Every year I look forward to getting the invitation from North East resident and former Erie Times-News editor Jennifer Smith to go with her to the lunch offerings from the culinary students at Mercyhurst University’s North East campus.
On certain Wednesday and Fridays (details below) during March and April the students prepare a three-course lunch ($9) and serve it either on campus or at Lake View Country Club in North East. Getting the meal from concept to table is part of the graduation requirements of the two-year culinary program at North East.
The program attracts students from ages 20 to 45 and graduates a dozen or more per year. From North East, the graduates head off to hospitality jobs throughout Erie and surrounding areas.
Serving the public will give students exposure to all that comes with a restaurant — including menu planning, staffing, budgeting and working with the public.
I headed out on Wednesday this week to Lake View Country Club (my first visit there) to sample the Taste of Winter menu by Brent Nusom. The meal opened with a roasted beet salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts; followed by beer-braised venison with rice and asparagus spears; and concluding with a chocolate bead pudding with homemade vanilla ice cream and caramelized bananas.
Nusom, like all the chefs in the lunch program, table hopped with his guests. He explained that he chose venison because his brothers are hunters, although he is not, and he knew they would be asking for ways to prepare it.
Overall, the setting and meal were delightful. Customers are asked to give feedback on cards for the chef and wait staff. This is part of the learning experience. Many of these students wind up in local restaurants and hotels, so you can have a real impact on the Erie hospitality industry by just having lunch.
What a great way to spend a Wednesday or Friday lunch time.
Lunches with Mercyhurst North East
Either Mercyhurst North East or Lake View Country Club
Wednesdays or Fridays
March 29, April 5, 7, 12, and 21
Seating begins at 11:30 a.m.; lunch is served at noon. Reservations (required), 814-725-6333.
Lunches are $9 per person, including tax.
In case you ever want to make your own beet salad, here’s a simple way to roast beets.