Thursday, June 28, 2012

High On A Hill Was A Lonely Goatherd

I would like to preface by saying that every time we told someone from Chicago that we were going to have dinner at Girl & the Goat, their eyes got really round and they started talking about how amazing it is and how impossible it is to get reservations. By the time it came to go to dinner, I was pretty excited. I can happily say that my expectations were exceeded.
The atmosphere at the restaurant was not what I was expecting–-the word that comes to mind is “trendy.” After dining at Tony’s earlier this week, I expected this restaurant to have a similar character. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was loud music playing and everything was very relaxed. I think the modern feel of the restaurant contributed to the great dining experience.
Baby octopus salad
Joining us for dinner tonight were Callie Brown, the NorCal Admissions Officer for U of Chicago, and three students from U of Chicago: Mario, Ian, and Bella. Although I didn’t get a chance to talk with Mario very much, he seemed like a great guy from what little interaction we had. (We were seated at opposite ends of the table so it was difficult to converse.) Bella, an econ major, was very friendly and told us about her new internship. I did get a chance to talk to Ian–-I was excited to find that he wants to travel to Japan. Clara and I were fortunate enough to go to Japan on a school trip last summer, so I enjoyed talking to Ian about Japanese culture.
Pork shank
I was really lucky in that I was able to sit near Callie, who was friendly and seemed happy to talk with us. We discussed U of Chicago a bit more, although we had already covered a lot during the info session. She told me about her experience playing varsity soccer at U of Chicago, which I found interesting because soccer is a big part of my life at the moment and I’ve been wondering how that will transition into college. Callie and I also shared travel experiences, and found that we both liked nature, animals, and new cultural experiences.
Beef tongue
I was glad to have the chance to talk to her in more detail, because it was very reassuring to hear her perspective about the college admissions process. Talking with her reminded me of the amazing position that I’m in, as I have so much freedom to apply wherever I want and then study whatever interests me in college.  Too often I find myself worried about the college application process instead of excited for the four great years that are to come, and Callie helped remind me why I want to go to college so badly.
Goat Cheesecake–Yummmmmm
The dining style at Girl & the Goat was a little unusual, but I liked it because it reminded me of Chinese banquets with my grandparents, where everything is ordered family style. Our waitress advised us to each pick one dish that we liked, and then she would bring two orders of each and we would all share everything. We took her advice and together complied a list including items such as pig face (Callie’s pick), escargot ravioli, baby octopus, goat empanadas, and beef tongue. I especially enjoyed the pork ribs, the pork shank, and the green beans. Both pork dishes were ridiculously tender, juicy, and flavorful. The flavor of the green beans, or at least the flavor of the sauce, somehow reminded me of Chinese food from back home. It was a little like finding an old friend in a new place, but with food. 

The shared dishes method of eating ensured that we got to enjoy all the different flavors that Girl & the Goat has to offer while preventing us from getting so full as to feel uncomfortable. Our meal finished off with a selection of desserts. I chose goat cheesecake because I assumed that it would be a specialty, as it included goat cheese. It was the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten. Girl & the Goat was a unique dining experience that I will use to measure up against fancy dinners in the future, and if I find another comparable experience I will be happy indeed.

Don't Knock It Until You Try It

At about 7:45 the cohort met in the lobby to head to dinner at Girl & The Goat. We piled into two cabs as usual and we were off. When we arrived we were kind of surprised to see that a lot of the guests were in casual wear, even the waiters wore jeans and sneakers. I think we all felt out of place for a while. Once everyone arrived we all headed inside for a change of atmosphere.

The inside was dimly lit and there were lots of people everywhere. There was a lounge set up in the front left corner of the restaurant and the rest of the area was seating available for the customers. The hostess led us towards the back where a table was set up for 12 guests. Our waitress then explained how dining at Girl & The Goat usually works. She handed out menus and suggested that every one order one dish and then they double that order to accommodate both ends of the table. While waiting for our food, we talked to our guests about life in Chicago, life as a student, and other things--some academic but most not. I was seated at the end of the table with University of Chicago Admissions Officer, Callie Brown; Ian, a student at University of Chicago; and members of my cohort, Mariko, David, and Cameron. We used dinner as the perfect opportunity to pick our guest’s brains. We asked any questions that came to mind, from what campus living is like to things to do during free time, to the types of music they like.
Ivette, Chloe, and I pose for a quick picture while
waiting for the others to arrive.
The atmosphere of the restaurant was very nice and this was definitely my favorite dining place so far on the trip. The environment was more relaxed and laid back than the other places we dined in with school representatives. Although it was more casual, it still had a certain "swankiness" and "it" factor about it.

