As we have written here before, The Herbfarm Restaurant in Woodinville, Washington is one of the greatest restaurants, anywhere. More than a meal, it is an experience. Perhaps their crowning achievement of all their different experiences or menus is their 100-Mile Dinner. At this prix fixe dinner of 11 different courses, each paired with an appropriate beverage, every molecule was sourced from within 100 miles of their restaurant! This is by no means an easy feat. Notwithstanding that self-imposed limitation, this meal was every bit as good as all the meals we have enjoyed at The Herbfarm.
Some of you may be thinking “Why so much attention on something local when you do so much travel? Is that not something of a contradiction?” Not at all. We love to travel but once we get to destination, we want to experience that place. You can find an Irish bar anywhere (and just about everywhere) in the world, but you won’t catch us in one anywhere but Ireland. We are travelling locavores, seeking to find the most genuine, authentic experience of that particular place.
“Locavore” is a term that has recently come in to use (my computer’s spell check doesn’t even recognize it) and it seems to be a derivation of the word carnivore, which is a meat-eater. By extension, a locavore is someone who eats what lives or is grown locally. There are lots of very good reasons for being a locavore. Among the most compelling is that locavores end up supporting their neighbours by purchasing the produce and supporting employment of the people physically closest to them. There are other good reasons to be a locavore, too. Local food is the freshest food; it does not need to suffer the delays of long distance packaging and transportation. Local food is better for the environment. The average “fresh” produce actually travels 1800 miles to reach its final destination. This consumes fuel and rubber tires which adversely impacts the environment. In fact, consuming just 10% more local produce would cut greenhouse gas emissions by between 6.7 and 7.9 million lbs.
As Ron Zimmerman, co-proprietor of The Herbfarm told us, “the idea for the 100-Mile Dinner actually came from British Columbia. Alisa Smith and J. B. McKinnon wrote a book called the 100 Mile Diet where they described a year of eating only food that came from within 100 miles of their home.” This inspired Ron and his wife and co-proprietor, Carrie Van Dyck, to take on the challenge themselves. Together with Chef Chris Weber and the rest of The Herbfarm team, they set up the GPS right beneath the chandelier that hangs in the middle of the restaurant and set a radius of 100 miles to draw the boundary that all of their ingredients for this meal must be sourced from. That 100 mile circle covers a diversity of territory, mostly in Washington State as well as a bit of Vancouver and the Fraser Valley and the southern tip of Vancouver Island. A good chunk of the territory is the water of Puget Sound. It covers ocean, lakes and rivers and flat lands near the coast as well as the Cascade Mountains.
As we said at the beginning, every molecule is sourced from within the 100-mile boundary. The meal lasted four hours and offered an incredible diversity of dishes. Numerous different types of fish and game were served along with locally sourced vegetables and grains. Even the delicious bread for our side plates was entirely locally sourced. The wheat came from a local farm, as did the rye for the crackers. Herbfarm staff churned the butter themselves made from milk of locally raised Holstein cows, with sea salt distilled from local waters. The dishes included salmon, geoduck, crab, duck and beef as well as local fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. Salt, pepper and all the other seasonings were sourced from within 100 miles. There must have been 100 separate ingredients used to make this incredible tasting feast, all sourced from within 100 miles of that chandelier.
Each dish was paired with a local beverage that, in typical Herbfarm style, enhanced the flavours of what was on our plates. Sommelier Bruce Achtermann did a brilliant job choosing the best of the beverages within the 100 mile radius. We enjoyed several delicious wines from Washington State that included wines made from locally grown Pinot Noir, Gruner Veltliner, Siegerrebe (a white grape originally from Germany with some plantings in Washington and BC) Syrah and Mouvedre. A dessert wine was offered from Vancouver Island’s cult winery, Venturi-Schulze. The Wine, called Brandenberg No. 3 (after the symphony) is made from another obscure Germanic grape, the Madeleine Sylvaner. The wine is vinified then reduced by boiling and then aged in chestnut. Unique, delicious and within 100 miles of the restaurant! We also enjoyed a delicious Herbfarm 100-Mile Beer made by Herbfarm staff from local grain, hops, water and yeast. It was a surprisingly good choice to pair with the duck confit.
The desserts were accompanied by local “coffee”, a native bark decoction that was not only remarkably similar to coffee but delicious too, as well as locally grown teas infused with local herbs. In addition to all of the great food, the evening was made that much more special by the mood created by local classical guitarist Patricio Comtreras, who trained at the Royal Conservatory in Madrid, but now lives in Seattle. Even the music was from within 100 miles!
All of The Herbfarm experiences are well worth attending, but certainly the 100-Mile Dinner is the most unique and their most ambitious. Our bucket list dream is to someday have taken in all of their different themed dinners, of which there is about a dozen.
14590 N.E. 145th Street
Woodinville, WA 98072 U.S.A.
Phone: (425) 485-5300