Hospital food: It may be the best restaurant in your town!

Over the past few years, many hospitals have begun making a concerted effort to improve the quality of their food offerings. In the beginning, this was intended as a move to improve patient health. After all, while a patient who doesn't eat will probably not improve, it's hard to get excited about most hospitals' questionable culinary choices.

However, as the trend continued, many hospitals discovered that good food was a worthwhile perk for their employees, and could help with worker morale. Further, the easy access to quality cuisine made life a lot easier for families and friends who were visiting loved ones.

Personally, I discovered this trend about a year and a half ago. When I was a kid, hospital food generally translated into blobby, flavorless, dishes of questionable provenance and even more questionable nutritional value. However, when I visited a friend in Pennsylvania's Geisinger clinic, I discovered that an interesting thing happened in the years since the culinary hospital horrors of my youth: hospital food had, seemingly, gotten pretty good. In addition to being cheap and hot, the Geisinger's food was really tasty. In fact, every meal that I had in the Clinic's clean, well-run restaurants was damn near perfect.

Nowadays, as I find myself regularly visiting a friend in New York's Columbia Presbyterian hospital, I've discovered a couple of my new favorite New York restaurants. The cafeteria on the second floor has an outstanding omelet station, a selection of delicious and nutritious snacks, and exceedingly well-prepared hot meals and sandwiches. In fact, their Black Forest ham panini with smoked gouda and apple preserves almost brought me to tears.

Last night, I finally visited the top-floor restaurant, "Windows on the Hudson," where I had a beautiful grilled pear and gorgonzola salad followed by lovingly seared tuna served with wasabi sauce. While not exactly ground-breaking, my meal was absolutely outstanding and fairly cheap at $18.20. By comparison, most New York restaurants would have charged me twice as much.

Admittedly, there is something slightly perverse about going to a hospital for lunch. However, as the trend continues, with Chili-lime crab cakes at Colorado's Montrose Memorial Hospital and petite filet mignon in New Jersey, it looks like good hospital food may be here to stay. Unfortunately, I will soon be unable to eat at Columbia Presbyterian as my friend is getting released and the hospital's tight security frowns on casual diners.

On the other hand, New York has a lot of hospitals and I eat a lot of meals...
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