In the heart of Woodinville Wine Country just east of Seattle, next to the Sammamish River, is The Herbfarm. To paraphrase the introduction we received, The Herbfarm’s story began in 1974 when Ron Zimmerman’s’ mother planted some chives along the roadside and posted a simple sign that read, “Herb Plants for Sale”. What followed was the growth of a bona fide herb farm.
In 1986, Ron Zimmerman and his wife Carrie Van Dyck joined the Herbfarm, working through two seasons to remodel the farm’s home and converting the garage into a small restaurant where Ron would become the first chef at the Herbfarm restaurant.
After excellent reviews and I suspect some vigorous “word of mouth” advertising, the Herbfarm became so successful that expansion was necessary. So in the fall of 1996, the Herbfarm grew with additions such as a new kitchen, an underground wine cellar housing approximately 26,000 bottles and a new dining space. All this would perish just a few months later to a devastating fire in January 1997.
The Herbfarm restaurant survived, however, as Ron and Carrie continued to run the restaurant from a tent on the property, later moving everything temporarily over to Hedges Cellars winery while construction began on the new Herbfarm. Eventually, four years past the fire, in May of 2001, with the key staff (who remained loyal and intact) The Herbfarm reopened in its new location.
The Herbfarm runs on the philosophy that “supporting local farmers, foragers, cheesemakers, wineries and fisherman helps preserve local foods.” Every meal is finalized just hours before dinner service with only the freshest ingredients.
The Herbfarm churns its own butter, bakes their own bread, crafts their cheeses, tend their own beehives and cures and ages their meat. Everything is recycled too. The pigs get the cheese whey, compost comes from all the kitchen scraps and even the cooking oil fuels the biodiesel tractor. Wow!
With such a fine history dedicated to highlighting fine food and promoting an understanding of fresh ingredients, it was clear that our evening was going to be an education and a culinary adventure.
Dining here is an experience that was truly enchanting from the moment you enter the salon and warm yourself in front of the century-old fireplace. The ambiance is warm and welcoming as you make your way through antique doors, dark wood trim and stained glass into the dining room.
Our adventure began in the Salon where we learned the history of the Herbfarm. Then we enjoyed a personal tour of the Herb Garden that provides herbs for the restaurant kitchen.
(Carrie Van Dyck, owner at the Herbfarm)
Here we also met Borage and Basil, the resident pigs. In between courses, we were encouraged to take a walk and feed the pigs from the snacks provided for them by the Herbfarm.
Our 9-course dinner was served with 6 matching wines based on the season, Spring! Each season’s menu is based on a theme too. Ours was “Super Cattle in Seattle”, a Salute to Northwest Wagyu Beef in a Steakhouse Style.
Dining is Euro-style so we were seated at a communal table with 6 others. After introductions, led by our wait staff, we each were asked to answer one of two questions: 1) what kind of experience have you had with cows? And 2) what can you tell us about your relationship with food? A lively conversation carried us through the entire meal. From that point on, it was a genuine “dinner party”.
(Patricio Contreras, Royal Conservatory, Madrid)
I apologize for the poor quality of the photos. Working in dim lighting with flickering flames and not wanting to diminish the temperature or flavor quality of my meal, I had to shoot fast. I do not use a flash when I dine in restaurants and in this instance I was trying to be discreet so I wouldn’t disturb the others at our table.
(Everyone received a personal menu)
(This was my name tag but I turned it around to show The Herbfarm side.)
(Ron Zimmerman, Owner at The Herbfarm)
(Chris Weber, Chef at the Herbfarm–he’s only 25 years old!)
(Ron introducing the entire staff by name and title with a short bio on each.)
(A wine glass for each type of wine.)
Course One, The Captain’s Take:
King Crab “Twice Baked Potato” with Dungeness Crab Bisque.
Baked Fat Bastard Oysters in Creamed Oxalis with Oregon Truffle-Wild Boar Bacon Crumbs.
Served with Treveri Cellars Sparkling Chardonnay with a Choice of Herb
Course Two, Tartare & Tale:
Cigar of Hand-Cut Wagyu Tartare with Smoked Quinault River Steelhead Caviar, Egg Yolk Pearls, Red Onion, Cornichons, and Wild Green Elder Berry Capers.
Oxtail Borscht with Golden Beet-Lemon Thyme Cream.
Served with 2010 Poet’s Leap Riesling, Columbia Valley, Washington
Course Three, Long Line Ling Cod Two Marrow:
Long-Line Ling Cod with Green Garlic Sabayon, Bone Marrow Croquettes, Yakima Valley Navy Beans, Spring Pea Shoots.
Served with 2010 Merriman Chenin Blanc, Old Vine, The Brasher Block
Course Four, Hot Cow Collar:
Wagyu Beef Collar Glazed with Housemade Worcestershire, Charred Alliums, Walla Walla Onion Sprouts, Spiced Carrot Sauce.
Served with 2009 Gramercy Cellars Tempranillo, Inigo Montoya, Walla Walla
Course Five, Eye of Rib Beef:
Applewood-Grilled Eye of Wagyu Prime Rib with Wagyu Au Jus, Poêléd Sunchokes, Young Spinach, Shaved Radish, Wild Winter Mushrooms, Salted Horseradish Butter
Served with 2004 DeLill Cellars Chaleur Estate Meritage Rouge
Course Six, Puddin’ in Blue:
Yorkshire Pudding with Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue Cheese, Frisée, Walnuts, Lavender-Curried Apples, Cider Vinegar Syrup
Course Seven, Angels & Rhubarb:
Glazed Rhubarb Batons with Angelica Sponge and Oregon Vermouth Sorbet
Course Eight, Udderly:
Frozen Guernsey Cow Yogurt, Soft Oats, Sour Cherry, Dark Chocolate Crémeux, and Buttermilk Caramel
Coffees, Native Beverages & Teas
(Sommelier, Tysan Dutta)
Course Nine, Teat Treats:
Cow Tails, Malted Milk Chocolate, Hazelnut-Fig, Rooty Macaron, House-Churned Holstein Butter, Rosemary Biscuits, Multi-Grain Loaves
Served with 2009 Brian Carter Cellars Touriga Nacional Opulento
I finished the meal with a 1927 Domaine Bory Rivesaltes “A French answer to Tawny Port. Aged in a barrel for over 80 years. Smooth celestial honey and walnuts.” I did not take a photo. I just wanted to savor the experience.
If you ever find yourself in the Pacific Northwest with a full wallet and an evening to spare, I highly recommend you treat yourself and someone you love to a dining experience so special you will forget where you are and you will focus on the sensation of good tastes and aromas: The Herbfarm.