“If you love what you do, the food tastes better,” executive chef Bobby Moore insists when it comes to bringing good energy into the kitchen. Having been with Barking Frog for over 15 of its near-20-year history in Woodinville, he knows a thing or two about fine dining and how our Northwest seasons inspire enthusiasm and nostalgia when it comes to making meals an experience.
Moore is ebullient about the holidays, and it’s impossible to not get caught up in his excitement as he talks about his favorite seasonal specialties the Barking Frog is known for — the famous Thanksgiving turkey confit bread pudding, the creamy apple chestnut soup, slow-simmered wild huckleberry sauces drizzled over flavorful duck or rich venison. The menu reflects the mood of the Willows Lodge, a boutique hotel right across from the restaurant; together they exude the warmth and comfort we crave on a brisk winter’s night.
After the whirlwind of Thanksgiving, it is holiday boot camp time, when Moore and his crew organize weekly cooking and wine-pairing demos to packed crowds.
“This really identifies with the home cook, something they can do in their own kitchen,” Moore said. “People during the holidays, they’re entertaining, so we want to make sure they have a couple of easy things.”
Surroundings lend a great deal to the celebratory season, and it’s been a steady progression for Woodinville. Its quickly rising star as a food and wine destination has a lot to do with the involvement and evolution of the Barking Frog and the close-knit family of local winemakers, farmers, and artisans who work in concert to showcase how each skill is one fine detail in a pastoral landscape.
The number of wine-tasting rooms reaches into the hundreds, restaurateurs hone in on Woodinville’s rustic beauty, and attention from celebrated gourmands bring more visitors to the idyllic city that maintains its rural charm.
Gentle hills flocked with evergreens hint at Woodinville’s lumber-baron days, and in warmer months, fields are brimming with fresh produce. Chef Moore describes the restaurant’s farm just across the road, supplying the kitchen and emphasizing the importance of regional agriculture.
“When you see something being grown, you have a greater respect for it. When you’re having something made from ingredients grown 20 minutes away, people get excited about it.”
Moore regularly catches up with the farmers he works with, one in particular who used to be a chef, so he’s keenly aware of a restaurant’s needs. Moore and his wife were married at DeLille Cellars, and one of his best friends is a winemaker; the camaraderie is sincere. Everyone is on a first-name basis, and the sense of family is tangible.
This fellowship is the foundation for Woodinville’s seasonal events, and for Moore and his team, it’s game on during boot camp.
Moore advises students to select recipes they can make a day or two before an event. “You want to eliminate the stress that you can control, and that is planning ahead,” he emphasizes. “Focus on the things you do well. If you’re not great at baking pies, don’t make a pie — go out and get a dessert from a local bakery so you can focus on what you do well.”
“Do premade cocktails!” he insists, especially for large crowds. “You don’t want to be in the kitchen with the shaker and missing the party out there. I want to be involved in those conversations; I want to be engaged in that time to relax and chill together.”
Within that is the heart of Moore’s own personal philosophy — for all the accomplishments one is lucky to experience, it’s nothing if it isn’t savored. He makes it a point to unwind after a busy day with a glass of Champagne, and dedicated time with loved ones is crucial. “It’s great to be successful, but you have to enjoy it, and how do you celebrate it, but with friends and family?”
“People during the holidays, they’re entertaining, so we want to make sure they have a couple of easy things.”
Even the most skilled of home cooks will say the best thing they make is a reservation, and that becomes abundantly clear during the holidays. Chef Moore’s solution to a celebratory meal? “Hire the Barking Frog. We make it so much easier,” he said, laughing. This December marks the third year Willows Lodge throws a proper New Year’s Eve bash and a more intimate, multicourse tasting menu at the Barking Frog. Last year’s New Year’s Eve dinner at the restaurant was especially memorable, as Moore promoted sous chef Chris Smith to chef de cuisine in front of a sold-out dining room that erupted in applause. Moore admits he still gets goosebumps thinking about it.
Meals and memories so often blend into one, they become a magical hybrid that captures a perfect moment in time, regardless of how big or small that moment seems.
Moore’s favorite winter meal is the French classic beef bourguignon, and he makes it a point to shop with his family at Pike Place Market to select the ingredients, but not without the treat of a warm dauphinois, a savory pastry with bacon, egg, potato, and cheese from Le Panier. “One of my fondest memories: We’re walking outside to get to the other side of the market,” he recalls. “It’s fall, and the wind’s coming in, blowing the little bits of pastry in the air … ah, that’s one of my fondest memories of eating something I love in Seattle.”
Food is an expression of the heart, and that is the best chef’s advice you’ll hear.
Holiday boot camp schedule
5:30-6:30 p.m. in the Fireside Lounge at Willows Lodge.
Each event is free and open to the public, featuring demos to inspire ideas for entertaining. Samples are passed around, recipe cards are given out, and guests are encouraged to ask the experts their advice. It’s a popular event, so plan on coming at least an hour early to get a good seat and take advantage of the happy-hour menu!
Champagne and caviar. Presented by Cara DeLavallade, wine director/advanced sommelier, and chef de cuisine Chris Smith.
Duck, chestnut, and caramelized onion puff pastry bites with cranberry chutney and wine pairing. Presented by executive chef Bobby Moore and Anthony Berkau, director of food and beverage.
Semolina spiced cake with maple frosting and hot buttered rum. Presented by pastry chef Matt Kelley and Courtney Knoop, restaurant outlet manager.
Ring in the New Year with Style!
For tickets, overnight package specials, and more information, visit willowslodge.com.
Dance, Dance, Dance in the Sammamish Ballroom
A full evening of dancing, drinks, and food, featuring a performance by Seattle singer/songwriter Robbie Christmas to herald in the New Year with style. Enjoy hearty appetizers from the Barking Frog, chill out in the cool ice bar, and save some energy for the New Year’s Champagne toast at midnight!
Six-course tasting menu at Barking Frog
Two seatings: 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Celebrate in a more intimate, cozy setting by reserving a spot at Barking Frog on New Year’s Eve to experience this exclusive tasting meal, featuring Mero Sea Bass, prized for its intense richness of flavor, and Wagyu short ribs cooked sous vide-style for 72 hours. Customize your evening with special wine pairings for an unforgettable night.