Chef Maria Hines Shines in Seattle Restaurant Scene

The name Maria Hines has been synonymous with inventive food and high-quality service since she first appeared on the Seattle restaurant scene in 2003. After a brief stint at Earth & Ocean, she went on to open three critically acclaimed, all-organic restaurants and win numerous honors. We chatted with her recently to find out more about her passion for organic food, what she looks for on the rare occasion she eats at someone else’s restaurant, and what it’s like being a woman in a field that’s still dominated by men.

Chef Maria Hines

Chef Maria Hines grew up in San Diego and attended culinary school at San Diego Mesa College. After building her skills in France, she cooked in major cities such as Washington and New York. But she’s always loved he Northwest, she says, and she jumped at the chance to move to Seattle in 2003.

Hines owns three very different restaurants: Tilth, which focuses on New American cuisine, Golden Beetle, which offers craft cocktails and eastern Mediterranean food inspired by her travels in Turkey, Egypt, and Lebanon, and Agrodolce, where lovers of southern Italian and Sicilian food can enjoy a memorable meal. When asked why she doesn’t just stick with one type of cuisine, she says, “I’d get too bored. Cooking is a great creative outlet.”

There are common threads that run through all of these restaurants, however, namely a high-quality experience and a commitment to organic food. Tilth, Golden Beetle, and Agrodolce are all certified organic by Oregon Tilth, meaning at least 95 percent of the food has to be organic.

“Organic food is all we eat at home, so that’s what I wanted to do at the restaurant,” she says. To ensure she can meet these strict guidelines, Hines makes many condiments and sides from scratch, including ketchup, mustard, jam, harissa, butter, charcuterie, pasta, and cheese.

Chef Maria Hines

Organic foods taste better and are more sustainably grown, she says, both of which are very important to her. In fact, the commitment to sustainability goes beyond the kitchen and to all other parts of the business. All of her restaurants recycle and compost, purchase green cleaning and paper products, and utilize low-VOC paints on the interior.

When Hines dines out, she says she looks for “well-executed, consistent food and knowledgeable service. A nice room with great ambiance.” She tends to favor Korean or Asian restaurants but will try whatever strikes her fancy that day.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (as reported by Bloomberg Business) shows that only 39 percent of restaurant cooks are women, and less than 19 percent of head chefs are women. Since March is Women’s History Month, I asked Hines what opportunities and challenges exist for women in the restaurant industry. She immediately became animated.Continue Reading

Start Your #PlantForward Year on NYE at Matthew Kenney’s Plant Food + Wine

Plant Food + Wine

Los Angelenos! The new year is almost here, and as we get through the anything-goes eating of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it’s time to get back to eating clean. But why wait until January 1? Get a jump start on your resolution to embrace a plant-based, sustainable diet on New Year’s Eve at Matthew Kenney’s Plant Food + Wine.

The elegant Los Angeles hot spot that pleases omnivores and vegans alike, Plant Food + Wine has a sublime and satisfyingly delicious evening planned. A decadent, refreshing tasting menu highlights fresh, seasonal vegetables alongside soulful ingredients such as kabocha squash and wild mushrooms and features six courses and, of course, bubbles for just $55 per person.

Plant Food + Wine

Dishes include Buckwheat Blini with Almond Cream and Hijiki “Caviar”; Spaghetti Squash with Beech Mushroom and Apple-Black Pepper Brodo; Winter Citrus with Baby Beets, Herb Stems, and Santa Barbara Pistachio Butter; Kabocha Squash; Pear; Candied Pumpkin + Mustard Seed; Wild Mushroom “Lasagna” with Smoked Almond Ricotta, and Sunchoke Puree; Cava-Poached Asian Pear, with Wheatgrass Granita and Sorrel Gelato, and Chocolate Bon Bons + Truffles. There is an optional Braised Celery Root with Black Truffle and Pumpernickel for $35 to raise the luxe-meter, and a $20 cheese plate (and, cheese lovers, if you’ve not had their housemade nut cheese, you are missing out — yes, even you dairy eaters). Accompany it all with modestly priced organic and biodynamic wine pairings for just $24.

Plant Food + WineContinue Reading

Waste Not, Want Not: 6 Dishes + Drinks for Root to Shoot Dining #vegforward

Chefs dream of an ideal kitchen in which there is zero waste. Every part of every ingredient is utilized in some fashion. This lowers food costs, reduces environmental strain, and forces them to get creative with those remainders and byproducts. It’s a boon for diners, too, by exposing them to palate-expanding flavors and creative textural components that elevate dishes in unexpected new ways.

