I know a thing or two about transitions. When the editor of the Arkansas Times first asked if I wanted to contribute to Eat Arkansas, it was only a few months after the departure of Kat Robinson, a writer who has eaten at and written about more places across this state than almost anyone. After my first few posts here, I recall getting an e-mail from Pat Lynch asking if I was the "new Kat," to which I replied that while I could never hope to replace her, I hoped I could do the blog justice. Things really started clicking a few months later when Dan joined the blog, and it's been relatively smooth sailing ever since.
And now, once again, I find myself in a place of transition, and once again I'm nervous and excited. Many of you are familiar with Arkansas Cooks, the local interview show hosted by Mary Twedt that airs every Saturday at noon on KUAR FM 89.1. Mary's been doing the show for ten years, and I've been an avid listener for many of those ten. A couple of months ago, Mary approached me and asked if I'd be interested in doing some episodes of Arkansas Cooks, as she was looking to transition into a less active role but wanted to keep the show going. Now, I'm not a radio guy, but I jumped at the chance to work on such a long-time favorite, especially with good folks like Mary and producer Travis Hill. Now for those of you who might be worried, let me say: Mary isn't leaving the show, she's just turning over some of the work to myself and the excellent Neal Moore. But I'll be on the air this Saturday with my first show, an interview with the ladies of Loblolly Creamery.
I know most of you regular Eat Arkansas readers need no introduction to Rachel Moore and Sally Mengel, who along with Dan Moore form the backbone of Little Rock's best ice cream company, but anybody who has ever talked to the ladies of Loblolly knows that Sally and Rachel are smart, funny, and happy to share their ice cream secrets (which turn out to be witchcraft) with anyone who is interested. I sat down with both of them at the Green Corner Store right before a private "Sundae Tasting" event, that saw everything from non-dairy ice cream made from coconut milk to custard flavored with saffron, to a candied rose petal that tasted like pure sugared spring time. I learned how long it took for Rachel to perfect their basic vanilla recipe (months) and the origins of the name "Loblolly." In addition to all that, the ladies talked about their future plans — including the eventual re-purposing of Jeffrey Palsa's food truck Preston into a new kind of ice cream wagon.
The care and love that Rachel, Sally, and Dan all put into their business is obvious with every bite of Loblolly ice cream (or every drink of house-made kombucha). I hope you'll all tune in to hear what this fantastic local business is up to — or at least tune in so you can come back here and make fun of my radio skills. I'll be keeping you all up to date with what's going on with the show; and of course stick around Eat Arkansas for the latest in blogtastic food news.
After hearing rumors that David Bennett, long-time Executive Chef and General Manager of Hillcrest favorite Vieux Carre, would be turning over the reigns of his Southern-style bistro, I hoped that perhaps they were unfounded. Vieux Carre is one of Little Rock's top spots for brunch, lunch, and Creole-influenced cuisine that has become one of my favorite places in town to eat. Chef Bennett's mother Linda e-mailed me today, however, and confirmed my worst fears: come April 1, Vieux Carre will be under new ownership with a new chef.
Following the trend for businessmen to get into the Hillcrest dining scene started by Rocket 21 owner Frank Fletcher, Vieux Carre's new owner is Joe Gillespie, owner of Revolution Fitness and FIX, a computer repair business in the Heights. Handling the cooking duties as Executive Chef at Vieux Carre will be Greg Wallis, most recently of YaYa's Euro Bistro in West Little Rock. He'll have some big shoes to fill. Still, such changes can be exciting, and I'll be sure to approach the new chef's menu with an open mind and empty stomach.
Linda Bennett says that her son is "looking forward to spending more time with his family and hopes to find a spot where he can cook, be creative and not be tied down 7 days a week managing bar and restaurant." Best of luck to Chef Bennett, from all of us here at Eat Arkansas, and rest assured that if he remains in the Little Rock area and wants to cook, we'll be more than ready to eat.
Click on the image above to see a PDF of the new menu at Revolution, the restaurant side of the River Market venue, which used to be called Rumba and serve Mexi-Cuban food.
From Donnie Ferneau's Facebook page via the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (pay wall), an announcement that the chef is leaving the restaurant that once bore his name. Ferneau claims that the decision to leave was mutual with "no hard feelings on either side."
Little Rock businessman Frank Fletcher bought the restaurant in November 2011 and soon changed the name from Ferneau to Rocket 21. No news yet on what Chef Ferneau's plans are, but his Facebook announcement stated that he has been "working on a venture, looking for investors." More information as it becomes available.
About 1,000 people have e-mailed, texted, smoke-signaled and asked in person why I would refer to Jerry Meyer as the owner of Patio Pizza when Patio Pizza closed around three years ago. Here's the answer: Working in haste.
So, to clarify, Meyers has leased his building, where he operated Patio Pizza , to U.S. Pizza since closing Patio. Now, he's sold the restaurant to outright to the U.S. Pizza chain, owned by Judy Waller.
The Fair Park Residents Association notified its members in an e-mail about the transaction, which Meyers told us about earlier this week but asked us to wait until the sale had gone through before publishing. The restaurant will continue to be made available to the residents association for its Saturday morning monthly meetings.
