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The Inn At Little Washington - With 2001 National James Beard Award Winner Patrick O'Connell

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I'd imagine the W will put the restaurant on the ground floor - that rooftop space is far more valuble as a bar or suites than it is for dining. Even so, that view across the street to the Treasury isn't so shabby.
I'm picturing it like the downtown LA standard: A restaurant on the first floor, and a super-cool bar on the roof with small dishes. That's what I am hoping for at least.

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In the past twenty minutes, I've received two messages from people I take seriously. Excerpts from each:

1. "I have a deep contact at Starwood and they are telling me that it is not true at all ...."

2. "I saw Patrick O'Connell walking around the Hotel Washington last week after lunch ...."

I'm such a cheap, petty whore sometimes.

It's the snow.

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But it's logical, Don. Without his life long partner, totally on his own and able to explore other partnerships, locations and considerations that might never have been entertained before it is logical. Anything is logical. Especially something literally in sight of the White House. Could there be a higher profile location in all of Washington, D. C.? In all of America?

No. And, for someone who is capable of equating, of positioning D. C. with any city anywhere on earth culinarily, why not go after the most high profile location of all: in sight of the White House? ...overlooking the White House!

If it is true we, and the city, all prosper. I wish him the absolute best of luck.

All is possible when one's relationship is no longer the focus, when one is trying to find a distraction, perhaps a HUGE distraction.

The real question is: will Washington, D. C. remain a second tier food city if Gordon Ramsay and Patrick O'Connell BOTH open major outposts in '08 within weeks of each other in the D. C. area? Could this, in fact, lure a few people BACK from Manhattan knowing that D. C. is now challenging for the epicenter of what before was avered to exist in North America but only in Manhattan.

Can Washington legitimately challenge New York if these rumors are true? Please note that we already have the Beard winning Michel Richard sitting contentedly in Georgetown with his best in America Citronelle. Others can only add to that, perhaps even underline it!

Perhaps, an exciting time to be a Washingtonian!

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The real question is: will Washington, D. C. remain a second tier food city if Gordon Ramsay and Patrick O'Connell BOTH open major outposts in '08 within weeks of each other in the D. C. area? Could this, in fact, lure a few people BACK from Manhattan knowing that D. C. is now challenging for the epicenter of what before was avered to exist in North America but only in Manhattan.

Best of luck to Patrick should he move downtown, but two new celeb-chef franchises isn't going to make DC a first-tier town any more than two new TGI Fridays franchises. Ramsay's priorities are reflected in the fact that he has as many tv shows on this side of the Atlantic as stars.

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Best of luck to Patrick should he move downtown, but two new celeb-chef franchises isn't going to make DC a first-tier town any more than two new TGI Fridays franchises. Ramsay's priorities are reflected in the fact that he has as many tv shows on this side of the Atlantic as stars.

I agree. What I think will help more is getting more up and coming talent to open great places. When folks start opening up their first place here, versus looking at us as viable spot for a 2nd, 3rd, ...nth place output, that will help make this city a place that can challenge the "first-tier" cities.

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DC will never be on par with New York with regards to the restaurant scene...THANKFULLY New York is it's own identity, just as Dc is.. Guess why I live here??? Because NY is a fun place to visit, but I prefer living with less attitude and nicer people. What is all this Tier stuff.. Some people are never satisfied with what they have. We have some excellent restaurants in DC and we should be very proud and happy. I am so tired of comparisons to NY, LA, Paris, ITALY....the location and people are what makes each of those places unique. That cannot be replicated, nor should it be..that is the reason for traveling and exploring. I welcome any Celebrity Chef that wants to open a place here, for it will allow many to try the food and the "celebrity" for lack of a better word of that individual and their tastes. Variety is the spice of life.

The sad fact is that most restaurants, whether driven by a Celebrity Chef or just a mom and pop, will not last longer than 5 years. It is just the nature of the beast and of the changes in peoples erratic eating fads and behavior. There seems to be such a fever to slam Wolfgang, or Ramsey, or whomever might open a restaurant that has a name. It is also a sad part of human nature to build someone up and then want to tear them down or comment on their downfall. So whether it's Ramsey, Rachel Ray, Emeril, or todays "hot" chef stop being jealous of their success and bashing them. If you think you can do it better, go for it. But they bring a buzz and OPTIONS, which one can decide for themselves if they like or not.

