Seattle Events

When the Perfect Gift is an Experience: The Herbfarm

The Herbfarm Exterior: Courtesy of Willows Lodge

The Herbfarm Exterior: Courtesy of Willows Lodge

My husband and I have largely forgone gift-giving when it comes to physical things. Occasionally I still receive a beautiful bottle of wine, but I view wine as a moment captured in a bottle — an experience. What trumps the experience of a lovely wine, consumed at its pinnacle moment? Wine paired with food. So when I opened the mail this week to receive The Herbfarm’s 2018 Restaurant Schedule, I was reminded of just such a pairing that I had the honor of experiencing last Christmas season.

Located in the heart of Western Washington’s Woodinville Wine Country, The Herbfarm is consistently ranked as one of the world’s top destination restaurants. The restaurant's mantra: “No dish can be better than its ingredients, and the best ingredients are usually local” informs its ever-changing menus. By supporting local farmers, cheesemakers, wineries, and so on, they preserve local foods, traditions, and moments in every meal.

Much has been written about The Herbfarm as a restaurant (see Forbes, Frommer’s, and The New York Times for starters) so I’ll leave the reviews to the dining experts. As a somm, what intrigued and delighted me most was the pairing of local food and drink for each course.

What Grows Together Goes Together

Menu and wine card. Photo by Amy Dickson

Menu and wine card. Photo by Amy Dickson

The Herbfarm’s menus, often not finalized until hours before each singular evening seating, are shaped to showcase and capture the essence of the season. The local food and wine come together in such a way as to elevate the sense of terroir: nine courses and five wines, all hand-selected to complement each other.  For example, my meal contained a course of Poulet Bleu, a blue-footed chicken with black trumpet mushrooms and an air-dried persimmon sweet and sour sauce. Paired with a 2013 A.D. Beckham Amphora Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, and I was in heaven.

In Perfect Harmony: Drink and Food

Chef Chris Weber explaining the night’s meal: Courtesy of Trip Advisor

Chef Chris Weber explaining the night’s meal: Courtesy of Trip Advisor

On that note, the nine-course meal takes several hours and is perfectly matched to whatever you feel like quaffing:

Wine: Your five courses will come with pre-selected wines that will delight and dazzle. During my seating I enjoyed an Argyle Brut from Oregon (with mussels), Avennia’s Sauvignon Blanc from Yakima (wild winter sturgeon), Efeste’s Chardonnay (celery root with truffle), that lovely Pinot Noir (blue-footed chicken), and Kevin White’s Grenache-Mourvedre-Syrah blend (grilled Wagyu coulotte). Don’t want to stick to the script? Ask for the 150+ page wine list and I am sure you’ll find exactly the right vintage for your evening. Arrive early to your reservation and explore the onsite cellar where you can ask Sommelier Bruce Achtermann about the 26,000 bottles and more than 4,500 selections. A wine lover’s dream come true!

Herbfarm Wine Cellar: Courtesy of The Daring Gourmet

Herbfarm Wine Cellar: Courtesy of The Daring Gourmet

Beer: Say beer is more your thing? No problem! Note your preference in your reservation and the staff will carefully curate your experience with local lagers and ales. Prefer imports? Flip to the end of the exhaustive wine list and you’ll find a lovely selection of European ales to please your palate.

Dessert: The Herbfarm has the dessert wine market cornered. From late-harvest Alsatian wines to rare Tokaji from Hungary, you have many options. Most delightful is The Herbfarm’s collection of Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes. Using an anaerobic system that allows extraction without removing the cork, I opted for a single ounce of the 100-point 2011 vintage. A whole bottle would have set me back $1650 — instead I tried one of the world’s most perfect (and rare) wines for $65. I’ll never forget the taste of that sweet nectar. There’s nothing like it.

Non-Alcoholic: Non-drinkers (and there was one in my party) are treated to a meal paired with custom shrubs, juices, and local mixes using fresh herbs and ingredients also found in the dishes. Dinner is followed by a selection of local coffees, teas, and herbal infusions.

Reservations Required

The Herbfarm’s co-owner Carrie Van Dyck, right, and chef Chris Weber (to Van Dyck’s right) plate one of the evening’s nine courses. Courtesy of Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times

The Herbfarm’s co-owner Carrie Van Dyck, right, and chef Chris Weber (to Van Dyck’s right) plate one of the evening’s nine courses. Courtesy of Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times

The Herbfarm’s 2018 Dining Schedule is out now and reservations aren’t recommended, they’re required, often months or even years in advance. If you’re looking for a gift for the foodie in your life, the oenophile of your heart, or the person who is intent on collecting memories instead of “stuff,” try The Herbfarm. I’m already looking at next fall’s, A Mycologist’s Dream theme, to enjoy the best in foraged local mushrooms. I know there’s a Pinot Noir waiting in the wings to join in.


Amy L. Dickson is a communications professional, freelance writer, and contributor to Rain or Shine Guides. She is a Level 1 sommelier and can be found Sundays at Portalis Wines in Ballard. Follow her at @amyldickson75

The Nutcracker: Ballet vs. Burlesque


Everyone knows about the Nutcracker. Even if you haven't seen the famous ballet you probably know the music or the general story. It is a Christmas tradition and one of the most recognizable decorations during the holiday season. This year we decided to put two interpretations of the story to the test.

So..which is more entertaining? The traditional Nutcracker, performed as a ballet, or the more... shall we say... "risqué" Nutcracker, performed as a burlesque show? 

George Balanchine's Nutcracker with the PNW Ballet, Image credit: Pacific Northwest Ballet 

George Balanchine's Nutcracker with the PNW Ballet, Image credit: Pacific Northwest Ballet 

George Balanchine's Nutcracker 

The Pacific Northwest Ballet has been putting on The Nutcracker every year for the past three decades. It is a tradition for many families to go each year and experience the childish magic that brings to life the dancing candy canes, mice, and best of all, the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Last year big news struck Seattle. The Nutcracker that Seattle had grown to love over the last 30 years, by Maurice Sendak and Kent Stowell, would be getting a face lift. This year's performance is completely updated with sets and costumes by Ian Falconer and George Balanchine's classic choreography. From what we can tell it is brighter, more cheerful, but just as beautiful as always. 

We were lucky enough to have some very young, female commentary coming from the row behind our seats. This added to the story of Clara dreaming of her perfect world. We heard "Ohhhh here comes the peacock, she is my faaavorite." and our personal favorite, as the candies danced, one little girl exclaimed in envy "I wish I had a lot of sugar right now!" Something tells me her parents don't give her lots of sugar for good reason. 

With talented and beautiful dancers on center stage, don't forget to take in the beautiful set decorations and costumes. It truly all adds up to an incredible event. When the curtain drops at the end of the night you will feel like you have just woken up from a dream. Make sure your dreamy state doesn't keep you from cheering loudly, they definitely earn the applause. 

Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker at the Triple Door, Image credit: The Triple Door

Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker at the Triple Door, Image credit: The Triple Door

Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker

What can we say? We love a good burlesque show. The Triple Door puts on a variety of shows throughout the year, but the Nutcracker is definitely a crowd favorite. For those of you who haven't been to one of these shows, we seriously encourage it. It's fun, outrageous, and surprisingly tasteful.

The storytelling is definitely a little loose, the clothing is even looser, but the talent and the beauty is there. Oh, and beware, the glitter and stagecraft is through the roof. 

At the ballet you see very little diversity, even in a city as progressive and open minded as Seattle, ballerina's are just a certain build and predominately white. What we love when you see a show put on by Lily Verlaine and Jasper McCann is it's guaranteed to pay tribute to all shapes and sizes. Male, female, black, white, big and small, it is a homage to the people of our city and the fun-loving energy that many of us love to feel a part of.

