The Middleton Inn is a classic, brick plantation house built in the 1840s, and it's been restored to a gracious, calm, quiet, and beautiful place. Our hostess, Mary Ann Kuhn, is a journalist/innkeeper whom we met about 15 years ago not long after she opened the inn.
A fond memory of a Mother's Day in the late 1990s
In about 1997 or 1998 on Mother's Day we were driving back from a visit to Garth Newel in Warm Springs, VA and stopped in Little Washington to take a walk and enjoy the perfect weather. Louis announced he was going into the Inn at Little Washington to see if we could have dinner. I said "Are you CRAZY? The place is completely booked months ahead of time." He said "Maybe they've had a cancellation." Sure enough, he sauntered out to tell me we were on for 8 pm that night. WOW!
The next challenge was to find a place to spend the night. There are several nice B&Bs in that small village, so we chose the Middleton and Mary Ann offered us a good price for a Sunday night stay. We discovered she was born in Pittsburgh, just like Louie, and they had writing in common.
It's a swell memory of a totally unplanned and unexpected treat we've long cherished.
Mary Ann has made lots of improvements over the years, including renovating two outbuildings as lodgings. One is a brick cottage near the house that was originally slave quarters, and the other is a little distance from the main house - a log cabin that's now a 2 bedroom/2 bath suite with a kitchen and porches. The views across the country road, to a pond, other beautiful old houses and farms, with the blue hills beyond are just beautiful.
My 65th Birthday at the Inn at Little Washington
We've dined at the Inn three or four times over the past 25 years, but we both agreed this was the best meal of our lives so far. Those who know us will realize this is a bold statement, because we've had fabulous meals remarkably often - L'Auberge de l'Ill, Alain Ducasee, Joel Robuchon, Thomas Keller, Alice Waters, Dallmayr, etc.
Chef Patrick O'Connell still cooks most of the time in his kitchen that's recognized as one of the country's very best. He and his former partner bought a old garage in this tiny village more than 30 years ago and turned it into a restaurant, and later added guest rooms, gardens, etc. It's idyllic in every sense.
As soon as we were seated at a primo table in a quiet corner overlooking the courtyard through open French doors, the Maitre 'd delivered a bottle of Pommery Grand Cru 1999 champagne with a note. It was a gift from Will! We were completely stunned and delighted by his thoughtfulness and generosity. It was also special since we had toured that cave in Rheims, France in 2009. We each had the "Gastronaut" menu of nine small courses. You can see a sample on their web site. EVERYTHING - food, service, ambiance, weather, setting were perfect.
After dinner the Maitre 'd offered to take us back to the kitchen to meet the chef. It was a brief, but warm conversation, and we found that one of his major influences was Chef Haeberlin at L'Auberge de l'Ill in Alsace (probably our favorite restaurant in the world). Louie was wearing his tie from the latter, showing storks and fish from the River Ill that runs beside the restaurant.
|Courtyard view from our table. Several young couples were enjoying brandy & cigars!|
|The champagne from Will is prominent and the popcorn is sprinkled with black truffles and we took the leftovers home for the next day!|