Dorm food (the best food)

You guys. UCLA’s dorm food is the best. Like really, it’s really delicious. And I will never be living in a dorm again, UCLA or otherwise, but since I have quit Hill-life, I’ve learned (like really learned) that dorm food is something to be cherished. Dining halls get a lot of props – they are all-you-can-eat buffets, after all. But the Hill’s quick-service cafes are equally (if not more) important to an on-campus resident at UCLA. Here is a quick rundown of all our fabulous to-go eateries you can munch at with your meal plan:

  1. Bruin Cafe. Or B-Caf, as it’s most commonly called. B-Caf is the original quick-service restaurant. It has all of the old cafe standbys – sandwiches, salads, coffee, pastries, smoothies, etc. B-Caf is open until 2am and therefore is the late-night Hill hangout spot on weekends and nights that you don’t have homework. Pure chocolate ice blendeds taste best during the days last (or is it very first?) meal period (from midnight to 2am). B-Caf (like all of the dining establishments on the Hill) is on a track of continuous improvement. This year better bread was introduced! Now if they could only give vegetarians and vegans an option that tasted good (much offense, vegan BBQ sandwich). Overall, great lunch spot, tables just outside.
  2. Cafe 1919. Quite possibly the most delicious place in Los Angeles (kind of stretch, kind of not). 1919 features ~contemporary Italian~ which means pizzas, panini, and salads, among other cool things (lasagna for dinner and GeLaTo!!!). Nothing is as rewarding as eating a Pepato Piatto in the triangle-shaped table terrace next to 1919 after a long day of classes. Like I said, this place serves lasagna for dinner, which includes a side caesar and a parmesan roll (drooool, so good). They also have gelato and gelato-themed desserts (think warm Ghiradelli brownie, whipped cream, hazelnuts). The coffee drinks at 1919 are also killer, so if you are hankering for an evening after-dinner espresso think of going here before braving B-Cafs coffee lines.
  3. Rendezvous. This place is a fusion restaurant in that it fuses a Mexican restaurant and an Asian restaurant (and gives the combo a French name). Both sides of the restaurant are equally tasty, though I think I’m sort of in love with the Mexican side just a little bit more. Each offers pretty basic dishes from their respective food cultures (burritos, quesadillas, fried rice, orange chicken), but the basics aren’t why I go – it’s the specials! The delectable specials! Ev-er-y day both sides feature a different special. On Mondays last year, I would run to the Mexican side for Al Pastor pork tacos (and the yummy avocado salsa). On Thursdays, I would always bring back a huge (compostable!) bowl of pho to my room. Rendez is pretty legit and has the widest variety of interesting food.
  4. De Neve Late Night. The last (and probably least frequented) quick-service cafe. Late Night, which I’m sure you could have guessed, is only offered late at night (not too late, 9-midnight). This place is essentially a diner without the diner feel (De Neve dining hall isn’t too 1950s). It has burgers (and veggie burgers (and veggie chili)), mozzarella sticks, onion rings, buffalo wings. All manner of greasy deliciousness that is washed down with a customizable milkshake (you pick the toppings and flavor of ice cream!). Late night also has an option for pizza. All I can say is that it’s pizza. Yum.

And there you have it. The wonderful world of quick-service on the Hill!

The most delicious thing in all of the dining halls:

Pork. Carnitas. Tacos.

These things are really freaking good. I mean like, whoa. UCLA is known for having some super tasty dorm food, but in my opinion these tacos take the prize. Let me tell you why this dish comes out on top.

  1. UCLA’s dining hall food, in general, is pretty good. But, it is still dorm food. It’s served to tons of people, so each dish isn’t going to receive a whole lot of individualized attention. That is why I think the fish so often turns out weird. Baking it en masse isn’t the same as grilling each fillet by itself. But this is exactly why these tacos are so successful; the meat is prepared in large quantities, similar to how street vendors make tacos. The infrastructure for taco preparation in the dining halls is very similar to the infrastructure for street cart taco preparation. Both are designed to feed a lot of people fairly quickly. This is the same reason why last year’s chickpea vindaloo (an Indian curry) was relatively successful. Curries can be made in large quantities without sacrificing taste or technique.
  2. The thing about these tacos, though, is that they do not require very fancy or fine ingredients (much like street tacos). This is why the curry, although able to be prepared in large quantities like the tacos, doesn’t quite make it to dorm food stardom. In general, the better the ingredients, the better the vindaloo. For carnitas tacos, pork tenderloin is certainly not required.
  3. Perhaps I am biased, but I prefer the carnitas over the chicken or beef tacos also available on the Hill. While the chicken is good, it lacks the authenticity that comes with the shredded carnitas. Similarly, the beef is good but does not stand out. I will say that a large part of this may simply be due to the fact that there are less weird foreign gristly bits in the carnitas than there are in either the chicken or beef. You probably know what I’m talking about if you have ever had a meat dish from Rendezvous (I’m generally vegetarian when I eat there).
  4. Beyond the meat, the extras are simple, yet ~delicious~. The chopped onions add a subtle crunch, and the green cilantro adds some needed color to an otherwise monochromatic dish. The corn tortillas are good and usually fresh – rarely do I have a tortilla rip from being old or stale. Finally, the array of salsas offers you the option for a spicier or milder taco; options are always nice (my favorite is the chipotle salsa – it has a nice smoky flavor).