The menu was very original and different. Callie told us that there is a new menu everyday and the chef herself decides what should be served and how. We feasted on some really interesting things tonight but my favorites were the pork shank that our waitress instructed us to indulge in as if it was one huge buffalo chicken wing made of pork, escargot ravioli, pig's face, and tempura soft shell crab. The food was delicious and the way it was presented made it even more enjoyable. I really liked the fact that there was more to the dish than just the main item. All other garnishes and sauces played a role that was equally important in pleasing the palette.

After sharing a new dining experience with new people, we ended with individual desserts. For dessert I had chocolate cake with blackberry sorbet. Dinner was delicious. even though we had many yummy dishes, I was less full than I had been thus far on the trip. I was full and satisfied but I wasn't quite at the stage of a "food coma".

Dining at Girl & The Goat was a wonderful experience and I enjoyed the food as much as I enjoyed the company of those around me.

The Girl and the Amazing Restaurant

Tonight I had the most interesting restaurant experience of my life.  We ate at Girl & the Goat, a big up and coming restaurant in Chicago, with Callie Brown and three current University of Chicago students.  The food was unlike anything I had ever eaten.  Each person picked one thing off the menu and then everyone shared the dishes.  Instead of having to sift through the amazing menu options and choose just one, I got to sample 12 different dishes.  Each one was delicious. I tried a lot of things I had never tasted before like beef tongue, pig face, and baby octopus.  For dessert I ordered the goat cheesecake (not goat-flavored, made with goat cheese).  It was the perfect ending to an amazing meal.
Our first two dishes
Peppers with cheese and sesame
The atmosphere in the restaurant was fast paced and exciting.  My favorite part was the witty goat sayings on the back of the waiters' t-shirts like "Whatever floats your goat," and "Goats gone wild." There was never a moment where I didn't have a dish in front of me and all the staff were kind and courteous.  

Mario's dessert: the chocolate cake
It was so good I forgot to take a picture before diving in
The cherry on top of tonight's amazing dinner was the engaging conversation.  I sat next to Mario, who just finished his second year at the university.  He talked about his experiences so far and shared a little more about the house system for the dorms.  He talked a lot about music, and seeing as he is a DJ for the school's radio station, he definitely knew what he was talking about.  I loved getting even more confirmation that U of Chicago is a great school for me.  Unfortunately, I was on the opposite end of the table from Callie and I didn't get to talk to her that much.  However, she assured us that she will always be available by e-mail and, as I reflect on my visit to the school today, I know I will soon have many more questions to send her way.  All in all, it was an amazing evening and something I will never experience again.  I'm excited to see what Northwestern has to offer tomorrow. 

Girl & The Goat

Tonight's dinner was to be held at The Girl and the Goat. At first glance of the name one would be somewhat skeptical because the name doesn't sound too appealing. Despite what the name may be, as we told people where we were going to eat, their faces brightened up with a sense of surprise. As we found out, this restaurant has a waiting list that is about 4 months long, which makes it very hard to get into and which is also a sign that this restaurant is very good. When everyone had arrived at the door, we headed inside to what was a laid back fancy type of restaurant.
Pig Face
We were instructed to each pick a different dish and it would by multiplied by two, so each side of the table got a taste. when we looked at the menu we saw many things that by sight we would despise, since we had never tried it before. As the food started to pour in one by one we were all happy at the new experience. How many people can say that they have tried Pig Face?! I surely can, and it was quiet good.

Among things that were tried tonight besides the pig face were, snail, beef tongue, baby octopus, raw fish, and goat. Tonight was a wonderful experience and I am so glad that I got to go to such a wonderful restaurant and taste such good food that I wouldn't have otherwise. My favorite food of the night was never distinguished as all the food was excellent!

Don't Judge A Book By It's Cover

When I heard that we are going to Girl & the Goat, I was not so sure that I would enjoy it. But that feeling quickly changed when we arrived in Chicago and we told people that we were going there. Everyone's reaction was some what like "Oh my god, you are going to Girl & the Goat? It's like the best restaurant in town." Each time I heard those lines, I felt better and better about going there.

Pig Face
The moment you walk in you're hit with a wave of energy.  Girl & the Goat has it's very one unique atmosphere that is both inviting and creative. A huge smile quickly dominated my face as I observed the environment. The hostess approached us and escorted us to our table. I sat next to Callie Brown, which helped me learn a lot more about UChicago and Chicago.

