Episodes

EPISODE 6: Of Trappist Monks and the Modern Day Green Revolution

In search of the truth, Special Agents William Neal and Patrick Cuccaro explore the mysterious Green world of sustainable special events and catering. What myths will they shatter? What will they uncover?

 

The Truth is out there…so we’re told.

 


 

In Episode 5, William and Patrick examined the reasons that local is good, but they’re reminded that Not everything about Green is black and white. This week they talk food, sustainability and craft beer!

 

WILLIAM: I have always known a lot about food pairings with wine, but I was unaware, until the last few years, of how easy it is to match some great craft beers with food.

 

We are fortunate here in Georgia to have several very good craft beer breweries and chefs across the South have embraced them as the great food-friendly libations they are, not just an after-work delight. Check out this map and be prepared to be amazed: Craft Beers on the Road

 

PATRICK: I feel a road trip coming on! With a designated driver that is!

 

WILLIAM: Yes, absolutely! MY suggestion is that we plan the trip geographically, incorporating a few beer-oriented meals into the mix!

 

Hey Patrick, do you know the story of the Trappist Monks and the beer they made?

 

A fundamental tenet dating back to the 1600s requires monasteries to be totally self-supporting. Trappists, like many other religious people, originally brewed beer to feed the community in order to achieve that local self-sufficiency. Nowadays, Trappist breweries make beer to fund themselves and their favorite causes.

 

One other tidbit…these monks were quite the entertainers! Early day caterers, you might say. Being in the party business, as we are, we can certainly appreciate that the monks often created large feasts for groups of 500-plus people and did so with only what they sourced locally, grew or hand made. They prepped, they set up, they served, AND they cleaned up! Just like our business! “Farm-to-GREAT-party.”

 

Today, these Trappist groups have evolved and have cultivated sustainable habits. This tidbit of history is amazing from the perspective of modern sustainability and the food miles we have examined in previous episodes. When dedication to local resources is consistent, there leaves no reason for Greenwashing.

 

PATRICK: I like to think of it as Greeniculousness. Some of the Green claims that companies now make are nothing short of Green-Ridiculous. They’re Greeniculous!

 

WILLIAM: But not so for these beer brewers. I have tried a few of the Trappist craft beers from Belgium, and they are very different than what we are accustomed to. Locally, Red Brick Brewing Co., SweetWater Brewing Company and Monday Night Brewing produce some amazing seasonally brewed and environmentally conscious craft beers for our community. That’s if you consider beer a “food” for the sake of “food miles.”

 

PATRICK: I actually consider beer a food GROUP, but go ahead…

 

WILLIAM: Me too! A majority of the beverages that they produce are consumed nearby, and that reduces their carbon footprint. Also, our local brewers work with various non-profits, further supporting our community. You sure can feel better about drinking beer when you know the money made is having a positive effect.

 

Along those same lines, SweetWater Brewing is a major supporter of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, which our great eco friends Laura Turner Seydel and husband Rutherford started back in 1994. This organization monitors the river diligently for increases in pollutants and is responsible for vital conservation efforts that protect Atlanta’s primary water resource. Makes sense for a brewery, right? Good water = great beer.

 

PATRICK: I don’t really need a reason to feel good about drinking great local beer, William, but you’re right. It’s like a terrific vintage of wine, you know there is history behind it, you know lots of people received work AND enjoyment from the product over the years…and all that without a huge environmental impact. That is precisely the connection to Green authenticity—no Greenwashing or Greeniculousness here!

 

So throw me some examples of some great beer and food matches.

 

Red Brick-Poached Shrimp

WILLIAM: OK, how about at the next party let’s do our cocktail shrimp that’s poached in Red Brick Brewing Company’s seasonal Brown Beer, spices, sea salt and citrus? It takes the cocktail shrimp to a whole new level of flavor! Eat a few of those with the matching brew and it really makes flavor sense. Some folks claim to use local ingredients, but this dish is what it is because of local ingredients.

 

PATRICK: Love that shrimp! Love that beer!

 

WILLIAM: Yes, and best of all, we only have to walk across the street to get the brew for shrimp-poaching!

 

Another great combo: American IPA (Indian Pale Ale) with spicy foods. I love a great chipotle and lime grilled chicken with Red Brick’s “HopLanta“, the one with the frog on the label! Take a bite of chicken, hop around like a frog from the heat, and then cool it off with the IPA. Brilliant!

 

PATRICK: Interesting visual, William!

 

WILLIAM: Yes, but I know my stuff when it comes to great libation and great food marriages.

 

Here is an interesting flavor profile…Red Brick recently made a limited release of a beer infused with a dose of green tea. I really don’t know how to describe it to you without almost sounding like I’m describing wine! It had a flowery nose, but a rich earthiness where the tea enveloped the hops and pulled them out almost as though they were young and green, like saplings. Does that make sense?

