I’ve been lucky enough to have been to The Inn at Little Washington four, maybe five times. It’s always ranked one of the top places to dine – both in the Washington area, but also nationwide. Alas, of those trips, only one stands out as a truly terrific experience.
The food has always been excellent – amazing ingredients, creative touches on modern classics. Wonderful flavors – like the citrus-laden butter sauce on the lobster I had this last time, tangy to cut the richness. But more than anything, I think the Inn is about the experience – driving through the Virginia countryside to a beautiful country mansion and romantic dining room.
That may be the key, though. The Inn should be a romantic getaway. Instead, it’s sometimes become an obligation, which makes the trek out there less fun and more of a chore.
- My first trip there was with a client, to celebrate her birthday. I went with my boss and the big boss. The four of us in a Town Car taking us there and back. It was memorable – I was an Inn virgin – but mostly for the odd company and the unusual occasion – personal for one of us, but business for the others.
- My second time there was for G’s birthday, and that was spectacular. I had a car take us there and back so we could indulge, and it was a splurge that we really enjoyed. I think we drank a French wine from a vineyard we visited on our honeymoon. The funniest part was a fellow guest who overheard G tell me he was going to “hit the head” before we got back in the car for the long drive back. She, apparently, had never heard that phrase before and as we walked through the parking lot, demanded, “Sir, sir, did you do it? Did you hit the head?” good thing they were heading to a park bench to get some air …
- The next time is a little murky. G and I are not quite sure we went another time, just us, but we each have a fuzzy memory of another trip, just us. As I explained to G, I think it was for my birthday or our anniversary, but it was during a time “when we weren’t that happy” which might explain why it didn’t make much of an impression, despite the food, wine and staging. This prompted G to ask in all earnestness, what do you mean “when we weren’t that happy?” Never mind …
- There was the time we went in the winter – now that was fun (ha!) – a big birthday for my father in law and a limo to take us all. The problem was, of the 8 of us, my father in law’s brother (my uncle in law?) couldn’t make it to DC because of weather, then my brother in law came by himself. So it was 5 of us rumbling along the snowy and twisty little roads. Good food, but vaguely car sick, mostly with the thought of the long drive with no possibility of escape.
- That takes me to last week … a lovely trip where we were one of 7 couples riding out in a bus that was really a limo inside, fan-cee. We had cava on the way up, chattering away. The dinner itself was excellent, although my seared scallop may have been a tad salty? Yikes, I’m sure it was my overdeveloped palette and not the flavors … The funniest part of this trip was picking up the last 2 couples at the Harris Teeter in Haymarket. G’s client got on the “bus,” greeted a few people he knew, and then froze when he saw me. I introduced myself slowly, even using “wife” as an identifier, but he still seemed visibly confused. Obviously, I was not what he envisioned as G’s other half … touche!
So will I recommend The Inn? Of course. It’s great for foodies, but really for foodies looking for a getaway. As for us, I’m not sure when we’ll be back again. I hope it’ll be just us, though, during a happy time. I guess more than the food or the setting, it’s the people who make a dinner great – and memorable – no matter where it is.