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Denver: Ethically Sound And Nutritious After All?

The 2008 Democratic convention was supposed to be different from the past in two critical ways -- other than the spirit of the defeated candidate hovering over the it like a political Loki, stirring up mischief. Remember: New ethics rules passed by the Democratic Congress were going to strictly curtail the fancy, filet-mignon-studded convention parties and the convention was going to go green and healthy.

Political-conventioneering experts worried that the Democrats' ethical restraints and green goals could mean the end of the party convention's food traditions as we knew them: In a TNR piece I wrote last fall, ethics lawyer Ken Gross lamented the likely fall of the conventions' traditional, sumptuous bagel breakfasts at the hands of the nothing-but-hors-d'oeuvres-at-parties ethics rule; "once you put tuna fish on the bagel, it becomes a sandwich," he explained. And to keep Denver green and nutritious, the DNC issued guidelines requesting that event hosts use 70% organic or local ingredients, nix grease, and use pitchers instead of water bottles. Some restaurants bid to become "Lean 'N' Green" certified; other party hosts just canceled their bashes in the face of the green price tag.

As with any promise to clean up one's act, though, some of this is just for p.r. Are the slogans just slogans, or is it possible to eat one's way through this whole convention in an ethically approved and green way? Just for fun (note: this is in no way a scientific examination of the convention's virtue goals), I'm going to try. For the rest of the convention, I'll try only to eat according to the congressional ethics rules or DNC green guidelines: The ethics guidelines essentially mandate that food eaten at a corporate-underwritten party or reception has to be finger food, no sandwiches or sit-down dinners using real plates; you can eat your meatballs, but with a toothpick and not on a bun. On the green side, there are two lists of DNC- and state of Colorado-approved restaurants that serve special green, healthy meals.

Oddly, the invitation to go green and healthy seems to especially attract restaurants that might otherwise be considered health travesties. Combating their reputations, I guess. Lunch today was at the Delectable Egg -- a downtown place advertised in my DNC-provided info packets as offering recommended "Smart Meal Seal" options -- that turned out to be a sort of locally-grown International House of Pancakes, specializing in dishes like as "Ken's Croissant Scramble," a butter croissant with ham, bacon, sausage, spinach, onions, and eggs topped with hollandaise, scallions, and melted cheddar. Who knows whether it was the bacon or the hollandaise or the cheddar that kept Ken's Scramble from making the Smart Meal grade, but I went with the specially approved French toast, dipped only in apple juice and egg whites. It tasted soft, like the kind of pond-soaked bread ducks eat in parks. Thankfully, unlimited syrup was OK.

--Eve Fairbanks