Eating TWO AMY"S Pizza is great...Looking out onto Wisconsin ave, or at the nailsalon acroos the street..not so great. Eating pizza in Naples watching that street scene....Priceless..BEACUASE IT IS OUT OF YOUR DAILY NORM.. Just think, right now there is someone in NY wishing a Bens Chili Bowl would open up...

You cant always get what you want..so be happy of what you do have access to and enjoy that. Travel more and experience that, and if your still not happy, go to CHINATOWN, HOP ON A DEATHBUS FOR $35 ONEWAY to NYC and stay there. that will be one less annoyance in my city: DC

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I am so tired of comparisons to NY, LA, Paris, ITALY
Indeed.

Apples and radiators comparisons since NY has, oh, I don't know... 13 million or so more people than the DC metro area, most of whom, if this board is any indication, crave burgers and pizza anyway. Restaurants that are financed by Messrs Ramsay and such and run by outsourced overshadowed chefs do little more than undermine local talent. These “Celebrities” should open establishments for their proteges without their namesake as a marketing caption. If the restaurant cannot survive on its own merrits, without the flashy name tag, then their pupils and tutelage aren't worth shit.

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Has anyone actually eaten at the Ramsay restaurant in NY? I went with a friend who is really into his TV shows and the meal was much better than I thought it would be and was certainly fairly priced. That is to say celebrity outpost or not the food was great, as is the food at the Robuchon place here. I would be happy to have either of those chefs open up in DC if I still lived here. Looking down the board Ducasse, Ramsay, Ripert et all opening in DC are VERY different than Rosa Mexicana or Zengo.

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Has anyone actually eaten at the Ramsay restaurant in NY? I went with a friend who is really into his TV shows and the meal was much better than I thought it would be and was certainly fairly priced.
We've dined at The London three times -- once in the dining room and twice in the bar area, now renamed 'Maze'. The food during all three visits was excellent. [sorry for being off-topic from the thread]

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"In 1978, the pair borrowed $5,000 and opened the Inn at Little Washington restaurant in a converted garage. (The first guest rooms were added in 1984.) On the menu: trout amandine, frog legs Nicoise, and a roast chicken with tarragon and green beans priced at $4.95. "The food was no different than what it is now," O'Connell says."

<Nodding head.>

Just kidding. ;)

Click.

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I used to live down there, (I'm up in Loudoun now) and I really miss Little Washington. As much as sometime I resented having to spend twenty minutes getting through the one stop sign in front of the Inn because I forgot it was was a weekend, I deeply appreciated looking at the astounding gardens and beautiful restorations. I really really loved when my friends, most of whom do have bath tubs, (but not all of them, so I can really see him asking this question! ;) ) got some kind of supplier relationship going with them. I loved having a relationship with a very very very very very junior minion who made me amazing bites of desserts. I loved the theater of the big window into the kitchen which, I admit, voyeur that I am, I sometimes lingered on dog walking duty. I loved looking at the gorgeous gorgeous ceiling in there that made friend Sam handcrafted. Well played, well played indeed.

PS. Need any lamb down there, Mr O'Connell? I have two bathtubs and a crick. :(:)

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"In 1978, the pair borrowed $5,000 and opened the Inn at Little Washington restaurant in a converted garage. (The first guest rooms were added in 1984.) On the menu: trout amandine, frog legs Nicoise, and a roast chicken with tarragon and green beans priced at $4.95. "The food was no different than what it is now," O'Connell says."

<Nodding head.>

Just kidding. ;)

Click.

Hmm. Good article, but it certainly doesn't make me want to hang out with O'Connell any time soon.

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Click.

Guests who pay to sit at the chef's table in the Inn kitchen are ushered in by the maitre d'. "As you may know, Patrick O'Connell has been called the pope of American haute cuisine," he intones, before throwing open a set of double doors. Gregorian chants float through the cathedral-ceilinged kitchen, and in front of them stands a man, dressed in ceremonial robes, swinging a thurible of smoking incense. As he steps aside, the guests glimpse O'Connell, standing erect, head down. Behind him a line of cooks stands motionless in black jackets and the Inn's trademark Dalmatian-spotted chef pants inspired by O'Connell's dogs. For a long moment, nobody moves. Then, O'Connell steps forward to greet the guests.

