Dean Cline is back at work making potato salad and chicken salad according to the recipes of the legendary Cordell's deli. I've confirmed that he's gone to work on the deli staff at Terry's Finer Foods at Country Club Station in the Heights. He's at work and made batches of both salads today, but word has spread quickly, so I can't guarantee what you'll find if you head up there this afternoon.
When we last visited, a deal to supply the salads through a former owner of Browning's had fallen apart.
If you don't know from Cordell's, long a fixture in Riverdale, it's your loss. Time was a tray of thinly sliced roast top sirloin and a tub of potato salad was the tried-and-true Old Little Rock sympathy platter for both funereal and celebratory occasions. I think I even eventually stumbled on the secret ingredient that explains the smooth and unwatery texture of the potato salad dressing. But replicating the taste of potato salad time after time — not to mention the firm, but not crunchy texture of the potatoes — is a real art. Cordell's had it down.
Who says there's never any good news?
UPDATE: I dropped by Terry's, bought some pints of each and talked briefly with Dean. He's going to be managing Terry's deli. Platters will resume and other catering. In a week or so, he hopes to start making Cordell's style sandwiches. He's already cooking the whole top sirloin roasts. Salt, pepper, garlic and plenty of pink inside make a pile of this beef, sliced thin, the star of any sandwich but also the perfect cold plate accompaniment to potato salad. Some asparagus and heirloom tomatoes complete the picture.
Brian Chilson has lots of photos from Fleetwood Mac's show at Verizon Arena last night at his Facebook page. I notice Twitter feeds that say Bill and Hillary Clinton were in the house, or so it was announced when the band played "Don't Stop," the theme song to the 1992 presidential campaign. UPDATE: I now see, thanks to our all night readers, that the Stevie Nicks Facebook page has a photo by Paige Lafleur of the Clintons in the house applauding.
Boomer fan comments on Twitter were enthusiastic about the show, which ran more than two hours.
But all that was yesterday.
Time's running out to get advance tickets for the Arkansas Times Heritage Hog Roast on May 4.
11 teams of local chefs will be roasting whole heritage-breed farms from Falling Sky Farm at the Argenta Farmer's Market at Sixth and Main, NLR, starting very early Saturday, May 4. Gates open at noon with music by The Sound of the Mountain, the 2013 Times Musicians Showcase winner, and the Grammy-nominated Lost Bayou Ramblers. Craft beer and wine will be available.
At 3 p.m., judging of the pork will begin, along with servings, plus sides, for all ticket holders. The feed will last until 7 p.m., or until the pork is gone. Music will continue into the evening. The entertainment line-up includes Mandy McBryde, Davis Coen, Bonnie Montgomery, improv from The Joint, Riverboat Crime, The Sound of the Mountain and Lost Bayou Ramblers, who'll play a full set starting at 8 p.m.
Advance tickets for all-day admission, plus food, cost $25. They'll be $30 at the gate. Tickets for music only after 7 p.m. will be $10.
You can click right here (link fixed) to order advance tickets on-line.
OK, you may not always like our politics, but I think you'll like our cooking.
We've got a heckuva dinner party coming up May 4 and you better get your tickets early.
12 chefs will be roasting whole hogs — Falling Sky heritage hogs — at the Argenta Farmers Market. Music includes the Grammy-nominated Lost Bayou Ramblers. Craft beer and wine will be sold. Music-only entry costs $10. If you want to eat some pig meat with trimmings, it'll cost you $25 ($30 day of event). Doors open at noon. Feasting should start at 3 p.m.
My attention was called by someone who was there to the waning minutes of the Little Rock Board of Directors meeting Tuesday, when Director Ken Richardson took the mike to ask for a reminder for the board about a policy directive concerning contact between directors and city departments.
Directors, in theory, are supposed to work through the city manager or department heads, not directly with staff members, and not micromanage city government. Policy making, not management, is the ideal.
But, said Richardson, he'd been contacted recently by food cart vendors in his ward who said they'd been "repeatedly targeted" for inspections or observation by the city and he suspected another member of the board was responsible. "Every time they're inspected they get a clean bill of health," Richardson said. But he added that the vendors, all Latinos, said they were beginning to feel "some form of discrimination" was at work. "I'd like to look at this before it becomes a serious liability for us."
I talked further about this Thursday with Richardson, who declined to identify specific complainants. They fear retaliation, he said. I asked City Manager Bruce Moore for a record of requests on taco truck inspections. He later provided a three-year list of violations by traveling food vendors that showed only two in 2013, neither for a Latino vendor. I haven't heard back from Moore, however, on my followup question: whether there was a record on the specific complaint Richardson made — multiple visits to vendors who were NOT guilty of any rule violations.
