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‘It all comes down to taste’

Eagle’s Trace food show offers residents a chance to interact with suppliers

Created date

August 21st, 2012

Where does your food come from? That s the question Jim Rondinelli hoped to answer at the first annual Eagle s Trace food show. This event has been in the works for quite a while, says Rondinelli, director of dining services at the West Houston Erickson Living community. We wanted to give residents a chance to meet our suppliers, ask questions, and offer feedback. Representatives from Certified Angus Beef, Farmland Foods (pork products), Tyson Chicken, Southwest Seafood, Brothers Produce, Ventura Foods (salad dressings), and Sara Lee were on hand with their products and samples. The show wasn t supposed to start until 11 o clock, but we had residents gathering outside the Garden Room Restaurant at 10, says Kay Foster, a member of the dining services committee. The samples smelled so good, they were drawing a crowd. Kay moved to Eagle s Trace in 2010. She s been impressed with the quality and variety of food served at the community. If I was to go to the grocery store on my own, I don t think I d be able to get the quality of food that we have here, particularly the meat, she says. I also get to sample foods that I wouldn t ordinarily buy. It can be a real treat. As an example, Kay points to the wine-tasting station at the food show. I was sampling a chardonnay, when the vendor asked if I would like some brie to go with it, says Kay. Brie isn t something I d buy for myself. Rondinelli echoes her sentiments. Our meat purveyor is the same company that provides for Taste of Texas, an upscale steakhouse just down I-10 from Eagle s Trace, he says. We get fresh seafood delivered several times a week. As a company, Erickson Living has a tremendous amount of buying power. We re able to purchase quality products at reasonable prices, keeping the fees down for our residents.

Continuous feedback

Based on feedback from the show, Rondinelli plans to tweak the menu to accommodate resident preferences. Our salad dressing supplier, Ventura Foods, brought a variety of salad dressings and eclectic salad ingredients to sample, he says. The most popular dressings were a lemon-lime Caesar, low-fat raspberry, and buttermilk ranch. We ll add those to our offerings. I also learned our residents prefer asparagus with smaller stalks, so I ve changed our order in that regard. A few booths offered little surprise. We had a blind taste test between Breyers ice cream and Blue Bell, says Rondinelli. There wasn t any contest. Residents overwhelmingly chose Blue Bell. I think Jim knows he can t serve anything but Blue Bell here, says Kay. Any other ice cream just doesn t taste as good.

Ongoing resident education

Now that she s approaching her two-year mark at the community, Kay says she s all but given up cooking. She currently uses the oven in her apartment home to store water bottles. The food is very good here, she says. And the food show was a great way to highlight the quality and variety of products served. Rondinelli is pleased with the outcome of the show. The culinary team is committed to ongoing resident education about our dining program, he says. We recently rolled out a new website, My Nutrition, that provides nutritional information for food served in the restaurant. At the end of the day, Rondinelli recognizes that food preparation and service boils down to one factor: The first consideration is always the quality of the product, he says. It all comes down to taste.