Everyone could use some new ideas to kick their dining hall food up a notch. What lies below will likely astound and stupefy you, so brace yourself! These incredibly simple, head-turningly odd, but surprisingly delicious food combinations might just be able to reignite your fiery passion for dining hall food. These unusual flavor pairings will also improve your ability to distinguish tastes, and you will start to think of your own creations. You may very well become known as the dining hall wizard. So come, my apprentice, and let us learn some dining hall magic.

1. Soft-Serve Vanilla Ice Cream + Fruit Salad + Balsamic Vinegar

dining hall

Photo by Alexander Wu

Having an unlimited amount of ice cream at your disposal is pretty neat, but only a limited number of toppings makes for a very boring dessert (or entire meal, I’m not judging).


1. Fill up your bowl with soft serve.

2. Put some fruit on top (strawberries are my personal favorite, but anything sweet will do).

3. Finally, getting ready for a few confused looks, take your ice cream fruit combo over to the salad bar and pour balsamic vinegar over it. Voila!

Not only does this concoction look like it came from a fancy restaurant, it tastes pretty darn good too. You will notice that the balsamic vinegar heightens the sweetness of the fruit, which, combined with the creaminess of the vanilla, makes for a glorious combination.

Variation: Another good ice cream + salad bar team up is chocolate ice cream with olive oil, and maybe some rice crispies if you’re feeling frisky.

2. Watermelon + Salt and Pepper + Olive Oil

dining hall

Photo by Carl Harmon-Vellotti

A very limited amount of spices makes culinary creations difficult. Alas, salt and black pepper are all we’ve got, but they are fairly potent in their own right; salt as a flavor intensifier and pepper for its unique spiciness.


1. Toss your watermelon with the olive oil (hopefully you’re learning to avoid, or maybe embrace, the head tilts in your direction).

2. Season to taste, probably using lots of salt and pepper.

There are a few things going on here. The salt brings out the sweetness of the watermelon (in a different way than balsamic vinegar) and it contrasts nicely with the pepper. Paired with the butteriness of the olive oil, this dish is elevated to the next level.

Variations: Try salting other fruits: bananas, apples, pears, peaches, etc. Don’t worry about too much sodium. Recent studies debunk the salt – blood pressure myth.

3. Peanut Butter + Pickle + Maple Syrup Sandwich

dining hall

Photo by Carl Harmon-Vellotti

Making PB & J sandwiches always gives me a pleasant blast from the past. Now it’s time to get funky. If you are still with me then you must be brave enough not to run away from that heading. Trying this dish requires true courage, but I promise it will be worth it.


1) Get your bread.

2) Spread the peanut butter.

3) Add a layer of pickles.

+ For a truly maniacal twist squeeze maple syrup on top.

Maple syrup works well with the saltiness of the pickles and PB, while the sweetness of the pickles complements the earthy base of PB at the same time. If this gives you a blast from the past, you’ve had a very interesting life.

Variation: Oh how I love peanut butter. It’s so versatile, and its crunchy creamy properties are unparalleled. It pairs well with savory meats like bacon and beef, so next time you get one of those boring burgers try spreading some legumey love on top.

There you have it. A few crazy flavor combos to spice up your dine life. If nothing else, I hope that you take away a sense for the awesome potential of new and unusual flavor pairings. A dining hall provides just the right amount of flexibility and rigidity for some truly remarkable culinary feats. Now, my apprentice, it’s time to enchant your tastebuds. The world is your oyster (which pairs well with kiwi by the way).


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