Richardson said he couldn't say where the complaints have originated. Since he suspected a city director is responsible for inspection requests, I turned first to at-large Director Joan Adcock. Adcock is known for aggressive involvement in City Hall business. She rose to political power from Southwest Little Rock, a big chunk of which Richardson now represents and home to many taco trucks and wagons. She once was an opponent of a Latino nightclub in the rapidly changing neighborhood, now heavily minority after beginnings as a working class white community. She is not particularly noted for sympathy on minority issues. She was a student at Central High during the 1957 school crisis and has been cool to events commemorating that episode, including a symbolic city board repeal of a pro-segregation resolution approved by the city board more than 50 years ago.
I sent Adcock questions and left her a phone message. Late last night, I got an e-mail response that said, "Sorry I am so late it has been a very busy day. I am not the person you are looking for."
Richardson said the person responsible is less important than the action itself.
Sure, city directors have broad portfolio — and a 1st Amendment right — to go to anyone in city government with a complaint about a city business.
But, said Richardson, special requests for city inspections "create confusion for staff, add workload and are ridiculous," he said. More broadly, he said that the message of the repeat visits is, "You're not welcome here, even if you're playing by the rules."
Richardson, himself a graduate and former student body president at Central High, says the city regularly observes anniversaries of the triumph of the rule of law in Little Rock in the school crisis. "We talk about how far we've come. These kinds of actions are a stark reminder that we might have farther to go to move our city to a level we want to move."
He said city pressure on Latino vendors comes as the city school district deals with allegations that it has been insensitive to bullying of Latino students. "I don't want that same kind of activity or perception from city government," he said.
Richardson and I agree on a purely personal level about the gravity of equal treatment of taco trucks. He says he likes them as much as I do. For illustration, I've used one of our file photos of my favorite taco wagon, Taqueria Samantha, which sets up on Geyer Springs Road in Richardson's ward. He tells me that it's his favorite, too. (Steak quesadilla for him; carnitas burrito for me.) He said he'd checked with Samantha's operator and it has not been a target of recent inspections. But he said the advent of warmer weather and more activity at the food carts seemed to have spurred the scrutiny.
"Specific targeting of Hispanic food vendors is a bad practice," Richardson said. "I don't want us to get in the bad habit of — or being perceived as — practicing discrimination."
UPDATE: Director Adcock responded further to a followup question I posed after receiving her brief response last night. She says she HAS gotten involved in vendor issues in the past, though not recently. She writes:
Arkansas Business reported on Vince Bruno's hope to revive the family enterprise a few months ago, though he didn't have a location nailed down then. Their father, Jimmy Bruno, started the restaurant in Levy in 1948 and moved not long after to Roosevelt Road, where his hand-tossed pizza was cutting edge cuisine for Little Rock back in the day. The business was sold to Scott Wallace, who operated it on Bowman Road for more than 20 years, closing it in 2011. The Bruno family retained rights to their name and recipes. A new Bruno's restaurant reopened in the location, but it is not related to the Bruno family. Bruno's Bistro is operated by Bruno Beqiri.
Yarnell's made great peppermint ice cream. Peppermint was not on the list of flavors originally published by the new owners of the Searcy dairy. If the seasonal flavor has been renewed, I haven't been able to find it.
Blue Bell is selling peppermint this season. It is inferior stuff.
Any suggestions for alternatives or, hope against hope, Yarnell's has revived the flavor and there's a place I can buy it?
UPDATE: Thanks for all the ideas here and in e-mail and Twitter responses. I'm set now with multiple types for a taste off.
Some odds and ends:
* NEIGHBORHOOD GROCER HESTAND'S TO CLOSE? I'll know this for certain in a few hours, but Skip Rutherford Twittered last night that Hestand's in the Heights is to close. He would know because he's a regular shopper there. Sad news, but long expected. It has been squeezed by competitors big and small, most recently by the new Walmart down the hill (not such a hot store, by the way). Custom meat, local produce, good food prepared on-site, interesting items from local bakers and suppliers and a good selection of hard-to-find Cajun ingredients (andouille, boudin, roux) were among the pluses, plus easy access, Sunday hours and super friendly people. Terry's, the venerable carriage trade grocer nearby, remains a good alternative to the megamarkets and, like Hestand's, still continues charge accounts. Edward's, a few blocks west on Cantrell, is my choice over Kroger, still, for major shopping.
UPDATE: Rodney Getchell confirmed for me this morning that Friday will be Hestand's final day. The stock is depleting, but some freshly made ham salad and other deli food is still available, along with some good meat deals (T-bone, for example). He'll be marking down canned goods to half off on the final days, he said. His own health and the competitive squeeze (think Target, Fresh Market and three Krogers in easy reach along with Edwards, Terry's and Walmart) dictated the end after 17 years in the Heights. He's the third generation of a grocery business with roots back to 1923 in Pine Bluff. Good folks. Good store. Fond farewell.
