Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Motion Has Started...With A Dinner

The Penn Cohort reached the Civic Center Bart station at around 5:50PM. During the whole ride on BART, I was nervous about my speech. I reviewed my speech a numerous of times the day before and while I was on BART. As we got closer and closer to our destination, I felt that I mastered my speech, but was still nervous. Once we arrived to the streets of San Francisco, we still had to walk a bit more to get a taxi. We broke up into groups of four. I was in a group with my mom, Ivette, and Ivette’s father. 

When we entered the La Folie, my jaw dropped. On the outside was a cold, windy San Francisco. On the inside, was a warm, luxurious restaurant. There were various paintings on the wall and the staff was welcoming. We walked across the  La Folie to private roomful of sponsors of ILC and Alumni of Penn. Everybody was assigned seats by Madeline Kronenberg. I ended up seating next to Mariko and Ivette. 

Before the introductions and speeches, one of the waitresses went up and described each meal in enormous detail. After much thought, I decide to start with the crab salad as my appetizer. The main dish required no thought all once I saw that they had steak. Unfortunately, I had only two desserts to choose from, chocolate cake or seasonal sorbet. I decided that there will always be chocolate cake in my life, so I went with the sorbet.
Phil Schlein giving his speech.

The introductions and speeches started. I was surprised to see and meet everyone and get to know who they were. Out of everybody who was were, I was the most surprised with Phil Schlein. He was the CEO of Macy’s in the whole west coast. To see someone of that much success sponsoring the ILC gave me a rush of happiness and joy. It showed my that people do care, which made my confident to go on, to never give up. Then I started to think. This room can’t possibly hold each and every sponsor. It’s is not just my family and the ILC that want my to succeed, but its my whole country that stands behind me. The speeches continued with me going up afterwards. I had prepared a speech a few days ago when Charles Ramsey sent out the email saying that I would have to speak. This is were I believe I messed up. Before the dinner, I merely scratched the door of the ILC. Then after listening to everyone’s introduction, my views were changed completely, as I was shot full of pride knowing that I was one of the few. The few that get the opportunity. The few that are represented. The few, out of a whole nation, that get to be apart of the Ivy League Connection, and there is not a single program like the ILC out there.

The Alumni of Penn.

After all the speeches, we started to get our food. Although we had to wait a some time, time is what I wish I had more of. The food was exquisite. The people were, and still are, splendid. I got a chance to meet everybody’s character. One thing that that quickly popped out to me was that Charles Ramsey was a big sports fan, when he pulled out his phone to check the score of some game. The air was filled with laughter and happiness. Unfortunately, it couldn’t last for every, but luckily memories do. We had to take the same process we did to get back home: taxi to BART, BART to El Cerrito Plaza, and then home. While this was happening, I thought to myself, I can’t wait for PENN!

Crab Salad. Appetizing 

"La Boeuf" or the beef, either way mouthwatering.

The Sorbet.....tempting.

2012 UPENN Cohort.

The Appetizer Before My Summer at Penn

About a month ago, I told my dad we would be dining at La Folie in San Fransisco and his jaw dropped to the floor. Since then, I looked forward to this dinner with intense excitement.  We arrived at the Bart station 15 minutes early, or for Ivy League standards, right on time.  We were soon joined by the rest of our group, and I finally got the chance to meet the other students that will become my travel companions in two short months. After a harrowing train ride, where I learned that riding Bart in heels is not as easy as people make it look, a windy walk, and a short cab ride we arrived at the restaurant. 

My appetizer
I know this is not a blog for food reviews, but I must take a moment to relay that the meal I had last night  consisted of some of the best food I have ever eaten.  Every dish was plated spectacularly and the look of the food was only topped by its taste.  Before our meal, we enjoyed hors d'oeuvres, my favorite being the mini bacon and cheese tarts.  Then came the amuse bouche, two bite-sized starters that set the tone for the meal perfectly. I chose a goat cheese tatin for my appetizer, the squab and mushroom stuffed quail for my entree, and the chocolate cake for dessert.  My life-long love for chocolate reached a whole new level when I bit into the cake and the hot chocolate filling gushed out.  Even my father, who worked in restaurants for 17 years, was rendered speechless by everything he ate.

