Claire’s Corner Copia

Claire’s Corner Copia is nestled on the corners of Chapel and College Streets in New Haven. The vegetarian restaurant, founded by Claire and Frank Criscuolo, is committed to sustainable and organic food. 10% of the restaurant’s profits are donated to charities. The food, ranging from smoothies to omelets to sandwiches to quesadillas to enormous baked goods (and so much more), can’t be beat.

I think that, usually, when you hear about a great vegetarian restaurant that uses local ingredients, the first thing that comes to mind is man that must be expensive. But I have to say, as a student who goes out to lunch in New Haven a lot, I don’t find Claire’s much more expensive than most other options. What’s more, I think that the quality of the ingredients and the causes that Claire’s supports is reason enough to pay an extra dollar.

Claire’s is currently working with The Growing Connection, a foundation whose mission is to bring food gardens to schools and teach students how to maintain them. Through the foundation, Claire’s is working with Barnard School and Jepson School, two magnet schools in New Haven. I think that Claire’s is very conscious of the cost of eating organic ingredients, as their goal is to give children the skills to grow their own food in their own backyards.

Although not all of Claire’s ingredients are local (especially not all-year-round) the restaurant does use local farming when possible. Many of Claire’s ingredients come from Urban Oaks Farm in New Britain, CT. I also admire the restaurant’s dedication to sustainability through its use of organic produce and its environmental initiatives. These initiatives include switching to a low water use dishwasher and to Energy Star lighting.

Claire also has three cookbooks, Claire’s Corner Copia Cookbook, Claire’s Italian Feast, and Claire’s Classic American Vegetarian Cooking. There is also an assortment of recipes on the restaurant’s website.

While I was at Claire’s, I picked up a booklet titled The Earth Dinner that was propped up on a stand near the door. Earth Dinner, a creation of Organic Valley, celebrates eating sustainably, locally, and organically with others. The idea of sharing food and conversing about where that food came from is essential to Earth Dinner. Inside The Earth Dinner booklet were quotes from authors, chefs, foodies, celebrities – anyone you could imagine. Here are some that I found especially exceptional:

“One cannot think well, love well, or sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf

“It’s difficult to think of anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” – Lewis Grizzard

“My definition of sustainable cuisine is rather simple. Sustainable cuisine means nurturing that which nurtures us.” – Michael Romano: Chef, Union Square Café

“We started out to save the family farmer and now it looks like the family farmer is going to save us.” – Wilie Nelson

“Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables. They probably get jet-lagged, just like people.” – Elizabeth Berry

“In 1950, average Americans spent over 30 percent of their income on food; in 2000, about 10 percent. In 1950, the farmer received over fifty cents of every food dollar spent; today, less than twenty cents. Consumers spend less of their income on food than ever, and farmers receive a smaller percentage of that lesser portion.” – Ronald Jager, The Fate of Family Farming

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