Special occasions are often celebrated with a fancy meal. Perhaps reservations are made at a favorite steakhouse for a birthday or a seafood restaurant for an anniversary.
Imagine if your next date night at one of Spokane’s top restaurants is in a private dining hall and only available if you know one of its 300 members. Sounds exclusive, right?
Assisted-living community Touchmark on South Hill is that private dining hall. Over the past year, Touchmark’s management team has decided to reinvent its culinary program in a big way.
Gone are the days of buffet-style cafeterias and cellophane-wrapped sandwiches. Touchmark has hired some of the Northwest’s top chef talent and curated an extensive and continually updated menu.
The reimagined program is under the direction of chef Micah Henderling. A Navy veteran who worked in the nursing field until 2014, Henderling decided to follow her passion for cooking and baking and became the corporate chef for Microsoft in Redmond.
After moving to Spokane, Henderling combined her catering, restaurant and nursing background by joining the Touchmark team.
“The goal is to create the same experience you’d get if you were in a fine-dining restaurant,” Henderling said. “With that comes an entire team of servers, line cooks and chefs.”
One of those chefs is Chong Vang, whose resume includes Eyvind and Inland Pacific Kitchen. Vong’s knowledge of food and artistic plating has kept him at the top of the heap in a city full of accomplished chefs.
His beet puree shrimp and grits at Touchmark is a delicious combination – it would be difficult to find a comparable dish in a local restaurant.
Henderling also brought in chef Bethany Meyer, who, after working for years with James Beard-nominated chef Adam Hegsted, helped him open Incrediburger & Eggs.
Meyer’s eggs Benedict and ground duck sliders with pickled vegetables show off her strong suits and have become Touchmark favorites.
“What makes this different from a restaurant is we are serving the same customers every day,” Henderling said.
Atmosphere matters, too. For a recent themed menu for Mardi Gras, Touchmark was decked out in beads and red and purple streamers, and a jazz band provided entertainment alongside an authentic Cajun seafood boil.
“We throw events every chance we get. Whenever there is a special occasion, we get to theme an entire night around it,” Henderling said. “For Valentine’s Day, we transformed the dining hall and surprised the residents with a fine-dining candlelight dinner.”
One of those in attendance at the Valentine’s Day dinner was Candace Rouse, who has been a Touchmark resident for two years. She is a retired nurse and said some days she spends as much time playing doctor for her friends as she does relaxing.
“I love the variety of food,” Rouse said. “Before I came here, it was hard cooking for one. There were always so many leftovers.” Her favorite restaurant is Clinkerdagger but thinks the food, music and atmosphere at Touchmark can give the Spokane institution a run for its money.
Ron Schoenberger, a retired insurance broker, has lived at Touchmark for four years. He raved about the breakfast and how kind the servers are.
“They know breakfast is my favorite meal, and I love the eggs Benedict,” Schoenberger said. In his four years at Touchmark, the Eastern Washington University graduate has noticed the changes at the assisted-living facility.
Schoenberger enjoys dining at Dockside Restaurant in Coeur d’Alene Resort but now is just as excited to see what is the nightly special at Touchmark.
While putting the finishing touches on a giant, layered chocolate ganache cake, Henderling said she doesn’t know if she’ll ever return to a restaurant setting. She is enjoying serving the residents turned repeat customers at Touchmark.
“It challenges us to create new nightly menus that not only give the residents variety, but also are still something that they find comfortable and familiar,” she said.
Kris Kilduff can be reached at email@example.com.
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