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Lessons Learned from Cooking Shows (and Swat)

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Like any good French-Californian girl, I was taught to look at cooking shows with a vaguely pitying disdain. Until a week ago, if you brought one up I would either A) Blink confusedly and ask if that’s like one of those hot dog eating contests, or B) Snort inelegantly and mutter something about it being typical of Americans to need reality TV to learn how to make pasta. (Yes, I am aware that I’m a snob.)

Until, of course, I actually started watching cooking shows. I am now officially hooked. At first, I thought I was just willing to do anything to procrastinate. That is when I realized the horrible truth.

My life is a cooking show.

Or, to be somewhat fairer, I found parallels between the lives of participants in cooking contests and the lives of Swatties. Or perhaps I’m just sleep deprived and think the entire world revolves around Swarthmore. To recap my profound connections:

“The Great British Bake Off:” Multiple British people bake elaborate cakes and pastries (such as a 20-layer German cake, and yes, the judges count the layers) in a random outdoor area with freakishly green lawns. Profiles are pretty diverse, ranging from teenagers to grandparents. This show forced me to realize that certain British people have mastered cooking beyond fish and chips, lukewarm beer, and sticking everything in mint jelly. Much in the same way, Swat has made me realize that Americans outside of the California/San Francisco/San Franciscan French community bubbles are actually pretty great. We may have close to nothing in common, but we are all passionate about something (labor organizing, or Latin, or nature and rare plants, or linguistics). Also, contestants in TGBBO are almost suspiciously nice. They compliment each other and exchange hugs and are generally supportive of one another, like any Swatties I have encountered.

“Chopped:” One of the most famous cooking shows out there. Four chefs compete over three rounds (appetizer, entrée, dessert), with one chef eliminated each turn. So, not really like Swarthmore, which is somewhat harder to be expelled from. It is worth noting that the first episode I ever saw of Chopped was on the theme of noodles, and I had just had an argument over whether college students were actually able to cook anything other than noodles (considering that my hall’s bathroom sink has had ramen in it for the past three days, I would say some of us can’t even manage those). The show (like Swarthmore) is also very White, although there is almost always one Asian chef per episode. What struck me the most was the chefs’ obsession with each other’s dishes. For all that we are a cooperative school where (allegedly) grades don’t matter and you should only compete with yourself, I have overheard many desperate conversations about a classmate’s paper being longer, smarter, or generally better. There’s not much of a step from “chef X’s dish looks so much neater than mine!” to “everyone else in that class is so much smarter!” It doesn’t matter whether you are writing a political science essay or crafting the perfect Halloween meal; the other person’s plate/paper will look better.

“Cutthroat Kitchen:” Four youngish and photogenic chefs — at least one of which will rant about being from Brooklyn — compete in three rounds — appetizer, entree, and dessert. They are given $25,000 to buy “sabotages”  such as making all the other chefs hold hands as they cook. Whoever wins keeps the money they have not spent, so this show reminded me of my parents’ lectures on budgeting and necessary expenses. The title, I will admit, does not scream “Cooperative Quaker school.” But, let’s face it: Swatties have a dark side. As far as I know, none of us are actually willing to pay to make our classmates suffer (though think of all the choices, should such an opportunity come up. Limiting their course selections to 8:30 classes? Robbing them of Swat Points and making them eat at Sharples for every meal? Forcing them to wear a Donald Trump shirt?), but haven’t any of us ever fantasized about doing something very unpleasant to the one know-it-all in your seminar, who talks over the professor and starts every sentence with “actually?” How about causing something terrible to happen to that rude and unpleasant former hookup? Of the three shows that I have discussed, Cutthroat Kitchen is by far the trashiest and most bloodthirsty. Peace-loving Swatties would blanch at the thought of being compared to these culinary sharks, who discuss intimidation tactics and have such brilliant lines as “smiling is not my thing.” But that vicious monster does come out full force, at one time or another. Why do you think we have Primal Scream? I will admit this show is a guilty pleasure; but then, so is concocting wild revenge plots aimed at your assholesque hallmate/classmate/ex. Embrace the darkness in you, Swatties! At least it’s not being broadcasted to millions of people.

