UNH Dining hosts Winter Celebration Dinner

UNH Dining hosts Winter Celebration Dinner

Bret Belden

Long lines and smiling faces were decorating all three of the universities dining halls; Holloway Commons, Phillbrook and Stillings, for the Winter Celebration Dinner Wednesday night, an event that ushered in the season of giving and finals. Holloway Commons sported a hot chocolate and eggnog bar for students. A multitude of treats ranging from peppermint marble bark to yule logs to a cinnamon babka. The university provides healthy options for students and has been ranked as having some of the best food at a college in the nation.

The culinary staff made all of the pasta by hand for the festivities. Each dining hall had its own particular menu on top of a selection for those with specific dietary needs as well those with food allergens or other restrictions. Assistant Director of Culinary and Executive Chef Todd Sweet makes it his duty to know that all students are provided for at the dining halls, especially for the Winter Celebration Dinner. He went over how the university prepares for such an event. 

“We try to get everything ready as close to the event time so we have the freshest food for students. We just got done prepping the brownies and other goodies here for the Winter Celebration Dinner,” Sweet said.

Dining Services wants to make the experience as wonderful as possible.

“First we start with the goal to ‘Wow!’ people and make sure that it’s a celebration,” he said.

Chef Sweet understands the predicament students are in as finals week draws closer.

“Near the end of the semester, students have been working hard and we want them to be able to blow off steam and this is a great opportunity to put our best foot forward,” he said.

A lot of thought and effort go into creating the menu. “We work off what has been popular before,” Sweet stated. “Certain things like crab rangoons are very popular, people love them, so we definitely want to offer these.” The menu creation process is a team effort. “We also have every chef from each dining hall come up with their own offerings as well.” The menu is expansive enough to deal with the large number of hungry customers, even on non-event days. “We feed six to 7,000 people a day out of one dining hall,” he said. The menu is not the only aspect that will be transformed for the night.

“We change around the set up for the celebration,” Chef Sweet said. “At HoCo there’s a community table in the back that will have crudités, hors d’oeurves, cheeses, olives and fruits. It’s very popular and is tough to keep stocked.”

Chef Sweet brought up an idea coined by Executive Chef Johnathon Saiff, Holloway Common’s main chef, for the event. “French onion soup baked in a bread bowl with swiss cheese on top will be coming out fresh for everybody out of the pizza station.” There are entrée choices that include beef tri-tip, salmon, and vegan garlic linguine. Other stations are undergoing transformations as well. “An awesome hot chocolate and eggnog station, out of the stir fry area, with all of the trimmings and crazy candy ready as garnishes.”

Chef Sweet also mentioned the star of the show.

“Obviously the dessert station is a big draw for the Winter Celebration,” he said. “It’ll have a lot of eye appeal and filled with old favorites and will also include more out of the ordinary choices like chocolate-dipped pretzels.”

The university expected a substantial turn-out. “We’re preparing for anywhere between 2,500 to 3,000 students at Holloway Commons.” Chef Sweet goes on to say that the load is not as large as some events, “because the Winter Celebration Dinner will be at all three dining halls.”

Students were extremely satisfied with the Winter Celebration Dinner.

“It was definitely worth waiting in line. The food’s really good and we’re always really excited when they have themed meals,” Jackie Sampson, a junior English major from Plaistow, New Hampshire, said.

Her friend held similar sentiments and talked about the entire feel of the event.

“I think the decorations help to accentuate the meal and holiday spirit,” Maddie Cyr, a junior occupational therapy major from Plymouth, Massachusetts, added.

“The desserts were my favorite part of the meal,” Sydney Vroman stated. The psychology major was particularly fond of the liquid dessert. “The hot chocolate was very good.”

Stefany Andrews, a psychology major as well, excitedly stated that the Winter Celebration Dinner was, “a spectacular opportunity to enjoy the holidays.” Her friend, Hailey Campatelli, a sophomore nursing major gave a resounding, “It’s very festive.”