It is a wonderful way to welcome spring — the annual Taste of Rim Country benefit for the Payson Public Library, presented by the Library Friends of Payson. Some of the area’s best cooks gather together to help those who bring the treasures of books and movies and music and magazines to their friends and neighbors.
The 2011 Taste of Rim Country is at 5 p.m., Saturday, March 5. Admission is $30 per person and only a limited number of tickets will be sold.
A French bistro theme is planned for the 2011 event and some of the Rim Country’s best cooks will be sharing appetizers and desserts with guests at 11 different stations. The LFOP members provide a selection of wines to enjoy with the chefs’ samples and guests can place bids on a large selection of items collected and created for the event’s silent auction — including autographed copies of books by authors such as David Baldacci and Barbara Kingsolver.
Master of ceremonies for the evening will be Payson Town Councilor Fred Carpenter, who will also provide musical entertainment from his vast and eclectic store of recordings.
The chefs and cooks participating this year include Marlenea La Shomb of Au Naturalé Café (formerly Healthy Perspectives Organic Café); representatives from Ayothaya Thai Café and Sushi Bar; Lucinda Flores, pastry chef for Cedar Ridge Restaurant at the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino; Brittanee Fitch from Creekside Steakhouse in Christopher Creek; Michael Seeley of Laura’s Small Café and Christine Bollier of Vita-Mart; Stephen LeMonier of Majestic Rim Senior Apartments; students with the Payson High School culinary arts program; Barbara O’Connor from The Randall House in Pine; Leonie Dobbins of Red Elephant Catering and Baking Company; and last year’s winner, Maggie Evans of the Verde River Rock Bed and Breakfast.
Some of the participants are veterans of the popular event; others are taking part for the first time. Among the newbies at the Taste of Rim are La Shomb, Flores, Seeley and Bollier.
La Shomb said she hopes to use the event to teach about healthy eating. She said she would be working with the theme Healthy Fats and Flax and using some of the café’s signature products.
Among the samples she will offer are flax crackers, a spicy and a vegetable version; flax bread; and flax sweets.
“Our bodies crave fats,” La Shomb said. She added feeding that craving with things that become solids leaves our bodies still craving. If healthy fats, such as flax, are used instead, the craving is satiated and the body gets the kind of fat it needs for brain function, skin, cell wall integrity, insulating the nervous system and helping the joints.
Seeley and Bollier are working as a team at the 2011 Taste of Rim Country. Seeley said he will be sharing some items from the menu at Laura’s Small Café, but also bringing some new items he has been trying out on some of his regular customers.
He said his customers have enjoyed the new dishes, so he suspects guests at the library event will as well.
Seeley and his mother, Laura Seeley-Beall have had the Small Café for a little more than a year, but have been lifelong residents of the Rim Country. His work at the café is the first time he has been a chef and this is the first year he is in the competition.
Christine Bollier of Vita-Mart said she and her husband B.J. have enjoyed attending the event in the past, so she is really looking forward to participating for the first time this year.
Her contribution to the station she is sharing with Laura’s Small Café will be two kinds of cookies, one is a gluten-free type and the other a regular cookie — a Mexican Hot Chocolate cookie.
Lucinda Flores of Mazatzal Hotel and Casino started working for the casino in 1995, but only recently entered the facility’s culinary side. She worked as a cashier and later as a Players Club representative, but she loved to bake and often brought desserts from home to share with her co-workers.
In August of 2008, Flores participated in Mazatzal’s Tribal Professional Development Program (TriPoD), a leadership development program with a focus on goal achievement. Her love of baking, an experience working for a local bakery in the past and encouragement from fellow employees prompted Flores to set a goal of becoming a pastry chef.
She attended the Classic Cooking Academy Pastry Program led by Chef Pascal Dionot in 2009. In July of 2009, the Mazatzal Bakery opened and Flores was instrumental in the development and production of the many buffet, banquet and special event desserts required for a busy casino and event center. She also added two signature desserts to the dinner menu.
On Nov. 20, 2010, Lucinda was one of 22 women chefs who participated in the “Getting Our Just Desserts 2010” event held at the Phoenix Art Institute. Proceeds from the benefit went to the Arizona Careers through Culinary Arts Program.
Flores’ entry for the Just Desserts event was her Autumn Cupcake, a favorite at fall luncheons, which puts a seasonal spin on the classic spice cake with the addition of pumpkin and caramel.
The 2011 Taste of the Rim Country is her first competition and she plans to enter her two signature desserts from the Cedar Ridge Restaurant dinner menu, Chocolate Ganache Cake and Carrot Cake.
“I started with basic recipes and played around with them and made them my own,” Flores said.
Flores looks forward to continuing her pastry education and to a long and satisfying career spreading happiness with desserts that are delicious and pleasing to the eye. She hopes to see more tribal members follow their dreams and in October 2010 hosted a field trip to the bakery for the Tribal Youth.
Patricia Wisner, whom she considers a mentor, will assist Flores at the Taste of Rim event.
“I just go to have fun,” says last year’s winner Maggie Evans, owner and operator of Verde River Rock House Bed and Breakfast.
“It’s one of the neatest events up here. I would like to have it advertised more in the Valley.”
Evans said she will be making comfort foods with a French twist to share with guests at the March 5 Taste of Rim event.
“I’m big on desserts and desserts are definitely comfort food,” Evans said.
Leonie Dobbins is one of many veterans returning to participate in the 2011 Taste of Rim Country. She and Todd Youtz have opened Red Elephant Catering and Baking Company, so expect to enjoy some great baked goods at their station.
Dobbins said she is thinking about bringing crepes and fruity bread pudding for the dessert portion and “stacks” for appetizers — stacks of meat, cheese and vegetables. She said some would have a Greek flavor, while others will be more Southwestern flavored.
Dobbins said her catering services could provide for any size group, from small, intimate gatherings to large events. She will even prepare what she calls a Happy Healthy Hiker Pack or picnic baskets, just perfect for the upcoming Concert Under the Stars programs at Green Valley Park.
Steve LeMonier is another veteran participant in Taste of Rim. He is the chef for the Majestic Rim Senior Apartments and plans to bring some simple dishes to this year’s event — grilled shrimp cocktail with grilled pineapple and blood orange salsa and possible an old family favorite.
“I do this because I want to support the library every chance I can,” LeMonier said. “It’s all for a good cause.”
He will be assisted at his station by the Majestic Rim’s new housing manager Cathe Davis.
Barbara O’Connor and The Randall House are also veterans of the event. O’Connor said she has participated in almost every Taste of Rim since it started.
“It’s a lot of extra work, but I do it to support the community and help the library raise funds. It’s also good exposure.”
O’Connor and about three of her staff will be at the event sharing samples from the regular menu at The Randall House in Pine.
To get a full-size sample rather than a bite-sized one, visit The Randall House from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday.