Smithsonian Commemorates 40 Years of The Inn at Little Washington

Unique Evening Celebrates “The Restaurant as Living Theater” Event To Feature Seasonal Virginia Tasting Menu and Wines
April 23, 2018
A photograph of a two story house with flags hanging from the balcony
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, in collaboration with Patrick O’Connell, chef and proprietor of The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia, will present a unique evening to explore “The Restaurant as Living Theater” May 23 at 6 p.m. with a discussion in the museum’s Warner Bros. Theater and a tasting menu.
O’Connell will be interviewed by Michael Kahn, artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, about the Inn’s early history and storied ascent to Michelin stars and beyond. The program will feature a special introduction by Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema.
O’Connell has designed a handcrafted Virginia springtime tasting menu for the event. Lobster grapefruit spoons, beef bourguignon in mini cauldrons, bite-sized Morel mushroom pizzas, morel eggs presented in their shells, spring four-pea soup, local cheese and more will be paired with Virginia white and red wines provided by Barboursville and RdV Vinyards and a specially designed rhubarb lemon spritzer. Miniature ice cream cones and chocolate pot au crème will follow.
“The 1970s were a fertile decade for new ideas about restaurants and local ingredients in the United States, and Chef O’Connell brought that new sensibility and vision to rural Virginia,” said curator Paula Johnson. “We’re delighted to bring that history and Chef’s culinary artistry to the museum to kick off the celebration of this historic moment 40 years later for an evening that will explore how restaurants are about performance as well as a great dining experience.”
“A moving theatrical performance or a great work of art can transform a viewer, sometimes forever and as the artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Michael Kahn has brought to life some of the greatest stories in literary history, and as a result, has created transformative experiences for countless theater lovers,” O’Connell said. “It is a pleasure to partner with the Smithsonian, Michael Kahn and Tom Sietsema on an event that marries food and theater in an unusual, and hopefully, transformative way.”
The Inn at Little Washington began in 1978 in a converted garage in Washington, Virginia, and evolved into a renowned restaurant destination with five-star accommodations and two Michelin stars—one of only three restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area, to be awarded two stars by the Michelin Guide. The Inn also has a large vegetable garden, a cherry orchard, a seasonal farmer’s market and an apprentice program.
Tickets for the event are $225 each at of which $125 is a tax-deductible contribution. The revenue will go toward the update of the museum’s “FOOD: Transforming the American Table” exhibition in 2019.
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is located on Constitution Avenue N.W., between 12th and 14th streets, and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For more information, visit For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.
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