Ms. Kronenberg gives her opening remarks.

Food aside, the speakers and social aspects of dinner were also very enjoyable.  Ms. Kronenberg welcomed us and I learned a little bit about each of my dinner companions as we all stood to introduce ourselves.  The dining room contained many fascinating people, including Penn alums,   ILC sponsors, district members, future Penn students who also did the ILC, the other students in my cohort and their family members.  After our welcome, Mr. Schlein, a Penn alum, spoke about the amazing opportunity ahead of us and his thoughts on the Ivy League Connection.  Next up were the two student speakers, David Barba for Physics, and my fellow Gaucho Chloe Alston for Social Justice.  Both shared their excitement and thanks for the great summer the ILC has provided for us, and I agreed with every word they spoke.  Alex Elms, a two-time ILCer and member of Penn Class of 2016 talked about his journey with the ILC.  His speech was rich with passion and it reminded me how lucky and honored I feel to be a part of this wonderful program.  Finally, Mr. Ramsey gave his closing remarks and we started to eat and talk amongst ourselves. 

At my table, I spoke to Beth, a Penn alum.  She shared her experience at Penn, where she transferred after two years at UMass Amherst, my older brother's school.  We talked about the different aspects to consider in choosing a college and the many things that make Penn a great school.  I also spoke with Dyana So, a past ILC participant and future Penn student.  She talked about her high school experience and the decision of joining Penn's incoming freshman class.  Alysa and I compared our different high schools and discovered that we have several years of trumpet playing in common.  

Mariko, Chloe, and I outside the restaurant
The dinner was delicious, the people were amazing, and meeting the students I will soon spend a month with was great.  Even though I already know Chloe and Mariko from school, I know it wont be long before I am just as close with Alysa, Cameron, Ivette, and David.  If this dinner was just the appetizer, my summer at Penn will have to be the greatest summer of my life. 

There's A First Time For Everything

Me, Chloe, Clara, and Mariko at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station.

After leaving school an hour and a half early, driving home, hectically changing clothes, and rushing out the door with my mother, I finally arrived at the El Cerrito Plaza bart station at about 5:05 PM. I was really anxious because initially I had planned to arrive at 5 but the traffic on the freeway did not allow this. Upon exiting the car I felt a surge of nervousness. From the parking lot, I could see a group of young scholars that I assumed to be members of the Ivy League Connection. I walked up to the group and was surprised at how friendly everyone was. I had been waiting for this day since I was admitted into the Ivy League Connection, I would finally be meeting my cohort and chaperone! I engaged in conversation with the other girls who would be attending the University of Pennsylvania with me this summer while we waited for everyone to arrive.
 Once the last of the group arrived, we boarded the BART train headed towards San Francisco. The ride was a long one; it seemed longer than it should have, probably because I had been awake since 6:45 that morning and had no break in between. We got off the BART at the Civic Center BART station in San Francisco.We then walked a few blocks to the public library.  Once we reached the public library we broke into groups of four in order to take taxis to La Folie, the restaurant at which we'd be dining at. Watching people hailing cabs was one of the most fun occurences of the evening. After being passed up by a number of taxis, my group and I jumped into a taxi SUV and we were on our way! On our way to the restaurant, I learned that our chaperone coaches both football and baseball at a local high school.
My personalized menu!

