Dinner at The Herbfarm in Woodinville, Washington is something you hear about from food and wine enthusiasts. The Herbfarm is a AAA Five Diamond award-winning restaurant, critically-acclaimed by almost every culinary publication.
The Herbfarm was only a culinary fantasy in my mind until recently. As a devoted wild mushroom lover, I was pleased to be invited to Woodinville and The Herbfarm for their Mycologist’s Dream 9-course dinner with wine pairings. This turned into a journey of discovery. I learned about the magic of The Herbfarm, the comfort of the Willow’s Lodge and about Woodinville, Washington as a getaway destination.
The Herbfarm Dinner Journey
A group of guests—myself included—were invited to a “wine cellar open house and introductory indoor garden tour” thirty minutes before our 4:30 p.m. dinner was to start. So I left early for the four-hour drive hoping to check into my room at the Willows Lodge and rest up a bit before the tour and early dinner.
It was all planned out. They offered me a selection of tables and I chose to sit at a large table with European communal sitting which was perfect, since I was traveling alone. They learned of my food preferences and made sure I had all the information I needed for my journey.
What wasn’t planned was the snowstorm I encountered as I neared Tacoma and Seattle. It was the kind of beautiful snow that dusts the fir trees and blankets the earth. It was magicial and an ideal prelude to a special evening.
The Willows Lodge at Woodinville
After a rather slow drive, I turned off the freeway and meandered down a winding road lined with golden maples and fir trees. The Willows Lodge, just across from The Herbfarm, was my destination.
I was instantly greeted by the doorman. As I entered the two-story Northwest lodge-style lobby a fire was blazing in the stone fireplace. I was offered a glass of wine and assistance with my bag as I checked in. The attentive staff is just another wonderful characteristic of the lodge.
My room, located on the second floor, was a heavenly retreat… jetted soaking tub, gas fireplace, very comfortable crisp-sheeted bed and the usual upscale amenities. I yearned to sit awhile and enjoy the serene view of trees outside my window, but it was almost time for The Herb Garden tour to begin. I changed quickly and walked across the parking lot to the beautiful European style farmhouse, unprepared for what I was to experience.
The Herbfarm and Garden
The elegant doors opened and I walked into the type of room that can only be described as a fantasy. An antique fireplace blazed in the salon. Antiques, curiosities and elegant fixtures were all around the dark wood-paneled room. The chandeliers were amazing. The eclectic décor was carefully managed to provide that feeling of elegance from a by-gone era.
A server poured delightful smelling cider from a silver service and then we explored a bit.
A chandelier and candle-lighted small dining room, narrow stairs to the culinary library and a walk down the hall kept us busy as we sipped the cider.
We were welcomed by the warm and delightful owners, Ron Zimmerman and Carrie Van Dyck. We heard about the history of The Herbfarm. It all started with the chives the original owner shared and grew to a local farming business. A fire destroyed the buildings and out of the ashes the concept for the current country home and gardens emerged. Fresh herbs were tossed to us to crush and smell and we were promised dishes created around the herbs.
The doors opened and we entered yet another fantasy. Classical guitar music provided the backdrop as diners found their tables and looked expectantly at the open kitchen filled with chefs.
The large dining room contained Pacific Northwest and European collectibles as was the rest of the house.
A Blue Mountain Brut (Okanagan, B.C.) was poured and we were treated to an explanation of what local delights we would be served along with a review of the wines by The Herbfarm Sommelier. The presentation of chefs, staff and the courses we were to enjoy was lengthy but part of the “pageantry” you’ll enjoy at The Herbfarm.
On the table were printed place cards with our names, beautifully printed menu booklets and a lovely color brochure outlining the unusual locavore beverages that were available to diners. Nothing is under-done. No detail ignored.
The Herbfarm Nine-Course Dinner
Each course presented to us that night was carefully prepared ensuring the inclusion of fresh herbs. Most ingredients were sourced from the Pacific Northwest and everything was creative and beautifully plated.
At the communal table we introduced ourselves. Special birthdays were being celebrated and diners had driven from near and far. It was a fun group. The wine flowed and the conversation was lively.
Mushroom-centric courses ran the gamut… from Fungi Triad at the beginning through the Clam and Abalone course to the Alderwood grilled leg of lamb to the chocolate delight at the end. The locally-sourced ingredients provided us with surprising dishes and, at the end of the four hours, when we sat back with our specialty coffee or tea, an evening to remember.
The Herbfarm – Keeping it Light
There are several things from that special evening that still make me smile. One is my journey to the Lady’s Powder Room. Imagine walking through the lovely rooms and opening the door to the Wine Cellar to find the restroom! On both sides of the narrow hall were cases of wines and, of course, more elegant décor. And, at the end of the hall, the restroom!
And who can forget Basil and Borage, The Herbfarm pet pigs! We were invited to feed Basil and Borage from little piggy snack buckets between courses. We went out into the dark, followed the path and there they were in their pen, eagerly awaiting our handouts.
The Herbfarm, you’ll discover, is not without a sense of humor. One guest at my table ordered “The Death Wish: World’s Strongest Coffee.” It was delivered with a pulse meter which was carefully monitored. She laughed, she was young, and it, apparently, didn’t affect her pulse rate all that much!
The Evening Ends All Too Soon
We had chatted away four hours being entertained by a constant parade of wines and beautifully plated small food courses. I said farewell to my dinner companions and made my way across the parking lot to the Willows Lodge. The moon lighted my way.
I turned on the gas fireplace as soon as I got into the room and settled in to the billowy bed to post photos of my experience on Instagram. Soon, I drifted off to sleep. It was a quiet night and I awoke fairly early but rested. I packed early to miss some of the traffic on my journey home and was greeted by a cheerful night staff member as I came down the stairs.
As I drove away, I passed several intriguing wineries and knew I must return and explore more of Woodinville. It’s only thirty minutes from downtown Seattle.
When You Go to The Herbfarm and the Willows Inn
Reservations are a must. The Herbfarm schedules these marvelous nine-course dinners throughout the year. If you have a last minute desire to do something special, call them as sometimes a diner needs to cancel with short notice. They do have special suites at the Willows Lodge decorated in the lavish Herbfarm manner.
Most of the Willows Lodge, however, is decorated with the lodge-chic décor that I experienced. The Willows Lodge has a spa, landscaped gardens and a comfortable fireside bar. And, it's just a few steps from The Herbfarm. Getaway, anyone?
Find out more about places to visit, wine and dine in Washington State from our Wander writers.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.