To recap: cooking shows are not bored housewives reading out Betty Crocker recipes (forgive my past assumptions). Stress, anxiety, and worrying about others being “better” is a universal experience alive both on college campuses and TV kitchens. Anyone can be a jerk. And British food is marginally less terrible than we are led to believe. At this rate, I have no doubt that we will soon see our own beloved(?) Sharples on national television soon.

Local Food?

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We are all at least aware of the “eat local” movement. We’ve all been primed to know that eating locally is, in many ways, the way to eat sustainably. Eating local was (and in a way still is) the hot new trend. Terms like “Locavores” and catchy phrases like “Think Global Eat Local” have emerged. We’ve seen the “eat local” stickers and the restaurants who tout all their local sourcing on their menu. We’ve got it pretty ingrained in our minds that local food doesn’t just mean sustainable, but tasty (and often more expensive) too. So much so, that now when we hear about local foods night in Sharples, our ears perk up.

But what is local food? If we assume that local food is just better, then how come it’s been so difficult to do? How come “local foods night” is just one night, and not just the norm?

I often wander into Sharples, eating the assortment of foods without questioning their source. So with the attention towards local foods, I was curious to learn about the process of acquiring the different produce at Sharples and to see what locality really means.

I met with Director of Purchasing Janet Kassab and her daughter Mary Kassab from Dining Services in her office in the back of the kitchen. The lively sound of clanging pots and hissing steam permeated the air as I shook their hands. Both women wore large smiles, and I had the sense that I had just walked into someone’s home.

“Oh hi, yes, please take a seat!” Janet said.

The office was full of papers and flyers and to-do lists. Next to me was a long list of vendors. It was then that I realized this operation, though comparatively smaller than those of other universities, is pretty big and complicated.

“Overall, we use around 30 to 40 vendors regularly,” Mary said.

That’s the amount of vendors across the board from everything from canned peaches to meats. But they work most closely with Bill, the owner of West-Chester based American Beauty Fish and Produce. American Beauty purchases from Philadelphia’s food distribution center Lancaster Cooperative Auction and directly from west coast vendors.

“I pick up the phone and I just go ‘Hey Bill, we need [for instance] 30 pounds of tomatoes,” Janet said.

Prices for every item are dependent on the market or other factors such as weather and demand.

“Sometimes [the price] is impacted by national weather events,” said Mary, “We always have to keep in mind that a certain produce [might be] less available and therefore more expensive because of this frost or that flood.”

Bill, well-connected in the market, can inform them of major price changes and Mary and Janet can change their menu accordingly.

“I call Bill, and I say ‘we’re going to need this’ and he’s going to say ‘uh oh all of a sudden we are going to have to pay top dollar for the tomatoes,’ so then I’ll be like ‘okay let’s tweak the menu.’ We’re going to serve grape tomato [instead], change that Greek salad normally made out of the plum tomato that has become so pink and plump and not worth eating,” Janet said.

Both Janet and Mary state that their reactive flexibility is thanks to Sharples being a self-operating system rather than a contracted one.

“Operations that are contracted are married to the same product and the same person,” said Janet, “That’s the way they make money. And we’re lucky we don’t have the same kind of burden.”

The question of locality is very complicated in Sharples. On one level there’s the ‘hyperlocal,’ as Mary calls it, which is easier to identify. Sometimes the apples are from Beechwood Orchards in Biglerville, Pa. However, it is important to realize that the eastcoast’s main harvest is in the summer, and there’s really not much during the rest of the school year.

“Things like banana or oranges are never going to come from a local source,” said Janet, “We also just can’t produce an avocado.”

These non-local products are often extremely difficult to trace. However, since Bill, a local man, is doing the purchasing, the “local” is still being emphasized and supported. The many levels and concentric circles of food distribution nowadays complicates the locality question. What can be certain is that both Mary and Janet purchase and prepare food mainly based on their relations with people.

Janet frequently goes to farmer’s markets where she meets farmers who eventually become a source of both food for Sharples and a sort of family for our Dining Services. One such person is Isaac, “the egg man.”  

“Isaac the egg man, you know, has these neighbors Glenn and Nancy Wise … they sell sweet potatoes,” Janet said.

“And when Isaac delivers the eggs, he just brings Glenn and Nancy’s potatoes as well, and sometimes he brings his kid,” Mary said.

It’s a homey operation, where relationships circling outwards through family ties or friendships make things work.

