotourista since the late 70's. Owner and Chef Patrick O'Connell has been called the Pope of American Cuisine, and with good reason. The place is astounding. For the overall effect, it gets 5 stars...not that I've figured out a rating system yet, but that's how I feel about it.
I won't bore you with all of the details, but I can tell you this: It is the pinnacle of American cuisine as I've experienced it. Just eating there wasn't enough for me, so I talked several of my friends into dining at the chef's table with me and my wife. Sooner or later I KNOW they're going to stop answering my e-mails when I ask them if they have dinner plans six months out. This was actually number two for one of the couples, who joined us for a previous outrageous dinner at the Chef's Table @ Citronelle in '06, so they should have known better.
We started at the Foster-Harris Inn, which is about 1/8th mile from the Inn at Little Washington. This place is obviously fed by I@LW traffic, but it's a destination in it's own right. The house is supremely comfortable. They have a great yard, complimentary beverages, and an endless supply of hot water for their well-appointed bathrooms. We started with a nice bottle of Veuve there (provided by us, not the FHI), then walked up to the I@LW.
Once at the I@LW we were greeted by some of the most gracious and intuitive servers/sommeliers/chefs I've ever had the pleasure of eating with. Sure, there were a few less-experienced folks wandering around, but they kept them away from us for the most part.

We began in the parlor, then were escorted in by the GM and a man dressed as an acolyte who was swinging an incense holder. He escorted us into the kitchen and we were introduced to the Pope, Chef Patrick.

Chef Patrick and Me.


The rest of the evening progressed at a good pace. My favorite dish was the second one out of the gate: The Tin of Sin. I know you're supposed to take the picture BEFORE you eat, but it looked so good...

American Ossetra caviar with crab and cucumber rillette, AKA Tin of Sin



That, along with the Andre Tissot Brut was almost worth the price of admission. After that the Duck Pekin was the most memorable.

We started around six and left around eleven. Dinner didn't take five hours. We went onto the patio and continued the party for a couple of hours. Did I mention they have a fine cigar selection?

I'm sure they were happy to see us go. I don't think we were the last customers there, but close to it. We walked back to the FHI down the middle of the two lane road that runs through Washington, the ladies with their beautiful, but painful shoes slung over bare shoulders, having to step to the side for only one car. Now THAT is peaceful.

The next day breakfast at the FHI was better than expected, though I guess the proprietor does have a tough act to follow. John and Diane at the Inn are good at what they do. I'd suggest them to anyone thinking about visiting the area.


The only unanswered question is, "How do you top that?"
I'm sure we'll find something, but I'm still basking in the glow for now.
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