I'm not sure if it's because it was Easter Weekend or what, but we had dinner at IALW last Friday and experienced similar issues as Eddiebosox that simply aren't acceptable at this price point. First things first, the food was very good. There are currently three menus: "Our Enduring Classics," "Menu of the Moment," and "The Good Earth," with the latter being their vegetarian menu. Diners are permitted to mix and match, and our server indicated that they could adjust portion sizes if you wanted, say, a third course from one menu to serve as your first course. I selected The Menu of the Moment and my wife selected Our Enduring Classics with the idea being that we would share.
Prior to the described dishes, we got two plates of amuses. The first had three small bites, but the only one I remember was a potato chip wrapped around house made pimento cheese. It was pretty good. The second plate was a gougere with a shot of red pepper soup. The soup was very good, with a hint of pernod giving it a nice depth of flavor and scent.
The Menu of the Moment was the hands down winner. In particular, the veal tongue and sea bass were pretty great. The veal tongue had a pastrami flavor and while I thought that the horseradish ice cream would be too cute, it actually worked really well with the slight sweetness being offset with slight spiciness.
It's been my (limited) experience that sea bass is relatively forgiving when it comes to cooking, but this was a perfectly prepared piece of fish. I literally could not have been cooked any better. And the Sauce Choron, which was described as a tomato hollandaise, was fantastic. Personally, I don't understand cooked lettuce, so this prevents me from saying that the dish as a whole was perfect, but that's a personal thing. Definitely dish of the night. The foie gras was good (is it ever not?), and lamb was cooked well, but neither of those dishes were anything special.
As to the enduring classic menu, everything was good. The tin of sin and lamb were both good, however I agree with Eddiebosox that you couldn't taste the lamb that well. Cesar salad ice cream was fun and good, but along with the pesto like green sauce on the plate, the lamb tended to get lost.
Neither of us disliked it, but the kingfish was probably the least favorite dish of the night. Despite the relatively strong flavor of the fish, at least as compared to the sea bass, the red wine reduction overwhelmed the protein. My wife liked the veal, but I thought it was a bit dry. The country ham and fontina ravioli may have been her favorite element of the night.
We shared a plate of cheese, which was fun. As noted elsewhere, Cameron is the cheese whiz and his collection of terrible jokes is pretty fun. We were familiar with most of the things on the cart, but he did select a spanish truffled cheese we had never had before when we asked to try his favorite. For dessert I had a fruit centered plate, with a rhubarb tart, ice cream, and lemon pudding. My wife had a butter pecan thing which was out of this world.
We've been to the inn once before and on our last visit, service was impeccable. Perfect pacing, and when we asked about a dish we hadn't ordered, they brought out a taste. This was not the case this time. As an initial matter, we were staying at the inn. For guests of the inn, they pin a white flower to the lapel of the male guests. Not sure what they do if there are no men. We didn't see any difference in service for us. Like Eddiebosox, wine service was not up to snuff. I did the wine pairings while my wife picked a couple of glasses. As an initial matter, the wine pairing is $125. If someone else could confirm this, it appears that this is more than a full bottle of all four wines would cost at retail. The Santa Duc, for example, appears to retail for under $20. While value, particularly at a fine dining restaurant, is relative, service is not. Twice, we received dishes before receiving our wine. The first time, we actually had to flag down someone to help. The second time our server notice us looking around, but it took three trips to the table before I received my wine. The first trip, he brought the wrong wine, the second trip, he brought the wrong glass. In each case, our food sat in front of us for at least five minutes, before we received our wine. Again, this happened twice.
The last time we went for dinner, we received truffled popcorn which was pretty good. When we did not get it this time, we assumed that it wasn't something that they did anymore. But, as we were eating our cheese course, we noticed someone else get it. My wife asked our server about it and he said that he would be happy to bring us some before dessert. We never got any popcorn.
Finally, this is just a little thing, but they bring back your personalized menus at the end of the meal. They had to come back to replace ours since they brought us the wrong one. This might explain why they wished us a happy anniversary when we weren't celebrating anything.
There were also little things that I thought didn't meat the aspiration of perfect that they strive for. For example, why do you get one small brioche toast with the tin of sin and just two with the foie gras? When we had dinner at the French Laundry a few years back, one of the things that sticks out in my memory was our server binging out fresh warm pieces of brioche when we ran out during the foie gras course. Not only weren't we offered extra here, but there was no chance that enough was served to begin with. Similarly, we were not offered additional bread when our bread plates went empty. This was a shame because the tarragon butter was awesome and I would have loved to have soaked up more of that glorious sauce Charon.
Bottom line, the food is very good, but the execution doesn't meet that of other similar restaurants that we've been to. When considering the service hiccups, the meal simply didn't justify the greater than $800 price tag (two dinners, one wine pairing, two glasses of champagne, two glasses of wine, one cheese plate, and one scotch).
As noted above, we stayed at the inn. We were across the street from the main building at the Parsonage House. We were a bit worried because the reviews uniformly state that the rooms are small, but our room was medium sized with a large bathroom. We had access to a Keurig, macrona almonds, tea, and literally the best salted oatmeal cookies I've ever tasted. However, service suffered a bit here, too. When no one showed up after two requests and 25 minutes waiting for help for our bags, we took care of them ourselves. We also got charged for someone else breakfast ($76 for pancakes and eggs benedict!) which necessitated a call to clear up.
Double Bonus content!
Ben Jones, former Georgia Rep and Cooter on Dukes of Hazzard, has a store in Sperryville. I got a signed mug and a picture with the General Lee.