Tag Archives: Food

Penn Alumni Travel: Flavors of Tuscany

Author: Professor Michael Gamer, Department of English

By its gastronomic and vinophilic nature, our foray into Tuscany with Penn Alumni Travel transcended the usual stuff of tourism. Part of the reason was the location of our base: the Podere Ciona vineyards in the heart of the Chianti region, owned and operated by Franca Gatteschi. Nestled in the hills, the winery really was a rural idyll. The dawns were misty and the evenings (on clear nights) were full of stars. The mid-October weather cooperated and the views each morning were serene:

Tuscany 1

 

Then there was the size of our group: nine of us joined by six alumni from Wake Forest University. Whenever I teach a seminar here at Penn I find 14-15 to be the perfect size: it maximizes the give-and-take of discussion without placing too much onus on any one person. The same went for our Tuscan group; by the end of the trip we all really had gotten to know one another.

Tuscany 2

Here you see us on our second-to-last day, in Brolio with the Castello Brolio in the background. Given how much by then we’d done — and consumed — we look pretty good on the whole. There had been the three hill towns of the Chianti Classico region (Radda, Gaiole, Castellina), cheese tastings and Sunday dinners in the Arezzo area, a cooking class in San Martino followed by Monte Sant’ Edigio, the monastery of Saint Francis of Assisi; there had been Cortona and Siena. That night would be the cooking class with the four Tuscan Mammas, and the next day there would be Florence. With the exception of Florence, I had never visited any of these places, and they were wonderful; and, given the difference between Florence in high season and in October, even that city seemed entirely new to me.

What made this trip so memorable for me, though, was our guide, Marco Messina. That the group adored him would be an understatement. Like any great teacher, he brought knowledge, kindness, patience, and humor to the project of showing us Tuscany. But he also did more than that; on the way, we met his family and friends. No matter the town or winery, museum or restaurant, Marco would find a way to lead us backstage:

Tuscany 3

Tuscany 4

From master olive oil, cheese-, and bread-makers to our coach-driver, Fabio, the meetings were informative, memorable, fun, and, above all, genuine. My own favorite memory is the evening we spent at Castiglion Fiorentino — where, after a terrific meal we found ourselves being let into a closed Civic Museum to see Etruscan ruins. Then, as the sun was setting, we were treated to a 45-minute performance of flag-tossing as the sun was setting. Those of us who had been on cheerleading and pep squads finally had the answer to the question of flag- and letter-twirling’s origins — in this medieval mix of martial art and dance.

Tuscany 5

 

I’m hoping everyone else enjoyed this trip as much as I did. Hope as well to see you next year on the Machu Picchu and Galapagos trip!

[Professor Gamer will be hosting the 2015 Penn Alumni Travel trip, Machu Picchu to the Galapagos. Click here for more details or click here to view all our 2015 tours.]

Leave a comment

Filed under Faculty perspective, Penn Alumni Travel, Travel

Penn Club of San Diego Goes South of the Border for Street Eats

By B. Bea Rajsombath, C’99, club president

There are a lot of great things about living in sunny San Diego, including over 70 miles of beautiful coastline, the nice Mediterranean climate, pockets of diverse neighborhoods with their own vibe, mountains or beaches within miles of each other, great restaurants and bars, its proximity to Tijuana, and so much more.

The Penn Club of San Diego works on creating events and activities that feature the neighborhood gems and life in San Diego; events any of our alumni can appreciate, whether they recently moved here or are returning natives.

In November 2013, the Club joined Turista Libre for a wine tour in Valle de Guadalupe. Based on that successful and fun adventure, we had requests to organize another event south of the border. As Turista Libre (TL) focuses on organizing tours highlighting the local aspects of Tijuana and surrounding areas, we worked with them to deliver another event for our alumni. Passports in hand on March 22, Penn alumni and friends met up with TL at San Ysidro, the last US stop before reaching Mexico, about 15 miles south of San Diego. We were joined by a few other TL guests to walk across the border to board a small school bus operated by TL to start our adventure tour: TJ Street Eats.

Penn Alumni and friends

Penn Alumni and friends

We started our day with a birria taco from a busy food truck stationed on a non-descript street by a Staples. It was simple, yet bursting with flavor. A cheese quesadilla was offered to our vegetarian guests. The tacos were so delicious most of us wanted more, but we were advised by TL to limit ourselves to the one because we had a number of stops to make. A few of us couldn’t hold out though and had to try a second taco.

