Terra Vita offers tastings, dinners, workshops

andrea.weigl@newsobserver.comOctober 15, 2012 

  • Want to go? Terra Vita is a three-day sustainable food- and beverage-tasting event held annually in Chapel Hill. You can buy a ticket for all three days for $220. Or you can buy tickets for each individual event: • 7 p.m. Nov. 1. Chefs’ Harvest Potluck dinner to benefit the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. About 20 chefs will be preparing food for this event, held at the market’s regular location behind Carrboro Town Hall. Tickets cost $55. • 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Nov. 2. Sustainable classroom in downtown Chapel Hill. An all-day pass costs $50. Or you can buy $35 tickets to attend the morning or the afternoon session. For $90, get an all-day pass to Friday’s events and Saturday’s grand tasting. Check online for a full description of the sessions. • 7 p.m. Nov. 2. East meets West dinner at Pittsboro’s Chatham Mills, a six-course meal featuring courses by chefs Vivian Howard of Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, Cassie Parsons from Harvest Moon Grille in Charlotte and Adam Rose of Chapel Hill’s Il Palio. The meal costs $75 with wine pairings and $68 without wine pairings. • 1-4 p.m. Nov. 3, Grand Tasting on the green at Southern Village in Chapel Hill. Designated driver ticket costs $55. A ticket that includes alcohol tastings costs $65. For tickets and more information, visit terravitaevent.com
  • More information What’s ‘sustainable’? It generally means farmers use environmentally responsible practices such as natural pest control and that the enterprise is economically viable for farmers. To Colleen Minton, organizer of TerraVita, it means the food comes from local farmers who may not be certified organic but who follow those practices.

Terra Vita, a sustainable food- and beverage-tasting event on tap next month in Chapel Hill, started three years ago as a one-day affair.

It was the brainchild of Colleen Minton, a Garner High School graduate who moved back to the Triangle four years ago. A former public relations professional, Minton wanted to create an event where people who prefer to eat sustainable food didn’t have to worry about any item that touched their lips – all the sources of the food, wine, beer and coffee were vetted beforehand.

Since that first year, Minton has transformed Terra Vita into a three-day extravaganza, including a grand tasting, a day full of workshops called the “sustainable classroom,” special dinners and a pair of fundraisers for local causes.

“The single day was amazing enough and yet she didn’t stop there,” said Scott Conary, owner of Carrboro Coffee Co. and Open Eye Cafe.

Chef Adam Rose, of Il Palio restaurant in Chapel Hill’s Siena Hotel, added: “It has grown into something pretty spectacular. ... It is one of the best food and wine events I have ever participated in.”

Minton knows of no other events in the Southeast that merge sustainable food and beverage.

Terra Vita kicks off Nov. 1 with a chefs’ potluck dinner benefiting the Carrboro Farmers Market, whose organizers are raising funds for planned improvements to its location behind Carrboro Town Hall.

The “sustainable classroom” on Nov. 2 offers participants the chance to attend four of eight sessions tackling topics such as the sustainability of coffee and chocolate and a panel discussion about practical versus purist approaches to the sustainable food debate. “My real passion in all of this is education,” Minton said.

A dinner that evening brings together chefs from Kinston, Charlotte and Chapel Hill to cook a six-course meal.

The big event is the Nov. 3 grand tasting on Southern Village’s lawn. More than 30 food artisans and chefs from across North Carolina will share samples. While the wine, beer and coffee vendors are from all over the world, the companies adhere to environmentally friendly growing and production practices.

A silent auction will raise money for the Carrboro farmers market and Table, a nonprofit hunger relief agency in Chapel Hill. Last year’s auction raised $6,000 for charity.

Minton, 41, drew on past experience raising money for charity when a friend suggested she organize a food event.More than a decade ago, she embarked on a 60-mile breast cancer walk, hoping to raise $5,000. The silent auction she organized in conjunction with the walk raised $36,000 for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. When Minton and her family returned to the Triangle from Atlanta, a friend suggested she organize an event centered on local, sustainable food. Terra Vita was the result.

Chefs and food producers describe Minton as energetic, organized and motivated by a desire to support sustainable agriculture.

Minton, a project manager at Cisco Systems, isn’t paid for her time organizing the event. She does the work when her children are at school or asleep. She stops watching television for the three months before the event. “It’s a huge commitment, but I have done it because I feel it’s a good experience for the people who participate,” Minton said.

To hear that a chef now serves this local cheese or uses that local chocolate because they met the cheese maker or the chocolate maker at Terra Vita is all the payment she needs.

Weigl: 919-829-4848

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