Friday, August 26, 2011

Family Vacation Center--Santa Barbara, CA

A couple of weeks ago the four of us stayed at the Family Vacation Center at UC Santa Barbara. There, we were treated to three meals a day at the Carrillo Dining Commons not far from our room. There were so many things I liked about our dining experience that I compiled a list. However, since I'm writing a blog entry and not a book, I'm limiting myself to a Top Ten. I asked a UCSB student if the food is this good during the year. He said, it's still very good, but they kick it up a notch during the summer. Even one notch below what we had would be still very, very good. So, here goes:

Top ten reasons we enjoyed eating at the
Carrillo Dining Commons at UCSB:

10. The food is all you can eat. If there's anything you like, just keep going back! Just about everything was served fresh and there was a minimum of three different hot entrees every dinner.

9. At breakfast they made omelets to order. There were even three types of pork: ham, sausage and bacon. However, it was often hit or miss, with the eggs often runny. Go up as many times as you want! I went twice each morning.

8. The pizzas from their brick oven were always coming hot and fresh during lunch. There was a lot of demand, but they were never in short supply.

7, The pasta was homemade! The wheat pasta we enjoyed was soft and chewy--downright delicious.

6. Running late? No problem! We stayed as late as 20 minutes past our designated dinner hour with nary a soul pushing us out. In fact, the food just kept coming.

5. No trays! What a great concept! UCSB figured out that providing trays in an all-you-can-eat environment led to taking more than one could chew (and a lot of dirty trays). So, they made everyone carry their plates, cups and silverware to the table. As for me, forcing me to make multiple trips made me feel like I was getting more exercise--and less guilty.

4. Stash Tea. The Dining Commons introduced me to the wonderful world of Stash Tea. Their delightful novel flavors, such as Lemon Ginger, soothed my sore throat (macho me thought I could make it through a week of Santa Barbara without a jacket) like nothing else could.

3, Quality fresh fruit--and lots of it! Everything in the fruit baskets was great. The apples were crisp, the bananas ripened just short of getting those brown dots and the peaches were juicy (but not mealy!).

2. Desserts. They mixed up the cakes and pies just about every day. The big boy in our family kept going back for cheesecake. They have unlimited soft serve ice cream, too! I mean unlimited. The line would sometimes be up to thirty people, but we were never able to drain it.

1. Kids love it! The cafeteria was part gourmet restaurant but also part playground. There were always six different cereals available (including the tough to find, but highly sought after Lucky Charms), a make-your-own-waffle station, chocolate milk (and nonfat, and 2% and whole!) and, at lunch, unlimited cheeseburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and fries. Just how can a kid with a finite tummy size navigate through all of that? When our week was just about over, I overheard a high school student say, "What I'm going to miss most about this week is the food." I hear you!

Carrillo Dining Commons
University of California, Santa Barbara