 

PATRICK: A little over my head, but I definitely want to try that. And yes, it sounds like you are talking about wine. But the things that excite me about your description are the food possibilities to pair with such a unique brew!

 

WILLIAM: Exactly! It had me stumped for a while…or for a few bottles, I should say. Then it hit me…duck confit taco with finely shredded winter slaw and a dose of peppers for light heat! It was an ethereal combo!

 

Try me, ask me about some other combos. Whatcha got?

 

PATRICK: What about sustainable wines? Have you heard about the Benziger Bella Luna Pinot Noir 2009? Let’s talk about a subject where we can really UNCOVER the dirt on some great wine and food mysteries!

 

WILLIAM: Sounds kinda “shi-shi” to me compared to my humble little local brews. And expensive, too! But I am super excited to get into some wine with you as we investigate AND as we sample!

 

PATRICK: Ha, ha! Warming up the corkscrew now, Detective Neal. You’ll be surprised at the wine values and amazing food pairings I uncover for our loyal readers, William. But that’s next week, just in time for the holiday break and the New Year!

 

To be continued…

 


 

Are you “crafty” about your selections of beers and food? Are you an oenophile? What the heck is an oenophile? Please, share your thoughts on oenophilism with us in the comments section below.

 

Join us next week when Special Agents Patrick Cuccaro and William Neal investigate some vineyards, producers, food and wine pairings that put some FUN into being Green!

 


 

This week’s 3Rs…

 

What is Revealed?

 

REVEALED: Red Brick Brewing

 

 

 

 

What is Revered?

 

REVERED: Bill Bolling | Atlanta Community Food Bank

 

 

 

 

What is Reviled?

 

REVILED: Food Labels

 

 

 

 


 

Special Agent
Patrick Cuccaro
UNIT: Legacy Green
Affairs to Remember Caterers
Special Agent Patrick Cuccaro possesses an analytical mind and keen intellect. As Past Chair of the Georgia Restaurant Association (2012)—representing more than 4,000 restaurants and 100,000 employees—he casts a studied eye towards one of the country’s largest creators of waste—the food industry. Armed with a vision for…[more]

Special Agent
William Neal
UNIT: Legacy Green
Affairs to Remember Caterers
Agent William Neal is a hardened professional in the culinary industry. Well…maybe not hardened, since his favorite quip is “Never trust a skinny chef!” Agent Neal has held some interesting posts throughout his career. Starting as a chef, he became a…[more]

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Episodes

EPISODE 5: Bringing YOU to the FOOD

In search of the truth, Special Agents William Neal and Patrick Cuccaro explore the mysterious Green world of sustainable special events and catering. What myths will they shatter? What will they uncover?

 

The Truth is out there…so we’re told.

 


 

In Episode 4, William and Patrick examined the reasons that understanding “food miles” are important to you and your family. Join them now as they explore the flip side.

 

WILLIAM: Wow, Patrick, you look so much better than you did last week! I guess those “organic” aspirin helped the headache you had, huh? The truth about “food miles” will give anyone a headache, that is for sure!

 

As I have learned, the distance a product travels farm-to-table—or in our specific case, since we live in the special events world, “farm-to-party”—and the corresponding carbon footprint, can be a very, very big deal. As a chef, as a foodie and as a father,  I have become an avowed locavore, now that my learning curve has revealed some real truth on the subject.

 

PATRICK: Yep, I’m loving that locavore thing, William. Now if we could just find a way to cook kudzu, we’d be heroes. Well, I guess we’d have to do more than cook it. As caterers, we’d have to find a way to make it actually taste great. And of course as a health nut, I’d want my local kudzu to be grown organically, dang it.

 

WILLIAM: I see a shredded kudzu slaw in a light grapefruit vinaigrette with toasted pumpkin seeds and dried cherries in your future…

 

PATRICK: And then just think, William, overnight one of our biggest problems—the increasing population growth of scary kudzu sculptures—would become one of our greatest assets! There’s even a food trend named after this concept. People who eat invasive plants and animals to lessen the devastation that those invaders do to their local environment are called invasivores. Like Chinese Mysterysnails at Potato Creek.

 

WILLIAM: Uh…ICK. That’s just wrong, guy. I’m really not so fond of any dish with the word “mystery” in it.

 

Back on the locavore front…everything about being a locavore appeals to me. For a caterer, nothing tastes better than freshly picked local produce—a chef’s dream. Plus it keeps dollars in our local economy, and it encourages farming—a saintly profession that is increasingly showing a decline in the United States. Which is a shame because some of the young people entering the farming industry are having a blast…have a look at this video:

 

 

PATRICK: Got it. Local is Good. Local is Good. Local is Good. If we just keep repeating that mantra, someday it will drown out the noise of these reality checks…Is buying direct from the farmer an efficient and sustainable way to feed ourselves? What demons must we slay to get our hungry hands on that local produce?

