Taste and Travel America, a new monthly dining series at Phoebe Berks senior living community in Reading, Pa., offers seniors a ticket for a virtual summer road trip all over the USA. Each month, Cura Hospitality chefs and cooks recreate the culinary traditions and trends of a different American city.
Guy Fieri’s hit show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” inspired Mark Olszewski, general manager of dining for Cura Hospitality at Phoebe Berks, to bring iconic road-trip grub into the comforts of home for residents.
“Seniors aren’t able to get out much anymore, so wouldn’t it be fun to bring it to them. We build a menu around the different areas but it’s more of an event, too,” Olszewski says.
From Philly to Emerald City and beyond
The first culinary road trip took residents to a fixture in Philadelphia since 1893, the Reading Terminal Market. Roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwiches inspired by the DiNic’s stall at the market (recently named the Best Sandwich in America by the Travel Channel) kicked off the series in a memorable way.
A culinary excursion to Kansas City took an unexpected turn (or twister) to the Emerald City, with a “Wizard of Oz”-themed meal. Emerald City salad represented the movie’s iconic switch to Technicolor, with oranges, pineapples, cherries, coconuts, pecans and mini marshmallows with a sweet cream sauce.
The menu for each “destination” is split into two sections: food on one side and interesting facts on the other. For the Kansas City trip, on the other side of the menu was “fun facts you may not know about the ‘Wizard of Oz,’” like the fact that Dorothy’s blue dress was originally pink.
And not to worry, barbecue lovers, in this version of Oz, barbecue was represented. The Cowardly Lion’s hearty KC-style beef brisket was smoked and then braised and topped with brown gravy. The Tin Man’s roast pork ribs were infused with vanilla, slow cooked and finished with KC Masterpiece barbecue sauce.
While there’s no outdoor smoker at Phoebe Berks, “we cold smoke with the ovens and add charcoal and put it on a really low temperature or we have a couple grills and we start a little smoker pot and slow cook the meats in there with apple wood, oak or cherry wood chips,” Olszewski says.
For dessert at the KC event, residents got witchy with the Wicked Witch’s sugar-free creamy vanilla pudding.
Say it with me: “Chowdah”
For a summer outing to Cape May, N.J., restaurants of the region were highlighted: New England clam chowder from the famous Washington Inn; Caesar salad from Harry’s Ocean Bar and Grille; sliced Jamaican beef from 410 Bank Street Restaurant; mini crab cake sliders from Madd Batter Restaurant; Parmesan-crusted chicken cutlets from Tisha’s Restaurant; and a fruit tart from the Union Park Dining Room.
The setting is an important part of the experience for the Taste and Travel series as well. For the New York City dinner, deli slicers were brought from the back of the house to the dining room for a real deli experience, mimicking Katz’s Deli to get residents into that New York state of mind.
“We bring that experience out to the dining room. We had corned beef and pastrami and we made the sandwiches in front of the residents,” Olszewski says.
Next up is a trip to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., and the menu planned includes corn muffins and a summer salad with butter lettuce, spring leaves, golden raisins and strawberry vinaigrette. The menu will also include hearty vegetable soup, herb-crusted stuffed trout and yes…N.C. barbecue.
Olszewski says he may create an event around his very first foodservice job—about 50 years ago—the Woolworth’s counter (burgers, fries, sodas).
“The biggest thing is the energy,” he adds. “Some of these residents are in their mid-80s, but you can just feel the energy in the room when we do this, and that’s what it’s all about.”