Even though these tacos are my fave, there are a TON of other fantastic dishes available in the dining halls or in the cafes (Bolognese pizza at Cafe 1919 <3). It has been very fun so far trying out the new dishes on this year’s rotating menu, and I look forward to tasting more. If you have a dish you are particularly fond of, please leave a comment! And if you wanna check out the pork carnitas tacos, you can get them every so often for dinner in Covel.

Baikus

Photograph © 2003 by Alan Nyiri, courtesy of the Atkinson Photographic Archive.

 

It is my last day of summer, and instead of being out drinking Starbucks (what I should be doing), I am indoors packing all of my entire everything into trash bags. It is my fault. I waited and procrastinated until all my packing got squeezed into this one day. So, to de-stress I am (of course) listening to Beyonce and writing a blog post. I created a collection of haikus that bid farewell to summer, say hello to fall quarter, and talk about a whole bunch of other stuff that is happening in my UCLA life.

Underwear in bed

Glass of ice water with me

Am blogging, boo yeah

‘Twas this time last year

That mom was helping me pack

All of my clothing

Beginning of school

Excited for Bruin Bash

Who’s Kendrick Lamar?

Move-in will be fun

Already know my RA

Her name is Ann Du

Face trauma summer

Broken nose and wisdom teeth

Luckily still cute

Already miss Mom

Parent’s Weekend comes up fast

But why Halloween?!

Last year’s Halloween

Wore a camouflage t-shirt

Was an “army guy”

This year’s Halloween

Will be wearing chef costume

Make microwaved tea

Excited for class

Get to use my brain again

But please not too tough

Stoked for the dorm food

Want Cafe 1919

Caprese salad

Walking everywhere

Walking to and from Westwood

Walking to class, too

I’ve missed you, Bradley

And your fabulous courtyard

Study date soon, yes?

Finally, goodbye

Thanks for the fun, San Jose

This is a baiku

I didn’t mention Royce Hall, even though I miss that building a lot, too. I am so happy that summer is over and that I get to go back to one of Earth’s best places (I hate claiming anywhere is the best place on Earth), and do a bajillion 8-claps. UCLA, here I come!

Moving into Westwood Village North

This past weekend, I moved into Westwood Village North, where a cluster of apartments have been in the area for some time now, to serve UCLA students who typically move out of the dorms after their second or third undergraduate year.  At UCLA, we don’t have to worry about moving off campus right away (some friends at another university had to frantically look for an apartment after their freshman year) because we lead the UCs in guaranteeing housing for three years, and are currently working on guaranteeing four.  That’s something we’re very proud of because it gives students ample time to accustom themselves to the neighborhood around school and  gain “street” knowledge of the real estate market in Westwood.

I myself moved out of the dorms a year earlier than necessary because I wanted a taste of apartment life and having my own living room.  However, I already miss many things about the dorms. Where else can you walk to see all your friends within 5 minutes?  Where else do you have easy access to half a dozen residential restaurants, half of which have takeout options, one of which has gelato, and another a coffee shop?  And if I wanted a living room, choosing a suite in Hitch or Saxon would have given me exactly that.  Although it is nice to have your own furniture and kitchen, I’m so glad to have gone through the dorming experience, where I didn’t have to worry about cooking and had the opportunity to meet 10,000 other residents living on the Hill.

10 Things on Your Hill Bucket List

  1. Study in Covel Commons computer lab or study rooms.
  2. Try gelato at Cafe 1919.
  3. Eat in all of the residential restaurants at least once.
  4. Study in your house/floor study lounge.  Great place to meet people in your house/floor!
  5. Study in another house/floor’s study lounge.  Great way to meet others in your residential community!
  6. Play basketball or volleyball on the courts near the Suites.
  7. Work out or hang out at Sunset Canyon Recreation Center.
  8. Order De Neve Late Night pizza to share with roommates and floormates.
  9. Line up at Bruin Cafe for coffee during the rush right before it closes at 2 a.m.
  10. Watch TV or play pool/ping pong in the huge lounge in Hedrick Summit.

