Author: Destiny Reber
Green Eats: A series of restaurant reviews with a perspective in sustainability
Dining locations across Chatham’s campuses, such as Anderson Dining Hall and Café Rachel, in collaboration with Parkhurst Dining Services, aim to serve a wide variety of healthful and delicious meals to students, staff, and guests within the Chatham community. By implementing a series of strategic sourcing techniques, Chatham’s kitchens strive to provide options that accommodate the wide range of diets and tastes that accompany the diversity that comes along with a college campus. Chatham’s Parkhurst prides itself on the quality and freshness of their foods, which is why produce is sourced from within 125 miles from the university, and a large amount of Chatham’s meal items are made from scratch right on campus.
Anderson dining hall has an extremely communal atmosphere. The staff is friendly and accommodating, and student chatter is a low roar. Although, the long rows of tables grouped together takes a space for community and makes it crowded. It is difficult to maneuver between seats, and nearly impossible to find a path through the dining area without bumping into someone’s chair or tripping over their belongings on the floor next to them. To get between tables is like a dance, wiggling your hips from side to side, to avoid impact.
While the vegetarian and vegan options were few, the Tofu Banh Mi for lunch on the last day of January was fantastically executed. Caramelized tofu is placed on a hoagie bun along with shredded, marinated cucumber and carrots, and a creamy sriracha sauce. Smaller sized sandwich pieces were set out, buffet style, with little skewers holding them together so students could take as little, or as much, as they wanted. While the bun was a little tough, the tofu was fried to a crispy perfection, the vegetables introduced a slight crunch into every bite, and the sweet and spicy sauce, creamy and delectable, topped everything off perfectly. The whole dish was riddled with texture and flavor.
The taco bar that same evening was presented on a white table cloth, perhaps a little formal for such a fun and messy meal. The flour tortilla shells were light and fluffy, the vegetables fresh and crunchy, and the ground beef wasn’t drowning in grease like taco meat sometimes can be. The beef was, however, lacking in flavor, and the bar could have benefited from additional protein options such as fish and chicken. A change of location would have made the experience a lot better, too. Since the meal was self-served out in the dining area, rather than in the cafeteria, the items got cold quickly after being brought to the table.
Dessert, everyone’s favorite part of any meal, was particularly disappointing. The cream puffs were served, buffet style, in dainty, bite-sized pieces. While the desserts were extremely creamy, they were not at all puffy. The puff pastry shell felt hard and stale, and tasted extraordinarily bitter and dry. Even after being doused in Hershey’s chocolate syrup, it was significantly dull and tasteless.
Taking into account Chatham Parkhurst’s efforts toward sustainability, serving sizes were much too large, prompting the perfectly edible food to be disregarded as waste. While the vegetable side dishes were shortcoming in terms of flavor and texture, cold and tough shortly after sitting down to eat, the main dishes, especially the vegetarian options, were well prepared. Overall, though, I’d say the Chatham dining experience was a relatively pleasant one.