When we arrived at the restaurant we were greeted right away by a lovely woman asking for our coats. After taking coats, she led us to a small dining room off to the side. When I say small, I mean tiny. The room was vertically striped in purple and green and for some reason it reminded me of the Joker from Batman. We were all cramped in the room eating  hors d’ oeuvres. The were many options but I had the asparagus soup and a bacon and egg tart. After socializing for about ten minutes we were allowed to sit in the seats that had menus customized with our names on them. I was seated at the table closest to the door with Ms. Kronenberg to my left, Bruce Lengacher( Clara's dad) to my right, and my mother, Denise Butler directly across from me.
Delicious quail and squab wrapped in potato skins baked to perfection.
Dinner was a lovely experience. I had the quail and squab, which was much different from anything I've ever eaten. It was surprisingly delicious. The quail and squab were bundled together and then wrapped in crispy potato skins that reminded me very much of Lays Original potato chips. While eating dinner I had the chance to participate in some lovely conversations. I spoke with Clara and Dyana about the differences between a traditional high school and Middle College, which is considered an alternative school. I also spoke with Ms. Kronenberg and University of Pennsylvania Alumni about the food choices available to students on campus as well as off. Although conversing with these people over great food was fun, my overall favorite part of the night was desert. For desert I had strawberry sorbet, passionfruit sorbet in a cannoli, and chocolate sorbet. My favorites were the fruit sorbets as I'm not that big of a fan of frozen chocolate treats.
After taking group pictures and gathering our coats, we all hopped into separate cabs and headed to the BART station. Dinner at La Folie was an amazing experience and I look forward to seeing more of my cohort soon. Once again, I'd like to thank everyone who has made the Ivy league Connection what it is today.

Fine Dining and the Penn Cohort

When I stepped out of the Civic Center BART station in San Francisco, I began to seriously second-guess my decision to wear a short wool coat instead of a swim parka, Onesie, or similar garment that would have covered my entire body in cloth. The notorious SF winds were unpleasantly chilly as I walked the short blocks to catch a taxi with Clara, her dad, and my mom, but once I was inside I ended up being fine. Our destination was La Folie, chosen venue to host the Ivy League Connection dinner with alumni of UPenn and benefactors of the ILC. Dyana So and Alex Elms, ILC alumns and recent admits to the Penn Class of ’16 were also in attendance; as they are both past ILC participants they were happy to answer questions we might have.

As we arranged ourselves around the two long tables, I was happy to see that I was seated next to David, who will take physics at Penn with me this summer. David goes to Middle College, so I don’t know him as well as I know Clara or Chloe, and I was glad for the opportunity to talk with him. I was also able to get to know Ivette a little better during dinner, as we chatted about our expectations for the program and our different experiences during the interview process.

Mr. Schlein congratulates us and offers some words of wisdom
I also spoke with Louis, a Penn alumn of ’07 now at Stanford for grad school. He was friendly and open about his days at Penn. He also compared his different experiences in college and grad school, saying that Penn had lots of fun, quirky traditions that helped students bond, while Stanford had a stronger sports program that students could rally around.  I especially enjoyed hearing about the Penn tradition where the rising senior class marches through the entire campus to the president’s office wearing Styrofoam hats. After being recognized by the university president as the new senior class, friends take bites out of each other’s hats! Louis also recommended a couple of museums to check out while in Philadelphia, which I hope to do if I have enough time to explore the city.

Mr. Ramsey speaks about the unique opportunity we have been offered as a part of the ILC
Of course, all of these conversations were put on the back burner when the food arrived. Need I say it was amazing? We started off with hors d’ oeuvres like bacon and cheese tarts and artichoke soup. After taking our seats, we moved on to other treats, including delicious eggs flavored with herbs and served in their shells. My first course was a goat cheese tartin, which was beautifully plated in addition to being extremely tasty. The main course was a quail stuffed with squab and wrapped with potatoes, served with roasted vegetables. Although I later heard that it wasn’t what everyone expected, I found it quite satisfactory and was excited to try something new that I hadn’t had before. I feel as though my culinary gamble paid off nicely. Dessert was sumptuous, rich chocolate cake with brandied dried fruit. Although I wasn’t entirely sure that a 16 year old such as myself was supposed to eat the brandy-soaked fruit, I can quite truthfully say as a chocolate lover that the cake was amazing.

Goat cheese is one of my favorite foods, so naturally I had to order this dish
Quail dinner–mmmmmm, yummy
I was so excited to taste my chocolate cake that I didn't manage to get a photo of it before I started eating
Once again, the ILC put on a wonderful event that opened my eyes even more to the wonderful opportunities available to me at Penn. The food was wonderful, if that wasn’t already apparent from my long reminiscence earlier, the company was friendly and inspiring, and I even got home before 11 PM. I call that a success.

