Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

the Russo Cafe: sustainable deliciousness Fail

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

As one of the contributors to a previous year’s Guide to Sustainable Deliciousness, I had looked somewhat forward to checking out the Munger Housing complex‘s new cafe, the Russo Cafe, since I have had good experiences with the Munger Market, which I highly recommend you check out ASAP.
On the other hand, I do *not* recommend you eat at the Russo Cafe until they fix things up. As per last year’s guide on where not to eat on campus, I graded the Russo Cafe on a combination of sustainability (yep, I’ve taken Earth Systems 10, just for fun and self-ed) and deliciousness (as a self-identified super-taster and artisan bread baker).
How did Russo Cafe score?
The Russo Cafe gets a C+ in “sustainable deliciousness“, which puts it wayy below Cool Cafe at Cantor, and even below older institutions such as the Treehouse or Bytes Cafe near Gates. Why so low?
A number of complaints:
1) Taste / Preparation
2) Ingredient quality / provenance
3) Over-use of cornware cups
Simply put, the Russo Cafe looks great on the outside and the food looks appetizing… until you start eating it.
Sorry Russo Cafe, this gets a sustainable deliciousness Fail by Stanford standards!
eat wit ur Eyes


The Perils of American Air

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

IMG_0168.jpg IMG_0170.jpg Students eating at Stern Dining received a mild shock this afternoon when several members of a large Japanese school group arrived for lunch in face masks. The group of about 50 students, visiting from Osaka, had been advised to wear the masks as a precaution against H1N1 influenza.
The swine flu epidemic has already hit Japan hard, causing at least 100 deaths (as of December 2009). Stanford, meanwhile, has experienced a number of reported cases but thankfully no fatalities; Vaden Health Center now has vaccines for people who need them. These circumstances seem to call into question why face masks would be necessary or desirable.
Perhaps the students couldn’t handle the fresh California air and sunshine after two weeks of rain….

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Drink Maté!

Sunday, January 17th, 2010
Steaming yerba mate infusion in its customary ...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s 11PM. It’s going to be a long night. “What can make IHUM more bearable?”, you ask. An obvious answer: Caffeine.
Perhaps you’ll run to the CoHo and grab yourself an espresso shot. Or maybe you’ll hit up your tea-loving electric-kettle-owning dorm-mate and ask for a cup of Gunpowder Green (taken from the rack at Stern or their favorite dining hall). No matter the means of consumption, caffeine is almost always characterized by pupil dilation, an increased heart rate, and the beloved–absolutely euphoric–caffeine high.
But why not try something new? The newest caffeinated beverage craze to hit my all-freshman dorm is yerba maté. Brought upon by the Argentine culture enthusiasts within the dorm, drinking yerba is characterized by infusing a green, grassy-looking blend of the leaves and sticks of the yerba maté plant (a species of holly) with warm water in a gourd (a hollowed-out fruit). The metal straw traditionally used to drink the maté is called a bombilla. Maté tastes “earthy”, and can either be drunk bitter (maté amargo), or sweet (maté dulce). Its effects are similar to those of caffeine, although some in my dorm insist that it has a stronger “calming” effect, especially in muscles.
Maté drinking is a culture. In Argentina, Uruguay, and certain parts of Brazil, maté is consumed socially with others using the same gourd. Since maté can be infused many times, it is common to pass the gourd around in a circle. If you’re looking for a completely different way to consume caffeine, either in preparation for a long night or just to replace coffee/traditional tea, you ought to consider maté.

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TUSGraph: Late Nite

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Scanned Image 100110000.jpg
Scanned Image 100110001.jpg
Kudos to my roommate, Thomas Fu, for pointing this out.
Late nite staff are sitting on a pot of gold and they don’t even realize it. They have achieved nearly absolute randomness in the sequence of orders called out; their system surely beats any current random number generators because I have stood staring at my receipt, perplexed, unsuccessfully attempting to decipher a pattern from the numbers being called.
The only pattern I have been able to discern is that the drunk customers always seem to get their orders immediately. Either alcohol gives you the subconscious ability to solve for Late Nite’s random order number generator, or they just take any food that looks tasty.
And, of course, I couldn’t miss a chance to make fun of IHUM grades.

