Not since 2003 has Chef Patrick O’Connell opened his doors to the public, but a lot has happened over the past decade, and last week he did it again, allowing us regular folks to tour the Inn’s rooms, gardens, and the newest addition to the Inn at Little Washington‘s campus: The Parsonage.
Directly across the street from the Inn’s front door, the Parsonage is so named because it’s also adjacent to Trinity Episcopal Church—the beneficiary of last week’s open house, receiving the proceeds from each $75 ticket. More than 300 people signed up.
The Parsonage was built as a home in the 1850’s, and before O’Connell purchased it, the building had become a hodgepodge of offices with no real architectural distinction. Now, guests in its six new rooms (which go for $575 per night) will receive a grand entrance:
The parlor and living room are no less impressive—they are all the work of London designer Joyce Evans, who has collaborated with O’Connell on all the interior design of the Inn and its surrounding buildings.
My favorite guest room is the president’s room.
Just outside this room, the vestibule is covered in a “Mount Vernon Toile” wallpaper. (You will be able to tell this is my own snapshot and not Gordon’s work.)
Here are some other sumptuous retreats:
The Inn’s 26 acres now holds 20 buildings (!?), including 12 rooms in the main building. The total room count with its separate cottages is up to 24. They renovate parts of the Inn every six to eight years to keep things fresh, Inn spokeswoman Rachel Hayden says, so in addition to completing the Parsonage, they also upgraded the interiors at Claiborne House, another outbuilding at Middle and Main streets.
Groups can rent all of Claiborne House, and in case they want to cook themselves, it’s got its own kitchen (my own snapshot here…)
Speaking of kitchens, Patrick O’Connell himself gave us a tour of the Main Event.
This is where you eat when you pay for the chef’s table. A second table is just to the left, on the other side of the fireplace. Both tables are filled every single night, he says. I don’t doubt it.
This is probably the most residential commercial kitchen I’ve ever seen.
The enormous central cooking area was custom made in France with American parts—and signed off on by the chef:
The late winemaker Robert Mondavi commissioned an enormous portrait of O’Connell, which hangs over one of the kitchen’s huge windows. He famously called O’Connell the Pope of American cuisine.
Etched around the ceiling of the kitchen in Medieval-type lettering are five words, sort of like Chef’s mantras so that none of the dozens of kitchen staff will forget: “Anticipation | Trepidation | Inspection | Fulfillment | Evaluation”
We also toured the Inn’s rooms, each named after famous chefs and other food greats such as Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Jeremiah Tower, former Washington Post food critic Phyllis Richman, Alice Waters and Daniel Boulud.
Another treat for our little press tour last week was a trip down to the Inn’s kitchen garden, one of several tended by resident farmer Jenna Brownell, a fourth-generation farmer (“but the first girl!” she says) from Loudoun County.
“Once you start farming, you can’t really stop,” she says, noting that she’s out there tending the various fruit and produce gardens by 6 a.m., and usually finishes up by 8 p.m. She lives on the property.
After our lengthy tour, the Inn treated us all to tea.
Alison Brophy Champion, a reporter with the Culpeper Star Exponent, wrote a great story about the event, in case you haven’t read enough here. There’s something about the Inn, though, that keeps you coming back for more! Have a great weekend.