I had to go back and re-read this to make sure it wasn't a joke. Ceremonial robes and incense? Come on. It's a shame that something already as rarefied as haute cuisine should be made meretricious and pompous as well (and that's coming from an opera singer!).

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I had to go back and re-read this to make sure it wasn't a joke.

I did the exact same thing.

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Click.

I had to go back and re-read this to make sure it wasn't a joke. Ceremonial robes and incense? Come on. It's a shame that something already as rarefied as haute cuisine should be made meretricious and pompous as well (and that's coming from an opera singer!).

Well, but the whole atmosphere of the Inn, from my paltry experience, is pretty showy. The whole thing is staged, from being met by 1000 uniformed employees when you first arrive to having the cheese selections on a cow cart with a mooing box. It's not like you're dining in the average DC restaurant...I think it would crack me up, and you definitely couldn't say it was boring! I'd say it's a little tongue-in-cheek and to not take it too seriously.

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Does he still have the pearl wearing Dalmations? I've not been in a long time.

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I'd say it's a little tongue-in-cheek and to not take it too seriously.

Couldn't have said it better. It's a "sit back and enjoy, folks" kind of thing...and the food is amazing to boot.

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Normally my husband posts about our meals. This time I thought I’d give it a shot. After years of talking about it, we finally got decided to go to the Inn at Little Washington to celebrate my husband's birthday. Since no one has posted about the Inn a few months, here is a more detailed description of our meal.

The Prelude: First came a small stack of thinly sliced brown bread with raisins and a poppy seed role. Without any explanation, my husband got only the small stack of sliced brown bread. His poppy seed roll arrived during the second course- they are much better when they are fresh from the oven. The brown bread with raisins was delicious. The presentation was unexpected and made for easy eating. The bread was served with room temperature butter (I hate it when places serve bread with cold butter). The amuse followed in the presentation that we had read about- a small plate with four spoons. The waiter explained that each spoon was meant to be eaten in a single bite. We got a cube of watermelon with balsamic and cilantro, a ball of melon with prosciutto, a tiny rockshrimp (can't remember with what), and a roasted pepper puree. The table next to us had two different items: the world's smallest stuffed baked potato and a beet mousse quennelle. There was clearly no good way to split the little spoons. It was irritating not to get to try everything. Next came a duck consomme. It was dark and rich and presented without spoons in little teacups.

First Course: I had the Melange of Spicy Big Eye Tuna. I could have eaten bowls of it. It was served with a Sake-Yuzu sorbet that was added to the bowl at the table and then melted over the tuna to form a cold broth. The tuna perfect and the dish had just the right amount of refreshing-heat and sweetness. My husband had the carpacchio of lamb. It was neat play on lamb and mint as it was served with a tabbouli salad. The portion was dauntingly large. The lamb was translucent, melted in your mouth and was not at all gamey.

Second Course: I had the hot and cold foie gras which was served with pickled cherries and a tiny buttered brioche toast. Both pieces were perfectly seasoned and cooked. The pickled cherries added a great contrast and the cold foie gras on the buttered brioche toast was rich and delicious. My husband had the soft shell crab tempura. It was served on a piece of compressed watermelon, which was an interesting touch. Again, perfectly cooked and the tempura batter was cripsy and light.

Main Course: I had the crispy sweetbreads with local peaches and chanterelles. The plate arrived with three large sweetbreads, lightly fried and in a rich brown sauce. The peaches were in tiny balls and were intensely peachy. All of this was served over a small amount of fresh tagliatelle. It was delicious. My husband had the tuna pretending to be filet mignon capped with seared duck foie gras. First of all, the serving was huge. The slice of foie gras was larger than the one on my second course. The combination of raw seared tuna steak and duck liver was pretty amazing. It was probably the best piece of tune either of us had ever eaten. It was a highlight of the meal.