“Nancy wanted us to buy from her son too,” Janet said, “he sells chickens, but they’re frozen so they’re not much use to us.”

The operation is not very strictly planned, and oftentimes Janet, Mary, and their staff have to improvise or change their minds. It’s hard work, but it’s also more fulfilling for Janet.

“This will be my 25th year here, and I started working in the cash office. It seems like [the job] will become so old but it [never does]. My personality wouldn’t be one that’s like, ‘okay this is it and this is it forever.’ I’m always like ‘let’s try this and let’s try that’ and the people in the kitchen go a little cuckoo,” Janet said.

At this point of the interview we were briefly interrupted by a phone call from the ‘tofu guy.’ I could not help but smile at the endearing term, and also the brief annoyance I saw on Janet’s face about the type of tofu. Janet prefers this one-on-one interaction even if it seems like more work.

“As a unit you’re spending money, the college’s money, and I want to give that money to a human being, not to the multi-million dollar [corporation] that is selling this bill of goods,” Janet said.

They also always work with the students in mind, knowing what is popular.

“The cook in there is always like ‘Broccoli?!” Janet gestured wildly with her eyes wide, “Students just fiend for broccoli! It’s incredible.”

This consideration for student preferences also informs the menu.
“The students and all of us, you know, you guys are captives, here all the time. It’s kind of like this is your house, your kitchen, your stuff, and no one really likes to see the same thing. I mean we want to have the same grilled cheese so we have the same basic [foods] but we also like to [say] ‘Ah, we’re having cherry chutney on the pork today … you’re not going to reinvent food, but you’re going to alter it,” Janet said.

If locality simply means the source of food, then we can’t do it unless we always eat the same kind of butternut squash and have extremely limited fruits. In fact, food is extremely hard to trace nowadays because it goes through so many processes. Looking at the boxes of bananas, for example, we could not figure out exactly where they were grown; the stickers indicate the country where they were distributed, but often times they don’t give the full story. But, if locality is about people, relationships, and a strong sense of community, then Mary and Janet’s work is local through and through. From Bill to the ‘Egg Man’ and ‘Tofu Guy,’ one cannot help but acknowledge that Sharples is truly a home operation.

“We get our love letters on our napkins,” said Janet as she gestured towards a wall where comments from the Napkin board are pinned up.

It seems that there is, in fact, a lot of love in Mary and Janet’s kitchen, and if that isn’t local, then locality shouldn’t matter all that much.

Alcohol for the atmosphere: Swarthmore as a wet town

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Maybe it is just me because I come from a state where you can walk into a Walgreens and see a handle of vodka next to the health vitamins, but I think Pennsylvania alcohol laws are weird. When I first visited Swarthmore during my senior year of high school, my parents decided to go get something to eat in the Ville while I was visiting classes, and after walking around the two blocks that consist of downtown Swarthmore, they were puzzled by the lack of food options. A quick Google search showed that Swarthmore was a dry town, and that was probably why there were so few restaurants. Due to this fact, they have continued to make fun of me for wanting to go to an urban school and ending up at a school in a dry town 11 miles outside of Philadelphia that looks like it could be in the middle of nowhere.

But this summer that might all change.

Swarthmore 21, a community organizing group, is working to change Swarthmore to a wet town on this summer’s primary ballot. For more on that see: “Swarthmore 21 Causes Debate in the Borough.”

The thing about a dry town is that it doesn’t just prevent stores from selling alcohol: it prevents the town from growing. The mark-ups on alcohol in restaurants are astronomically larger than the mark-ups on food, allowing more restaurants to make a larger profit. An increase in restaurants brings more foot traffic to the town, allowing other stores to open up. Basically, our economy runs on alcohol.

When I chose to come to Swarthmore I knew I wasn’t getting a school that was integrated into a big city or had a huge party scene, and I was okay with that. But now that I am here I miss having a downtown area to wander. I miss walking around on a nice night and seeing couples eating outside of restaurants or kids playing in the fountains. I miss the quirky local shops and restaurants. More than that, I miss the atmosphere.

