Sustainable Caterer Julia Frost of Chive Events Shares Tips for an Eco-Friendly Picnic, by Jan Devereux

Summer is picnic season, but if you’re committed to leaving a small footprint whenever you go insects aren’t the only annoyance: picnicking can generate an amount of trash that packs a pretty big sting. So, I was wowed recently when I attended a picnic birthday party for my friends Annie and David and discovered it was designed to be a 100% sustainable, zero waste event. About 80 friends and I feasted on a healthful, locally sourced outdoor supper and not a single trash bag was needed. Every bit of waste went into one of two receptacles — recycling or composting — that left with the caterers at the end of the evening.

I was so impressed with the mouth-watering seasonal spread and its elegant, eco-friendly presentation that I had to learn more about my hosts’ sustainable catererChive Events of Beverly, Mass. I talked with Julia Frost, the eco-savvy entrepreneur who launched Chive in 2009 with her designer-sister Jennifer and their chef-friend Lindsey Wishart. Julia was delighted to share some tips on casual, yet sustainable, entertaining, along with a recipe for an delicious summer entree: fishcakes with arugula pesto (see below).


Chive Women

First off, the picnic plate: kick the paper and plastic habit and switch to dinnerware made from renewable materials and pack re-usable utensils for on-the-go dining.

Chive Events uses VerTerra Dinnerware, biodegradable plates, bowls and serving dishes made from pressed palm leaves. VerTerra is lightweight enough to pack in a picnic hamper, durable enough to put in the oven or microwave and compostable. Julia cited another benefit: producing VerTerra products has created new jobs and revenue in India; no trees are cut down and instead of being burned, the fallen palm leaves are combined with water to make VerTerra’s products. Instead of plastic utensils, Chive uses Aspenware, a brand of compostable wooden cutlery made from North American birch and aspen fiber. And, it almost goes without saying that if your party menu is sustainable, your decorations should be, too; Julia credits her sister Jennifer with designing eye-catching, all-natural decorations that are as eco-friendly as the food on the table.

Plating Chive's fishcakes: YUM!! (recipe below)

To complement their locally sourced, seasonal menus, Chive Events serves eco-friendly beverages. As an alternative to soft drinks, Julia suggests SIPP, a new line of sparkling organic fruit juice blends. At the birthday picnic I attended, Chive’s bartender mixed SIPP cocktails in mason jars. Chive also suggests serving organic wineand locally brewed beer (in a keg for a large group).

Finally, as a thrifty small business owner committed to practicing sustainability, Julia understands that the most effective way to manage waste is prepare only the amount of food the guests can realistically consume. The Chive team works closely with a handful of small, local farmers and CSAs, and Julia says, “I can’t bear to see the beautiful food that my suppliers have worked so hard to harvest go to waste.” The silver lining is that Chive’s food scraps are composted by a local outfit that supplies the compost used by the CSA where Chive buys most of its produce. From farm to table to compost, and all the way back around again — that’s sustainability in action!

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RECIPE: Fish Cakes with Arugula Pesto, shared by Chive Events

Our favorite fish to use with this recipe is haddock or cod with a mix of fatty tuna or bluefish; in-season striped bass and summer flounder are also delicious!

Fish Cakes:

Chop the fish into tiny pieces with a very sharp chef’s knife (1 pound of fish will make 4 fish cakes).

Combine the chopped fish with:

2 large eggs

lots of favorite herbs (dill, chives, scallions)

juice and zest of 1 lemon

5 TB stone-ground cornmeal

salt and pepper

Mix well and form into 4 equal cakes.

Heat a few TB olive oil in skillet and fry on each side about 4 minutes.


Arugula Pesto:

in a food processor, blend:

2 cloves garlic,

2 cups packed arugula

1/2 bunch of basil

juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper

Add olive oil in a steady stream until puree is smooth and consistent.

Serve fish cakes warm with lemon slices and a dollop of arugula pesto.


Note on today’s guest blogger: Jan Devereux writes regularly for Practically Green — her most recent post was about how she Substituted or Eliminated an Air-Freighted Food Item. Jan is busy with work, her three kids, husband, global concerns, etc., yes, but she’s totally obsessed with her new puppy, Eddie. AndHELLO: looking at him, who wouldn’t be?!