Inside USD

Educational Dining Arrives at Remodeled La Paloma

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The University of San Diego is built on the strength of its mission and is carried out by its core values and goals. That commitment is everywhere on campus — even in the food that’s served.

La Paloma, a restaurant located next to the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, will unveil its newly remodeled space and new, exciting menu this Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. during USD’s new student orientation program. It will then open to the public Sept. 4 when USD’s fall classes begin.

Whenever campus customers do enter the restaurant’s doors, they’ll be in a dining facility that officials are labeling as both a place to eat well and potentially utilize as an academic laboratory.

“People who come here are going to see and eat food that’s local, sustainable and in-season. We really are going to serve only products that are at their peak,” said Andre Mallie, executive director of auxiliary services. “We feel it will give students an experience and an engagement that will help them understand the seasons and the earth.”

Mallie said he envisions students not only eating food, but also potentially studying how it arrived on their plate.

“Students can do supply chain management studies, marine biology students can learn about the fishing industry and management or leadership students can assess the organizations. It’s dining and it’s a classroom.”

A large cross-section of the campus community got a sneak peek Wednesday at La Paloma’s new look with sample-sized items from a diverse menu that adheres to the farm-to-table concept.

People were curious and smiling while tasting Mongolian barbecue, enjoying a sandwich with certified sustainable albacore tuna, or sampling cage-free eggs that will anchor a farm-style breakfast available any time of day. Complementing all entrees was warm Indian naan bread (pictured, above right) that’s baked fresh daily in a Tandoor oven. Salads, fresh fruit, a coffee and tea area, muffins as well as two special machines that produce more than 100 drink possibilities were also available for sampling.

La Paloma, much like other USD Dining entities such as La Gran Terraza and Pavilion Dining, caters to a variety of tastes with items suitable for those with vegan, vegetarian, and dairy alternatives and gluten-free needs. Several items at La Paloma, while locally produced, have an international flair, thus providing an educational “culinary journey.”

The Mongolian barbecue, for instance, will be rotated out in a few months, followed by a Mediterranean theme and later, Tuscany-inspired food.

“It’s part of the education of the product and the cuisine. It’s about the ethnicity of food. There’s a story behind it,” Mallie said. “It’s important for people to get a taste of it.”

Transforming La Paloma into its current setting took two years from idea to the finished product, Mallie said. The interior construction began near the end of the spring semester and Mallie worked on finding reputable, local and area food sources to support his vision for La Paloma. One of USD’s main vendors, US Foods, helped the farm-to-table plan come to fruition.

“The concept and theory of farm-to-table, having fresh, natural and local foods, is on the forefront of everyone’s minds in this market, but to see a group like the University of San Diego actually doing it? A lot of others talk, but what we’ve seen at USD is a lot of action, and they’ve actually brought it to the table,” said Kevin Newman, a protein specialist representing US Foods San Diego.

Newman was at Wednesday’s event to see the launch and was at an outside vendor table ready to answer any questions people had about products that will be featured on La Paloma’s menu. Vendors were promoting such items as fresh fruit, olive oil, vinegars, eggs and dairy soy.

One vendor truly eager to share his knowledge was America Tuna’s Joel Cardoza (pictured, right), a 2005 USD alumnus who majored in visual communications, minored in business marketing and played on a USD championship lacrosse club team. Cardoza, American Tuna’s sales and marketing director, said the Omega 3-rich canned tuna used by La Paloma is pole-and-line caught in the Pacific Northwest.

He said having this tuna available to USD diners expands the company’s reach to prominent West Coast universities. The tuna, caught and canned in the United States, is available at Whole Foods stores and more than 100 other organic markets, he said. He also indicated that the company’s logo was initially created while he was still a student at USD.

Years later, Cardoza smiled, knowing he can now return to his alma mater and have a tuna sandwich with ingredients he knows will deliver great taste. He’d also be a good person for any current USD students interested in research about fisheries to speak with about food safety and ethical business practices.

“This is tuna you can buy and feed to your kids, family, and know it doesn’t have elevated mercury, it’s pole caught so it doesn’t damage the ocean and it’s a quality hand-packed product,” he said. “It’s great to see USD so committed to quality and local sourcing. They’ve got healthy, local, sustainable food and we’re happy to provide a healthy option for tuna.”

Mallie is happy, too, because La Paloma is ready to provide plenty of good food and food for thought for the campus community.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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