Tag Archives: Virginia

The Inn at Little Washington: A Tale of an Anniversary, Redemption, and Closure

8 Mar

Before we get into today’s post, I have to recount a story that will help explain why this post is titled as such.

The first time we ever dined at the Inn at Little Washington was exactly one year ago. Rachel and I had just got married and we went on a “mini-moon” in Washington, Virginia immediately following the wedding.

Staying at a nearby bed and breakfast, the main attraction was our reservation at the world-renowned Inn for dinner. As someone who not only loves food, but is also considered a “bottomless pit” to some, what happened next was, dare I say, tragic.

That morning, I had contracted some sort of stomach illness. Any desire of hunger had disappeared, replaced instead with sharp pains in the abdominal region. It wasn’t really the greatest trade off.

Since we were mere walking distance from the restaurant, and because there would be a cancellation fee for reservations changed within 24 hours, I felt that I could whether the storm and try to enjoy dinner to its fullest.

Amuse bouche of pork belly, "gin and tonic" foam, the smallest baked potato with sour cream, and a risotto ball

While I recall the deliciousness of the herb-crusted baby lamb Carpaccio, once I had reached the second course, it was all downhill from there. The pain was intensifying and the sight of food was increasing my nausea. The waitress, who felt terrible about the predicament, kept graciously supplying me with glasses of ginger ale. I barely touched my entrée and had no recollection what it tasted like because I was so ill.

As someone who rarely gets sick, this was my worst nightmare realized.

Ever since that fateful evening, I have vowed to return to the Inn at Little Washington not only healthy, but with a hearty appetite. It’s eaten away at me (no pun intended) for a year now, and I was determined to come back and enjoy the best dinner we was supposed to have that night.

I wanted closure, dammit.

White bean soup prepared with Virginia country ham and accompanied with a cheddar biscuit

With our one year anniversary coming up, we felt it was a perfect opportunity to return to the countryside of Virginia and dine at one of the area’s (if not the country’s) very best restaurants.

The service at the Inn is unlike anything else we have ever encountered. When we arrived in the pouring rain, attendants came with umbrellas to make sure we wouldn’t get wet from the nasty weather.

Once we were inside, one of the hosts noticed my camera and asked if he could take a picture of us in front of the warm fireplace, to which of course we obliged. Shortly after, we were escorted to our seats in the gorgeous dining room where another host asked us if he wanted to take our picture at the table.  To say that you are treated like royalty would be an understatement when dining at the Inn.

Chilled Maine lobster with braised celery hearts, root vegetables, and citrus vinaigrette

We started the evening off with a bottle of chardonnay from the Winery at LaGrange, which is a winery we had debated visiting this past weekend.

Shortly after our wine was served, our first amuse bouche arrived. Delicately placed in four individuals spoons were miniature bites of pork belly, “gin and tonic” foam, the smallest baked potato with sour cream, and a risotto ball. We obviously couldn’t share them so we each ate two. For such small portions we were enamored with how each tasted.

Our next amuse bouche was a small serving of white bean soup prepared with Virginia country ham and accompanied with a cheddar biscuit. The two items flawlessly complemented one another. In fact, I wouldn’t have minded a whole bowl of the soup just for myself based on how rich and delicious it was.

Carpaccio of herb crusted baby lamb with Caesar salad ice cream

For the first course, I ordered the chilled Maine lobster with braised celery hearts, root vegetables, and citrus vinaigrette. The lobster knuckles were just as exceptionally good as the beautiful presentation. While it slightly reminded me of the lobster meat found at Red Hook Lobster Pound (yeah yeah, I’m well aware I’m referencing a food truck, but come on, their lobster meat is undeniably good), head chef Patrick O’Connell finds a way to take something and make it that much better. The orbs of avocado were also a really nice touch and melted in my mouth with each bite.

Rachel decided to get the Carpaccio of herb crusted baby lamb with Caesar salad ice cream, and we both agreed that it was one of the prettiest dishes we had ever seen. It seriously looked like a painting, and the combination of the miniature ice cream balls, Carpaccio, homemade croutons, and spear of romaine lettuce with fresh cheese made each bite a perfect play on a classic dish.

Seared sea scallop with leek puree and caramelized endive

The second course featured a seared sea scallop with leek puree and caramelized endive. While the scallop was impeccably cooked, I have to admit, I was slightly disappointed by the size of it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very enjoyable piece of shellfish, but for the price we were paying, it’s a shame that it could not have been at least a somewhat larger portion. The way it was prepared, however, made me savor each bite more than I would have with a larger plate.

Always a fan of anything lobster, Rachel got the lobster fricassee for her second course as I had lobster for my first course, not to mention that she had the lobster entree during our visit last year. This is one of the Inn’s characteristic dishes, and once you put all the components on your fork, you get to relish a perfect bite of lobster meat, gnocchi, walnuts, and stem mushrooms in a light butter sauce. It’s a dish that could be very filling if you had a full plate of it, but the portion size was perfect as a prelude to what was to come.

