Henri discovers Chico State’s Local Lunch
Chico, CA 95929
Henri was enjoying a delightful stroll one lovely autumn morn of late. The air was crisp, the leaves starting to turn, the sidewalks cold and windswept—Miss Marilyn cozy in a darling little sweater by Urbanpup.
Paying little heed to direction, we soon found ourselves nearing the Chico State campus, students bustling to classes, abike and afoot. (Note to Chico State co-eds: the short-shorts-with-Uggs look is absolutely dreadful!) Not having been in the area for some time, we were surprised by a major construction project, which we later learned was a parking garage in progress. We stopped and watched some strong men with large tools.
Later, we crossed the street to the campus, where I was taken aback by a strange sign advertising “Adventure Outings.” Zut alors! While Henri suspects that many are indeed difficult, he’s never considered them particularly adventurous.
Turns out, it’s actually a student group that offers outdoorsy trips and workshops.
Another sign was more appropriate: “Local Lunch,” directing us to the food court in the Bell Memorial Union.
This we could do.
I asked a young man sitting on a step if he’d watch Miss Marilyn while I went inside to investigate.
Begun in the spring of 2010, Chico State’s Local Lunch—served at the Savory’s station inside the university’s Marketplace Café food court—is the result of a combined effort by Associated Students Dining Services, A.S. Sustainability and the Local Food Task Force. Almost all of the ingredients—from rice, olive oil and cheese to meat, fruits, and vegetables—come from local farms and businesses, including Lundberg Farms, S&S Produce and Natural Foods, the University Farm and Tin Roof Bakery & Cafe. Additionally, A.S. Dining Services Director Corrine Knapp insists on organic, fair-trade, free-range, and humanely raised ingredients whenever possible.
Each week, starting on Monday, a new two- or three-course lunch (often with a vegetarian option) is offered ($6-$7). The day I stopped in, the menu featured chicken piccata (from Petaluma Farms) and sides of mushroom risotto and veggies—summer squash, zucchini, onions, red bell peppers, all from S&S. (The vegetarian option was a Portobello mushroom, also from S&S.) It was all very good, the piccata sauce tangy and full of capers, the risotto rich and perfectly chewy, the vegetables crisp and crunchy (thankfully not overcooked, as is so common).
In fact, I liked it so much that I’ve been back several times, Colette joining me and enjoying it as well. One week, they offered a hardy organic navy iean and ham (Niman Ranch) soup, a mixed-greens salad from S&S, and a slice of bread from Tin Roof Bakery (I think it was their Chico sourdough—delicious). The vegetarian option excluded the ham.
Another week we had good, not great, sandwiches. I had pulled pork (also from Niman Ranch), and Colette had the vegetarian option, a Veggie Max sandwich made with eggplant, zucchini, Portobello mushrooms (from Morningstar Farms) and jack cheese from Sierra Nevada Cheese Co. (not to be confused with Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.). The warm coleslaw side (red and green cabbage, carrots, poppy-seed dressing), on the other hand, was terrific.
One week that we missed sounded particularly good: chicken breasts stuffed with jack cheese and feta (Sierra Nevada), fresh basil and sun-dried tomatoes (Mooney Farms) served with wild rice (Lundberg) and organic green beans, all covered with pesto and olive oil.
Our only complaint is that since it’s on the university campus, they don’t serve wine. On the other hand, we’ve solved that problem by getting our Local Lunches to go and, on one occasion, taking full advantage of our Klean Kanteens.