* PEABODY HOTEL MANAGEMENT: I noticed a page one story in Democrat-Gazette today that Davidson Hotels had been targeted by the new owner of the Little Rock hotel as the management firm, though a flagship brand had not yet been picked. I mentioned Davidson's involvement in the deal June 28.
* SEWER NEWS: No charges, the Democrat-Gazette reported this morning, on the Little Rock Wastewater Utility's method of selecting people (politicians, business execs, sewer utility relatives) for a trial program aimed at detecting sewer service line problems. Frankly, having learned more about this "benefit," (attachments to sewer lines that require some yard digging to install and which lead to early detection of a need for sometimes expensive repairs) I'm not sure I'd have wanted it in the first place. But the sewer probe isn't over, the article said. One source has indicated to us that pending matters could include a review of some sales of used materials. It's clear that tension between utility management and City Hall, which has no authority over the autonomous agency other than through commission appointments, shows every indication of continuing.
* DIVORCE PRIVACY: Just learned about this. Getting divorced but would prefer that you not get daily newspaper notice? Here's a trick. No, not using initials or a first or middle name by which you are not known. File the suit first as a separate maintenance action. Then amend it a few days later to make it a divorce suit. The newspaper apparently doesn't publish filings of separate maintenance actions and the amendments to change status don't get picked up. Or that appeared to be the case recently on filings by a certain high-profile individual. The eventual decree can't be avoided as a public matter, of course.
* RUMOR OF THE DAY: It's going around that a conservative interest group is promising $50,000 in "independent" advertising support for any state legislative candidate who'll sign their no-tax pledge. It would be interesting to know, speaking of "independent" expenditures, how much the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity spent supporting the candidacies of their stooge candidates in Northwest Arkansas Senate primaries. You may be sure that neither their candidates nor any of the other fake ethical reformers in the GOP contingent (Ann Clemmer, I'm thinking particularly of you) will be pushing for the "full disclosure" they claim is the cure for governmental ethics for this type of electioneering. Other states have done it. It's doubtful that the rising Republican tide is interested in that sort of reform.
A couple of items of interest on the grocery front:
* WHOLE FOODS: The store, currently at Rodney Parham and I-430, has an application on file with the city for something of a lateral geographic move, to the space adjoining Best Buy at Bowman and Chenal. That space, once occupied by a linens and kitchen supply chain, has been used recently by a church. The proposal is set for Planning Commission consideration Aug. 2, along with a master street plan change to cut the median on Chenal between Autumn and Bowman to allow another means of access to the Best Buy shopping center. Local Whole foods officials said they were unaware of the proposed move. I have a message in to the corporate office for more. UPDATE: Documents show the planning also includes discussion of another traffic light on Bowman, at the Best Buy shopping center entrance.
* WALMART: D-hour is 7:30 a.m. Wednesday for the new Walmart Neighborhood Market in Riverdale. It's supposed to be a bigger-than-normal market, with some general merchandise. Its arrival seems a likely market changer with impact on competitors from Hillcrest to the Heights and west.
* MIDTOWNE LITTLE ROCK: Speaking of groceries: I had always wished they'd move Whole Foods, or put a Fresh Market or similar, in the big open space in Midtowne Little Rock. Alas, the developer's efforts to get a grocery there just didn't work out, I think because space wasn't quite sufficient. But Mike Brooks, general manager for UCR, which is operating Midtowne, tells me there is news for his current openings. Coming by October in the vacant space just north of Cantina Laredo are two new retailers:
* ULTA: It sells makeup, fragrances, hair care products and similar and includes a salon.
* VERSONA: A woman's fashion accessories retailer.
It took two years, but The Box, a legendary burger joint that anchored the northeast corner of 17th and Main for many a year, is back.
Kat Robinson has every last detail on her Tie Dye Travels blog. The original griddle is doing the frying. They even saved the old ketchup bottles, Kat says. Find them on Seventh Street, just east of Vino's, at Ringo Street. Kat's photos indicate the new Box has a good deal more sunlight than the smoky old bikers' den on Main, razed to make way for a USA Drug.
Before it was The Box, it was the Band Box. A fellow named George Eldridge ran a sporting bus out of the place to the dog track and had a cook named Lucille who also could fry up a hamburger to help the beers go down. That, you may know, led to another evolving restaurant story famous in these parts — Sports Page, Buster's, Doe's.
Great writers like Jim Powell and Bob Lancaster figured an eternal truth out long ago.
Breeding tomatoes for looks and the ability to withstand the bumps and grinds of shipping produced tasteless tomatoes.
Now comes scientific proof of how the effort to produce uniformly ripening tomatoes — to avoid the green, unsightly hips that distinguish even ripened heirloom tomatoes — disabled the gene that makes tomatoes taste good.
