This hallowed restaurant was our prime destination on our trip to the Northwest in the Spring of 2002. It was a really new location for them when we visited, their previous restaurant had been destroyed in a fire. We stayed at the Willows Lodge next door, which was also very new. It shares the same parking lot – it’s that close. The Restaurant itself also boasts a few bed and breakfast rooms.
The meal starts with a tour of the herbgarden. Pretty mundane for me but I enjoyed seeing what they were growing. All the herbs are in raised beds. They have a huge pig named Hamlet that eats the table scraps next to the garden.
Once back in the restaurant the entertainment begins with a glass of sparkling wine and the herb of your choice, offered in a wicker basket. I chose Pineapple Sage. Jack chose Lavender (the other choice was rosemary). Once selected the herb is placed in the glass and the sparkling wine is poured over it. The menu is formally introduced, as is the kitchen staff, and from then on you will wonder if you are at a dinner theater - as the dining experience at the Herbfarm is more than just the food. What’s good is what they tell you about the background of the ingredients which are in your next course… perhaps it was just foraged, like the seabeans we enjoyed. The food was very good. Not the best food we’ve ever had but good, well- crafted and nicely presented. The herbs are used throughout and sometimes inventively.
The most disappointing part was the accompanying wine (included in the price) which was to Jack sub-par. The restaurant does have a good sized winelist and cellar but we didn’t see any of the “good stuff” at our dinner, if you want it you have to pay extra and I already thought dinner was expensive from $159-$189/person - but that does include 5-6 wines by the glass. The most interesting choice was an old Malvasia. And we’ve had better - much better and older. The cool part of the dinner was what I was drinking. I was pregnant with Trent and not completely tee-totalling but I opted for the non-alcoholic choices and was really surprised to be offered Stinging Nettle and other housemade drinks. Jack almost wished that he had chosen the non-wine option.
We did not find that the Herbfarm to be a romantic restaurant, nor a good place for a business dinner. There are too many interruptions and you just never feel alone. It is a fun experience like a really highclass King Arthur’s table or something of that ilk and the place is over-the-top decorated in a cozy elegant crazy-Victorian sort-of-way. You probably wouldn’t want to go more than once-a-year but the seasonal menus they offer may change your mind as they celebrate mushrooms, game, truffles and salmon. I would think that a holiday experience would be wonderful (as long as you are not looking for a quiet intimate spot). The Herbfarm offer special New Years, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentines, etc. menus.
If you can stand the theatrics the food is pretty good and you might have something different to eat. It’s not a cheap ticket though so if you are looking for a quiet intimate spot opt for the French Laundry or a more traditional restaurant.
The Willows Lodge
The Willows Lodge was a fantastic deal when we stayed there. The rooms were new, really state-of-the-art and each has a fireplace (granted it’s a gas fireplace). The bed was wonderful and the bathroom cool and functional.
The décor is Northwest lodge. It’s also a small hotel, 86 rooms, and was very quiet when were there. The negative would be the grounds – this is not a destination for beauty outside. It’s situated like a Holiday Inn close to the road and in the middle of a field (well there is a river nearby). They also have a spa which we didn’t visi.
Continental Breakfast is included in the lounge and it’s nicely done with fruit, danishes, good coffee and great tea (Revolutions), plus they offer evening wine tasting.
The hotel location is perfect for wine tasting if you want to taste at the two mega wineries literally next door: Chateau Ste Michelle and Columbia; we did and never need to again.
We did not get a chance to dine at their restaurant, the Barking Frog.
Shopping in Woodinville is nearby. Our stay was multiple days in 2002. Oh and the Herbfarm restaurant is in the parking lot.