26 Hours Of Historic Hedonism in Washington, Va.

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Having been warned that the Inn offered little for vegans, I found the opposite to be true. I was invited to cherry pick my four courses from anywhere on the menu, while Joe was perfectly happy to choose from the regular menu, which is anything but. As plate after plate was placed before us, the strikingly playful, artful and imaginative presentations appeared constructed without being contrived; the perfect packaging in which to deliver each exquisitely balanced course. (See sidebar for our selections.)

10 p.m. Invited to tour world-renowned Chef Patrick O’Connell’s kitchen. A pioneer of the local/artisanal food “movement” when it wasn’t a movement, but a rural necessity, Chef O’Connell’s name is synonymous with refined regional American cuisine. Still gracious near the conclusion of a busy service for a packed house, O’Connell—self-taught, yet one of the most decorated chefs cooking today—personally greets each guest in his bustling but relaxed, orderly, beautifully appointed and inviting kitchen.

10:30 p.m. Walked back to our comfortable room to rest up for the next meal, though we were satisfied, not stuffed.

7:30 a.m.  Took a 45-minute solo walk through town past impossibly tiny cottages, inns, galleries, shops, cafes, restaurants, government buildings, churches and a theater surrounded by farms and manor houses. The highlight was the Inn’s half-mile Perimeter Pathway that circles past its garden and charming chicken house, looping around the pasture where two llamas guard a herd of sheep.

9:00 a.m. Seated by Diane at a private table in the sunny Foster Harris dining room for one of John’s beautiful breakfasts of bold flavors, bright colors and artful plating: a shimmering fresh fruit parfait; candied ginger scones (vegan look- and taste-alikes for me); black rice with mango-avocado salsa and a swish of arugula-basil-cashew pesto (Joe’s entrée sported a poached egg and thick, spiraled bacon); and miniature liebchen filled with lemon curd and a swoosh and dot of elderflower sauce (again, vegan for me).

10:30 a.m. Packed, loaded the car, and ducked into the understatedly deluxe Inn at Little Washington Tavern Shops before departing for a mere four-hour drive home.

Our schedules dictated that we spend only one night away. Had we to do it over again, we would stay a second night in order to treat ourselves to one of John’s gourmet dinners and savor more of what the historic region has to offer.

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