Spring Faire

Hitting seven dining halls in one night was a lofty goal, but Chip Cubus ’21, Tannar Williams ’21 and Kadar ‘Rhymes with Radar’ Qian ’21 were giving it, well, the old college try. They weren’t alone; across campus, students grabbed their “passports” and went ‘round the dining hall world in just two hours during R&DE Stanford Dining’s annual Spring Faire.

The freshman trio showed up at their home dining hall to find it had been given a festive “El Mercadito de Stern” spin for the event, which is designed to help students celebrate spring and savor mouth-watering global fare.

Williams was already two chicken tinga tostadas and countless churros deep when he and his friends decided to branch out and sample the cuisine in as many other dining halls as possible.

Providing an exciting culinary adventure and introducing students to new cuisines is what R&DE Stanford Dining’s  Spring Faire is all about. “It gives students a chance to get out of their routine and experience new and different dining halls,” said Eric Montell, executive director of R&DE Stanford Dining. “It’s also an opportunity  for our chefs to play up their specialties.”

Joseph Guinto, executive chef of Gerhard Dining, Branner Dining and Athletic Meals, did not disappoint with his “Tex Mex” spread at Branner, the highlight of which was Smoked Torta Ahogada. The recipe—brisket, BBQ sauce, dried chipotle chili, jalapeno and caramelized onions served on traditional bolillo roll—came compliments of Ambrocio Ramirez, a Guatemala native who has been a food service employee at Branner for 25 years. “Ambrocio’s torta appears frequently on the menu and our regulars hold it dear to their hearts,” noted Guinto.

So did Guinto and Co. woo any new diners clients with Spring Faire?

“Absolutely! We had tons of first timers to Branner,” said Guinto, adding that diners went wild for the sweet/salty/savory grilled corn with cotija cheese, and a banana split bar featuring white chocolate sauce, crushed M&Ms and fresh cherries, a nod to berries, ­one of R&DE Stanford Dining’s Harvest of the Month ingredients.

“Spring Faire was the perfect experience to draw people in from Lag and Ricker, and even Stern and AFDC,” said Guinto. “It was also a great opportunity for our staff and students to interact.” 

The menus created by the executive chefs at R&DE Stanford Dining’s three culinary platforms didn’t stray far from the brands. Along with the modern Mexican cuisine from Stern’s Cardinal Sage,  Lakeside’s Red Skillet Kitchen featured classic southern brunch fare including a fried chicken sandwich on buttermilk biscuits, sweet potato fries, and for dessert, banana pudding with Nilla wafers.

In keeping with its Star Ginger concept, Wilbur Dining featured Thai and Vietnamese street food, including a grilled chicken satay sandwich with peanut sauce. Williams sampled the sweet sticky rice with strawberry and coconut coulis but wasn’t completely sold. “Maybe it’s an acquired taste?” he wondered.   

“That’s okay,” said Montell. “Our students don’t have to love everything. The fact that they tried new foods out of their comfort zone? Mission accomplished.”

After Wilbur, Williams, Cubus and Qian sampled Arrillaga Family Dining Commons’ Greek food. “I’m really, really into these fries,” gushed Williams about the golden potatoes studded with feta and drizzled with lemon aioli. “I love the food at Stanford. It’s so much better than anything I’ve tried at other universities where my friends go.”

French fry quotient fulfilled, it was off to FloMo where Qian pronounced the dining hall’s Japanese feast his favorite. In particular the vegetarian buckwheat Yakisoba noodles flavored with fried purple cabbage, heirloom carrots and garnished with seaweed powder (hello, HOTM May ingredient) “were really well done.”

For Williams though, nothing could compare to the dessert back at Stern. “Those churros were lit!” he said.