Fricassee of Lobster with Potato Gnocchi, Green Grapes and Curried Walnuts

As for the entrée, it was only a matter of time that I would face the dish that simply teased me when we last met a year ago. Having no memory of what it tasted like, I wanted redemption on one of Patrick O’Connell’s classics: the pepper crusted tuna pretending to be a filet mignon.

Topped with seared duck foie gras on charred onions with a burgundy butter sauce, this dish met its lofty expectations immediately after the first bite. Not only is the quality of the fish top-notch, but then when you add in the fact that you’re also having the most savory piece of foie gras your taste buds have ever encountered, you are in for quite the treat.

Pepper crusted tuna pretending to be a filet mignon

What is amazing is that you really do lose sight that it’s not beef you’re enjoying, but rather tuna. Between the outstanding cut of fish, foie gras, and burgundy sauce, it’s a recipe that has stood the test of time. When I finally put the fork down after the very last bite, I ultimately reached the feeling I had been yearning for so long: closure.

After some debating and suggestions from our ever-patient waiter, Rachel decided to steer clear from her usual choice of fish and get another Inn classic – the beef two ways. The two versions of meat were striking in contrast on the white plate. On one side, you had a braised short rib that was slow-cooked for hours and fell apart with the touch of your fork, and was accompanied by a delicious barbecue sauce that was sweet but not overpowering, along with mini walnuts and vegetables.

Beef Two Ways

On the other was quite possibly the most delicate piece of meat we have ever tried. It was a miniature filet mignon, cooked rare and wrapped in Swiss chard. When I tried a bite, I realized this is why people go to the Inn: to experience somewhat familiar foods in completely new ways. To top it all off, a small portion of potatoes au gratin provided even more indulgence to an already decadent dish. It very well might have been the best cut of beef I have ever tasted.

Nearly stuffed, we still had to order dessert! After glancing over the menu, I opted for the Seven Deadly Sins: a sampling of seven of the Inn’s richest desserts. When it arrived, I was not only floored by the presentation but also by the wide range of pastries found on the plate. If memory serves me correctly, it included an apple crisp, molten chocolate lava cake, panna cotta, a scoop of butter pecan ice cream, black forest mouse, mint chocolate cake, and a vanilla chocolate ice cream roll in the center. Unfortunately, I could only tackle six of the seven desserts (rest assured, the apple tart is in the refrigerator). Nonetheless, I was very satisfied with my choice.

You have to tip your hat to the staff at the restaurant. They go above and beyond in insuring that your experience at the Inn at Little Washington is one you will never forget. For instance, our waiter noticed that Rachel had only a few bites of her butter pecan ice cream sandwich with hot caramel sauce. He asked if she liked it, and as soon as she hesitated, he promptly asked what she would like instead. Moments later, a fresh plate of bread pudding appeared on the table. He could not have been more gracious.

After we settled the bill and received our personalized menu to take home along with a miniature version of the Inn filled with treats, we learned via The Bethesda Foodie that you could ask for a tour of the kitchen. We grabbed our waiter’s attention, and before we could even finish our question, he already knew what we were going to inquire about. One of the hosts soon took us to the back, and before we knew it, we were inside the Inn’s kitchen.

Soutern Butter Pecan Ice Cream Sandwich

As we were whisked inside the heart of the operation, Chef O’Connell himself greeted us, shook our hands and wished us a happy anniversary! We thanked him for providing such a great meal while our host showed us about the different stations. Before we knew it, we were outside the kitchen, starstruck. It didn’t even occur to us to ask for a picture with the Chef, but he did look extremely busy and we were grateful he took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to meet us. We’re sure we weren’t the only people who asked for a tour that night.

Victorian lampsFaira the CowMiniature Inn stuffed with treats

Finally, it was time to go. Happily full and content, a hostess already had our coats ready at the door and a valet was warming our car for us before we ventured out into the sleet and rain.

If you’re ever thinking about going out to dinner for a very special occasion, we cannot recommend the Inn at Little Washington enough. Between the food, ambiance, and customer service, it’s not a meal, but rather an experience – one that you will treasure for a long time.

The Inn at Little Washington on Urbanspoon

American Tap Room at Reston Town Center

31 Jan

After watching our friend referee Herndon High School’s basketball game, we grabbed some dinner at American Tap Room in nearby Reston. While Rachel has been to their Bethesda location for lunch before, this was my first-ever foray into the ATR brand.

We already had a reservation, so despite the busy Friday night crowd, we had no problems securing a table.

Crab Cakes

One of the gimmicks American Tap Room incorporates is electronically illuminated menus.

