Last week, I had dinner in a retirement home. On purpose.
It was three o'clock in the afternoon - an apparently acceptable time for supper in such a place - but the locally sourced and sustainable-ingredient-focused food I enjoyed there was so bold, colorful, fresh and inexpensive that I returned eagerly for lunch the very next day. Believe me, this is not a joke.
See, I was on a fun little getaway into the heart of Amish country - Millersburg - and on the recommendation of a good friend, I had driven up to the unique Table, located in the Sunshine Villa Retirement Center.
But instead of senior-citizen-approved bland or down-home, traditional Amish food, my dining partner and I devoured such fare as perfectly pan-fried Pacific snapper, a dynamic pork roulade, and a racy salad with fennel, Drambuie poached pears and a clover mignonette. How does that happen?
Operating as a separate business for seven months now inside the Sunshine Villa, Table's chef and co-owner Kent Welsh possesses some impressive restaurant credentials. He's launched Ritz-Carlton restaurants all over the world; he helped Wolfgang Puck open up one of Puck's high-profile cuisine palaces; he's catered Emmy and Grammy awards celebrations as well as Julia Child's 80th birthday party.
Due to family matters, Welsh and wife Saren (who is the front of the house personality and is from the area) have set up shop in Millersburg. If you're thinking "road trip" now, the drive is scenic and under two hours.
Of course, stepping into Table is strange. And while Table's peppy earth-toned walls and friendly black block-lettered name (in multiple places) do their stylish best, the truth of its institutional setting is inescapable.
Yet only one bite into the incredible house bread and you'll be transported to a refined restaurant place of mind. Showing that Chef Welsh's time at L.A.'s famous La Brea Bakery was well spent, the warm, rosemary-scented loaf was sexily crackly outside and soft and complex inside. The best restaurant bread I've had in a while, it's made with deceptively healthy ingredients like oatmeal, whole wheat flour and ground nuts.
Actually Welsh manages to sneak healthy things onto all of his plates. Like a lush squash, curry and peanut soup in which all three stars played an equal part. And that huge and beautiful grease-free snapper came draped over a killer, cardamom- and lemongrass-inflected veggie medley with wheat berries, wild rice, sugar snap peas and more.
As for the showy pork roulade, it also sported a lovely yet hearty side dish (with roasted squash, barley and dried fruits) whose great taste belied its surprising healthfulness.
Less healthy but an absolutely dynamite dessert was Table's Caramel and Toffee Bread Pudding. As I plunged deep into that sublime bowl, I excitedly began to plan my "can't come soon enough" rocking-chair days.