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Darcy Stueber, the Dining Director at Ecumen Pathstone Living in Mankato, is always looking for ways to refresh the menu at the senior living community. But outright experimentation is risky. So she decided to organize a “dining fair” and let residents sample some new food products.
Last Wednesday, 11 local food brokers brought their offerings to the community. Residents had a chance to try 100 products and vote them up or down.
The fair was a big hit — as the smiles in the accompanying photos show. Darcy is still going through the comment cards, but there are some clear winners: cranberry wild rice bread, a new Swedish meatball offering, a new beer battered shrimp product and a flavored water with nutrients.
Darcy was especially happy to see that the blueberry filled pancake was popular. “Breakfast is the hardest meal to re-create,” she says. “There are only so many ways to make eggs.”
Putting on the fair and serving regular meals was quite a challenge, Darcy says, because the dining staff had to do their regular jobs, while sharing the kitchen space with the vendors who were cooking as well.
“But we all shared and made room,” she says. “My staff is fantastic.”
Routinely, Darcy meets with her Dining Task Force — an advisory group of residents who help with menu planning. The fall/winter menu is now in the works.
“We incorporate seasonal items to keep it interesting and switch things up,” she says. This summer, corn on the cob was a menu favorite. And this fall, a few of the winners from the dining fair will likely make the grade.