If you want to know what this is like, just walk by the Inn on any given night. Has anyone else noticed that people at the Broad Table Tavern always look happy? As I walk by the big glass windows I stare in wearily, wishing that the ziti didn’t cost $20. The place is always packed, and the reason isn’t just because the food is decent: it is because it is a monopoly. Regular people that drink and just want to enjoy a glass of wine with their dinner only have one place to go in this town, The Broad Table Tavern. Hopefully this will change soon.

I envision several restaurants opening up, offering students and residents alike places to eat out and laugh over a nice glass of wine. I see families walking through the streets on their way to a nice dinner. I see residents and students enjoying a nice conversation as they wait for a table. I see people walking through the Ville just because it is a nice place to be.

I don’t think my expectations are that out of line. Small towns have charm, why can’t this one?

Philly Beat: Food Time

in Campus Journal/Philly Beat by

When I was told the theme for this week was food, I was ecstatic because it meant this was an excuse to write about my favorite thing ever. Growing up in a family of ‘foodies,’ every social interaction I had was centered around food: reunions, birthdays and even meetings. Soon, it became more than just a pastime, rather a hobby and passion. Even after living in the area for three years now, I have a constant bucket list of restaurants that keeps getting longer. From a French-North African bistro to a fun dim sum bar, Philadelphia is far more gastronomically diverse than most people think, featuring some unique fusion restaurants and outstanding cuisines with a twist. For this piece, I decided to go with five recommendations of the most fascinating concepts or unique menus I have come across so far.

“Amada”

Specializing in some incredible Spanish tapas, Amada is by far one of my favorite restaurants in Philadelphia. Located right on Chestnut Street and just two blocks away from The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, Amada’s iconic open-kitchen is complemented by a seated bar overlooking the tapa preparation, along with a lounge area. During their happy hour, they serve $5 tapas ranging from a cheese platter with truffle honey to traditional Spanish croquetas and patatas bravas. Despite functioning as a tapa house, they have a few grill and seafood options with portions large enough for a full meal, and are more than happy to help select a great wine to go with your meal.

“Fogo De Chao”

This Brazilian steakhouse features various fire roasted meats that are carved tableside by the chefs. The full lunch experience is $36.95 for unlimited food, including trips to the salad bar. If you are a red meat person, Fogo De Chao is a haven that serves some incredible filet mignon cooked to perfection. The salad bar includes sides such as different cheeses, veggies, parfaits and even fruit. Fogo De Chao is situated right next to Dilworth Park in my favorite and also the most lively area in Philly with different restaurants and bars around such as Sampan, El Vez, Time, and more. Alternatively, Fogo De Chao has another branch in King of Prussia. Definitely work up an appetite before heading to Fogo De Chao and make the most of the all you can eat dining experience.

“Bing Bing Dim sum”

Located in the booming East Passyunk restaurant district, Bing Bing Dim Sum is a fun, Pan-Asian restaurant with a great happy hour that also features bar food for $5 per dish including bao buns, dumplings, and even salad. The dishes are best to share family style, and the menu indicates both vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. Aside from their range of dumplings, they offer a few noodle and rice dishes. Both their food and drink menus are short but fun and creative.

“Restaurant Neuf”

Situated on South 9th Street, Restaurant Neuf puts a unique and interesting twist on their dishes by serving Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian flavors with a French twist. This North African restaurant serves a range of dishes, from delicately cooked seafood to a flavorful spicy braised goat leg, including a variety of delicious tagines and unique dishes such as a date-stuffed quail. Their Tunisian meatballs seem to be the most popular, and they have a brunch-only menu that is completely different from the regular dining menu. Restaurant Neuf is ideal if you are looking for a completely new and unique dining experience and an incredibly flavorful cuisine.

“Noord”

Belonging to the same owner as Restaurant Neuf, Noord is a BYOB Scandinavian-Dutch restaurant located in South Philly right in front of the singing fountain. The neighborhood tends to be relatively busy with different restaurants and boutiques in the area. The restaurant is incredibly cozy with dim lighting, and the dishes arrive incredibly fast. The menu features mainly red meat and seafood dishes yet is still incredibly vegetarian friendly. Noord is usually only open for dinner with the exception of a Sunday brunch. The flavors are more delicate than at its sister branch, but all of the dishes are exceptionally prepared.

