the hill UCLA Life Blog
Slowly but surely I am becoming good at feeding myself. Eating in the dorms was (perhaps surprisingly) very complex. The decision of where to grab lunch on the Hill almost always involved a series a calculations that included things like the number of stairs on the way to the dining hall, salad bar choices, and the cheeriness of the dining staff; the list goes on. At first, eating in an apartment was anything but complex. Some nights I would find myself eating a pan fried combination of whatever I had in the fridge (green beans, a slice of provolone cheese, a scrambled egg, hot sauce) that I would assemble in a hurry as my episode of Grey Anatomy buffered in my bedroom. Sometimes, if I was feeling especially domestic, I would make actual meals with side dishes and complete proteins. But a carefully crafted and well planned dinner is still, really, not complex. And the only emotions I found myself experiencing swayed between vacancy and ambivalence. Cooking is fun, sure, but for the first part of summer it lacked spark. It was strangely robotic. And therefore while I was empirically good at nourishing myself, I was having a hard time feeding myself.
But recently I believe I have found the answer to my culinary conundrum. My grocery store. I gone almost exclusively to Trader Joe until now and while TJ is a lovely alternative to either Whole Foods (too nice) or Ralph (not nice enough), something about it marc jacobs didn seem right. I think perhaps a big part of it was that during the time I lived on the Hill, Trader Joe was my safe haven. I would take bi monthly treks into Westwood to forage around the snack aisles of Trader Joe in search of dorm room treats. I waddled back to campus with bags full of pistachio laden chocolates and peanut butter filled pretzels. And each trip left me with a fierce sense of accomplishment. But now shopping at Trader Joe with a certain regularity has begun to make me feel alienated. While during freshman and sophomore year I consistently crowded the free sample counters, I now avoid it almost every trip. I rarely buy snacks and instead fill my cart with lots of veggies, lunch meats, and boxes of almond milk. But that not what Trader Joe is for! I like going there to buy food that isn quite food, more of a cute, surreal treat (where else can you buy multicolored candy coated sunflower seeds?). And now buying real food is freaking me out.
A couple of blocks past Wilshire on Westwood Blvd sits the solution to my dilemma: a nice but not too nice grocery store called Sprouts. Having never stepped foot in a Sprouts before just a couple of weeks ago, the novelty of it is thrilling. I not constantly berated by reminders of the empty calories I consumed as a lowerclassman in the form of Trader Joe brand snicky snacks, and the store itself is spectacular. You can buy vegetables that aren shrink wrapped or already pre washed and sealed in plastic bags (which is all that I found myself buying lately). The selection offers you a much wider variety of things to make for dinner, and each aisle is filled with fun, new, exciting Sprouts brand things to try. But the best part isn even the great food. It is absolutely that now the process of to the store is exciting. It complex. I have to time my shopping trips around the rush hour traffic that manifests over the course of the 8 block drive. I see new faces with every visit true Westwooders and not just UCLA students and the few adults who live among us in the small area surrounding campus. I mean I only been a couple times, but the change of pace has been thrilling. I have a renewed energy for cooking, and feeding myself in an apartment is now starting to be more fun than eating on the Hill was. That may sound like anexaggeration but considering the number of meals I ate there and the hours I study there (not to mention working there my freshman year), it may not be as much of an exaggeration as you might think. Bruin Cafe serves pastries, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf drinks, sandwiches, soups, and smoothies. It is also open from 7am to 2am!
Bruin Cafe is definitely one of the things I have missed the most about living on the Hill. It is a great place to study or socialize! Every time I went to Bruin Cafe, I knew I would see at least one other person I know. Like last night!
I decided to go to Bruin Cafe to do some studying as well as see if I could get a swipe from one of my friends who still lives in the dorms. Even as I was walking in, I found five people I knew and saw several more when I sat down. Finding a table was a success (I found one right by an electric outlet and was soon joined by some other friends. My friend even offered to swipe me a chai latte and a chocolatecroissant(thanks, Chelsea!) BruinCafe did not disappoint!
BruinCafe is just an inevitable part of the on campus experience. Because it is open early and closes late, it is the ideal place to go for a study break, a study snack, or a qu marc jacobs ick smoothie on your way to class!
If you have the means, I highly recommend their chai latte or the Bruin Fresh smoothie (pro tip: ask for smoothie 8 it will make you seem like you are an old pro)! BruinCafe is one of the best parts of on campus dining. Even tho marc jacobs ugh it is called Bruin Cafe, most students simplify it to BCaf. If you say Bruin Cafe you will be pegged for a freshman!!You guys. UCLA dorm food is the best. Like really, it really delicious. And I will never be living in a dorm again, UCLA or otherwise, but since I have quit Hill life, I 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. Here is a quick rundown of all our fabulous to go eateries you can munch at with your meal plan:
Bruin Cafe. Or B Caf, as it 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 thelate night Hill hangout spot on weekends and nights that you don 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.
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.
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 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 why I go it 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.
De Neve Late Night. The last (and probably least frequented) quick service cafe. Late Night, which I 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 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 pizza. Yum.
And there you have it. The wonderful world of quick service on the Hill!it was hilarious
Wednesday was the night of the Hill annual themed dinner. Every year, Housing Hospitality goes above and beyond to put on a beautiful themed dinner for the residents in the dorms. Last year, the theme was Hawaiian, which meant pineapple, coconut, and plenty of spam. We had a lamb dish from Morocco, spot on chicken gyros with tzatziki, non alcoholic sangria, and tapas galore. My plate was overflowing with olives, blue cheese, prosciutto, and Frito Mixto de Verdura (or deep fried vegetable fritters).
If the food wasn enough, the decorations in the dining hall were spectacular. There were flags from Mediterranean countries painted on the windows. There were huge cheese wheels and pieces of salami that decorated the various food stations. Perhaps the best was the giant archway that you walked through when you entered the dining hall that made it seem like you were stepping on to a Mediterranean cruise.
I finished up the meal with some stellar desserts apricots with yogurt, honey, and pistachios and a coffee flavored ice cream cone topped with shaved chocolate and hazelnuts. Just. Wow.
After the fabulous meal, I went with some friends to go see a CEC speakers event with the Upright Citizens Brigade. The show was entirely done on the spot, and it was a mix of funny conversations and improvised songs. Everything that happened in the show was based off of topics that had been brought up in conversations onstage. For example, the show got started with an audience given prompt the word with which the four actors used to launch into conversation. They talked about baby food (which resulted in a song about a high school where the cool thing to do was act like a baby), they talked about marathons (which resulted in a song about a marathon run by prisoners overseen by a trusting warden), and they talked about Darth Vader (which resulted in a song which featured a young girl finding out her father was Darth Vader). It was intense, and it was hilarious.
Currently, we have some really amazing projects going on. I hadn’t been up on the hill in awhile and was surprised to see how completed the new dorms surrounding Sproul Hall are coming along. In addition, two new dorms were opened this quarter and I have heard marc jacobs rave reviews. Guess which dorms filled up fastest during housing signups for next year?
We also just had the new south campus Court of Sciences Student Center, affectionately known as the bomb shelter, open. It is also extremely nice with several food options. As a south campus major, it is a godsend having a wonderful facility close to class.
Pauley Pavilion is beginning to look amazing. The other day I walked by and the lights were on inside so exciting to see! I can’t wait to be battling for the 2013 NCAA Gymnastics title in there.