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Le Bailliage du Greater Washington, DC Chapter

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An Escape to Gustatory Paradise, the Summer Sojourn to the Inn at Little Washington

July 13, 2013

By Dame de la Chaîne Christine Owens and Judith Mazza, Vice Chargée de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.

One of the highlights of the Bailliage of Greater Washington’s summer calendar is what has become an annual sojourn by luxury bus to The Inn at Little Washington.  Francois Dionot our Vice Conseiller Culinaire prepared delightful snack boxes, while his charming wife Patrice served mimosas and champagne during the hour and a half bus ride to Washington, Virginia.  As we sipped and spoke throughout the ride, our pleasure was enhanced by the anticipation of the delightful luncheon we were soon to experience.

We were once again welcomed Bailli Honoraire Rene Schiegg from Jacksonville, Florida who joined his daughter Nichole for this event.  The Washington Bailliage has always encouraged our confreres to invite family and friends in sharing the camaraderie of the Chaîne.  Chevalier Patrick Carroll and his wife, Dame de la Chaîne Julie Carroll enjoyed this special sojourn with their daughters Holly and Heather; Dame de la Chaîne Leslie Binns and her husband Chevalier Phillip Reiman invited cousin Bob Bresnahan as well, and Dame de la Chaîne Susie Nicklos invited three guests and was joined by Jennie Bentz and John and Ellen Savanick.  The mix of familiar faces and new and interesting guests made for a convivial and stimulating event.

As soon as we entered the grounds of the Inn at Little Washington, we knew the experience was going to be exceptional.  This is a place defined as much by Maître Rotisseur Chef Patrick O’Connell, winner of the Medaille de Merite by L'Academie de Gastronomie Brillat-Savarinin 2012,as the countryside in which the Inn resides.  Perfecting the cuisine de terroir, Chef O’Connell orchestrates the entire experience to create a special sense of place, uniquely delighting all the senses; and regardless how often you visit, you will continue to have a magical, almost mystical sensation which lingers long after the event is over.

Welcomed by the red carpet and a superbly trained staff, each of us were personally greeted (They even remembered that last year we arrived in a bus whose air conditioning had failed!).  This is just one of the touches that define the specialness of the Inn.  Upon arrival, we were offered sparkling water and Blanc de Blancs to quench our thirst as we toured the kitchen.  The Inn is the only establishment in the country serving this bubbly by the glass.

Greeted by an altar boy, incense, candles and Gregorian chants which played throughout the kitchen, Chef Patrick O’Connell, the Pope of American Cuisine (so aptly named by Robert Mondavi when visiting the Inn), answered our questions while we sampled caviar cigarettes, fried zucchini blossoms, Bloody Mary gelees, radishes filled with truffle-oiled butter, and popcorn with freshly shaved truffles--all were amazing!

We learned that the Vulcan stove was custom-made in France and it took a year to construct.  Also, there are two kitchen tables that can accommodate up to 6 guests each that can be reserved, so that you can be as much a part of the action going on around you as you wish.  It must be like dinner and a Broadway show rolled into one.

We then adjourned to our five-course luncheon in an exquisitely appointed dining room.  We began with a garden cucumber vichyssoise with a perfect, savory gougere mounted on a pedestal.  The gougeres at the Inn are simply magical --the best and lightest we have ever had.  Arriving next was the Tin of Sin – a Peekytoe crab and cucumber rillette topped with American Osetra caviar, whimsically presented in an individual Petrossian caviar tin.  Two brioche toasts were the perfect accompaniment along with Kiralyudvar, Tokaji Furmint Sec, Hegyalja, Hungary (2011).  Next, a perfectly seared New England day boat scallop was served atop creamy garlic grits and a mélange of summer vegetables.   A Vinedos de Ithaca, Garnatxa Blanca, Odysseus, Spain (2011) was a delightful pairing.

Our final savory course, presented on rare Woodmere plates, was a truly remarkable chop of organic milk-fed pork with grilled peaches and jus, served with “Le Rat” potato puree, and a clever succotash with fava beans.  WOW – this was a revelation on how to prepare and present something as “simple” as a pork chop and mashed potatoes.  The famed Chef of the Century, Joel Robuchon perfected the recipe for these spuds by combining a pound of potatoes with an equal amount of butter.   A Shane Wine Cellars, Syrah, Valenti Ranch, Anderson Valley, California (2009) accompanied the entrée and one Chaîne member remarked that it was the most perfect pairing of the luncheon.  The finale was a lemon thyme cheese cake and local blueberries with Greek yogurt and raspberry swirl sorbet.  An Okanagan Estate, Riesling Ice Wine, Orchard Hills, Washington (2006) provided the right fruit forward compliment.

Mid-Atlantic Chambellan/Bailli Paul Haar introduced Maître Rotisseur Chef Patrick O’Connell and his exceptional staff to enthusiastic applause.  The staff introduced  included Daniel Gorman, the Washington Bailliage’s nominee and winner of the United States Chaîne’s 2013 Young Chef Competition.  Daniel, crowned the Best Young Chef in the United States by la Chaîne des Rotisseurs at the national competition in June, will be representing our country in the International competition in Istanbul in September, 2013.  Daniel currently holds the title Chef de Partie at the Inn at Little Washington. 

Once again, Chaîne members experienced another “escape to paradise,” as there simply is no better way to spend a day in July than at the Inn at Little Washington…or at any other time of year.

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