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Finding the Perfect Balance in the Virginia Countryside

June 27, 2012

By Judith Mazza, Chargée de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.

Often the best Chaîne events find that perfect balance between the familiar and the unexpected, between tradition and adventure. For the fourth year in a row, the Bailliage of Greater Washington did just that as we journeyed to one of the best restaurants in the United States; the Inn at Little Washington, located in Washington, Virginia.

Located about 90 minutes from Washington, D.C., about 50 Chaîne members and guests put their busy lives on hold to enjoy a private luncheon created by Maître Rotisseur Patrick O’Connell and his team on a languid mid-week summer day. Most took advantage of the chartered luxury bus, where we enjoyed bubbling libations, as well as the gourmet snacks provided by Vice Conseiller Culinaire Chef Francois Dionot, so we could experience carefree travel and convivial conversation to and from the Inn.

Joining us were confreres from other Bailliages, including Bailli Jim Wallick from Manhattan and Bailli Honoraire Rene Schiegg from Jacksonville, Florida. We also had the pleasure of a number of our professional members joining us for the day including newly inducted Maître Rotisseurs Domenico Cornacchia and Dennis Friedman; and Maître Hotelier Mark Andrew, all of whom brought top staff with them, to share the enjoyment of the day.

For decades, Maître Rotisseur Patrick O’Connell, a doyen of American cooking, has been setting a high standard which other chefs have aspired to meet. The Inn sources only the best ingredients prepared in the most exacting way to create sophisticated presentations which easily taste as good as they look. As we arrived we were greeted with flutes of champagne and a series of lovely passed hors d’oeuvres consisting of house smoked salmon on a potato rösti, hoisin pork belly, chips and dip and gougères. We sipped in the living room and the garden, able to wander and explore fully, because the Inn had opened just for us, that afternoon.

As the luncheon began we were presented with a shot of chilled minted English pea soup with a Virginia country ham mousse “cigarette.”  This was soon followed by a most interesting beet fantasia which included a luscious beet sorbet accompanied by Evesham Wood, Vin d’Une Nuits, Tempreanillo Rosé, Willamette Valley, Oregon (2010). The pan roasted Maine lobster with tomato butter, garden spinach and elephant garlic custard was nicely paired with Patrick Miolane, La Canière, Chassagne Montrachet, Burgandy, France (2008). The final savory course was a perfectly seared duck breast with roasted cipollini onions and duck jus perfumed with thyme, which we enjoyed with the Pietro Rinaldi, Nebbiolo, Argante, Langhe, Piemonte, Italy (2005).

As the plates were cleared, Bailli Paul Haar had some surprises for us. He inducted with great aplomb the newest member of our Bailliage, Dame de la Chaîne Carla Mayuri. In addition, he was able to award Chef Patrick O’Connell the prestigious Medaille de Merite by L'Academie de Gastronomie Brillat-Savarin in recognition for his outstanding contributions to the culinary arts to our society. This award is rarely given, and Chef O’Connell is the first to receive this award in many years. There was resounding applause to show the Chaîne’s appreciation to Chef O’Connell for his many years creating gastronomic bliss for gastronomes.

We returned to our seats and enjoyed a lovely buttermilk panna cotta with Montmorency cherry preserves from the Inn’s own orchard, which was followed by a delicious lemon meringue tartlet with toasted pistachios and Meyer lemon confit. As we ended this delicious meal sipping on Ordoñez & Co., Moscatel, Victoria #2, Malaga, Spain (2010), we were each given cookies in a boxed replica of the Inn to take home.

Our “chariot” awaited us; and as we boarded the bus to return to the busy pace of the Washington metropolitan area, we gave one last nostalgic glance at the Inn at Little Washington. The entire day had the perfect balance between the new and the familiar. The confreres left fully satisfied, thinking about the haven of elegant perfection which Chef O’Connell and his staff have created in the Virginia countryside.

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