A recipe for fun

Cooking club offers food and friendships

A group of local residents interested in good food and conversations has been meeting monthly for about three years.

The Lacamas Lake Cooking Club is about learning from others, trying new recipes, socializing, creating a stronger community and making friends, according to Coordinator Deborah Mrazek.

“You can tell by the tone of the room, they are having a good time,” she said Thursday night, at Anne Coleman’s home in Camas. “They have different life experiences.”

Mrazek brought apple chips and blue cheese dip, as well as hard cider, for guests to enjoy before dinner.

Coleman provided apple martinis and an apple and walnut Bundt cake with a honey glaze.

“It’s an opportunity to make things I’ve never made before,” she said, regarding the cooking club’s dinners.

The theme for the October gathering was “An Apple A Day,” so members brought sweet or savory dishes that included apples as a key ingredient and could be enjoyed small-plate style.

Other appetizers included grated apples in turkey meatballs and apple chutney served with cream cheese and crackers.

While appetizers were being served, some of the attendees talked about which “Sex and the City” characters they resembled the most.

Topics of discussion also included the population increase in Camas, the charm of downtown Camas and the strain that the two-hour parking limit can put on daytime moviegoers at the Liberty Theatre.

There was also talk about a local cougar sighting, the U.S. economy, rent increases and the construction of Building 17 in the Port of Camas-Washougal Steigerwald Commerce Center.

Martine Gibbons, a native of Peru, moved from California to Camas 15 years ago.

She is a real estate broker who is a member of the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Camas Association.

Gibbons enjoys the social aspect of the cooking club.

“I love being able to meet people and talk about what’s going on in the community,” she said.

Gibbons created a dish that she named “happy apples.”

She added almonds, figs, brown sugar and vanilla to baked apples. A smile was constructed with pineapples.

As the dinner began, everybody talked about the ingredients in their dishes. As the meal progressed, some recipes are requested.

The dinner featured sweet apple chicken sausage pasta, roasted squash and apples, spicy apple salad, and pork and apple stew. In addition to the apple and walnut cake, dessert included apple crisp with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.

A coordinated effort

Mrazek works with the dinner hosts to help plan and organize the meetings. She also posts ideas on Pinterest, to inspire and encourage attendees to bring a variety of dishes.

The meals, which are usually scheduled for mid-week, utilize different formats such as a theme-based potluck, demonstration or the group cooks together.

In March, the dinner theme was “Let’s do Pasta.”

The attendees made and rolled the pasta on site. One of the batches was vegan.

The dinner participants brought a variety of salads, pasta sauces, breadsticks, desserts and beverages.

The theme in February was “Anything is Good if it’s Made with Chocolate.”

The “Dinner in White on the Columbia,” held Sept. 12, at Marina Park, in Washougal, was a field trip for the club. The event was a fundraiser for the Camas-Washougal Mural Project.

In May, some of the cooking club members attended the “Tacos & Taps” event to benefit the Clark County Food Bank, in Vancouver.

The regular attendees of the cooking club events are expected to host a dinner.

Mrazek said there are about 40 people on the club distribution list, but the host determines the maximum number of people for a dinner.

The dinner host can invite a few of their friends, in addition to cooking club members.

“We’ve had as few as 12 and as many as 30 attend,” Mrazek said. “While we call ourselves the Lacamas Lake Cooking Club, really it’s a group of people who like to explore cooking together who have some affinity to the area.

“We have one couple who live in Washougal and one in Salmon Creek, but most live within a mile or two of the lake,” she added.

Rita Alvarez-Haller and her husband, Norm Haller moved from Los Angeles to Camas in 1992.

“I love the trees,” Alvarez-Haller said. “That’s why I moved here.”

The cooking club participants have various amounts of cooking experience.

In August, Bobby Craven and his husband, Tim Jones hosted a Hawaiian luau at their home in Camas.

They are interior decor consultants who are about to launch an online wedding business.

Craven and Jones have been part of the cooking club for a year.

“It’s an opportunity for people to experiment with different recipes,” Craven said. “We meet new friends, socialize and network.”