When I agreed to move to a city I had never been to (well, I sat on a plane during a lay over, doesn’t count), I only asked for two things. One that there be an ice rink within 30 minutes of driving from where we lived. And two that I get to go eat at The Herbfarm Restaurant. My husband agreed to both.
I had seen a little clip about it on TV one day and was instantly enamored with it. Back when I saw the show, the restaurant was in Fall City, WA. But tragically, the original site burnt to the ground and due to a lot of red tape they decided it would just be easier to rebuild somewhere else. And so they did. In Woodinville, WA, home of Western Washington wine country.
The first year we moved here money was tight and so when my husband found out how much it would set us back , he started saving (as he did make a promise). We decided we would go for Thanksgiving day. See, we celebrate both Canadian and American Thanksgiving. We do a traditional Thanksgiving in October for Canadian Thanksgiving and we usually do non-traditional for American. This fit right into that.
I was beyond nervous, for if you read my other blog you know that my husband is a picky eater. The Herbfarm offers up a 9 course pre-fix meal with wine pairing of Pacific Northwest Wines. So you have no choice of what you are getting. They are very accommodating however and will alter the menu to suit your needs. I being allergic to raw tomatoes and raw onions don’t get those. Also, having an immune problem all of my seafood is cooked through. If you don’t drink wine, you can have beer. If you don’t drink alcohol they offer a variety of herb infused juices and teas. Don’t eat meat? No problem (they just ask that you don’t choose the theme that is oh say, Kobe beef). And if you are me, I get all white wines as red give me migraines. Again, very accommodating.
You have two styles of seating options. You can sit with just the people you came with or you can sit what they call European style. European style is where you sit with a table of strangers. We went with European style (and still do each time). For I love my husband dearly, but the meal takes 4-5 hours and the thought of trying to talk to the non-foodie about food all night did not sound appealing. I highly suggest this style as I have met a lot of wonderful people sitting this way (especially this time around).
I stared at that first menu in shear delight, and then terror as I knew there was no way my husband was going to like most of the menu. I didn’t want him to think it was a waste. I mean when you start off with Sea Urchin Flan with Crisp Shallots and your husband doesn’t like fish, oh no. Yeah, he loved it. The course I thought he would surely hate, Chestnut and Celery Root Ravioli with Chanterelles, Apple and Bacon, was his favorite of the night, along with the venison. He even asked me if I could recreate the ravioli at home. I just stared at him thinking, who is this man?
When we finished with the meal and got into the car to go home that night, my husband turned to me and said, “I think we should do this every year, this should be our Thanksgiving tradition”. And so it has become. It works great because it gets out of going to go to relatives for dinner and no one wants to go with us because of the cost.
Having only gone to the Thanksgiving ones, I had always wanted to try a different season. The Herbfarm only uses seasonal ingredients and the menu is made that day to ensure the freshest of ingredients. I was fortunate enough to get to go in June. Not just to the meal but to what The Herbfarm calls the 24 hour experience. I did not do the full 24 hours, as it was an assignment for Washington Travel and Life magazine (you can read about it in there upcoming issue), and I did not stay the night. But what I did get to do was work the farm. Learn from the head gardener (with thanks to Bill I have kept my herbs alive…which is a big deal because I have a black thumb). I got to eat a fabulous lunch that was prepared by the head chef, which he delivered to us on the farm. I got to talk with him about his philosophy (The Herbfarm recently changed chefs after 17 years, their old chef Jerry Traunfeld went off to open his own restaurant, Poppy, which I will no doubt review one of these days). Chef Keith Luce grew up on a farm and has literally brought the farm back to The Herbfarm. They are raising their own chickens, making their own honey, making their own butter, their own cheeses (which are out of this world crazy good), raising their own special pigs for sausages, and of course, growing herbs, vegetables and fruit like they always were. It was truly inspiring to learn his vision. After spending the morning and early afternoon on the farm, you go to the restaurant and deliver the goodies. You meet the staff and tour the kitchen. We also get a tour of the herb garden that they have there. You then get time off before dinner. Which if I were doing the regular 24 hour experience, I would have gone back to Willows Lodge (which The Herbfarm is across from) and rest. But I went home and let out the dog. She appreciate that.
