Restaurant Review: Salsas

When I first started going to St. Mary’s as a freshmen, I rarely ventured outside the shadow of the Great Room when it came to food. Stranded without a car and naive enough to think that the only restaurants in the area were chains, the only times I would eat off campus were occasional trips to Chipotle or Panera when I tagged along on a shopping trip. After the painful demise of the Upper Deck and Quiznos (a loss I don’t think the campus has fully recovered from yet) and the shiny alfredo-dripping sheen of the campus food service wore off, I began to venture slightly beyond the main drag in Lexington Park, rife with chain restaurants and traffic from the Naval base. Years of exploration and suggestions from the more adventurous upperclassmen have made me realize that despite being an isolated peninsula, St. Mary’s County has a surprisingly wide range of different ethnic food options and excellent restaurants in all price ranges to offer. One of my favorite finds is Salsas Mexican Cafe in Leonardtown.

Just past the campus of the College of Southern Maryland, Salsas, like so many great hidden gems in the area, sits in an unassuming shopping center. It has a lively and bright atmosphere that stands in stark contrast to the drab concrete of the other shops. The service is always fast and friendly, and they manage to ensure that no one has to wait long for a table.

When I first went to Salsas with a few friends I wasn’t expecting much beyond any run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant that’s clearly far away from Mexico. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the food was delicious and fresh with prices that are simply unbeatable on a college student’s budget. We went for lunch and were greeted by a huge selection of lunch combinations, all under $7.00, that give the perfect amount of food and taste for the price. We didn’t order drinks because of the time of day, but other tables were enjoying large margaritas from their full bar. The rest of the expansive menu offered all of the Mexican favorites for equally great prices.

For students whose only disposable income is often set aside for textbooks and beer, Salsas is a guilt-free choice to mix things up at lunch or dinner.

The Waning of Sweet Briar: A Cautionary Tale

On March 3, Sweet Briar College abruptly announced that they would be closing at the end of the academic year after more than a century of offering a female liberal arts education. Citing “insurmountable financial challenges,”officials at the school announced to students and faculty that an $84 million endowment was not enough to save the school, according to the Washington Post.

The Board of Directors voted unanimously to close the college and stated, “We voted to act now to cease academic operations responsibly, allowing us to place students at other academic institutions, to assist faculty and staff with the transition and to conduct a more orderly winding down of academic operations,” according to Paul G. Rice, the board chairman.

In an all-student email on March 5, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Dean of Admissions Gary Sherman said that St. Mary’s College was already in contact with Sweet Briar and would be visiting with prospective transfers on their campus this month. St. Mary’s is one of over 150 colleges that have visited the campus to try to attract the scores of lost students looking for another institution, eager to profit from Sweet Briar’s misfortune.

However, even as the college’s assets are divided up, a new alumnae group Saving Sweet Briar has raised $3 million and threatened the school with legal action unless it makes its finances public, according to the New York Times, although administrators at the school insist that the school will close despite their actions. They claim that Sweet Briar would need a $250 million endowment to survive the financial crisis and that considered alternatives, such as becoming coed or merging with another school, are not viable.

The activists, however, are not convinced. Tracy Stuart, a 1993 graduate, said, “Something doesn’t smell right. You just don’t close a college like that without warning.” History professor Katherine A. Chavigny sees the college as a victim of years of mismanagement and says that the board “just threw in the towel.”

It remains to be seen how the saga of Sweet Briar College will turn out, it should serve as a clear warning to our administrators. As a graduating senior, I have seen three college presidents, five Public Safety Directors, and so many other administrative changes that it feels like hiring at this school is similar to a game of russian roulette with every fifth hire ending up “moving on to new opportunities.” I was here during the budget deficit when low enrollment cost the college $3.5 million in tuition fees. The college’s current crisis has left the student community reeling from the gross mishandling of the mandatory sexual assault training that was found to have violated IRB standards.

