The ever-present guys behind Stag Dining took a step backwards Saturday morning at the Wake Up the World brunch, letting the cause du jour take center stage. The meal, a benefit for Oakland-based Fair Trade USA, allowed guests a chance to hear about all the fine attributes of the Fair Trade movement, between fairly sourced courses from Stag.
Held at the neutral Hub SoMa event space in the Chronicle building, the meal ran about four hours, including a cocktail and coffee mingler at the start. Drinks, mixed by Ethan Terry of 15 Romolo and Mike Fleury of the Alembic, included an autumn-accented drink called Indian Summer (FAIR quinoa vodka, infused with Numi chai, mixed with organic apple juice and agave), and an espresso martini made with coffee liqueur. Thanksgiving Coffee and Numi took care of the sleepier guests.
After beverages were quaffed and seats were taken, short speeches began. Over the next few hours, a host of Fair Trade USA workers, joined by the Stag guys and speakers from Thanksgiving Coffee, Alter Eco, and Hub SoMa, held forth on the myriad pluses of the Fair Trade movement (superior products, improved third-world infrastructure, etc.) Fair Trade USA director Paul Rice was overcome with the holy spirit, taking an upbeat revival-house journey on the long-term sustainability of the Fair Trade model. The crowd was psyched, and hungry.
All the talky-talk served to build momentum and keep a structured pace for the elaborate, well-prepared meal. First was a lightly sweet dish of banana and pineapple in a bit of Straus yogurt, honey, and mango puree, topped with an intriguing "granola" of toasted quinoa and red rice. Next was a sublimely tender, lightly cured sturgeon, served over a moist little circle of quinoa blini, topped with caviar crème fraiche and a few asparagus stalks. Third was a generous square of pork belly served over bacon-braised lentils with a poached egg and a few pickled chiles. Dessert was an almost painfully rich coffee pot de crème served with cocoa nib biscotti, caffeinated enough to have us cursing at slow drivers later that day.
On the way out, we snagged chef Jordan Grosser's quinoa-toasting technique (Hint: it spends some time in the frying pan) and watched him wish more then one departing guest a good night at 2 in the afternoon. "It's hard to remember this isn't dinner!" he quipped.