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The Inn at Little Washington - Summer´s Quintessence
July 14, 2015
A Joyous Bastille Day Pilgrimage to America's Gastronomic Citadel
By Claudette Veronica Ferron, Vice Chargée de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.
Reportedly the “Pope” will visit in the United States in September of this year, but while the catholic faithful wait with ardent anticipation for Francis the Sixteenth’s much heralded arrival, the Greater Washington, D.C. Bailliage quietly basked in America’s own Pope’s esteemed presence and shared in his hallowed sacraments at The [revered] Inn at Little Washington. Tucked away in the rolling hills and picturesque countryside of bucolic Rappahannock County, Virginia, just 69 miles west of the Nation’s Capital, the Bailliage journeyed on its annual pilgrimage to the exquisite celebrated cathedral of American high cuisine. While members and guests of the Bailliage did not secretly break bread with Pope Francis, they were privileged to dined privately with the world renowned American Pope of fine food and refined living, Maître Honneur Chef Patrick O’Connell. Cloistered in the lavish warmth of the opulent and sumptuous shrine to epicurean excellence and regal accommodation, the fortunate diners, were honored with an unparalleled, quintessential mid-summer feast, prepared especially for them by the venerated Chef. The reputation of Maître Honneur Chef O’Connell and The Inn at Little Washington for setting international gastronomic and small hotelier standards is storied. The Inn received the Washington Post Dining Guide highest score of four stars for 2015, Forbes Travel Guide also bestowed the Inn with its highest honor of five stars for an astonishing 25th consecutive year, one of only a select few restaurants worldwide to be so honored. This year the Inn also received the Wine Spectator Grand Award for the 18th consecutive year, a singular achievement among the myriad of fine restaurants in the Virginia and Maryland, and the District of Columbia region. And in 2015 Chef O’Connell was selected for Le Chef Magazine’s Top 100 Chefs in the World list. These are just a small sampling of the prestigious culinary and hotelier honors and awards conferred upon Maître Honneur Chef O’Connell and his fairytale auberge.
Heralding the fabulous food fantasy sojourn was by a delightful gastronomic prelude that began with the journey to the American culinary Mecca. Making their way to the Inn in a privately chartered coach through the verdant hills and lush valleys of Virginia, members and guests of the Bailliage were treated to a tantalizing snack box of tempting palate teasers. Courtesy of the Bailliage’s own Chevalier Michael McHenry, excited culinary travelers sampled petit morsels, including a delicious Campari tomato stuffed tarragon-chives shrimp salad, two delectable deviled Quail eggs, and a mélange of dried apricots and candied ginger tidbits prepared by Chevalier McHenry; a marvelous imported Machengo cheese, a selection of local artesian chocolates, and mouthwateringly, crunchy caramelized Marcona almonds, prepared by the Bailliage’s multi-talented Bailli Judith Mazza. A sparkling and refreshing Conegliano Valdobbiadene Brut Prosecco Superiore DOCG, mingled with fresh squeezed orange juice, for those preferring a classic Mimosa with their delicacies, accompanied the culinary teasers. The enticing snack box creations were a pleasing preamble to the exquisite gourmet affaire d’coeur awaiting the discerning palates at the Maître d’Honneur Chef O’Connell’s extravagant epicurean celebration.
Upon arriving at the charming and sumptuous country house and restaurant, Chef O’Connell’s white-gloved staff literally rolled out the red carpet for Bailliage. Alighting onto the plush red carpet, each diner was warmly welcomed into the opulent, impeccably appointed formal salon with a sparkling glass of Jean-Pierre Legret, Talus- St-Prix, France (N.V.), a fresh and vivacious champagne, which awakened the senses during the convivial reception in the palatial, but inviting surroundings.
With the seduction underway and diners deliberately entranced by the visual opulence of unabashedly romantic furnishings, in colors and hues known to entice, the tour of Chef O’Connell’s pristine kitchen began. As sous chefs and kitchen staff prepared hors d’oeuvres with the precision of surgeons, guests to the legendary kitchen mingled in the beautifully appointed, glistening inner sanctum of America’s Pope d’ Cuisine. Moving reverently through the magnificent epicurean atelier, nimble wait-staff effortless served dazzled guests superlative hors d’oeuvres. Beginning with the legendary chive and gruyère gougères, divine gossamer puffs of heaven, eager palates were swept away to the gates of culinary paradise. Then the truffled popcorn, a time honored favorite of experienced Inn diners elevated simple puffs of corn to resplendent elegance. Next defying their pedestrian title, anything but ordinary Caviar chips and dip, captivated with their luminous brininess and ethereal crispy texture. Then the subtle nip of French butter dipped Breakfast Radishes, surprised and teased with their young delicacy, reminding everyone of their just-harvested, dew borne birth from the fertile earth in the garden just outside the kitchen window. And an exquisite succulence Escargot Vol-Au-Vent completed the foretaste of gastronomic nirvana.
