UNITY – A menu full of Ugandan venison meatballs, axis deer pies and beaver sausage prepared by a chef from the Culinary Institute of America. Must be Unity College’s annual wild game dinner.

Friday night’s meal at the environmental college, a sellout every year, is more of an elegant and eclectic banquet.

Indeed, those who pay $30 to attend the fundraiser come for delicious wild game you can’t get in a five-star restaurant.

“I was (upset) last year when my daughter didn’t tell me about it. I went the year before and loved it,” said Carol Swift of Farmingdale, mother of one of the students who organized this year’s seventh annual Sportsmen’s Conference and Wild Game Supper.

The environmental college that turns out conservation law enforcement officers and wildlife biologists holds the wild game banquet every year as a fundraiser for conservation charities.

This year’s event raised $6,000, twice as much as last year, which had also set a record.

But clearly the draw is the unusual entrees, like the goose and wild hog in phyllo dough, one dish that was a bit tough, but so tasty in those pastries.

And the bear sausage, wild axis deer pies and venison cutlets? So sweet and tender, there was more eating than talking around the banquet room as the courses came out one after another.

“I don’t ask what it is,” Swift said. “I had the heart from something. I don’t know what.”

Nearly 200 people, more than 20 banquet tables set with linen, and 25 student volunteers directed by Unity College chef Charlie Krause and Joe Saltalamachia of the admissions office turned it into an elegant dining experience once again.

The food was prepared by Saltalamachia, the event’s founder and an avid hunter, and Krause, who was new to the event, but loved it.

“I’m not a wild game person. I learned at CIA (Culinary Institute of America) on the nicest stuff in the world. But restaurants don’t use wild game. What I’m learning is, when it’s so well handled, it’s delicious. It’s all about how the hunter handles it: the cutting, the aging, the cleaning,” Krause said.

But the students clearly stole the show as they waited on the tables with enthusiasm.

“Have a piece of maple-bourbon black bear?” freshman Tom Bednar offered during the hors d’oeuvre hour.

“It’s just cool. A lot of people want to try wild game. This gives them the chance,” said Bednar, a duck hunter.

And this year’s event raised money for three charities: Maine’s Operation Game Thief; the Maine Warden Service Association, which helps family members of wardens; and Get Back Outdoors, a nonprofit that assists veterans.

The annual event, now a famous Unity College tradition, is bound to keep growing.

“Do I enjoy it? It’s a loaded question. It’s a lot of work,” said event co-chair and senior Nicole Prescott, who will serve for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a conservation officer after graduation.

“We spent two days prepping food. We were in Wednesday night cleaning, doing dishes. But right now, when everyone is seated and happy and the food is about to go out? It’s very satisfying.”

Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: FlemingPph