You Go, Girl

As food industry awards go, Food & Wine magazine's annual Best New Chefs nods are worth watching because they often scoop the Beard Awards by about five years. Not that Maria Hines, the executive chef at Earth & Ocean at the W Hotel, is exactly new, but we were certainly thrilled to hear that the glossy anointed her one of the best for 2005. Hines is the only woman—and the only chef—from the Pacific Northwest on this year's list. The issue will hit newsstands in July; in June, Hines will join her fellow winners in Aspen, Colo., and prepare a special tasting menu for a select few lucky diners. At Earth & Ocean, Hines has made a name for herself with visitors and locals alike. Her unique menu, which splits entrées into categories for earth (as in "found on the") and ocean (you get it, right?), yields equally distinctive plates, and the chef has a real knack for re-creating the feeling of an ocean-bordering forest inside that slick, fancy-schmancey dining room. We're really not surprised that New York City took note. "[This] is one of a handful of awards that means something amongst my peers and the public," said Hines of her award. "I'm humbled when I look through the past list to see the talent that has preceded me and how they have gone on to achieve amazing careers. It is rewarding and motivating at the same time. " Green Gala Not only are Whole Food Markets the world's leading natural/organic foods supermarkets, America's first national "certified organic" grocer, and the guaranteed destination of many a laid-back Volvo driver, but now they've taken the fine art of carrying (or struggling with) your groceries to a whole new level. Introducing new Green Bags at Whole Foods: machine washable bags that are 100 percent recyclable, roomy, durable, and water-repellent. Made from nonwoven polypropylene material, they're likely to last for a couple of years, making the $1.49 that each one costs well worth every penny and satisfying you with the knowledge that, because of your purchase, the world has been saved from at least a little plastic shopping bag waste. The excitement doesn't stop with Green Bags, either, as Whole Foods in Roosevelt Square is offering Earth Day events for the public on Saturday, April 23, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with informational speakers on recycling and Earth Corps and the Ravenna Playground project, organic wine tasting for the adults, and various free product samples. (Luckily you'll have your eco-friendly Green Bag to carry all your stuff home!) Counterfeit fish April is the month that C.O.O.L. (country of origin labeling) went into effect for all seafood sold in the U.S. It is also the month that The New York Times' invaluable food reporter Marian Burros blew the whistle on something of a lot more concern to consumers than whether the shrimp in the seafood case came from the Gulf of Mexico or Thailand. Using a biochemical test that can distinguish wild fish from farmed, she discovered that some of New York City's most prestigious—and expensive—fishmongers were selling farmed salmon (costing about $2.50 a pound wholesale) as "fresh wild" salmon for $20, $25, even $29 a pound. You think we're any better off out here where we're closer to the source? Maybe. But when you see "fresh wild salmon" for sale between October and March, when most fishermen are at home mending nets, well, caveat emptor. Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at food@seattleweekly.com.

 
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