With appetites wetted, photo ops with the gracious Chef O’Connell over, and enamored and animated conversation shifting with anticipation, excited Bailliage members and guests were gently guided through to the alluring dining room, where they were secluded in the lavish embrace of the Inn’s rapturous chambers of epicurean fantasy. As impeccably polished wait staff floated around guests with near invisibility anticipating and attending to the every need of discriminating members and guests, a sensual dream unfolded.
First, a heavenly crispy Napoleon of Pomme Anna with chilled Maine lobster and lobster gazpacho, enthralled eyes and palates with divine succulence and seductive liquescent, capturing every nuance of ocean freshness. Paired perfectly with Chartogne-Taillet, Cuvee Ste. Anne, Reims, France (N.V.), a rich, citrus-fruited blend of champagne grapes with a hint of quince and a touch of sea air, the first sampling wrapped diners in the celestial epicurean experience. Then a decadent fillet of Perch with and exquisite shallot comfiture and red wine reduction, romance members and guests with a rapturous orchestration of delicate, but intense flavors, and a fleshy hedonistic texture. Married to a 2009 Jean-Michel Guillon, Chambolle-Musigny, France, a delicate wine with hints of cherries and strawberries with a fine minerality and supple spicy notes,immersed the senses in sybaritic delight. Barbecued Jamison Farms lamb loin with Caponata-filled Tortellini and grilled garden vegetables, followed a climactic culinary triumph – supple viande divine, nestled with herbaceous morsels, conspired with a superb 2012 Domaine de la Janasse, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France,a lavishly ripe and deeply perfumed, complex, but balanced wine with floral notes and dark berry flavors to consummate a quintessential savory gastronomic affair.
A trio of Virginia’s finest seasonal cheeses, including the renowned King family’s Sandy Bottom, Esmontonian and Grayson, were the perfect punctuation to the exquisite savory sampling, carefully caressing palates in preparation for the sumptuous sweet dénouement. And then, finally, Chef O’Connell consummated his masterful affaire de gastronomique with his famed Marie Antoinette Olive Oil Cake with olive oil and lemon curd ice cream with blueberry compote, a near guillotine worthy, subtly sweet patisserie of sublime delicacy, consorting with a lightly citrus, silken ice cream.
With the culmination of the summer’s quintessential culinary extravagance at hand, the ever gracious Chef O’Connell presented each guest with a token of his affection and appreciation, un petit maison de papier, a replica of the Inn filled with delectable tiny treasures of whimsical candied ginger, decadent chocolate truffle and a delicious sweet pastry. But before bidding goodbye to the hallowed Mecca of culinary worship Bailliage members and guests had one last opportunity to savor the favors of the venerated Chef O’Connell. Crossing the country lane outside the stately Inn, the food aficionados had the opportunity to purchase autographed copies of Chef O’Connell’s latest book– The Inn at Little Washington – a Magnificent Obsession, and other mementos at the Inn’s Tavern shops. Finally, with the sojourn to epicurean ecstasy completed, Bailliage members and guests said a fond farewell to the magnificent Inn, and Maître Honneur Chef for another year.
Every once in a while a little taste of heaven finds its way to our world. Fortunately for the members and guests of the Greater Washington D.C. Bailliage, our soupçon of epicurean paradise, is just a few miles away from our homes. A day with Maître Honneur Chef Patrick O’Connell and The Inn at little Washington is quite simply a summation of superlatives and words do poor justice to this consummate gastronomic experience. Fortunately for the Bailliage, it is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. See you next year!
It would be virtually impossible for the Bailliage to best the experience at The Inn at Little Washington. Fortunately for all attendees, the next event will be replete with its own splendor as the auspicious Bailliage welcomes new members at the Grand Induction Ceremony at the magnificent Metropolitan club.