The Best Food on Campus–It’s Cheap and It’s Economically Efficient

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

If there is one thing Stanford lacks, it is good, cheap food. Palo Alto doesn’t do anything unless there’s a double-digit price tag attached, and the Stanford campus fails to attract the type of vendor that makes quick, fast, tasty, food that maintains part of its appeal because it can only be served in a place with zero available seating.
This has been particularly noticeable since the one eatery that resembled any of these qualities, the Thai Cafe in the basement of the Psych building, was displaced at the end of last year . And with that gone, the next most relevant place on campus that does serve tasty food at reasonable prices is the Treehouse–a place compared to, as I overheard the other day, a “madhouse” during the lunch hour.

(more…) and

Monday, October 5th, 2009

We have a disposable society. We love using things once or twice and then throwing them into pits in the ground. Cups, plates, gloves, hats…you name it. Perhaps this tendency towards the disposable is a reflection of our transient, liminal, earthly nature. Everything dies – everything, even our species, will be eventually “disposed of.” But more likely our love of the single serving is a sign of our inability to grasp the scale of our disposable lifestyle.
We are producing sterile, unusable trash outputs faster than we are receiving inputs from our planet. The scales are off. Units are wrong. We’re headed for trouble.
Luckily, a few simple changes in lifestyle can change our trajectory.
Try the next time you need something for your dorm room. Welcome to the craigslist of Stanford! Bulletin boards, desks, chairs and refrigerators abound. A sweet resource. And let’s face it, used stuff is super trendy right now.
Furthermore, if you’re feeling really saucy consider This Stanford-produced idea is simple: refuse to use disposables. Bring your own plate/containers/silverware to those wonderful info session lunches. I know I go to them for the free food and am always dismayed by the predominance of flimsy disposable plates/forks/knives that are bound straight for the landfill with my saliva still on them. Join me in refusing disposables and bring your own! Feel nerdy or awkward bringing your own supplies? GET OVER YOURSELF. You are on the cutting edge of a snowballing trend. Be a role model and suck it up.

Finally, a Grocery Store on Campus

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

TressEx now has some competition. And it looks promising: there is finally a grocery store on campus that seemingly offers decent quality food at decent quality prices.

“The Market at Munger” is located in building 5 of the Munger Graduate Residences, the ludicrously large new pre-fab housing complex behind the Law School that looks like it got lost somewhere between Palm Beach and Orlando.


Why we should love trayless dining:

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Near the end of my workday today I gave my e-mail one final check and discovered that a, shall we say, “critical” review of Stanford Dining’s new pilot “trayless dining” policy had been published in the Daily. After muttering a few frustrated expletives to my co-worker, I soon resigned myself to the fact that if someone hates the idea of trayless dining then it is not their fault. If anything, it is a sign of my failure as someone fighting to increase the resilience and sustainability of our society in the face of, let’s be honest, some crazy environmental shit.
As such, here is my educational two cents about the infamous dining hall tray.
The facts about trayless dining at Stanford (and why not using trays is a good thing):
1) You can have a tray if you need one/want one/desire one/passionately lust for one in the fashion of the Stanford student who wrote the aforementioned article found here .
2) Trayless dining is a pilot program of Stanford Dining based on a survey of approximately 500 Stanford students completed last spring. It’s part of their well-established Love Food, Hate Waste Campaign. It has been planned with rationality and care, and is not what I would define as a radical move.