You knew that instinctively. Just as real tomato fans know that, in a bounteous summer like this one, carving around blemishes and spots might not produce the round, even slice that looks so perfect on a sandwich, but it still leaves you with a glorious dripping mess of goodness, sweet in some cases, acidic in others. I should have taken a photo of the mixed platter of heirlooms I sliced the other night for guests from South America — orange, yellow, purplish red, deep red and pink. They included carbons, Cherokee purples, mortgage lifters, a Brandywine and more. Five of us must have eaten six or seven pounds of tomatoes
potatoes. After guests had gone, and nobody was looking, I slurped the juice left in the platter. So shoot me. I'd die happy.
Horticulture prof Harry Klee offers this further aesthetic good news in an NPR report on the horticultural findings reported in Science magazine:
He says tomato breeders made a lot of compromises like this over the years as they created tomato plants that produce more fruit and are also rugged enough to hold up under rough handling.
Now, Klee says, with some of this new science, we have a chance to undo some of those decisions. "What I tell people is, we can have 100 percent of the flavor [of heirloom varieties] with 80 percent of the agricultural performance of the modern varieties, with very little work."
Breeders can start with some of the best heirlooms, then bring in some of the disease-resistance genes that modern varieties have. They should also be able to increase yields somewhat, he says.
The tomatoes will cost more, yes. I'll pay.
Lee Richardson, the acclaimed executive chef at the Capital Hotel, has left the hotel.
No explanations for his resignation or future plans are currently available. I have been unable to reach him. (6/13: See UPDATE BELOW)
Michael Chaffin, the hotel general manager, said Richardson resigned Friday but he could not expand on the departure. "He did a fabulous job for us," Chaffin said. "We wish him well." Chaffin said one of Richardson's strengths was the team he built and they remained in place. "We're set to go," he said. He's not ready yet to name a successor as executive chef.
Richardson, whose New Orleans roots were reflected in everything from the Capital Bar luncheon menu to upscale Ashley's to private events, was an advocate of local ingredients and fresh ways of using staples — his rice flour-coated catfish, fried black-eyed peas and pimiento cheese spread with homemade crackers come readily to mind.
He'd been a regional finalist in the annual James Beard competition for the country's top chefs. His leadership had made the Capital Hotel a culinary destination. Details mattered. I was on hand recently when a pickup truck full of enormous — about 10 per pound — fresh shrimp arrived from the Texas Gulf coast, just a few hours off the boat. I bought a few pounds myself from the merchants, who'd parked near the Capital loading dock.
Richardson oversaw design and installation of the remade hotel's expensive kitchen, which included equipment for every possible purpose, including in-house smoking of charcuterie. He'd encouraged Arkansas producers, promoted farm-to-table dinners and been featured in national magazines. He was named Food and Wine's best new chef in the Midwest in 2011.
I await with interest the next phase of development at the hotel.
UPDATE: I received the following e-mail from Richardson on June 13:
I've had a great experience in Little Rock, and at the Capital Hotel. What has been accomplished here is well beyond my early imagination. This decision has been extraordinarily difficult to make; philosophically and creatively my professional and personal identities are deeply embedded within the architecture and framework of the Capital's branded foodservice program. It’s continued success is a part of my own future and I wish the Capital and all of the great people there nothing but the best. While I find the idea of furthering my professional identity without a continued connection to that past a difficult choice to make, I also recognize a need to expand the breadth and depth of my own horizon.
For now, I'm focused on the immediate continuity of my family's livelihood, and long-term prosperity. I've always had designs on developing a portfolio of concepts around town. I've made Little Rock my home. My family loves it here and my feelings about Arkansas are both well known and widely published. If the same sort of Providence is on my side, as it was following Hurricane Katrina; that just may be how things work out. But, making a solid break to allow for full time consideration and development of ideas, things will need to take form rather quickly. Meanwhile I will be actively pursuing opportunities out of state. I'm simply ready for a new project…or three.
It's not too late to visit the Hillcrest Farmers Market on the sidewalk in front of Pulaski Heights Baptist Church on Kavanaugh.
Good news all around.
Yellow squash is IN.
Those tomatoes are heirloom Cherokee purples.
The blackberries, from up near Clinton, are the sweetest I've eaten since .....
But the peaches .... A young girl is selling from the last stand on the east end of the row. They are said to be from Wynne. Buy some. Don't wait to get home. Bring a towel. THIS is what a peach is supposed to taste — and drip — like.
There's lots more stuff, including the blueberries I've been eating by the quart and baked goods, preserves, pickles, eggs and flowers. All locally produced by vendors happy to tell you ALL about it.
Good report at our Eat Arkansas blog by Leslie Newell Peacock on some unhappy downtown restaurant people who think the Downtown Partnership's promotion of Food Truck Friday has cut into their business.
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