When Ronnie Blumenthal received a call asking if she would participate in a program to provide feedback for dining selections at Siena Lakes, an Erickson Senior Living community being constructed in North Naples, Fla., the self-described foodie was thrilled.
“One of the reasons that I was attracted to Siena Lakes was that there will be a variety of restaurants available, with a variety of foods from casual to fine dining,” says Ronnie. “I've been fortunate to travel all over the world with other people who have the same interests. So, we've been fortunate enough to do a lot of casual as well as fine dining in Asia, Europe, and Australia. In the United States, I always traveled a lot both for work and pleasure, and I had the opportunity to eat in most of the really good restaurants in the U.S.”
As part of the presentation, everyone was given two sample menus—one for casual and the other for fine dining. They circled what they would be interested in eating if it were on the menus at one of the restaurants located at Siena Lakes, Ronnie says.
“What I was impressed with was the variety and extensiveness of the two menus,” she explains. “They said that the menus will change because they're responsive to residents' requests. They also explained that some of the Erickson communities have a full-service breakfast, but others don't. The residents really guide how they do their menus, which is nice.”
Local options available
Elaine Soffer, Ronnie's friend and another future resident, also attended a dining presentation. She says that many people asked questions, which the staff answered in detail—about everything from the types of foods that could be offered as well as how the community will be meeting residents' health and eating wants and needs.
“We wanted to know if they would be making use of local vendors,” says Elaine, for everything from seasonal fish to fresh ingredients. She says that Erickson staff said they would be.
Attendees asked if they would be able to choose the cooking method—choosing sautéed or grilled fish instead of the fried fish that was listed on the menu, for instance.
As is true for many Florida residents, “We are very knowledgeable about our fish,” says Elaine. “We realize that everyone has their own taste and styles, and we talked about that.” Elaine and the others weighed in on having a morning coffee, yogurt, muffin bar. “It was looked at as kind of a gathering place to meet new people,” says Elaine. “I just think it's a great thought.”
When people asked specific questions about gluten-free or vegetarian options, Elaine says that she was pleased that Erickson had options.
“It was a nice experience because they did present a very well-planned out menu, and then [people's] personal tastes came into it. They didn't make anyone feel as if they were fussy or picky.”
Dessert, yes or no?
The staff even asked not only if they would be likely to eat dessert, but also when they would eat it—either right after dinner or later as a snack. (The consensus among this group—snack.) They also asked about an ice cream or dessert bar, which Elaine said was answered with a resounding, yes!
“You can't be in Naples without [having] Royal Scoop Homemade Ice Cream,” she says. “It was things like that that they listened to.”
Before attending the presentation, Elaine says, “I didn't know what to expect food wise.” Afterwards, though, she says, “I really felt that they were truly listening and reacting and relating to what people were saying to them, and that makes you feel like you're important and being listened to.”
Ronnie agrees. “I think they have done that with regard to all the things that they're doing, not just food. They seem to listen to the residents and what their needs and wants are. I thought it was interesting that they said some of their residences do serve a full breakfast and some don't, depending on what the people want. But there's always the option to get takeaway muffins and a cappuccino,” she says.
There was one item Ronnie asked to have added—a hotdog. “I think it just completes a casual menu, particularly when there's a poolside restaurant.”
The first step to enjoying maintenance-free retirement living at Siena Lakes is to request a brochure.