Delicious Delights Await At Taste Of Rim Country Event

Laura Beall (left) and Leoni Dobbins, longtime Rim Country chefs who now serve up great food at the Payson Senior Center, will be participating in the Taste of Rim Country event.

Laura Beall (left) and Leoni Dobbins, longtime Rim Country chefs who now serve up great food at the Payson Senior Center, will be participating in the Taste of Rim Country event.


The 2014 Taste of Rim Country event at the Payson Public Library is a sellout; so only the lucky ticket holders will delight in all the delicious entries from the area’s culinary experts. But that doesn’t mean those who missed out on tickets have to miss out on the goodies provided by the many eateries participating.

The Library Friends of Payson (LFOP), which sponsors the popular food fest, have announced it now has a 11 participants: Cedar Ridge Restaurant of the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino, Cocktail Cheesecakes, Dimi Espresso Cafe, Gerardo’s Firewood Cafe, Miss Fitz 260 Cafe, PHS Culinary Club, Payson Senior Center, Pinon Cafe, The Randall House, Rim Country Health and The Sweet Shoppe. The Ayothaya Thai & Sushi Cafe, previously listed as a participant, has had to withdraw, according to the LFOP.

During this fun-filled evening, in addition to sampling delicious appetizers and desserts, as well as a variety of beverages, including wine and sparkling cider. Guests will enjoy recorded music from the massive collection of Councilman Fred Carpenter, who is the evening’s deejay. Those attending can also bid on unique silent auction items donated by individuals and local businesses. Tickets will not be sold on the night of the event.


Cocktail Cheesecakes


Jeff and Ana Gutowski of Cocktail Cheesecakes will bring one of their original creations, like this Red Velvet Cheesecake, to the Taste of Rim Country.

It began as an epiphany. Jeff Gutowski’s journeys have taken him all around the world, exposing him to a variety of cuisines and enhancing his passion for cooking; his wife Ana’s experience in bartending has given her the inspiration for many original cocktail creations. They have combined their talents to create Cocktail Cheesecakes, a unique menu of cheesecake desserts flavored with unusual liqueurs. They moved to Payson from Tucson in 2013 and now offer cheesecakes by special order.

They recently created “Drunky Monkey,” inspired by Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream, it uses fresh bananas combined with hazelnut, banana, and chocolate liqueurs on a chocolate graham cracker crust. They created a “Red Velvet Cheesecake” for Gerardo’s Firewood Cafe’s Valentine’s Day dinner, infused with raspberry vodka and black raspberry liqueur.

Their current menu of 17 flavors includes Lemon Drop, Irish Cream and Amaretto, and Strawberry Daiquiri cheesecakes.

Cocktail Cheesecakes can make 8- or 9-inch cheesecakes by special order with 48-hour notice, and will ship them to your location.

Jeff is planning to present four different cheesecake creations at the Taste of Rim: Drunky Monkey, Red Velvet, Tiramisu, and, for the purists, plain New York-style cheesecake.

Miss Fitz 260 Cafe

It was a gutsy move for Kathy Bickert and Diane Fitzpatrick to take on ownership of the 260 Cafe in 2011 — now known as Miss Fitz 260 Cafe — with the community still feeling the crunch of the worst recession since the 1930s, but they had a vision of serving great tasting, old-fashioned comfort food at reasonable prices. Diane’s son and chef Jeremy Prest and his co-chef, Josh Gonzalez, do just that, serving breakfast and lunch seven days a week.

All items on the menu are homemade, and the cafe offers a daily special, many of which have an Asian flavor, thanks to Josh’s expertise in this genre.

Customer favorites are their cinnamon rolls, pies, salads with homemade dressing, omelets and soups.

The 260 Cafe is housed in a building that is more than 40 years old, and remained open almost continuously throughout good and bad times.

Kathy and Diane are the fourth owners of this iconic diner, decorated with a mishmash of furnishings.

Payson Senior Center

The two chefs at the Payson Senior Center have a long history of serving great food to our community. Laura Beall was the owner/operator of Laura’s Small Cafe. Leoni Dobbins was the proprietor of the Red Elephant Bakery and is still known locally for her delicious original breads and pastries, including sugar-free and gluten-free items. Both ladies have been past participants in the Taste of Rim Country.

