I had the wonderful opportunity of attending Eat, Drink, & Be Fair, a “Top Chef Masters”-style cook-off between four of Boston's prominent chefs last night. The chefs were Richard Garcia from Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro, Will Gilson from Garden At the Cellar, (one of my favs), Peter McCarthy from EVOO, and Jay Silva from Bambara. I love Garden At the Cellar, so when I found out Will Gilson was going to be one of the chefs, I was totally there.
Green Mountain Coffee organized this event in celebration of Fair Trade Month (October). At the event, we sampled various dishes all made with fair trade ingredients. As an interesting twist, all the chefs had to incorporate coffee as one of the ingredients.
Local, Sustainable, and Fair Trade
While the chefs were preparing their cook-off entrees, we sampled food from local caterers and vendors. We tried some fair trade Moroccan tea mojitos, sustainable Mahi Mahi, local butternut squash arancini, and Rotini Basilica made with fair trade olives. Additionally, local vendors, such as Cabot Cheese and Ben & Jerry's from Vermont, also provided food. All very good.
Meeting the Chefs
I had a chance to talk to some of the chefs and learn a little about fair trade and sustainable foods. While chatting with Richard Garcia from Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro, I learned that Maine sea urchins are almost extinct, yet Massachusetts sea urchins are quite sustainable. Chef Garcia incorporated local sea urchin into a parsnip cappuccino soup that he served at the event.
We all got to sample a tiny cup's worth of the sea urchin cappuccino. I think people were a bit scared of the sea urchin, because there were many cups left on the table. I actually liked it so much I drank three cups of it! The soup was mild, sweet, and creamy. I loved the combination of parsnips, sea urchin, and coffee. The coffee added a smoky richness to the soup, while the sea urchin added a briny depth.
I also had a chance to talk to Will Gilson from Garden At the Cellar. Will Gilson tries really hard to focus on local ingredients, and you can really tell by looking at his menu, which is constantly changing. Out of curiosity, I asked Will where he liked to dine when he was not working. He said he liked to eat at his friends' restaurants, which include Craigie on Main, Toro, and Sel de la Terre in Boston.
We asked him about the tasting menus that they used to have (2 summers ago). He admitted that it's harder to offer tasting menus when the place is so packed all the time. However, they are considering offering some sort of tasting menu, maybe on Monday evenings. He also said they were going to start offering brunch soon, which is exciting.
The Cook Off!
As the evening continued, the chefs worked busily on their entrees. Each chef, together with his sous-chef, worked feverishly, doling out tiny, beautifully presented portions of their contest dishes so that everyone attending the event could sample a few bites.
I was quite impressed with the food. Remember, they all had to incorporate coffee into their dishes! We received menus at the event, but silly me, I forgot to take a copy home with me!!!! Boo hoo, so I'll just try my best to capture these dishes from memory and photographs. If I do get a hold of a menu, I'll update the blog.
Upper Left: Sea urchin cappuccino made with parsnips, Massachusetts sea urchin, and coffee topped with a vanilla froth by Richard Garcia from Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro.
Upper Right: Dark Roasted Coffee Marinated Hudson Valley Mouillard Duck Breast with Verrill Farm's Parsnip Purre, Pete's Picked Pumpkin, Gala Apple, and Espresso-Vanilla Chimichurri by Peter McCarthy from EVOO.
Lower Left: Bacon wrapped coffee rubbed Pork tenderloin over mashed sweet potatoes with a coffee demi-glace sauce by Jay Silva from Bambara.
The chefs also prepared special versions of the dishes for the official judges. For example, the sea urchin cappuccino was served in a spiky sea urchin shell.
And who shall be crowned the Fair Trade Master Chef??
Peter McCarthy from EVOO! Green Mountain Coffee donated $1000 to The Food Project, which was the charity of Peter's choice. Another exciting fact, for me at least, is that EVOO will be moving to Cambridge soon! Kendall Square to be exact. Can't wait!
But Peter McCarthy was not the only winner last night. They had a raffle for lots of different great prizes, and Bryan won one of the best prizes of the evening!
Can't wait!!!! That sea urchin cappuccino was so good!
Other interesting facts . . .
We found out that Boston is on track to becoming a Fair Trade city, maybe even as early as next year. In order to obtain Fair Trade certification, a city's local schools, workplaces and businesses (1 organization per 10,000 people), must use fair trade products. Furthermore, the city must pass a resolution supporting Fair Trade.
Over all, I had a great time at the event. Not only did I get to sample some truly excellent cooking, I was also able to meet some great people and learn more about fair trade and sustainable foods. Thanks so much to Green Mountain Coffee and all the other sponsors of this event.
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