This past school year was definitely an adjustment for me. It was my first year at UW-Madison, and being from California, I was in a completely new environment. I met new people, joined clubs, and most importantly, ate new foods. But Madison was not the only new experience for me this year.
At the end of summer 2021, I quit swimming after 13 years. That meant so much more free time. I am fortunate enough to have filled that free time with traveling. And for me, eating new foods is a huge part of traveling. With the end of the school year approaching, I find myself reflecting on my best meals around the globe. Here is a little peek into my food journey over the past year.
Right after I quit swimming in August, I traveled to Iceland with my family for two weeks. Going into the trip, my mom, sister, and I were all vegetarian while my dad and brother still ate meat. After seeing all of nature and wild animals, especially sheep, my brother decided to give up meat and he has not eaten it since.
We found some amazing vegan food around Reykjavik. My favorite restaurant was called Mama Reykjavik. My whole family ordered Dal, an Indian red lentil dish. It was so delicious that we decided to have it as our last Iceland meal.
Next time I go, I want to try the ice cream. Icelanders love their ice cream. Even if it is a cold winter day, they will still indulge. Also, for meat eaters, Iceland hot dogs are supposedly out of the world!
Over Thanksgiving break, I had to visit my favorite restaurant in LA called Catch. It’s a rooftop restaurant and a great place to spot a celebrity. My absolute favorite dish is the Vegan Crispy Cauliflower. I dream about that dish… I have a picture of it framed in my dorm room. Everyone who I bring there falls in love and it is worth the trip!
Over winter break, I went with my mom to move my sister into her London apartment for her semester abroad. I LOVE London and am so excited that their food scene has improved. We went to Veeraswamy, my family’s favorite Indian restaurant. But the star of this trip had to be a place called Sketch.
Sketch has four different restaurants, all with a completely different theme. There is the all-pink tea room, the three star Michelin Lecture Room and Library, the Parlor, and the enchanted forest-themed Glade room. My mom and I went to the Glade room and I had the best truffle Gnocchi.
P.S. If you’re like me and you love a good picturesque bathroom for mirror selfies, the bathrooms in Sketch were top-tier. The ceiling is covered with multicolored lights and the bathroom stalls are in the shape of an egg. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.
Of course I cannot exclude my beloved Madison. To be honest, I was extremely surprised by the food scene in Madison. I did not expect to have so many amazing restaurants right by campus.
My favorite has to be Graze which is near the Capitol. My mom loves the tofu bibimbap, and I love the vegetarian beet burger. I also highly recommend their desserts.
My go-to coffee shop quickly became Valentia Coffee. I go more often than I would like to admit, but the avocado toast with balsamic vinegar is one of the best I’ve ever had and I just cannot resist. Also, the blueberry almond butter smoothie has become my comfort drink. I bring it to my morning lectures and just sipping on it makes class so much more enjoyable.
My food adventures will not end there. Over the summer, I am looking forward to continuing to expand my taste buds. I am visiting Chicago for the first time right after the school year finishes and am looking forward to some deep dish pizza.
At home in Southern California, my goal is to support smaller businesses. It is so easy to go to mainstream restaurants popularized by celebrities and social media, but there are so many more amazing smaller restaurants that I need to discover.
In August, I am traveling to Portugal, Spain and parts of Northern Africa. I am looking forward to some Paella and Pastel de nata!
In Madison, I am planning my last meal of the school year at the new Harvey House with my mom. I have not been yet, but I have only heard great things about it.
Until next year, Madison.