Despite all of this, I am hopeful about our current administration’s potential. Admissions numbers are up, Dr. Jordan has proved to be an impressive new president, and we don’t have any students living on a cruise ship. However, I hope that we can see Sweet Briar’s downfall as a cautionary tale. As a fellow small liberal arts institution, we are just as vulnerable to death by mismanagement. We can only hope that our administration will be more transparent if we were to suffer the same fate as Sweet Briar.

Postcards from Abroad: Dublin, Ireland

Everything is perpetually soggy here. It doesn’t actually seem to rain all that much – except accompanied by gale force winds when I’m on the way to my 9a.m. class – but somehow, nothing ever seems to dry out. Everything is impossibly green though, like someone just turned up the saturation on the landscape and made everything seem like it belongs on a postcard. Ireland is truly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to, with actual rolling hills and ancient castles casually dotting the horizon. A lot of this semester has seemed very surreal, and a lot of it has just been really wonderfully weird.

Irish people, contrary to popular belief, are not drunk all the time. Although they do enjoy a pint of Guinness at the end of the day, it would be pretty hard to have a functioning country if every inhabitant was a raging alcoholic. They are all incredibly friendly (except the city bus drivers) and very strange. For example, President Obama visited his ancestral village in Ireland a few years ago and in response, the entire town is now more spangly than I ever expected to see on this side of the Atlantic. There is an “Obama Cafe,” decoarated with a likeness of the Statue of Liberty with his face on it. In the middle of the Irish countryside.

A typical week for me begins with classes, only 50 minutes long with very little homework. After my mild obligations are out of the way, I usually choose to take a double decker bus into the city center to soak up downtown Dublin, especially on Mondays (the biggest party day for the average Irish college student). At any given moment, I could be standing on a Viking site that is thousands of years old while also being within a stone’s throw of a Burger King, which are almost as common here as Walmarts in the states.

Ireland is constantly surprising and wonderful, with nothing turning out as I think it will. Everything from the chip flavors (called crisps here) to the settings in the laundry room (which make no sense at all) keep me on my toes and make me miss my home on the river a little more, despite the fact that I’m having the time of my life. St. Mary’s, as you rock your reindeer parkas to deal with the bitter cold, know that I miss you and I can’t wait to be home, although Ireland is doing a pretty good job of changing my life.

New Chapter of Anthropological Society in St. Mary's County

The Archeological Society of Maryland (ASM) has recently approved a new St. Mary’s County chapter of the organization, called the St. Mary’s County Archeological Society (SMCAS). For Anthropology majors on campus, the geographic location of St. Mary’s College of Maryland is incredibly fortuitous. In addition to being a unique cultural landscape, the area is incredibly rich in archaeological sites. There is a long history of pre-historic occupation, as well as 17th, 18th, and 19th century occupation all over the county. Historic St. Mary’s City is a valuable resource for aspiring archaeologists, especially for those at the college.

The newest chapter of ASM will serve to create professional and personal connections between the community and those devoted to preserving and interpreting the past. From the ASM website, the organization is “a statewide organization of lay and professional archeologists devoted to the study and conservation of Maryland archeology.”  The society funds archaeological excavations, holds monthly and annual meetings, and sponsors events throughout the year. Currently, SMCAS meets at St. Francis Xavier Knights of Columbus Hall in Compton. The next event is Monday, December 16th, at 7:00 p.m and it will be a Christmas potluck that all are welcome to attend.

'The Container' Closes Its Doors

In America’s modern political arena, one of the topics that is the most hotly-debated is immigration. Many people will very casually throw around phrases like “dirty Mexicans” and “the illegals are taking all of our jobs,” but what is the real story behind the border? The most recent production by the Department of Theater, Film, and Media Studies, The Container, portrays the journey of five immigrants traveling in a shipping container, not from Mexico to America, but from Africa and the Middle East to England, and literally puts the audience into the container with the cast.

For an hour, attendees were locked inside of a mock shipping container with the five immigrants, experiencing the same terror and uncertainty that the frightened refugees would have on their trip. The set was simple, consisting of makeshift beds and seats made out of pallets. As the audience entered the container, the actors were set pieces themselves, hunched over under dirty blankets. As the stairs were removed and the door was bolted shut, the actors were brought to life and illuminated the dark container with only the glow from their flashlights.

