As Dine Around Seattle month was winding down, I was sitting at only 3 restaurants, one short of my stated goal of 4. It was the final week and going out to dinner seemed unlikely. So, I scoured the Eastside lunch options, rescheduled a couple meetings, and talked the Dining Diva into joining me for lunch at the Barking Frog in Woodinville. It actually wasn’t that difficult to talk her into going as we’ve both been to the Barking Frog and quite enjoyed it. So about noon, we took off, coming from opposite directions, and headed out to the winery region of Woodinville.
Barking Frog is out at Willows Lodge (which is a very nice place to stay I’ve been told), and right next door to the Herbfarm which is probably the most highly regarded restaurant in the Puget Sound region. When you walk in, you see a small bar straight back with a large collection of various wines. To the left is the dining area, as well as a big round table with a gas fireplace in the middle. The floors are all concrete, the wood is all dark; everything gives a nice sort of rustic elegance feel to it, as you would expect from a place in the middle of many different wineries. Given that all of the tables were booked with reservations, I took a seat at the community round table by the fire, and waited for my lovely dining companion.
Once we were both there, we had a little bit of a wait after looking over the menu before we could order our three-course lunch. In an unusual twist of ordering fate, we both actually selected the same three courses (this almost never happens). We started with the potato leek soup, followed by the Spanish ham sandwich, and ending with Financier.
While we were waiting for our appetizers to arrive, we snacked on a very nice tomato tapanade and enjoyed the warmth of the fire (though it would have been a little better if there wasn’t a natural gas smell). The soup ended up arriving before I had finished my second piece piece of bread. It had a very nice, subtle aroma highlighted by the little drizzle of the white truffle oil. And the flavors definitely matched the aroma. It was a nice, creamy, yet subtle soup. The potato flavor was very nice, and not completely overwhelmed by the truffle oil. If there was a negative, it was that it was a tad on the heavy side for a lunch appetizer.
Once we had finished our soup, the bowls were quickly whisked away, and replaced in short order by a plate overflowing with French fries and a sandwich. A started with a couple of fries which were very thin, but still managed to be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside; very good. Then I moved on to the sandwich…which wasn’t good. The biggest problem is that the ham got completely overcooked and dried out. When I bit in, I couldn’t bite through the ham. And the cheese wasn’t really nice and gooey and melted, but more hardened as if it has been sitting out for awhile. The only highlight was the bacon jam, which was sweet with a small bit of saltiness. I ended up finishing my sandwich, but the Dining Diva couldn’t get through hers.
Fortunately that wasn’t the note that we left on as there was still dessert. It was definitely an interesting combination as it featured a porter ice cream (yes, as in porter beer) and an Apple Jack caramel (yep, that Apple Jack), though neither of those was a definitive, in-your-face flavor. The small cake was nice, moist, and not overly heavy. But it was the spiced apple compote that really made the dish…adding a much needed, though not overpowering, sweetness and texture to everything.
This one in the end is a tough review for me. If I base it simply on this meal, I would only be able to give Barking Frog 3 stars. The soup was very nice, and the dessert was good, but the sandwich was an absolute flop. It was something I would never expect to come out of that kitchen, but there it was, leathery ham and all. But the other two times I’ve dined at Barking Frog have been 4 star plus experiences, so I know the potential is there. I will definitely go back, and recommend that when people come in to town for work, they check it out as it is only 10 minutes from the office, and arguably the best restaurant not named The Herbfarm on the Eastside. But, as I’ve learned in watching Top Chef, even great chefs can have off days, and this was absolutely an off day.