Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of previewing the seasonal menus at the Washington Duke Inn multiple times. I am absolutely biased at this point, because the staff at the Inn has been amazing each and every time, from the waitstaff to the executive team (that means you, Don Ball, Danielle Kaspar, Wendy Shannon, Bobby Gorham, and Deana Marrell!). This year actually marks the twenty-first year of employment with Washington Duke for both Bobby, Director of Restaurants, and Deana, Director of Human Relations. Deana, on the right in the photo below, remarked that she perpetually feels like she’s only been with the Inn for five to seven years at most.
Of course, Jason Cunningham takes top billing at these events as he’s the chef who prepares phenomenal new dishes for the Fairview Dining Room, the Bull Durham Bar, and the Inn’s catering services that highlight North Carolinian farms and food producers and use quality ingredients from elsewhere when appropriate. It honestly makes me sad that this is the last time I’ll be able to give my readers a sneak peak of the menu. I don’t think flying bloggers out from California is likely in their marketing budget. But if it is, you know how to find me, guys. *wink wink*
Enough sentimentalism. It’s time to eat! Our first course, titled “Lush,” was a quartet of goodies all available as the Spanish gazpacho item on the dinner menu.
The presentation was cute and inviting. On the left is pictured a brioche grilled cheese bite with Mahon cheese. That underwhelmed me (see, I’m not completely biased!) as the brioche swallowed up the slim cheese slice, though I heard praise from my fellow bloggers. But the rest of the appetizer course was delicious, especially the deviled egg. Its preparation was traditional, relying on nicely balanced mustard and vinegar, which served as reminder of how amazing the classic deviled egg can be. The gazpacho itself was strong on the garlic and heavy on the pepper, both qualities I never complain about. A stronger cucumber presence would have been appreciated, though, but the amazing Johnston County prosciutto more than distracted me from that deficit.by