Fatima is leaving refugee camps in Somalia with her daughter Asha to meet her struggling son; Mariam, an Afghan widow, is fleeing a brutal Taliban retaliation against teachers who taught girls; Ahmed, also from Afghanistan, is looking for a stable political climate to start a business; and Jemal, an ethnic Kurd, is desperately trying to get back to his wife and daughter after being deported back to Turkey. The immigrants are lorded over by “the Agent,” a cruel middleman who is paid to get them safely across the border.

The show was a completely immersive experience, and it was more unsettling than any Halloween horror story. The audience, in the same situation as the frightened refugees, felt a similar terror as the ambient sounds that simulated traffic ceased and an unknown figure unbolted the door of the pitch black set. The show put the attendees in a compromising positions, as they were given full view of the horrors inside the container, but were powerless to stop the cruelty of the Agent or ease the plight of their helpless co-inhabitants.

The action itself was disturbing and stirring, and there was a particularly sinister implied rape scene that confirmed the need for patrons to sign a waver before viewing the show.  It was masterfully directed and acted, and certainly achieved its goal of bringing to light some of the unspoken atrocities surrounding immigration and the struggles of refugees. If shown to the lawmakers in Washington, it would certainly alter the current political discussions involving this touchy subject.

Mexican Standoff: Plaza Azteca vs. Plaza Tolteca

With all of the chains and local dives dotting Point Lookout Road, it’s hard for an eatery to distinguish itself in Lexington Park. I decided to investigate two restaurants who don’t seem to be trying to be unique at all, Plaza Azteca and Plaza Tolteca, to see if their food would set them apart more than their names do. The overwhelming winner was Plaza Azteca, whose better prices, food, atmosphere, and overall quality of the experience vastly eclipsed Plaza Tolteca.

Plaza Azteca:

After being greeted by the friendly staff and the encouraging site of a homemade tortilla press, my companion and I were seated and helped promptly by a server. The atmosphere was casual and fun, with a rustic Mexican design. The menu was huge, extensive, and reasonably priced for a college budget with lots of pictures. We took our time deciding over  fresh chips with a mild salsa that probably wouldn’t have the heat desired by any spice seekers, and a $3 margarita that, according to my friend, tasted like it was mostly tequila. To start, we ordered an appetizer called Pollo Gratinado that arrived on a sizzling skillet, and I could have eaten it as a meal. The dish consisted of grilled chicken that was incredibly tender and topped with onions and a creamy Mexican cheese mixture that made our chips disappear quickly, only to be replaced immediately by our attentive waitress. Our food came shortly after, steaming and smelling delicious. My Pork Belly Tacos were slightly dry, but flavorful and topped with fresh ingredients. My friend’s Burrito Cochinita Pibil was incredible and stuffed with tender, slow-roasted pork. Although we wanted to finish everything on the table, we had to resign to defeat and leave full to bursting and satisfied with our experience. The whole meal was less than $15, and a great alternative to waiting in line at Chipotle.

Plaza Tolteca:

Our rather large party of 6 was seated at Plaza Tolteca in record time, but it took a while for everyone to get drinks and menus. The service was friendly for the most part, but ridiculously slow considering we were sitting in a nearly empty restaurant. The chips were of the same quality as Plaza Azteca, but were served with a white sauce that tasted kind of like a Mexican Caesar dressing, as well as salsa that was spicier, but not as fresh as the competitor. We also ordered guacamole that arrived in a huge tureen that was chunky and flavorful.  Tolteca’s menu was not as extensive and pricy for a casual Mexican restaurant. Always the deal hunter, I went with a combination plate that gives the diner a choice of two from a variety of options for around $10. The food took its time to arrive, and may or may not have been worth the wait, depending on who you talked to. My burrito was unappetizing; the chicken inside was dry and it was topped with a red sauce that could have been found in an Italian restaurant, but my quesadilla was crispy, tender, and delicious. The table agreed that the rice that was served alongside was the true star of the evening, surprisingly enjoyable. One person got a Coronarita, a huge margarita with a mini bottle of Corona sticking out of the top, that got her very tipsy by the end of the meal, but was more than double the price of Azteca’s margarita. The meal came to be almost $20, which could be justified if the food was worth the wait, the price, and the food poisoning that some of the party got as a bonus.

