Cookies aren’t just for kids, so the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona will kick off their iconic cookie season with an adults-only event downtown on Jan. 30.
For the third consecutive year, the Playground Bar and Lounge, 278 E. Congress St., will host Cookies & Cocktails, which has become one of three main fundraisers for the local nonprofit that serves more than 5,000 girls ages 5 through 17 in Southern Arizona.
“We are hoping to raise a total of $30,000, and all proceeds benefit our social impact programs, which are focused on providing opportunities for girls in need in our community,” said Casey Caylor, vice president of philanthropy for Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona. “They bring the Girl Scout leadership experience to girls who need it the most, including girls in foster care and juvenile detention, refugee girls, girls whose parents are or have been incarcerated and girls who attend underserved schools.”
Caylor said Cookies & Cocktails would not be possible without the generous support of businesses such as Desert Diamond Casino and Entertainment, Anderson Financial Group, BeachFleischman, Quarles & Brady, Bourn Cos. and Rio Nuevo. She also credits local restaurants and chefs from BOCA Tacos y Tequila, Bottega Michelangelo, HUB Ice Cream Factory, Feast, Brother John’s BBQ, Nook and Prep & Pastry.
“All of the restaurants who participate do so on their own volition; it is so philanthropic of them to give their time and talent. It is a really big community effort and it would be great for them to get some love for all that they are doing,” said Caylor.
The real reward for participation comes from supporting such a worthwhile organization, according to Nikki Thompson, a former Girl Scout who co-owns the Nook with her husband, Matt Thompson.
“For events like these that involve the community, it is all about encouraging our future female leaders. As a female small-business owner myself, I feel like it is important to encourage girls as much as possible to dream big and go for whatever they want to do in life,” said Nikki, 33, a Tucson native.
She said the Nook, a New American restaurant located downtown at 1 E. Congress St., is excited to return for the Dessert Challenge, which allows the chefs to create any type of dessert based on the cookie they are assigned. Event attendees can expect a range of desserts; past events have featured everything from cakes, cookies and ice cream to puddings, créme brûlée and cheesecake.
Last year Nikki’s mom, Anita Curran — who was also a Girl Scout and is the Nook pastry chef — created a gluten-free shortbread macaroon dipped in chocolate from the gluten-free Girl Scout cookie; this year she will unveil a dessert created from the Trefoil, a traditional shortbread cookie.
Nikki said it is a great opportunity not only to support the Girl Scouts, but to taste desserts from restaurants across the city.
“It is so much fun to see how everyone interprets the desserts with the cookies; everyone took a cookie and turned it into something totally different. Aside from ours, last year my favorite was a bonbon made by the Hub Ice Cream Factory. It was so good; I am still thinking about it,” Nikki said.
The Tagalong bonbon was created by Dominique Stoller, Hub Ice Cream Factory executive pastry chef and general manager. She capped a Tagalong cookie base with Tagalong ice cream and caramel, all dipped in chocolate.
“It tasted like the peanut butter Snickers ice cream bars you got from the ice cream truck when you were a kid. I think everyone liked the nostalgia and the fact that you could pop it in your mouth in one little bite,” said Stoller, whose next dessert is based on Thin Mints.
“Thin Mint is my cookie, but the dessert I am making is super top secret. ... I can say that Thin Mints are my number-one favorite cookie out of all the Girl Scout cookies. I have eaten about four whole boxes to really get myself in the frame of mind to invent something so delicious that truly celebrates and re-invents the Thin Mint,” said Stoller.
Stoller said she relishes the opportunity to support the Girl Scouts. “I never got to be a Girl Scout as a kid and I always wanted to be one, so I feel that in a way, by competing, I have secretly earned my badge,” she said.
Additionally, Hub Ice Cream Factory has supported Troop 78 in Tucson for the past four years by buying cookies and using them to create a signature ice cream flavor. The 2019 flavor is undecided as of yet, but it will be available the second week in February through mid-May.
Overall, Stoller said the local restaurant community is a very generous and integral element of Tucson philanthropy.
She emphasized that as the manager of a small business — and as an individual — her philanthropic philosophy is simple: “Giving love, ice cream, money, and time is always a good thing; it can only bring you good friends, positive energy, satisfaction of the heart and smiles.”