Monthly Archives: March 2014

Passion Post 4 – Fancy Feast Off

At one point or another, there is a need for us to put on the suit and tie and dine to impress. Whether this be for a parental visit on the weekend, or because there’s a cute girl in class you want to ask out, fancy restaurants are a great way to express how much you value your dining partner (or its a great way to “accidentally” forget your wallet when mom and dad visit).

And no, I am no certainly not talking about Chili’s or Applebee’s, not even Red Lobster or TGI Friday’s. I’m talking about some real fancy, dim lighting, casual jazz music in the back ground, non-chain restaurant fancy. (With the tiny artisan breadsticks and everything.) And while there are plenty of fancy eateries around campus, we are going to examine three of them today.

AND SO ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK WE HAVE 

1.

The Corner Room – Classic fine dining in State College, regardless of whether or not you have personally eaten here, everyone knows where the Corner room is. Partially due to it’s great location right on College Avenue, partially because of prestige the location holds, the Corner Room is an obvious classic. A State College resident since 1929, the place itself is more history than anything else. Fairly average pricing with a entree averaging around $10 – 12.

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2. Spatz – I’m not quite sure how many people would turn their heads at the name, but Spatz is one of the classic Cafe and Speakeasy restaurants on campus. Located almost directly in front of Old Main, Spatz has the advantage of an amazing location right on College Avenue. With a New Orleans themed almost crammed down your throat, Spatz is a popular location with average pricing for dinner ($10-15) and a cheaper lunch menu ($7-10). 082712a

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. The Tavern – Easily recognizable on College Avenue with it’s distinguishable sign of a red apple, the Tavern is another classic “dress up” dinner locations. Priding itself on giving their customers a 18th century “Ambiance,” the Tavern is a more expensive but entertaining location for a meal. Slightly more expensive with main entree’s ranging more around the 20 dollar range, the Tavern is more of an experience, but quite an enjoyable one.

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THE FACEOFF ewing-galloway-boxing-gloves-hanging-on-the-wall-150x150

 

 

 

 

1). Spatz –
In terms of enjoyment, pure basic enjoyment of the food, the service and the atmosphere, Spatz definitely won the competition. Of all three option, Spatz is most definitely the most relaxed, while at the same time retaining its competitive edge as a fancy dining experience. While all three restaurants had their own theme, I loved loved loved the New Orleans theme Spatz had going on. The entire diner had a cool jazzy feel to it, and the music was perfect, not too serious and fun. I think that was one of the main reason I loved Spatz so much, both the Corner Room and Tavern made me feel cramped, like I was a kid being told to behave at a restaurant. Spatz made me feel more like I was just having fun with a friend or on a date. It doesn’t hurt that lunch is only 7 dollars for some killer jambalaya. Also, some of the best service I have seen ever, the fact that I can address the staff by their first name after my first time going probably means that they’re doing something right. I think for the most part Spatz is known to more relaxed and fun, the couple of times that I have been, one thing I’ve repeatedly noticed was how the crowds were almost entirely older people, I think I’ve only seen one college age compatriot at Spatz. This somehow made it more interesting, I love it when older couples lock eyes across the room and raise their wine glasses, classy as heck.

2). The Corner Room –
The classic, the Corner Room was a lot more enjoyable than I had originally thought. The food was excellent, a perfectly cooked burger with a side of fries and a coke, it’s down to earth American cooking. The more ostentatious meals that were offered also had great reviews from the people who’ve tried it. It is however more serious than Spatz , which to be honest has pros as well as cons. The Corner room is more of a “plan weeks in advance” location, you can’t just go on a whim like to Chipotle. Going to the Corner Room is as much of an experience as actually eating there, there’s something special about knowing that where you’re going to have dinner that night is the same place people’s been having their meal since the 1920’s. Though the service for that night was a bit lacking, it was partially  due to the fact that the day I went was also Thon weekend, huge crowds all around.

