PHOTO SHOWCASE: "Elevate" dinner
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Omahans Tony Noecker and Lynn Batten stood under the blazing sun Sunday afternoon in the name of food and public art.
“We didn't want to miss this,” Noecker said.
The couple were two of about 500 people who dined on the 36th Street bridge in South Omaha as part of the Emerging Terrain “Elevate” dinner, a celebration of the group's second set of banners recently installed on grain elevators just north of Interstate 80.
Chefs, architects and artists worked together to create 20 “elevation stations” on the bridge — each one operating as both a mobile kitchen and a design concept. Each station served a number of 30-minute small dinners to 25 people at a time. By the end of the afternoon, each of the 500 diners had eaten a five-course meal.
Noecker said he knew a lot of people who attended Emerging Terrain's first dinner event: Last October, the group's “Harvest Dinner” took place at the foot of the grain elevators after the first set of banners, focused on land use, agriculture and food, were installed. The new set focuses on transportation.
“I love the pairing of food and design,” Noecker said. “And we get to test a lot of food that we wouldn't get to otherwise.”
Laura Iliff and her husband, John, were at the Harvest dinner last year and came back for Sunday's event.
“The two events are completely different,” Laura Iliff said. “That's what makes it so fun.”
Around 2 p.m., amid lots of smoke from open grills and the constant hum of traffic on Interstate 80 and trains running below the bridge, people started to eat.
Central High student Maryssa Brown noshed on a turkey sausage sandwich in front of the Institute of Culinary Arts elevation station. She said the sandwich was delicious, though if she could eat at any station Sunday, it would have been the Boiler Room's — it wasn't on her ticket's shortlist of assigned spots.
And over at the Boiler Room's giant blue tent, designed by Omaha-based HDR Architecture, chef Paul Kulik spoke to his first group of diners about the meal they were about to enjoy: Cornish game hens cooked in an outdoor grill paired with a barrel of a summery red wine.
“We wanted to go back to the roots of what dining and eating are all about,” Kulik said.
At the Block 16 station, owners Jessica Joyce and Paul Urban were busily placing bread, small jars and slices of sausage in handmade wooden boxes. They worked with Measure Cut Cut studio and dKISER design.construct on their station, made entirely of wood. Diners who visited their station got to take the boxes home.
“It's our own take on a Lunchable,” Urban said. “And who doesn't like a Lunchable?”
Some booths required diner interaction: At chef Clayton Chapman's station, diners got a kebab of meat and vegetables and then plucked pieces of fresh greens from a wall to make a side salad.
At chef Jennifer Coco's station, plants in bags dangled down from the roof of a structure, and volunteers handed the chef the greens and herbs, which she then made into a salad tossed with fresh vegetables and topped with a pork belly crouton, fresh mozzarella and a choice of cashew or champagne vinaigrette.
Tickets for the event started at $125 each and went up in cost from there. Emerging Terrain Director Anne Trumble said the group debated over the cost of the ticket — even with the rather steep price tag, the event didn't break even. All the proceeds went directly toward the design, construction and organization of the event; it wasn't a fundraiser.
Trumble said she hopes the structures that the ticket money paid for can become part of the community in different ways following the one-day event.
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