BostonEco: Local Food, Local Networking

 

Photo of Janet Morgenstern Passani

BostonEco founder, Janet Morgenstern Passani

I usually don’t run into a lot of foodies at techie events, and vice versa.  So I was impressed that Janet Morgenstern Passani, a marketer for sustainable, natural, healthy brands, managed to attract plenty of entrepreneurs of all stripes to her BostonEco Summer Networking event last night.

“I started BostonEco because I was meeting all these great people online, and I wanted to have a place where we could get together in person,” Passani said.

And she’s right! While circulating in the crowd, I got the chance to meet two bloggers whose work I follow: Leather District Gourmet Jacqueline Church, who’s about to launch a new blog, and Rachel Greenberger of the Boston Sustainable Agriculture Examiner.

BostonEco’s mission is to further healthy, sustainable ideas and initiatives in Boston and beyond. Although last night’s gathering showcased local food businesses, previous events have featured organic wine and natural beauty products, and Passani is already planning another evening focused on the “Healthy Home.”

Saxophonist EJ Smooth

Saxophonist EJ Smooth set the mood for the evening.

The collaborative atmosphere may also be due to its setting at WorkBar Boston, a shared workspace for start-ups and entrepreneurs that can be rented by the day, month or year.  You could see how being in the same room and sharing a copier, conference room, and Equal Exchange coffee could get people buzzed about collaborating.

About a dozen vendors served samples of their foods and beverages. Sadly, while most of the products were probably healthier than the stuff I taste at most foodie events, they also tended to be blander than their fuller-fat cousins.

Chickpeas from Biena Foods

Chickpeas from Biena Foods

Poorvi Patodia, founder and CEO of Biena Foods, has only been selling her roasted, flavored chickpea snacks since March of this year.  While I found Biena’s three products—Sea Salt, Cinnamon Maple, and Lime & Chili—to be somewhat dry on their own, I’d happily toss some of the spicy Lime & Chili chickpeas on a salad to liven it up. “It’s a very filling snack,” Patodia told me. “And the roasting retains all the protein and fiber.”

 

Perfect Fuel Chocolate

Samples of Perfect Fuel Chocolate

Perfect Fuel Chocolate is a dark chocolate energy snack that combines raw organic cacao with organic palm sugar and 500 mg of American Ginseng. CEO and Founder Nicolas Warren is a triathlete who set out to create for the perfect snack to fuel his lifestyle, while Director of “Chocologistics” Miles Masci worked with cacao producers in Ecuador during his stint in the Peace Corps. Perfect Fuel could never be mistaken for a candy bar: not enough sugar and fat. On the other hand, at 80 calories a serving, it does energize you without making you buzzed.  (If you’re looking for a healthy, sustaining snack that tastes more like a treat, check out the Budi Bar, made by another Boston-based company.)

Cookbook author Leigh Belanger

Leigh Belanger displays a copy of her new cookbook

Chefs Collaborative Program Director and author Leigh Balanger’s new book, The Boston Homegrown Cookbook: Local Food, Local Restaurants, Local Recipes, profiles 28 Boston area chefs who are leaders in Farm to Table cuisine. Belanger served samples of the “Berry Salad with Wheat Berries, Strawberries, and Balsamic,” a recipe from Boston chef and food truck entrepreneur, Rolando Rebledo of Clover Food Lab. Belanger told me that while most of the chefs provided recipes that use familiar local, seasonal ingredients like apples, cranberries, cod and lobster, a few feature esoteric ingredients that only a chef could love, like beef heart. Local? Yes. Accessible? Not for most of us. But I look forward to giving many of the recipes a try.

The evening also featured live music from EJ Smooth. While I found it hard to hold a conversation over the sound of the saxophone, the smooth jazz created the perfect mood for a sultry summer night of laid-back networking. Thanks to BostonEco, I was able to do my networking in person, instead of virtually, and with a soundtrack. I’m looking forward to the next event. Techies and foodies, unite!

Photos by: Ryuji Suzuki

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