Michael Hall ‘20

Restaurant Critic

Dishes from the Senior’s dinner at the President’s House.

Photos by Michael Hall.

Forever nearby yet elusive, Davidson College President Carol Quillen is at times shrouded in an aura of mystery and awe. The idea of every senior having dinner at her house may be a terrific selling point on tours but is more than anything a tender evening that humanizes the college’s President. I strolled up to the President’s House on a Thursday afternoon, unaware of both the night’s menu and the impact the dinner would have on me.

Dinner with Quillen began with a plus-sized nametag and a reception in her living room. Waters were brought out (ice included) as our group of 20-some seniors divided, clustered, and awaited a visit from the woman herself. Each table had eight seats, one of which was left intentionally without a place setting to signal it was President Quillen’s seat. Rolls were brought out, followed by wine (both white and red were offered), and the cue was given to dine.

The salad was a fairly-typical large-event starter: some mixed lettuces served with sliced cucumber, halved grape tomatoes, and julienned carrots. Nothing stood out here apart from the frisée lettuce in the mixed greens, which, given its frills’ ability to get stuck in teeth, seemed like a poor choice for a formal event. Excuse me, “snappy casual.”

The table was set with two unidentified vinaigrettes. Assuming them to be raspberry and ranch, I opted for raspberry but would’ve preferred a third option that wasn’t quite as heavy. The vinaigrette’s thickness prevented a thin coating when poured and instead resulted in uneven glops. The wine was poured at this stage and was overall agreeable, balanced in all categories potentially polarizing (viscosity, tartness, and level of tannins).

The main course was brought out after some 15 minutes of dining. A grilled chicken breast (going off of visual signals not the level of char, which was nonexistent) was coated in a thin orange sauce atop green beans, with their own different sauce, and hasselback potatoes. The chicken was only a tad dry and its sauce carried little other than tomato and garlic, similarly the case for the green beans’ sauce, however this was more obviously tomato-centric and delivered the expected sweet, acidic flavor. TThe green beans were themselves tender all the way throughout, surely as intended, and seemed to be the table’s favorite.

After dinner, coffee came around to accompany the two-layered chocolate mousse cake. Two distinguished mousses were stacked on top of a dense crust and coated in a thin layer of milk chocolate. It seemed a bit like a dessert for a retirement home given there was no real necessity for teeth to eat the chocolate-on-chocolate dessert. Ultimately, the event was obviously catered by Davidson and was a pleasant step-up from Vail Commons, but not meant to hold its own with actual restaurants. Although the dinner might have been just average, the company was exceptional, and the ability to talk with President Quillen one-on-one has allowed me to finally form an impression of our curious, artistic, and cerebral head of college.

Also, there is indeed a Picasso in the bathroom.

Michael Hall ’19 is an Economics and Hispanic Studies Double Major from Savannah, GA. He can be reached for comment at mihall@davidson.edu