Sprout Cafe on Uni, a Review

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

After running laps on the Stanford track, a friend invited me to dinner at Sprout Cafe, one of the newest restaurants to hit the downtown Palo Alto dining scene.
As somewhat of a foodie myself, I wasn’t sure what to expect — was this going to pablum, bland, or food for once executed with some savoir-faire? Fortunately it was the latter, and am happy to say that I highly recommend that students and Stanford visitors alike visit this burgeoning new cafe.
Sprouts on Uni
Located right next to American Apparel on 168 University Ave, Sprout Cafe is a shiny new restaurant (4 months old!) run by a Vinh Vi, a former civil engineer and graduate of the California Culinary Academy.
As one of the editors of an online Guide to Sustainable Deliciousness at Stanford, I interviewed Sprout Cafe owner Vinh about his experience running this new, local business.
Vinh stressed that he and his peers worked hard to ensure that the food served was prepared with the freshest local and organic produce possible. I could tell that the food was made with love, as I quickly dived into my Seared Ahi Tuna salad with black beans, crunchy red onions, and a casual but tasty balsamic / olive oil dressing on the side (I designed my own salad, but sandwiches are available and soon, entrees will be on the menu). The bread, which came from the reknowned Acme Bay Area bakery, was also a delight, which is rare to find for such an affordable cafe on University.
Vinh told me that he wanted to strive to offer great food at reasonable prices, and even mentioned to me that Stanford students are currently eligible for a 10% discount if you show your student id card. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a bit hungry just writing this blog post!
If you’d like to get (one mile) off campus, I strongly suggest you give Sprout Cafe a try. They serve organic salads, gourmet sandwiches on Acme (!) bread, fresh squeezed juices and organic teas. Finally, catering is available for student groups who want to make a tasty, local, and sustainable choice in the foods they serve!
(In my experience, Stanford Catering has a way to go in these domains, but lets do hope the winds of freedom and sustainability do blow up their way some time.)
Sprout Cafe, 168 University Ave next to American Apparel (between Ramona and Emerson)
(For phone number, hours, and more details, see the Palo Alto Online review or the high ratings on

Cheap and Tasty Breakfast for the Grad Student on the Go

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Now that school has started, if you’re like me, you find yourself on a limited budget with limited time to prepare breakfast in the morning.
My solution – oatmeal!
Now before you say “yuck!” hear me out. As a kid, my parents believed in a hot, nutritious breakfast, and oatmeal was a staple. Unfortunately, and my parents also believed that sweetener, especially white sugar, was bad as well. This means that many a morning bowl of oatmeal was bland, sprinkled with cinnamon and the occasional raisin and augmented by a small drizzle of honey. Yuck! Because of this, I’ve always found oatmeal a bit bland and the flavors that go with it (cinnamon and sugar, apple cinnamon, ect.) less than exciting.
One word – cranberries. Cranberries, and occasionally some nuts (like, say almonds) add a nice zing to an otherwise dull food.
If you make oatmeal yourself, you can find yourself eating a healthy, tasty, easy and quick to prepare meal in the morning, low in sodium, high in fiber, and one that will stick with you until lunch.
What you need –
quick cooking oatmeal (you can buy this pretty cheaply by the pound at Country Sun)
dried cranberries (I got at Trader Joes and keep in the freezer so they won’t spoil)
dried nuts (ditto)
sugar (or some kind of sweetener)
a microwavable bowl
a microwave
measuring cups
5 minutes


