The notion of eating local,
even a so-called 250-mile diet, seems pretty ambitious. No coffee, no salt, no yeast, no fun. Yet here's The Herbfarm
restaurant challenging itself to produce a series of "100-mile" dinners and sourcing everything on the plate within a 100-mile radius of Woodinville.
Nine courses of food and wine, and not all of it salmon, either.
“I don't think anyone will feel deprived,” says culinary director Ron Zimmerman. “In fact, I'm hoping they'll be thrilled and exalted. Our farm will be bursting with summer vegetables. There will be wild mushrooms, the nation's best shellfish, new potatoes, Puget Sound fish and salmon, pastured organic beef, house-made cheese, our own honey, saffron spice from Sequim, and an avalanche of fruits and berries."
The Herbfarm has a new culinary team in place, now that James-Beard-winning chef Keith Luce has returned to his family's farm on the North Fork of Long Island and sous-chef Lisa Nakamura has decamped for her own restaurant on Orcas Island. In addition to Zimmerman, Tony Demes, Chris Weber and Ben Smart share kitchen duties and Cory Bennett handles pastry.
The team's attention to detail is remarkable.
For the bread, the flour is stone-ground
from fields within the 100-mile limit. The staff has captured and propagated wild yeast from the air to ferment the breads that will bake in their woodburning outdoor oven. The butter? "We churn it in-house, old fashioned, farm-style," says Zimmerman. "The stuff you slather up to your elbows, it's so good.”
And salt? Well, they sent Chris Weber out to Lummi Island, where he gathered sea-water in a bucket and learned to make salt. "It's really good salt," he reports.
What about wine? Although there are several fine wineries in Woodinville, most of their grapes are grown more than 100 miles away. So the staff has found a local sparkling wine "of immense quality," they say, that no one will have ever tasted, a pinot noir from an unknown vineyard in Western Washington, a sangiovese from Lake Chelan and a couple of whites from the San Juan Islands.
Herbal teas were no problem, since one of only two tea plantations in North America is 45 minutes north of here. No coffee, though, since coffee can't grow here. Zimmerman is working on a brew of dandelion root, chicory, burdock, and roasted barley that looks promising. But if a guest can't live without coffee, he'll brew up a cup, as long as the guest brings the beans.
Says Zimmerman's wife and co-owner, Carrie Van Dyck, "With this dinner, we're kind of going where no one has been since the Salish tribes first had contact with the Europeans."
Now, two Benjamins (plus tax and tip) is a good deal more than most people pay for dinner, even for a five-hour spectacle. Two points. First, putting on complicated events like this ain't easy or cheap. (Tickets to Tristan or Teatro ZinZanni aren't inexpensive, either.) Second, it's something you could do at home, if you were enough of a die-hard locavore. Plenty of good culinary ideas come out of high-end menus, and these dinners won't use anything foreign or exotic.
The 100-Mile dinners will be served the last three weeks of August (starting Aug. 12), Thursdays through Sundays. (Sunday dinners start at 4:30, the other evenings at 7.) Price is $195. For reservations, call 425-485-5300 or go online to this page