All You Can Eat


Mar|Apr 2010 contents
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In this issue we present a multi-course offering on the campus food scene. First up, senior editor Samuel Hughes and associate editor Trey Popp team up to provide a primer on University City’s current crop of eateries, from high-concept to humble.

In “The Omnivore’s New Dilemma,” Sam traces the explosion in University City dining options that have given residents a dizzying array of choices and made the neighborhood a destination for discerning diners from the Main Line and western suburbs and even Center City.

Emblematic of this transformation is Jose Garces’ Distrito, a “modern Mexican” restaurant with stunning décor and food located in the new Hub apartment building at 40th and Chestnut streets. Sam quotes Garces, who is a  Food Network Iron Chef and may be Philly’s hottest restaurateur right now, on the area’s appeal: “From the ethnic restaurants to the top-notch BYOBs to the fun food trucks scattered across the neighborhood, it’s a great place to go eat any time of the day.”

Those food trucks take center stage in Trey’s companion piece, “Four Wheel Fare.” While not all patrons may be as devoted as the student Trey spoke with who chose his dorm based on proximity to his favorite truck, they’re a culinary mainstay for many students and staff. Trey profiles a couple of alumni who have made the leap to operate their own food trucks on campus.

As much as the neighborhood restaurant landscape has changed, alumni might have an even harder time recognizing student dining at the University these days, where steam tables and tired beef-chicken-or-fish entrees have been replaced by fresh produce and an array of made-from-scratch ethnic and vegetarian options. Even a recent grad like Gazette arts & culture blogger and frequent contributor Molly Petrilla C’06 was in for some surprises when she returned to the dining halls for her feature, “Dining a la Penn.”

In “Quakers in the Kitchen,” we round up some alumni with tasty ideas on home cooking and entertaining, starting with Steve Poses C’69, whose Frög restaurant was a beacon of the city’s “restaurant renaissance” of the 1970s and ’80s and who went on to create a highly successful catering operation. His latest effort is a combined book, blog, and website designed to provide “a caterer’s guide to cooking and entertaining.” Also included: caterer and food-writer Louisa Shafia C’92, whose new book, Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life, includes environmentally friendly recipes organized by season; and Alanna Kaufman C’08 and Alex Small C’08. The couple, who became engaged last fall, is better known as the “Two Fat Als,” from the blog they started at Penn on healthy, cheap meals that could be prepared in a student’s kitchen—which in turn led to a publishing deal for The Frugal Foodie Cookbook: 200 Gourmet Recipes for Any Budget.

Besides their well-known contributions to fine cuisine, it turns out we also have the French to thank for teaching us how to relax after a satisfying meal. In “Slouching Towards Elegance,” freelancer Caroline Tiger C’96 profiles French Professor Joan DeJean, whose new book, The Age of Comfort, shows how the French led the way in developing modern creature comforts from padded furniture to flush toilets.

Finally, in “Architecture of Madness,” we present some extraordinary photographs by Chris Payne GAr’96, who traveled the country documenting state hospitals for his book, Asylums. Though they exist in the popular imagination primarily as nightmarish “snake pits,” at some times and in some places asylums were true havens—separate worlds where inmates could find amusement, exercise, and useful work by, among other tasks, helping to grow and cook their own food.

—John Prendergast C’80


©2010 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 2/23/10