It’s easy to go with the ‘safe’ option of an American gastro pub or your favorite Pan-Asian restaurant, but there are some incredibly creative and unique concepts all over the city that are definite musts. These five restaurants not only serve incredible food, but are also coupled with the best ambiances and locations. Venture out to the city this weekend for an outstanding culinary experience, and explore the different lounges and bars in the area too!

The Politics of the Grocery Store Utopia

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Think about your local grocery store. It could be some independent seller, a Vons, Trader Joe’s, or even the Swarthmore Co-op. You probably can easily conjure images of its glossy, white-tiled, hyper-compartmentalized aisles, denoted by a celestial numbered sign, suspended in fluorescent skies.

Envision yourself mindlessly Pac-manning about the aisles to your desired product — Aisle 1 for PopTarts, three modules to the right to Aisle 4 for Popchips — programmed like a cog in a machine in what is probably one of the most desperate expressions of capitalist zeal.

Utopian conceptions of the grocery store regime derive just from this, the ease and simplicity of navigating about these pathways. In deconstructing the biology of your local grocery store, in parceling the nodes of its hyper-rationalized, operationalized organs, you probably don’t really stop to consider how there is a Fordist framework at play, an attempt to achieve utopian systematic efficiency with every “Breads” or “Ice Cream” delineation. Not here to be the girl who screams “CAPITALISM” but, CAPITALISM.

Ok, pero like, this is a column on how you grapple with the intangibility of multi-racialness in contemporary power monopolies, and as much as we love to play the capitalist blame-game, what do grocery stores have to do with race?

I was at a friendly neighborhood Whole Foods in Tucson, Arizona over spring break. My friend was looking for coconut milk (@TheCityofLosAngeles) and I was aimlessly meandering into Aisle 4: “Flour/Sugar,” “Baking Mixes and Oils,” “Pie Crusts” (Yes, just the crusts), “Cereal,” and other mundane food items were featured in this aisle. However, as I walked closer to the illuminated number four towering from its seat in the heavens, I took note of a category I had never seen before: “Hispanic Foods.”

Now honestly, I should be thanking Whole Foods for satisfying my Hispanic palate — after all, the coconut milk was becoming too commonplace for my leche likings. The “Hispanic Foods” section housed all of my Chilean fancies: black beans, tortillas, Cholula and pan dulce, even though conchas in Chile are actual shells, not sugary pastries.

And that was it, with one swift, technocratic strike, Whole Foods had reduced the entirety of the Spain-related and Spanish-speaking world to a 5-foot long section of Aisle 4 in the only Whole Foods in Tucson, Arizona.

According to Food Marketing Institute’s count in 2005, Hispanic consumers spent more on groceries than average U.S. consumers: an average of $133 per week per household versus $91. Doesn’t it make more fiscal sense to streamline the grocery market process and provide these consumers their own food niche, even it if it offshoots further minoritization? A system that assumes that Cholula is the ethnic iteration of hot sauce and tortillas are just exoticized white bread?

“I think there is an increase in appetite across the board for more international experiences, particularly in Hispanic grocery,” said Stephen Palacios, executive vice president at consulting company Cheskin Added Value. “The ethnic-specific aisle is eventually going to evolve into everybody’s aisle.”

CAPITALISM.

What disturbs me in this grocery store utopia is not how management fails to realize an integrative social landscape in the American public, not how “Hispanic” merely delineates a historical link to a major imperialist power, but mostly how we were placed right next to the “Pie Crusts” and not the “Asian Foods” niche in Aisle 6.  

OneCard Reviews: Pace(s) Yourself for This Dish

in Around Campus/Campus Journal by

Did you miss me, CJ readers? I hope so. After running out of OneCard restaurants to review, I’ve felt a little lost this semester. My reviews were once a bi-weekly testament to how much I love food. Now that Paces Cafe has OneCard, I have one last review, and thus one last chance to solidify myself in food review history. Sure, the Phoenix’s Campus Journal might not have the journalistic clout of the “New York Times” food section, but here we are.

Student-run and operating out of the same space that hosts keg parties on Thursdays and Sundays, one would expect its ambience to range from sad to non-existent. Created almost solely by fake flowers in empty wine bottles, the overall atmosphere feels slightly contrived, but so do these reviews, sometimes. The blue walls and bright red mural behind the bar are familiar sights to most Swarthmore students, but when the lights are on and there isn’t any alcohol being served, Paces is bright and chipper under the presumably fluorescent lighting. Paces’ two stairs divide it in half, and the two sides create vastly different spaces for sipping on milkshakes and eating the closest thing to homemade food Swatties can get on campus.

