A local chef recently returned from Indonesia, her suitcases filled with deluxe teas ready to be sampled by attendees of Saturday’s “White Christmas High Tea and Fashion Show,” which supports the Sleepy Hollow Theater.
“This is the best tea anyone will ever have in their lifetime,” said Susan Lundberg, executive director of the Sleepy Hollow Theater. “You’re not going to want to miss this.”
Rather than just serve one selection of tea at the event, Chef Cicilia Dina Andersen, of Bismarck, insisted there must be three — Pandanas Green, Sekar Kedhaton and Exotic Especia.
“Cicilia’s so ambitious, she outdoes everybody,” Lundberg said. “I told her one flavor of tea would be fine, but she wouldn’t hear it.”
The chef has traveled the globe on more than one occasion to secure unique or high-quality ingredients for a favorite recipe.
“If I need special ingredients I can’t find here, I go elsewhere,” Andersen said, noting the time she acquired reindeer meat from Norway.
Born in Indonesia, Andersen grew up learning to cook with an array of spices.
“My grandma taught me how to cook with Spice Island spices. My mom lived in Bali, a place that favors Dutch spices. So, growing up, I learned how to cook with a lot of spices and learned how to balance it,” she said. “You can always add hot sauce if you like your food hot.”
One of the more time-consuming desserts she prepares is a vanilla spice cake.
A combination of five spices, including cinnamon and nutmeg, is sprinkled between thin layers of vanilla cake batter, and baked layer-by-layer.
“The higher it is, the better it is,” said Andersen, noting most vanilla spice cakes end up 30 thin layers tall. “It’s very challenging.”
Andersen moved to Bismarck in the 1980s, upon marrying her husband. The couple has two grown sons.
Shortly after tying the knot, she traveled to Paris, France, to attend a year's worth of culinary school, receiving her Diplome de Patissiere at the École Ritz Escoffier.
“I received good training there, from chefs all over the world,” Andersen said, noting taste comes first, then presentation.
Special events are her specialty. Andersen starts cooking and preparing food one week in advance of a big event, working around the schedule of her “everyday job” at Lowe’s.
Saturday’s High Tea will feature her famous chocolate crème brûlée cake.
“I love to work with chocolate,” Andersen said. “If I have friends over, I like to bake my chocolate crème brûlée cake.”
She enjoys making pastries and working with foie gras, which is the liver of a duck or goose that has been enlarged through a special feeding technique.
"Cicilia is knowledgeable, creative and always willing to share," said Stephanie Delmore, president of the Sleepy Hollow Theatre. "After eating her delicious food, none of us want to go home to our drab cooking."
"She's changed the taste buds and ambiance of thousands," Lundberg added.
“I love to make people happy,” Andersen said. “When I introduce someone to a new food, I like to see their expression. It makes me happy.”
The annual event, which includes a vintage fashion show, begins at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Trinity Community Center, 310 E. Ave. A, Bismarck. White-themed costumes will be modeled by Sleepy Hollow cast members, selected from Sleepy Hollow Theatre’s extensive costume collection.
The Holiday Silent Auction features wreaths, trees, tea, floral arrangements and decorative pieces. Ambiance piano selections are by Joy Sorenson. A presentation of Santa Lucia also highlights the event.
"We hope this event encourages respite and gives people a new lease on life," Lundberg said.
The $30 ticket supports the educational programming of Sleepy Hollow Theatre & Arts Park. Paid reservations are necessary, and space is limited. For more information, call 701-319-0894 or visit www.shst.org.