Where (not!) to eat on Campus: A Guide to Sustainable Deliciousness at Stanford

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

As Sophomore College draws to a close, and first-years and the rest of us come back to campus, many of us will return and ask each other befuzzledly, I’m hungry — Where should we eat?!
And while some of you may have taken Food and Politics with Rob, Erin Gaines, and co., some others of you might have passed by Slow Food Nation this last weekend in SF.
I myself took part in Slow Food Nation as a youth delegate, attending an Eat-In for young leaders in the good, clean, fair food movement, held this last weekend in Dolores Park.
table stretch
But let’s skip the trans-fatty introductions for a moment, get the skinny (my skinny) on it, on this question of where (not!) to eat on Campus. This is clearly a biased guide, but then again, that’s what blogs and baedekers are for–to help you find your own way.
What follows is a first draft of a Guide to Sustainable Deliciousness at Stanford. It is both incomplete and not unbiased. But it is a start. With that, let’s eat!
Where to Eat
The following establishments receive an A-class rating/grade in terms of sustainable deliciousness.
A+Cool Café at the Cantor Arts Center (hours here) gets one of our highest ratings. As its website reports, this “chic café overlooks the Rodin Sculpture Garden” and offers a “menu of gourment sandwiches, soups, and salads [that] changes seasonally”.
Jesse Ziff Cool’s CoolEatz restaurants make a point of offering regionally and sustainably produced foods. For example, Cool Café often offers pasture-raised chickens, grass-fed beef, and an array of seasonally based salads, fruits, and wines.
Dishes are served on re-usable plates & dishes, with pitchers of water and real silverware nearby. (For a map, see Cool Cafe on Yelp!.)
A+Columbae and Synergy House, vegetarian co-ops. Our next two establishments to receive an A+ in sustainable deliciousness are Columbae and Synergy House. Founded in the 1970s, these co-operatively run Houses offer strictly vegetarian fare to their undergrad & grad residents, and “eating associates” that pay a certain board bill every quarter.
Like Cool Café, these co-ops try to source local, sustainable, and ethical food products whenever possible. For example, dairy goods may come from Clover-Stornetta, the first dairy in the States to be American Humane Certified, flour may come from Giusto’s–the brand favored by artisan bread bakers–and produce may come from co-located gardens tended by hand.
Also like Cool Café, these co-ops offer easy access to composting bins, and err on the side of container and silverware re-use. (You can find these Houses on the Campus Map. If you’d like to try the food some time at these co-ops, talk to a friend that lives there or a student manager for more details.)
ANexus / Bytes. Nexus and Bytes, two cafes located near the Engineering campus, offer tasty dishes, re-usable plates & silverware, and fast service. Unlike Cool Cafe or co-ops on campus, these establishments may or may not serve organic, sustainable, or fairly-traded goods. More research is needed to understand the provenance of their meats, dairy, and vegetables.

The following establishments receive a B:
B+Treehouse. A Stanford student favorite, although the Treehouse hands out an excess of plastic and cardboard containers every day, food quality is generally high, with reportedly hand-made focaccia breads (para tortas) and “fresh” chicken, whatever that means. (At Tresidder.)
B-Thai Cafe. Another hit-and-run establishment favored by students who need to grab a quick meal between classes. Props for the price and speed, but synthetic food service containers abound. No claims made on where the Chicken Sautee comes from, and it seems unlikely that the Shrimp offered are raised in a highly sustainable way.

Where not to Eat
The following establishments receive a C-class grade, or lower, in terms of sustainable deliciousness.

C+the (old) CoHo. Please don’t eat here. Say No to the CoHo(‘s food), or, if you feel the need to support their business, bring your need-to-gain-weight friends or you buddies who were unblessed with a lack of tastebuds (non-tasters as they say on Wikipedia) and have them eat here.

I posted a review on the CoHo re-opening earlier this year, but have to downgrade my rating based on further experience at this Corporate Bread-serving institution, where I was served sandwiches and Vienoisserie that looked decent but tasted… far from decent.
The CoHo does sometimes serve food on an actual plate, but the questionable ingredients, taste, and food sourcing bring the sustainable deliciousness rating down to our lowest score of the bunch, a C+.

(05-SEP-08) Update: I have retracted the previous paragraphs as per in-depth interviews I had today with multiple staff members, bakers, and managers at the new CoHo. While the old CoHo still has some length to go towards sustainable deliciousness, it’s clearer from my discussions today that they are headed in a great direction. Thus, I will abstain from re-grading the new CoHo until these new measure are applied (hopefully soon after the school year begins), and describe these improvements in another post.


