The University of Virginia will host two Thanksgiving feasts this year: one for students, and one for the larger University community.
The student meal is scheduled for Wednesday from 5 to 8 p.m. at all three dining halls.
“In the past, we have done these dinners over three days and they were more of a competition between the dining halls,” said Sarah Gordon, marketing manager for UVA Dine. “However, with COVID and making sure everyone is social-distancing, we wanted to avoid crowding. We have put them all on the same night in three locations, and it is just menu-based now. Students can have something before they go home, a traditional Thanksgiving feast they will be able to enjoy this semester.”
David Mason, executive chef at UVA Dine, said that in previous years, when the dining halls competed, the chefs were encouraged to “knock it out of the park.”
“We still do,” he said. “Each one of the chefs in the dining halls is making a menu specific to the location and based on the idea of what is going to provide ‘wow.’ They have done it again this year, and I am looking at a great feed.”
Runk Dining Hall’s menu will include seasonal herb-brined turkey breast, cornbread dressing with tangy apple slaw, pulled turkey collard greens, root vegetable gratin, pimento macaroni and cheese with crispy county ham, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, brown-sugar glazed ham, savory roasted sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts with bacon and roasted leg of lamb with mint.
Observatory Hill Dining Hall will serve an all-local Thanksgiving dinner, with a menu including traditional roast Virginia turkey; creamy mashed potatoes; cider-braised chicken; an array of pasta dishes; pizza with Virginia smoked sausage, shallots and green peppers; ham-seared herb tofu triangle; and local spaghetti squash with tomatoes and herbs.
The Fresh Food Company in Newcomb Hall will offer a menu including oven-roasted turkey; individual rack of lamb medallions, fresh salmon and vegetable roulade; crispy tofu over sweet and sour vegetables; ham; and pizza.
All three locations will offer a wide array of side dishes and desserts.
“We want to encourage our guests to go to one of the dining halls,” Mason said. “All three of these menus are out-of-the-park ‘wow.’ I will be at all three dining halls on Wednesday making sure the teams are up to speed. I am really excited about the menu selection and I think it will be a really great evening here at UVA Dine.”
On Thanksgiving Day itself, UVA’s Food Insecurity Resource Group, in partnership with UVA Dine, will host its second annual HoosGiving Community Meal.
Open to members of the University community – students who have not returned home, faculty and staff – a Thanksgiving meal will be held from noon to 2 p.m. at Newcomb Hall with a varied menu provided by UVA Dining.
This year the HoosGiving menu will include brined and slow-roasted local turkey breast; “tofurkey” with veggie gravy; grilled salmon over sautéed local kale, with sage-lime butter sauce; house-made stuffing; Yukon Gold mashed potatoes; Brussels sprouts with caramelized onions and balsamic glaze; and spaghetti squash. There will be a wide selection of dessert options as well as garlic herb breadsticks and Parker House rolls.
“We try to have as many options as we can to accommodate dietary restrictions and vegan vegetarian,” said Shelby Gibson, case manager in the Office of the Dean of Students and a leader of the Food insecurity Resource Group.
Gibson said RSVP requests were sent out on a University listserv last week asking for any dietary restrictions or requirements, such as kosher or Halal, that attendees may have.
“We try to accommodate them as best we can,” Gibson said.
“Thanksgiving break is a time when there are limited options on Grounds for dining,” Gibson said. “So we create a community space for students who could not be with the families, or who don’t traditionally celebrate Thanksgiving, or for whatever reason they remain on Grounds.”
The meal will be staffed with volunteers from within the University community.
“Last year we put out a general call for volunteers. This year, we’re trying to be a little bit smaller,” Gibson said. “We have a few folks from Human Resources, folks from General Medicine, and across the board different staff members. I sent out a request for volunteers to the student affairs listserv.
“Last year was fun – we had people who brought their entire families to volunteer, so we had children and parents and multigenerational volunteers.”
At both the student Thanksgiving meal and the HoosGiving meal, physical distancing will be practiced, as well as options for takeout or dining in.
“In keeping with the protocols we have in place in the dining halls, people need to maintain six-foot spacing; everyone is supposed to wear a mask, and no customer contact with no self-service,” Mason said. “The dining rooms have already been altered and are operating at a limited capacity of the available seating. We are strongly abiding by [Virginia’s] phase-three guidelines.”
“We are encouraging to-go meals in compostable clamshell containers,” Gordon said. “If there is a table available, diners are welcome to sit and eat. However, we will have to-go options, so if they want to sit under one of the tents and enjoy it outside or just take it home, or to work or wherever they are headed, that works, as well.”