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Eatbeat: Dinner at UMC better than the best in New York City

Caleb Timp puts the final touches on an appetizer for the Farm to Table dinner at the University of Minnesota Crookston on Friday evening. Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald

The goodness of the gardens and the skill of area chefs combine to create a memorable November dinner. It was held at the University of Minnesota-Crookston. And it was one of the finest meals ever experienced on the Eatbeat.

Students talks were featured between courses.

Caleb Rempe, a senior at UMC, says this year's tomato crop was great. Carrots were good. There were a lot of onions.

He was overseer of the gardens in the greenhouse during the summer. His group took vegetables to the Crookston farmer market.

The goodness of the harvest was celebrated at the college the first weekend of November. As a paying guest, I found the meal one of the very finest I ever have eaten. Anywhere. Even when I went viral six years ago and dined at places such as Le Bernardin and Dovetail in New York City.

The meal at Crookston began with a Minnesota version of ceviche — pan-seared walleye with pickled cucumber, beauty heart radish and red onion topped with grilled sweet corn, smoked heirloom tomato and roasted red pepper relish. It was accompanied by fried corn tortilla and finished with dill aioli, micro dill and corn shoots.

And that was just the beginning of the four course meal served by UMC staff and students and prepared by Executive Chef Shane Halvorson of UMC, along with Chef Caleb Timp of Luther College and Ned Price, manager of dining services at UMC. Also part of the team was Shaun Tuckwell, executive chef at Crown College in southern Minnesota.

The dinner was served to 192 guests. Tickets at $75 were sold out a week before the event which this year replaced the traditional Torch and Shield banquet. Guests included area graduates and supporters of the college.

Caleb Rempel was the first of four students to tell their stories between courses. He said he came to UMC from the small town of Mountain Lake, Minn., because he is comfortable in the small-sized classes. He felt accepted and was able to create meaningful relationships.

When he graduates with a major in agronomy in the spring, he is thinking of moving west, he said. Probably to Oregon.

His greeting was in the form of a welcome. Other students who spoke between courses included Chase Knickerbocker, a senior in finance from Annandale, Minn. Also Bruno Marques, a junior majoring in international business and finance from Recife, Brazil. Speaking briefly between courses also were Amber Johnson, a sophomore in agriculture communications from Sebela, Minn., and Reid Akins, a senior from Minneapolis studying health sciences. Reid Akins presented his student address before dessert. And there was a student video by Austin Sommerfeld.

Mixed greens tossed with roasted beets and butternut squash were the base of the salad course. It was served with grilled sourdough baguette.

Entrée items were beef bourguignon stew followed by buttermilk-brined roast turkey breast with pan gravy. This was served over roasted garlic braised kale and onions along with whipped potatoes. The dish was finished with micro kale and citrus with wine macerated cranberries.

The leisurely, well-paced dinner closed with a dessert of a blackberry-rhubarb tart. There was a pecan crust and vanilla bean whipped cream. And it was garnished with smoked pecans, wine macerated blackberries and maple syrup.

Guests were seated at three long, long tables. Wines were presented by University of Minnesota alumni Duane and Susan Hoff, who operate Fantesca Estate and Winery in California. He is son of long time Crookston residents and UMC faculty, Dave and Irene Foss.

The dinner moved along with time for conversation. Talks by students were brief. Servings were appropriately sized.

In her remarks, Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause said the farm to table dinner was a celebration of food grown in northern Minnesota along with select wines from California and choice meats from Alexandria, Minn.

"We look forward to making this an annual event and seeing you next year," she said.

Farm to Table Dining

University of Minnesota-Crookston

Mary Holz-Chase, chancellor

Executive chef: Shane Halvorson

Chefs: Ned Price and Caleb Timp

Report card: Students and staff of University of Minnesota-Crookston rate the honor roll with their first Farm to Table dinner Nov. 2. It was an elegant, four course meal served to perfection. It featured foods grown by students, alumni and friends.