3). The Tavern –
Man, what a crazy place. Dim lit, fancy suits and gorgeous dresses. I mean, the candles felt like an over kill but I do have say, great presentation, they’ve hit the 18th century ambiance right on the nose. I half expected to walk out into a gas lamp lit road with horse drawn carriages and everything when I left. This level of atmosphere also meant that the evening was extremely serious, with a hush level of conversation and a lot of confused looks as to whether or not the fork I’m using for the salad was right or not. It isn’t a first date place, I’ll repeat that DON’T take a girl/boy here for your first date. Not the the Tavern isn’t nice, it is a little TOO nice, think more of an uncle of grandparents coming for a visit. Either that or an anniversary, heck the Tavern would be a good “Sorry I did something wrong” type of establishment too. The veal was gorgeous, cooked to perfection, I knew the food was going to be good when I sat down to candles and music but it was seriously good food. The con’s were that the food was expensive and the service was good but long. $17 for a slightly smaller piece of meat and an hour wait made the experience a little worse, but overall it’s an experience I’d recommend.

Civic Issues blog post 2

In which Josh get’s more in depth in to the core problems with Higher Education.
As it turns out, this is our next english assignment. (Lucky me).

I wanted to write about a specific example of higher education. More specifically, higher education in Finland. As many people know, higher education in Europe is drastically different than anything we have here. Although there are several reasons why you may be able argue the down side of their school system, I personally think that Finland and all the other European countries are doing something right.

The gist of the Finnish Education system is that there is no tuition fee along with fully subsidised meals served to students who are full time. The availability of education isn’t even just at the level Universities. Free education is provided starting at an incredibly young age. The present day finnish school system provides a daycare program, nine year comprehensive school and post-compulsory secondary general academic and vocational education, higher education at a Uni and finally lifelong adult education. The interesting thing about the Finnish education policy is that they do not select, track, or stream students during early education at a common basic level. All levels of the education is publically funded.

The Nordic strategy for achieving equality and excellence in education has been based on constructing a publicly funded comprehensive school system without selecting, tracking, or streaming students during their common basic education.[1] Part of the strategy has been to spread the school network so that pupils have a school near their homes whenever possible or, if this is not feasible, e.g. in rural areas, to provide free transportation to more widely dispersed schools. Inclusive special education within the classroom and instructional efforts to minimize low achievement are also typical of Nordic educational systems.[1]

After their nine-year basic education in a comprehensive school, students at the age of 16 may choose to continue their secondary education in either an academic track (lukio) or a vocational track (ammattikoulu), both of which usually take three years. Tertiary education is divided into university and university of applied sciences (ammattikorkeakoulu, formerly known as polytechnic) systems. Universities award licentiate– and doctoral-level degrees. Formerly, only university graduates could obtain higher (postgraduate) degrees, however, since the implementation of the Bologna process, all bachelor degree holders can now qualify for further academic studies. There are 17 universities and 27 universities of applied sciences in the country.

The Education Index, published with the UN‘s Human Development Index in 2008, based on data from 2006, lists Finland as 0.993, amongst the highest in the world, tied for first with DenmarkAustralia and New Zealand.[2] The Finnish Ministry of Education attributes its success to “the education system (uniform basic education for the whole age group), highly competent teachers, and the autonomy given to schools.”[3]

According to the latest PISA assessment 2012, Finland does not have the best education system in the world anymore, ranked 12th with a score of 519 barely passing Canada (518), Poland (518) and Belgium (515). Finnish Ministry is determined to seek non-Finnish experts to fix the current situation[4]

Passion Blog #3 – The tex-mex faceoff

 

Mexican food has more or less become a staple in a college student’s diet. Whether it is the weekend burrito get-away or the 5 am post bar crawl nachos, mexican cuisine plays a huge role in the identity of a undergrad’s life. I’m not sure if it’s the inexpensive take and and go part of the food itself or the fact that such a weird combination of rice, beans, salsa and meat can be so delicious, something about mexican cuisine just speaks to each and every one of us. There’s nothing quite like knowing there’s a perfectly good burrito bowl sitting at a local mexican joint nearby, and for me personally, that’s half the reason I wake up in the morning.

In regards of the three Tex-Mex restaurants that we’re going to be looking at today, two restaurants are quite familiar while the third one might not be as popular, irregarldess, lets take a look at our three contestants today.