Eating (or not) at Stanford

Monday, March 3rd, 2008


I’ve been thinking about nutrition a lot lately. Academic-wise, there is Michael Pollan’s visit to Stanford today (“In Defense of Food: The Omnivore’s Solution” 7:30 PM in Kresge), dining room discussions of recent articles in the New York Times about stigmas associated with subsidized public school lunches and (separately) “drunkorexia”. On campus, we have Stanford’s “Be Well” initiative, my post about the deceptively high caloric meals at the Axe & Palm, Manzanita’s Week of Wellness, and Mirror’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week events last week.
Stanford seems to present a health goal for its students and staff. Be Well. Get $150. But this message comes at students in a very confusing way:

Stanford Dining Halls serve healthy food! Stanford Dining halls serve pizza! Pizza has fewer calories than the pasta dish! You are required to eat at Stanford Dining if you live in a dorm, even if you have many specific dietary needs! Be well! Eat vegetables! Stanford Dining vegetables are covered in sticky sweet “sauce”! Salad bar vegetables are unripe! Eat from the salad bar if you are vegan! Eat fruit – we have the same bananas, apples, and oranges year-round, but if you rush to Branner Dining when it opens you might even get some grapes from the garnish on the brownie plate! Check out the nutritional content online! Eat the high calorie protein entrées because you have no other dining option! Be fit! Exercise! Our facilities are conveniently open all day long, so you can exercise anytime of the day . . . or multiple times a day . . . or go at times when your RA and roommates aren’t awake to notice . . .

Oh yeah, and don’t have an eating disorder. Love your body?
Perhaps I’m being cynical, but these messages are thrown around everywhere, and it scares me. I spoke on the closing panel for the Manzanita Week of Wellness mentioned above. The attendance was primarily staff interested in the primarily staff-targeted Be Well campaign. While mingling before the event, Stanford Dining catering services brought out a standard arrangement of fruits, cheese, crackers, crudités, and cookies. The staff and student presenters snacked while talking, but it seemed that half of the staff discussion was on the food. Comments like “Oh you’re having a cookie – that’s not necessarily wellness, is it?” and “That cheese looks amazing, but I can’t allow myself to have any!” dominated about half of the conversation.
As the staff socially supported one another in avoiding, or eating half of, the cheese, crackers, cookies, and fruit, I felt horrified. These are the sorts of comments and behaviors I recognize in people with eating disorders. These are the comments I was supposed to interrupt and educate about when I worked at a youth center. These comments are being passed down through the Stanford Be Well Initiative, to staff, to the student presenters on this panel. RFs were either making these comments, or implicitly supporting them with silence.
When Stanford freshmen arrive with their not-quite-developed prefrontal cortexes they don’t necessarily get the right tools to make good lifestyle patterns. Set loose into this mixed-messages world with little or no experience in meal planning, they get sucked into either the trap of desperately avoiding the Freshman 15, or into the trap of assuming cafeteria food is healthy and gaining weight – both resulting in skewed ideas of how to lose weight.
Perhaps the recent obsession with food discussion here and elsewhere is the result of factors like the end of Lent approaching, diet resolutions from the new year failing, people concerned about looking good in a bathing suit, etc. But I think it isn’t the result of a sudden change in personal attitude and behavior. People are becoming more and more comfortable talking about their personal dieting patterns. Is this increased discussion and social focus on how to eat better helping or hurting the prevalence of disordered eating?

The Axe & Palm’s Hidden Calories

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Last year, Stanford Dining began publishing the menus and nutritional information of their dining halls on its website. Since I ate in Branner and Wilbur dining halls exclusively, reading the nutritional information of the foods Stanford Dining requires all dorm dwellers to purchase made me rather queasy. Each entree offered often approached 600 calories, and sometimes more. After totaling the calories and fat consumed during my average dining hall meal, I started substituting salads and cereal, resenting the fact that I was required to pay $10 each dinner to eat Raisin Bran.
I moved into a co-op this year and I thought my connection to Stanford Dining would be minimal, limited only to eating occasionally at Tressider, the Axe & Palm and Olives. After reading the Daily article about the Axe & Palm’s plans to renovate their menu with fresher alternatives, I wanted to look and see how healthy their menu truly is. After all, apart from the lack of vegetarian options, many of their salads, sandwiches, and breakfast items sound reasonably healthy and “Californian”.


