When it’s time to celebrate a special occasion, most of the better restaurants in the area are only too happy to offer up a Tasting Menu.  Designed by the chef and choreographed from start to finish, these multi-course culinary adventures have become de rigeur for celebratory dining.  And because they show off the skills of the chef and the best of what’s in the kitchen, they tend to be meals to remember.

Unfortunately, those meals come with the kind of price tag that makes them impossible for most of us to do with any regularity.  Sure, you can order off the a la carte menu and save some cash, but there are some real deals out there that allow even the most dedicated of bargain hunters to enjoy the cuisine at a few of the highest-rated restaurants in the area.  You just need to know where to look.

The Inn at Little WashingtonBoxed Lunches
Yes, that Inn at Little Washington.  For more than thirty years, Chef Patrick O’Connell’s cuisine has drawn guests to “little” Washington more than an hour away from the District.  The setting and the service don’t hurt, of course, but this is still the Holy Grail for many DC foodies.  The cost of dinner at the Inn begins at $148 per person (Sunday through Thursday) and tops out at $178 on Saturday nights.  Add in the cost of wine and a room at the Inn so you don’t have to drive back after your two-to-three hour meal concludes, and you’re looking at a significant investment.

This past weekend, while on a road trip through northern Virginia that turned up an impressive winery (Gray Ghost) and a charming downtown worth further exploration (Culpeper), we discovered the Inn at Little Washington’s great big secret: they offer an $18 boxed lunch that’s packed with enough food for two people!

What you get for the money – and a pair of additional money-saving dining options – after the jump. (more…)


Check out our map of sites associated with Top Chef DC, updated each week

Finally!  An entire episode that represents some of the best of the Washington area’s foodshed.  From Maryland blue crabs to organic and humanely raised meats from Ayrshire Farms, this week viewers got a chance to see the kind of local bounty that we enjoy in and around Washington.

No political puns in the challenge, though there may have been a comment or two about getting crabs, because most chefs are just grown-up fifteen year-old boys.  No “official Washington” guest judges: instead, an honest-to-goodness chef from one of the area’s most famous restaurants. And no flags-and-Americana backdrop, though Ayrshire is hardly your average working farm.

If past seasons are precedent, we’ll probably want to enjoy this while it lasts.  Host cities are rarely more than a backdrop for the challenges, and there are too many DC celebrities (Speaker Pelosi! Joe Scarborough! Buzz Aldrin?) yet to appear whose names were leaked in the preseason press release.

After the jump, we’ve got details on who, where and what you saw this episode as well as a suggestion for a great place to get all-you-can-eat blue crabs. (more…)