“What was Paradise? But a garden, an orchard of trees, and herbs, full of pleasure, and nothing there but delights”
Eduardo and I capped our trip to the US Pacific Northwest/Canadian Southwest with a meal for the ages. We visited The Herbfarm in Woodinville, WA on our last night in the greater Seattle area. The Herbfarm is considered one of the US premiere “destination restaurants”. While wine tasting in Woodinville after IFBC 2013 wrapped up, we stopped to check out the restaurant and the grounds of the adjoining Willows Lodge. We were already curious about the restaurant based on the multiple accolades we had read about: AAA five diamond rating, National Geographic Traveler, and multiple ‘best in Seattle’ lists. After sleeping on our decision for a day, we called and made our reservations/deposit for the Indian Summer nine-course dinner. The menu for this meal was inspired by the shoulder/harvest season between summer and fall.
We started out our experience at the Herbfarm with a tour of the gardens, led by Carrie Van Dyck, co-proprietor of the restaurant with her husband Ron Zimmerman. We stopped by the areas where the different herbs featured were growing, and Carrie would explain how they would be incorporated in the meal. She was also quite gifted tossing around bunches of herbs for the group to smell. The path around the garden was ‘paved’ with repurposed hazelnut shells. Before heading back into the restaurant for the meal, we stopped to check the farm’s pet potbellied pigs, Basil and Borage. Everyone enjoyed a house-crafted soda made with bay leaf while listening to the story of the Herbfarm evolved from a makeshift herbal plants sales stand to the restaurant at its current location.
The very quaint dining room was anchored by an open kitchen. One of my favorite experiences while dining out is sitting in kitchen bars, sushi bars, anywhere I may have a view of what’s going on backstage. That was a big draw to the experience, actually being close to the action for nine courses. We were lucky: our seats were right by the start of the communal table. Although we were not directly facing the kitchen, we were pretty close. Pictures were also encouraged, although I refrained from standing in front of the line more than once.
The wines selected for the evening were from Oregon and Washington state. I’m wishing some of those were available around here. I was especially taken by the red Rhône blend served with the fifth course! Another nice detail: we got to choose from several herbs (lemon verbena, pineapple sage, and rose geranium) to infuse the sparkling wine served with the first course. I might have to borrow that idea next time we have company over.
And finally, the nine courses from the Indian Summer themed dinner…
Tomato water with lovage straw
Saffron-braised black cod with crisped skin, burnt bread purée
Geoduck crudo with fennel bulb and its pollen
Roasted lunch box pepper stuffed with rockfish mousse
Traveri Cellars Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, Columbia Valley
The tomato water sips were light and refreshing with a hint of salt in the back. Tomato water margaritas? Another first was finally tried geoduck. Geoduck is a scarily large local clam I had only seen on television before. I would have loved a little more of the black cod bite. It was delicious!
Grilled shiso-glazed Pacific albacore tuna
Tuna tartar with Skagit Valley green tea veil
Mouse melon, pickled chanterelles, parsley root chips
2010 Coeur de Terre Dry Riesling, McMinnville, Oregon
Most perfectly cooked tuna, ever! The green tea gelee was interesting, and the pickled chanterelles were tasty. I had never seen anything like the mouse melon. Cute fruit with an even cuter name.
Wood oven braised automn boletes, charred pear, red onion
Brown butter roasted cauliflower, green coriander seed
2009 Mcrea Cellars Grenache Blanc, Boushey Vineyard (Yakima Valley)
I loved the richer take on vegetables – roasted, brown buttered up, and with the hint of sweetness from the pear.
Duck and Golds
Lavender rubbed 2 week dry aged Moulard duck leg
Toasted sunflower seed granola, delicata squash, grape must sauce
2009 Facelli Winery Varbera, Sagemoor Vineyard (Columbia Valley)
Fun play with textures, between the creamy squash and the granola.
Lamb of the Ley
Roasted oregano0crusted bluefaced Leicester Lamb, grilled baby Romaine
Angelo Pellegrini shell beans in a Western juniper marinade
Chickweed, wild watercress, horseradish jus
2011 Avennia “Justine” Red Rhône Blend, Yakima Valley
Relatively unadorned, this was the piece the resistance. Great lamb, great freshness contrast between the gamey meat and the abundant herbs.
Sheepish in Seattle
Toasted sourdough English muffin, rose geranium prune plum jam
Ancient heritage Adelle Bloomy sheep-cow cheese
The cheese resembled a Brie in the consistency, and the jam was delicious. There were gorgeous stone fruit all around the Pacific Northwest while we visited.
Feuille & Miel
Sheep yogurt and honey sorbet
Feuille de brick with apple and lime basil
Sweetened flint corn bread, foie gras creme caramel
Popcorn brittle, corn-lemon thyme ice cream
Vancouver Island balsamico, corn leaf chocolate plaquette
This was my absolute favorite of all the sweet offerings. I am trying to come up with a way to combine caramel and balsamic, two of my favorite flavors. The texture of the popcorn brittle with the ice cream and the creme caramel were just wonderful.
Peach pate de fruits with anise hyssop sugar
Molasses taffy from farm’s sugar beets
Bay leaf white chocolate
Parfait of end-of-summer Northwest berries
2010 Capitello Dolcino Dessert Gewürztraminer, Willamette Valley
My sweet tooth was more than happy with this end to the meal. I loved the parfait and the bay leaf white chocolate piece. It seemed fitting to finish the meal with the first herb that we started, bay leaf.
At the end of the meal, we stayed behind for a while and talked to Ron Zimmerman, the proprietor. He had overheard our conversation with our fellow dinner mates about our aiming to visit most major wine countries in our lifetime. He had a few recommendations of his own, especially once we mentioned Spain was next in our radar. Watch out, Priorat! He was also surprised there was still a food blogger around. Apparently a few people visited while in the area for IFBC! I’m glad we decided to come visit. The meal was delicious, the service was incredible, and I couldn’t get over the attention to detail for each individual plate. I hope that translates well in the pictures.
My husband and I paid for our nine-course meal at The Herbfarm in Woodinville, WA in its entirety. All opinions are our own.