Featured Articles

Stories about real people and real issues in our communities.

Fine Dining At The Heritage Pointe

11 November 2016 Written by  By Don Huntington
Published in November 2016 Articles

We’ve been writing food articles since 2003 and have covered a number of amazing dining establishments in Central Country.

We discovered, however, that one of the finest culinary experiences is to be found, not in one of the area’s Zagat rated restaurants, but in The Heritage Pointe, which is Walnut Creek’s Active Adult Community. The cuisine of their Newton’s Restaurant adheres to a slow-food philosophy, utilizing locally sourced ingredients. The amazing food, presentation, service, and ambiance results in the restaurant’s 5-star quality.

The Heritage Pointe Marketing Director, Starr Mahony, was an affable companion as we enjoyed an amazing dining experience. Starr said that one of the policies of the restaurant was that it would be managed to the same high standards of a fine eating establishment that is open to the public.

The Heritage Pointe restaurant is named Newton’s, in honor of history’s most influential scientist. The restaurant’s quiet elegance finds a marvelous counterpoint in a massive art glass window featuring four panels displaying a piece called “Return of Halley’s Comet” by artist John Forbes.

We learned that the restaurant is able to offer its extraordinary dining because of a team of skillful and experienced professionals who focus on each part of each meal for every guest. The experience begins with June Caldwell who has been working at The Heritage Pointe for 14 years. June is not only responsible for managing the dining room, but is also the Pointe’s finance director and human resource director. June loves to talk about how pleasant her dining room manager tasks are. “It’s easy because of the staff,” she said with a big smile on her face. “I’m lucky to be part of their team. I’m just background support. They do all the work.”

The restaurant hostesses and day-to-day managers are two sisters, Emilia and Carmen. “They make my job easy,” June  said. “We never have a bad day; there is never any drama.” We spoke with Emilia who said that she has been on the job for ten years and loves working with the residents. “They are like a family,” she said. “They live here; we see them at breakfast and dinner every day. We get to know them; what they like; what drink they prefer.” June concurred. “Emilia knows the  vibes,” she said, “she has a talent. When a new resident comes in, she will guide them to a table with the right people so they can make acquaintance with someone compatible with themselves.” June understands how fortunate she and The Heritage Pointe are to have people of that quality on the staff. She provided a moving illustration: One resident became upset about something and spoke in harsh and critical terms to Carmen. June witnessed the event and afterwards asked Carmen if she was okay.

“I’m fine,” Carmen replied with a gentle smile. “She was in a lot of pain.” Not a lot of people are able to display that kind of grace under fire, but June said the episode illustrated a spirit shared by all of the staff.

June described the executive chef, José Valencia, as a natural leader and added that he is not only a master chef but has a spirit of cheerful humility that makes it seem like he has no problem in accommodating any request for a substitution or for a special dish. June said that Newton’s Restaurant is able to provide their diners with a unique level of satisfaction because they feed the same ones every day. “We know their likes and dislikes.” Just as importantly, June said that the staff takes genuine satisfaction from making the residents feel that they have been well-served. As a result, they know each resident’s preferences and will do what it takes to make their experience as close to perfection as possible.

Chef Valencia is an enthusiastic participant in the effort to satisfy each diner’s needs and preferences. Even though he is a true master of the culinary arts, the chef will listen to any menu idea advanced by a resident and will do his best to provide some requested entrée. We spoke with Chef Valencia and learned that he and his staff prepares 100 meals a day. The menu offers five entrée selections plus various side dishes, salads, and two soups including a weekly soup and a soup du jour. We ate on a Friday so the soup that day was Clam Chowder. “I have never found anyone who makes better clam chowder than José does,” June said. We learned why she said that. Gluten free is always available upon request.

The chef selects menus on the basis of diners’ preferences and in response to requests. To the extent possible, he accommodates each serving for each diner. If something is not to their liking, he’ll change it. They will sometimes bring him recipes. “Some of them are good,” Chef Valencia said with a smile, but added that he will modify them to make them prime. He said that the most popular dishes are the filet mignon, lobster, scallops, salmon, and short ribs. Then he added, “They pretty much like whatever we serve.”

We learned that Chef Valencia acquired his culinary skills through on-the-job training and experience acquired while working at fine restaurants over a number of years. He began as a boy working in kitchens, got excited about food preparation, and learned everything he could about the industry. He said that he worked with some excellent chefs and would take away with him the best they had. “But make it better,” Chef Valencia said with a smile.

When we asked what his specialty was, Chef Valencia smiled again and said, “Everything is my specialty.” He said that he enjoys preparing whatever dish he happens to be working on at any particular moment. He works hard to make the food both healthy and appealing. Everything is made from scratch using fish, meat, and vegetables that are delivered fresh every day. Bread is baked fresh on the premises. My wife, who has a connoisseur-level appreciation of bread, said that she never tasted anything better than the date bread served with our meal.

Since this was Friday, residents enjoyed a Happy Hour that begins every Friday at 4:00 p.m. with a buffet and hors d’oeuvres. We enjoyed the La Scala chopped salad, served with mixed lettuce, mozzarella, salami, marinated garbanzos, and House Dressing. A plate of steamed Mussels provided a tasty appetizer to a sumptuous feast that included flakey salmon, a perfect cut of filet mignon, and was finished off with samples of three excellent desserts, including a Mexican Flan, which is one of my favorites.

The desserts provided a memorable ending to an unforgettable repast.

Read 2652 times Last modified on Friday, 11 November 2016 15:23
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Subscribe to our virtual magazine