Now, these might be a great idea in theory, but when the house lights are already dim, my retinas were basically screaming in pain. Sure, I may sound like an 80 year old who was three hours late to the early bird special, but seriously, these menus were BRIGHT.

Maryland Crab SoupGiven the name of the restaurant, the drink list at American Tap Room did not disappoint. Their draft selection leaves a little to be desired, but as for bottles, I was impressed. And while they were out of Abita Amber, they at least had my beloved Turbodog in stock. Non-Montgomery County prices were a plus, too.

As for the food, well, it was underwhelming to say the least.

I wasn’t too hungry, so I opted for a turkey burger. Judging by the menu’s description, it sounded a lot more appetizing on paper than it did on the plate. Then again, I don’t typically order turkey burgers to begin with, but there was nothing listed that really stood out to me, so turkey burger it was.

It turned out to be very bland and tasted like it was cooked on a griddle instead of a grill given that I felt like I was chewing on some congealed fat and grease with each bite. I mean, we’ve cooked Trader Joe’s chili-lime chicken burgers at home that were much better than this.

American Tap Room's Illuminated MenuRachel ordered the single crab cake dinner and was a little surprised when her dish arrived with two crab cakes sitting on the plate. Now, she’s not one to complain about more crab cakes, but she certainly didn’t want to pay for two when she had only ordered one.

When she told the waiter the error, he acted like she had asked for two and wasn’t very apologetic. He didn’t bother bringing a new dish with just one, and said that he would just take the difference off the bill. That was fine (can’t beat a bonus crab cake, I suppose) but she should have received what she asked for, and there would not have been a problem in the first place.

Rachel and I came to the conclusion that this would be a great place for happy hour and to get some drinks with some friends, but that would be the extent of our visit. The food was very average, and if anything, I would just order some appetizers next time around.

American Tap Room on Urbanspoon

Bistro 27: Great Italian in Downtown Richmond

22 Nov

As some of you may have been aware, I had been training to run a half marathon since this summer, and decided to run the McDonald’s Half in Richmond, VA. None of us had been to Richmond before, so we picked Bistro 27 to eat at for our pre-race meal based on positive Yelp reviews, proximity to our hotel, and their Italian selections.

This was the second time Brett, Lisa, and I did a carbo-loading meal, so we knew what to look for – simple pasta dishes and great bread. This small restaurant on Broad Street, in the heart of the city, had a fairly substantial menu, with pasta being just a part of it.Fettuccine Di Mare

It’s funny because normally I look for the fish entrees and steer away from pasta, but this night was different. There were many options that looked appealing such as tuna or chicken, but in the spirit of preparing for race-day, we ultimately stuck with the pasta selections.

We started out with some warm, fresh bread that was served with an eggplant dip, and devoured the basket pretty quickly. The waiter was slightly quirky and exclaimed everything was “fantastic!”, so I guess we couldn’t go wrong.

I decided to order the Fettuccine Di Mare, which was housemade fettuccini prepared with shrimp, scallops, and mussels, in a slightly spicy tomato sauce. Lisa got linguini with chargrilled shrimp and scallops, and asked to substitute the pesto sauce for garlic and butter. Brett was indecisive what to get (as always) and decided to try the beef ravioli after asking for the waiter’s recommendation.

My dish was delicious and the pasta was perfectly cooked al dente. The sauce had a slight kick to it but wasn’t too spicy.Beef Ravioli

Brett really enjoyed his ravioli and was pleasantly surprised how good it tasted, since it was something he normally wouldn’t order. He appreciated how the pasta was prepared in-house and how the Fontina cheese didn’t overpower the savory flavor of the beef. Lisa liked hers as well, and of course Brett had a little of all of ours.

Overall, everyone was very happy with their dishes, and there were no complaints. I don’t think we were necessarily blown away, but it was perfect for what we were looking for in terms of convenience and affordability, and was great way to start our weekend in Virginia.

Bistro 27 on Urbanspoon

The First Bite

9 Sep

Welcome to, you’ve guessed it, another DC-area food blog.

We would like to take the time to introduce you to Brett and Rachel’s venture into blogging together as we’ll be bringing you reviews on the newest restaurants, happenings around the area, and the latest news in the world of dining in our nation’s capital.

As the title indicates, this website will cover places across the Washington metropolitan area, but that won’t exclude us from writing about venues that we encounter outside the DMV.

And since we both live in Bethesda, we’ll give full disclosure that there will be a slight focus on the area due to the abundance of places to visit that are within steps of our home. Rachel also works where she lives, so she’s always on the move for a new lunch spot or happy hour get-together.

So in short…much Maryland coverage, a good amount of DC reporting, and an honest effort to make it to Virginia a few times a year. We promise.

At any rate, we hope you enjoy what we have to offer. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @DMVdining, too.  Thanks, and welcome to DMV Dining!