Then I returned that evening to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I had never been so excited to see Fava Beans. There was a real sense of pride in seeing what you picked make it to the table. The meal of course was fabulous. One day, I fully intend on doing the 24 hour experience again. I loved it. If you can swing it, I highly suggest it.
While I was on my assignment they told us about some of the upcoming themes. One of them was Northwest Barbeque. BBQ? The Herbfarm? I had to see how they interpreted that. They had wood fire stoves built outside for it.
Nothing at all in the sense of what one thinks when they think BBQ, but a fun play on the flavors that one has at a BBQ. Once again, I sat a diverse table, with personalities galore, all there for the purpose of eating a wonderful meal. I sat next to R. He was there with his lovely wife celebrating his 60th birthday. He may have been 60 in years but boy you wouldn’t know it. An Englishman with a delightful sense of humor. Kept me entertained the whole night through. Not to say I only talked to him, but he was right beside me (with my hubby, whom I talk to all the time on the other).
Below is what we had to eat that night. I once again was in shock when my husband told me how much he liked the Ceviche of Dungeness Crab and Pacific Octopus with Coriander-Scented Popcorn. I looked at him and said, “but that is octopus” and he said “yes, and it’s good.” I was so proud.
It’s hard to pick a favorite, though I am a corn lover so the first course was supurb. Their cheese course was another love, as well as the squab and lamb. I must admit I am usually over critical of the dessert, as that is my thing and I usually think I can make it better (I’m a pastry snob like that ).
If you get the chance, words can not express how much I love this place. Have I had better food. I will be honest and say yes, The Trellis Restaurant in Williamsburg, VA and The French Laundry isn’t half bad either. But the overall experience that The Herbfarm offers is truly one of my ultimate pleasures in life.
September 6th, 2008
A Corny Start
Sweet-Corn and Chervil Blini with Montana Paddlefish Caviar And Smoked Steelhead Caviar
Corn Bisque with Bush Basil Froth and Housemade Mini Bratwurst
Ceviche of Dungeness Crab and Pacific Octopus with Coriander-Scented Popcorn
2002 Argyle Brut, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Seaweed-Grilled Pacific Mussels
Totten Inlet Mussels in a Marjoram-Scented Broth
with Dried Sungold Tomatoes and Fennel Pollen Aioli Crostini
2007 Woodinville Wine Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, Artz Vineyard, Yakima Valley, Washington
Alderwood-Roasted Salmon Salad
Wood-Roasted Quinault Indian Line-Caught Coho Salmon
With Fillet Beans, Heirloom Tomatoes, Herbarm Egg, and Salsa Verde
2006 Eyrie Vineyard Pinot Gris, Estate, Dundee Hills, Oregon
With Squab, Wild Mushrooms and Sage Ragu
2005 Herbfarm “Designee” Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley
Whole Roasted Lavender Lamb
Local Lamb Roasted Whole with Lavender with Our Own New Potatoes
Just-Picked Baby Corn, Sweet Peppers, and Tomatoes
Roasted in Rotisserie Drippings with Huckleberry Barbeque Sauce
2005 Owen Roe Zinfadel, Columbia Valley
Chevre-Stuffed Squash Blossom
Roasted in Apple Wood, Herbfarm Honey, and Pickled Morello Cherries
Buttermilk and Squash Panna Cotta
With Pickled Melon Rind and Lemon-Thyme Scented Melon Salad
Fruits and Nuts, Up in Smoke
Homemade Apple-Cinnamon Cobbler
Hazelnut Souffle with Wood-Smoked Ice Cream and Custard Sauce
A Selection of Small Treats
Blackberry Linzer Cookie
Orange Balsam Palmiers
Chocolate-Mint White Chocolate Truffle
Salt and Pepper Milk Caramels
Dark Chocolate Dipped Apricot Gel
2006 Bonny Doon Late Harvest Roussanne, Le Vol Des Anges
The Herbfarm Restaurant
14590 NE 145th Street
Woodinville, WA 98072 U.S.A.