It’s just the beginning of a busy season. Chive Sustainable Event Design and Catering is doing parties with names like “The Pear Blossom Festival” and are sometimes twice and three times daily sending out food, flowers, and design elements rarely seen at catered events. This food is different. Their events are beautiful and have a homegrown aesthetic. They are filling a niche in the region for clients looking for seasonal food, curated design and sustainable practices. Each element of their business has been thought about from many vantage points, and delicious food is just one of them.
Using mostly repurposed platters, carved wooden serving utensils, fresh flowers and succulents, Chive has an aesthetic that denotes farmhouses, sunlight, and simplicity. They place water jugs on rounds cut from fallen birch trees, plates are often sourced from VerTerra, a company that shapes fallen palm leaves into serving ware. Owned by three young women, Chive, based in Beverly, MA, is launching into their third year, with new inspiration, a streamlined system, and a growing fan base.
Jennifer Frost, lead designer, creates stunning beauty from what some would think of as construction scraps (they serve hors d’oeuvres on an aged tin gutter and use wooden doors as menus). Her eye is exact and particular; her ability to create function and beauty from havoc is exemplary. Julia Frost, Jennifer’s sister, handles the business portion of the company. Well spoken to an admirable degree, Julia handles the PR, marketing, administrative, and operational needs. She also manages most events with an ease and style that is welcoming, informative, and purposeful. More than anything else at a Chive event, one will hear the echo of Julia’s voice informing each attendee that the food they are enjoying was all sourced locally. Lastly, Lindsey Wishart is the genius in the kitchen. With all the ingredients coming from nearby farms and menus changing each season to reflect the bounty of our region, Lindsey’s food frequently looks like art. She highlights the vibrant colors of beets and chard, uses local ingredients from Taza Chocolate, Valley View Farms and First Light Farm, and recently stretched her already far-reaching abilities by butchering her first pig.
The pig was for a party on May Day, where Chive created a gorgeous outdoor Sunday supper at the headquarters of Essex County Greenbelt Association’s Cox Reservation. One incredibly long table stretched on a newly cropped piece of lawn, thirty seats on either side, magnolias, candles and mason jars on top. The table was set for a six-course meal revolving around the various cuts from the pig, recently retrieved from Claddagh Farms in Maine. The inspiration was the local chapter of Chefs Collaborative, of which Chive is a member, who urge their members to throw Earth Day Feasts. While a bit late for Earth Day, the celebration of May Day did the organization justice.
The Sunday supper was called Pig & Brew, and it was a true celebration of locality. With five savory courses and one sweet, each course was paired with a local beer or cider, one made by Lindsey for the occasion. All of the beer was donated by the makers; Ipswich Ale, Cape Ann Brewing, Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, and Farnum Hill ciders all came through for the event. Cape Ann Brewing even came in their Volkswagen bus, complete with beer taps on the outside. Lindsey paired each beer with her pork creations, among them: petit jamon, country pate, braised ribs on corncakes, paupiettes, pork belly confit, sausage, and meatballs. Accompanying these creations were Maitland Mountain Farm greens and bok choy, Tendercrop Farms carrots and parsnips, First Light Farm chard and A&J King breads. For dessert, a poached cranberry and walnut tart, made with Valley View Farms maple syrup, bourbon and Taza chocolate ganache, served with Batch Ice Cream from nearby Jamaica Plain.
In an act worthy of Earth Day, all proceeds from ticket sales were funneled directly back to the Greenbelt Association, a member-supported nonprofit land trust that has conserved nearly 14,000 acres of land in the county. In an effort to conserve biodiversity, fresh water, significant agricultural land, and to assure access to recreational activity locations, Greenbelt has worked in Essex County since 1961. This area is full of lush greenery, small, diversified—now protected—farms, rivers and estuaries. If you drive along route 133 through this coastal region, you will encounter seafood restaurants, antique stores, and estuary kayaking guides. There are also sandwich boards luring you down dirt roads with the promise of fresh berries and sweet peaches, crisp apples, maple syrup and honey, depending on the season. This is old-time Massachusetts, placards on houses date back to the 1600s. The Greenbelt Association helps preserve this beautiful atmosphere, keeping contiguous pieces of land protected for the benefit of all.
That Chive and the Greenbelt Association teamed up for this event reflects the compatibility of their respective missions. Chive, besides being a local farm and business advocate, are staunchly dedicated to environmental sustainability and social responsibility. They are a zero-waste company. Every scrap of unused food is composted, even their VerTerra flatware, through a company called Save That Stuff. Their compost ends up amending the soil at the farm from which most of their vegetables are harvested. They purposefully choose all other business needs by their ability to be recycled and reused. At Pig & Brew, as at all of their events, there were no trashcans, only recycling and compost. They even attempt to avoid recycling sometimes, knowing that reusing is always less energy-intensive. In an effort to support this mission further, they purchase all of their serving ware at local antique stores or fairs. They aim to educate their clients and the public—often speaking about the importance of locality and sustainability at various business group meetings—not only to further their own business and those they support, but because they are truly impassioned and believe that their methods are replicable and reduce overhead operational costs. At the Pig & Brew feast, Julia and Ed Becker, of the Greenbelt Association, realized that the favorite farm of Chive, First Light Farm, is on land protected by the Greenbelt. It was yet another closed loop system that both organizations hope to see duplicated.
As Pig & Brew came to a close, and the women of Chive gave their signature bear hugs to the friends, family, clients, and purveyors that came to the dinner, the sun set over the trees surrounding the property. The broke down their pop-up kitchen in the barn, sipped a beer or cider of their own, and packed up their van. The property was empty of signs of the party just enjoyed there; the pathway running along the cropped plot of grass that leads down to the river was undisturbed by the footsteps and furniture that had been there minutes earlier. The land was preserved, the dinner enjoyed, and a community strengthened. It is always best to invest at home- find your own way of keeping the natural beauty and local businesses afloat near you, it’ll guarantee that there’s no place like home.
Visit the Essex County Greenbelt Association website and contact them here:
Phone: (978)768-7241 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Greenbelt office at the Cox Reservation is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The public is welcome to stop by.
Visit Chive’s website and contact them here:
Phone: 978-866-0208 email: Julia@ChiveEvents.com
Read the article about Chive in Edible Boston here
Visit Daniel Ebersole’s photography website and contact him here:
*Full disclosure: I work for Chive Events part-time.