POTATO CHIPS CAME first, then corn chips -- and more recently, blue corn chips. Now, come Terra Chips, a delightful and colorful collection of fried lotus, parsnip, sweet potato, batata, celeriac, yam and taro chips.

They are a creation of two Manhattan caterers who were looking for an alternative to crudite's. Their discovery became so popular that diners would pass up foie gras with persimmons and endive or the lobster and che`vre tartlets to munch on the crisp chips instead.

Silver-colored bags of Terra Chips are just now beginning to appear in Washington stores, including Larimer's, Sutton Place Gourmet and Washington Park Gourmet. They are not cheap however -- about $5 for a five-ounce bag, $8 for an eight-ounce bag (in other words, more than four times the price of a bag of regular potato chips).

Even so, food executives predict that no one will be able to eat just one chip -- or buy just one bag. "This has the potential to be the yuppie snack food of the 1990s," says Andrew Zimmerman, owner of Larimer's. "What yuppie home could be without a bowlful of these snacks for their friends to come in and ask what the hell they are? They are so colorful and gorgeous, people will just stand there and stare."

Well, that may be going a bit far, but we must admit they are tasty.

TO DO

Thursday: A Visit to Monet's Table, sampling of recipes from "Monet's Table: The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet," 6:30-9 p.m., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Corcoran members $10, nonmembers $13, for reservations and information call 202-638-3211, extension 607.

Thursday: Tasting of Chilean red and white wines at Chilean ambassador's residence, 7-10 p.m., Wine Tasting Assn. members $25, nonmembers $35, for reservations and information call 202-682-4733.

FAJITAS WITH ROCKFISH AND ONIONS (4 servings)

Rockfish wrapped in a warm flour tortilla is a fresh-tasting alternative to traditional chicken or beef. Swordfish, tuna or monkfish also work well. Serve with a red leaf lettuce and avocado salad.

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 1/4 pounds skinned rockfish fillets

2 large red onions

8 flour tortillas

For the sauce, stir together the garlic, lime juice, oil, salt, pepper and cayenne. Cut fish into 3/4-inch cubes. Peel onion, halve lengthwise, and thinly slice and separate slices. Toss half the sauce with the fish and half with the onions.

Wrap tortillas in foil and warm in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.

Heat a 10-inch skillet on medium-high heat for several minutes until hot. Add onions with their sauce and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add fish with its sauce and cook until it turns opaque or white, about 4 minutes. Do not overcook.

Let diners assemble their own fajitas: top warm tortillas with fish and onions, roll to enclose filling, and add your favorite salsa and sour cream or yogurt.

Per serving: 462 calories, 38 gm protein, 42 gm carbohydrates, 15 gm fat, 2 gm saturated fat, 78 mg cholesterol, 380 mg sodium. Leslie Beal Bloom

KEEN ON GREEN, a group of 11 food, container and chemical industry groups (the National Food Processors Association, the American Frozen Food Institute, the International Dairy Foods Association included) last week petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to set national guidelines for use of environmental claims in advertising and packaging.

The group contends that national standards are necessary to maintain consistency in the marketplace. Several states as well as public and private organizations have drafted their own definitions for environmental claims.

The petition defines five main areas of environmental claims: "source reduction, recycled content, recyclability, compostability and refillable/reusable."

The FTC is currently investigating 20 environmental advertising and labeling claims and said it would certainly be willing to consider any guidelines.

HOT OFF THE WIRES, from Miami, announcement of the opening of an all-garlic restaurant, Garlic Grill, with such menu items as garlic soup, baked head of elephant garlic, garlic shrimp strudel, grilled garlic Romanian skirt steak, fried sweet potatoes with aioli, even garlic mousse.

Restaurateur Eli Yamanoha, who feels strongly about the value of garlic, has opened the garlic emporium to utilize empty space next to her existing German restaurant and microbrewery. We may be going out on a limb, but we're willing to predict that this is not the next big craze.

FRESH, TAKE THREE. Late last month, we told you about the continuing controversy over the labeling of Procter & Gamble's Citrus Hill Fresh Choice orange juice, a refrigerated product made from reconstituted frozen concentrate that critics claim is incorrectly being called "fresh."

A week later, the Food and Drug Administration wrote a letter to P&G charging that several aspects of the label, including the name of the product, were "false and misleading." For the same reason, the FDA had already written several letters to Ragu Foods concerning the name of its line of pasta sauces, Ragu Fresh Italian.

The latest on the fresh front is that last week the FDA issued a notice requesting that the entire food industry refrain from making a "fresh" claim on any food package until the agency officially defines the term. A proposed regulation will be issued in the near future, the notice said.

Let's hope that this issue doesn't go stale by then

YOU HAVE SEEN them in the spice rack, but you have not tasted truly, truly fine fines herbes until you have tasted them fresh. Classically, fines herbes is a arbitrary blend of "tender" herbs, or herbs that do not require cooking to be easily digested.

A simple, tasty and healthful way to accent any fish, especially grilled, according to local chef Brian Patterson, is with a sprinkling on top of any combination of the following fresh herbs: dill, mint, chives, tarragon and chervil. All of them are available, some more often than others, in grocery stores.

Strip the leaves from their stalks and chop them them finely; do not throw whole sprigs of herbs on your food. Use the mixture only when it is very fresh. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and toss this mixture into a leafy salad for natural zip, or use it to coat a chunk of soft cheese by rolling the cheese in a shallow bowl of the herbs.