Taking in both versions of the show

Taking in both versions of the show

So who wins this face off? Can we cheat and call it a tie? Even if they are the same "story" we admit, we have really been comparing apples and oranges this whole time. If you want a magical and fancy night out, the PNB's Nutcracker is absolutely worth the ticket price. If you want a sexy and laughable evening, go with The Triple Door's Land of Sweets

Pacific Northwest Ballet Insider Tip: You can preorder your drinks for intermission before the show starts. This way, when hundreds of people are lining up for another glass, yours is sitting ready for you on a table to the side, no extra charge! 

The Triple Door Insider Tip: Arrive early and eat/drink in the lounge, not the theatre. The menu has more options and it is wayyyyyy cheaper! 

10 Secret Holiday Adventures for your Kids

Christmas at Pike Place Market

It’s the holidays which means it's time to shake off the gloomy weather, get your kids out of the house, and go find some cheer. We went on the hunt to discover all of the lesser-known things to do around Seattle with kids during the holiday season. Check out our list.

1. Gingerbread House Party at Farm Kitchen – This quaint event space in Poulsbo, WA is a wonderful place. They host gingerbread-decorating parties through the entire month of December with lots of icing and candies to make your house delicious and unique ($35 a piece, max 3 people per party). We recommend making a day of it. You can visit the Point No Point Lighthouse, beach walk, and eat some crepes at J’aime Les Crepes.

2. Holiday Shows – There is a ridiculous amount of holiday themed shows around Seattle that would be a perfect afternoon or evening out with your kiddos. A few of our favorites this holiday season include: A Charlie Brown Christmas at Taproot Theater, A Christmas Carol at ACT Theater, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at Seattle Children’s Theater, The Steadfast Tin Soldier at Dance Fremont!, and Holiday Hooray! at the Seattle Symphony.

3. Burn a Yule Log at Golden Gardens – This is a great suggestion from our friend (and Parent Map contributor) Jen Kakutani. Every year on the winter solstice, you can burn a yule log and talk with your kids about things to let go from this year and then think about the things you want to attract for the new year. Golden Gardens is a great place to start this tradition! Just grab bring your Yule Logs and have a seat around one of their many fire pits (first come, first serve).

4. The Lights of Christmas at Warm Beach – There are plenty of holiday festivals around the Seattle area, but we love The Lights of Christmas in Stanwood, WA. They have the largest light display in the entire PNW along with a nightly festival featuring carolers, shopping, treats, and live performances.

5. Hot chocolate at Chocolopolis – Part retail store, part café, this is the place to take the family to try some amazing drinking chocolate. They have different flavors to choose from (dark, milk, Mexican, peanut butter) and you can either drink it there or buy a canister to take home. They also have treats and truffles in all varieties, which would make excellent gifts.

6. Volunteer your time - The holidays are a great time to teach your kids about giving to those in need. We especially love donating and working at local food banks. Check out opportunities to get involved at Northwest Harvest, Food Lifeline, and the Pike Place Market Food Bank.

7. Santa Brunch at Icon Grill – There are so many places to see Santa around Seattle, but we love that you can get some grub AND see Santa at Icon Grill. They hosts brunch with Santa many times throughout December (Santa arrives at 10am and doesn't leave until 1pm). They also have a cookie decorating class with the head chef! 

8. Carriage Horse RidingSealth Horse Carriages have been operating in downtown Seattle since 1979! You can find them around Pike Place Market, Westlake Center, and the Space Needle and you can give them a call at 206-313-0722 to make a reservation. Is there anything more classic during the holidays than a horse drawn carriage ride?

9. Art Classes – Why not get the kids involved in making holiday cards or gifts this year? Curious Kid Stuff offers drop in classes for kids of all ages on Mondays and Fridays and uses a variety of different materials. If you have an older child who wants a bit more of a challenge, Paper Delights has both watercolor and calligraphy classes to choose from.

10. Tubing at Snoqualmie Pass – So maybe your family isn’t a bunch of skiers, you can still enjoy the mountain! Tubing is a blast and a great way to get outdoors and enjoy some snow. The cost ranges from $20 - $24 depending on age and time of day (If your child is 0-5, it’s only $5!) and includes professional grade tubes to use (you cannot bring your own tube). The hill has 12 lanes and 60ft vertical drop. Wheeeeeee!