1. Chipotle –

chipotle burrito

Chipotle, aka, my second home. What can I say about Chipotle that people don’t know about already. Located on Heiser street, Chipotle burritos has driven the majority of the university population. America might run on Dunkin, but most of us certainly run on Chipotle. Founded in 1993, Chipotle focused themselves on fast tasty meals for those who have a hankering for some non tradition mexican grub. Today, there are 1,500 Chipotle locations in the U.S. and it is one of the most popular fast food chains in the country.

2. Quoba.qdoba

If you’ve never been to Qdoba, it’s essentially just like Chipotle. There are definatley differences that we’ll get to in the showdown but for the sake of time and words, Qdoba burrito is the same self selection burrito restaurant that makes up the core components of Chipotle. Located on 208 W College Ave, Qdoba was founded in 1995 with only around 600 locations.

3. Mad-Mexdownload

Here we move into new territory, Mad-Mex for those that haven’t been is a very different animal than Chipotle or Qdoba. The main difference is that it isn’t a fast food resturant, more of a sit down diner with a bar on one end. With an extensive menu, wait staff and full course meals, Mad-Mex is a refreshing take on Tex-Mex cuisine. An Australian based company, they focus themselves on Cali-Mexican hybrid.

 

FACEOFF TIME –ewing-galloway-boxing-gloves-hanging-on-the-wall-150x150

Our first place award goes to – CHIPOTLE BURRITOS
– I’m quite sure those that have been to Chipotle understands the appeal. The menu might be lacking compare to it’s competitors, but Chipotle definatley makes up for that fact with how good their food is. One of the reasons Chipotle remains to be one of my favorite food joints is how their food is always so fresh. If you haven’t been to a Chipotle, here’s the basic mess – Start off choosing a burrito, bowl, tacos, or a salad – Move on to two kinds of rice, two kinds of beans, five types of protein, four types of salsa and other varied options. The process is super simple and speedy, (though lines here tend to get long so come with a fully charged phone and wait in line for a bit.) With great pricing (A burrito is often around 7 dollars) and I can’t emphasize this enough, REALLY GOOD, FRESH
FOOD, Chipotle defiatley takes home the belt. 
chipotle burrito

2. Qdoba
– The Chipotle vs Qdoba war has ended people, and a clear winner has been decided. Regardless of how similar these two chains are, the truth of the matter is that, Qdoba’s food (THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF A RESTURANT) isn’t as good as Chipotle’s. One thing I do have to commend Qdoba for is how varied the menu is, with selections ranging from Quesodilla’s to Gumbo bowl’s, if variance is what you’re looking for than Qdoba’s your main man. There are also a lot more options on the table including the ever popular “Queso Sauce.” But at the end of the day, the rice is hard, the meat isn’t fresh and I’ve actually seen an employee fill up the gumbo bowl in the back room from a dirty looking plastic bag. I don’t care how much you enjoy Qdoba, that garlicy velvetta juice they pour on to your burritos isn’t enough to make it better.

gumbo

3. Mad-Mex
– I may have came in with sort of a high expectation, but Mad-Mex definitely left me wanting. Though I do have to say, I had expectations for Chipotle and Qdoba that have been there since the beginning of high school so the rating system might not be completely fair. Let’s just say this, do not go in to Mad-Mex expecting the very best out of hybrid Cali-Mex food. In layman’s term, it’s the same stuff they serve you at Chipotle, so don’t go in looking for whatever the Mexican equivalent is to foisgras and truffles. The sit down meal was definitely a difference, I’ve become so used to shoveling down an entire burrito in the span of 3 minutes that it was actually quite awkward to eat there. The service was average, nothing to write about and the food was so lack luster I was almost bored. Not that anything was bad! It was just the fact that I paid way more (almost 14 dollars for one person) than I got. Still, the environment was nice and the decor is awesome, if whoever you’re trying to impress has a soft spot for Tex-Mex cuisine, that I totally recommend a first date here.

 

SPECIAL SURPRISE – JOSH’S PERSONAL CHIPOTLE BURRITO
ordered by Josh @ Chipotle since the beginning of time.

1. Burrito
2. White Rice
3. BOTH BEANS (its the same price people)
4. HALF steak, Half barbarroca. (You get more of both, trust me)
5. Mild, medium, corn salsa (I get double portions of the mild)
6. sour cream, cheese and lettuce
7 (optional). You can get guacamole if you’re rich enough.