The Herbfarm (Seattle)

Last month, for my second birthday dinner I went to The Herbfarm in Seattle. The restaurant focuses on food and wine local to the Pacific Northwest and has a different theme for dinners every few weeks. The theme while we were there was Indian Summer, which combined the best of ingredients available in the summer and the fall.

A meal at The Herbfarm is an experience. They only have one dinner seating per night and everyone is served each of their nine courses at the same time. The entire meal takes at least 4 hours, so be prepared. When we first arrived we were given cocktails and a tour around the property. One of the proprietors showed us the herb gardens and explained how each of the herbs we were seeing (and got to taste too) would be incorporated into the night’s meal. It was informative, though it was a little chilly out and I found myself wanting to go inside and warm up before the tour was over.

When we finally got to go inside, the interior was cozy and the decor was very eclectic. I guess you could call it country charm. The place settings were all nicely made up and I loved that they had mini menus on every plate along with a sprig of herbs. I even got a little birthday souvenir. The best thing about the dining room was the big, open kitchen at the front. I like to be able to watch the chefs work.

The first course was Pacific Spot Prawn pipes with heritage tomatoes, hermiston melons, lovage droplets and mint. This was served with Treveri Cellars sparkling Gewürztraminer.

The prawn pipes were great – the prawn mixture was fresh and creamy, piped into a light and crispy shell. The acidity of the tomatoes and the sweetness of the melons were a nice accent. This definitely whet my appetite for the meal to come.

After the first course there was a bit of a break where the proprietors talked a little more about the restaurant and introduced the entire staff. The chef and sommelier gave us a rundown of the food and wines we’d be enjoying throughout the evening, which I really enjoyed. I like having the opportunity to learn more about the food I’m eating.

The second course was smoked Pacific black cod, poached and crispy leek, pickled radish and lemon thyme with wild matsutake mushroom sauce. This was served with Ponzi Vineyards Arneis.

The cod was cooked perfectly. I just had to apply light pressure with my fork and it separated into beautiful flakes. The mushroom sauce was milder than I expected it to be, but was nonetheless a great accompaniment to the fish. The crispy leeks were a great garnish.

Around the second course was the first time that bread was brought out. There were three different breads, each of which was very good. But the best thing – the butter. Housemade Holstein cow butter, churned daily. I have never tasted butter so good. Generally I don’t eat much bread in restaurants because I want to save my somewhat limited appetite for the real food, but in this case I ate 3 slices of bread just so I could eat more of this butter.

The third course was corn arancini, roasted chanterelles, marjoram-glazed zucchini, heritage pig prosciutto, shaved sheep milk cheese and pickled shallot scapes. This was served with Sparkman Cellars Chardonnay.

There was a lot going on in this plate, but it worked. The arancini was well executed – crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. It was a bit of a struggle to get a forkful with all the components of the dish, but it was worth it when I did. The flavours melded together beautifully.

The fourth course was wood rotisserie squab breast with toasted pumpkin seed granola, sage-caramelized squash and grape must sauce. This was served with Tranche Cellars Barbera.

This was my favourite course of the night. The squab was amazing – so moist and tender, perfectly cooked. At first I was a little puzzled by the granola component of the dish, but it turned out to be really tasty and added great texture. What made the dish was the grape must sauce. Must is the juice pressed from grapes before it is fermented to make wine. They turned this into an amazingly robust and complex sauce that complemented the squab so well. Taking a slice of squab, dipping it in the sauce and covering it with a little of the granola was divine. When I was done with all the food on the plate I used my bread to soak up every last bit of the sauce. I really don’t have enough words to describe how good this was.

The fifth course was a duo of Snoqualmie Valley lamb – a shoulder crepinette and a grilled loin. It was served with caramelized fennel, grilled romaine, shell bean purée, beans and onion jus with thyme oil. The wine was Darby Winery’s “Aunt Lee” Syrah.

This is the only course that I wasn’t thrilled with, which is unfortunate since lamb is one of my favourite meats. The loin was cooked and seasoned nicely, but it just didn’t have that strong lamb taste that I like. The crepinette was a bit dry, and I also found the flavour of that a little bit lacking.

The sixth course was a soft ripened cow & sheep’s milk cheese, Okanagon peach with rosemary-honey vinaigrette and toasted brioche.

Creamy cheese, juicy peaches and buttery brioche. Simple, but delicious.

The seventh course was raspberry sorbet with red pepper gelee and lemon verbena.

The use of red pepper gelee in this was unexpected, but I really liked it. I thought the hints of spiciness complemented the sweet tartness of the raspberry really well.

The eighth course was an apple bourbon cake with brandy snap tuille, salted caramel mousse and caramel cream.

This was tasty but I was expecting more caramel flavour in this. I did quite like the different layers and textures though. The ‘floating’ brandy snap tuille was especially good.

The ninth course was a selection of sweets and herbal teas. It was served with a late harvest Gewürztraminer, though I’m not a fan of sweet wines so I got another glass of the sparkling that was served with the first course.

By the time we got around to the ninth course I was rather full. I tried the rose geranium dark chocolate and the white chocolate dipped ground cherry. They were both good. The Herbfarm had a great selection of teas and infusions, and the one I had (which I can’t remember the name of) was excellent.

The Herbfarm served one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Seven of the nine courses were excellent, and the squab dish was one of the best things I’ve tasted. The service was also great. Every server was friendly and attentive. The sommelier, Joey Lopaka, stopped by our table a few times and answered any questions we had about the wines or why they chose certain glass shapes. The chef, Chris Weber, also stopped by our table at the end of the meal to make sure we had enjoyed everything (and got to listen to me gush about the grape must sauce).

The problem with The Herbfarm? They’ve got me hooked and since the meal themes change so often I want to go back every two weeks so I can experience them all.

If you’re in the area, The Herbfarm is definitely worth the trip.

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