Dorms continued!

OK! Meal plans. You can choose from five meal plans. You can either have 19, 14, or 11 meals a week, and the 19 and 14 plans have a premiere option. Basically, with premiere you get a bunch of benefits:

  • your meal swipes roll over from week to week
  • you can swipe people in
  • you can swipe in more than once each meal period
  • you can donate unused swipes

Premiere plans are referred to as “19P” or “14P.” These are more expensive than the regular ones and the more meals you have, the more expensive your plan is. Your meal plan works by swiping your Bruin Card. Most of the time, you will be swiping into the dining halls (we have three that all have different food). Dining halls are all-you-can-eat buffet style (oh, yeah). You can also use your swipes at Bruin Cafe, Cafe 1919, Rendezvous, or Late Night. These are all take-away options, as you swipe for a pre-portioned meal (sandwich, side, and a drink) and then can take it into campus to eat. I mentioned meal periods; these are times (breakfast from 7-11am, lunch from 11-5, etc.) that you can swipe in for a meal.

On to roommates now! You can either have a single, double, or triple. It’s pretty simple–a single is one person, a double is two, and a triple is three. I had a triple my first year and it was honestly not that bad. Sure, we all kind of lived on top of each other and by the end of the year the floor was not visible underneath a layer of clothes, but it’s not that bad. You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate, and you don’t even have to live with them. If you really want, you can request a room change. Get excited. It is really weird to have sleepovers every night of the week.

Now time to talk about some cool things about the Hill (oh yeah, if you haven’t figured it out or didn’t know, the Hill is what we call the area with all the dorms). Besides all the delicious food and the classrooms on the Hill, you can find a few other fun things. For one there is the Sunset Recreation Center. It is UCLA’s own country club complete with swimming pools, big fields, volleyball, a ropes course, barbequing, a cabana, athletes, and local Bel Air folk in fancy clothes. The Hill also is home to a farmers’ market, lots of construction, dances and other events in Covel’s Grand Horizon room, and a breathtaking view of the university.

Let me finish up by telling you a little bit about my own dorming experience thus far. Last year, I lived in De Neve Evergreen on the fourth floor. I had a lovely view of the construction on the new De Neve building next door as well as a lovely view of my two roommates’ bunk bed (not too lovely, actually / I slept on the loft bed). I was by far the messiest, the most decorated, and the least math & science-y.

Next year, I am rooming with my friend Safia on the sixth floor of De Neve Birch. But how? Remember the Gender Inclusive housing I mentioned earlier? Well, we are like the first ones to try it out (I am pretty sure we are the first)! Basically, if a girl and boy feel more comfortable rooming with a gender that is not their own, they can send in a request and if they are approved, they may live together on campus. Très chouette! So, that’s what’s going on next year for me. I’m really looking forward to it. Send me a comment if you have any questions or my descriptions were confusing (I always end up writing these things in the nighttime). Good luck!

Botanical Gardens

Here I am at the end of my Freshman year at UCLA. I am studying for finals, finishing up projects, and eating a ton of junk food. As this year closes, I reflect back on my experiences thus far. Sure I have done really awesome things and made totally amazing friends, but I think my fondest memory is discovering the Botanical Gardens in South Campus.

Fall quarter, before I had really met anyone and before I got involved in anything, I used to walk around the campus exploring. I didn’t go hardcore exploring, like I never scaled any walls and the places I “discovered” had of course already been found. Really, I just tried to familiarize myself with UCLA. About halfway through fall quarter, I was strolling through South Campus, and I remembered hearing something about the Botanical Gardens.  I expected something small and tame, probably with a large greenhouse and a one way path. The gardens I found were quite different. The place was huge and had many different parts. Upon entering you could choose a variety of paths, ones made out of stepping stones and others of dirt and gravel. Once inside, you walked on a bridge that carried you above a stream that ran through the gardens. If you kept walking up, you eventually came to a desert-like area filled with cactus. Patches of flowers made the air sweet.

The Botanical Gardens soon became my favorite place to go on campus. In the middle, by the stream, there were two tables with attached benches. the spot was perfect for studying and eating a panini you had gotten at cafe 1919. Hordes of turtles sunbathed by the water, and the trees offered lots of shade. The gardens were great because they were a sort of escape. LA is so busy and there is hardly any nature. Being surrounded by the tall bamboo and lush greenery made you feel at ease, especially helpful during midterms. Even though many people know about it, I feel it is one of UCLA’s best kept secrets and definitely one of my favorite places to relax, walk, and study.