So long, January, 2018. It was nice knowing ya. But excuse us if we can’t wait to welcome February.
Ever notice how January is kind of a sleeper month? Maybe it’s meant to be that way to help us recover from the hangover of the holidays (and especially New Year’s Eve). But other than the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King and the occasional Super Blue Bloody Moon, it’s a month where most of us just want get through the cold weather and move on to the rest of the year.
But February…ahh, February!
February is the month we typically crawl out of our caves like ground hogs searching for our shadows, and we celebrate some of the things that make this country so darn special. Specifically: the hoopla and hard-hitting action of the Super Bowl, the decadence and tradition of Mardi Gras, the colorful pageantry of the Chinese New Year, and above all, the unabashed romance of Valentine’s Day.
Chefs at many Sunshine Retirement communities across the country are busy preparing special menus to celebrate the diverse and unmistakable flavors of these festive events. Let’s take a quick tour across the country to see what Sunshine residents will soon be able to sink their teeth into.
Although Sunshine currently does not have any retirement communities near New England or Pennsylvania, we have plenty of residents who will be rooting for their favorite team or joining in for all the intense action and drama of the Super Bowl, including its infamous commercials.
Like many of our executive chefs, Johanna Hollfelder of The Continental in Austin, Texas is going with a traditional All-American "Ballpark Style" theme for dinner on Super Bowl Sunday. The evening meal will begin 30 minutes earlier than usual to avoid conflict with the kickoff. And the food will be just like ordering from the concession stand at the game, without the long lines, of course. Burgers and all-beef hotdogs will be accompanied by all of the popular toppings and condiments, as well as by French fries, corn on the cob, and watermelon wedges.
Since the game starts earlier in the afternoon on the West Coast, most of the chefs in California and Oregon are going with lighter fare, such as pizza, nachos, chili dogs, pretzels, BBQ chicken wings, and veggie trays with dips and dressings, plus chips with salsa and guacamole. At Summerfield Estates in Tigard, Oregon, Executive Chef Robert Parker caps it all off with a refreshing peach cranberry lemonade. No matter who wins the game, you can bet the fans at Sunshine will be going wild.
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, the Carnival celebration that culminates just before Lent, comes early this year – February 13 to be exact. Thanks to deep-rooted French influences in Louisiana, Mardi Gras is a much bigger occasion in the South than in other parts of the country. But Executive Chef Taylor Burge at The Verandah in Lake Charles, Louisiana plans to keep it simple with appetizers and punch at their annual Mardi Gras Ball. Oh, and don’t forget the King Cake.
“King Cake is a must and really the only thing that you HAVE to have,” he says. “Everything else is free reign.”
For the appetizers this year, Burge will be offering Boudin (a sausage usually made with pork and rice), Cajun Cocktail Meatballs, and a cream cheese-based Spicy Seafood Dip with crackers.
“Mardi Gras is all about excess down here,” said Burge. “So as long as it’s a good food for sopping up alcohol in your stomach, you're golden.”
At The Continental in Austin, about 500 miles west of Lake Charles, Chef Johanna is bringing a taste of New Orleans to the Lone Star State. Residents will be treated to Chicken, Crawfish, & Sausage Jambalaya, served over white rice, as well as Baked Lightly Seasoned Tilapia. Both entrees will come with Stewed Okra and Tomatoes, and Cajun Creamed Corn.
“We wanted our Mardi Gras menu to reflect what you might find if you were to take a stroll down Bourbon Street,” said Johanna.
With a menu like that, she might just start a whole Bourbon Street Parade.
Even farther west at Quail Lodge in Antioch, California, Executive Chef Jorge Figueroa has a lot of Southern food lovers to please. He serves up a mean Jambalaya along with Fried Catfish with Collard Greens and a King Cake. And many residents love the chef’s Gumbo so much, it’s a regular on the menu.
Not surprisingly, Figueroa and many of his fellow Sunshine chefs have some mouth-watering plans for Valentine’s Day. Each one brings a wealth of creativity to incorporate menu items that are not only fresh, healthy and appropriate for Lent, but conjure up a healthy dose of romantic passion mixed in with a little nostalgia.
Here are few menu highlights from across the country:
At Creekside Pines in Dallas, Georgia, Executive Chef Sharlene Maloy will get residents in the mood for crowning their King and Queen with red and white foods like a Caprese Salad Platter and a bouquet of Chocolate-Covered Strawberries at each table.
The Continental will feature Cherry Turnovers with pink icing for breakfast and Strawberry Fields Forever Salad for lunch. Dinner will offer a choice of Steak or Baked Salmon Piccata (for Lent) and yummy Red Velvet Cupcakes for dessert. For a final sweet touch, residents can enjoy Fresh Strawberries dipped into a Chocolate Fountain
Creekside Oaks in Folsom, California will be going all out with Grilled Sirloin in a Cherry Demi-glace and Broiled Swordfish with Mediterranean-style Tomato Sauce, followed by Chocolate Chiffon Cake with layers of Raspberry Buttercream for dessert. Fresh cut roses and a violinist will add to the ambiance.
Quail Lodge in Antioch, California brings back its traditional Candlelight Valentine’s Dinner with Shrimp Cocktails, Prime Rib, Twice-Baked Potatoes, Asparagus and Chocolate Cake or Cherry Cheese cake.
At Waterford Terrace in La Mesa, California, Executive Chef Joe Costa puts out a sumptuous buffet featuring Prime Rib Au Jus, Shrimp Scampi and Tequila Lime Chicken with Duchess Potatoes, Buttered Angel Hair pasta and a choice of Heart-shaped Chocolate Cakes or New York-style Cheese Cakes for dessert.
Up in Oregon, Executive Chef Robert Parker at Summerfield Estates in Tigard goes all out with Fresh Lobster Tails Wrapped in Bacon with Garlic Butter followed by a White Rose Hard Chocolate filled with Bailey’s Dark Chocolate Mousse.
At Garden Way in Eugene, Chef Martin Hernandez invites residents to help make the menu by frequently inviting them to meet and discuss their likes, dislikes and health needs. For the community Valentines Social, he’ll be setting out a variety of healthy snacks and tasty desserts, including Fruit Kabobs and a Veggie Tray with Dip, Mini Red Velvet Cupcakes, Cream Puffs, Mini Carrot Cake and Chocolate Covered Strawberries. How sweet it is!
This year, residents will barely have time to digest their Valentine’s meals before it’s time to ring in the Chinese New Year on February 16. The dining options found at many Sunshine communities are almost as diverse as a menu at a fine restaurant in Chinatown. Here’s a taste:
Waterford Terrace will be serving Moo Goo Guy Pan, Broccoli Beef, Cashew Chicken, Egg Rolls with Sweet & Sour Sauce, and Oriental-blend Vegetables.
It will be Fish Day at Summerfield Estates, so their menu will feature a Tempura-battered Shrimp with Grilled Baby Bok Choy or Flank Steak Stir Fry with Fried Rice. They’ll also offer Crème Brulee Chicken Chow Mein and Broccoli Beef for lunch.
Creekside Pines joins in with Orange Ginger Chicken, Vegetable Lo Mein and Bok Choy. And after the satisfying meal at each community, every resident will of course crack open a fortune cookie to reveal some unique insight for the New Year.
If you’re getting hungry just reading this, never fear. You don’t have to wait much longer for the February Feasting to begin. And who knows. Maybe the community in your area will be celebrating today with the special foods of Ground Hog Day.
*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, February, 2018.