In that vein, Little combines the discipline of French culinary technique with an appreciation of Pennsylvania Dutch culture and his own sense of playfulness. He treats the pork-and-polenta staple known as scrapple the way other chefs do foie gras, basting it in herbed butter and serving it as an appetizer. Schnitz und knepp (ham and apple dumplings) become potato gnocchi with rabbit, country ham and apple gastrique. And he celebrates Hanover’s status as a snack-food capital (think Snyder’s of Hanover and Utz) by making a buttered-popcorn semifreddo with a salted pretzel crust.
Clearly there’s more going on at this inn, with its grandmotherly lace curtains and white roller blinds, than meets the eye.
Kathryn Sheppard Hoar converted the 1913 Colonial Revival building, her great-grandparents’ home, into a six-room bed-and-breakfast in 1999, after it had sat dormant for almost 40 years. In 2006, she added a 65-seat dining room and a jewel-box bar. Last year, sister and co-owner Heather Sheppard Lunn turned the brick-and-cobblestone carriage house behind the inn into a market that promotes goods sourced from within 100 miles of Hanover.
The sisters and their husbands, children and parents live two miles away in separate houses on the 1,600-acre Sheppard Mansion Farms. That’s also where, last year, Little planted a 10,000-square-foot culinary garden that now supplies the restaurant with 90 percent of its produce needs between May and October. Whatever he doesn’t use goes to the market.
The connections continue. Besides managing the market, Lunn oversees a herd of 160 Scotch Highland cattle. Three of the animals are slaughtered each month. The offal from all three and the primal cuts from one animal go to Little; the rest gets packaged and sold in the market. Other meat comes from area farmers.
What helps make the business model work is that the two owners can afford to hold off paying themselves regular salaries for running the inn and market/farm. That translates into huge savings, labor-wise.
In Little, they struck gold. A Hanover native, he had gone to high school with Hoar. But in the intervening years he had decided against a career in music, attended the Culinary Institute of America, externed with Patrick O’Connell at the Inn at Little Washington and completed a stint at Evermay, an upscale inn in Bucks County that has since closed, before coming on board at Sheppard Mansion in 2006.
Hoar, 36, and her chef “both bought into each other’s vision,” says Little, 37. “If you had been brought to the dining room blindfolded and had no idea where you were, you should be able to determine where you were and what season it was just from looking at the menu.”