It was an evening of white cloth tables, rose center pieces and five-courses of delicious fine dining. No, I was not in Chicago or a five-star hotel. Instead, I was invited to dine with the residents of Residences at Deer Creek in Schererville, as one of the 20 guests at The Chef’s Table dinner.
The head chef, Justin Klobucar, prepared a series of courses starting with a small appetizer, a quick and refreshing palette cleanser, and finishing with a main entree I am still thinking about hours later.
I arrived for the 4:30 dinner a bit early and sat next to several residents at the facility. The first course was a pork belly amuse bouche, accompanied with a shot of bourbon and orange drink, something that looked good, but was a bit too strong for my young tongue. Embarrassingly, I was the only guest who could not finish the drink, and one patron even gulped down two!
The bite-sized pork belly course was encouraged by Klobucar to be eaten like a popsicle. It was covered in an orange glaze that hardened around the meat, offering a thick crunch before your teeth melted into the soft meat. Also preparing and serving the meal was chef Vanessa Schiola.
Next came the chilled beet soup with a small glass of Italian Sparkling Wine. Now, this drink was much more to my liking and I happily sipped it between spoonfuls of the cold, bright pink soup. The dish, a puréed bowl of beets, truly did look too pretty to eat, and the taste was something I had to try a few times before realizing, " Yes, that is delicious!"
With all these tastes soaking on my tongue, we were brought out the palette cleanser, another puréed mixture made from Klobucar’s expertise. It was a honeydew, mint, and lime mix, which was then puréed, blended, and then frozen to create an ice cream like texture. It was not too strong nor too cold, but just perfect to refresh my mouth before the main dish.
A grass-fed steak was served in thin strips, sitting atop a beautifully arranged mash of duchess potatoes, which when looking at it, looked like a flower of golden brown yumminess.
Next to that was a bed of roasted brussels sprout leaves, which if you ask anyone who knows me, are my favorite vegetable!
The steak was well-done, juicy and lightly drizzled in a red wine reduction sauce and paired with a dry California Cabernet.
Between each meal there was talk of past home lives, stints in historic wars, and collections.
Phyllis and Ray Bardach have more than 400 shot glasses in their house, or they did before the kids and grandkids grabbed their favorites, they said.
The Bardachs have been at RDC just a few months and have been to the Chef’s table events as often as they can. The event takes place in the dining room about once a month and is a fun way to switch up the menu choices.
“The residents are used to the home-style way of cooking we have every day so this is for those who are used to going out to a restaurant in Chicago and having that fancy meal,” Schiola said.
The dinners are reservation only and only allow 20 guests. Each one has a different theme depending on the date and season. In the past, the chefs have prepared a Mardi Gras theme or a BBQ theme, Klobucar said.
Tonight, the meal featured a Farm to Fork theme that left everyone full and ready for bed afterward.
Phyllis enjoyed the main entree, but claims the everyday menu is delicious as well.
"I'm a steak person, so this really good," she said. According to her and Sally Trent, another resident there with her husband John, the soups are one-of-a-kind. Sally also said the sloppy joes are her favorites.
“I take two of them because I can't take 10!" she said.
Sally’s favorite meal of the night was the dessert, a small bite-sized key lime pie with whipped cream. I only tried a few bites because I prefer chocolate as a dessert, but this was the best drink I thought, and some of my dinner companions agreed.
The delicious lemon drop martini that arrived with the dessert surprised me by being lightly lemon-y without any alcoholic taste. I could have had many more, yet driving home would not have worked too well!
The dessert was made by chef Steven Fehnel.
"Can I have this every day?" John Trent asked a waiter, pointing to the pie.
As the residents pushed back their chairs and headed to their rooms, praises and compliments to the chefs were flying around the room. Dani Newton told her waiter, “Tell Justin that steak was delicious!”
The dinners are reserved exclusively for RDC residents, yet I was asked to join the dinner party, an offer I quickly jumped on. Having tasted the food made by the amazing chefs of RDC, I knew the night was going to be amazing.
The residents are offered these delicious meals every day, and if not in the mood for the special, they can order whatever suits them that day, even if it is pancakes for dinner, Phyllis explained.
Sally and her husband have been residents for a little more than two years, during which Sally claims she has gained weight from eating Klobucar’s meals.
It is worth it though, she added.