The Bad-News Beards

The fallout from The New York Times' exposé of financial funny business at the James Beard Foundation has spread nationwide. Last week, four leading members of the committee that hands out the foundation's annual restaurant and chef awards—including the committee chair, the Times' R.W. Apple, and Gourmet's Ruth Reichl—stepped down. Now the person who organized the Beard award voting in the Northwest is also off the Beard bus: The Seattle Times' Nancy Leson, after consultation with her boss, Managing Editor David Boardman, has decided that holding the position is not consistent with the newspaper's strict ethical and conflict-of-interest guidelines. The P-I's Penelope Corcoran had already contacted Leson last week to resign from the roster of local voters. Garbage out? They said it couldn't be done, but thanks to Seattle School Board member Brita Butler-Wall and a coalition of concerned parents, teachers, and citizen food soldiers, the previously unthinkable took place: The School Board unanimously agreed on a set of highly prescriptive guidelines on proper nutrition for students under its care. Most notable: Starting immediately in elementary and middle schools, next February in high school, "foods containing high levels of sugar and fat"—junk food, in short—are banned from sale on school property. Current contracts with soft-drink manufacturers like Coca Cola allowing exclusive rights to sell sugar water to students are also banned. Getting the purveyors of junk out of the schools is just the first step toward encouraging a healthy school-food environment; anyone who's seen the kind of greasy slop generated for school cafeterias by the district's centralized kitchens can sympathize with kids'—and often teachers'—preference for a bag of Cheetos and a Coke. Can the board's demand that the school meal program "offer fresh, local, organic, non-genetically-modified, nonirradiated, unprocessed food [uh-oh, here comes the kicker] whenever feasible" really ever be anything but a pipe dream? Stay tuned. How 'bout them apples? Most local folks don't know that the best apples in Washington state don't come from Wenatchee. Some old-time varieties don't like the hot, dry climate of Eastern Washington but thrive right here in the damp ol' Puget Sound area. For the next few weeks you can check out what we mean as the Metropolitan Market chain offers heirloom Gravenstein apples grown on trees grafted from pioneer-era wood, as well as another luscious variety created for cool climates, Jonagold. Both varieties hail from Alan Merritt's 70-acre spread up near Bow and both are available only for a short season, so check 'em out before the end of October or you'll have to wait till next year. Wine and the good life The latest chef escapee from the kitchen pressure-cooker: Leonard Ruiz Rede, who's left the helm at Queen Anne Hill's Sapphire to get a 9-to-5 life as the head wine guy at Metropolitan Market's new Dash Point store. Chris Steinbach has picked up the reins at Sapphire, but we'll miss Rede's monthly newsletter ruminations on wine and the good life. Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at

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