I bet you've never had a sea urchin cappuccino before...unless you attended Green Mountain Coffee's Eat, Drink & Be Fair event this past Wednesday at the Artists for Humanity Epicenter. The event was a celebration of Fair Trade Month, and organizers aimed to raise awareness of the importance of buying Fair Trade products. (Fun fact: October is also Vegetarian Awareness Month and National Dental Hygiene Month, so it seems like a good month to be conscious of what you're putting in your mouth.)
The event centered around a cook-off among four top Boston chefs: Richard Garcia of Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro in Foxborough, Will Gilson of Garden at the Cellar in Cambridge and The Herb Lyceum at Gilson's in Groton, Peter McCarthy of EVOO in Somerville and Za in Arlington, and Jay Silva of Bambara in Cambridge. This wasn't just any cook-off, though. All chefs made extensive use of Fair Trade ingredients, especially coffee.
Several of Green Mountain Coffee's Fair Trade partners were in attendance, including Arcadio Daniel Galindo, the president of the Association Chajulense Val Vaq Quyol, a Fair Trade co-op in remote Chajul, Guatemala. Galindo spoke of the importance of all members of the "chain" of Fair Trade coffee - the producers, the roasters, and the consumers. After a few quick speeches, though, the focus was on the food. The four chefs and their sous chefs served up tiny plate after tiny plate of their signature dishes, and a catering company was on hand to serve several other hors d'oeuvres and dishes featuring Fair Trade ingredients. Cocktails included Moroccan Tea Mojitos and Apple Cider Martinis, and Long Trail Brewery beer was also featured.
The winning dish, as judged by a panel that included Lindsey Bolger, Head Coffee Buyer for Green Mountain, belonged to Chef Peter McCarthy: Green Mountain Fair Trade Dark Roast Coffee Marinated Hudson Valley Moullard Duck Breast with Verrill Farm's Parsnip Puree, Pete's Pickled Pumpkin, Royal Gala Apple and Espresso-Vanilla Chimichurri. (By the way, it was delicious, although it didn't quite match the uniqueness of Chef Richard Garcia's sea urchin cappuccino, which was served with lobster beignets.) Green Mountain donated $1000 to the charity of Chef McCarthy's choice, The Food Project, a Massachusetts organization whose stated mission is "to grow a thoughtful and productive community of youth and adults from diverse backgrounds who work together to build a sustainable food system."
The location, the airy and beautiful Artists for Humanity Epicenter, was well chosen. In October 2005, the Epicenter was the first Boston building to receive LEED Platinum certification from the United States Green Building Council in recognition of its designers' commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility. Although Fair Trade and green buildings seem to go hand in hand, recycling was oddly absent at the event. We asked a member of the catering staff where we should leave our beer bottles and were told that they would just be thrown out.
The chefs really managed to show that food can be more than delicious and beautiful: it can have a conscience, too. Though Fair Trade Month is nearly over, the idea is worth keeping in mind year round. And with Boston on track to become an official Fair Trade City in the near future, it will become easier than ever to find restaurants around Boston serving Fair Trade food.(And if you’re looking for a place to try those sea urchin cappuccinos, look no further. Chef Garcia’s recipe is available online [PDF].)