Tonight Was So Perfect

My afternoon started out fairly normal for a Tuesday and I was feeling a bit nervous about speaking in front of everyone at dinner tonight.  Even so, I kept calm and figured that there was absolutely no reason to be nervous because I knew that everyone who was attending dinner was on my side already.  Nonetheless, I had a jittery feeling throughout the day and was anxious for school to be over so that I could take BART over to San Francisco with the UPENN cohort.

Yesterday afternoon I bought an outfit that I felt would be appropriate for the ILC dinner and the fact that I felt comfortable in my ensemble gave me one less thing to fret over.  I told my mom that we needed to be at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station at 5:00 PM so that we would have 15 minutes of leeway time in case we needed it.  Turns out, we we arrived at the meeting site just after 5:00 PM and were greeted by Don and a few of the students and their parents. So far, the technicalities were settled smoothly.

While on BART, I had the chance to talk with Mariko's mom for a bit and listened to the conversation between she and my mom.  I was not sitting close to anyone else in the group besides the two of them so I was not able to mingle with the others but instead Clara and I made funny faces at each other from across the train car.  I was also trying to figure out what else I should say in my speech for, even though I tried not to be, I was still a little nervous.

After we had arrived at the Civic Center BART station and walked up a couple blocks, the slight challenge was to flag down enough taxis to drive us to the restaurant, La Folie.  We split up into groups of four and I rode with my mom, Cameron, and Alex.  Our cab driver was very entertaining with his great British accent and cab quizzes.  In that short little ride I learned that there are approximately 1500 cabs running in San Francisco and a whopping 16,000 in New York!  This made my home town of San Francisco seem relatively cozy and small.  When we arrived at Polk and Green, I paid with money given to us by Don, and all was right until I forgot to get a receipt from the cab driver!  This is something that Don had asked us specifically to do and I felt really bad about this silly mistake, but I promised never to do it again so Don nicely let me off this one time.

Crab Salad
The restaurant itself was an elegant French place with beautiful paintings and cordial staff.  Our large group assembled in a separate room for dinner, however we did not begin to eat for a little while.  As the waitress explained to us in further detail the items on the menu, I was not sure whether to be adventurous or safe.  I kept on feeling that I should order the most interesting dish because I knew I was not going to be back at La Folie any time soon.  In the end I decided to keep it safe and order the salmon plate, knowing that it would be delicious anyway.  When everyone's orders had finally arrived later on I had a feeling of regret for not ordering the quail, lamb, or beef dishes.  While my salmon was indeed satisfying, I got to try a bit of my mom's quail dish and it was absolutely scrumptious.  At that moment I really wished that I had ordered the same as her.  As for my appetizer, I ordered the crab salad which was a bit different than what I am used to.  My desert on the other hand was the strawberry and lemon-mint granite (I believe it was called), and this was an excellent way to finish off my courses.  The strawberry sorbet was the perfect sweetness and I savored every last drop.
Satisfied Customer

Despite the yummy food, I had a great time talking to the people at my table when I found a good place to jump into the conversation.  I was seated next to Cameron so we naturally conversed more but I tried to listen in on the entertaining conversations around us when there was not a main speaker up front.  

The speeches made were interesting and engaging and I appreciated the fact that some alums, sponsers, and future UPENN students took the time to come out to the dinner and speak to and with us.  Rather than writing up a speech myself I used some talking points that I had previously thought about and spoke from the heart.  I hope that my speech was as fun as I meant for it to be.  I wanted to convey my excitement and joy in regard to this entire process and hopefully I was able to do so.

Overall, I had a wonderful night and felt ready to snuggle up in my warm bed back home.  As we were taking the BART back to El Cerrito however, I caught sight of a friend of mine from school.  We were both playing this long-term game with a bunch of other students and basically he was my target so I had to spray him with water in order to get him out.  I just so happened to have a vase of flowers full of water so I tried to sneak towards him in the hope that he would not see me and try to run.  On the way, I tripped over the woman's bag and almost fell myself! But, I saved my fall and surprised him with a water attack.  Quite a fun way to end the night.