The eating system was genius, especially for our occasion. We order 24 plates and divided each of the plates amongst ourselves. This made us communicate even more. As a result, we bonded more.
Goat Empanadas

Back home, I would watch some cooking shows, such as Master Chief and Hell's Kitchen. I noticed that the key elements that make a dish good are creativity, presentation, and taste. Without a doubt, all of our meals surpased these three categories by a ton. The food was not a regular old steak or burger. It was exotic and packed with flavor that made my taste buds sing. These dishes included baby octopus, escargot, beef tongue, pig face....The list goes on and on.
The Most Delicious Dessert
Unfortunately, the night could only last so long. As much as I was happy to get dessert, I was also devastated knowing that dessert is a harbinger of the end. 

We Came. We Saw. We Conquered.

Alarm #1- 6:00 AM
Alarm #2- 6:50 AM
After multiple alarms went off in room 258 at The Drake Hotel, the rooms occupants remained sound asleep. I was finally woke up at 7:29 due to a phone call from my mother. As I rushed her off the phone I whispered to Ivette, "Guess what time it is." She asked the time and I told her. The next twenty minutes we hustled and bustled about our room to make it down to the lobby for breakfast even though we were late. After having a breakfast of juice and fruit we all headed to the front of the hotel to catch a cab to the University of Chicago. Check this out, we didn't have to hail our own cab; the doormen did it for us. After piling into two separate cabs we were off.

Today was rather hot but the humidity made it somewhat bearable. Upon arrival on campus, we headed to admissions to meet with Callie Brown, a Norcal Admissions representative for the University of Chicago. I found the information session very interesting because University of Chicago has always been on my list of prospective schools. I am really glad I got a chance to actually check out the campus up close, rather than online. Following the tour, we went on a campus tour led by Edgar, a current student at the University of Chicago,(who is also from California). Edgar showed us all the places to know on campus including popular study places and even a really cool statue. He was a great tour guide because not only did he give us basic information, he shared fun facts and quirks about places around campus. Next it was time for lunch. For lunch we were joined by Janet, another student at U of Chicago who is also from California. We ate at a small cafe and engaged in fun conversations. Edgar even showed us a video of him singing "Someone Like You" by Adele..backwards! The karaoke competition is part of a scavenger hunt tradition on campus.

Edgar pauses to tell us a fun fact about the campus.

I really enjoyed another day of being on a college campus. This campus was also very green, the people were kind, and the weather wasn't too bad. I like how during the application process the university throws random questions out of nowhere. There is a part of the application where the applicant must right an essay on a given prompt. These prompts are very unusual. An example of one that I really liked was "Do not use reverse psychology." These prompts can be interpreted any way and their purpose is to help admissions officers get a better feel for the way applicants think.

In just a few hours we are going to dinner with Callie as well as a student from the university and a few more people. I look forward to not only the delicious food found at The Girl and The Goat everyone in Chicago speaks so highly of, but also to hearing about life at the University of Chicago from a student's perspective.

Zombie Apocalypse

Today, our day started quite early because we were on a mission: beat the Chicago traffic. After the breakfast buffet, we were fueled up to go to the University of Chicago. I didn't eat much food because I could still feel yesterday's burger still in my stomach. We arrived at the university quite early with success in beating the traffic. The tour started with the usual informational session that lasted only an hour. Callie Brown, the Northern California Admission Officer, talked about the college's backround and structure. The University of Chicago has quarters instead of semesters and they tend to take three or four classes per quarter. This seemed like something I would like because it would give alot of time to dive deep into my classes without being stressed out about managing my time. Another thing Callie said was that they have core requirements and will not need to declare a major until your third year. I think that this is great because I know that I will want a major that I enjoy and how will I know that I have the best major for myself if I don't try it all. Unfortunately, I am interested in civil engineering and the university doesn't have a strong engineering program.