I hadn’t been to Paces until after spring break, when some of my friends had the idea to go. Initially reluctant because I still wasn’t sure how their pricing worked, once I got there I discovered that I had been missing out. With seemingly infinite milkshake options, I realized that my future had been fundamentally changed. Rather than relying on Sharples ice cream for my dessert needs, I can create my own milkshake destiny at Paces.

Paces Cafe’s menu appeals well to their target audience, the late night snacker. They have breakfast foods as well as savory dinner options for those who just can’t eat breakfast after dark. My first time at Paces, I ordered the pancakes with berries and white chocolate chips, hold the white chocolate chips. While waiting for my pancakes, I pondered just what to call the meal that I was about to eat. Combining breakfast and lunch is brunch, but what does one call combining breakfast and dinner? Binner? Dreakfast? Breakinner? Dinnerfast? These are the kinds of questions that I am completely unprepared to answer simply because there is no good answer. Having breakfast for dinner needs no title besides ‘delicious.’ My pancakes thankfully came before I spent too much time trying to create a new word for the extra meal that I was adding to my day.

The pancakes looked thick and fluffy, not unlike an edible version of the adorable dogs that run up and down Magill Walk on weekend afternoons. The berries added a slightly tart dimension that balanced the sweet pancake. Nearly perfect — except for being slightly burnt on the bottom — the pancake was filling and tasty. Lightly dolloped with whipped cream, I had to fight off some well-intentioned friends who wanted to get in on the goodness topped on my meal. The dish was a good capstone to a long day but did not quite fulfill my wildest breakfast dreams.

In my two subsequent trips to Paces, I ordered the avo-toast. The first time, it came out on a thin piece of toast with halved cherry tomatoes, and the second time it was the nightly special and came on a thick piece of toast with lots of small, diced tomatoes. I found the variety within the same dish ordered on different days to be intriguing and unique. Both toasts, however, had the same fundamental elements. The avocado smeared on the crunchy toast was quite thick and at times overpowered the tomatoes. However, at the key moments of the dish, the crunch of the bread, the savory tomato, and the avocado combined to create a trifecta of delicious flavors. All of the elements have vastly different textures and flavors that make each bite different. The differences between the elements of the dish contrast each other and make a meal that is not too exciting, but also not too boring. A late night snack has to strike a balance between not having enough flavor and being overwhelming late at night.

Paces Cafe is a great way to spend your Swat points without having to walk all the way to the Ville. If you can figure out their red-tape riddled pricing system, you are on your way to a decent meal. More relaxed than Essie’s, smelling slightly more like beer, sitting in the dingy but cheerful room is a fun and tasty way to end your day.

Philly beat springs forward

in Campus Journal/Philly Beat by

If i’m not mistaken, this will be my third to last CJ piece this semester, which means the year is wrapping up. It’s kind of crazy how simultaneously fast and slow time moves here. So with only a few weeks left and the finals period about to kick in, here are some possibilities to blow off some steam, or just treat yourself.

The other night, I went to Hibachi Japanese Steak House and Sushi bar, which is just up the road. Unless you’re in a large group, it makes for an intimate experience dining with total strangers, embarrassing yourselves as the chef insists on flipping shrimp off the grill and into your mouths. In my case, the family sitting next to us had an extra coupon for 50 percent off your second entree, so I can’t complain.

After that, if you feel like walking, it’s only a five minute walk to the AMC Marple theater, and while I waited for the movie to start, I wandered in and out of Five Below, Marshalls and DSW.

Kong: Skull Island is in theaters now, which if you’re a fan, I would recommend. It’s a good dose of monsters and anxiety and Samuel L. Jackson blowing things up. But if that’s not your thing, Beauty and the Beast is showing, and Get Out is still in theatres, which if you haven’t already seen, you MUST.

If you are a sushi lover and haven’t tried Poké, there is a place nearby in Ardmore called Poké Ono. It’s a Hawaiian rice bowl with cubed raw fish and tons of other good stuff from edamame to kimchi. You can either build your own or order their specials. There’s also a place in Philly called Poké Bowl on 958 N 2nd St that is smaller than the one in Ardmore, but not by much. The one in Philly has better specials, but the one in Ardmore gives you more toppings if you build your bowl.