In the last decade, the tip-to-tail movement has seen a huge resurgence, as chefs have turned offal and offcuts into menu stars. Now they’re taking the same approach to vegetables. Call it root to shoot. No longer are pea shells, tomato skins, or potato peels merely going into the stockpot, on the compost pile, or, worse yet, the trash. Now they’re playing key roles in some of the chefs’ most memorable creations. Here are six dishes and drinks for root to shoot dining.

Garrison, Washington, D.C. 
Tomato skins are full of flavor and nutrient dense. But oftentimes they end up on the proverbial cutting room floor. Chef-owner Rob Weland is a longtime admirer of what our grandma used to call love apples. While heading up the kitchen at Poste years ago, he offered a 20-course, tomato-centric tasting menu. At his latest venture, he dries the skins of various heirloom varietals and uses them to garnish his colorful tomato salad.

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Rustic Canyon, Santa Monica, California
Dehydrated beets create the “soil” in executive chef Jeremy Fox’s signature Beets and Berries dish. Not wanting to throw out the resulting juice, he infuses it with rose geranium and turns it over to bar manager Aaron Ranf. Ranf devised the Beet Royale, a play on the Kir Royale with beet juice, prosecco, gin, and lemon. Waste reduction has never tasted so good. [Photo by Aaron Ranf]

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Ribelle, Brookline, Massachusetts
Chefs Tim Maslow and Brandon Baltzley wouldn’t dream of tossing out a single scrap of tomato. The skin is dehydrated and ground into powder. The excess juice is transformed into smoked tomato vinegar. And the seeds are mixed with chia seeds to create mock caviar. The whole tomato is then compressed in the vinegar and speckled with the “caviar” and powder, as well as fresh cheese, burnt shishito oil, brined horseradish leaves, and fresh grated horseradish. [Photo by Brandon Baltzley]

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10 Restaurants with Their Own Farms: Happy #EarthDay

In honor of Earth Day, we’ve rounded up 10 restaurants that take the farm-to-table concept to another level — they have their very own farms. Talk about private stock. Celebrate Earth Day and sustainability with a reservation at one of these eateries that takes locavorism to a hyper local level!

Pawtomack Farm 41. Black Cat Farm Table, Boulder, Colorado + Black Cat Farm, Boulder, Colorado.

Chef Eric Skokan wasn’t a trained farmer when he started Black Cat Farm, but he likely qualifies as one now. After trial and error and advice from fellow farmers, he is now a skilled self-taught tractor driver and producer of American Mulefoot pigs and grower of sublime heirloom tomatoes, both of which you’ll find on the menus at Black Cat Farm Table and gastropub Bramble & Hare.

2. Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, New York + Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, New York.

Dan Barber was inspired by the past to forge the future in establishing one of the nation’s most important restaurant-farm partnerships. Blue Hill opened on Stone Barns’ 80 acres in 2004, and the farm and the restaurant serve as a model for sustainable agriculture and cuisine.

3. JG Domestic, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania + Luna Farm, Ottsville, Pennsylvania.

Jose Garces and his family purchased an all-organic 40-acre farm not just as a family getaway; the farm, named for the Garces’s dog and the region’s breathtaking harvest moons, Luna Farms provides freshly grown produce for chef Garces’s east coast restaurants, including Amada, Tinto, and Volver.

4. L’Espalier, Boston, Massachusetts + Apple Street Farm, Essex, Massachusetts.

Apple Street Farm was founded in 2009 by L’Espalier chef McClelland, and its 14 acres serve as the primary source of organic harvests of everything from artichokes to zucchini, free-range poultry and pork, egg-laying hens, honey, and more for L’Espalier. The restaurant is 26 miles away, and chef McClelland is known to hand-deliver just-picked product to his team of chefs.

5. The Mulefoot Gastropub, Imlay, Michigan + Romine Family Farm, Imlay, Michigan.

The Mulefoot’s namesake comes from the heritage breed of pork that is served at the gastropub and raised at their local family farm located about eight miles from the restaurant. Chefs and twin brothers Matt and Mike Romine look after the pigs when they’re not working in the kitchen of their restaurant, but father Joe primarily tends to the heritage hogs, first procured from local Toad Hall Farm in Emmet.

6. PRESS, St. Helena, California + Rudd Farms, St. Helena, California.Continue Reading