Meadowood’s Executive Chef Matthew Doman has created many special Valentine’s Day dishes in his time, including twin lobster tails, twin petite filet mignons and other romantic pairings.
But this year, he and his team outdid themselves to show their love for Meadowood during challenging times.
“We wanted to make the dinner extra special and put a little twist on it,” Matthew says. “There is a pink or red hue in each item.” The delectable Valentine’s Day menu included tomato and crab bisque, shrimp and scallops with a tomato blush sauce, sautéed chicken breast with roasted red pepper, carved beef tenderloin with red wine demi-glace and mashed potatoes with sun-dried tomatoes.
The pièce de résistance was a dessert that all residents, even those who didn’t sign up for this special dinner, received. “We gave all the residents assorted heart-shaped macaroons in pink, white and red,” Matthew says.
And now, the reviews are in. “Valentine’s was a hit!!” exclaims Matthew. “Residents loved the tomato and crab bisque, calling it ‘the best they ever had!’ Shrimp and scallops were ‘to die for.’ Beef was ‘amazing, melt-in-your-mouth tender’ and they loved the French heart-shaped macaroons!”
Of course, over-the-top experiences happen frequently at Meadowood. “We do wine dinners that are amazing,” Matthew says. The team garnered rave reviews for their New Year’s brie and champagne toast, and they’re already planning their Founders Day celebration. “We’re always doing something special for the residents.”
“We really try to push it up for them,” explains Matthew. “We know it must be tough for them during the pandemic, so we’re really accommodating. We’re always doing off-the-cuff treats … fun things like shrimp cocktails and Bloody Mary’s.”
And the residents return the love. In fact, just before Valentine’s Day, an anonymous resident brought in candies for the entire dining team.
This isn’t the first time people have brought in treats to show their appreciation. The Meadowood Residents Association, individual residents and family members have provided the staff with cheesesteaks, Panera Bread lunches, bagels, hoagies and more, according to Matthew.
In spite of the challenges of creating menus that are packaged to deliver, the residents “are very, very happy with what we’re doing,” he says. “Every time we have a special meal, I get comments like, ‘You guys are really doing a great job. You’re getting better and better.’”
And a slew of thank you notes have come in. “I have a whole wall covered with them,” Matthew says.
He stresses that not only the Meadowood dining program, but the patrons, are different than you might expect. “This is not your pre-conceived notion of senior living,” Matthew says. “These residents are well-traveled and well-educated about food.
As is Meadowood’s culinary team. Matthew has been in the restaurant business since he was 13, when he started in a bakery. “They paid me in cookies and cakes to take home to my family of 10,” he says. Later, Matthew attended the Culinary Institute of America. After graduation, he started traveling, working in fine dining establishments in far-flung locales such as the Caribbean, Switzerland, Nantucket and Bar Harbor, including a 10-year stint as executive chef of the renowned William Penn Inn in Gwynedd, Pennsylvania.
Matthew brings all of these exotic flavors and expertise to his position at Meadowood, but he gives credit for the extraordinary cuisine to his staff, both those from the restaurant world and those who have been lending their dedication to the senior living industry throughout their careers.
He and his team can’t wait to reopen in-person dining at Meadowood. “We’re all biting at the bit to get back to it,” he says. And so are the residents. “They miss seeing us and being part of it.” Meadowood is shooting for a March 15 open date at 50% capacity. “We’re working on the menus now,” Matthew says.
He stresses that it’s not just the culinary team that’s pulling together. “The residents, the staff, families and everybody at Meadowood — from the top to the bottom — are all doing a great job. It’s a really strong crew in every department,” he says. “Meadowood Strong. That’s what we are.”
A recipe from the Meadowood Valentine’s Dinner shared by Chef Matthew Doman:
Shrimp and Scallops Valentine
1 cup white wine
2 cups lobster stock
1–15 shrimp peeled and deveined
1 stick of butter
½ cup flour
8 oz. quartered artichoke hearts
8 oz. quartered mushrooms
8 oz. diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. fresh dill
1 tsp. fresh tarragon
juice of ½ lemon
Bring wine and stock to a simmer. Poach scallops and shrimp to internal temperature of 145 degrees F and remove from poaching liquid. Add the mushrooms and poach until tender. Melt butter in a small saucepan and slowly add flour to make roux. Add cream to stock and bring to a simmer. Add roux bit by bit and allow to cook out before adding more. When you have the stock to a sauce consistency, bring to a boil, then back to a simmer. Add the shrimp and scallops, then the vegetables and herbs. Finish with fresh lemon juice. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with rice, pasta or puff pastry.