Looking at the nutritional chart was surprising. The Turkey Pesto Melt is deceptively over 750 calories and provides all of the protein you need in a day. A California Cobb Salad is 905 calories. Even not-completely-healthy menu items seem exorbitantly caloric. The Chicken Quesadillas are over 700 calories as well. The 50-50 Onion Rings and Fries Combo is reported to be over 1300 calories.
These food items, teamed with the many sweet offerings in the 400-800 calorie range, make a chain like Subway much more appealing. It’s possible that the caloric analysis of the Axe & Palm may not be completely accurate, but if this is the case, how can we be sure what truly is healthy?
What implications does this have for the students required to eat central to the Quad for classes? Is Stanford Dining irresponsible for offering such unhealthy food in the first place? Could this have implications for those with restrictive eating, or provoke this behavior in others by providing a sense that there is no such thing as a healthy meal at Stanford?

Chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

Thomas Keller is widely regarded as one of America’s finest chefs, and his restaurants French Laundry and Per Se have been named the best restaurants in America.

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Interviewing Thomas Keller at the French Laundry in Yountville was a rare treat for two food fanatics like ourselves, and the great surprise that Chef de Cuisine Corey Lee whipped up for us in the kitchen post-interview was the icing on the cake.
Food allusions aside, we hope you enjoy this superb interview with Thomas. In our conversation we talked about his entrepreneurial success, how he picks new members for his team, expanding his personal brand, and, of course, food.
Check out this video of Thomas talking about the secret of success behind French Laundry as well as how to select a great team:
And as a special bonus here’s a video of Chef de Cuisine Corey Lee in the kitchen talking about his involvement with French Laundry. Click to hear what Corey’s answer to “if you were any food, what would you be?”
– Owen and Julio of iinnovate

Restaurant Review – Rose Market Store and Kabob

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

Several years ago a friend and myself trekked down to Rose International Market (1060 Castro St, Mountain View, CA – if you’re coming from Stanford you take a right on Castro Street [it’s not in the downtown area]) where we had a great inexpensive kabob wrap.
This last Sunday the hubby and I repeated the trek and can definitely recommend it to anyone looking for good cheap eats. I haven’t been a big fan of Persian restauarants – the dishes I’ve tried has either been overflavored with one note (when I tried pomegranate chicken at one restaurant) or bland (some other place I went but can’t remember), but I like kabobs and the rice dishes they offer at this place.
Rose Market is a combo grocery store and kabob grill that has outdoor seating (with plenty of umbrellas for shade). The trick is knowing how to order – All items are pretty much ordered separately. You first order items like hummos, yogurt sauce, and rice from the small deli inside (plus pick up knives and forks). Place your kabob order at the checkout counter, get an order number, and then pick up your kabob order from the grill outside in the back (bring a dollar to tip the grill guys).
We picked up some drinks (various prices, I had coconut water). Then got yogurt sauce (2.99/lb) and Zereshk Polo (steamed white basmati rice with barberries and saffron, $2.99 for a box) at the deli. We then ordered a Chicken (3.99) and Barg (top sirloin marinated in saffron and other spice, 4.99) kabob with 2 orders of grilled tomatoes (0.99 each). All the meat is halal (the store displays a certificate).
The kabobs come on a tray placed on top of a piece of lavash (large thin piece of flat bread) with whatever veggies you order and a mix of cilantro, basil, and parsley (plus onion if you want it). Sumac is available at the table and we basically ladled rice and yogurt sauce onto the lavash , sprinkeled everything with sumac and had a great meal. Combining a small piece of lavash with rice, yogurt, basil, and parsley made for a delicious bite. We liked the food so much we picked up some more Zereshk Polo and a Koubideh kabob (ground beef and lamb mixed with onion and spiced, sprinkled with sumac, 1.99) for dinner.