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The Green Party

David Raccuglia believes organics can be fun. He's shown it in his innovative line of food-based beauty products; now he proves it again with a (mostly) healthy New Year's Eve dinner in his eco-friendly house.

It may be snowing outside, but for David Raccuglia, founder of the beauty company Modern Organic Products, only a green New Year's Eve will do. He and his wife, Sally, a former makeup artist, invited a few friends to join them and their two daughters for a celebratory dinner prepared by one of the best chefs in the West, Kevin Taylor, using only the freshest organic ingredients. Don't expect health-food clichés: The menu, including poached salmon with asparagus and chanterelles, is as sophisticated as the setting—a modernist, eco-conscious house in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Boulder, Colorado.

The Raccuglias are role models for sensible yet stylish ecological living. David, a 40-year-old former hairstylist, launched Modern Organic Products in 1998; the company sells hair-care items made almost entirely from organic ingredients. Available in salons and department stores like Barneys New York, MOP shampoos and conditioners sound like lunch for your hair: Basil, black beans, carrots, oranges and other fruits and vegetables, purchased from certified organic farmers, all make the ingredient list. The inspiration: traditional recipes for homemade beauty elixirs from the '30s, '40s and '50s, such as egg-white facial masks, cucumber eye pads and avocado hair conditioners.

"There's always been a link between what you eat and how you look," Raccuglia says to explain the philosophy behind both MOP and his own life. Once a strict vegetarian, he now includes fish, eggs and a little meat in his diet—but he tries to keep everything organic. His interests extend to Tibetan Buddhism: Raccuglia has traveled to Tibet and has self-published a book of photographs of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people. Some of the portraits line the walls of his home.

The Raccuglias tend their own garden and shop at farmers' markets in the summer and fall. They also purchase organic ingredients year-round at Alfalfa's, a chain of grocery stores specializing in organic produce. "We are lucky to live in a community where eating and living in an organic way have become mainstream," says Raccuglia of Boulder's health-obsessed population.

The Raccuglias' New Year's Eve dinner is both delicious and healthy, thanks to Taylor, chef at Dandelion in Boulder and at his eponymous restaurant in Denver. Like the Raccuglias, Taylor believes in using fresh organic produce whenever possible.

When the meal is ready, Sally calls her friends and family into the dining area from the airy living room, filled with mid-century furniture, a classic Stickley chair and Persian rugs. The dining table, made from recycled wood, is set with steaming bowls of manila clams flavored with serrano ham, charred tomatoes and parsley oil. A light vegetable soup follows, enlivened with the bite of a pistachio pistou (the French name for pesto). The conversation ranges from a comparison of secret mountain bike trails to an explanation of the various eco-friendly attributes of the house, with Arn Rasker, the builder and contractor for the Raccuglias' home, leading the discussion. (For example, the wood for the floors was salvaged from a Denver Air Force base, and the bathroom tiles were made from recycled glass bottles.)

The main course is poached salmon served with asparagus, chanterelles and a risotto made with three kinds of onions. Healthy eating only goes so far, however, on New Year's Eve. Dessert is a rich pineapple sundae with macadamia brittle, neither low calorie nor entirely organic. No one seems to mind. As midnight approaches, Raccuglia leads the table in a toast to a healthy new year. "We used to have one toast too many," he admits, "but now we look for the same balance in our celebrations as in our lives."

Janet O'Grady is editor in chief of Aspen Magazine and a food and travel writer.
Published January 2001
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    Already looking forward to next year (June 19-21, 2015)? Relive your favorite moments from the culinary world's most sensational weekend in the Rocky Mountains.