Now they have joined talents to serve delicious lunches Monday through Thursday at the Payson Senior Center. They also prepare food for the Meals on Wheels program for nearly 140 homebound Payson and Star Valley residents.

All the meals are prepared on the premises, and must comply with FDA dietary guidelines, but these two chefs are very creative with the menu, often adding homegrown herbs for flavorings to give each meal a special touch.

This year, Laura and Leoni initiated a monthly international meal at the Senior Center. January’s special was South African cuisine, to honor Leoni’s heritage; in February, they created a Russian menu to pay tribute to the Sochi Olympics; and for March, the plan is to celebrate Mardi Gras with a Cajun lunch.


Mike Edwards of the Pinon Cafe is planning to serve his popular ribs and sliders at the annual chefs competition.

The large kitchen and dining room at the Senior Center is available for community and private functions, with catering by Leoni and Laura if needed. They most recently hosted a ’50s theme sock hop, which was very well attended.

Pinon Cafe

The Pinon Cafe is housed in one of Payson’s oldest buildings on South Beeline Highway. For more than 50 years, there has been a restaurant serving hungry residents and travelers. Formerly the Knotty Pine Cafe, the Pinon has new owners, but still is known for great family food.

The family theme is carried on by Chef Mike Edwards, who worked for the Knotty Pine for eight years before the change of ownership. He, his brother Gerald, and now his son all work together at the Pinon Cafe.

Mike and Gerald have decades of experience with American-style cooking. Their current menu includes many original creations and offers a daily special, including a daily soup, all made completely from scratch. His secret ingredient? “Love,” says a staff member.

The Pinon Cafe is one of the few restaurants in Payson that serves breakfast all day, which is fine with Mike, because he enjoys cooking with eggs. “It’s an art to cook eggs,” he says, because it’s not always easy to get the right consistency.

The Pinon also has a selection of gluten-free entrees and desserts.

Mike is planning on serving his popular ribs and sliders for The Taste of Rim.

The Randall House

Built in 1881, The Randall House was one of the first homesteads in the cozy mountains of Pine, and has been a center of hospitality to the community ever since. For 15 years, owner/chef Barbara Frazin-O’Connor has been maintaining that welcoming atmosphere with her restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch in small, intimate dining rooms.

The Randall House serves breakfast and lunch, with a menu full of refreshing salads with original dressings, homemade soups, and Barbara’s specialty — pastries. Her pies and quiches are customer favorites. They can be ordered by the slice in the restaurant or by the whole pie by advance order. Everything she serves is made from scratch daily. Gluten-free items are available upon request.

Barbara has been a perennial participant in the Library Friends’ A Taste of Rim Country event, serving up good food on tables as tastefully decorated as her restaurant.

Rim Country Health

Brian Clark gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “institutional food” — he serves up meals to about 100 people each day with his staff at the Rim Country Health facility. But Brian is no simple slinger of hash; this career chef is a graduate of the Scottsdale Culinary Institute’s Le Cordon Bleu Program.

Since 2012, Brian has been the dietary director at Rim Country Health. He prides himself on creating dishes that are made completely from scratch in the RCH kitchens and serves cuisine from a wide variety of ethnic origins.

This will be his first time as participant in the Taste of Rim Country event. He is considering presenting his original recipe of baby-back ribs and coleslaw as his entry.

The Sweet Shoppe

You have to really want to find it, but once you get there, all manner of goodies will be your reward. Tucked in the building behind Chapman Auto Center on Longhorn Drive is The Sweet Shoppe.

Co-owners Monica Vaughn and Jamie Peace joined forces in May 2013 after each had been working successfully from home for a number of years. The Sweet Shoppe was created from Monica’s Cake Love by Monica and Jamie’s Fruitable Arrangements. It offers a storefront counter with fresh pastries and fruit/vegetable arrangements, as well as catering for special events.

These talented women make everything in the shop from scratch daily. They pride themselves on using only the finest ingredients, and are investigating making their own vanilla to flavor their creations. They also offer gluten-free menu items.

In addition to custom pastries and edible arrangements, The Sweet Shoppe has expanded to a full deli luncheon menu, including fresh homemade soups every day, such as cream of red potato and bacon soup. Customer favorites include Cashew Chicken Salad on a croissant, and a gluten-free California Citrus Salad.

The Sweet Shoppe will deliver anything in the Payson area during business hours, with free delivery to any destination with three luncheon orders or more.


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