The University of New Hampshire (UNH) welcomed hundreds of students as it hosted its annual Harvest Dinner on Wednesday, Oct. 3 across all three of its dining halls.
The event, which has been an annual staple of UNH dining since 2005, is known for featuring local seasonal food from all across New England; most coming from New Hampshire, while the furthest foods come all the way from New Haven, Connecticut.
“We use as much local food as feasible based on availability, distribution, pricing, vetting of vendors to meet food safety standards and long-term relationships developed over time,” Director of Dining Hall Operations David Hill said.
The only food for the event made in the dining halls were the desserts, which ranged from pumpkin bread to apple crisp with Shain’s of Maine vanilla ice cream.
While Holloway Commons (HoCo), Philbrook and Stillings Dining Halls menus across the board were mostly consistent, each dining hall showcased different items unique to that location; HoCo had seared venison in their stir-fry station, while Stillings had 11 desserts to choose from.
“Each dining hall is offering something different and unique, highlighting the culinary team’s talent and creativity as well as the ability to have different options with different cooking formats and concepts,” Hill said. “This provides wider selection and variation across campus and gives us insight into what is more highly acceptable for future menu planning.”
Junior biology major Madeline Young came out of her way to the Harvest Dinner at Holloway Commons instead of eating at the Gables.
“I love this every year,” she said laughing.
“I always make sure to go to them [the events at the dining hall] because it’s awesome. It’s just that they take it up a level, the food is better, everything is unique,” Young said. “Like if you saw the cheese spread and the breads…it’s like shocking.”
Young made sure to try all the offerings the dinner had to offer, with her favorites being the maple whisky chicken and the pumpkin roll.
“They don’t slack on the special days,” Young said.
Other HoCo guests included Robbin Ray, who works for Media Relations at UNH, and her mother June, both of whom had never before been to the Harvest Dinner, but said they enjoyed the local aspects and everything they tried was delicious.
“I’ve never had venison before and they had that on the menu tonight and it was very good, and the sweet potatoes,” June said, which were both her and Robbin’s favorite.
The products for the dinner were shipped in from farms across the area. For example, the meal the Ray’s enjoyed was from North Coast Seafood in Boston and Plainville Farm in Hadley, MA.
“We’re big on farms,” Robbin said. “And because UNH is such an agricultural school, and a lot of farmers have graduated from here, it was nice to see that too.”
Ron Buffa, the Sales Manager for Upper Valley Produce (UVP), helped gather the food for the dinner from the local farms “that the chef asked us to find for him,” he said.
Buffa was giving out samples at HoCo of some of the products people could find at the dinner, such as local pork from Robie Farms, ravioli from Vermont Fresh Pasta, and applewood smoked cheddar cheese from Canada.
“I just started with UNH maybe five weeks ago,” Buffa said. “If you’re enjoying the fresh fruit line that we brought in, that’s us. It’s ordered today, cut tomorrow, and ordered to you the next day,” he added about effort the dining halls have made to ensure fresh food.
“You got to know where your food is coming from,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”