DC power dining

Oct 26th, 2010

A couple weeks ago now Lenore and I were in Wash DC for the first time in a long time (15 plus years) and we took full advantage of our time there. Truly the trip was  arranged to attend a very important wedding for a very special friend of ours. We managed to pack every other minute with shear indulgence. Lenore had a mani, pedi, and facial, while I shopped spice shops and markets. Everyday we went into town or at least as far as Bethesda to eat lunch and often made a point to see two or three new places each trip. We did enjoy the time spent with friends of course, and certainly enjoyed seeing the changes in the area. Bethesda was hard to recognize for example. And of course the choice of spending an anniversary dinner with close friends, John and Alice, at the Inn at Little Washington was a definite favorite.

We had always wanted to go to this Micheline star property. It wasn’t the expense so much as the distance. Now that we live and work on the coast of Oregon, 1 1/2 hours from Portland and 4 hours from Seattle, we didn’t think an hour to Washington, VA was long at all. Besides with old friends the drive affords face time together! Anyway we arrived early, better than the opposite. We strolled the town and realized that the “INN” is the town! Not a whole lot going on there. But then there is Warrenton VA just a little distance away.

Sometimes it is just better to imagine how wonderful a place is to avoid the let down. We knew over the years we may have even inflated our expectation of the INN. We had attended a series of lectures by chefs at the Smithsonian, years before, and when Chef Patrick O’Connel spoke of his restaurant and the quality standards they demand, we were hooked. Could it possible be as good as we thought all these years?

Well, except for a few minor service blips, our time spent was absolutely worth the wait. Of course our dinner company helped. It is great to share the experience with friends with whom we have a long history and who share our love of fine dining. So to begin with, nothing had to be better than that! 

We opted out of the prix fix menu because it meant we all had the same foods. We are so used to sharing at the table with this couple that we ordered every choice. We even call our sharing , the wave—to the right or left—we pass our whole plate until it makes its way back to us. Luckily we were seated in a private-ish area and didn’t look too bourgeois.

Everything was so good.  It was as if flavor and ability to relate to the food was the goal as much as creativity and something new.  I like real relatable foods. This meal was both relateable and ample. We had some favorites and I am already planning to recreate some in our place.  More on that later.

The rest of the week we found some other favorites. 1804 in Bethesda is a little office building space–mostly for lunch that was serving  homemade charterie platters along with everything from scratch incorporating the whole animal.  Another lunch, downtown on H street, was at Potenza for Italian. Loved the cocktails and must say the service was a highlight. My favorite lunch spot in DC was Zaytinya, one of Jose Andres’s places. I had seen an interview with him on 60 Minutes, and really related to his effort to almost apply the food science of flavor to each item he fixes. All of his places in DC represent the antithesis of the more typical over sized portions in that he serves only small plates in all his restaurants. Zaytinya is Greek, Leanese, and Serian. Everything was extraordinary.

I am glad I have taken time to recap our experience. I can almost taste it all again. Lenore and I feel totally re-energized and renewed. This is an exciting time for culinary in our country and we enjoy being apart of it.