Saturday, October 17, 2009

Eat Well, Buy Fair.

These days, lots of us do our best to eat fresh, local food as a favor to our bodies, our palates, and our planet. But, no matter how devoted we are to keeping it local, there are some things that can be awfully hard to give up. Take coffee, for example. I only drink one cup a day, but that cup is oh so very special. Wrapping my hands around that warm, steaming beverage makes early mornings at my desk feel like a treat rather than a chore. And while it's not a local treat, there are ways the conscious consumer can keep such simple pleasures from becoming guilty ones. What's the best place to start? Buy Fair. When you make the choice to buy a Fair Trade product, whether it's coffee, chocolate, or bananas, you're ensuring that small scale producers receive a fair price for their goods, which often enables them to raise themselves out of poverty. It also allows these producers to invest back into their community, which leads to countless social and environmental benefits.

This past week, I had the opportunity to learn more about Fair Trade at a dinner at Garden at the Cellar hosted by Green Mountain Coffee, which has a growing line of Organic Fair Trade coffees. I also got to taste some delicious dishes prepared by chef Will Gilson, whose culinary beginnings at the Herb Lyceum contributed to his focus on fresh seasonal food. The meal, which combined Fair Trade and local ingredients along with a tasting of Organic Fair Trade coffee from Green Mountain, was a preview of the Eat, Drink, and be Fair event happening this Wednesday at the Artists for Humanity Epicenter in South Boston. The event will feature creations from Chef Wilson, as well as chefs Jay Silva, Richard Garcia, and Peter McCarthy. It's a great opportunity to learn more about how you can buy Fair in your daily life, as well as to sample dishes featuring Fair Trade ingredients like coffee, tea, and vanilla. The event will celebrate the fact that October is Fair Trade month, as well as Boston's efforts to become a Fair Trade Town in 2010. (Go Boston!)

Below are some highlights from chef Gilson's meal last week. Based on this very yummy preview, this is one cook-off you do not want to miss!

Our meal began with a delicious amuse of heirloom pumpkin soup, pumpkins courtesy of Sparrow Arc Farm in Troy, Maine. These tiny cups were packed with rich fall flavors, and a lovely hint of spice for yet another layer of warmth.

The soup was followed an incredible plate of locally foraged mushrooms along with a slow-poached egg, black truffle, and a house made duck neck rillette that was breaded and fried. I had never tried duck before, but I dove in whole-heartedly and was amply rewarded. It blended perfectly with the full, earthy flavors of mushroom and truffle, all of which was brought together beautifully with the soft egg yolk. So yummy and satisfying on a cool fall night.

Our next dish incorporated the Green Mountain Free Trade coffee in a coffee and sunchoke puree that provided a perfect compliment to some slow-roasted chicken and a savory, house made chicken sausage.

For dessert, one of my favorites: a poached pear with a little something sweet on the side. In a delicious twist, the late season pear was tea-poached, lending it a subtle jasmine aroma. And when each bite was topped with a bit of caramel and vanilla bean whipped cream...perfection. Knowing that so many of the ingredients were Fair Trade, including the tea and the vanilla, made it all the more enjoyable.

Over dessert, we also had the opportunity to sample two of Green Mountain's Organic Fair Trade blends. We tried a Kenyan blend that was bright and fruity, along with a Sumatran that had a deeper, earthier flavor. As a lover of strong coffee, the Sumatran was my favorite, but it was surprisingly fun to taste coffee in a way that's usually reserved for wine. With the help of a Green Mountain expert, my fellow diners and I threw out words like "round" and "chocolatey," focusing on flavors and aromas that often go overlooked. It left me thinking that a coffee tasting brunch might be in order...all organic and Free Trade, of course.

For more information on Wednesday's event and how you can buy Fair, visit

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