A birria taco

A birria taco

Our second stop was at Kokopelli’s food truck, for black Harder ceviche de lenguado tostada. Our vegetarian guests feasted on grilled Portobello mushroom tacos. At this point, more guests were losing their willpower to hold off on just one item and explored some other offerings from Kokopelli’s. A few also ventured to try a seemingly, innocent pink-colored salsa…and suffered through the burning from a habanero-beet mixture. TL also offered up some Tecate beer for refreshments before we headed to our third stop.

A tostada

A tostada

Before we reached Tio Pepe, a wonderful bottle of tequila was shared. Some of us are still searching for the bottle on this side of the border. Tio Pepe is a neighborhood gem with plastic tables and chairs, friendly staff and a bustling lunch crowd. I would love to go back…if I can find my way there! Here, we sat down to enjoy Guadalajara-style torta ahogadas, a few rounds of Corona and some ventured off to order additional tacos. I don’t know where they found room.

Torta Ahogada

Torta Ahogada

After indulging ourselves, we still had two more stops! The next was at Tepoznieves, an artisan ice cream parlor with more than 100 flavors. Unfortunately, I was too busy sampling the flavors and enjoying my selection of three small scoops to capture any photos to share. On the way to our last stop, another bottle of tequila was brought you to be shared. Finally, we made it to Baja Craft Beers for a sampling of house brews. We essentially had the place to ourselves so early in the afternoon. The brewery had great space and a long list of local and international beers available.

Baja Craft Brewery

Baja Craft Brewery

Alas, our great little adventure came to an end by 5pm and TL returned us to the border to make our way back across to the US. We definitely enjoyed our TJ Street Eats tour and working with Turista Libre again. We already have requests to repeat both the wine tour and the TJ Street eats.

The Penn Club of San Diego and Turista Libre

The Penn Club of San Diego and Turista Libre

These are just a few of the activities and events the Penn Club of San Diego organizes for local alumni in the greater San Diego area. If you are interested in learning about these and other events, please contact us via email, join our email listserv, like our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter.

Our next event is a yPenn Happy Hour on July 10th. We hope to see you there!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Alumni Perspective, Clubs, Food Fiends, GAN, Guest blogger, Penn Clubs, Photos

A Marshmallow Squared Donut? Yes, Please.

Author: Emilie C. K. LaRosa

There are many great restaurants in University City: White Dog, Distrito, POD, etc. The list is always growing, but if you’re looking for a quick and delicious breakfast or a mid-afternoon sweet stop, then the choices are quite slim. Sure, there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts on Walnut and 34th, and Insomnia Cookies is just across College Green, but when I’m looking for a gourmet sweet experience–a truly melt-in-your-mouth fried ring of batter–I now have a place to turn. Federal Donuts on Sansom Street between 34th and 36th streets.

Federal Donuts on Sansom Street- It's open!

Federal Donuts on Sansom Street- It’s open!

The shop opened today and, as conscientious alumni relations personnel, we felt it was our duty to try it out immediately. Now, we can personally recommend this new donut and fried chicken shop to visiting alumni.

Alumni relations staff pose with the new store front.

Alumni relations staff pose with the new store front.

Inside, the shop was busy but the wait was not long. The menu included “fancy donuts,” “hot fresh donuts,” and “fried chicken.” If you’ve never tried a hot fresh donut from Federal Donuts, I suggest you do. They fry them to order which means they come out hot, soft, and irresistible.

Federal Donuts menu.

Federal Donuts menu.

Nicole and Molly enjoy a warm donut.

Nicole and Molly enjoy a warm donut.

In the end, I decided on a Marshmallow Squared donut.

Yum!

Yum!

It was lightly fried, covered in a marshmallow glaze, and topped with actual toasted marshmallows. It also didn’t last long. Luckily, I know where to find more!

If you find yourself at Federal Donuts this year, let us know what donut is YOUR favorite. I’ll be keeping an eye on the comment section below. Happy University City eating!

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Campus Life, Emilie

New Eats on Penn’s Campus

Author: Stephanie Yee, C’08

May is quickly approaching, which means Alumni Weekend is right around the corner! Young alumni are always asking me why they should come back to campus for Alumni Weekend. They still keep in touch with classmates because they only recently graduated, and they most likely just came to campus during Homecoming last fall. First, I tell them about all the great events planned for Alumni Weekend, starting with the 3 P’s: parade, picnic, and parties! Then, I gush about the new restaurants and food trucks they have to try. Here are some of my new favorite food places at Penn:

Tyson Bee's Food Truck

Come back to Penn for Alumni Weekend and let us know what your favorite eats are!

3 Comments

Filed under Alumni Weekend, Campus Life, Food Fiends, Stephanie Y.