 

WE can end up being a part of the inefficiency of the food distribution system. Think about this: Most of us have to drive past a dozen grocery stores to get to our nearest farmers market. That accounts for additional petroleum consumption that would be saved if we had simply shopped with our local grocer.

 

WILLIAM: You just made me think of something related to events, Patrick. Many of my clients, both bridal and corporate are actually VERY conscience of how the design and logistics of their celebration has an effect on the environment. And more often than not, specifically the  food miles that are involved. To these folks, local sourcing is super important!

 

But stick here with me…Let’s say for, example, that you are a corporate client conducting a regional sales meeting and you have people coming to town from various states. Similarly, you may be a bride with several family members and friends coming to your wedding from all over the globe! If you think of the travel miles and therefor the carbon footprint involved, the very LEAST you want to do as a food consumer is to buy local to off-set at least a fraction of those miles, wouldn’t you?

 

PATRICK: Yes, precisely! And in those two scenarios you mentioned, William, we are talking large groups of people often—100 +or more. Many miles traveled and large quantities of raw materials and ingredients that traveled to get there too.

 

And here’s another piece of the puzzle…Not all parts of the country are meant to cultivate all foods. We’re lucky to live in Georgia, where there’s a terrific variety of produce that can be grown. But even in Atlanta there are weeks when I think I’d rather become a permanent juicer—NOT!—than eat more of those dark leafy greens.

 

WILLIAM: Need inspiration? Want to get motivated? Need a model to learn from and apply in your own personal way? Two words: Barbara Kingsolver. She wrote Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, a remarkable book, and she’s a true local-foodie.

 

She came to the realization that she’d have to leave Tucson, Arizona, for Virginia to have a realistic shot at her commitment to eating locally grown food exclusively for a year. Growing local agriculture in places like Tucson is a drain on precious water resources. There, importing part of their food supply is essential, at least with current water technologies.

 

PATRICK: Yeah, so in case you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that Atlantans have some of the highest water bills in the country. But wait. Within 10 years, we’ll be in the middle of the pack. “Water Wars” will be erupting across the nation—we are simply ahead of that awful curve.

 

WILLIAM: How are we going to water our kudzu? Oh the thought of shriveled kudzu twisting in the dry wind…

 

PATRICK: You should really see someone, William, about that imagination of yours. Well…moving on…Just recently, Las Vegas passed a set of new water rates, and guess who isn’t picking up a big share of the cost increases? Well, I’m not calling out any names, but try walking down the Strip without getting splashed.

 

The “Splashers” are still seeing relatively low rates. What about the local homeowners and my fellow caterers and restaurateurs? Well, we’ll just call them “The Splash-ees”.

 

WILLIAM: Precious resources. Water. Fertile land. Farming talent. All reasons in my book to buy locally. Not to mention the added benefit of the three “f”s…

 

PATRICK: Easy there, boy…careful.

 

WILLIAM: The three food “f”s, you silly detective! FLAVOR, FLAVOR AND MORE FLAVOR!

 

We will never abandon our beloved Saturday morning strolls through our favorite farmers market. Don’t you just love the “Green Market” on Saturday mornings in Piedmont Park? You should have seen the amazing golden beets I got there recently. They were rich and earthy and a perfect pairing with a little dressing and some Chevre from Sweet Grass Dairy. Green Market has finished for the season, but fortunately Atlanta has a number of year-round farmers markets!

 

Let’s just be conscious of the advantages and disadvantages of those markets vs. the mega-marts, and let’s make a commitment to be smarter about what we buy.

 

PATRICK: And I’ll, uh, pass on the Chinese Mysterysnails, too, thank you very much!

 

To be continued…

 


 

Are you a locavore? Do you travel distances just to get to a farmers market? Have you ever questioned the true Green value in that? Please, let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

Join us next week when Special Agents Patrick Cuccaro and William Neal investigate the mystifying practices of Trappist Monks. Marvel as they reveal the amazing Green practices of our local Brewmeisters!

 


 

This week’s 3Rs…

 

What is Revealed?

 

REVEALED: Emory Farmers Market

 

 

 

 

What is Revered?

 

REVERED: Barbara Kingslover

 

 

 

 

What is Reviled?

 

REVILED: Pink Slime

 

 

 

 


 

Special Agent
Patrick Cuccaro
UNIT: Legacy Green
Affairs to Remember Caterers
Special Agent Patrick Cuccaro possesses an analytical mind and keen intellect. As Past Chair of the Georgia Restaurant Association (2012)—representing more than 4,000 restaurants and 100,000 employees—he casts a studied eye towards one of the country’s largest creators of waste—the food industry. Armed with a vision for…[more]

Special Agent
William Neal
UNIT: Legacy Green
Affairs to Remember Caterers
Agent William Neal is a hardened professional in the culinary industry. Well…maybe not hardened, since his favorite quip is “Never trust a skinny chef!” Agent Neal has held some interesting posts throughout his career. Starting as a chef, he became a…[more]

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