Restaurant 1620 general manager Rick Qualls sent out an e-mail yesterday informing diners and the public that the restaurant will be closing June 30 for what he called "a complete make-over of the restaurant from top to bottom." Qualls said the restaurant will re-open in early September. In exchange for their patience during the retrofit, Qualls promised that the new and improved 1620 will be "one of the finest restaurants ever imagined in West Little Rock."
Read Max Brantley's 2005 review of 1620 here, and hit the "continue" for Qualls complete letter...
Leo Delgado, who took over as chef at Juanita's three months ago, plans roll out an improved menu to the public next week. Delgado said the menu will be at least 90 percent new, with fresher ingredients, daily preparation of everything in-house, more attractive presentation of dishes, and updated recipes.
Chef David Bennett said some items that were specials will now always be available, like the spicy burger, Mediterranean turkey and shrimp and grits. And here's something to toast: The changes mean Vieux Carre is lowering its prices.
Sandwiches will range between $7 and $9, with the exception of David's Outstanding Crab Cake Sandwich, at $12. Entrees — jambalaya, grilled chicken a la boursin, creamy bow tie pasta and blackened redfish — will run $15 to $17.
Vieux Carre is at 2721 Kavanaugh, next to the Afterthought, its bar that features live music six days a week. Phone number is 663-1196.
Dogtown Coffee and Cookery, a comfort-food (plus gourmet soup) eatery at 6725 JFK Blvd., will start serving dinner Thursday through Saturday next week and will have music from Bluesboy Jag on Friday nights, owner/chef Jason Godwin says.
The menu at Dogtown includes plate lunches, specials on Mondays and Thursdays, sandwiches and soups, like today's truffle, leek and potato with bacon crumbles on top. Specials include things like pulled pork tacos, pastas, etc. On the dessert list: muffins, cookies, scones, funnel cakes and homemade ice cream. There's no booze. "We're in the trifecta of churches," barrista Michael Hale explained. I've eaten lunch there and can vouch for it. Delicious.
Godwin was chef at Simply the Best Catering before opening Dogtown in July.
Ed David calls with word that his Bowman Road outlet of the Faded Rose has closed. He'd hoped to remain open through Saturday, Oct. 29, but staff had begun bailing out and he decided to close early.
Declining business dictated the closing after 23 years, David said. A lack of retail traffic lures in the shopping center, changes in the neighborhood and competition from chains all contributed, along with the poor economy.
The original Faded Rose on Rebsamen Park Road is still going strong, David said. "Join us there."
There has been a bit of shuffling lately in the River Market’s Ottenheimer Hall. Fat Sam’s Louisiana Café — purveyors of some reliably tasty New Orleans-style eats — unfortunately was forced to close because of a family illness. Shugg’s BBQ Kitchen recently took over the former Fat Sam’s spot. Andina’s Café recently moved out of the west end of the hall and into a spot in the Tuff Nutt Building on East Third Street.
Jim Rice, COO of the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, which handles leasing in the River Market, said the large spot formerly occupied by Shugg’s will most likely be split into two parcels. So far, there have been several proposals submitted, including a Mexican concept, a gourmet to-go operation, an ice cream concept and a few others that the LRCVB staff hasn’t had time to fully examine yet, Rice said.
An advisory committee makes the final selection about which applicants are awarded leases. All parcels lease for $3 per square foot.
He didn’t disclose any specific applicants, but said he would probably be able to discuss more details later next week. When considering applicants, the committee takes into account "diversity of offerings."
"We don’t want three of the same things," he said.
Other factors include "the quality, the reputation — but startups are also absolutely considered — experience of the operator and what we feel would best fit around what is offered currently."
The former Andina’s parcel will not be leased for a restaurant, Rice said. The open-air nature of the space makes it difficult to effectively heat and cool, he said.
A sometimes sparkling "nuevo Latino" menu, a trendy setting in a popular shopping center and the sure hands of restaurant veterans apparently weren't enough to sustain Capi's. The restaurant will close Sunday after brunch.
The good news is that owners Brent Peterson and Capi Peck will pull back into their Trio's restaurant with a good addition — Sunday brunch and Sunday dinner with half-off wine prices.
Their full news release:
Meanwhile, during my travels in west and southwest Arkansas lately I've discovered that some Yarnell's cartons are still available at CV's and Harp's in different locations. Have located Death By Chocolate, Homemade Peach and the Razorback cookie dough flavor, but sadly no Ozark Black Walnut.
The restaurant's open 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It'll be open during Riverfest with yet to be determined drink specials. There's a full bar.
The phone number is 372-7272, and the address is 300 President Clinton Ave.
Received an email from the folks over at OW Pizza... they've closed their West Little Rock location. Unfortunately, the rough winter and rising gas prices have increased produce costs, so they've raised the prices at their location in the shadow of the State Capitol at 1706 West Third Street. On the other hand, they're beginning to grow their own tomatoes, bell peppers and herbs.
Menu changes have been promised. I'll be keeping an eye on this... and will check out those changes for you once they're implemented.
I'd normally agree, but these were better than any of the chip variety I've had.
Best fried pickles are made with chips. Keep them crisper. Had my first ones about…
Great place, really enjoyed the Monday night outing. The owners are nice and the Cuban…
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