Surprise: Val is Actually Good
“The food is edible.”
“I just think it’s a step-up from my high school cafeteria, but it’s definitely a step-down from household food.”
These were the responses I received from students when asked what their views were of the food at Valentine Hall. They may seem reasonable to many, but not to me: I think the food is phenomenal! Now, before you laugh or disregard my hyperbole — as it is to some — let me discourse my reasons for this opinion:
1. Val tries: Truthfully, every time I go into Val, I am excited to see what is there to eat (maybe because I do not check what is on the menu before going in). I remember one Monday in particular — it was seared salmon and New York steak for dinner. The steak was a perfectly medium-rare, juicy and non-greasy. The seared salmon presented itself as a piece of heaven on my plate — it was so spectacularly cooked and well seasoned that I ate two pieces. These moments may be rare, yes, but when Val really tries, it succeeds.
2. Val is balanced: I am an omnivore, but others may be herbivores. Val presents the opportunity for all to devise amazing salads with the wide array of fresh vegetables and delectable sauces offered. The macaroni salad on Tuesday was particularly delicious.
3. Val gets the job done in a healthy manner: Val offers a well-oriented meal plan. It has protein (grilled breasts of chicken were available throughout this week), carbohydrates, fibers and unsaturated fat (usually in the form of fish). It caters what is required for us to stay healthy but occasionally slips in “junk food” as it did on Thursday — hamburgers, which were enjoyable, in my opinion, and French fries.
These are my three main reasons, but how about we scrutinize every part of the meal plan?
I have been raised to believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that it should be practical as well. I think that Val has a traditional breakfast menu: cereal, eggs (scrambled and hard-boiled), bacon and infinite potential of salads. The scrambled eggs are remarkably tasty, especially with some salt and pepper on them. Nevertheless, I must remark that I do not see Val as perfect; the bacon slices are always greasy (so are the potato slices and sausages) and have saturated fat attached to them. I personally remove the fat, get a tissue and squeeze the bacon slices into it (and the slices oddly stay a bit greasy!). The French toast, moreover, was too hard. The waffle machine, however, is said to produce spectacular waffles, which I have yet to try, as should all those who have not yet done so. So if you crave for a good, nutritious breakfast, it is right there. A 3.5/5 seems proper to me.
Lunch is often the most hectic meal of the day. The lines are absurdly long, but the food is ‘satisfying’. This past week, Val offered assorted pizzas on five days — it is not Antonio’s, but it is good. This may be an odd fact but the first time I ever had mac and cheese was at Val, and it did set up some high expectations. The cheese merged perfectly with the macaroni, forming a tender upper crust that when on my plate, seemed like a godly mountain. It was impeccable.
Moreover, I was delighted to note that the lighter side is actually light with diet food such as brown rice, steamed fresh carrots, whole wheat pasta (that could be topped with marinara sauce, yum), grilled breasts of chicken (which were available throughout the week), and roasted beets. This week there was Boca Burger on Thursday, which was okay. I think that 3/5 would be a fair score.
This is when Val tries to impress students. Missing lunch is fine, but missing dinner … nope. The best dinner so far was the one on Monday (the seared salmon and New York steak), but Val still presented other exquisite options throughout the rest of the week. The chicken fajita, which in comparison with Middle Eastern chicken fajita, is sincerely good and the brown rice was always well-cooked and delectable. The char sui pork spare ribs left a positive impression on me. The jambalaya had all the ingredients well integrated and the chicken roasted with harissa and honey was fantastic. I always went to bed satisfied. Overall, I would give Val a 4/5 usually, but when Val tries, I would give it a 5.
Dessert and drinks
The dessert is phenomenal! I hope no one disagrees with me because the first time I tasted those brownies and blueberry cream cheese muffins, I was immediately gratified. I am filled with excitement whenever I pass by the dessert section, and if there is not anything good, I can always have some ice cream.
Multiple students have told me that the variety of drinks at Val is satiating. Unfortunately, I have only had orange juice since I arrived, and it is always fresh and succulent. I would definitely give the highest score to this category.
Ultimately, I think that Val is satisfying, and I refuse to believe that it sucks. I try to enter Val with a sense of wonder, always ready to be surprised. The food may be repetitive at times, but every now and again, you will be able to quench that hunger with spectacular food.