After the information session, Edgar, our tour guide, showed us around the campus and talked about life on campus. At first, I thought it was going to be another campus of pure gothic styled buildings, but as we walked, the buildings started to change into a more modern style. I liked this because it showed the university's creativity. Life as a student seemed really appealling because of the not so regular events that are held by the students. One is Humans Vs. Zombies, which is the most ultimate game of tag. Basically, one person starts off as a zombie and infects the humans by tagging them. The humans use Nerf gun to stun the humans and stay alive. I think Edgar said that he won once. Another is Assassin, in which each student is given one target and they must wet their target with water guns.When  they "kill" their target, they get a new target, which is their victim's target. I can continue talking about all the fun event that they have, but then I will never end my blog because events never end at UChicago. I can also relate to Edgar because he is from California, where there is no such thing as seasons. He said that we should never buy a winter jacket in California, that the native Chicago students always help everyone else get the best jacket for what is actual winter. I loved the tour because all of the information Edgar gave us was new and not a repitition of the informational session.
The Coolest Library Ever
Later at we had lunch with another student, Janet, who is also from California. She told us that everyone is very friendly and that you will constantly be meeting new people, especially since it is made up of about 5000 students. Talking with her made me feel a lot better about deciding to apply to UChicago. This was done because she said that although they do not have an engineering program, many students still who want to be engineers end up taking a lot of physics and math course. Their not really a set schedule, you end up taking classes to explore and have fun. I really enjoyed my time at UChicago and have decided that I will apply.
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University Of Chicago

The alarm clock sounded at 7 in the morning. Does this mean that I got up exactly at 7? Well , a couple more minutes passed ,along with a couple more snooze alarms , until I finally got up. But it was 7:10, and I needed to be ready by 7:30. I quickly dashed for the shower , jumping off of beds , as if I were super man himself, and throwing everything in my path, out of it.That's right , the nearly 10ft long path from my bed to the bathroom was covered in about .524 seconds.Safe to say , through all of that I arrived and was ready to eat breakfast on time.

After breakfast we made our way to UChicago(University of Chicago),taking to cabs.What was to be 100 degree weather , plus humidity which would make it equivalent to 115 did not feel as bad as it seemed before hand.When we arrived we made our way to the admissions office were were greeted by Edgar who explained everything that was to go on that day: Information session , tour , than lunch with him and another student.The information session was really similar to WashU's. Both schools are D3 in sports which means no athletic scholarships, and both are relatively small to meduim size schools which was actually great for the tour. Before the tour started Edgar gave us UChicago sun glasses to wear. During the tour we kept going in and out of buildings(which were air conditioned), which made the tour way better.

After the tour we sat down and ate lunch with Edgar and Janet at one of the Universities dining halls.We talked a lot and got to know a lot of what goes on in Chicago along with fun things to do.The rest of the day was to be spent rejuvenating my energy for tomorrow's visit at Northwestern.


Core Beliefs

After a quick breakfast, we headed over to U of Chicago for our second college tour. Last year, I went to a joint info session with Rice, Brown, Cornell, Columbia, and U of Chicago. I remembered U of Chicago as sounding pretty quirky, with campus wide events such as the annual scavenger hunt, but I was not prepared for today’s wonderful info session and campus tour.

 I remembered U of Chicago’s pride in their Core curriculum from the previous info session, but back then I had thought that I would find such requirements stifling. After meeting with Callie Brown, the U of Chicago admissions officer for northern California, I realized that the Core would actually be great for me. Although I prefer certain areas of study, I have always enjoyed taking classes in all the four main disciplines–math, English, history, and science. Contrary to former belief, I would love taking classes in a wide variety of fields of study. I also didn’t understand before that although the Core requirements cover math, the sciences, humanities, etc., within that frame there are plenty of classes to choose from that fulfill those requirements. I like the idea behind the Core, the belief that every student should have a broad base of knowledge not confined to his/her chosen field of study.

The Fermi statue
U of Chicago is on the quarter system, which translates to taking 3 different sets of classes per year, as most students don’t take classes during the summer. I remembered first hearing about the quarter system when I toured Dartmouth with the ILC last summer. If I recall correctly, I was doubtful that I would do well with such a short time for each class. (At U of Chicago, a quarter is 10 weeks and finals week.) After speaking with Edgar, a rising junior at U of Chicago from southern California, I don’t feel that that’s such a concern anymore. After all, El Cerrito High’s block schedule has already helped me adjust to semester classes, and I like the idea of being able to take up to 12 classes per year. It sounds wonderful to be able to learn so much in such a wide variety of classes in such a short time period.
U of Chicago's largest library–most of the books are underground
The classes themselves also sound amazing. Core classes are capped at 19 students, which sounds great because I’ve found from high school experience that my favorite classes have been when I’ve been fortunate enough to have classes with about 20 or fewer other students. Although it might seem incredible to have classes with 20 students in an underfunded public school, the higher math classes tend to be smaller than other classes.