Meet Your Farmer: Springfield Farm

Just off of I-83 in Sparks, Maryland, Springfield Farm occupies 67 acres of pastures and woodlands. It is home to chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, lambs, pigs, cows, and the Smith, Lafferty, and Webb families. About 13 years ago, David Smith, the family patriarch, moved back to the United States after traveling with the military and decided to start farming in the way that made sense to his family. The farm has been in the Smith family since the 1600s and has been farmed in many ways over the years, but it is now a free-range pasture farm. What started as a few chickens has grown into a successful family business that operates a farm store, delivers to restaurants, and sells at farmers markets all around Maryland. Springfield Farm sells farm fresh eggs as well as chicken, turkey, and many cuts of beef, pork, and lamb. They partner with Trickling Springs Creamery, a local dairy farm, and Taharka Brothers Ice Cream.

Smith’s two daughters, Valerie and Catherine, both live on the farm year-round with their families. Valerie, her husband Doug, and their children Danielle and David make up the Lafferty clan, while Catherine and her daughters Rachel and Jennifer represent the Webbs. Springfield Farm has been a part of the “Eat Local Challenge” at St. Mary’s College for 5 years. “It’s exciting to see schools trying to work with farms and provide local product because people are becoming more aware of where their food is coming from,” said Valerie Lafferty.

“We found out about the ‘Eat Local Challenge’ for St. Mary’s through Goucher College…which is served by Bon Appetit Managment Company as well,” Lafferty said. “They referred us to some of their other locations and we got a call from St. Mary’s.” After working out the logistics of driving the three hours to deliver to the college, Springfield farm began to make a contribution to the table. This year, the Bon Appetit prepared eggs, dairy, sausages, pork shoulder, bacon, and beef tenderloin. “They have really increased their order every year to make it worth our while, but also offer a really good product for the students and the families to enjoy.” All of the animals raised on Springfield Farm are free-range pastured, which means that they are never caged and are outside all day, only brought inside to protect them at night. “It is important for the meat to be labeled ‘free-range pastured because you know that the animals are actually outside on fresh grass as much a possible, getting clean air, and being treated better and healthier,” Lafferty said. They have opted out of being referred to as “organic” because getting certified is a huge expense on small businesses and the closest organic feed producer is in the Midwest, which would means that they would be wasting fossil fuels by shipping it so far.

The families raise and care for all of the animals on the property, as well as collecting and washing the eggs that are sold in the store and to clients. Lafferty said, “Most of the time we’re at the farm. It’s hard to really take a vacation from farming because when you’re animal farming you have animals constantly and you can’t get the chickens to take a day off from laying eggs or animals to not need to be fed one day…it keeps us busy year round.” Danielle Lafferty, Valerie’s daughter, is currently a junior attending St. Mary’s. “We really enjoy having our daughter here and it gives us an even deeper connection to the school. It’s exciting because one of the reasons that she chose St. Mary’s was because the food company that works with the school is someone who she knows and trusts can provide local ingredients,” said Valerie Lafferty.

The Editor-in-Chief Goes to the St. Mary's County Fair

If the faint smell of kettle corn and manure wafting down Route 5 didn’t clue you in, the St. Mary’s County Fair is in town bringing rides, games, and giant vegetables to satisfy even the pickiest fairgoer. From Sept. 19-22, the 67th annual county fair packed the best, worst, and weirdest of St. Mary’s County in the pavilions dotting the fairgrounds.

Even with impending storms rolling into the area, the parking lot was completely full on Saturday the 21, touted as “Parade Day” in the program. As I entered the gates with my group, my senses were bombarded with familiar smells and sights that can be found at any country fair: heart-stopping food and enough hay to send an allergy sufferer running.We made a beeline for the back of the fairgrounds where the event boasts an impressive array of stomach turning and dizzying rides that cost only a few tickets to enjoy, complete with not one, but two Ferris wheels for people who can’t get enough of being slowly hoisted into the air with a chance of getting stuck up there.