Dessert: Before dessert we were presented with mini Stawberry-Passionfruit-Basil Bubble Teas in shot glasses with the traditional wide straw. The tapioca pearls were tiny and the flavor was fresh and intense. Not sure why we got them since they were on the tasting menu, but we were glad that we did. We loved them. For my actual dessert, I had the chocolate ménage a trois. The mini soufflé was overcooked and tough and the caramelized sugar on the crème brulee was cold. We both really loved the black forest mousse bomb, which was the best thing on the plate. My husband ordered the cheese for dessert and we got to experience Faira the Cow first hand. The fromager was very knowledgeable and put together a really interesting selection of cheeses. We were both impressed by his professionalism- he came to our table after being mocked by a rowdy table near us where, much to the shock and horror of her companions, one member of the party ordered cheese for dessert. This is when having well rehearsed service was an advantage-despite their hysterical laughter as he described all of the cheese, the gentleman pressed on as if the group was being attentive and polite.

The lobby and main dining room had large arrangements of Asiatic lilies and you could smell them through the whole restaurant. We were seated in a small glassed-in room off the parlor. The room was notably chilly, at least 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the restaurant. The direct garden view was great, but we missed out on the superior people watching and eavesdropping potential of the main dining room.

We both thought the service that they are so famous for was attentive, but not perfect. The pacing seemed off. One waiter was always hovering to clear plates making me feel rushed. The soufflé and crème brulee might have been better if I had eaten them immediately, but I wanted to wait to start until after my husband’s cheese had been served. We ordered two half bottles of wine and the second did not arrive until several minutes after the main course had been served. Clearly service with a smile and making customers happy is a big priority because at least three different times during our meal we heard one of the managers strongly chastising various staff members for not being sufficiently accommodating and friendly to guests. One other issue: there were mosquitoes in the restaurant. In addition to the little basket of mini goodies, I left with three bites on my arm.

After reading some of the posts we were nervous that that their food would be tired and lacking innovation. We didn’t go there looking for cutting edge molecular gastronomy and so we pleasantly surprised by menu items like the compressed watermelon and bubble tea. We were both impressed with the subtle way they showcased seasonal items. Our overall impression was that the food and service were excellent, just not perfect. The meal was expensive without seeming over-priced. We both agree that we're in no rush to go back unless someone else was paying for it, but we’d volunteer to drive.

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Going to the Inn this weekend for the first time. a few questions for the folks who have been there before.

1. Bottles, half-bottles, or pairings for the wine?

2. How many courses should we prepare for? Is this a Komi-like experience, or a more traditional 5 course?

3. Is there anywhere close by to stay, aside from the Inn itself?

Thanks.

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Going to the Inn this weekend for the first time. a few questions for the folks who have been there before.

1. Bottles, half-bottles, or pairings for the wine?

2. How many courses should we prepare for? Is this a Komi-like experience, or a more traditional 5 course?

3. Is there anywhere close by to stay, aside from the Inn itself?

Thanks.

More towards a traditional 5 course, at least when we went. What I remember most from our meal, and my advice to you, is that if you like cheese at all, make certain to get the cheese course. It really is something to be experienced. The cow cart (with moo noise and all) are over the top. The guy manning the cheese cart the evening we were there was quite possibly the most knowledgeable person I've met regarding cheese.

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Going to the Inn this weekend for the first time. a few questions for the folks who have been there before.

1. Bottles, half-bottles, or pairings for the wine?

2. How many courses should we prepare for? Is this a Komi-like experience, or a more traditional 5 course?

3. Is there anywhere close by to stay, aside from the Inn itself?

Thanks.

2. They have both traditional 5-course and tasting menu (I think 9 or 10 course) options.

3. There are several places to stay in Washington. We've twice stayed at Fairlea Farm B&B -- decent lodging, 10-minute walk to the Inn for dinner, wonderful breakfast: http://www.fairleafarm.com/. A google search should find you other places to stay nearby.

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1. Bottles, half-bottles, or pairings for the wine?

2. How many courses should we prepare for? Is this a Komi-like experience, or a more traditional 5 course?

The list is pretty extensive, lots of 1/2 bottles and you can do the pairings. We did two 1/2s, one red and one white, which worked out well.

5 courses traditional menu, though as mentioned there is a tasting menu which is longer. I also highly recommend the cheese course, probably the best cheese course i've had in the US.

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