Thursday, October 28, 2010

Epic Mycological Meal at The Herbfarm

Our meal at HerbFarm began with an introduction to some of the herbs we'd be enjoying, in the lobby of the restaurant. Then we were seated and given some guidance on formally introducing ourselves. Our hostess nominated us to be in charge of the table, so to speak - referring to us as The Dans like she'd known us for years. During introductions we realized everyone at the table was also there using their LivingSocial deal before it expired, so we joked they put all the cheap folks at the same table. Some were specifically here for the mushroom themed "Mycologist's Dream" meal, while others of us just picked the most convenient date.

The meal began shortly after with one of the most surprising incarnations of mushrooms - a glass of Champagne with Candy Cap Mushroom Elixer.

Next came the first course, titled 'Fun with Fungi' - a quartet of bites:

Chicken-Fried Fried Chicken Mushroom and Alaskan Red King Crab Wrapped in Collards with Red Pepper Olympic Peninsula Paprika Sauce.

Smoked Oyster, Yellowfoot Mushroom, Sorrel, and Oyster Mushroom Mignonette.

Seared B.C. Sea Scallop with Oregon Truffle Cannoli and Baby Romaine.

Foie Gras Custard with Madrone Bark-Maitake Mushroom Gelee & Pickled Pie Cherry.

The next course was titled 'Black Trumpets for Tuna':

Seared Albacore on Black Trumpet Mushroom Sauce, Silken Saffron Potatoes, Coriandered Tuna Tartare with Tiny Potato Chips, Fennel & Chervil.

It was followed by 'Consomme & Golden Chanterelles', with the consomme poured tableside. My waitress even suggested I take an action shot:

Chanterelles, Boudin Blanc & Mangalista Proscuitto in Roasted Chanterelle Consomme with Watermelon Radish, Arugula Oil, Marjoram, and Crispy Pork Cracklin.

Next came 'King Porcini's Squabble':

Wood-Roasted Wild Cascade King Bolete with Rotisserie Squab, Snohomish Valley Chinook Farms Grains, Charred Parsnips and Herbfarm Greens.

This marked the midpoint of the meal, and many of us took the chance to go feed Basil & Borage, the Truffle Hunting Pigs, who live out in the herb garden.

Perhaps the main course, if this meal had one, was titled 'The Morel of Our Story':

Grilled Wagyu Strip, Oxtail Terrine with Morels, Carmelized Kholrabi, Sweet & Sour Washington Puy Lentils, Red Kuri Squash, Savoy Cabbage with Caraway Burre Monte, and Morel Bordelaise Sauce.

This was followed by the first pastry course, 'More 'shroom for Cheese':

A Sage & Apple tart, Alpine Lakes Foglianno & Cider braised lobster mushrooms.

Holly, who was seated across from me at the table and kept me wonderfully entertained all night, spotted an odd bottle of wine when she went to the restroom. And we ended up getting a glass for the table to enjoy. Surprisingly an award winning wine, Chocovine combines milk, red wine and chocolate in a delicious way. Everyone was a little surprised at how good it was, and Dan & I ended up taking 2 bottles home.

Next up was a dessert soup, marking a second round of candy cap mushrooms: Candy Capped Pear

Pear and Wild Candy Cap Mushroom Soup, Tarragon Meringue, Pickled Pear Gelee, and Fresh Pear Tarragon Salad

Holly's keen eye also brought the hilarity of a taxidermied chicken, standing on 'corn dogs' (which I pointed out where cat tails, but really did look like corn dogs.)

And Holly & her coworker got their hands on another bit of HerbFarm taxidermy: a Jackelope.

Another savory meets sweet dish from the pastry chef, titled 'Monkey Meets Matsutake' came next:

Rosemary Monkey Bread (a midwestern sweet bread usually made with Pillsbury biscuits) with Matsutake Mushroom Ice Cream, Butterscotched Pumpkin Puree & Glazed Hazelnuts.

And to end the night, we received a 'Selection of Small Treats' showcasing mushrooms and a variety of pastry techniques in miniature:

Meringue Mushroom, Bacon-and-Sage Milk Chocolate, Fried Apple & Lemon Verbena Cake, Chewy Shitake Caramel, and Peach-Apple Mint Pate de Fruit.

I enjoyed the treats along with a cup of Madrone Bark Tea.

The experience was wholly wonderful, and the food was mind-blowing. Particularly delicious to me were the foie gras custard, the oxtail terrine and lentils, and the matsutake ice cream - topped with with delicately slivered and candied stems.

It was amazing to me that everything (including the salt) used in the meal was from within 100 miles of the restaurant. The variety of mushrooms and other ingredients were astounding, and prepared with mastery. After the meal, both the executive chef Chris Weber and the pastry chef Cory Barrett came over and talked to us about the meal. I was blown away by how young they both were, in particular chef Weber - in his twenties and running a 5-diamond restaurant.

The meal is pricey, but it's so much more than just food. It's a performance that lasts for hours, where the amazing food plays a central role, supported by music, a staff from around the world, and even the guests who share the experience together. I highly recommend it and look forward to being able to go back again. And I highly recommend staying at the lodge - each course is served with wine, and the meal ends close to midnight.

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