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Gluten-Free Dining At Inn at Little Washington

Inn at Little Washington

This restaurant has been on my bucket list for 20 years. My husband’s milestone birthday was the perfect reason for this “once-in-a-lifetime” experience. I booked our dinner almost two months in advance using OpenTable and had no trouble securing a reservation for two. I alerted them about the birthday, and our menus featured the headliner: “Happy Birthday Larry.” Nice touch!

Inn at Little Washington

Inn at Little Washington

Dining as Theater

From the minute you walk in the door, it is a performance—much like a play in a theater. The décor is lavish with lots of color, fabric, and pattern. Each room is decorated differently (the place started out in a converted garage and simply grew as the owner added adjacent properties). Even the ceiling of our dining area was decoratively draped in fabric. There is clearly an emphasis on the “experience” of dining and making it fun and entertaining.

A romantic table at Inn at Little Washington

A romantic table at Inn at Little Washington

The History

Chef Patrick O’Connell likes theater and wants your experience to delight you. He’s been at the helm for nearly 40 years and most restaurants don’t have this longevity. Their opening night in 1978 was marred by a major blizzard and an entrée item was $4.95. Today, the cost of the multi-course meal is $218 per person. With paired wines, the cost is $343. We couldn’t drink that much wine, so we went with the $218 menu.

The Menu

The star of this experience is the food and the way it is served. There were three menu choices: traditional, adventurous (it was actually called “Here and Now”) and vegetarian. I chose the Here and Now because it looked really different. Hubby chose the traditional menu. Gluten-free bread was delicious.

Gluten-Free Bread

Gluten-Free Bread

 

From the start, I was reassured by the staff that they would meet my gluten-free needs. Discreetly, they swapped my “regular” water glass for a pretty blue cut-glass version and only after I asked did they admit that this was one of their ways to remind staff of my gluten-free status. Clever!

Popcorn with Shaved Truffles

Popcorn with Shaved Truffles

There are four entrée choices on each menu, but that doesn’t mean you only eat four courses. The Amuse-Bouche (it means “entertain the mouth”) featured four items and they were all delicious, but three of them were outstanding: popcorn with shaved truffles, a red pepper soup and a fried potato round filled with a cream-cheese dip. Each is served in a beautiful manner, and each time waiters placed a dish in front of me they reminded me that my version was gluten-free (and sometimes explained how it was altered to be gluten-free).

My Four Entrees

Catalan Custard

Catalan Custard

-Caramelized Catalan Custard with Foie Gras and Port-Soaked Raisins

A savory pudding with a sauteed slab of foie gras on top. Unusual, but the flavors melded perfectly and I wanted more! With all this food, each serving is quite small ….which is a good thing.

Chilled Veal Tongue with Horseradish Ice Cream

Chilled Veal Tongue with Horseradish Ice Cream

-Chilled Veal Tongue with Pickled Root Vegetables and Horseradish Ice Cream.

I was most concerned about this dish because of its unusual contents. However, it was delicious and horseradish ice cream is really good. Who knew!!

-Japanese Wagyu Beef with Potato Noodles in Fragrant Broth

As part of the “theater” effect, the waiters walk around with a large, clear glass teapot of the broth and make a great show of pouring it into your bowl of beef. Again, delicious!

-Grilled King Lamb Chop Perfumed with Rosemary

A simple lamb chop (from Colorado, my state) and it was perfect. Served with two sauces which come is tiny little pitchers on your plate. Fabulous!

Cheese and Faira, The Cow

Although we didn’t order the cheese course, here’s what happens if you do: Cameron, the Fromager/Teas Master (and he’s a delight) brings “Faira” to your table, who is a full-size ceramic cow on wheels. The cheeses rest on her back and she “moo’s” along the way. Needless to say, this is a hit with diners.

Dessert

By this time, we were stuffed! But there is always room for dessert, especially chocolate dessert. So I ordered the Chocolate-Mint Surprise. There were a few small desserts served before this, including a coconut panna cotta.  But it was the chocolate dessert that was amazing.

The waiter brought a chocolate “ball”, about the size of a baseball. It rested on some grated chocolate. Rather plain looking, I thought. Then the waiter raised a gold-plated hammer over the ball and struck it, creating shards of chocolate that fell away to reveal a mousse-like filling. By this time, I am captivated and then the waiter pours hot fudge sauce on top, thus creating a decadent dessert. It was fabulous! This dessert was a great example of the “fun” atmosphere that prevailed throughout the dinner. No one was serious or stuffy. Their intent is that you have a great time while you’re eating great food.

A Goodbye Gift

But dinner wasn’t over yet. The waiter brought a gift box of goodies, including chocolates and candied fruit. And the box is a replica of the Inn. Finally, we got a brief tour of the kitchen, which is beautiful.

Dessert Gift Box

Dessert Gift Box

 

Our B&B was only 3 blocks away, so we drove home to find Port and Chocolate Candy in the living room waiting for us. What a night!

Gay Street Inn, Washington, VA

The tiny village of Washington, Virginia has roughly 130 people but boasts some great hotels. The Gay Street Inn B&B was a perfect choice for me because of their careful attention to the gluten-free diet. Set in a charming 1850’s farmhouse, owners Deb & Drew served gluten-free granola parfait, gluten-free scones (made by local baker Triple Oak Bakery), and gluten-free pancakes. It was a delicious breakfast, capped by a fabulous coffee. My kind of place!!

Pancakes at Gay Street Inn

Pancakes at Gay Street Inn

 

Scones at Gay Street Inn 2017

Scones at Gay Street Inn 2017

Greenbrier – America’s Resort

This famed hotel was also on my bucket list, so we drove another 3 hours to check it out. It boasts 240 years of history, served as a military hospital during World War II, and housed a secret Cold War bunker for 30 years. The idea was that if the U.S. was bombed, Congress could be secretly housed here for 60 days. The bunker was built as an exhibit hall for conventions at the hotel (to disguise its real purpose), but was in reality was a bunker as big as two football fields.

The hotel sits on 11,000 acres, boasts 5 golf courses, and has over 700 rooms. It is huge! What makes the hotel stand out is its extremely over-the-top décor. There is not a subtle room anywhere! Everything is decorated in lavish fabrics, lot of bold color and floral patterns. After a while, I started to crave neutral colors and discreet patterns.

After the Inn at Little Washington, no restaurant could compare from a dining perspective. I had several gluten-free choices in the Greenbrier restaurants and my favorite was a gluten-free breakfast sandwich which was quite good.

 

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