A great place to unwind and catch a quick exhibit is UPenn’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), located on 36th and Sansom. The museum is entirely free and often hosts artists events and workshops. Their most recent exhibition, The Freedom Principle, offered a survey of the visual culture that accompanied South Side Chicago’s avant-garde, post-1965 jazz movement, complete with interactive and sonic installations. Unfortunately, the exhibit ended last week, but the museum will be reopening April 28, so in the meantime, follow them on social media if you want up-to-date info on exhibits and events.

If you feel bold enough to venture out of University City, hit up Bluestone Lane Coffee for a late brunch. They have two Philly locations, one in Rittenhouse, and another right next to City Hall. Be sure to try their avocado toast or coconut oatmeal — both are good as hell.

On the flip side, while I’m reticent to mention this to all you future gentrifiers, 52nd street is the heart of West Philly and also poppin’. But since I know a lot of you will be moving there, I’m gonna push you to at least try to be patrons of some local business, so you don’t mess it up like ya’ll did Brooklyn. For great juices, love, and Caribbean food, hit up Brown Sugar Bakery. Get yourself some oxtail with the green callaloo, or curry goat roti. Get a fresh detox juice with that, stop playing yourself.

Overall, there are countless new events, activities, and spots to check out before the semester ends. Some are closer to Swarthmore, and others are further away – but all of them are worth it.

Sharples voted as the best restaurant on campus

in Columns/Opinions/Satire by

For the 53rd year, Sharples Dining Hall won the Best Cafeteria Award on Swarthmore’s campus. From food quality to sanitation, Sharples won first place in every category of judgment, easily beating out its competitors, a streak that has not been broken since 1964.

“We are so proud of our achievement,” Sharples staff, Sadie McDelu said. “I think what really sets us apart from our competitors is that we have menus that change on a daily basis, and the student response is usually really good. Our signature pasta bar especially is a signature menu that gives a meal at Sharples its reputation as a world-famous, top-quality dining experience.”

Critics largely attributed Sharples’ high rank to its customers’ loyalty to the restaurant. According to Anton Ego, food critic, after dining three times at Sharples, he noticed a remarkable repetition of the faces he saw at the dining hall. Excluding summer, when students are unable to eat at Sharples due to its closure, the dining hall is always full of people.

“You know a restaurant is good when you see that its customers keep coming back on a regular basis,” Ego said. “This is something that not every restaurant can easily achieved, and I applaud Sharples for being able to do what many restaurant owners only dream of.”

The announcement of the achievement came to no surprise for many students, who were ecstatic about Sharples’ record-breaking achievement.

“Sharples deserves this more than any other dining hall on our campus,” Elisa Nakayama ’19 said. “You don’t know how happy and amazed we are that Sharples has, for five decades, been able to clinch the top spot every single year despite such fierce competition. Once again, Sharples proved that it is second to none on our campus, and there is nobody who can deny that fact.”

In addition to the students, various Swarthmore alumni sent congratulatory messages as well via the alumni newsletter.

“Sharples is a blessing for Swarthmore,” Michael McMickey ’16 said. “During my time there, I loved Sharples so much that I ate all three of my meals there every day. In fact, it was so good that I always cried every time I ate there, even though I’ve been there so many times. I’ve even sharplifted several times and secretly stole food whenever it was so good. If there is one thing I really miss about Swarthmore, it is Sharples, especially its amazing pasta bar.”

In addition to its popularity, critics also cited Sharples’ gracious dining coupons for its customers. Named OneCard, in reference to the coupons’ reputation for always holding the top spot in its category, the system has been very customer friendly, even allowing for an option for customers to eat unlimited amount of times in the hall, if they wish to do so.

“Thanks to the unlimited meal plan, I can have Sharples whenever I want, however many times I want,” Nakayama said. “We didn’t have that last year and I was always so sad, because I would always be forced to eat at places like Bamboo Bistro to save up my meals. Bamboo is nothing compared to Sharples, and now that I am on the unlimited plan, I can have Sharples all day, every day!”

In the meantime, Sharples has once again been nominated for the Best Cafeteria award for 2018.

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