Saturday, July 28, 2007

Dinner at The Inn at Little Washington

The day I have been dreaming about finally arrived. My husband and I had dinner at The Inn at Little Washington to celebrate our 5th anniversary. I have followed Chef Patrick O'Connell's amazing creations for a long time. I have both cookbooks he published, I read about his story -- which is remarkable because he broke the first restaurant rule: location. He opened a small restaurant in a village in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountain in 1978 - 70 miles from Washington, DC. It's no wonder the restaurant grew and turned into one of the "Top 10 Best Restaurants in the World" rated by The International Herald Tribune. Patrick O'Connel, an entirely self taught chef, is a gifted artist. His recipes appeal to your eyes and taste buds. Everything is virtually perfect. The restaurant is pure luxury and romance, creating an an enchanting setting. The restaurant opens only for dinner and has a fixed price for a four course dinner. Words cannot describe the perfection of each course and the decadent desserts.

It is most definitely a place for special occasions, where at the fixed price of $168 per person not including beverages, tax, and gratuity, a couple can easily spend $500 for dinner. I can say, in my case, our experience was priceless.

My First Course: Macaroni and Cheese with Virginia Country Ham and Shaved Black Summer Truffle
My second course: Pecan-Crusted Soft Shell Crab Tempura with Italian Mustard Fruit

My Main Course: Pan Roasted Maine Lobster with Baby Spinach, Grapefruit and Citrus Butter Sauce
And For Dessert: Seven Deadly Sins

One of the most delicious things I tasted in my entire life was my husband's second course:
"Fire and Ice: Seared Tuna Sashimi with Daikon Radish and Cucumber Sorbet".

Here are some of our choices:

First Course Selections

A Quartet of Island Creek Oyster Slurpees
Prawns on Charred Onions with Mango Mint Salsa
Poached Pullet Egg in Oxtail Consommé with Morels and Asparagus
Fire and Ice: Seared Tuna Sashimi with Daikon Radish and Cucumber Sorbet
Carpaccio of Herb Crusted Baby Lamb with Tabouli and Rosemary Mustard
Our Chilled Seafood Sampler: Lobster Maki, Tuna Tartare and Ceviche of New Zealand Sea Bream
Our Morel Mushroom Pizza with Fontina Cheese and Virginia Country Ham

Second Course Selections

Fennel Sorbet with Cucumber and Celery “Martini”
Pecan-Crusted Soft Shell Crab Tempura with Italian Mustard Fruit
Minced Squab with Virginia Peanuts and Local Shiitake Mushrooms in Hoisin Sauce with Baby Romaine Lettuce Leaves
A Marriage of Hot and Cold Foie Gras with Homemade Quince Preserves
Morel-Dusted Diver’s Scallop and Signal Crawfish on Carmellini Beans Dressed with Old Solera Vinegar
Roasted Eggplant Raviolis in a Tomato Basil Butter Sauce with Medallions of Maine Lobster

Main Course Selections

Pan Roasted Maine Lobster with Baby Spinach, Grapefruit and Citrus Butter Sauce
Pistachio-Crusted Colorado Lamb Loin on Potato Rösti with Carrot Ginger Essence
Beef Two Ways: Pecan Crusted Barbeque Short Rib, Paired with a Miniature Filet Mignon Wrapped in Swiss Chard
Veal Parmesan Reincarnated: Prosciutto Wrapped, Pan Roasted Loin of Veal with Spinach Raviolini and Parmesan Broth
Pepper Crusted Tuna Pretending to be a Filet Mignon Capped with Seared Duck Foie Gras on Charred Onions with a Burgundy Butter Sauce
Medallions of Rabbit Loin Wrapped in House Cured Pancetta Surrounding a Lilliputian Rabbit Rib Roast Resting on a Pillow of English Pea Purée
Sesame Crusted Atlantic Halibut with Baby Shrimp and Artichokes
Our Steak and Kidney “Pie” with Veal Kidneys, Tenderloin of Beef, and Button Mushrooms

