From Farm To Fork

Sedona Magazine Spring 2010

(From Farm to Fork, Real food, real farmers, real community)

written by: James Biship Jr.

Heartline Café

Phyllis and Chuck Cline, founders of the popular Heartline Café, also agree that the times are truly changing food-wise in Sedona and environs.  Chuck Cline is the West Sedona restaurant’s master chef.  It was 20 years ago that they arrived in Sedona from New Jersey, all abuzz with expectations about finding the kind of local produce markets they were used to back there; all they knew for sure was that the best produce they could find in the restaurants where they had worked was from Arizona.  “What a disappointment!  What we didn’t know then, “say’s Phyllis,” is that when we arrived in Sedona, there were no open-air markets and most farmers were shipping their produce.”

The Clines no longer have that problem.  “We have much better choices today”, says Phyllis.  For their salads, a former employee brings them local basil from his garden that Phyllis says she’s never seen the likes of before.  Another farmer from the Verde Valley sometimes comes by with a truck filled with squash, turnips, eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, chives.  “You name it”, she says. “The old guy has this truck.  We look and pick what we want, and into our kitchen it goes.”

The Cline’s rule: What looks the best? What smells the best? “Any chance we have, says Phyllis, “we use local produce – figs, melons, fruit, tomatoes.” She’s especially proud of the fresh trout from the farm on Oak Creek that’s filleted in Oak Creek water.  Moreover, in the land around their restaurant, the Clines have taken to growing their own herbs – including rosemary, thyme, basil and oregano.  They are also planning a larger garden behind their home.

Depending on whether there’s been an early killing frost, people come out of nowhere to sell them apricots and plums, which Chuck transforms into juicy tarts.  Often last summer, Phyllis was seen patrolling the new Community Farmers Market, looking for menu ideas.  For all that, the Clines still take some time for themselves, and they are harboring a secret.  As soon as the monsoons move away, she and her husband sneak off to a spot up on the Mogollon Rim, get on their hands and knees and forage of Lobster Mushrooms; they’re never telling where.  “For Jersey kids, it is a new world,” says Chuck.