The Boy recently celebrated a semi-significant birthday, and so I wanted to do something really nice. We had already planned a weekend away in the mountains, when suddenly it dawned on me that we wouldn’t be too far away from that premier dining location – The Inn at Little Washington. So despite it being months in advance of his birthday, I asked if this would be something he’d be interested in doing, and he was. He was very enthusiastically interested. But this was no surprise to me – we’re sort of foodies who have made an effort to try new restaurants together and to cook together. Did I really think he would turn down an opportunity to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant? No. It didn’t hurt that I’ve been wanting to eat there for ages as well, so – two birds, one stone.
So why all the hype? Well, the Inn has long been a fine dining destination for the DC area, with the caveat that it’s located in the town of Washington, Virginia, and nestled away in the Shenandoah mountains. It’s easily an hours drive from anywhere that could be considered close in to DC, and has no cell phone service. So it’s really out there. But it’s been in operation for nearly 40 years at this point, and has been distinguished for it’s outstanding service in both the inn (which you can stay at) and restaurant for coming on 30 of those, with 5 stars for both dining and hotel from the Mobil travel guide, 5 diamonds from the AAA travel guide for dining and hotel, and outstanding reviews from major publications both in the US and abroad, recently capped by their award of 2 Michelin stars last year.
We arrived for our reservation, dropped off the car with the valet (which – lol Honda Fit in the IaLW lot!), and were immediately greeted by two members of staff holding umbrellas (it had just begun to drizzle), and were shepherded inside. Immediately you feel like you are in a very fancy but still cozy house. There is an abundance of art on the walls, the lights are low, and everything is plush. We were led to our table (addressed as Mr. and Mrs. Keller since the reservation was under my name – lol), and settled in for a cozy evening of decadence.
The way it works is this – there are three tasting menus to choose from, with your choice of classic, modern or vegetarian, each featuring 4 courses with various amuse-bouche scattered in, followed by dessert. You can mix up some of the courses from the different menus if you have specific food allergies or needs, but we wanted to stay as true to the menus as presented as possible. I chose the “Here and Now” (modern) and the Boy chose “The Good Earth” (vegetarian), and ordered cocktails to start.
I won’t detail every little thing that we ate, but I will say that it was decadent. The bread to start was ridiculously good, and we had to stop ourselves eating a second helping when it was offered. The amuse-bouche (or little tastes to excite the mouth) were dreamy little bites that seemed unnaturally good and very modern with so much flavor. Each of our courses was decadent and surprising. The plates would arrive and we would ooh and ahh a bit before diving in and then telling each other how good our own dish was, occasionally letting the other person have a taste of what was so amazing. The pre-dessert amuse-bouche included a ribbon of marzipan which proclaimed “Happy Birthday” and gave the Boy a flashback to last year’s cake. We split a dessert and I had him order a glass of port (his favorite) which I took a sip of (so good!), before we were presented with the bill and a tiny cardboard model of the Inn filled with cookies and sweets to take home. What a treat!
So yeah. Food was awesome. Even better than the food was the service. Three days before our reservation, I had a call from the restaurant to re-confirm all the details of our reservation – who would be there, the special occasion, any dietary needs/restrictions, whether we had the same last name (which – how very progressive of them!). And from the moment we walked in, we felt cared for. Our waiter had obviously studied our very short file and was able to make suggestions, and beyond that was just attentive and completely on-the-ball. The menus (which we got to take home) said “Happy ##th Birthday [The Boy]” written on the inside. After we paid for the meal, and were leaving the restaurant, by the time we got to the front desk and inquired about our car, they had already retrieved it for us. We were expecting good service, but this was just top notch – not intrusive at all, but you simply felt well cared for.
Of note: this sort of ridiculously decadent food and excellent service comes with a price, and that starts at $218 per person for the tasting menus. It’s a lot. But guys – 2 Michelin Stars! And all of the other things! This is a special occasion destination, but it is well worth it. I’m not sure when we’ll have the opportunity to return, but I want to – it was that good, and that special. So I would definitely recommend it to those who have the means to enjoy something out of the ordinary, even if it does require a little saving up in advance.
As an amusing way to conclude: during the meal, I was sitting and occasionally moving my foot underneath the table, when at one point I felt something underneath my foot. Whenever I moved my foot, I felt whatever it was move too. After remarking on this oddity to the boy (Had the carpet bunched up? Had I dropped something under the table?), I looked down to discover that the heel of my wedge sandals had come unglued from the shoe, and was only hanging on at the toe. This wasn’t a huge problem until we got up to leave, which required me to drag my left foot as I walked, in order to not show the rest of the fancy restaurant we were departing that my 7-year-old Target sandals were literally disintegrating underneath my feet. The real challenge came when we saw two steps up and then down again to get to the front desk. I think my goal in that moment was simply to move quickly enough where no one would pay attention. And who knows if the staff noticed. Nobody said anything. But that’s their first-class service coming into play, yet again.