Dessert Selections

White Chocolate Ice Cream with Hot Dark Chocolate Sauce
A Painter’s Palette of Seasonal Sorbets
A Ménage à Trois of Rhubarb
Fromage Blanc and Passion Fruit Cheesecake with Passion Fruit Sauce
A Chocolate Mint Fantasy: Our Mint Ice Cream Festooned with Chocolate Streamers
Our Southern Butter Pecan Ice Cream Sandwich with Hot Caramel Sauce
A Trio of Chocolate Desserts: Black Forest Mousse Bombe, Chocolate Crème Brûlée and Bitter Chocolate Soufflé
Seven Deadly Sins: A Sampling of Seven of Our Most Decadent Desserts
Pineapple “Ravioli” in Kaleidoscopic Flavors
A Checkerboard Terrine of Pistachio and White Chocolate Ice Cream with Blackberry Sauce

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Coconut Chicken Sate with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

The results were out of this world. The marinate kept the chicken moist during the grilling process and the coconut added a very special flavor. This Thai inspired dish is nutritious and low-fat ingredients. Served with Jasmine rice.

Coconut Chicken Sate with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce (adapted from Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger )

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup lite coconut milk
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast pounded slightly and cut into 1-inch strips
8 (8-inch) bamboo skewers, soaked for 20 minutes
3/4 cup Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce, recipe below
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil or cilantro leaves

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the chicken stock, coconut milk, soy sauce, shallot, garlic, brown sugar, lime zest, and ginger. Add the chicken strips and marinate for 1 hour. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade.
Brush a nonstick grill pan with olive oil or canola oil and preheat over a medium-high flame. While pan is heating, thread chicken onto skewers. Grill 2 to 3 minutes per side, until meat is cooked through and has light grill marks.
Serve chicken skewers with Peanut Dipping Sauce, and garnish with basil or cilantro and chopped peanuts.
Yield: 4 servings (2 skewers and 2 tablespoons peanut sauce per serving)

Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce:

1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon red curry paste
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.
Sauce can be made 1 day ahead of time, and will keep 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.
Yield: about 1 1/4 cups

Friday, July 20, 2007


Sometimes I am halfway through a recipe and find out I don't have one ingredient. Bummer. What do I do? I usually surf the web looking for substitutions but it takes time to find the right answer for my question. I learned about also known as Cook's Thesaurus. It covers ingredients, substitutions and all kinds of interesting facts about food.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Wrong Perception

I had the perception that Refried Beans was an unhealthy dish. I guess it could be, depending on how you make it. I watched a cooking show with Ellie Krieger - a nutritionist who comes up with mouth-watering recipes that are healthy as well - where she made this recipe. I tried at home and it tasted great. I served with rice and spicy chicken.

Refried Beans
(From Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder, or other chili powder
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, low-sodium, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and chili powder and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the beans and chicken broth and cook until the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes. Mash the beans coarsely with the back of a wooden spoon, adding more chicken broth to moisten, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the cilantro.

Brown Sugar-Glazed Sweet Potato Wedges

There has been huge "posting gaps" on my blog. My last post was several days ago. I have been cooking but I am too tired and always in a hurry to remember what I have made and take pictures. That's too bad. I miss sharing my cooking experiences with friends and fellow bloggers. I will try to be more disciplined from now on and post more often. The next recipe is quick and easy, although it seems to be a fall recipe, it works for summers too. It can be made ahead and served room temperature.

Brown Sugar-Glazed Sweet Potato Wedges

1/4 cup light butter
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, cut in half crosswise, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges

Preheat oven to 400°.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar, water, salt, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon; bring to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Discard cinnamon stick. Combine sugar mixture and potato wedges in a large bowl; toss well to coat. Arrange potato mixture on a large jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 400° for 30 - 40 minutes or until tender, stirring after 20 minutes.