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January 2005: Inn at Little Washington

Ask food aficionados from around the country where they would like to eat in this area and they’ll probably say the Inn at Little Washington.

BLUE RIBBON AWARD WINNER

Ask food aficionados from around the country where they would like to eat in this area and they'll probably say the Inn at Little Washington. The principal dining area has soft banquettes, thick carpeting, heavy drapes, and tasseled pink lampshades. Vases overflow with fresh flowers. Service is impeccable, starting with the initial greeting on the steps of the inn.

The standard menu is $118 (more on Saturday evening and more if you choose to dine in the kitchen) exclusive of beverage, tax, and gratuity. For the price, diners get four substantial courses, including a dessert, as well as gifts from the chef.

A recent menu was as tantalizing as ever with plenty of foie gras, lobster, wild fish, and game. The meal, taken late on a Sunday afternoon, was very good. But with the restaurant's reputation, and at these prices, merely very good can be disappointing. There was one slightly misconceived dish—the onions in a course of fricassee of Maine lobster with potato gnocchi and curried walnuts were too aggressive. In a couple of courses the seasoning was too tame.

But most dishes were wonderful, as good as expected, including a marinated, pan-seared squab on garlic polenta with blackberry sauce and a parsley-crusted, marinated lamb chop on ginger-laced stewed tomatoes with sugar snap peas and garlic custard. The chocolate pistachio soufflé with vanilla ice cream and pistachio crème anglaise was a fitting conclusion, something to vie with Seven Deadly Sins, a mélange of seven of the pastry chef's triumphs. A full vegetarian menu is available.

Note: If the meals are expensive, rooms at the Inn are doubly so. A room on Saturday night ranges from $550 to $1,235. There are B&Bs in the immediate vicinity.

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