Critic's Notebook

Has This Restaurant Only Been with Us 10 Years?

Because the revolution it helped ignite has changed things forever.

By Kathryn Robinson August 22, 2016

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Wagyu cows, courtesy Skagit River Ranch.

So commonplace has farm-to-table dining become around here, it’s easy to forget the days when its principles rewrote the way restaurateurs did business. Ten years ago Maria Hines opened Tilth—a groundbreaker in more ways than most restaurateurs can claim: One of the first high-end destination restaurants owned by a woman chef, yes, and also the first local restaurant of its reach to be certified organic.

But Tilth was also the first restaurant I can remember to credit fishers, farmers, and foragers on menus, by name. Hines was the first restaurateur to use King’s Garden in Carlton, for produce. On her earliest menus she credited her tuna to Vessel St. Jude, her peppers to Alvarez farms, her organic Wagyu beef and wild turkeys and poussin and more to an unknown purveyor from Sedro-Woolley, whose owners peddled their grass-fed beef at farmer’s markets.

That was a little up-and-comer called Skagit River Ranch.

Hines’ fortunes grew along with those of the producers her menus popularized—and the result has been a cityful of restaurants who themselves benefited from those producers’ rising profiles. Tangibly, that symbiosis has encouraged both organic farming and Seattle’s robust restaurant scene.

At this writing there are still seats to celebrate that achievement—along with Tilth’s ten-year run, itself no slouch in the achievement department—at one of Tilth’s anniversary dinners, September 1 and 2. For $150, diners get 10 courses with wines (to include St. Jude’s albacore, King’s garden melon, Skagit River pork belly with roasted apples and padron peppers, and much more), along with a 15-page scrapbook profiling the producers that helped build Tilth’s first decade.

And the chance to raise a glass to a tireless visionary who I'd say has more than earned a toast: Maria Hines.

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