As we meandered through the grounds, we squeezed by tables featuring political campaigns, “Adventures with Jesus” storybooks, and local businesses advertising their services in the packed commercial buildings. The Farm and Garden building inspired me to change my major to “Produce Expert” so I could someday judge the impressively enormous squash on display and determine the quality of the tobacco leaves, carefully dried and hung by local farmers. We spent far too long in the Poultry and Rabbit building, crowding around the baby ducklings and surprising array of bunnies, and unfortunately missed the duck race.

The sky finally opened up on us as we headed to the food court for some “drank,” “kones,” and Thai food that was advertised as “no spice, no curry.” The attendees who were smart enough to bring umbrellas (hint: it was not us) simply carried on with the festivities while the rest of us looked for any canopy or tree that could protect us from the deluge. We eventually grabbed our “no spice” lo mein and headed for the cars in defeat, reaching the parking lot just as the rain let up. We drove away soaking wet but impressed with the array of crafts, animals. and activities that this small county has to offer.

Cross Country Faces Promising Season

By Monica Claro

This fall the St. Mary’s cross-country team is racing their way to earning a spot among the top five winning schools for the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) championships. With new devoted players, improving returners, fresh beginnings, and a winning attitude towards challenges, this season seems quite promising, according to head coach Tom Fisher. “The team has been doing fairly well; they’ve been getting second in most meets for both girls’ and boys’ teams. The team chemistry is great, our runners are improving on their times, and they seem to be really enjoying themselves,” says Fisher, who has returned to the position as head coach for the first time in four years.

The season has kick-started on a strong note, as senior captain Keighly Bradbrook earned the honors of being selected as the Capital Athletic Conference Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Week on Sept. 10. The team’s latest statistics have also reached high rankings. Recently, both the men’s and women’s cross-country teams have finished in the top five at the Coach Achtzehn Classic at York College of Pennsylvania, with the men ranking in third and women in fifth, respectively, out of twelve teams. Furthermore, both cross-country teams ranked in second out of six schools at Generals Invitational at Washington & Lee University.

Team captain David Kersey, a junior, tells The Point News, “It’s safe to say that this is the best team that St. Mary’s cross country has had in its five years as a program. Members from previous years are dropping times at every race, the new runners have been able to contribute immediately. I’m proud of how far we’ve come and can’t wait to see how we do in the final stretch. We are getting better each day.”

As for the team goals, Bradbrook had a lot to say: “Ultimately I would like to see both the girls and guys teams place at least one spot higher than we did last year in champs. As a new team doing so well I think it would be awesome if we could stir things up a little for the other teams in our conference and show them that we are a competitor.”

Sailing Season Begins

By Brianna Glase

With the wind behind their sails, the St. Mary’s sailing team raced into the new season victoriously, taking first and second place awards at the Riley Cup and placing sixth at the Harry H. Anderson Trophy, according to the official college sailing score release.

According to Director of Sailing Bill Ward, the team finished the last season strongly.  “Last year we were second at the women’s nationals and second at team nationals,” he said.

According to senior co-captain John Wallace, the addition of fifteen new members to the team should help challenge all the members to excel.  “We are very excited to have such a good group of freshman sailors.  We added fifteen new members to the team this year which is above average and will make our practices much more competitive and therefore make us stronger overall as a team,” he said.

At the beginning of the 2013-2014 season, the weekend of Sept. 14 and 15 saw the sailing team performing strongly in two competitions, the Riley Cup, sponsored by Old Dominion University, and the Harry H. Anderson Trophy, sponsored by Yale University.  Currently in their division, the St. Mary’s sailing team is ranked seventh.

Ward hopes that this success will continue throughout the season, leading up to the national championship in the spring, which St. Mary’s will be hosting.  “We hope to qualify for [the national championship] and contend like we did last year,” Ward said.

Wallace echoes Ward’s optimism.  “We hope to improve on our results from last year and continue to improve all year in order to peak at the national championships in the spring,” he said.