The phrase most commonly used to describe U of Chicago classes was “discussion based.” I know I would enjoy classes here because my junior year AP Lit class was discussion based, and it was one of my favorite classes. We spent 90% of our time talking about the novels we read, which would invariably offer new ways to interpret them. I really liked the way that our teacher would help guide us to new ways of thinking, but mostly let us talk among ourselves and discover new meanings from each other.

My other favorite high school class was calculus. My Calc AB teacher was a U of Chicago alumnus, and he was my favorite math teacher ever. I also had him for geometry my freshman year, and he helped spark my interest in math. He was a big believer in learning for the sake of learning, an approach which resonated with me. He tried to help all of his classes learn the right way to think about math, and always told us that we didn’t need to memorize formulas (with some exceptions, obviously) if we could figure out how to derive them. I loved this approach to learning, and when we came to U of Chicago it became immediately apparent that his teaching philosophy and that of U of Chicago go hand in hand. 

Based on my experiences in AP Lit and calculus, I think that I would love U of Chicago academics. Although a lot of schools claim to have small discussion based classes, I am pretty convinced that the U of Chicago is the real deal because of my math teacher. I love the core beliefs and academic approach here. I really liked campus, as it was a mix of older and more modern buildings, in an urban setting but still maintaining a sense of campus unity. From what I’ve experienced so far, I could definitely see myself here in another year, and I plan on applying.

U of Chicago, Me of Chicago

Lake Michigan: It's not quite the Bay, but it'll do
Today, I fell in love.  After a buffet breakfast at the hotel, we spent the day at the University of Chicago.  I don't think I have ever been this physically excited about a school.  We had an hour-long information session with Callie Brown, the NorCal admissions officer who is joining us for dinner tonight.   She gave us the run down on the usual college information.  Almost 100% of what she said appealed to me.  The university is strong in science, my main interest, and offers a lot of research opportunities.  Many students study abroad, and others get paid internships.  Strangely, I was happy to hear that they have core requirements.  Most areas of study interest me and I worry that if my college doesn't require me to take classes in other fields, I won't fit them in to my schedule.  The majority of classes at U of Chicago are taught through discussion and capped at 19 students. The school is unique in it's application supplement, posing essay questions like "Find X." or "Write an essay inspired by a 5 gallon jar of mustard."  Clearly, everyone accepted has to have a high level of creativity. All of these aspects make the academics very appealing, but it wasn't till the campus tour that I really started seeing myself as a U of Chicago student. 

Edgar, our tour guide, took us all around campus and told us a lot about student life.  I loved the mix of Modern and Gothic architecture and that the campus is right in the city. There is never a lack of things to do there.  Edgar belongs to the coed community service fraternity.  I have spent a lot of my high school career doing community service, and I find the idea of a coed frat very intriguing.  I know if I attend school here, I will be joining too.
 Every year, U of Chicago has a four-day scavenger hunt called Scav.  Teams earn points by doing different tasks found on a 19 page list.  One year, Edgar attached 6-foot googly eyes to one of the biggest buildings on campus.  This year, he learned the Adele song "Someone Like You" backwards for a backwards karaoke competition.  The campus has a ton of student clubs ranging from the run of the mill theater or community service groups to the Zombie Readiness Task Force.  Not only does the school have opportunities to explore all interests and have tons of fun, it is probably the safest place to be in a Zombie Apocalypse.

Edgar also spoke highly of the all around environment on campus.  Students are close knit and supportive. Classes are collaborative and housing groups become very close.  Originally from California, Edgar knew that adjusting to Chicago weather, a.k.a. real seasons, is a big challenge.  Luckily, local students helped him out and there is always something to do in the snowy cold winter.

Mariko models the complimentary sunglasses
I ate lunch with Edgar and the girls from our cohort.  The campus food was very good, and the conversation was even better.  He told us a little more about his personal experiences and application process. He even shared the video of his backwards karaoke entry.  It sounded like gibberish at first, but once he reversed it, his voice matched up right with the song.   He definitely has me convinced that U of Chicago is a great place for me.
Lake Michigan again, I just can't get over how beautiful it is
Once back at the hotel, Mariko, Chloe, and I went to the fitness room for a nice workout.  We figured it was a good way to prepare for our dinner at the Girl and the Goat and it gave us the chance to watch Italy dominate in the Euro Cup semi-finals.  I can't wait for dinner tonight; it will be amazing to eat at such a high quality restaurant and learn even more about U or Chicago.